Social Commentary

Caitlyn Jenner and the Celebration of Mediocrity: Let’s Change the Channel

Caitlyn Jenner

(Photo Credit: Vulture)

Bruce Jenner has decided to become Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, and too many people across the country are foolishly viewing Jenner as a hero—please stop the madness! Before many of you begin to see this transgender woman as a hero, it’s important to allow serious investigation to take place about her potentially being a murderer. In America, we’re becoming so fascinated with the uncanny or spectacle that a celebration of mediocrity is taking root across the nation. While I’m not discriminating against anyone, including Bruce Jenner, for becoming transgender, I am criticizing how many view the transition to transgender as heroic—it’s not; it’s a calculated choice. Don’t be fooled by media’s attempt to depict Caitlyn Jenner as a hero and courageous. Jenner and her family have a history of loving the limelight and money. Are we approaching a historical and cultural epoch in America where making a transition to transgender is a solemn human accomplishment? If so, America is certainly headed for decline.

At the 2015 ESPYS, ESPN gave Caitlyn Jenner the 2015 Arthur Ashe Courage Award. ESPN’s standards for courage have now become conspicuously low. Bob Costas, NBC News journalist and sports analyst and someone who certainly isn’t a right-wing Republican by any stretch of the imagination, posits that Jenner was given the award as “a crass exploitation play” and “tabloid play.” I couldn’t agree more with Costas. When one considers that Caitlyn Jenner could make $500 million in the coming years for simply being transgender, it’s obvious that ESPN exploited the news surrounding Jenner, and we see what could be the true reason why Bruce Jenner decided to transition into Caitlyn Jenner: money. No matter how much money Jenner makes it doesn’t make becoming a transgender woman an accomplishment.

Although much of American popular culture offers great value, some dimensions of it has caused us to lower our standards about what authentic achievement really means. When Beyoncé’s recent “big announcement” can lead numerous people to take off of their jobs to watch and hear it, this signals we need to return to celebrating genuine accomplishments. We have become too fascinated with inane phenomena. It’s time for more Americans to commit to true achievement. Instead of focusing on Caitlyn Jenner, more Americans need to concern themselves with high academic achievement. Across the nation, countless students and teachers are achieving extraordinary feats truly deserving of even greater attention than Jenner has received. Also, American small business entrepreneurs across the nation are accomplishing amazing phenomena each day. Unfortunately, too many would rather celebrate a man’s simple transition to a transgender woman than a young black man’s journey to being accepted into every Ivy League institution.

Political correctness attempts to compel people to support inconsequential phenomena as if they’re significant. If individuals are unwilling to give praise to Caitlyn Jenner, then they will be attacked as “transphobic,” “bigots” and “discriminatory.” Although none of the aforementioned labels accurately describe me, if you desire to label me in such a way for not believing becoming transgender is heroic, courageous and an accomplishment, then I will proudly where your disparaging labels as badges of honor.

America is the nation that produced such greatness as George Washington Carver, Alexander Graham Bell, Toni Morrison, Bill Gates, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Jordan, Thurgood Marshall, Colin Powell, Carter G. Woodson, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sheryl Sandberg, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Oprah Winfrey. All of the aforementioned truly accomplished individuals have been and are celebrated. Now, many are celebrating Caitlyn Jenner—something is wrong with this picture. Let’s change the channel.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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A Prayer for Ferguson, Michael Brown’s Family, Unity and Justice

Michael Brown's Murder

(Photo Credit: Slate)

Father God in the name of Jesus,

Right now, I ask that you would comfort and strengthen the family and friends of Michael Brown. You are the only one who can heal them in the places where they’re broken. They’ve been living with the reality Michael Brown died an unnecessary death. Darren Wilson allowed anger and disregard for Black life to result in the murder of Brown. Lord, only you can change the heart of Darren Wilson and all those like him who don’t value Black life. I ask you to change the hearts of people who don’t value Black life. Transform all hearts to love Black life. Have Wilson to turn himself in and confess his wrongdoings to the authorities. While many people will not believe that this will happen, everything we place in your powerful hands can be done.

Justice has not been served in the Michael Brown case. Lord, I ask you to bring swift justice in the Brown case. Let the people across the nation know that this “open season” on Black males is over. For those who are protesting in response to this injustice, give them hope that a brighter day is coming. Use the efforts of the protesters to engender and implement serious reforms regarding policing, beginning with a mandatory requirement that all police officers wear body cameras.

Jesus, you are the true answer to injustice. All of the best ideas in the world are inadequate without you. America needs an outpouring of love. Let what’s going on in Ferguson become the catalyst for life-changing love. People must understand that at the root of racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice is sin. Those without Salvation need to come to you Jesus and repent. Without you Lord, they are living in darkness and don’t have a true understanding of goodness.

We need unity in this country, but the senseless killings of Black boys and men across the nation will not promote unity. On this Thanksgiving, I ask that you unite the American people. We’re stronger as a nation when we’re united.

The voices of those who are protesting in Ferguson deserve to be heard and respected. Let their voices be heard and respected. Give the Brown family peace on this day. Let the family know that you’re still in control. Peace will come when justice prevails.

Again, Lord, bring your swift and righteous justice.

I ask all of these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

3 Benefits of a National Conversation about Black Males and Police Power

Police Abuse of Power

(Photo Credit: Ripp Dem Up)

Too many Black male lives are being lost at the hands of White police officers abusing their power.  The lives of Black boys and men matter.  Their lives matter enough to have a serious national discourse about how their lives are increasingly threatened by abused police power.  Democrats, Republicans and Independents must genuinely participate in this national conversation.  Police officers are charged with the noble responsibility of protecting and serving the American people—not doing unlawful harm to them.  Black boys and men are Americans and deserve the same equal and quality protection and service that every American has a right to enjoy.  Many White police officers, however, haven’t gotten the memo about their responsibility to apply justice equally and fairly among all Americans, including Black boys and men.  Clear thinking Americans must call for a national discourse to take place about abused police power and its impact on Black boys and men.  What follows is a list of three of many benefits of having a national discourse about the problems with many police officers abusing their power when interacting with Black boys and men.

1. Increase Confidence in Police Officers in Minority Communities

If more confidence in police officers is to emerge from minority communities across the nation, then an authentic national discourse about police abuse of power must take place.  Many racial and ethnic minorities want the nation to hear their voices about how they lack faith in numerous White police officers’ willingness to serve and protect them.  Many minorities posit that police officers are out for their destruction.  This hostility that exists between many in minority communities and the police can only be positively addressed by having a genuine national discourse about it, and then implementing policies at the local, state, and federal levels to respond to credible problems.

2. Dramatically Reduce the Number of Senseless Police Killings of Black Males

Again, the lives of Black boys and men matter.  Too many Black boys and men are being murdered by police officers because they’re being unfairly targeted by many White police officers.  If America doesn’t get serious about police officers’ unjustified killings of Black males, then this country is headed down a terrible and bloody road to race wars between Whites and Blacks, leading to unnecessary losses of precious lives.  A national discourse about these senseless murders of Black boys and men can lead to important solutions about how better to prevent and fight against these injustices.

3. Help to Improve Racial Divides between Blacks and Whites Caused by Police

Unfortunately, unnecessary walls are erected between numerous Blacks and Whites because of intentionally nefarious actions of White police officers against Black boys and men.  We shouldn’t allow the racism of many police officers to divide those of us who aren’t racists.  A national conversation about police abuse of power engenders an opportunity to separate the racists from the non-racists.

Conclusion

In America, we continue to avoid having the important discourses we need to have as a nation.  It seems that vital conversations needing to take place at the local, state, and federal levels aren’t happening because countless individuals lack the courage to engage in these difficult conversations.  The American people will grow more divided by avoiding essential race matters.  We don’t magically become more united by abandoning discussions about race—we continue to grow farther apart by neglecting frank discourses about race.

Let’s have an honest national conversation about police abuse of power when interacting with Black boys and men.  Our country will be better for having this conversation.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dispel the False Allure of the “Facebook Fire Challenge”

Facebook Fire Challenge

(Photo Credit: Forward Times Online)

Recently, there has been a burgeoning interest in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” where mostly young guys, are sharing via Facebook their acts of self-immolation. This phenomenon is one of the strongest examples of how destructive this willingness to do almost anything to gain fame has become.  As someone who has devoted his academic and social justice work to ameliorating the lives of Black boys and men, it’s disheartening to witness a disproportionate number of these self-immolations being committed by young Black males.  This is why we have to continue to promote strengthening the Black male educational pipeline. Ensuring that Black males are receiving a high quality education, regardless of their backgrounds, is the key to combating a nihilistic spirit that’s running rampant throughout America, including in many impoverished Black communities.  Authentic, selfless and quality mentoring of young Black males is one of the most powerful tools of resistance we have at our disposal against this growing nihilistic spirit in America, especially in many Black communities.

Our young Black males need people around them who will tell and show them they love them and that they matter.  Nihilism is imbuing the psyches of too many young Black males.  We have to stay actively involved in their lives to help them avoid doing damaging and unproductive things.  While many may assert that one of the central reasons why many Black males are involving themselves in the “Facebook Fire Challenge” is the absence of numerous Black fathers in the home, we can no longer allow this to be the oversimplified conclusion of the narrative.  We have to identify homes where there are young Black males with absent fathers, and when we locate these homes, we need community leaders to partner those young guys with quality mentors.  How can we practically accomplish this?

Well, we’re always taking about starting a movement and/or being part of a movement.  Why don’t we start a national movement to take back our Black boys from the manacles of despondency and nihilism?  One of the best ways to prevent our Black boys from being destroyed by despondency and nihilism is to create mentoring programs in every community where Black boys are present.  We need to partner every Black boy with a mentor, especially those boys with absent fathers.  These programs don’t have to cost any money to form.  It does not cost any money to be willing to accept the role of a true mentor.  If community leaders would like to develop mentoring programs that are highly sophisticated and well-financed, this, of course, is absolutely fine.  Regardless of the approach taken in each community, what’s most important is for the community to act.  Young Black boys need to see more examples of success in their communities.  Successful individuals within their communities can aid in modeling success for them.

Have you endorsed the “Facebook Fire Challenge”?  You have if you’ve shared one video of these acts of self-immolation.  Stop sharing these videos.  When these young people begin to see that they don’t have a large audience for their foolish acts, they will realize self-immolation is an act that will not gain them the attention they desire.  Instead of sharing videos of acts of self-immolation, let’s use various social media platforms to oppose participation in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” and let’s provide substantive education about the dangers of involving one’s self in such risky behavior.  Too many young people believe they will earn respect from millions of people across the country and world by posting videos of themselves participating in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” but when more young folks hear and read a significant number of fervid protests against involvement in this phenomenon, we will have made a noble effort to encourage them to come off of a metaphorical bridge to disaster.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Your Apology Isn’t Enough

Apology

(Photo Credit: Conscious Manager)

Although you can genuinely forgive a person, some things people do to you require more than a simple apology. Even if the person accepts your apology, this may not always take away the pain of the wrong you have done. When you do certain wrongs to an individual, you need to work to demonstrate to the person you’re truly sorry. Your goal should be to restore that person’s confidence in you again. It can become quite unsatisfying to allow people to do whatever they please to you and then pretend that an apology heals everything.

If you will be honest, you will admit that an apology does not heal everything someone does to you. Yes, forgive everyone for everything he or she does to you. Don’t try to pretend that forgiveness cures the pain of all wrongdoing, however.

Determine in your mind that you’re not going to do things that cause people constant pain.  We all, of course, make mistakes. Unfortunately, we all don’t elect to work tirelessly to repair the damage that our mistakes produce.

You shouldn’t be so self-absorbed that you don’t even realize the harm that you do to others. Wake up and acknowledge the destructive impact of your words and actions. Your actions are not going to improve until your mind experiences a transformation. How you think determines your actions. If you think negatively, then your actions are going to be negative.

Those who have been sincerely hurt by things that people have done have to recognize when people are making efforts to recompense for their transgressions. It’s not healthy for broken people to decide that they’re going to be angry with those who have wronged them for the rest of their lives. When you do this, you share some of the blame for the wrong that was done to you: your unwillingness to make room for healing does not allow change to happen.

Why isn’t an apology always enough, though? The core reason why an apology is often not enough is an apology is frequently just the beginning of the process of your part in helping a person to heal from the pain you have caused. When you accept full responsibility for your wrongs, then you will embrace what needs to be done to restore a person to his or her previous state. You will discover that while you’re helping someone to heal that you can see healing manifest itself in your own life.

Let’s change our mentality that an apology should always be good enough. Let’s change our focus to healing instead just forgiving and apologizing.

Call someone today that you have done wrong and let the person know that you are more than sorry for the wrong that you’ve done to him or her; let him or her know that you plan to participate in his or her healing process. Although you may have originally thought that the person was just being overly sensitive, and he or she may have, the fact is you will be a better person for doing the appropriate things to mend this broken person.

Wouldn’t America and the world truly be better if many broken relationships were repaired?

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Truth Should Never Hurt

Truth

(Photo Credit: Match Stic)

We live a world where far too many people do not embrace truth. Many people love to run from truth and make excuses about it.  When you fail to face truth candidly, directly and willingly, you will find yourself living a life saturated with problems. Most of those problems are self-imposed. One of the fundamental reasons why people feel that truth hurts is it does not change. You should not let it hurt you, however. When you present someone with truth, it will not change simply because he or she is your friend or family member; truth is truth—no matter who does not like or agree with it.

If people would invest more time in working to ameliorate the phenomena truth exposes that are wrong in their lives, then they would have a significantly less antagonistic relationship with truth. Instead of getting angry with someone who provided you with a substantive critique full of truth, accept the revelations of truth to place you on a path to experiencing dramatic progress.  Don’t hate truth-tellers—hate the fact that you’re not a lover of truth.

Those who have serious self-esteem problems or low self-esteem are often individuals who have the most challenging time confronting truth. As a means of avoiding truth, they will engender false identities and realities to attempt to palliate the often unsettling realities of truth.

Learn to accept the things you cannot possibly change and work passionately to change those you can. You have to realize complaining each day is not going to enhance your life.

Too many people love to laud themselves as being “real” and champions of truth. When you are an authentic person and lover of truth, you never have to say this yourself―others will do it. Most of the folks I’ve witnessed presenting themselves as “real” and champions of truth are complete phonies. They use multifarious deceptive characterizations of themselves to try to avert attention from the true toxicity of their facades.

Again, truth should never hurt. If you ever feel that truth hurts, then this indicates that you need to change your relation to truth. A misguided and unhealthy relationship with truth can be destructive. You can live a more liberated and victorious life when you allow truth to reign.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Being Vain is Evil

Vain People

(Photo Credit: Fess Fitness)

It’s important for people to understand that being vain is evil.  While one might like to think that those who are vain cannot hurt anyone but themselves, this cannot be further from the truth.  Those who are truly vain are egregiously selfish.  Vain people make everything about them.  They see nothing and no one as more vital than themselves.

You have to be really careful about being even the slightest bit materialistic.  Even being the slightest bit materialistic can cause you to focus only on yourself and overlook the needs and feelings of others.

You know you’re recklessly vain when you want people who are going through serious hardships to concentrate their attention mainly or solely on you. Even when you are recovering from a tragedy, some vain people will be upset with you because you didn’t make them a priority.  This type of thought and behavior is dangerous.

Truly vain people are not concerned about the welfare of others.  If everything’s okay with them, then they could really care less if things are going wrong with others.

A number of vain people like to camouflage how selfish they are by promoting themselves as being selfless.  They may also involve themselves in social justice efforts, charities, and etc.  What’s crucial to understand about this, however, is they lack an authentic commitment to those aforementioned things. In involving themselves in these things, their primary motivation is self-aggrandizement.  Don’t automatically assume that those who are advocating selflessness are actually selfless.  It may simply be a cheap ploy to get all of the attention on them.  You can properly determine this by examining a person’s record when it comes to charitable efforts and causes.  Look for real evidence of a person having made a sustained difference in the lives of people.  Make sure that person didn’t cut and run from those he or she was supposed to be helping.

When vain people no longer have any use for you, they will no longer have anything to do with you. They will try to veil their selfishness by saying, “Sometimes, people just grow apart,” or “Sometimes, it’s best not to try to fix some relationships.”  What they are hiding is the truth, though: they can no longer find any ways those persons can benefit them. This leads them to casting those people away. When the persons make efforts to expose their selfishness, the vain people tell lies on them and say that they are envious of them.

Again, while you may think your selfishness is not hurting anyone, your selfishness hurts many.  Learn to see that life is about more than you.  Stop always making everything about you.  If you don’t discontinue being vain, your current world is going to crumble right before your very own eyes.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison