Don’t Pay Parents to Do Their Job

 We live in a time when issues with the American economy has caused states, cities and other local governments across the country to badly suffer financially due to the lack of its ability to collect its regular income of taxes from its citizens. The reason these governments cannot collect all of its taxes is mainly due to the number of citizens who are out of work – primarily because of the poor economy. There are cities across the U.S. that cannot effectively function financially, not necessarily because of any possible mismanagement or corruption but to a lack of funding from its main source of income – the people living and working there. For example, cities everywhere are struggling to support its school system, social programs, and public services. Over the years, state governments have stepped in to take over the management of those financially troubled cities, displacing the publicly elected officials responsible for running their local governments.  This has happened at least twice here in Michigan where I live.

With all this going on, how is it that in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel can just give away $25.00 Walgreens gift card/vouchers to parents who don’t love their own children enough to care about their own kids’ education?  I doubt Walgreens is just freely giving the city these gift card/vouchers; which can only mean that the city of Chicago has BOUGHT the gift card/vouchers with the hard-earned tax dollars of its already-cash-strapped citizens! What REAL justification is there to give away the hard-working Chicago citizen’s tax dollar to those parents who don’t bother going to the school(s) to pick up a report card and/or meet the teachers and staff who interact with their kids every day?  Picking up a report card or making sure one is sent to the residence (at least quarterly in a school year) is a PARENT’S responsibility; it is NOT that of the city of Chicago or Rahm Emanuel.  No parent worth his or her name ought to EVER be paid or expect to be financially rewarded or inclined to perform the duties expected and required of parenthood.

This $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive seems geared towards parents of color.  In fact, let me be VERY real: it seems designed for people of color – specifically Black parents. I am not saying it’s racist,but c’mon, let’s be real: Just how many White parents are going to partake, or need to partake  in this incentive?  The program feeds into the racial stereotype most in society already has of some Black people when it comes to the interest and caring of their kids and their education. And if it happens to be that in Chicago, the majority of bad/irresponsible parents are Black or some other persons of color, then that alone should send a message to ALL Blacks or persons of color living in Chicago and nationwide. As a Black man and father I am insulted about this story and learning how the mayor has to resort to such an insensitive idea!

The mayor said “this [gift card/voucher incentive] could help to close the gap between parents, teachers and principals to have a united front investing in our kids’ education.  While I believe Emanuel means well and understand his intentions, his words are sound easy to say, coming from one who is NOT buying the gift card/vouchers with his own money. Funny how people in power always seem to know what to do with OPM—Other Peoples’ Money!

The citizens of Chicago, and Illinoisans as a whole, ought to be a bit irate! The citizens of America ought to be as well, for a portion of her tax dollars also goes into cities/local governments of the States for education purposes. Overall, BLACK PARENTS and other people of color who have kids in the Chicago school system (a system which just got over a nasty teachers strike) who work hard to oversee their kids’ education should be especially furious at this insulting incentive idea .

Finally, one could argue that “the end justifies the means” in this case, meaning that it is the children who will benefit. Okay…true to some extent, provided those bad/irresponsible parents actually come out to the school to pick up the report cards and talk to the teachers.  Is this $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive program going to be a “one-time” thing or will a $25.00 gift card/voucher be given at every report card period to such parents?

I say let’s not reward such parents for doing what is clearly their damn job. If the city has so much tax payer money to give away, why not give it to those parents who are more deserving? Usually when a person is publicly recognized and/or rewarded for doing something exceptionally good and/or unexpected, the very act itself serves as an incentive to others to also do the same so that they too, might be possibly recognized and rewarded.  However, people tend to frown upon those being rewarded or recognized for undeserving acts or for doing that which is clearly a part of their job. People will resent both the person giving the reward and the undeserving person being rewarded.  That is exactly what Mayor Emanuel will be doing with his $25.00 gift card/voucher incentive program.

Parents more deserving of this $25.00 Walgreens gift card/voucher incentive would be those who come out regularly to parent-teacher conferences; who come out to school functions involving their kids, like sports, plays, and special holiday performances.  Parents deserving of this incentive would be the parents who volunteer their free time – or who take time off from work or after a long day at work – to chaperone a dance, a class trip, or even coach some after-school activity. It would be the parents who don’t mind picking up the report cards of their kids and those who will meet with the teachers or principal for ten to fifteen minutes to discuss the educational progress (or lack thereof) of their kids.  These parents are far more deserving of recognition and reward for such GOOD PARENTAL behavior in taking an active interest in their kids’ education. Why the hell would anyone want to reward BAD behavior in this sense is beyond my understanding.

Regardless what the reason is, I simply don’t believe the city ought to be giving away money, gift cards, vouchers or any sort of financial incentive to bad/irresponsible people simply to encourage them to do what is clearly their job as parents. Such parents ought to be ashamed anyway and feel very embarrassed for willing to take such “rewards”. Mayor Rahm Emanuel ought to also be ashamed for even establishing or agreeing to support such an incentive program in the first place.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

Television Train Wreck: “The Houstons: On Our Own”

Until I read a post on Funnybook (Facebook) and later saw the TV promo, I had no idea the new reality show, The Houstons: On Our Own (Lifetime network) even existed (not that I’d ever been interested in the Houston family to begin with).  I shake my head at another ridiculous attempt of celebrities and their handlers to pull in the attention of thousands of people whom such families couldn’t care less about.  I am especially peeved that this is being done on yet another famous Black family, as there are already set-in-stone stereotypes about how Black people conduct themselves in the family setting. Were I not already a strong-minded, self-confident person I would be highly embarrassed as a Black man!

No readers, we Black folk are all NOT like the Huxtable family (The Cosby Show) or the Evans family (Good Times) or any of the TV sitcom shows featuring Black families you’ve seen on television.  Unfortunately, it’s those very comedies and silly reality shows like The Houstons: On Our Own which tend to give viewers a distorted picture of the Black family.  Other than the television series, Lincoln Heights (January 2007-November 2009) and the first Black soap opera Generations (March 1989 – January 1991), which come to mind, I’d imagined one would be hard pressed to find or even remember a popular television DRAMA (not reality) show which:

  • lasted for more than one season
  • aired on a major non-cable network
  • featured an American Black family – one where the mother, children AND father all lived happy, normal American lives under the SAME roof and
  • one that was NOT in any way, shape or form, a situation comedy (aka sitcom) or miniseries.

If you remember such a TV show please, post the same in the comment section!

There are train wrecks in television I would love to see happen and which are inevitable to happen, such as this show, The Houstons: On Our Own, which I did not watch and would have no interest in watching. In my opinion, unless it is a legitimate bio pic, any reality or drama television show featuring the crazy lives of some living or deceased celebrity and/or their families is, plain and simple, a fucking train wreck waiting to happen. I couldn’t care less about the happenings of a post-Whitney Houston family. So the fuck what!  It irks me that the media and some feeble-minded people (fans) continue to feel this… need… to focus attention on Whitney’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, a person who has not made any significant contributions to the arts or to society but who instead, is simply spending the money and riding the wave of her famous but now deceased mother, R&B/pop music artist, Whitney Houston (who passed away February 11th, 2012). Her famous grandmother, soul and gospel singing artist Cissy Houston, who has been in the music business for decades, ought to know better and perhaps should feel ashamed to be a part of this obscene limelight focus on her family.  And do I need to mention the decades of trouble of Whitney’s also famous (or should I say, infamous?) husband, R&B/New jack swing/hip-hop singer, Bobby Brown? Brown, a man who has had – and seems to continue having – troubles since leaving the 1980’s R&B boy band, New Edition?  It’s all very pathetic and a sad testament to the memory of Whitney Houston, who herself had her own troubles with fame and life.

Let me be clear: I am not being judgmental about the Houston family. How can I possibly be judgmental when media and the internet is full of well-publicized facts, rumors and hype, all which have surrounded the Houston family for decades and which have only intensified with the passing of Whitney Houston, in much the same way with the passing of pop music legend, Michael Jackson? I’m merely stating an opinion based on what I see and hear.

To each his/her own regarding television show selection but I don’t watch nor subscribe to anything related to or associated with celebrity families. I’ve got enough drama in my family to last me a lifetime (thank you very much) than to ever dare waste my time peering into the superficial lives of others. I would expect that other people have drama in their own families as well.

Hmmm….now that I think about it, I suppose there are some people with so much drama in their family that TV shows such as The Houstons: On Our Own and others of its kind, may in fact be a much-needed, if not therapeutic distraction from their uh…REAL reality. Well, I certainly hope it helps. I maintain however, that no matter how you look at it, any celebrity family reality show is a sad reflection on us all as Americans – both to ourselves and to the rest of the world. It all needs to end.

Keepin’ It…Real!

Conversation with an Apathetic Citizen

A few months ago, I got into this heated argument with someone on Funnybook (my term of endearment for Facebook) about voter apathy. This guy, whom I’ll call “Randy”, (not his real name) happens to be on the friends list of a friend of mine. Randy made some remarks about how he felt that it was pointless to support and/or vote for any person running for political office or to participate in deciding any referendum or proposal the city or state puts on the ballot. Randy used terms like “career politician” and implied that people serving in political office were not “real”; in the sense of being in touch with the voters they were elected or appointed to serve. Randy went on and on. I had read enough and decided give him my views.

About the only good thing saved from this little debate with “Randy” is the fact that I chose to save my responses to his comments as fodder for some future blog post I’d planned on writing covering my views on voter apathy. As if I needed more material from that which I already had, Randy unwittingly gave me all I needed. He got me fired up. So, what you are about to read are my responses to his comments. As I was writing the previous blog post on Election Campaign Noise”, I considered the idea of working on a post covering voter apathy and had planned to use the material from the responses I’d made in that Funnybook debate. I’m just sorry I didn’t bother to copy and save Randy’s comments, too. Well, now is as good a time as any to share the response I made just as they were written all those months ago. Time doesn’t allow me to “fix it up” for you guys but I did change dude’s name to “Randy” out of privacy considerations. (Although the conversation was so long ago, I doubt that if Randy were a reader of this blog he’d remember anything I said to him.) As that FB conversation progressed, Randy resorted to eventually becoming an asshole with his comments back to me, getting mad because I failed to see his point of view. That’s just it: I saw his point of view a mile away. I dropped out of the conversation later because I draw the line at ignorance and disrespect.

Anyway, I think once you read through my responses, you’ll see where Randy was going and where I tried to convince him otherwise. Remember, this was an actual Funnybook conversation, thus the reason why you’ll see I’ve used of CAPS for emphasis on some words since FB doesn’t allow for italicizing or bold fonts. Thanks for your patience as you read through.
Let’s jump right on it, shall we?

************************************************

“Randy, if you feel that strongly bruh, why not run for public office yourself? Seriously! If you or anyone with your train of thought, has the time and the networking connections to raise the capital for such a campaign AND can garner the votes, then run for public office! Work at making the changes you want to see made which you and others assume are not being made. Why not become one of those “real people” you want to see in public political office? You certainly have the constitutional right to run for office just like everyone else! Don’t get me wrong; I’m NOT dissing you or your comment BUT comments like yours, I’ve seen and heard far too often for me to ignore! I can’t ignore it because, in my mind, such thinking, while having SOME truth applicable to SOME politicians, tends to keep some people from voting at all! Please understand that I have to do and say whatever I can to fight that kind of influence or perception! In any election period – but most especially in THIS one, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO FUCK AROUND with the idea of whether or not to vote for this person or that person, or for issue or that issue. You feel me? Consider a couple of things in mind should YOU decide to run for public office. First, if you get elected and RE-elected, YOU will – in effect, become that which YOU seem to abhor in your comment: a “CAREER POLITICIAN” – regardless whether or not you are (or might THINK you are) doing a good job. Second, there will always be someone out here, meaning, your constituents, who may have your CURRENT mindset, and who may call the now-elected YOU, Randy, a “career politician” and implying that YOU aren’t “real”, and that YOU are only in office “looking out for your own best interests” rather than those of your constituents. Just something to think about. What goes around often comes around, as we say in the ‘hood.”

[At this point, I remember “Randy” made some comment about how he “works all the time” and he “doesn’t have the time to run for political office”. He’s just “too busy”.]
“I hear you, Randy. I understand where you’re coming from. However, while I can agree with some of what you say, other parts of your comment (and your previous comments on this subject), I simply can’t bring myself to feel so negative or pessimistic with regard to our country and its political system or with the election/voting process. As a citizen of this country, or ANY country exercising the democratic process, I have to maintain SOME HOPE and some FAITH in our way of life AND in SOME of the people elected or appointed to political office – regardless of political party affiliation. My doing so, joins countless others in helping to ensure the needs of the American citizenry is met. Whenever there is disagreement, as is often the case in a democracy, we debate. Failing that, the idea or issue is thrown out to the people to decide. This is the REAL backbone of America democracy! I have lived in and visited many countries in my twenty year military service where such freedoms and abilities are either taken for granted or worse, not available or are strictly denied! I’ve seen what apathy can do to a society; I’ve studied how a once self-governing people allowed apathy to fester and evolved into a fascist, communist or dictatorial existence! You’ve seen what happened in places like Egypt, Syria, and Libya in just over the past year or so!”

[At this point, I remember Randy making some comment about how our votes don’t really count]
“You asked me if I believe if my vote really counts. Yes Randy, as naive as you may think I’m being, I DO believe my vote AND my influence as a voter counts! I believe this because, unlike many voters in America, I UNDERSTAND several things with regard to voting in America. I also understand MY responsibilities as a voter. First, I am appreciative of the right and privilege to even be able to vote in this country. I’m not naive on how certain things work here with regard to politics. In fact, I am more aware of the “game” than you might think! However, assuming you are familiar with American history, you’ll understand that as a Black man, I am EXTREMELY grateful and appreciative of the countless sacrifices many people, particularly BLACK PEOPLE, made to ensure that I – and my son, as American Black citizens, have the right to vote. I am NOT going to simply take their efforts or my right to vote, for granted, regardless of any crookedness or imperfections that might exist at any particular local, state or federal government level. Second, I understand, for the most part, how the voting and election processes work. I have an understanding of the election of delegates and of the Electoral College. That’s not to say I necessarily support or agree HOW they work, but I certainly understand it. I understand political pressure and how, if enough people – either with money or with NOTHING in their pockets, can – if pushed – have an effect on just about ANY elected or public service official. So long as that citizen has the PHYSICAL MEANS, FORTITUDE, and a WILL to place a call, send a text message or email, write a blog, make a PERSONAL appearance to that politician’s office, or raise a peaceful march, then he or she has the means of making a DIFFERENCE! I SINCERELY BELIEVE THIS! It’s been proven and written about in history! I’ve had family members participate in and I have lived through and seen politicians give in to public pressure during the 1960’s and 1970’s! I’ve participated in a few marches, protests, and letter writing campaigns myself! My belief in a better America is why I served in the military for twenty years—and would go back in again, if I were eligible! Randy, we are NOT a perfect society or nation but we are better than many of those whose streets I’ve walked overseas.”

[Randy now tells me that he has no desire to ever run for public office.]
” I know many of us cannot nor have any desire to run for public office. Public service on the political level is not for everybody. However, I feel that in our own way, we non-elected citizens, the would-be constituents, MUST try to place some faith in those people who are elected to represent us. If we lose faith in those persons then there are means to recall that person or the choice to not reelect them. It’s that simple and each is a PEACEFUL process, proving again how America is unique from many other countries in the world. And, for the record Randy, it doesn’t matter which political party, if any, either of us may be a member of or support; it doesn’t matter whom either of us supports for president, and it doesn’t matter how we may choose to vote on the five or six proposals on Michigan’s ballot this year. Outside of any election season, it also doesn’t matter what issues you and I happen to support or not support. What DOES matter is whether we, as American citizens, exercise our First Amendment right and make a statement to a cause by exercising our constitutional to petition any said cause and exercise our right to VOTE our conscience and do so peacefully and without harassment.

“Finally Randy, it simply sounds to me that you have the internal personal and spiritual fire to see POSITIVE things happen in America but at the same time, based on the negative things you’ve said here, it sounds like you are willing to just give in to hopelessness and…give up. That makes you apathetic, Randy; one who, regardless of much you SAY you care, really don’t prove it by doing something as simple as casting a vote. I hope that is not true about you but, the only way to prove otherwise is to participate in the democratic process: learn the issues, the candidates, and exercise your right to vote. As I implied in my previous post on this subject, it’s EXACTLY attitudes like yours that scares the shit out of me… especially when I imagine the possibility of HALF the American voting-age population, and possibly those now 18-year-old NEW voters, feeling the same way as you and being unwilling to exercise their right to vote. It makes for a sad commentary to America’s future.”

************************************************
That’s the end of the Funnybook conversation.
Readers: Election season notwithstanding, don’t let apathy be your guide while you live here in America. If you do, if you refuse to participate in the democratic process, anything you say in protest of how things are here in America will fall on THIS man’s deaf ears.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

Election Campaign Noise

As Election Day 2012 nears, political campaigns will get hotter than ever before.  The media (i.e. television, radio, print, the Internet) will be heavily saturated with all kinds of political ads and calls to vote for a particular candidate for office or to vote for or against an issue. Through all the political fog, the muck, and yes, the bullshit, you will need to KEEP YOUR HEAD CLEAR AND FOCUSED!  Many of you are election season pros of at least ten years or more and therefore know how to maneuver your attention span around all the campaign chaos.  However, for many others, particularly first-time voters, I need to stress that now is NOT the time to get so frustrated that it causes you to develop an attitude of apathy!

Probably one of the reasons for your frustration with the election campaign noise is that you haven’t yet made up your mind on how to vote next month (Tuesday, November 6). In fact, at this point on the election timeline, you should have already researched and studied the candidates and their positions and any referendum and/or proposal issues on the ballot in your area.  As far as the presidential election is concerned, you really should not need three debates to help make up your mind at this point.  Referendum and/or proposal issues are all online for you to further check out.  You should have already registered to vote and should know, with all certainty, the location of your polling place. For you first-time voters, a polling place is the place where you are authorized to cast a vote.  Most polling places are located in a nearby school or church in your community or in a local government building.  Your voter registration card should have polling place information printed on the front. Read it find where that place is now!

Now, if you happened to be a little behind the rest of us in determining your eligibility to vote, it may not be too late to register. Check your state’s voter registration office to be sure. If you can’t locate voter registration card or aren’t sure if you are registered to vote, click here and follow the very easy instructions to find out!

We have to be REAL about how the American election process works – the good as well as the bad – and we need to be REAL about how we feel regarding political, social and economic issues and how each affects us – both as people and as individuals.  It is very important for every vote-eligible citizen to maintain a certain focus and interest during any political campaign election season because too many Americans have apathetic views about getting involved in any electoral or issue-deciding process.

Voter Apathy
Apathy is a very harmful disease in any free and civilized society.  It is the kind of thing that left unchecked can spread and eventually ruin and destroy a democracy.  Apathy and apathetic citizens can adversely affect a free society. Apathy in a free society erodes the ability of a free people to decide who shall be their representative voice in government. It adversely impacts how the laws in the society shall be introduced, debated, passed or rejected or, when necessary, having such law or issues put to a vote to the general populace. Apathy causes other negative things in a society, however to put it bluntly, apathy could eventually destroy the ability of a free people to effectively govern themselves. In the most extreme cases, apathy has been known to be the very force that often paves the way for a free society to evolve itself into one ripe for control under a dictatorship.

Apathetic people have made up their minds to not take part in the election process. Apathetic citizens don’t bother to study and/or discuss the issues that could impact the community or themselves. They are also always the ones who complain and protest the loudest about what is wrong with their country and/or about the poor job some person in office is doing. While there is voter apathy, there is no such thing as an “apathetic voter” because by definition, apathetic citizens in a society have a no interest in voting in local and national elections, especially when one political party regularly has a large majority or when people feel they have little impact in influencing decisions that affect their lives. In a word, apathetic citizens do not vote. Equally unfortunate is the fact that I have heard some – but thankfully not many – members of my own ethnic group express attitudes of voter apathy. I have heard some say they don’t care very much about who’s in political office nor do they care about who’s running for office. They seem to agree with other apathetic citizens who feel people in political office can neither be believed nor trusted to look out for the interest of the constituency. Considering the history that reflects the many men and women – both white and black – who fought courageously and died to obtain the right to vote – and the right to vote freely and without harassment, I am surprised that there would be ANY Black man or woman expressing such an attitude.

If you happened to be an apathetic person reading this post, please note a few things: I respect your right to exercise apathy about things happening in America. I respect your right to choose not to study any issue or referendum placed before the citizenry for a vote. I respect your choice to not vote or participate, in any way, with any election activity. In fact, I would prefer that you NOT vote because without having sufficient knowledge of a candidate or an issue, you would, in effect, be an ignorant voter. Ignorant voters are those who could not possibly make well-informed choices with their votes. And even though the votes of those people who choose to be ignorant of things would be counted, it would be quite unfair to those people who are well-informed and who have decided to cast their votes with the hope that the candidate(s) of their choice or an issue they favored, would win. While technically no vote made is ever a wasted vote, every vote cast, be it from an informed or an ignorant person, is always advantageous to someone who needs it to win. My final plea goes to those apathetic citizens who have children voting for the first time. As a parent, I would ask that you refrain from expressing any views of apathy to your sons and daughters. Let them make their own decisions and choices in each election period and please allow them to enjoy their constitutional right to vote.  Remember, a good parent does not intentionally give any negative advice or influences to his/her children.

Now, I urge you all to roll with the campaign noise and chaos a bit longer!  As of this writing, there is less than three weeks until the election. All of it will be over soon enough and when it is, there will be another form of noise to fill the void. Trust me.

I hope to see you at the polls Tuesday, November 6!

Keepin’ It…REAL!

America’s First Ladies

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann seems to struggle hard to make a connection with those people who don’t favor her or her husband. More than likely, the Romney campaign handlers pressure Ann to get her face and voice out there because of some traditional public perception that many people tend to look more favorably on any married candidate running for office, provided said candidate’s SPOUSE (not a lover or mistress) does and/or say things that shows unity with the candidate and demonstrates a connection with the voters. Just the same, it’s still up to us, as voters, to discern truth from bullshit from both the candidate and his/her spouse, regardless who the candidate is or who his/her spouse happens to be.

For the record, I have nothing particularly bad to say about Ann Romney because she isn’t running for office. It’s therefore very easy for me to ignore her. But none of us can ignore the fact that as Mitt’s wife, it’s logical to assume that she has considerable influence over him. Anyway, since Ann Romney has been in the news during this hectic election season, I thought I’d give some props to those women who came before her in terms of having struggled through the campaigns of their husbands and who eventually became First Ladies in their own right; women I’ve come to admire and favor over the years.

There are First Ladies who kept it real by their actions, deeds, and words – both on their husband’s campaign trail and while in the White House. I felt each person had developed a legitimate connection with the public and with me. Conducting themselves with a sense of class, each of these fine women fiercely protected their husbands and families through the stress of scandal, bad press, and negative public opinion. Each woman rolled with the bullshit from all sides about their looks, style, and personal attitudes about certain things they said or did and somehow, still managed to deal with all the rude impositions into their semi-private – yet still very human – lives.

Shown in order of personal precedence, these particular women serve/served as First Lady and are those whom I’ve come to admire in my lifetime and who will always get my respect:

Since the presidency of George Washington, I’m well aware of the many First Ladies who were the true supportive backbone of their president husbands. Looking to the future, there will come a time, perhaps in my lifetime, when America will elect a married woman, or perhaps even a married gay man or woman, as its president. In either possible instance, I would hope that the spouse of that particular president conducts him or herself as classy as their predecessors.

Keepin’ It…
Real!