Thursday, July 30, 2009

Had Henry Louis Gates Jr Acted Like a Gentleman, We Wouldn't be in this Mess

We're halfway through the summer of 2009 and thus far, the top news stories of the season have been the Iranian elections, Michael Jackson's death, and the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by a crooked, racist police force in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

That last story is an issue of national obsession - perfectly timed with the second installment of CNN's pandering "Black in America" series, as it seems the media is hell bent on reminding blacks and other people of color that we still have a noose around our necks. And that point couldn't be more perfectly illustrated than the visual of a slight, older and bespectacled African American male handcuffed at the entrance to his own home.

So here's the story: On July 16 Professor Gates was trying to enter his front door, had trouble with the lock, then asked the driver of his cab to help him, they pushed in the door, all while a neighbor close by saw the action and thought there was a robbery in progress.

Cops were dispatched, Gates refused to cooperate, responding to the authorities who asked to speak to him "I'll speak with your mama outside." And soon enough the man was in handcuffs.

In the meantime, the 911 caller has had to step into the fray to say that at no time did she insinuate that the men at Gates' home were black.

Today, Gates and the cop who arrested him will have beer with President Obama to talk candidly about race.

And that's where you lose me. I understand that law enforcement hasn't always been fair with people of color - I'll admit: I'm not a fan of cops and I generally distrust them - but in the few instances when I've been confronted by them, I tend to cooperate, as I think that if you have nothing to hide you might as well bite the bullet and let the cops do what they must (these instances have involved my alleged speeding through Cape Cod or the backroads of New Jersey). But Gates was apparently belligerent from the start - and yeah, it's annoying that the cops show up at your house for no reason, but a neighbor did see someone from afar busting in a door - this could all have been resolved in under ten minutes. But Gates, as we say in Spanish, "se puso guapo," which means he got cocky, and the cops had to show the man who was boss.

Really, this whole situation is Gates' fault. As a pre-eminent scholar on issues black, he ought to be ashamed of himself for causing all of this trouble - for not setting a proper example on how educated and accomplished people of color should deal with unwanted attention from the cops. Had he simply shown the cops his ID and explained his situation - had he been a gentleman about the whole thing - none of this would have happened. And I resent this weak and unnecessary debate on race because it propagates the thinking in disadvantaged communities of color that the cops and the white man are ultimately out to get them. People of color don't need to hear this, kids in the projects don't need any more ammunition against the cops - this whole issue only exacerbates tensions that exist between minorities and the police. We now find the debate on race muddled by the stubborn and impertinent actions of someone who, ok I'll say it - is probably an uppity negro. Gates gets to have beer with the President tonight while some cocky teenager is going to mouth off at the cops and will likely get tazed or shot. Nice going, Professor.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend with 10 ladies? Shore.

I'm one of those gays that loves the ladies. Yours truly has always traveled five or ten deep with girls of all stripes, immersed in petty drama, awash in cocktails, bloated with late night (or mid-day) junk food. This weekend was no different.

One of my fav chicas is jumping the broom in September and to celebrate the passage from Miss to Missus, I joined 9 girls for a weekend on the Jersey shore.For a split second I had a pang of testosterone-induced angst, "Why am I the only guy invited to this? Do they think I'm one of the girls just because I'm gay? Is a weekend of champagne and penis talk too much even for me?" The answers came quickly when I saw the girls at Penn Station: I love a good time; yes; kinda.

After a sticky two-hour train ride down to the lovely seaside town of Sea Girt - sticky 'cause the penis straws agitated the contents of our mini champagne bottles and we were drenched within two minutes of pulling out of the station - we wound up at my friend's soon-to-be-inlaws' beach house. Ah, the mint-and-honey-infused cocktails we received upon arrival, the chairs decorated with aprons, the obligatory veil for the bride...I passed out within three hours. The next day, we were scolded by some beefy (read: yummy, totally my speed) beach cops who asked us to put away our plastic phallus. The rest of the weekend was, as they say, maxi-dresses, chicken salad, beer, and history.

On the way back to New York, sitting next to stupid James who had come to fetch me long after the ladies had left the Shore (last man standing, holla!) I got to thinking: thank GOD the gays can't get married. I cringe at the thought of the spectacle that some queens would put me through if they were encouraged to partake of the rituals surrounding traditional marriage. The parties, the Martha Stewart clippings, the cocktails, the penis-talk...argh, wait a minute...being gay is like one long bachelorette party. So I guess the ladies needed a pro to oversee the festivities.

Now I get why I was invited. Thanks, C-Face.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One More Thing re: Sotomayor: It's Not About Bringing Down Whitey

By now we can all agree that Sonia Sotomayor aced the senate confirmation hearings, accepting high praise from the likes of Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and roiling Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham, who is still in a nit over the Supreme Court nominee's "wise Latina" comments. Congratulations are in order, and yes, so is some celebration over the appointment of an unexpected (read: minority) though exceptionally qualified candidate to our nation's highest court. But, on behalf of Latinos and other minorities who are making it in the professional world, I just want to say that our mission is not to bring down the white man - regardless of Maureen Dowd or Frank Rich's misguided cheerleading.

Both New York Times writers have underscored the point that with President Obama's ascent to power and now Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court, whitey is losing his grip on power.I don't see it that way, and I'm sure Sonia Sotomayor doesn't either. Did some of the senators in last week's hearings reveal astounding ignorance and insensitivity? You bet - especially one Tom Coburn (R-OK) who will go down in history as the guy who told the Supreme Court nominee "you'll have lots of 'splaining to do." I WISH someone would say that to me in a conference room, but that's another story.

Still, I would argue that the white liberal cheerleaders grandstanding on Sotomayor's nomination aren't doing much of a service to upwardly mobile people of color. It's condescending - though in a much different way than referencing Ricky Ricardo - because it smacks of "it's up to us white, enlightened folks to help out these blacks and latinos" thinking. In fact, these folks are antagonizing racial tensions that educated people of color have to suppress for fear of that proverbial "chip on the shoulder," or for playing the race card when things don't go our way.

As a Latino I couldn't be more thrilled by Sotomayor's nomination and her stellar performance in front of the Senate last week. She makes me proud! But I would respectfully ask that the celebration over a historic nomination tread a careful line that acknowledges the changing complexion of power in this country without making it seem like we're emerging from Apartheid. Not only is that an unfair statement about our country's system, but it reinforces stigmas that people of color have had to overcome in order to hold their own in the board room or in Ivy League campuses across the country - let's get the chip, and that dirt, off our shoulders please.

Friday, July 17, 2009

CNN Commentator: Gays are Mostly Petulant White People

ESPN reporter and CNN commentator LZ Granderson is putting the smack down on uppity white gays who are leading the chorus of disappointment over Obama's turtle pace on gay issues. To call gay the new black is offensive and underscores the disconnect between a truly disenfranchised people and a bunch of Lady Gaga-listening white people who act like "a petulant child throwing a tantrum because he wants to eat his dessert before dinner." Blacks, says Granderson, have had it tough way longer than the gays have ("Miley Cyrus is older that DODT") and they are loving their new black President. It's justice served and all you gays need to love the moment and stop complaining.

Still, Granderson isn't attacking the gay rights movement, he's putting gay white culture - that which most of America sees - on blast. He speaks like an outsider, conflicted over the sting of not fitting in yet not wanting to belong anyway. Case in point: he's happy to accept the praise of organizations like GLAAD, who gave him an award for journalism this year at a $500 a person fundraiser in New York (I was there) but you know, he still wants to be down.

I can understand his frustration, and I can understand that being gay, educated and a person of color does pose a lot of challenges for men of color who are expected to be a certain way, namely not gay and educated.

But the rights gay people want transcend color, and the gay community has every right to express its disappointment with President Obama. The longer he takes to enact fair policy and give gay people the rights they deserve, the more credence he lends to conservative arguments against gays. And this community has been on his side, putting all of its resources behind him to help put him in the White House. As for the petulant child comment - that's just ignorant. A gay person of color should have a greater impetus to effect change and blunt the blow of exclusionary politics than anyone.

Granderson's comments are a distraction and speak more to his internal turmoil than to any latent racism within the gay community. There's room for everyone under that rainbow flag, but we can't sit idly by and let elected officials pander to us on the campaign trail only to denigrate us once they're in power.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"And I'm from the South Bronx, so I was like 'yo! g'ahead Miss Sonia'"

Need I say more to express how most New Yorkers feel about our homegirl Sonia Sotomayor's fearless performance at this week's Senate hearings? "Barring a meltdown" - she is slated to become the first Latina to be seated on the Supreme Court. Holla back, I love it!

The quote which serves as the title of today's post came from a receptionist whom I was chatting with in between appointments yesterday. And there are more bon mots that have been delivered by of our city's overlooked residents - those who don't have a New York Times or Wall Street Journal folded under their arms or tucked between the handles of their Goyard totes - to describe their elation over seeing someone they can relate to in a position of power. What I love about this week's proceedings is how INVOLVED mi gente, my people, are in the political process. The past two years have been the ultimate civics lesson for blacks and latinos who otherwise didn't really give a damn about politics.

What I like about President Obama's nominee is that she's not looking to give people of color a free pass. She's holding everyone accountable to the standards of the law and of working-class ambition. She's a staunch believer in the possibility of American citizenship and the responsibility that places on everyone - blanquitos or not - to be our very best selves. That's why she locked up three Puerto Rican guys for a shoot-out in a Lower East Side housing project - only one of them had a gun but she thought they all posed a threat to the community - and that's why her early college years were focused on figuring out why minority youths got into more trouble than their white counterparts. Sadly, that's a search that could occupy one, two, countless lifetimes, but the effort is there and ultimately, the would-be Supreme Court nominee decided to keep pushing for justice, and personal excellence, with the hope that her own work could somehow stem the tide of recidivism in our communities.

There hasn't been a meltdown yet, so it's probably safe to assume that we're in store for a historic appointment in the coming weeks...and once again, the standard is elevated for mi gente.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

GCL Goes to the Movies: Bruno Sucks

Feel free to place the requisite Euro dots over the u's in the title of the post.

Before I delve into why Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to 2006's critically acclaimed Borat sucks, I have to say that as a publicist who has to tell every one of his clients "welll, maybe this particular story isn't good enough for the Today Show," I'm beyond pissed that Matt Lauer had to promote this film on Friday because the shows's parent company (Universal) distributes it. Meanwhile my laundry detergents, airlines and destinations go unnoticed. It isn't fair. So, for that alone, fuck you Matt Lauer and NBC Universal. Again, stick those dots where you see fit.

The unfairness of why Matt Lauer won't do a segment on any of my clients notwithstanding, Bruno is a piece of (Euro)trash. And I love gross humor (kinda) - just last weekend I was dying over the hijinks of Bradley Cooper in "The Hangover." But Bruno was just stupid. (And Bradley Cooper is just so yummy.) Picture all of those gay jokes you heard in junior high school - all those anal-centric jokes, to be exact - and now picture them on the big screen. Within five minutes the lead character finds himself on his knees having a massive dildo pedaled into his rear end by his Pygmy boyfriend. And then champagne is poured out of said Pygmy boyfriend's derriere, which Bruno then proceeds to pound furiously with a fire extinguisher to produce all sorts of yellow gunk which flies across the frame. There's also a love story beneath Bruno's attempts at stardom, and this too winds up in fisticuffs, plastic sheets and soiled hand prints in a motel room.

The film, according to Baron-Cohen, is meant to satirize anti-gay attitudes. So they sent a flamey sexual deviant into red states to poke fun at Jesus and hit on a bunch of yokels. Let's just see how many times the word faggot can be tossed around by a bunch of stupid Americans (incidentally, it's not - ever - even by the most visibly disturbed and straight laced/ignorant/whatever people the film is trying to expose).

Now, the good people at GLAAD are upset about the movie, and God bless em', their mission is to make sure that Tim Gunn reigns supreme as the model for how gay men should behave on TV and how the world should embrace them. So they're right to kick up a fuss. As a gay man myself, however, I'm not the least bit offended by the movie - the character is so off the mark with who I am and who my partner and friends are that, yes, he is laughable. But I do think it's appalling that most media outlets have jumped on this bandwagon, hailing Baron Cohen as a genius, devoting fashion spreads to him (thanks, NY Times, GQ) and, once again, a full segment on a morning TV show (because Today Show moms will LOVE to see a giant penis waved in their face, repeatedly, at $12.50 a pop). That's what's objectionable to me: the media's complicity in peddling this sort of stupid filth.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Breaking News: Sarah Palin Steps Down

On what promised to be a slow weekend flipping between MJ coverage and peering out the window hoping for sun, here comes Ms. Sarah Palin with a doozie: she's stepping down as Governor of Alaska. Because she's a "point guard with her eye on the basket" and doesn't want to be a "lame duck." Her words, y'all. Her words.

Her tone: Mommy explaining to the kids that there is no tooth fairy, and gosh darn it, smile and the world smiles with you.

This train wreck of a candidate and political figure ain't goin nowhere. CNN and MSNBC are in a scramble to decipher the code of jibberish and flat a's that comprise Sarah Palin's speeches. "Is she dropping out of politics so people won't talk about her slut daughter?" "Is she plotting a bid for 2012?" Questions that have been answered with a resounding "This is a stupid move." Regardless of her intentions, Sarah Palin has confirmed, once and for all, what most of us already know: that she's stupid - or if you're feeling polite this 4th of July - she's not ready for primetime.

According to the AP: "Palin hinted she had a bigger role in mind, saying she wanted to make a 'positive change outside government.' But she kept supporters in suspense, promising on Twitter: 'We'll soon attach info on decision to not seek re-election ... this is in Alaska's best interest, my family's happy ... it is good. Stay tuned.'"

CNN commentator and democratic strategist Donna Brazile counseled Palin to "get rid of those novices around her" if she has any aims of revisiting public life.

GCL says: Wherever Palin winds up this certainly isn't the last we'll hear of her. She didn't have a "my mother was a saint" tone, instead she had the measured, pumped up stance and inflated rhetoric of a contender (pronounced contendah, fyi), sleeves rolled up and ready to storm the White House. Let's watch what happens...