Yes, Non-Black people can wear braids

No disclaimer/tribute necessary


As far as I can remember, conversations about the appropriateness of specific Black hairstyles were typically centered around the workplace and whether or not someone would appear unprofessional (especially in a corporate setting) wearing braids, locs and the like. Consequences for hair choices disproportionately affected African Americans, but there was also an understanding that if a person of any race (however, unlikely) punched in wearing an ‘unapproved’ style, they too would have reprimands thrown their way. Today, the conversation has shifted; and while the concept that Black people are punished for styles linked to their culture and history remains, the new facet is that White people donning the same looks are heralded and because this dichotomy exists, it is cultural appropriation for a non-black person (especially white) to wear braids or similar ‘do’s.

It used to be that the fight to expand images of professionalism (to include elements of black culture) was handled in court; now, we just scroll through the comments. A thoughtful article from 2001 discussed the issue as improving, as more employers were willing to take a more even-handed approach. It never once mentioned that a viable solution would be to restrict others from making similar hair choices because that…solves… nothing.

In 2018, someone decided that African people invented braids (not true) and that a decision by a non-black person to wear said hairstyle requires self-reflection (am I doing this to be trendy? Or because I want to inspire?) and research (!): “Don’t [wear braids] for fun or because your African-American boyfriend or girlfriend has them…Learn about the story, find inspiration and give credit where credit’s due by explaining who or what has inspired you, like on social media.” 🙄 Advice like this leads to stuff like this:

Nikita_IGA ‘cut and paste’ tagged to the original post to ward off criticism. This is considered sufficient penance paid for the privilege of wearing a hairdo not associated with one’s race or ethnicity? There’s so much focus nowadays on ‘credit’, precious little on how this moves the needle forward. It’s insulting to think that praise and acknowledgement are satisfactory substitutes for institutional and cultural change. People clamoring to be mentioned in the footnotes of someone’s IG feed don’t get to lead the conversation on how to problem solve issues that are deep rooted in this country’s unresolved racist past. Nah..they should stick to criticizing folks’ hair choices on social media.




Not F. Scott Fitzgerald…

For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

– Eric Roth (screenwriter, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

I’d Prefer Unisex Bathrooms…but

it’s got to make sense

The rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom which aligns with their gender identity has become a major hot button issue in the past few years. I didn’t have much cause to think about it until recently, when I saw a sign posted at a local YMCA that states that individuals are allowed to use the bathroom which correlates with their gender identity. Again, I never thought about it until I was on line with my daughter for the bathroom at another (different) location and an individual dressed in women’s clothes and wearing a wig, was on line ahead of us. No one said anything. No raised eyebrows or exchanged glances, or at least none that I noticed. The individual went in, went out and that was it.

Maybe because I live in a very liberal city, maybe because I’m woman and the bathrooms are typically multi-stalled or maybe because it’s not that big a deal, but I think unisex bathrooms are a reasonable way to be inclusive and respectful towards everyone. Who knew that ‘Ally McBeal’ would be way ahead of its time? I thought about this and wondered, what about locker rooms? The reality is, not everyone is a decent human being. If the YMCA’s policy allows access strictly based on self identity, then you make the grave assumption that everyone is going to be forthright and honor the spirit in which the provision was made, but we know that’s not the case.

My issue is that in an effort to be on the right side of history, politicians are putting the cart before the horse, causing anxiety and resistance to what is an important cause. Unless re-design happens within the necessary areas to make it more amenable for everyone to use, everyone shouldn’t use them.

How the Left Was Won

…by (gulp) learning from the President

It seems as the campaign trail moves closer to 2020 and the likely Democratic nominee appears less obvious, the realization that a Trump repeat is on the horizon strikes fear into my heart. I fear what ignorance and intolerance at the head of a nation will do for another four years. I remember thinking, not long after he was elected, that he would be impeached. Now, I see that less as wishful thinking and more evidence that those in government, who are left leaning, have lost their way and their guts. And the way to get back on track? Take a page from the President.

Trump’s ability to say whatever, regardless of its lack of accuracy, honesty, consistency or diplomacy, is completely antithetical to what we expect (or used to expect) of elected governmental officials; men and women, who come election time, sing sweet sounds of debt elimination, insurance for all and more and better jobs; each speech and soundbite is finely tuned to elicit the greatest number of cheers (plausibility, be damned).

I listen to a variety of Democrats discuss issues ranging from #MeToo, to reparations, student debt, climate change and immigration. I hear a lot of solutions, but what I don’t hear a lot of is booing.

There’s no way that anyone is going to say what is desirable at all times. Is no one willing to deliver some hard truths? That the conversation on reparations is thoughtful, but just that: a conversation; that Medicare for All is not possible because too many private hospitals and private insurance companies are in the back pocket of too many legislators so anything that would eliminate or minimize their business isn’t happening; that giving healthcare to illegal immigrants solves nothing and is offensive in light of the fact that there are American citizens who go without on a daily basis.

Trump taught us that you can say a whole lot and still galvanize your base. With no political experience or couth, this man ascended to the highest office in the land and he did it unapologetically, saying some difficult things. How much more successful would a gifted public servant be, if they would do the same, coming from a place of knowledge, respect, authenticity and experience. The problem with the Left is they’re busy catering to a vocal and savage minority who have mastered the art of attention and know how to capture wandering eyes, and damage careers with one public misstep.

But the win lies in the hands of a silent majority: people who don’t care about what’s trending or trendy and don’t agree with what going on, but who say nothing for fear of reprisal. Their vote goes to the person who has the courage to say what their thinking and the leaders on the Left have to get a clue quick or else…many of us are going to live again with what we’re dreading.

And Down Will Come Tati?

A Red Flag Review of Viral Video

+Never have I been more grateful for my sloth in posting an article as I am today; when news broke last week of ‘Bye Sister,’ (YouTube makeup guru, Tati Westbrook’s video about James Charles), I wasn’t ready to give something off my cultural radar 43 minutes of my life, but when I finally did, Charles decided to release his own video (also over 40 minutes) clarifying the incident which led to their very public blowup.

When I heard what was going on from my preteen cousins, I was put off by the fact that a grown woman was coming for someone nearly half of her age. It felt cruel and juvenile. What’s worst was the almost celebratory energy surrounding his downfall. Westbrook’s accusations that Charles was manipulating straight men into thinking they were gay and using his fame and power to strong arm people into having sex with him rang false to me. Mind you, he’s only 19. Teenage boys trying to have sex by any means necessary is not unfamiliar to me and while not always savory, it isn’t exactly predatory (unless we’re talking about the underage). Her comments were inflammatory to say the least and led to an unprecedented 3+ million subscriber drop for Charles which included celebs like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and Ariana Grande.

But lo and behold, in the midst of the smoke, a clearing: ‘No More Lies‘ dropped Saturday and in it Charles refutes all the claims made by Tati, point by point and in the process, earned over a million subscribers back. If ever there was a case to be made for not rushing to judgement, this is it. Initially, I was going to make a point by point comparison of their videos, but I decided to just focus on the red flags in hers, specifically the points she made that had me going, ‘Hmmm, say what now?’:

🚩 she doesn’t just spill the tea, she scalds with it – Anytime someone tells another person’s story, my red flag antennae go up. Tati told all this boy’s business, including how she and her husband helped up his earnings per video from $90 to $2,500. She mentioned a million dollar deal that they helped negotiate for him. She discussed private conversations she had with him, one in particular in which she said, ‘I told you this is not good and you could have your career destroyed.’ Considering the effects of her video, I wonder now if that was a threat or a warning? 

🚩 details, details…except when it comes to her – Another red flag: vagueness. From what I take from both her and Charles’ video, this situation was triggered by his posting an ad for Sugar Bear Hair, a competitor to Westbrook’s Halo Beauty. She was understandably upset by his decision, but her explanation for why she needed to address this publicly is not as clear. She says that she could have just stopped talking to him, but decided to address it through YouTube because she ‘didn’t feel safe talking about this privately’ and didn’t want her words twisted and used against her. She wasn’t clear about why she felt afraid which leaves viewers to come to their own (likely, not good) conclusions. It’s a serious case of allowing people’s tendency to presume the worst do the work for you which is a nasty passive aggressive tactic.

🚩 all good, all good…except for him – I found it peculiar how Tati described James’ ‘unwilling’ pursuits as individuals ’emerging into adulthood who don’t quite have everything figured out,’ but neglected to see that those words fit Charles to a T. She opens her video with clips of praise for Charles, describes herself as a role model, talks at length about the amount of help she and her husband gave Charles, even stating that her role in their relationship was more from a parental stance, but would you raise an eyebrow or a glass at a ‘parent’ that shades their ‘child’ in the most visible way possible? Are we happy or horrified when we spot a parent spanking their child in the street? Warning sign: self righteous shading is a one dimensional justification for a personal takedown; it sounds a lot like, ‘I’m such a good person because (I do this, I don’t do this, people tell me so) and this person over here is bad because (they do this, they don’t do this, people say so)’. Checking people from a pedestal is a MAJOR red flag. Checking people who are unrelated to the issue, as she did Charles’ mother, another violation. In the video, Westbrook mentions that Christie (James’ mother) said to her, ‘thank you for looking after my boy.’ After listing his ‘flaws’, she claps back, ‘ok, I’m handing that back to you.’ As if playing mentor is akin to guardianship. The unmitigated gall is jaw dropping.

🚩 what it looks like and what it is are two different things – towards the end of her video, Westbrook gets into the ad that started it all and her beliefs that she didn’t really think Charles was in danger, that if he was in danger, he could have left and that the deal with Sugar Bear Hair must have been in the works because companies don’t just have contracts laying around to give to people. All valid assumptions, but still, conjecture at best. She has no credible reasoning for thinking that his story about linking up with SBH at Coachella was untrue other than her feelings and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it lie. 

As it stands now, ‘No More Lies’ has racked up over 29 million views in two days. It didn’t make YouTube’s trending list, which is weird considering the numbers. Checked it today and he’s been flagged for a copyright claim which might explain why his video is not on the list and interestingly enough, Tati’s game changing ‘Bye Sister’ was unlisted (meaning that you won’t find it in searches, but you can watch it if you have the link or in my case, have watched it already and it’s in your viewing history). Considering how detailed and proof riddled his response video is, I wonder who would benefit most from its reach being limited? And to not break my own rule and be vague, I’ll answer my own question: Tati Westbrook.

A Bittersweet Moment in #WomensHistoryMonth

Angel Rios made history when she, and another wrestler (Jaslynn Gallegos), became the first girls to place at Colorado’s state wrestling tournament, in fourth and fifth place, respectively. In the handful of articles that I read about the event, that should have been the short summary of a pretty amazing moment, but no, I was treated to this and this instead. A couple of issues I had with both articles:

Her victory is about him.

Both articles suggested quite flagrantly that Rios wouldn’t be up there if Johnston had not have withdrawn. They also make a point of mentioning that he forfeited to her four times in the past, leading readers to wonder, how many of her wins did she earn? No mention is made of her skills, her prowess. It’s not even considered that perhaps she would have beaten him based on her previous performances and past opponents. No, as stated in the Denver Post headline, ‘wrestler made history when he knocked himself out of the state tournament.’

His unwillingness to compete is heroic

Read through the comments in both articles and Johnston is lauded as having a ‘good head on his shoulders,’ and being a ‘gentleman’. I would expect that if someone flat out refused to face a difficult situation head on that would make him cowardly, but because his decision is morally/faith based, we call it something else: honorable. I understand his point about not wanting to ‘treat a girl that way,’ and I also respect his decision to walk away. It’s his choice, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to add a little context: she’s there because she’s good enough, not because someone wanted to make a statement about gender equality. Next, wrestling is not assault. This is a controlled form of combat. There’s a ref, officials, protective gear. This isn’t a bar brawl that spilled into the streets. And finally, a missed opportunity to understand nuance: how would a person fight someone that they wanted to beat, but not harm? Is there a way to learn how to wrestle that he can maintain his dignity and hers? He’ll never learn (and we’ll never know) because he walked away.

No better place to compete

One thing both articles neglected to mention was that the CHSAA (the Colorado High School Activities Association), the governing body which oversees the state’s schools sports, doesn’t offer girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport. Meaning that though it is recognized (as it is offered as a pilot program), without sanctioning, there’s no postseason and tournament wins don’t count toward an official record. So at this stage, it’s not more than a glorified hobby. For Rios to wrestle at a level worthy of her skill, she needed to compete with the boys and not only did she compete, SHE WON!

I’m Sorry…so sorry

Liam Neeson, yesterday, gave an interview to the British newspaper, The Independent. He gives a testimony, affirming his humanity, in all of its ugly glory and his reward? To be called a racist and to be asked to consider the feelings of ‘an innocent black man knowing that he could have been killed’. Like Kevin Hart before him, Neeson is being asked to consider the feelings of those he may have hurt who, heretofore, had no knowledge of, interest in or concern for his actions. I am not a fan of cheap or political apologies. I don’t believe that people should apologize for hypothetical pain; pain is very real, visceral and tangible. You can objectively count its victims. It is not amorphous and vague, lacking real effects or clear connections. Holding strangers guilty for the possible distress they might have caused makes as much sense as demanding redress for the punch that could have hit you in the face. We live in a time where victimization is a fast track to a public platform, so we shouldn’t be surprise that it’s becomes more attractive to be in the cross hairs.

No Apology Necessary, @KevinHart4real

A metaphorical tale

Imagine a scenario:

You decide to have a barbecue and extend an invitation to everyone on your block; some you know well, others not so much, but if they want to come, great! The more, the merrier. You make calls, send e-vites and even go so far as to make flyers, so that as many as are able will come and have a good time. The date of the barbecue fast approaches. You make all your preparations: Ribs? Check! Burgers? Check! Hot dogs? Check! Sides, condiments, entertainment; you have beyond covered all your bases and spent a pretty penny along the way, but that’s not the point, enjoying yourself is.

The sun rises on your big day and you can’t wait for your guests to arrive and when they do, you greet them warmly and make sure they are well fed.  You spot an unknown sour face in the crowd and watch as they make a beeline into your personal space. They shove a plate of food under your neck and demand to know what it is. Confused and unwilling to state the obvious, you reply, ‘what’s it look like?’

‘I can’t eat it’, they snarl back, ‘It could kill me! I’m allergic! I could have gone into  anaphylactic shock.’ You take a moment to process; surely they don’t think you went out of your way to serve them something poisonous.

‘I didn’t know it was a problem.’

‘Well, now you do. Throw it out!’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Now you know it’s a problem. You should throw it out.’

‘But I like it and so do my other guests.’

‘Well, I’m a guest too! And since this stuff could kill me, you shouldn’t have it around.’

‘I got a better idea. I’ve got other stuff. Why don’t you try that?’

‘Good point. You have other stuff, so you don’t need this!’

‘This is a barbecue. Why are you surprised that this is here?’

The conversation didn’t even have a chance to go left because it already started there. You watch in a combination of awe and horror as they throw out their plate, others’ and, with the lightning quick reflexes of a professional athlete, grab the serving tray of the offending dish and pile drive it into the grass. It’s bad enough they’re making a scene, but they’ve also made others so uncomfortable that, though they’ve enjoyed the festivities thus far, they’d rather be away from all the noise and aggravation.

‘All of this for one dish’, you think to yourself as they parade around your backyard, unwilling to leave despite the fact that the threat is now completely inedible, covered in grass and mud.

Eight years later, a stranger comes knocking on your door inquiring about the infamous barbecue. You decided some time ago to avoid serving that dish. It makes life easier and you have more than enough to work with, so it was easy to cut from the menu. Irritated, the stranger condemns you for daring to serve a dish that could kill someone and are stunned by your inconsideration and callousness toward the guest. You remind them that years have passed since then and you’ve had numerous barbecues, with little incident. And either way, what does it matter now? You weren’t there.

‘That’s not the point! I could have been.’

You sigh.

The next thing the stranger sees is your closed door.


Author’s note:

Freedom of speech is a complicated right, but it’s a right nevertheless. I’m an advocate of removing myself from situations where the language is not to my liking or in circumstances where I have a relationship with the person, I make a comment/request. I don’t demand from strangers, famous or not, that they keep my sensitivities in my mind when they speak.

Random thought:

Has anyone ever considered that the jokes being called ‘homophobic’ now, weren’t really making fun of his son, but were really making fun of his fear? His out of proportion reaction is what made the joke funny, and in an exaggerated way, points to how ridiculous he was being.

UPDATE: The Karina Vetrano Case

The Howard Beach jogger’s murder case is set for a re-trial.

Sometime ago, I wrote about Chanel Lewis, the accused killer of jogger, Karina Vetrano. The murder took place back in 2016 and about six months later, the NYPD arrested Lewis and charged him with murder and almost immediately, I was sure they didn’t have the right guy. Chief among my concerns was that neither physical evidence nor eyewitness testimony led the police to him, a suspicious cop did. That was my first red flag and now that the case ended in a mistrial and a new trial is set to begin later this month, I have a couple more to wave:

red flag

“This woman put up a ferocious fight, right to the end. She was beaten quite severely, which would suggest she put up a big fight,” 

– Chief of Detectives, Robert Boyce

The above description is based on the fact that when Ms. Vetrano’s body was found, she was covered in scratches, had broken teeth and was strangled with such force, that the killer’s hand print was marked into her neck. Contrast that description with the one in Mr. Lewis’ medical record, from a visit to the doctor the day after the murder: “Head atraumatic, neck supple. No other injury.” The injury to his hand, described as ‘superficial.’ This woman fought for her life and the accused has no markings to show for it? She was a frequent runner, in reasonably good shape. Whoever murdered and assaulted her would, at the very least, have some scratches and bruising; Mr. Lewis had nothing of the sort.

“The District Attorney’s case relies on three separate pieces of evidence tying Lewis to the crime (of which there were no known eyewitnesses). One of those pieces of evidence is the prosecution’s claim that Lewis’s DNA was found on Vetrano’s back and cell phone,”

The DNA evidence in this case has been categorized in a myriad of ways: as a ‘strong profile’, a ‘possible match’, a match and as an unproven part of a complex mixture of  several DNA. The lack of consistency in how the DNA is described suggests a fluid interpretation of the results which would likely lean in favor of prosecutors because it’s a good thing when you can’t definitively eliminate your key suspect from a pool of DNA, but it severely undercuts the premise that there was only one killer. And if you can’t definitively eliminate them, you can’t definitively ID them either. The two places where Lewis’ DNA shows up with certainty is on Vetrano’s back and cellphone, odd places considering how vicious the attack was and certainly not enough for a conviction.

“…the Queens DA’s office has been withholding crucial pieces of evidence from the media, including 911 calls and medical records,

So instead of honoring requests from the media to view integral pieces of evidence presented at trial, Judge Michael Aloise has elected to defer those appeals to the Queens DA’s public information office. He gave no reason for the shift which runs counter to the traditional practice of the trial judge being responsible for the release of such information. The DA’s office has thus far denied requests without explanation except for a presumed one: they have something to hide.

Writing so Poor, It Begs the Question: What Happened Before the Video? – the Doubletree/Massey Edition

What happens when you can call anyone a racist?

The latest installment in the media driven narrative of LWB (Living While Black) focuses on Jermaine Massey, a guest at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Portland. The incident took place on December 23rd after Massey returned to the hotel from a concert. He claims he received an urgent call from his mother and went to a quiet area in the lobby to take the call. It was then that he was interrupted by a security guard, requesting his room number. Much of the furor surrounds the video Mr. Massey took after police had been called. Within a week, the two men, identified as ‘Earl’ and ‘Luis’ in the video, were fired. Thus far, no report has surfaced inquiring as to what their view of the event was because, apparently, that doesn’t matter. Mr. Massey says that he was discriminated against, so therefore, he must be right. The hotel chain was swift with public apologies and promised to work with ‘diversity experts‘ to rectify the situation…whatever that means.


  1. How long have ‘Luis’ and ‘Earl’ worked there?
  2. How many times have they called police on guests? Were all those guests black?
  3. How many other guests did ‘Earl’ request information from?
  4. Is ‘Earl’ (within his authority as a security guard) allowed to ask individuals questions to identify if they are guests or not?
  5. Is not identifying yourself to staff, grounds for removal?
  6. Why did the guard call the police on Mr. Massey?
  7. Why was Mr. Massey, a registered guest, taking a personal call in the lobby instead of his room?
  8. Why did he not show is room key or state his room number when first asked?

These questions matter because in situations as sensitive as this, nuance matters, context matters. In light of how quickly corporations rush to squelch (i.e., quietly settle) damaging incidents gone public, Mr. Massey has something to gain from this (not implying, however, that that is his motivation) and the current atmosphere of ‘question nothing’ leaves businesses (large and small) vulnerable to opportunists looking to cash in without being challenged.

Here it is…

I believe Mr. Massey when he says he was irritated by ‘Earl”s interruption and I believe ‘Earl’ when he said Massey refused to give his room number which led to the police being called. I don’t believe the video circulating on the networks now is all there is to the story. Especially since along with the publicized clip, Massey posted a few more, since deleted videos, to Instagram in which he gave further commentary on the event. In one, he stated he was in his room and then went to the lobby to call his mother. In another, his description of the initial word exchange between himself and the security guard is vague at best and offers no insight into how things escalated so quickly.

The two men fired in this video have had their faces shown to the nation and been labeled racists, a scarlet label not so easily removed. This is not a trial, so it is not a matter of due process, but proper investigation. For the sake of everyone involved, as much of a complete version of events should be presented so that judgment doesn’t just come swiftly, but accurately.