Wednesday, May 29, 2013

HIV-Positive and 'Undetectable': What Does It Really Mean? by Tyler Curry

It is impossible to have a modern conversation about HIV and HIV stigma without having the term "undetectable" used, misused and abused. Those involved in HIV advocacy certainly have strong opinions on how the term that refers to an HIV-positive person's undetectable viral load should be used (and who is using it incorrectly). Some herald the term as a badge of honor worn by those who are compliant with their treatment and open about their HIV status, while others would scold the same group of people for using the term as an excuse to engage in unsafe sexual behavior. Either way, oversimplified accolades and mud-slinging morality judgments have no place in a conversation about HIV stigma, prevention and the term that is a result of compliance with medication. With many gay men still unclear about what being "undetectable" truly constitutes, how do we get to a place where we can discuss what it means and doesn't mean without all of us looking dirty in the end?

For those who are still unsure, an HIV-positive person can achieve undetectable levels after undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). A level of a person's HIV viral load is what causes them to be more or less likely to transmit the disease. An undetectable viral load reduces the likelihood of transmission by 96 percent. Once a person achieves an undetectable status, it is possible to remain at this level provided that the person is compliant with their ART medication.

An education on the specifics of HIV as it is today, including the meaning of being undetectable, should be mandatory reading for gay men, regardless of HIV status. It is critical that the entire community understand where we are in terms of HIV research. No matter how far removed you are from the HIV pandemic, you are still susceptible to the virus (especially if you think you aren't).

Now, unless we find a way to infuse subliminal HIV messaging into the speakers of every H&M in the country, casual conversation amongst peers is the next best method of effective education. But, as with many discussions concerning HIV, the topic quickly turns into the blame game. So who loses? Everyone.

For the sake of conversation, let's liken a person whose viral load is undetectable to a person who is HIV-negative. With both classifications, you get tested regularly to make sure that you are still safely in your category. But unlike being HIV-negative, discussing the meaning of an undetectable status almost immediately gets bogged down by shame mongering and moral accusations. Use of the term is often ridiculed, immediately placing judgment on the HIV-positive person who speaks about his undetectable status.

The following quotation was taken from a post that asked people how they think we can make progress in eliminating HIV stigma:
I'd like to hear more responsible discussion in our community about how dangerous and reckless it is to use the term "undetectable" given the implications of treating "undetectable" status as if it were really something different from being positive.

This claim wasn't given with malicious intent, but it does give a lucid demonstration of the difficult nature of discussing HIV-related topics without subconsciously casting judgment.

In fact, people whose viral load is undetectable should never stop talking about their HIV status. Do it at the gym, on the subway and even at Sunday service (if that's your sort of thing):

"Did you catch the last inning of the Rangers game last night?"

"Hell, no, I don't watch sports. But my viral load is 57!"

A person discussing their undetectable status is a beautiful thing because it means that they have been tested, are on treatment and are open and honest about their HIV status. The idea that the term "undetectable" is only used to lure unsuspecting prey into performing high-risk sexual acts with someone who is HIV-positive is both stigmatizing and criminalizing. This notion removes all responsibility from the other party when they have just been given the information they need to protect their own health. And in fact, it is their responsibility (and no one else's) to protect their own health.

Far too often, our community mistakes silence as an admission of innocence. If no one asks about a person's HIV status, no one tells. Worse, a person will assert their HIV-negative status even if it's been months, or even years, since their last HIV test.

Yet these proverbial question marks walk around each day, unscathed by denunciations associated with their bedtime behavior. They aren't reduced to sweeping stereotypes of being sexual pariahs even though their sketchy HIV status could possibly place a person at much greater risk than someone who is undetectable.

In the realm of sex and dating, the responsibility lies with you to make the appropriate choices to protect your health. Unfortunately, people are slutty, nobody likes using condoms and everybody is a liar. But that doesn't mean that we have to muddle the value of an undetectable viral load and debase a group of people who are at least willing to be upfront about their HIV status.

The sexual acts of gay men do not exist in two separate vacuums. If they did, it would certainly be much easier to squash the transmission of the virus. Therefore, the conversation about what it will take to decrease stigma and increase HIV testing must also exist without uninformed generalizations that could silence many before they even speak.

In order for a conversation about HIV and HIV stigma to have substantive meaning, assumptions, accusations and generalizations need to become "undetectable."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Don't Sex, Sneeze or Snog: Meningitis Goes Gays In NYC

New York Times is reporting a meningitis that is attacking and has killed a number of gay/bisexual men in the city. It is easier to catch than HIV. By saliva..kissing, sharing a cigarette or joint or being sneezed on. The good news is there is a meningitis vaccine that if received will protect guys for up to five years. And they are trying to get the news out before all the gay pride events this summer cuz we gay guys love to travel. Definitely check with your Dr. to see if you have had that vaccine in the last five years and get it if not. Over 10,200 vaccinations have been given in NYC at clubs, sex clubs, house parties. 50% of the cases have been from the African-American gay/bisexual community and 18% from Hispanic and rest from white guys. It does not seem to infect women. Check out the article in New York Times!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Good Men For Men: Finding, Keeping and Being Loved By One

Everyone says they want a Good Man...and quite a few say they are Good Men. Whether you're same gender loving, bisexual, straight, homosexual, omnisexual or transsexual, this book will teach you what to measure manhood and masculinity by.

Author, TV host and teacher, Kyle Phoenix has brought together all of the information, tips, strategies, action plans and identifiers that thousands of men around the world have taken advantage of to find a Good Man.

How to identify Good Men;
How to date them---where to go, what to do, what not to do;
What Good Men are looking for
What Good Men avoid and why
Who a Good Man is willing to be in your life and not.

Real life couples who've struggled with how to maintain a relationship with the challenges of life dreams, work, school, family, finances and sex then give you a peek into their unique solutions. You'll learn how to negotiate what works for you and what doesn't and more importantly how not to break up when the going gets rough in the first few weeks or few years.

But what if you meet (or are) a Good Man on the cusp, how to enhance and improve to become a sensational, accountable and responsible Good Man. There's a detailed guide in here on not only things to work on in life but also the resources to make them happen. From work to starting a business to managing finances to understanding home buying to school navigation, proper sex safe sex techniques, including lubes and condoms, and much more.

Then as an added bonus the book also contains links to dozens of agencies around the world that will help you improve every area of your life. Also you'll have access to all of the Kyle Phoenix television shows, online video classes, blogs and Special Reports.

This one has it all!

Why do you need this book?
Because you're worth it. Your sexuality is good and natural and should be shared and loved. All you need are the skills, the tips and strategies and you're sure to discover the Good Man within yourself.

And you know what other Good Men are looking for?
You guessed it!
Good Men!

Thank you,
Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on FaceBook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast on

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What We Mean When We Say 'Race Is a Social Construct'

In a world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census, even the argument that racial labels refer to natural differences in physical traits doesn't hold up.

Walter White. Chairman of the NAACP. Black dude. (The Walter White Project)

Andrew Sullivan and Freddie Deboer have two pieces up worth checking out. I disagree with Andrew's (though I detect some movement in his position.) Freddie's piece is entitled "Precisely How Not to Argue About Race and IQ." He writes:

The problem with people who argue for inherent racial inferiority is not that they lie about the results of IQ tests, but that they are credulous about those tests and others like them when they shouldn't be; that they misunderstand the implications of what those tests would indicate even if they were credible; and that they fail to find the moral, analytic, and political response to questions of race and intelligence.

I think this is a good point, but I want to expand it. Most of the honest writing I've seen on "race and intelligence" focuses on critiquing the idea of "intelligence." So there's lot of good literature on whether it can be measured, its relevance in modern society, whether intelligence changes across generations, whether it changes with environment, and what we mean when we say IQ. As Freddie mentions here, I had a mathematician stop past to tell me I needed to stop studying French, and immediately start studying statistics -- otherwise I can't possibly understand this debate.

It's a fair critique. My response is that he should stop studying math and start studying history.

I am not being flip or coy. If you tell me that you plan to study "race and intelligence" then it is only fair that I ask you, "What do you mean by race?" It's true I don't always do math so well, but I understand the need to define the terms of your study. If you're a math guy, perhaps your instinct is to point out the problems in the interpretation of the data. My instinct is to point out that your entire experiment proceeds from a basic flaw -- no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

The history bears this out. In 1856, Ralph Waldo Emerson delineated thesignificance of race:

It is race, is it not, that puts the hundred millions of India under the dominion of a remote island in the north of Europe. Race avails much, if that be true, which is alleged, that all Celts are Catholics, and all Saxons are Protestants; that Celts love unity of power, and Saxons the representative principle. Race is a controlling influence in the Jew, who, for two millenniums, under every climate, has preserved the same character and employments. Race in the negro is of appalling importance. The French in Canada, cut off from all intercourse with the parent people, have held their national traits. I chanced to read Tacitus "on the Manners of the Germans," not long since, in Missouri, and the heart of Illinois, and I found abundant points of resemblance between the Germans of the Hercynian forest, and our Hoosiers, Suckers, and Badgers of the American woods.

Indeed, Emerson in 1835, saw race as central to American greatness:

The inhabitants of the United States, especially of the Northern portion, are descended from the people of England and have inherited the trais of their national character...It is common with the Franks to break their faith and laugh at it The race of Franks is faithless.

Emerson was not alone, as historian James McPherson points out, Southerners not only thought of themselves as a race separate from blacks, but as a race apart from Northern whites:

The South's leading writer on political economy, James B. D. De Bow, subscribed to this Norman-Cavalier thesis and helped to popularize it in De Bow's Review. As the lower-South states seceded one after another during the winter of 1860-61, this influential journal carried several long articles justifying secession on the grounds of irreconcilable ethnic differences between Southern and Northern whites. "The Cavaliers, Jacobites, and Huguenots, who settled the South, naturally hate, contemn, and despise the Puritans who settled the North," proclaimed one of these articles. "The former are a master-race; the latter a slave race, the descendants of Saxon serfs." The South was now achieving its "independent destiny" by repudiating the failed experiment of civic nationalism that had foolishly tried in 1789 to "erect one nation out of two irreconcilable peoples."

Similarly, in 1899 William Z. Ripley wrote The Races of Europe, which sought to delineate racial difference through head-type:

The shape of the human head by which we mean the general proportions of length, breadth, and height, irrespective of the " bumps " of the phrenologist is one of the best available tests of race known. Its value is, at the same time, but imperfectly appreciated beyond the inner circle of professional anthropology. Yet it is so simple a phenomenon, both in principle and in practical application, that it may readily be of use to the traveller and the not too superficial observer of men.

To be sure, widespread and constant peculiarities of head form are less noticeable in America, because of the extreme variability of our population, compounded as it is of all the races of Europe; they seem also to be less fundamental among the American aborigines. But in the Old World the observant traveller may with a little attention often detect the racial affinity of a people by this means.

Two years later, Edward A. Ross sought to apprehend "The Causes of Race Superiority." He saw the differences between the Arab "race" and the Jewish "race" as a central illustration:

It is certain that races differ in their attitude toward past and future. M. Lapie has drawn a contrast between the Arab and the Jew. The Arab remembers; he is mindful of past favors and past injuries. He harbors his vengeance and cherishes his gratitude. He accepts everything on the authority of tradition, loves the ways of his ancestors, forms strong local attachments, and migrates little. The Jew, on the other hand, turns his face toward the future. He is thrifty and always ready for a good stroke of business, will, indeed, join with his worst enemy if it pays. He is calculating, enterprising, migrant and ambitious

You can see more of this here.

Our notion of what constitutes "white" and what constitutes "black" is a product of social context. It is utterly impossible to look at the delineation of a "Southern race" and not see the Civil War, the creation of an "Irish race" and not think of Cromwell's ethnic cleansing, the creation of a "Jewish race" and not see anti-Semitism. There is no fixed sense of "whiteness" or "blackness," not even today. It is quite common for whites to point out that Barack Obama isn't really "black" but "half-white." One wonders if they would say this if Barack Obama were a notorious drug-lord.

When the liberal says "race is a social construct," he is not being a soft-headed dolt; he is speaking an historical truth. We do not go around testing the "Irish race" for intelligence or the "Southern race" for "hot-headedness." These reasons are social. It is no more legitimate to ask "Is the black race dumber than then white race?" than it is to ask "Is the Jewish race thriftier than the Arab race?"

The strongest argument for "race" is that people who trace their ancestry back to Europe, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to sub-Saharan Africa, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to Asia, and people who trace their ancestry back to the early Americas, lived isolated from each other for long periods and have evolved different physical traits (curly hair, lighter skin, etc.)

But this theoretical definition (already fuzzy) wilts under human agency, in a real world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census. (Same deal for "Hispanic.") The reasons for that take us right back to fact of race as a social construct. And an American-centered social construct. Are the Ainu of Japan a race? Should we delineate darker South Asians from lighter South Asians on the basis of race? Did the Japanese who invaded China consider the Chinese the same "race?"

Andrew writes that liberals should stop saying "truly stupid things like race has no biological element." I agree. Race clearly has a biological element -- because we have awarded it one. Race is no more dependent on skin color today than it was on "Frankishness" in Emerson's day. Over history of race has taken geography, language, and vague impressions as its basis.

"Race," writes the great historian Nell Irvin Painter, "is an idea, not a fact." Indeed. Race does not need biology. Race only requires some good guys with big guns looking for a reason.

Why People Keep Misunderstanding the 'Connection' Between Race and IQ

Jason Richwine's IQ-based argument that American Hispanics are less intelligent than native-born whites has been called racist. It's also wrong.

A student writes in her notebook in Managua, Nicaragua (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

Last week Heritage Foundation scholar Jason Richwine, coauthor of a hotly disputed new study on the fiscal costs of comprehensive immigration reform, resigned his position in a hail of controversy over his 2009 Harvard Ph.D.dissertation. In that dissertation Richwine had argued, among other things, that American "Hispanics" are less intelligent than native-born whites as evidenced by their lower average scores on IQ tests. Richwine then attributed Hispanics' alleged intellectual inferiority at least partly to genetic factors.

The Richwine affair is just the latest flap in a long-running dispute over the significance of IQ tests and group differences in IQ scores. It's easy enough to shut down that debate with cries of racism, but stigmatizing a point of view as morally tainted isn't the same thing as demonstrating that it's untrue. Here I want to explain why Richwine's position is intellectually as well as morally unsound.

Let's start with the fact that there is no such thing as a direct test of general mental ability. What IQ tests measure directly is the test-taker's display of particular cognitive skills: size of vocabulary, degree of reading comprehension, facility with analogies, and so on. Any conclusions about general mental ability are inferences drawn from the test-taker's relative mastery of those various skills.

How justified are such inferences? Well, it depends. Without a doubt, the skills assessed on modern IQ tests are widely applicable and highly valued in contemporary American society. Accordingly, considered just as a measure of skills rather than as a proxy for underlying ability, IQ scores clearly tell us something of genuine importance. They are a reasonably good predictor not only of performance in the classroom but of income, health, and other important life outcomes.

But what about innate mental ability? Does such a thing even exist? Evidence from IQ tests provides strong support that it does. First of all, scores on the various IQ subtests are highly correlated with each other, suggesting the presence of a general underlying factor. Furthermore, IQ scores tend to stabilize around age eight and are resistant to moving around much thereafter, in keeping with a relatively fixed level of innate intellectual capacity. And studies of twins and adoptees offer substantial evidence that this capacity has a strong genetic component. The scores of twins (who are genetically identical, more or less) are much more highly correlated than those of regular siblings (who share only about half the same genes). Meanwhile, the scores of regular siblings are in turn much more highly correlated than the scores of adopted and biological children raised together.

So what's the problem? These studies typically assume that the similarity of twins' shared environment is the same as that of regular siblings (highly unlikely) and that adoptive families are as diverse as families generally (in fact, parents that adopt tend to be better off and better educated). When these assumptions are relaxed, environmental factors start to loom larger. In this regard, consider a pair of French adoption studies that controlled for the socioeconomic status of birth and adoptive parents. They found that being raised by high-SES (socioeconomic status) parents led to an IQ boost of between 12 and 16 points - a huge improvement that testifies to the powerful influence that upbringing can have.

A study of twins by psychologist Eric Turkheimer and colleagues that similarly tracked parents' education, occupation, and income yielded especially striking results. Specifically, they found that the "heritability" of IQ - the degree to which IQ variations can be explained by genes - varies dramatically by socioeconomic class. Heritability among high-SES (socioeconomic status) kids was 0.72; in other words, genetic factors accounted for 72 percent of the variations in IQ, while shared environment accounted for only 15 percent. For low-SES kids, on the other hand, the relative influence of genes and environment was inverted: Estimated heritability was only 0.10, while shared environment explained 58 percent of IQ variations.

Turkheimer's findings make perfect sense once you recognize that IQ scores reflect some varying combination of differences in native ability and differences in opportunities. Among rich kids, good opportunities for developing the relevant cognitive skills are plentiful, so IQ differences are driven primarily by genetic factors. For less advantaged kids, though, test scores say more about the environmental deficits they face than they do about native ability.

This, then, shows the limits to IQ tests: Though the tests are good measures of skills relevant to success in American society, the scores are only a good indicator of relative intellectual ability for people who have been exposed to equivalent opportunities for developing those skills - and who actually have the motivation to try hard on the test. IQ tests are good measures of innate intelligence--if all other factors are held steady. But if IQ tests are being used to compare individuals of wildly different backgrounds, then the variable of innate intelligence is not being tested in isolation. Instead, the scores will reflect some impossible-to-sort-out combination of ability and differences in opportunities and motivations. Let's take a look at why that might be the case.

Comparisons of IQ scores across ethnic groups, cultures, countries, or time periods founder on this basic problem: The cognitive skills that IQ tests assess are not used or valued to the same extent in all times and places. Indeed, the widespread usefulness of these skills is emphatically not the norm in human history. After all, IQ tests put great stress on reading ability and vocabulary, yet writing was invented only about 6,000 years ago - rather late in the day given that anatomically modern humans have been around for over 100,000 years. And as recently as two hundred years ago, only about 15 percent of people could read or write at all.

More generally, IQ tests reward the possession of abstract theoretical knowledge and a facility for formal analytical rigor. But for most people throughout history, intelligence would have taken the form of concrete practical knowledge of the resources and dangers present in the local environment. To grasp how culturally contingent our current conception of intelligence is, just imagine how well you might do on an IQ test devised by Amazonian hunter-gatherers or medieval European peasants.

The mass development of highly abstract thinking skills represents a cultural adaptation to the mind-boggling complexity of modern technological society. But the complexity of contemporary life is not evenly distributed, and neither is the demand for written language fluency or analytical dexterity. Such skills are used more intensively in the most advanced economies than they are in the rest of the world. And within advanced societies, they are put to much greater use by the managers and professionals of the socioeconomic elite than by everybody else. As a result, American kids generally will have better opportunities to develop these skills than kids in, say, Mexico or Guatemala. And in America, the children of college-educated parents will have much better opportunities than working-class kids.

Among the strongest evidence that IQ tests are testing not just innate ability, but the extent to which that innate ability has been put to work developing specific skills, is the remarkable "Flynn effect": In the United States and many other countries, raw IQ scores have been rising about three points a decade. This rise is far too rapid to have a genetic cause. The best explanation for what's going on is that increasing social complexity is expanding the use of the cognitive skills in question - and thus improving the opportunities for honing those skills. The Flynn effect is acutely embarrassing to those who leap from IQ score differences to claims of genetic differences in intelligence.

Jason Richwine is the latest exemplar of the so-called "hereditarian" interpretation of IQ - namely, that IQ scores are a reliable indicator of immutable, inborn intelligence across all groups of people, and therefore that group differences in IQ indicate group differences in native intelligence. Yes, the hereditarian view lends aid and comfort to racists and nativists. But more importantly, it's just plain wrong. Specifically, it is based on the ahistorical and ethnocentric assumption of a fixed relationship between the development of certain cognitive skills and raw mental ability. In truth, the skills associated with intelligence have changed over time--and unevenly through social space--as society evolves.

The lower IQ scores of American Hispanics cannot simply be dismissed out of hand. They are evidence of skill deficits that sharply curtail chances for achievement and success. But contrary to the counsel of despair from hereditarians like Richwine, those deficits aren't hard-wired. Progress in reducing achievement gaps will certainly not be easy, but a full review of the IQ evidence shows that it is possible. And it will be aided by policies, like immigration reform, that encourage the full integration of Hispanics into the American economic and cultural mainstream.

Black Freaks, Black Fags, Black Dykes: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

Black Freaks, Black Fags, Black Dykes: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

February 20, 2013
15037_10151311871680791_1210328814_nEnter Scene: I am walking in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—where we do more than die, by the way—rocking a close fade with two parts on the side, a full beard and mustache lined up perfectly, eyes protected by a pair of fresh chocolate browline frames (I was two blocks from Malcolm X boulevard, after all). I am donning a fitted button-up white shirt, closed off with a pink and gray striped bowtie, form-fitting charcoal gray blazer, dark blue kinda-skinny jeans, and a pair of hot pink and silvery gray kicks.
Passerbyer 1 checks out my footwear.
Passerbyer 2 offers up the obligatory, “Yo, son, your kicks are hot.”
Passerbyer 3 is looking at me like I’m way off, as if to say, “Really, you got on pink sneakers, sucka? That’s gay as hell. You are doing way too much!”
Passerbyer 4, my neighbor, repeats, like he always does, “You cool, brother.”
My representation as a certain type of black man often transgresses the accepted boundaries of black masculinity. The ways I cut my hair, shape–or refuse to shape–my beard, style my clothes, walk, talk, and gesture tend to confound some folk and, on occasion, anger others because of my seeming transgressions. Sinning ain’t easy.
Indeed, some will stare at me as I make my way down any street rocking a beard, frames, “man bag,” and a little less than loose clothing because my gender presentation seems to be read as a sign of non-heterosexuality, deviance. In fact, most folk are okay with what they “see” until they notice that I am wearing something like hot pink (!) sneakers. According to some, a black man wearing hot pink sneakers, like a black woman wearing a suit, ain’t at all “cool.”
The notion of “Black cool,” in particular, seems to be limited, limiting, and quite “straight” (as in hetero and rigid). I am thinking, for example, of one of the inspirations that motivated Rebecca Walker’s investigation of “black cool.” She mentioned during an interview on NPR that an image of then-Senator Barack Obama exiting a black Lincoln Town Car during the 2008 campaign “was really, at that moment, the epitome of black cool.”
She went on to say that she was “drawn to that image because [she] wanted to decode it and to see where it fit into this Afro-Atlantic aesthetic.” And while that image is but one of Walker’s inspirations (and while her book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, actually includes critical and beautiful essays that think through the gendering of “black cool”), that particular picture of Obama locates the quotidian “black cool” in a male-bodied, masculine, straight black man and leaves me to wonder: Does coolness exist anywhere beyond black masculinity, maleness, and heterosexuality? As some of the writers in Walker’s Black Cool argue, I think so.
I can recall, for example, growing up with an older female cousin who was a swagged-out straight young woman and mother. She often chilled with the dudes in my family. Her vernacular was cool. Her walk was cool, or, as others would say, “pimped out.” She was cool. But this one black straight woman’s coolness was contingent upon the masculinity that she performed expertly. And, no, she didn’t identify as lesbian. Which, again, forces me to consider: are masculine performances solely emblematic of “black cool”?photo
Unlike my swaggalicious female cousin, I failed at performing certain black masculinities. I tried my best to perfect the art of swag, but my gender expressions took much practice to perfect over time and are the result of me trying to fit into the normative boxes (i.e. men play sports and not with dolls; men are strong and not weak; men wear blue and not pink sneakers) that others attempted to trap me within. I was called a “fag” often and my cousin was called a “dyke” quite a bit, because our styles and expressions were moving beyond the gender boxes, somewhere other than the restrictive spaces of the normal that attempted to constrain us. And folk who escape the tight prison cells of gender, like “fags,” aren’t cool, until they are.
There are black male artists (especially those who have been identified as “fags” and “freaks”), for example, who have embodied, or performed, coolness in ways that go against the mundane gender formulas that tend to limit us. Little Richard, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Michael Jackson, Andre 3000, Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green, and yes, RuPaul (when he is out of drag) come to mind. These black men have expanded cool beyond the boundaries of a certain type of constricting black masculinity.
And, yep, there are also black women like Grace Jones, Monique, India Arie, Erykah Badu, Jada Pinkett-Smith (and her daughter Willow), Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, and Janelle Monae who exhibit coolness through the ways they fashion themselves, refuse norms, contest and perform gender. And some of these women are feminine performing, indeed.
In my own life, freedom from the prison of gender normativity allowed me to really be. I am no longer trapped in makeshift gender containers that were never strong enough to contain my authentic self-expression in the first place. Me, a Black unconventional queer brother who is sometimes masculine and other times feminine performing, cool? Well, maybe.
Black cool was queer before queer was cool
A friend pushed me to consider Miles Davis’s album, “Birth of the Cool,” which was released in 1957 on Capitol Records, as inspiration when reflecting on black cool. What’s interesting about Davis’s musical styling on this particular album is his use of polyphony, a musical texture where two or more voices are employed and not just one dominant voice.
Black cool is polyphony, that is, it is multi-textured and free from one dominant voice and way of being. It’s like jazz: always moving in one or many directions with and without intent. It is resistance to structure and, yet, it creates form without even trying.
Black cool is…
581542_10151262041510791_2086835650_nIn other words, it keeps moving, redefining itself, and traveling along the ellipses because it refuses to be comfortably fixed. And that’s why I dig the black and cool, because queering is a political intervention that attempts to do the same: it signals one’s resistance to normativities (sexual or otherwise), boundaries, and binaries.
Given this, it seems to me that any notion of black cool that is only imagined as being exercised or embodied by black masculine men and/or some masculine women is, well, played out. Black cool is multi-textured, unrestrictive, and forever changing. We, black folk are diverse in our embodiments, sexual identities, and gender expressions; therefore, our imaginations of black cool, if they are to be unrestrictive, should be vast enough to consider feminine women, feminine men, gender variant/trans men and women, and differently-abled individuals.
Indeed, coolness, like queerness, comes as the result of a type of unsettling, a desire for something different. Thus, it seems that the black “freaks,” “fags,” “femmes,” and “dykes,” among us might be experts in the art of embodying black cool, after all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Twelve Things You Can Do To Fight Poverty Now

by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation

We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” column.

In this March 29, 2013 photo, women walk past blighted row houses in Baltimore. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of Americans in poverty at levels not seen since the mid-1960s, while $85 billion in federal government spending cuts that began last month are expected to begin squeezing services for the poor nationwide. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

This is a tough moment in the fight against poverty.

Sequester is the latest chapter in a time-honored tradition of kicking the poor when they are down. A do-nothing Congress certainly isn’t going to do something about poverty without pressure from the grassroots. And it seems that the only way most of the mainstream media will pay attention to the more than 1 out of 3 Americans living below twice the poverty line — on less than $36,000 for a family of three — is if their lives make good fodder for tabloid television or play out in a courtroom drama.

That said, there are still plenty of people and groups fighting for real change, and plenty of ways you can get involved or stay engaged. I reached out to a handful of folks who dedicate their lives to fighting poverty in different ways. Here is what they asked people to do:


From Sister Simone Campbell, Sisters of Social Service, Executive Director of NETWORK: “Support an increase in the minimum wage to more than $11 per hour.”

What people don’t know is that a large percentage of people living in poverty are workers who support their families on very small salaries. In fact, 57 percent of individuals and family membersbelow the official poverty line either worked or lived with a working family member in 2011.

Pope Francis said on May 1, 2013, that all workers should make wages that allow them to live with their families in dignity. Contact your senators and representative and urge them to vote for a minimum wage (that is more than $11 an hour) and tipped minimum wage that reflect the dignity of ALL people.


From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers: “Tell Publix: Help end sexual harassment, wage theft and forced labor in the fields — join the Fair Food Program today.”

Until very recently, Florida’s fields were as famous for producing human rights violations — with countless workers suffering daily humiliation and abuse ranging from wage theft to sexual harassment and even forced labor — as they were for growing oranges and tomatoes.

Today, however, there is a new day dawning for farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields. The CIW’s Fair Food Program is demanding a policy of zero tolerance for human rights abuses on tomato farms, and it’s working. The program sets the highest human rights standards in the fields today, including: worker-to-worker education on rights, a 24-hour complaint line and an effective complaint investigation and resolution process — all backed by market consequences for employers who refuse to respect their workers’ rights.

The White House recently called the exciting new program “one of the most successful and innovative programs” in the world today in the fight to uncover — and prevent — modern-day slavery; and just last week United Nations investigators called it “impressive” and praised its “independent and robust enforcement mechanism.”

As the veteran food writer Barry Estabrook put it, thanks to the Fair Food Program, the Florida tomato industry is on the path “from being one of the most repressive employers in the country… to becoming the most progressive group in the fruit and vegetable industry” today.

But we need your help to complete this transformation.

One of the country’s largest supermarket chains, Publix Super Markets, is refusing to support the Fair Food Program. Publix continues to buy tomatoes from growers in the old way, where workers have no access to the Fair Food Program’s proven protections. Rather than step up to the highest human rights standards, Publix continues to turn its back on the workers whose poverty helps fuel its record profits.

Tell Publix Super Markets CEO William Crenshaw to join the fight against human rights abuses in the U.S. tomato industry.


From Ralph da Costa Nunez, President and CEO, Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness: “Make a Personal Commitment to Helping Homeless Families”

More than one-third of Americans who use shelters annually are parents and their children. In 2011, that added up to more than 500,000 people. Since 2007, family homelessness has increased by more than 13 percent. Indeed, there is a growing prevalence of child and family homelessness across America.

While it is important to track the federal, state and local policies that impact homelessness, we can’t forget about getting involved on a personal level with the growing numbers of families that are struggling since the Great Recession.

You can visit a local shelter, meet a homeless family and see first hand the damage poverty is doing to young mothers and children. Then, become a big brother or sister, a role model for these young families to help them dream again. You are meeting an immediate need while also helping to stem generational poverty.

You can also contact your local department of social services, United Way, or religious organization to find out where the need is in your community. Also, speak with thehomeless liaison at your local school to see what needs they have identified in your neighborhood. There are many ways that you (and your children) can help families right in your community. Here are a few other ideas.


From Dr. Deborah Frank, Founder and Principal Investigator, Children’s HealthWatch: “Fund the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the maximum authorized level”

Research by Children’s HealthWatch has shown that energy insecurity is associated with poor health, increased hospitalizations and risk of developmental delays in very young children, and that energy assistance can be effective in protecting children’s health. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides low-income households with assistance in paying their utility bills — particularly those that must spend higher proportions of their income on home energy. To be eligible for LIHEAP, families must have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level — less than $35,000 annually for a family of four.

When Children’s HealthWatch compared children in families that do and do not receive LIHEAP assistance — after controlling for participation in SNAP and WIC — we found that children in families that received LIHEAP were less likely to be at risk of growth problems, more likely to have healthier weights for their age and less likely to be hospitalized when seeking care for acute medical problems.

As pediatricians and public health researchers, we at Children’s HealthWatch know that LIHEAP matters for the bodies and minds of young children. Even in these tough economic times, we believe it is critical that President Obama and Congress make a funding commitment that meets the heating and cooling needs of America’s youngest children.

But the president has proposed reducing funding for LIHEAP to $2.970 billion in his FY 2014 budget, down from $3.5 billion for the current fiscal year. (Even funding at the current level has left millions of households without the aid they need to cope with their home energy costs.) Please join the National Fuel Fund’s call to fund LIHEAP at $4.7 billion in FY2014. Although that level is insufficient to meet the full needs of vulnerable households, it will enable states to end a trend over the last few years of needing to reduce the number of households served, cut benefits, or both. Contact the president and your members of Congress today.


Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work and Co-Director, Caring Across Generations: “Support of a living wage and basic labor protections for home care workers”

Caring Across Generations is a campaign that unites people to change the long-term care system that supports each of us, our family members and our neighbors, to live and age in our own homes and communities. One of the key ways we can strengthen this system is to protect the 2.5 million people working as care givers in the United States. With a projected future demand for an additional 1.3 million workers over the next decade, home care workers make up one of the largest occupations in the nation, yet many of them make below minimum wage.

In December 2011, at a White House ceremony surrounded by home care workers, employers and people who rely on personal care services, President Obama announced plans for new regulations that would at long last guarantee federal minimum wage and overtime protections for most home care aides. The moment capped decades of effort by advocates to revise the “companionship exemption,” which lumps professional care workers with teenage babysitters, excluding most home care aides from the basic labor protections that nearly all other American workers receive.

Following the White House announcement, the U.S. Department of Labor published draft regulations in the Federal Register. During the public comment period, the proposed rule received 26,000 comments with almost 80 percent in favor of providing home care workers with basic labor protections like minimum wage and overtime pay. But today, over a year after the public comment period closed, we are still waiting for a final rule to be announced.

Join Caring Across Generations and all of our partner organizations in the effort to push for basic minimum wage and overtime protections for care workers, and help us in our final push to ensure that the Obama Administration issues this long-awaited regulation to give 2.5 million care workers a path out of poverty. Visit to get involved with the campaign.


From Judith Lichtman, Senior Advisor, National Partnership for Women & Families: “Urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1286/S.631) and a national paid leave program”

More than 40 million workers in this country — and more than 80 percent of the lowest-wage workers — cannot earn a single paid sick day to use when they get the flu or other common illnesses. Millions more cannot earn paid sick days to use when a child is sick.

For these workers and families, paid sick days can mean the difference between keeping a job and losing it, or keeping food on the table and going hungry. Nearly one-quarter of adults say they have lost a job or been threatened with job loss for needing a sick day. And, for the average worker without paid sick days, taking just 3.5 unpaid days off is equivalent to losing a month’s worth of groceries for their family. To make matters worse, the majority of new parents cannot take any form of paid leave of any length to care for a child, pushing many into debt and poverty. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that does not have a national paid leave standard of some kind.

In a nation that claims to value families, no worker should have to lose critical income or be pushed into poverty because illness strikes or a child or family member needs care.

Urge members of Congress to support the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days. And sign this petition calling on Congress to take up the national paid leave program workers and families urgently need.


From Tiffany Loftin, President, United States Student Association (USSA): “Increase regulation of private student loans and hold Sallie Mae accountable for its role in the student debt crisis.”

Throughout the Great Recession, only one type of household debt grew: student debt.

In April 2012, student debt surpassed the $1 trillion mark, and now students owe on average nearly $27,000 by the time they graduate. As student debt and student loan defaults escalate at an unsustainable pace, private student loan lenders continue to increase their profit margins.

Sallie Mae is the largest private student loan lender and one of the chief profiteers off of student debt, yet it faces minimal public scrutiny and accountability. With their sky-high interest rates, highly profitable government loan servicing contracts and predatory lending practices, they play a major role in keeping the American Dream out of reach for millions of borrowers.

Join USSA, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work, Common Cause, the American Federation of Teachers and others at the Sallie Mae shareholder meeting on May 30 in Newark, DE.

We’ll introduce a shareholder resolution asking Sallie Mae to be more transparent and accountable about its lobbying efforts, affiliations and executive bonus structure — all part of a corporate strategy to increase their bottom line at the financial expense of borrowers. Sign up to attend the join the shareholder action here.


From Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Policy Coordinator, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): “Support Pathways Back to Work”

Even as the economy recovers, too many unemployed workers and individuals with low education and skill levels face a difficult job market. Nearly two out of five unemployed workers have been jobless for six months or more. 6.7 million youth are both out of work and out of school.

Subsidized and transitional jobs are a proven way to give unemployed workers the opportunity to earn wages, build skills and connect to the labor market, while also giving businesses an incentive to hire new employees when they might not be able to do so otherwise.

President Obama’s FY14 budget blueprint calls for the creation of a $12.5 billion Pathways Back to Work Fund that includes: investments in subsidized employment opportunities, support services for the unemployed and low-income adults, summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income youth and other work-based employment strategies with demonstrated effectiveness.

Please share this letter with nonprofits, businesses or other organizations and ask them to sign on to join us in thanking President Obama for his support of subsidized and transitional jobs in the FY2014 budget, and asking the President and Congress to work together to ensure that the Pathways Back to Work Fund becomes law! (This sign on letter is only for organizations, but individuals are also encouraged to ask their Members of Congress to support the Pathways Back to Work Fund — click the “reintroduce” buttons here and here.)


From Marci Phillips, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, National Council on Aging: “Invest in the Older Americans Act”

The Older Americans Act encompasses a range of programs that enable seniors to remain healthy and independent, in their own homes and communities, and out of costly institutions. Services include healthy meals, in-home care, transportation, benefits access, caregiver support, chronic disease self-management, job training and placement and elder abuse prevention.

Funding has not kept pace with the growth in need or numbers, and recent cuts before the sequester hit have further eroded investments in key services. About 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and those over 85 are the fastest growing segment of the aging population.

One in three seniors is economically insecure. Social Security accounts for at least 90 percent of the income of more than one-third of older adults, and there has been a 79 percent increase in the threat of hunger among seniors over the past decade. The average duration of unemployment for people 55 and older is almost 50 weeks — longer than any other age group. Over 75 percent of all older adults have at least two chronic conditions, and the average Medicare household spends $4,500 on out-of-pocket health care costs.

There is a real need to increase funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels and in-home care. Please share your stories of cuts affecting seniors, so we can share them with Congress and the Administration and protect investments in the Older Americans Act.


From Rebecca Vallas, Staff Attorney/Policy Advocate, Community Legal Services

“Tell Congress NO CUTS to Social Security and SSI through the Chained CPI”

While the “chained CPI” is often referred to as just a technical change, in truth it’s a benefit cut for millions of seniors, people with disabilities and their families who rely on the Social Security system to meet their basic needs. Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) serve as a vital lifeline, making up a significant percentage of total family income for many workers and families.

The average yearly benefit for the lowest quintile of earners receiving retirement benefits in 2010 was $10,206 — and that represented 94 percent of their family income. Social Security Disability and SSI benefits are incredibly modest as well. The average SSDI benefit is about $1,100 per month in 2013, and the average SSI benefit is less than $550 per month. And for most disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), their benefits make up most or all of their income. Even the maximum SSI benefit ($710 in 2013) is just three-fourths of the federal poverty level for a single person, and a quarter of SSDI beneficiaries live in poverty.

The amount a person gets in Social Security or SSI benefits is adjusted annually based on the Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). The chained CPI would slow the increase in the Social Security COLA, cutting benefits and eroding the purchasing power of seniors, people with disabilities and their families. Cuts under the chained CPI add up significantly over time. Since the effect of the chained CPI is cumulative, it would be especially hard on people with disabilities, since they typically begin receiving benefits at a younger age than retirees.

The chained CPI is not a more accurate measure of inflation for seniors and people with disabilities. It is based on a concept called the “substitution effect” — which assumes that when the price of one good goes up, a consumer will substitute a lower-cost alternative in its place (e.g., when the price of steak goes up, a person will buy hamburger instead). For Social Security and SSI beneficiaries who are struggling to make ends meet as it is, there’s no room for substitution — and no room for benefit cuts. Benefit cuts under the chained CPI would push beneficiaries to make impossible choices such as not paying the gas bill to afford the water bill, taking half a pill instead of a whole pill, or eating two meals per day instead of three to afford the cost of a copay on a needed medication.

Low-income seniors and people with severe disabilities are already struggling and can’t afford cuts. Send this email to Congress to tell them NO on the chained CPI, and to keep Social Security cuts out of any budget plan. For AARP’s chained CPI calculator, click here.


From Jim Weill, President, Food Research and Action Center:

“Tell Congress: Increase, Don’t Cut SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits”

SNAP is a great program — boosting food security, health and nutrition and lifting millions out of poverty and millions of others out of deep poverty. But as a National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine expert committee just found, for most families benefits simply aren’t enough to afford a healthy diet for the month. This means that the program isn’t doing as much for food security, poverty reduction, child development, disease prevention and health care cost containment, as it could. And despite a series of Pinocchio-inspired political attacks on the program in the 2012 election season and in this year’s run-up to SNAP reauthorization as part of the Farm Bill, public support for the program is high: 73 percent of voters believe the program is important to the country; 70 percent say cutting it is the wrong way to reduce government spending; and 77 percent say the government should be spending more (43 percent) or the same (34 percent) on SNAP. This support crosses parties, demographic groups and rural, urban and suburban lines.

Here’s what you can do: Tell your representative and senators that the right course for the nation is to improve food stamp benefits (and support at least the temporary benefit boost the President has proposed) and that they must oppose any SNAP cuts being considered by the Agriculture Committees in the “Farm Bill.”


From Debbie Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs:

Tell Congress to stop harmful cuts to anti-poverty programs now”

Across the country, federal “sequestration” cuts (aka mindless automatic reductions) are closing Head Start programs weeks early and canceling summer programs for poor 3 to 5 year old children; some Head Start centers are closing altogether or dropping children. Seniors are losing home-delivered meals or homemaker services that allow them to remain at home instead of being pushed into nursing homes. The long-term jobless are losing 10 to 20 percent of their meager benefits; in Maine, they decided to cut all unemployed people off of assistance 9 weeks early. 140,000 fewer families will get rental housing vouchers, despite waiting for help for years, which will contribute to rising family homelessness. Education is being cut, from pre-school to the Federal Work-Study Program (formerly “College Work-Study”) that helps students finance college through part-time employment. In Michigan, they are eliminating a $137 back-to-school clothing allowance for 21,000 poor children.

These cuts are wrong and foolish any way you slice it — they keep people poor, cost jobs and stall economic growth for everyone.

Send this email to your representative and senators and join hundreds of thousands who are fed up that Congress would ignore these problems while fixing just one thing — inconvenient delays at airports. Also, for weekly summaries of the impact of these sequester cuts, click here.

Standing for Communities: ‘The Power of Collective’ (from the Marguerite Casey Foundation via Equal Voice News)

Greg Kaufmann is a Nation contributor covering poverty in America. His work has also appeared on Common Dreams, Alternet,,, and He serves as an adviser for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The 5 Most Insulting Defenses of Nerd Racism By:J.F. Sargent

News has broken that Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) is being considered to play Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. Naturally, comic book fans across the Internet are furious, because they've had it with all the reboots and just want to preserve the magic of the 2005 original -- oh, wait, no. They're angry because Michael B. Jordan is black. And in the comics, Johnny Storm is white.

Consider the Internet's bitch switch flipped.

But these Fantastic Four fans aren't mad because they're racist (they insist). No, their reasons are much more complicated, because ...
#5. "It's Not About Race"

See, these complaints aren't about the character's race; they're about not changing the character's race. If that sounds confusing and contradictory, that's because it is. Let's look at a full quote:

"Might we offer a rejoinder- oh, never mind. The discussion has ended."

The writer starts out insisting that the argument isn't about race and then spends the rest of the post talking exclusively about race. And this isn't a new sentiment among comic fans -- let's go back in time a bit and see what people thought when Marvel first debuted half-black/half-Latino Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man:

"Seriously, though, Daredevil is lame. End of discussion."

Apart from randomly taking a big shit all over Daredevil, this person insists that his anger over Spider-Man's race isn't about race, but the fact that Marvel is changing the race of one of the most iconic comic book characters. Which is still about race. Also, they aren't actually changing anybody's race -- Peter Parker is a white guy, but this Spider-Man isn't Peter Parker. So the person here isn't even mad about altering an existing character's racial background -- he's simply against Spider-Man's costume being worn by anyone but a white person. Which, again, is still about race. Maybe another quote will clear things up:

"Non-issues are the ones worth writing about!"

"Revealing that a big chunk of our fans are racist cockholes" doesn't seem like a great publicity stunt to us, but that's probably why we're not big-city publicists.
#4. "You May as Well Just Change Everything Then!"

To these people, a race change doesn't just change the character's skin color -- it upsets the entire balance of the Marvel universe:

But if we just did things the same way forever, the civil rights movement would never have- oh.

You'd think that, of all people, comic book fans would be the most accepting of change, what with all the time travel, cloning, and people constantly dying and coming back to life that occur in comic books all the goddamn time. You can't go more than a few years in a comic series without every character's backstory getting completely rewritten. Heck, changing Nick Fury from a white guy to a black guy became a celebrated move once people stopped complaining about it. Oh, wait, they still haven't, and it's been 10 damn years.

Also, making Sue taller and changing Reed's hair color don't sound that weird to us because, you know, they're fictional people. That's like being upset when January Jones got cast as the White Queen despite her skin not actually being made of diamond.

Who the hell wouldn't watch an all-black Star Trek?

Yeah, because Fantastic Four is a huge cultural litmus test, and we all know how much Hollywood loves casting black people in their movies.
#3. "This Ruins the Lore!"

Since Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman) is Johnny's sister, many objectors have pointed out that making Johnny black will mean that Sue must also be black, at which point the Earth will apparently explode:

This is courageously ignoring the fact that, even if Sue is white and Johnny is black, one of them could've been adopted. Or they could be half-siblings. Or any one of the thousands of possible explanations for a multiracial family. People are pointing right to the "But this character's race will change, too!" observation without bothering to explain why it's an actual problem in the first place ...

"And then what? Up will be down, dogs will marry cats, the Hot Pockets will microwave us!"

... which you should probably be thankful for, actually, because once people start trying to defend why having a black Sue Storm is a bad idea, things get awful pretty fast:

"Two black people is just lunacy!"

Waitaminute ... this person isn't really saying that having a black person in the Fantastic Four would ruin the team, are they?

Oh, whew. It's OK, everyone. It's not because he's racist, it's because he doesn't like the way black people make white people look when they fight crime together. Glad we got that cleared up. And evidently the Fantastic Four were created 80 years ago, back in 1961.
#2. "It's Unrealistic!"

Believe it or not, plenty of people argue that having a black superhero is unrealistic, period, regardless of whether the character was originally written as white. This weird argument shows up unbidden any time race and superheroes are brought up. Here's a charming thesis about why Superman could never be black:

"Black people just can't blend in." -Someone who's never visited any town larger than a truck stop.

Because when you see a huge white guy in spandex (Clark Kent looks nothing like an average person -- he's a hulking man mass) punch a building across the highway while you're on the way to work, you think to yourself, "Oh, it must be Thursday." But if a muscular black guy did it (all black guys are big and muscular, right?), you'd freak out and drive your car into the ocean just to make the madness stop.

But this is nothing compared to what people thought about the new Spider-Man:

Incidentally, you can't see that he's black because Spider-Man's mask and costume cover every inch of his body, but the fact that this guy doesn't seem to know anything about Spider-Man's costume is actually the least of our concerns.

And things got really weird when people started arguing that Heimdall, a god from the Thor mythology, couldn't be played by Idris Elba, despite the fact that we would've happily watched Idris Elba play Captain America because Idris Elba is awesome:

If the silliest part of a movie about interdimensional gods with magic lightning hammers is that one of them is black, you are clearly racist. This is a non-argument anyway -- the Asgardians are gods, they look like whatever they want to look like. Hogun, one of Thor's warrior buddies, is clearly Asian in both the comics and the movies, and nobody is sitting around wondering where all the rest of the Asian Asgardians are. Also, what logical reason is there for all of the Asgardians to be white? Is that the default setting of gods?

As dumb as these arguments have all been, they're nothing compared to the last one ...
#1. "Why Don't We Make Black Characters White, Then?"

For some reason, people who don't understand hypocrisy sure do enjoy trying to point it out:

"Superhero race equilibrium must be maintained at ALL COSTS!"


"I can't handle arguments longer than two words!"

And again, this isn't a new argument. The same things were said about Heimdall:

"Slavery and comic books are equally real. Why does everyone keep calling me a racist?"

The thing is, the only reason these characters were white in the first place was that comic books were created in a time when nobody would have printed a book about a non-white superhero (having female superheroes was difficult enough, and they were handled with something less than dignity). But nowadays, the people responsible for these characters are trying to make their properties as inclusive and welcoming as they possibly can, because everybody likes comic books, not just white people.

So actually, maybe racist nerds do have a good reason to be angry -- they're angry because the comic industry has outgrown them.

J.F. Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked and can be harassed about this on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.


Thank you for reading,

Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Cinnamon and Honey: It Cures What Ails You

Great information!! Cinnamon and Honey...!Drug companies won't like this one getting around. Facts on Honey and Cinnamon:

It is found that a mix of honey and cinnamon cures most diseases. Honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists of today also note honey as very effective medicine for all kinds of diseases. Honey can be used without side effects which is also a plus.Today's science says that even though honey is sweet, when it is taken in the right dosage as a medicine, it does not harm even diabetic patients. Researched by western scientists:

HEART DISEASES: Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, put it on toast instead of jelly and jam and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol and could potentially save one from heart attack. Also, even if you have already had an attack studies show you could be kept miles away from the next attack. Regular use of cinnamon honey strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada, various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as one ages the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and the veins.

ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients can benefit by taking one cup of hot water with two tablespoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. When taken daily even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week (out of the 200 people so treated) practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain -- and within a month, most all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis now started walking without pain.

BLADDER INFECTIONS: Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder....who knew?

CHOLESTEROL: Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water given to a cholesterol patient was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, when taken three times a day, any chronic cholesterol-could be cured. According to information received in the said Journal, pure honey taken with food daily relieves complaints of cholesterol.

COLDS: Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honey with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for three days. This process will cure most chronic cough, cold, and, clear the sinuses, and it's delicious too!

UPSET STOMACH: Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also is said to clear stomach ulcers from its root.

GAS: According to the studies done in India and Japan, it is revealed that when Honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach is relieved of gas.

IMMUNE SYSTEM: Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacterial and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of Honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles (where DNA is contained) to fight bacterial and viral diseases.

INDIGESTION: Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food is eaten relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals

INFLUENZA: A scientist in Spain has proved that honey contains a natural 'Ingredient' which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.

LONGEVITY: Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Use four teaspoons of honey, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder, and three cups of boiling water to make a tea. Drink 1/4 cup, three to four times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age. Life spans increase and even a 100 year old will start performing the chores of a 20-year-old.

RASPY OR SORE THROAT: When throat has a tickle or is raspy, take one tablespoon of honey and sip until gone. Repeat every three hours until throat is without symptoms.

PIMPLES: Three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it off the next morning with warm water. When done daily for two weeks, it removes all pimples from the root.

SKIN INFECTIONS:Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin Infections.

WEIGHT LOSS:Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast and on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. When taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

CANCER: Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder three times a day for one month.

FATIGUE: Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts are more alert and flexible. Dr. Milton, who has done research, says that a half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, even when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, when taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3:00 P.M., the vitality of the body increases within a week.

BAD BREATH: People of South America, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water first thing in the morning so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.

HEARING LOSS: Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder, taken in equal parts restores hearing.
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Thank you for reading,

Kyle Phoenix
Thanks and enjoy! You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter! Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon) and the Thursday/Friday 12am/midnight simulcast

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Unknowns of Being a Fatherless Son

"One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end." 
-- Jiddu Krishnamurti

Growing up without my father was, by far, the hardest thing I've ever dealt with in my life. His choice to leave before I was born felt like a curse. It was "the unknown" that scared me so much. The unknown things like the why, the how, the what of growing up without him there. As a young child, I never really missed him because I didn't know any better. He just wasn't there, and that was that. My mom and the man she eventually married, the man I call Dad, never left me wanting for anything, but there was nothing they could do to fill that void that was in the shape of the idea of my father.

I was in 8th grade when I began putting things together and asking questions about him. It started with little things: walking down the street wondering what he looked like or if I had walked past him. Unknown. I wondered how he dressed and how he talked. Unknown. What kind of music did he like? What were his favorite movies? Unknown. Those questions ate at me constantly. The more I thought about him, the more I missed him. The more I missed him, the more the unknown scared me.

As I went into high school, the questions became bigger -- and so did the anxiety. Why did he leave? Was I completely unlovable? If I were an amazing kid, would he hear about it and want to be a part of my life? Did he think about me? Did he wonder who I was becoming? The anxiety attacks increased. I had no self esteem. I had a hard time trusting anyone. After all, if your own father can leave you, so can anyone else. Those words haunted me. They repeated in my head like a song stuck on repeat. The older I got, the more I grew angry. How could you leave your son? How could you just pretend he doesn't exist? How could a man just up and leave when he finds out he's going to become a father?

The questions and the anxiety never stopped. I never put the two together, but looking back now there is no doubt the anxiety and the unknown questions about my father were so clearly linked. I reached out to him my sophomore year of high school; I wanted to hear his voice, to know how he spoke, to just say "hi." I looked him up and called, secretly hoping he'd see the error of his ways and just say, "I'm so sorry. Thank you for calling. Lets go grab lunch and talk." Instead I got, "Don't call me again. If you need something go to family court," and then a dial tone. Devastation all over again. In college I happened to run into him and got a similar response, but face to face. Still, my mom never spoke badly about him. She, wisely, let me draw my own conclusions.

Now, a few years after college, I'm finally recognizing just how damaging a father choosing to leave his own son can be. I'm learning how I internalized his choices, as if I had done something wrong. I'm learning that my past -- that idea of my father that I created in my head -- ruled my life and every decision I made. I let fear rule my life. I let control rule my life. I couldn't control him leaving, so I would control everything else in my life. I'm learning that his decision, his choice, the same one he continues to make to this day, is just that: his choice. It has nothing to do with me. He doesn't know me. I can't tell you how many people told me that growing up. I heard them, but I didn't get it. His selfish choice to abandon the life he created is about him, not about me. I've held on to the fear of the unknown for all of my life, and I'm ready to let it go. I have to be okay with not knowing the whys, the hows and the whos. I have to come to terms with the fact that whether he comes back or not, I will be okay. I am worthy. That is what is I know. I am able to handle it. As I'm learning this, I want other fatherless sons to know that you're not alone. Your worth is not based on his choices or anyone else's but your own. So embrace the fear. Challenge the thoughts. Write out the story you've been telling yourself. Question the idea of the father you created in your head. Most importantly, know that no matter what, you too will be okay. You too are worthy and lovable. Only then can you be ready to jump into the unknown; it is the only way to free yourself.

Kyle appears in a two-hour special event "Fatherless Sons" on Oprah's Lifeclass, airing May 5 on OWN.

Thank you for reading,

Kyle Phoenix
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