Before the spiky neon-haired dolls made a major North American resurgence in the late 1980s and early ‘90s (they’d first been produced in Denmark in 1959), the only troll I knew lived under a bridge in the story of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” A Golden Books edition of the Norwegian fairy tale was one of my most prized possessions as a kid. I asked my mom to read it to me at every opportunity. I even memorized the text she was speaking and used it to decode the words on the page and teach myself how to read.
Listening to Tracy Chapman is an experience, both personal and political. I remember “Fast Car” blaring from every TV and car speaker, fast or slow, for the majority of 1988 and 1989, though I was too young to grasp its profound lyric then. (A dance remix of the song still plays regularly in my gym but I refuse to recognize it as reality.)
Nothing prepares you for ending the life of your best friend. Let alone making that unthinkable decision twice over the span of three weeks.
I told Honey’s story shortly after it happened. And I worried about her little brother Rusty. How would he deal with the loss, always watching the door for her to come waddling back through? How could I explain Honey wasn’t coming back when he’d never known a life without her for over 16 years?
“Today my heart is big and sore
It’s trying to push right through my skin
Won’t see you anymore
I guess that’s finally sinking in…”
-Patty Griffin, “Goodbye”
She was there. And then she wasn’t. I rolled over in bed this morning expecting to see her frosty face nestled into a blanket in her bed. But it was empty. Rusty was snuggled against my chest. We’re both broken.
I knew adopting senior dogs wouldn’t be easy. It meant less time together ultimately. And I had over 6 years with Honey. I thought I was prepared. I didn’t know it would hurt this much.
Donald Trump is a lot of things and none of them good: confirmed liar; probable pathological narcissist; admitted sex criminal; current president of the United States. He’s also a terrorist.
In an astutely observed op-ed for Teen Vogue, writer Lauren Duca outlines Trump’s strategy of questioning objective reality as synonymous with a psychological mode of manipulation and abuse known as “gas lighting.” The intended result is a victim who feels they are going crazy, dependent on the victimizer for guidance. Writ large, the gas lighting of the American people is intended to produce mass chaos and a populace dependent on a demagogue.
Going forward, there’s no such thing as good white people. Burn the idea to the ground. Dance on its ashes. It’s over, canceled, as Joanne the Scammer might say. The idea that there are “good white people” creates more harm than help; creates more defensiveness and need for validation on the part of white people than fostering empathy, concern, action.
I can already feel the #NotAllWhitePeople contingents’ spidey senses tingling. I can see their mouths already halfway to annunciating their disclaimer. But to say “not all white people” is only to make the conversation about you — the very white person that is objecting to being lumped in with other white people. Singling yourself out. Demanding attention. And isn’t that the toxicity of whiteness to begin with? Its hijacking of power and notoriety.
Beyoncé doesn’t simply release albums or perform shows; she creates events. Experiences. She stops the world. She changes the world. The Formation World Tour is certainly no exception. In fact, it’s the current crowning achievement in a career full of jaw-dropping, one-upping, seemingly-impossible feats. The Formation World Tour isn’t just a concert, it’s movement, through music. A monument to memory. The militant momentum of a missile disguised as missive. A mission. Magic.
It’s no great shock that the Grammys tend to skew racist, along with most other mainstream award shows. Oscars So White, right?! White mediocrity gets praised while some of the most creative, innovative, game-changing work by black women goes unrecognized. And I know it’s an honor just to be nominated, but nominations don’t always add up to much when the awards continue to be doled out to undeserving and under-talented musicians (and yes, I’m very much talking about Taylor Swift here). I also know awards don’t measure the quality of work or personal taste, but the social and cultural relevancy that come along with winning any of the major awards at the Grammys can’t be denied.
As a verb, “white” means to cover a mistake in printed copy. To erase that error. To start over, brand new. Blank. While mistakes by definition are the product of accident, a more insidious meaning also hovers. To censor something by whiting it out is to make something invisible to a certain targeted group on purpose. To willfully hide information.
Bessie Smith was one of the first black women to famously sing the lines, “There ain’t nothin’ I can do or nothin’ I can say / That folks don’t criticize me but I’m going to do / Just as I want to anyway / And don’t care what people say,” from the song “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.” The song’s refrain concludes it “ain’t nobody’s business” what the hell Smith does. Other black female musicians, like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone followed suit and added the song to their repertoires.
The lines, when applied to black women in American society (and elsewhere) prove astutely emblematic of the overall dynamic a black woman faces from within an oppressive and hostile environment. When delivered by Smith and other black woman, the lines become black feminist critique leveled back at a society in which black women never receive credit, and always receive blame, regardless of their individual actions.
Yet another unfair and illogical attack on Beyoncé in relation to the recent Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) vote proves again that these lines stay as relevant as ever. In a piece for the Huffington Post titled “Beyoncé Ignored the LGBT Community in Houston,” Carlos Maza reframes Beyoncé’s longstanding choice not to actively engage in using her fanbase to campaign for specific electoral issues as an active abandonment and conscious disavowal of the LGBT community that makes up a large portion of her fanbase. Carlos, yours are most definitely fighting words.
© 2022 Kevin Allred