The Art Of Stealth, Part 5: Cultivating Personal Character As A Weapon And Shield

Character development is the most powerful weapon and shield you have in a competitive world. No externally generated advantage such as wealth or natural good looks will benefit you for very long without some measure of character development to accompany it. For example, a totally undisciplined person will destroy whatever advantage they are blessed with.

Contrary to popular assumption, character development is not automatically identical with becoming a better person. A villian can be patient, resourceful, and self-disciplined. Character development makes you a more skilled and more effective person. How you use those skills is up to you.

Modern African-Americans have a cultural bias that favors focusing on external factors and barriers to personal success. We don’t like to pay attention to the internal factors that are completely under our own control. For example, we don’t need a protest march or anybody else’s permission and cooperation to:

  • cultivate a spirit of adventure
  • cultivate healthy ambition
  • cultivate patience
  • develop our powers of awareness
  • develop our resourcefulness
  • increase our tolerance for self-discipline, and so on.

We often want things that our current collection of character traits can’t achieve or sustain. Many of us belittle and insult the people who cultivated the internal traits needed to achieve certain things. We do this by attributing their success solely to luck or connections. This came up during an earlier conversation. Several readers and I discussed a New York Times article about a recent Black writers’ conference.

A reader named DeStouet said,

Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published.

The New York Times just recently wrote an article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/books/23writers.html?hpw
about how black writers would like to seek a wider audience, which is great. It is actually something I think about as a writer.

However, the article’s tone was still depressing and sad. On the way to the store last night I caught myself thinking, “Well, what if I can’t….?”

The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.

However, I am certain that is a lie!

Good for her that she hasn’t let others discourage her. I said the following in response,

**Warning: EXTREMELY Long Reply Comment {chuckling}**

DeStouet,

I’m responding to your comment separately and at length because the points you’ve raised, and the news story you linked to, touch on something that all AAs need to be clear about:

There’s really NO getting around having to assume the responsibility for ourselves. Most of AAs’ whining about various topics has the same root cause. The things we complain about are the logical, predictable, end result of our consistent refusal to build our own infrastructures—in other words, build our own businesses.

Instead, we whine about how others haven’t saved a spot for us in their endeavors. (Traditionally we’ve been complaining about Whites’ failure to include AAs in their stuff. But as others like Latinos and Asians increasingly join the elite—which they already have in the science, medical and computer-related fields—then AAs will be whining about the other folks’ refusal to let us in their stuff).

This is the 21st century. How many more centuries are AAs going to sing this “They won’t save a spot for us” song/lament? How many centuries does it take for us to catch the hint that others DON’T feel any obligation to us?

You said, “Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published. . . . The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.”

This is why I only take in materials produced by people who are powerfully moving forward on their goals and dreams. This criterion tends to exclude 99.99% of things said by AAs. Because most of us are still locked into the traditional conditioned responses of: (1) looking for others to create a way for us and include us in their agenda; and (2) whining when these other people don’t do this.

First, let me mention my reactions to various statements in the news story:

“The conference, expected to attract 2,000 people, is a chance for writers to study and celebrate one another and for readers to hear writers presenting their work and dissecting social and literary themes. Over four days of workshops and discussions, the participants can also grapple with issues like the value of black sections in bookstores, the paucity of black editors in publishing and how to expand the list of black writers taught in schools.”

This sounds like an near-total waste of time. They need to talk about strategies for increasing sales and creating new distribution outlets for their work. Also note the traditional AA emphasis on congratulatory back-slapping. BEFORE any real “battle” has been WON.

“But some in the book world worry that conference attendees end up talking mostly to themselves. “I respect the ability of the Medgar Evers conference to build community,” said Martha Southgate, a novelist whose most recent book, “Third Girl From the Left,” was published in 2005. “But what I struggle with is that it should be beyond our community.””

It’s okay to talk with like-minded people. The problem here is what they have their minds set on—looking for others to make it happen for them.

“In 2007 Ms. Southgate was part of a racially mixed group of writers, editors and booksellers who dreamed up theringshout.com, a Web site devoted to literary black writers and the idea that they belong at the center of the American literary tradition, with readers of all kinds.”

This sounds like it might be somewhat of an improvement. However, how does this serve to create new distribution channels for AA writers? I’ll have to take a look at this site.

““We need cross-pollination,”” said Lawrence Schiller, a film producer, director and writer who was a founder of the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, Mass. Mr. Schiller, who is white, asked Brenda M. Greene, the director of the conference and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for help in finding a black writer to teach at the Mailer colony.”

Ahhh, a White person going out of his way to include AA writers. This is NOT mainstream behavior, and AA writers shouldn’t be in the position of depending on somebody else to wake up one day and decide to do some outreach. What nobody in the article mentioned is that if a novelist’s book sales are big enough, then that writer automatically becomes known to others throughout the industry—starting with the money people—“the suits.” Success creates visibility and gives non-AAs in the industry a self-interested REASON to seek one out. Which is why these folks need to be talking about creative strategies for increasing their sales.

“The conference is a step in raising the visibility of black writers, Mr. Schiller said, but those writers also need to be ““part of the bigger picture””: better represented at other conferences, on the curriculums of graduate writing programs and community colleges and more widely read by young nonblacks. Ms. Greene said the conference, which she believed was the largest event of its kind in the country, helped achieve those goals.”

The conference ISN’T raising the visibility of these AA writers to the people who matter most in this equation—the consumers. Whatever awareness this sort of moaning, groaning and whining conference is creating among consumers is probably NOT favorable. Really now, who mentally associates this type of “they won’t cut us in” grumbling with an enjoyable fiction-reading experience? NOBODY.

“The wide-ranging conference includes tributes to Amiri Baraka and to Toni Cade Bambara, who died in 1995; panels on topics including “the black writer as literary activist” and “politics and satire in the literature of black writers”; and sessions exploring the influence of phenomena like hip-hop, war and the Internet on black writers. The conference also features writing workshops for students in elementary, middle school and high school.”

The traditional AA preoccupation with “tributes” BEFORE and often INSTEAD of handling the business.

“In addition to Ms. Morrison, who is to be honored at a reception on Saturday night, writers expected to take part include the novelists Colson Whitehead, Bernice McFadden, Victor LaValle and Breena Clarke; the poets Sonia Sanchez and Staceyann Chin; and authors whose work crosses genres, like James McBride, Thulani Davis, Kevin Powell and Touré.”

More self-congratulatory back-slapping. Instead of focusing on creating answers to the business problems of how to increase sales and create new ways of reaching potential consumers (new distribution channels).

“With all the changes and challenges in publishing, said the writer Linda Villarosa, a former executive editor of Essence Magazine who teaches writing and journalism at City College, this conference is needed now more than ever. “We need to get the heads of all the mainstream publishers there to explain —— and it doesn’t have to be angry —— how the business model works and how to get more of our books published,” she said. Among her concerns: the rise of racy “street lit” books, the small number of black editors at publishing houses and the way books by black authors are pigeonholed in stores.”

For those who don’t know, magazines are dying and soon to be mostly dead as a media form. It appears to be similar to what’s happening with newspapers. From what I’ve read, freelance writers who are depending on sales of articles to magazines are not doing well as they watch magazines fold and that kind of work dry up. Note that Ms. Villarosa left Messence . . . to teach . . . at City College.

“One reason getting attention can be hard is that “there are next to no African-Americans at influential publications reviewing theater and books on a regular basis,” Ms. Nottage said. “We are evaluated and critiqued by people outside the experience. Perhaps there is some resistance to penetrate the issues we’’re dealing with.””

Again, this boils down to AAs’ failure to create or buy “influential publications” that review theater and books on a regular basis.

What I found most striking—and not in a good way—is what I DIDN’T see in this news story:

I didn’t see any mention made of any of these AA writers taking the innovative steps that others have taken to create consumer awareness and demand for their fiction. Such as the strategy of doing (free or paid) podcasting of their novels to develop a base of readers and more importantly, book-buyers. At the earlier blog, I did a post about a (WM) science fiction/thriller author who did this (Scott Sigler).

There’s also an interview at Editor Unleashed with another (WM) author (crime novelist Seth Harwood) who used this strategy to generate exposure for his work. Another fiction writer who podcasted his work is the (WM) thriller writer, J.C. Hutchins, who wrote the 7th Son trilogy.

Note: These men didn’t just whip up a novel and toss it out there without some sort of plan for growing an audience for their work. In 2 of these cases, they used (iTunes) podcasting to create a VERIFIABLE audience for their fiction, and later leveraged these verifiable numbers into book contracts.

Now, I’m not saying that the podcasting one’s novel (freebie or paid) method always works—after all, we’re probably only hearing about the success stories with this technique. My point is that when I read news stories about (and essays by) AA authors I DON’T hear any of them brainstorming creative ideas like podcasting for generating exposure and consumer awareness of their work. Instead, I hear whining and waiting for White publishers and other White entities to make it happen for them.

The other thing that I believe AA novelists should factor in their plans is the sort of fiction they’re writing.

It seems to me that it’s probably easier to use the above sort of consumer awareness building/reader-building techniques when you’re writing in genres that have a subculture of voracious, book-hungry readers—such as science fiction and romance. The so-called “street lit” peddlers have created a genre that has a subculture of readers who are hungry for that trash.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read or heard many serious, legitimate AA writers do any sort of strategizing about any of the above. The one “strategy” seems to consist of whining about and to Whites in the industry.

As I said at the beginning of this very long comment, this boils down to our refusal to become more business-minded and create our own infrastructure.

Another reader named JaliliMaster pointed out the following,

I’ve noticed that whenever Black folks compare the fortunes of INDIVIDUAL WM to that of BM in the same professions, they always only look at his success, while ignoring the extra things he might have done that they didn’t. Looking at these 3 men, most Black folks would just dismiss it as them getting a ‘leg-up’ because they are White, ignoring the fact that these men didn’t do things the traditional way. The fact is, if you want to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done. When Black folks get a clue, they’ll realise the benefits. Till then…oh well.

She’s absolutely right. Instead of considering some of the internal traits the others had to cultivate for their success (in these cases, resourcefulness), we’re quick to attribute their success purely to external factors. How convenient for a group of people who resist doing any sort of introspection or internal work.

POP QUIZ: FROM THE THINGS THEY SAID, WHAT CHARACTER TRAITS WOULD YOU GUESS ARE LACKING AMONG MANY OF THE CONFERENCE ATTENDEES?

This quiz might be an eye-opening experience. Replay the statements made by many of the Black writers quoted from the conference. And consider how these statements probably sound to other, more resourceful, people. Ask yourself . . . do you want to sound like these people?

REAL LIFE HAS MANY SILENT ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Real life has a number of silent, but very real, entry requirements. As writer Steve Pavlina stated in his post Achieving Goals By Improving Your Character,

Often a change in character is a crucial part of shifting your identity to become more congruent with your goals and intentions. For example, suppose you want to become more successful in your career, and you set a goal to reach a certain position. Maybe the main reason you haven’t yet reached that position is that your character attributes are out of sync with it. Perhaps you aren’t disciplined enough, confident enough, or resourceful enough to get there.

Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them. But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your goal because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it. It’s like trying to lift more weight than your muscles can manage.

Select one of your goals or intentions, especially one where your progress has been disappointing. Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are. What kind of person would find your goal easy to achieve?

He goes on to suggest various tools you can use to become that person. I highly recommend that you check them out.

October 10, 2010   27 Comments

The Art Of Stealth, Part 4: Pierce The Fog Of Dogma

Up to now, we’ve been discussing external actions needed to get ahead in a competitive world. For the next few chapters in this series, we’ll discuss some of the internal qualities needed to successfully walk the Sojourner’s Path.

The first internal quality needed is the willingness to pierce the fog of dogma. To be open to seeing things as they actually are, and how current reality impacts one’s own fortunes. Most African-Americans weigh people, situations and ideas on the wrong scale. We look at things solely through the lens of ideology. We’re not paying attention to the practical effects of our ideologies. We’re not paying any attention at all to the losses and gains we accrue from our various political beliefs. This had led to our collective ruin.

Let me give some examples.

CURRENT DOGMA—REFUSAL TO CHEERLEAD OBESITY = BEING AN EXCLUSIONARY OPPRESSOR

The current dogma among large numbers of African-American women is what has been called “fat acceptance,” and the cheerleading of obesity. It’s taboo among African-American women to: (1) refuse to cheerlead obesity, and (2) openly speak of the very real negative consequences of obesity. God help any African-American woman (of any weight range) who openly warns against obesity and urges overweight African-American women to lose weight.

REALITY—AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN ARE DYING LEFT AND RIGHT DUE TO OBESITY-RELATED AILMENTS

While I was at work last week, I came to a shocking realization. It turns out that for at least the past 5 years, every time that an ambulance has been called to my work building to assist an employee, the stricken employee has been an African-American woman. Every . . . single . . . time. The ambulance has been called for four Black women. Some of them have had the ambulance called more than once. None of them are elderly. All of them are suffering from various chronic ailments such as high blood pressure, and so on. All of them are overweight or obese. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

During a recent conversation, a reader asked,

Khadija, I’m reflecting on your ideas about Gabby and Semenya and the thought that the attention cast on them negatively impacts black women and undermines our beauty/femininity rep in mainstream culture. There are many black women who are LGBT identified, and many whose weight ranges from more than the size 2-6 beauty ideal, all the way to fat, as with white women in both cases. Is there a space for these black women in the Sojourner’s movement Khadija?

With the weight issue, I’ve heard variations on this question before at the previous blog. During this most recent conversation, I replied as follows,

Whoever said that there wasn’t space for “these women in the Sojourners movement”? Where is that thought coming from? Where have I—or anybody else—said that there wasn’t space for these women? I’m also wondering where you got those dress size ranges from. I know that I have never spoken in terms of specific dress sizes. Where’s that coming from?

Which leads me to my next question—What does “support” look like, as you see it?

Does “support” mean ratifying everything and anything about what people are doing?

Does “support” mean remaining silent about aspects of certain situations that are problematic?

I’m curious: What would you have me say or do (that I’m not already doing) to demonstrate “support” for GLBT women and/or women who, as YOU described them, “whose weight ranges from more than the size 2-6 beauty ideal”?

If you read the post from the previous blog [that I had linked to in an earlier comment] (and some other posts from there), you’ll see that I’ve spoken out against bigotry against GLBT people. What else would you have me say to demonstrate my “support” (as you define “support”)?

I eagerly look forward to your reply.

. . . I’m happy I asked for some clarification; I think I now have a better understanding of your questions. Here’s my response:

I don’t have a separate policy position regarding overweight AA women. I also don’t have a separate policy position regarding AA lesbians.

I want the same thing (abundant life) for all AA women and girls.

The idea of separating AA lesbians or overweight AA women out of my work never occurred to me. When I’m talking to or about AA women and girls, I’m referring to ALL of us.

Being overweight or morbidly obese like Ms. Sidibe is not healthy for any AA woman or girl. There are real life, real world negative consequences attached to overweight/obesity. I firmly believe that AA women need to stop tripping about this. I would suggest that folks who haven’t already done so, take the time to read Tracy’s excellent guest post over at Christelyn’s house. Here’s part of it:

“Since last Friday, three women that I know have passed on. No, I’m not use the nice words for this – three women – two good friends of my mother’s and one brilliant caring friend of mine – ARE DEAD. Way before their time. My friend – a nurse, a mother,and a comedian that could make a statue laugh – had a heart attack sitting in her car. She was on her way home from work. They found her the next morning. DEAD.

She was a big woman: she would always tell me that one day she was going to join me on my walks. Like me, she had diabetes and high blood pressure. Like me, she ignored the signs of trouble – failing eyesight, tiredness, aching limbs, headaches – put her cares in the “hands of Jesus”, and kept right on eating. Eating. She would get upset when you got on her about her food choices. Or about how her weight fluctuations were affecting her hormones – she was getting the rash on her neck and damn near growing a beard.. “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine”….. She was 43. She had two kids. She had a husband. Now her business is their business – they have to bury her, and go on without her.”

So, I doubt that I’ll ever give a “hip, hip, hooray” in support of anybody being morbidly obese. I have changed my views about several key things; and I expect to continue to have evolving views as long as I’m alive. However, I just don’t see my views about AA women and obesity changing. Certainly not in order to accommodate the current fat acceptance dogma.

Having an unfeminine or God forbid, butch, self-presentation is a disadvantage for any AA woman or girl—whatever her sexual orientation might be. There are real life, real world negative consequences attached to that. I firmly believe that AA women—all AA women—need to stop tripping about this. When a woman creates a butch self-presentation for herself, she cuts herself off from the benefits of being perceived as feminine. Defeminization by visually becoming un-women means that a woman won’t receive what has been described as the four main manifestations of male protection: courtesy, concern, consideration, and concessions.

Furthermore, a self-defeminizing, butch woman has also put a bullseye on her own back. I’m not talking about what’s right or fair. Life is not fair. I’m talking about how the real world actually operates, and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. I hope this answers your questions. 🙂

Expect Success!

Let me make something plain . . .

I’m not going to cheerlead the things that are killing African-American women.

Cheerleading obesity and fat acceptance is cheerleading suffering and early death.

I’m not going to bite my tongue about the negative consequences of being overweight or obese. I would rather that African-American women be annoyed and alive. As opposed to complacent and dead.

CURRENT DOGMA—CHEERLEADING NON-MAINSTREAM BEHAVIOR IS ALWAYS PROGRESSIVE AND SUPPORTS LIBERATION

There’s a similar dogma among progressive African-American women concerning femininity. Many of us assume that cheerleading non-mainstream behavior and self-presentation is to automatically be in support of justice and freedom. I disagree.

REALITY—CHEERLEADING BUTCH SELF-PRESENTATION CHOICES IS CHEERLEADING UNNECESSARY HARDSHIP AND SUFFERING FOR THE WOMEN WHO PRESENT THEMSELVES AS BUTCH

Here’s what I believe: I believe that people don’t choose their sexual orientations. I don’t recall ever “choosing” to be heterosexual. I never decided or made a choice to take up an interest in having sex with men. So no, I don’t believe that anybody chooses their sexual orientation. However, the clothes you wear, and how you present yourself is a choice. A choice that has consequences, as I mentioned in my reply to the reader.

Let me mention some more food for thought. Has it occurred to any of us “wannabe supportive” straight women that some lesbians might consider this butch self-presentation a lesbian equivalent of “Acting Black” mess? I’ll call it “Acting Queer.” [Since “queer” is the term that many politicized gays and lesbians use for themselves.] I’ll note that some of the African-American lesbians I’ve known have complained about being criticized—by other lesbians—for being what I’ve heard gay men refer to as “straight-acting and appearing.” Has it occurred to anybody that for some lesbian and bisexual women, this stereotypical butch stuff might be a suffocating, internal straitjacket similar to the stereotypical “acting Black” mess? It seems to me that cheerleading butch self-presentations is not automatically the same as supporting liberation for lesbian and bisexual women.

One of the coworkers I mentioned earlier who has had an ambulance called for her at work is a lesbian. She has complained about the friction she’s had over the years with a number of butch lesbians about her lack of interest in dating butch-looking women. [Sounds a lot like the “self-hating” insult that’s tossed at any African-American who refuses to engage in or support the nonsense that has been falsely equated with being Black.] I have heard similar complaints from some of the other lesbians I’ve known. Granted, the lesbian and bisexual women that I’ve known well enough to have these sorts of conversations with have all been so-called “straight-acting and appearing.”

Again, let me make it plain.

I’m not going to cheerlead choices that create unnecessary hardship for African-American women. A butch self-presentation falls into that category.

Also, I’m not going to cheerlead butch women being lifted up as representative examples of African-American or Black womanhood. This is what I’ve previously said about the controversial runner Caster Semenya,

I believe that BW are making a HUGE long-term, strategic mistake by rallying around this individual with indignant tones of “How dare anybody question her gender?”

We’re saying this as if this person is an accurate representation of Black womanhood. Is THIS individual somebody that we want to scream about and lift up as “ain’t she a woman, darn it?”

I believe that by taking this posture, we are yet again undermining the image of BW as being desirable and feminine.

A woman can be cut and muscular and still have a feminine shape, as we’ve seen with many other female athletes. That’s not what’s going on here.

I’ve looked at the pictures of this individual’s physique. There’s NOTHING womanly about her. Including her moustache. I DON’T want this individual lifted up as any sort of example of Black womanhood. I’m NOT claiming this aberrant individual as an example of Black womanhood. “She” doesn’t have anything to do with me and other actual, normal women.

Again, I think it’s a huge mistake for us to run around claiming this person is a “normal” BW. By doing so, we are cooperating with the idea that we aren’t women just like other women on the planet.

I believe that she’s intersexed or has some other abnormality (genetic abnormality, something causing high testosterone levels, etc.).

And no, it’s not “fair and square” for intersexed individuals or others with abnormally high testosterone levels or other male attributes to compete against normal women with normal levels of male hormones, etc. This is exactly the same unfair advantage that the East Germans and Soviets sought for their “female” athletes in previous eras. The East Germans and Soviets were cheating then by doing this. It’s still cheating now to use genetic non-women against women competitors.

Intersexed individuals need to compete against the other athletes***meaning MEN***who have comparable levels of male hormones, and other male attributes, etc. That is what would be fair as far as I’m concerned.

I stand by that sentiment. African-American women can’t afford to cooperate with being “othered.” Whether it’s by only showcasing obese Black women. Or by lifting up butch Black women. Golden Ah, blog host of Betty Chambers Has Spoken, has written an excellent post about the current campaign to “other” Black women. I strongly urge everyone to read the post in its entirety. She said,

I’ll repeat myself: I might be willing to accept the alternative “other” images of us, once they let Ellen DeGeneres and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC be as unattractive and masculine as their original, keeping-it-real selves used to be. But if you notice, the first thing they went through was a total and complete makeover. They were made to conform to an ideal; an existing feminine and attractive package.

Ladies. All of these people out there enjoy “othering” you. DO NOT EMBRACE IT. Let those bitches go first.

It’s a disgusting and deadly thing these people like to do to black women. When you accept “othering”, MEN wont and do not regard you as feminine. They will not come and protect you. You leave yourself vulnerable. That’s why people like throwing “strong black woman” at us. No one feels we are entitled to respect, protection, to be provided for, or cherished like other women.

Nearly everywhere one looks, there’s an overweight, or obese black woman (who’s often loud) receiving mainstream media attention and accolades. Even if her career is going to last 5 minutes. Or maybe she’s the face of an extremely harsh and pungent detergent, feminine yeast problems, or other unattractive ailments, and even if she’s pleasant, the product is nice – there’s something off about her.

She’s absolutely right.

HAVING AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED RELATIONSHIP WITH ASPECTS OF ONE’S IDENTITY IS UNHEALTHY AND USUALLY UNATTRACTIVE

Healthy people don’t have emotionally charged relationships with the various facets of their identity. They simply appreciate and when relevant, celebrate, their identities and go on with their lives. I want all of us to be relaxed and self-confident enough to enjoy all this world has to offer. Without unnecessary hindrances. Right now, most African-Americans can’t do this because we have emotionally charged relationships with various aspects of our identity.

Not only are these emotionally charged relationships with various aspects of our identity unhealthy, but they’re also typically unattractive and off-putting (for various reasons). Let me give some examples with various personal attributes.

ATTRIBUTE—OVERWEIGHT/OBESITY

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Is making efforts (however small) to get to a healthy weight, is interested in hearing and sharing health tips.

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Fat-acceptance proselytizing, (often angry) denial of consequences attached to overweight/obesity.

ATTRIBUTE— Black Woman With Natural Hairstyle

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Is happy with her natural hairstyle, does not try to shove her hairstyle choice down other people’s throats.

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Is a natural hair crusader, finds her identity in her hair, is defined by her natural hair, constantly berates other Black women for not wearing natural hairstyles.

ATTRIBUTE— Black Person With One Non-Black Parent

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Content to self-identify as “Black,” is not frantic for other people to know that they’re half-non-Black; other people naturally find out about the non-Black parent (when they happen to meet them or see photos of them).

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Desperate to make sure that everybody knows that they’re not Black like “regular” Blacks, frequently mentions their “biracial” status—even when it’s totally irrelevant to the conversation, typically holds many anti-Black racist views.

ATTRIBUTE— Lesbian Or Bisexual Woman

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Is more or less indistinguishable from straight women, falls within the same basic range of feminine through feminine-tomboy mannerisms and personal styles as most straight women, her sexual orientation is one of many important aspects of her personal identity.

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Is entirely defined by her sexual orientation, is acting out a stereotypical “Acting Queer” parallel to “Acting Black” stereotypes.

ATTRIBUTE— Western Muslim Man Wearing A Beard

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Has a neatly clipped, short beard, is wearing typical Western clothes at work.

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Has a ZZ Top-length beard, feels obligated to always wear Arab or South Asian clothes and headgear, his beard and his “eastern” clothes are his faith.

ATTRIBUTE— Western Muslim Woman Wearing Hijab

Emotionally Healthy Person With This Attribute: Wears a head scarf, is otherwise dressed in typical Western clothes.

Person With An Issue About This Attribute: Wearing a full veil with only her eyes showing, feels obligated to only wear Arab or South Asian clothes, her veil and her “eastern” clothes are her faith, wants special accommodations for her choice to wear this gear (does not want to remove veil/mask for driver’s license photo, and so on).

The “issue” versions of most attributes are unhealthy and almost always unappealing. They also don’t help people as they navigate the outer world. I want you to win as you go through life. Whether you choose to compete or not, you live in a competitive world. If you’re behind, other people are not going to slow down to give you a chance to catch up. They’re going to continue to seek every advantage they can get. To win, you have to be willing to pierce the fog of dogma and consider the practical effects of various choices.

If you want to win in life, you need to lay the dogma aside for a moment and ask yourself:

  • What is the practical effect of X?
  • If X is a liability, is X worth the price?

**Audience Note** In terms of publishing new posts, I’m going to pause here for a moment. I want everyone to let the four chapters published so far in this series marinate for a while.

September 23, 2010   49 Comments

The Art Of Stealth, Part 3: Sidestep African-American Guard Dogs By Staying Focused On Self-Interests

Welcome to the third episode of The Art of Stealth. The purpose of this series is to learn and master the strategies that others have used to get ahead. It’s intended to serve as part of a 21st century “mirror” for sojourners. The “mirror for princes” genre was a type of political writing that was very popular during the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries. These books taught rulers how to behave in order to avoid having reigns that were violent, tragic, and most of all, short. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is the most famous example of this genre. The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian is another popular example of this genre. Currently, these books are mostly read as a form of self-help literature. Most African-Americans have never heard of them. This is a pity. This lack of knowledge makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to hype, and vulnerable to the wiles of others who are familiar with the wisdom contained in these books.

This chapter builds on and is the second half of the Part 2 entry, “Do Not Commit To Anyone, But Be Courted By All.” If you haven’t already done so, please read it now.

As was discussed in Part 2, most African-Americans have the bad habit of rushing in to take sides. This foolish habit has many negative consequences: Nobody has to “bid” for our support because we offer it automatically and freely. We unnecessarily make other people’s enemies our enemies. We drain our own resources while fighting other people’s battles. We naively assume that every fight is a principled crusade, when most times it’s actually about advancing other people’s personal ambitions. Finally, the people whose causes we support discard us at the first opportunity.

Unfortunately, we engage in this foolish behavior across the board—at work, at college, in politics, in our personal lives. And as I stated during Part 2, we often continue to be good “guard dogs” who fight other people’s enemies—even after they’ve reconciled!

A QUICK GUIDE TO IDENTIFYING GUARD DOG BEHAVIOR

The easiest way to identify guard dog behavior is to consider the question: “Is this person’s advocacy on behalf of self, and people who are most like self? Or is it on behalf of a group of people other than self?” “Self” is measured by closeness to, or distance from, one’s own identity. For example, in my case, “self” is African-American women and girls. Latinos (of any race) are not part of “self.” Continental Africans are not part of “self.” Other non-African-American Blacks are not part of “self.” Non-African-American Muslims are not part of “self.” In the context of the conversation that I’ll use later on as an example of guard dog behavior, “self” means African-American Muslims.

Now, I will on occasion support the interests of specific individuals other than self. But I only do that for the specific, individual “others” who have invested in me. My support does NOT extend to these other people’s entire ethnic groups, tribes, or nations! And even with that, I won’t support X for individual helpful others if doing so would damage one of my own ethnic group’s core interests. I’m not going to cut my own people’s throat to be in solidarity with others, including those specific others who have helped me. The same way they don’t cut their own people’s throat to be in solidarity with anybody else.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN GUARD DOGS PERFORM OTHER SERVICES FOR THEIR MASTERS

Directly protecting their masters from these masters’ enemies isn’t the only service performed by African-American guard dogs. They perform a wide range of indirect protection services for their non-African-American masters.

Demanding That You Also Support Their Masters.The African-American guard dog has already rushed in to take a side—somebody else’s! They will follow this up by coming among other African-Americans to insist that you must also support the “side” that they’ve chosen to fight for. I’m sure that you’ve seen this behavior pattern over and over again. The basic guard dog assertion in these instances is some variation on “We must support X.” And they will offer a number of spurious reasons why “we must support X.” These “we must support X” statements will usually start off by presuming some sort of connection between the African-American listeners and the guard dog’s non-African-American master.

If you’re resistant to supporting a cause other than your own (such as their masters’ cause), the guard dogs will become increasingly belligerent.

Trying To Silence Any Criticism Of Their Masters. African-American guard dogs will be annoyed by your refusal to take their master’s side. They’ll be indignant if you say something even remotely unflattering about their masters. Finally, they’ll snap to attention and rush in to fight you if you criticize their masters. You see this all the time with African-American guard dogs coming to African-American blogs to engage in verbal combat with their own people on behalf of an endless list of others: Latinos, non-African-American Blacks, “don’t you dare call me Black”-so-called biracials, Martians, and whoever else that’s not African-American.

STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR OWN INTERESTS. SIDESTEP THE GUARD DOGS. DON’T LET THEM DRAW YOU INTO A DESTRUCTIVE BATTLE OVER THEIR MASTERS

If they can’t get you to join them in fighting for their masters, and if they can’t get you to shut up with your truthful, unflattering statements about their masters . . . then the African-American guard dogs have one final service they try to perform on behalf of their masters. They will try to divert you from your original agenda by drawing you into a fight with them over their master’s interests.

Don’t do it! Don’t directly fight with them over the merits of their master’s cause. Can you see how doing so serves to shift the spotlight away from your own interests and onto their master’s interests? Instead, keep your comments focused on self, and how X impacts self-interests. Also, if possible try not to get nasty with the guard dogs. Many of them are well-intentioned (if misguided). And it’s best to, if at all possible, keep things civil. That way, you might be able to work with them in the future on projects that benefit self.

AN EXAMPLE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSLIMS PERFORMING GUARD DOG SERVICES

Far too many African-American Muslims are self-hating slaves who place more (unreciprocated) value on foreign Muslims’ lives and interests than they do on their own. For an example of this guard dog mindset in action, see this crazy conversation over at Abdur-Rahman Muhammad’s blog, A Singular Voice. He and I were about the only ones who could see what’s wrong with the notion of cheerleading the Somali pirates over our fellow American citizens.

Pay particular attention to the back and forth argument I had with a commenter named Kwame during that conversation. Thankfully, by the time of the subsequent prosecutions of some African-American Muslims on the east coast for terrorism-related charges (some trumped-up sounding, agent-provocateur-inspired “plot” to blow up a synagogue), many of the African-American Muslim fools who had previously been cheerleading the Somali pirates found a clue. And decided to think carefully about their own interests as African-Americans, and chill on that guard dog behavior.

Unfortunately, I broke the “don’t get nasty with the guard dogs” rule during the above conversation. I somewhat lost my emotional discipline because I felt the African-American guard dogs (who were defending the interests of Somali pirates) were endangering the liberty interests of other African-American Muslims. First, by encouraging potentially incriminating statements that could be used in a trumped-up prosecution for supporting terrorists. And second, by projecting the image that African-American Muslims are a disloyal fifth column in support of foreign enemies. I felt that if it took getting nasty to stop the guard dogs from endangering other African-American Muslims’ freedom, so be it.

**Audience Note** The comments are closed to this post because I don’t want to have a potentially counterproductive conversation about who is and isn’t a guard dog. That’s not helpful. My point is to describe this behavior pattern so you recognize it whenever you encounter it. Sidestep the guard dogs and stay focused on what benefits SELF.

September 22, 2010   No Comments

The Art Of Stealth, Part 2: “Do Not Commit To Anyone, But Be Courted By All”

Welcome to the second episode of The Art of Stealth. The purpose of this series is to learn and master the strategies that others have used to get ahead. It’s intended to serve as part of a 21st century “mirror” for sojourners. The “mirror for princes” genre was a type of political writing that was very popular during the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries. These books taught rulers how to behave in order to avoid having reigns that were violent, tragic, and most of all, short. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is the most famous example of this genre. The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian is another popular example of this genre. Currently, these books are mostly read as a form of self-help literature. Most African-Americans havenever heard of them. This is a pity. This lack of knowledge makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to hype, and vulnerable to the wiles of others who are familiar with the wisdom contained in these books.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS ARE TOO QUICK TO TAKE SIDES. THIS IS FOOLISH.

Today’s quote is from The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene,

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others—playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

(emphasis added) The 48 Laws of Power, pg. 145.

Once you step into a fight that is not of your own choosing, you lose all initiative. The combatants’ interests become your interests; you become their tool. Learn to control yourself, to restrain your natural tendency to take sides and join the fight. Be friendly and charming to each of the combatants, then step back as they collide. With every battle they grow weaker, while you grow stronger with every battle you avoid. [pg. 152]

To play the game properly, you must seem interested in other people’s problems, even sometimes appear to take their side. But while you make outward gestures of support, you must maintain your inner energy and sanity by keeping your emotions disengaged. No matter how hard people try to pull you in, never let your interest in their affairs and petty squabbles go beyond the surface. Give them gifts, listen with a sympathetic look, even occasionally play the charmer—but inwardly keep both the friendly kings and the perfidious Borgias at arm’s length. [pg. 153]

. . . Preserving your autonomy gives you options when people come to blows—you can play the mediator, broker the peace, while really securing your own interests. You can pledge support to one side and the other may have to court you with a higher bid. [pg. 153]

THE DISADVANTAGES CAUSED BY OUR QUICKNESS TO TAKE SIDES ARE OBVIOUS

I assume that most folks in the audience can recognize that the above-described behavior is exactly how most other people of color, including non-African-American Blacks, have handled their interactions with us. This is wise of them. This behavior enables them to keep friendly relations with all factions while African-Americans endlessly fight various equal rights battles over the years. This means that no matter who wins or loses, they’re in good shape when the dust settles.

Often, we continue to be good “guard dogs” who fight these other people’s enemies—even after they’ve reconciled!

The disadvantages to African-Americans’ unfortunate habit of rushing to take sides should be equally obvious: Nobody has to “bid” for our support because we offer it automatically and freely. We unnecessarily make other people’s enemies our enemies. We drain our own resources while fighting other people’s battles. We naively assume that every fight is a principled crusade, when most times it’s actually about advancing other people’s personal ambitions. Finally, the people whose causes we support discard us at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, we engage in this foolish behavior across the board—at work, at college, in politics, in our personal lives.

Learn from the so-called biracial and multicultural “rainbow chicks,” and other people of color:

  • Listen sympathetically, but don’t commit to other people’s causes.
  • Quietly hedge your bets and secure your own interests.
  • Position yourself to be able to get with whoever wins.

September 20, 2010   14 Comments

The Art Of Stealth, Part 1: Sometimes When People Hate You . . . They Join You

Welcome to the first episode of The Art of Stealth. The purpose of this series is to learn and master the strategies that others have used to get ahead. It’s intended to serve as part of a 21st century “mirror” for sojourners. The “mirror for princes” genre was a type of political writing that was very popular during the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries. These books taught rulers how to behave in order to avoid having reigns that were violent, tragic, and most of all, short. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is the most famous example of this genre. The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian is another popular example of this genre. Currently, these books are mostly read as a form of self-help literature. Most African-Americans havenever heard of them. This is a pity. This lack of knowledge makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to hype, and vulnerable to the wiles of others who are familiar with the wisdom contained in these books.

OTHER PEOPLE KNOW AND EXPLOIT AFRICAN-AMERICANS’ EMOTIONAL ‘THUMBSCREWS’

From Balthasar Gracian’s Art of Worldly Wisdom,

26. Find out each person’s thumbscrew. This is the art of setting their wills in action. It needs more skill than resolution. You must know where to get at any one. Every volition has a special motive that varies according to taste. All people idolize something; for some it is fame, for others self-interest, for most it is pleasure. Skill consists in knowing these idols in order to bring them into play. Know a person’s mainspring of motive and you have as it were the key to his will. Have resort to primary motives, which are not always the highest but more often the lowest part of his nature because there are more dispositions badly organized than well. First guess a person’s ruling passion, appeal to it with words, set it in motion by temptation, and you will always checkmate his freedom of will.

Part of the reason African-Americans are so easily manipulated and exploited by others is because they know our emotional thumbscrews. We tend to wear them on our sleeves. They know that most African-Americans lack racial or ethnic self-respect. They know that most of us are desperate for validation from outsiders. They also know that we are a child-like, gullible people who assume that every smiling face is a friend. We don’t understand that an enemy is actually being kind by remaining aloof and openly showing hostility. We’ve never learned that the most dangerous and vicious enemy is the one who smiles in your face and joins you.

Generations of other people have consistently made the rational choice to use our vulnerabilities to their advantage. Over the decades, many other ethnic groups have successfully manipulated African-Americans. Some of them did it to ensure that we never became competitive with them. One example of this was the control that a series of Jewish-Americans exercised over the NAACP. Other groups did it so they could ride our civil rights coattails to advance their own interests. Examples of this include Latinos of all races, and various other groups of foreign-origin Blacks. We can learn from these other people and the strategies they used.

THE NAACP EXAMPLE

During an earlier conversation, I mentioned the following about the NAACP and other examples,

We already know there’s NO reciprocity. Non-African-American Blacks don’t allow African-Americans (AAs) to preside over their ethnic political organizations, or control anything they truly care about. We also know that non-Blacks don’t allow AAs to have command and control over their ethnic organizations. They certainly never do like the decades of AAs who watched White men (specifically Jewish men like Kivie Kaplan who served as NAACP president from 1966-1975) sit in the role of NAACP president until the 1970s. From Wikipedia,

The NAACP was incorporated a year later in 1911. The association’s charter delineated its mission:

To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for the children, employment according to their ability and complete equality before law.

The conference resulted in a more influential and diverse organization, where the leadership was predominantly white and heavily Jewish American. In fact, at its founding, the NAACP had only one African American on its executive board, Du Bois himself. It did not elect a black president until 1975, although executive directors had been African American. (emphasis added) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAACP

It’s only AAs who are stupid enough to give other people command and control over their political and organizational “nuclear codes.” We know this.

But here’s another question we need to start asking about the various rivals/enemies who “kill us softly” by joining us: Could these Africans have set up these outposts in US universities (continental African studies masquerading as African-American studies programs) without pimping AAs? I think the general answer is “No.”

It seems to me that these African Studies programs got their stuff recognized under the cover of AA students and communities agitating for African-American studies programs.

This is a critical question that we need to start asking about the non-AAs who come among us—what are they looking to gain from joining us that they CAN’T get—or can’t get as easily—on their own?

For example, like I said in an earlier comment, Telemundo and Univision are not checking for Black Latina actresses like Zoe Saldana or Gina Torres. So, if these Black Latina women had to depend solely on finding roles among their own Latino peeps, they would be S-O-L. The few times, recent and past, that I’ve glanced at Spanish-language tv, I’ve noticed that they tend to have the Whitest people among them on those programs.

And then on the political and movement tip, some of these other types of Black folks want to come among and rule over AAs, when they can’t command the same sort of following among their own people. Do non-Black Latinos follow the leadership of Black Latinos?

THE BLACK STUDENT UNION EXAMPLES

A reader named KM remarked,

. . . I just came to that realization recently as I was being bombarded by emails for the “Black College Reunion” for my university and memories of the Sankofas/Black Student Union/etc. meetings. Africans/Afro-Caribbeans/Afro-Latinos were rife in leading the BSU but no AAs were allowed to even think of leading the African Student Union, Caribbean Student Union, Latino Caucus, etc.

AAs are powerful enough still (even though the power base is eroded every day by the BC’s embrace of the depraved) where for Africans and other Black non-AAs, it’s best to work your agenda cloaked under togetherness BS with AAs until you have what you want. Then, its time to shake off the AAs (like Latinos are doing) and go for self while leaving AAs in the dust.

I smelled the coffee about BM and stopped being involved almost a decade ago, yet, I’m still learning things that I never thought existed as my eyes have been awakened by BWE.

IN OUR UNDYING GRATITUDE FOR OUTSIDERS’ SMILING FACES AND PRETENSE AT JOINING US, AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAPPILY SERVE AS GUARD DOGS FOR THEIR INTERESTS

Joining African-Americans to exploit us and our resources is only the 101-level of this strategy. The more advanced level is for an outsider to praise the African-American dupes who serve as guard dogs protecting the interests of that outsider’s group. The outsider doesn’t have to actually offer reciprocity in exchange for this sort of support. All they need to do is periodically give lip service in support of an imaginary “alliance” with African-Americans. The African-American guard dogs will forever more fight other African-Americans on behalf of that outsider and their ethnic group.

I thought of this while reading a couple of readers’ comments from a recent post. YMB said,

It’s a shame that the majority of AA women are so concerned with being inclusive and fair to others that they’ve become willing accomplices in pushing themselves to the sidelines, except for when it comes to depictions of the obese, the ignorant, the depraved, or the freakish. When desirable images of BW are presented, the majority of the time it is biracial and/or Latina women being shown. I have seen plenty of loud, déclassé, overweight, and unattractive mixed race women, yet none of those women get tapped to fill such roles in cinema or TV.

…I wanted to add that this last aspect was on my mind after reading another article on the site where that article about GB’s Elle cover was originally posted. The gist of the article was basically to take BW readers to task for questioning the website’s prominently featuring biracial/multiracial and latina women like Zoe Saldana when the target audience is black women.

. . . It is now so easy for me to see through the standard “hating on/jealous” and “we must be inclusive” bullpucky arguments.

Later on, Magenta said,

I saw the “we must be inclusive/we are all women of color in this together/mixed chicks and afro-latinas are black too, stop being jealous of us!” nonsense in the discussion YMB is alluding to and I just laughed. While it is not funny, I am just shocked at how some people are still buying into this multiculturalism farce. The multicultural rainbow girls are like clockwork, beating BW over the head with this “women of color” mess when they want street cred, a black acting role, or are on the prowl for a BM to hook up with. And there are still confused BW running to their defense, lecturing others about inclusion??? To call them out on their opportunistic behavior is somehow “divisive”?

To be honest I can’t blame the rainbow girls. They are just doing what is necessary to stay at the top of the pecking order. Can you imagine what would happen if all the monoracial, “plain”, “regular-looking” BW found their self worthand woke up? These “women of color” don’t want that kind of competition. Again, I am not mad at them. I just want us to be just as shrewd as they are and stop being so naive.

LEARN FROM THE “RAINBOW GIRLS.” LEARN THE ART OF STEALTH

As I’ve said during earlier conversations, this isn’t about these other people. It’s about African-American women learning how to better protect and advance their own interests. There’s a lot that we can learn from these other people. We’ll talk about this in detail during future posts in this series. But I’ll briefly mention the main take-away points for today:

  • African-American women tend to be much too direct in their approach to various situations. It’s easier to shoot down a bird who flies in a straight line.
  • Women from other ethnic groups are not raised to engage in direct, open conflict. They’re taught to fight indirectly by using other people as weapons. They’re also taught to get things indirectly, especially through men. This way, they preserve their image as feminine, desirable women. As opposed to looking like workhorses and mules who have to scramble, hunt and peck for everything.
  • The direct, “smash and grab” approach to getting things usually stirs up resentment and resistance. It’s better to position yourself so that other people get things for you, and bring them to you. One example is to join other people who are “smashing and grabbing,” sit back, and let them bring the spoils of their struggles to you. This is how other women of color reap the benefits of African-American women’s penchant for Sister Soldiering. They sit back and maintain their feminine posture while the mulish, mannish, Sister Soldiers smash and grab. The Sister Soldiers take all the hits to their image, and the non-African-American women of color reap the benefits that the Sister Soldiers happily share with them.

September 19, 2010   61 Comments