Jamie Mayes, AOE

Posts Tagged ‘social issues’


In Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

At last…it took me a while to muster up my opinion on this pressing topic, but I was doing my best to get to it! Dear old Grambling State University, you are in the limelight and it’s not too flattering from this angle. There have been many comments about the Grambling State football team walk out and most of them critical of the moves made by these young men. I thought quite a while before drawing a conclusion. I played the devil’s advocate to my own thoughts and placed myself on the same side of the fence as the administration who is struggling due to so many government cutbacks. Still, I must say, I support the GSU football team.
Not only do I support their recent movement, I think that our ancestors would support their movement, too. For many years, I have wondered if there was anything the young generation would stand un-moveably for. The walk-out assured me that there are still young people of character and morals who will take a stand against injustice and remain steadfast even when it’s unpopular. This act is what brought about changes such as Brown vs. the Board of Education, Loving vs. Virginia and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While we embrace and applaud the changes wrought forth from such significant movements, many of us gave the side eye to a modern day cause just as important as the others- the health and safety of college athletes. The deplorable conditions of which these players were subjected were bound to continue unless someone was courageous enough to publicize the problem and stand for change.
Let me regress for a minute to specifically address the complaints of the players which were verified through credible sources like Sports Illustrated magazine and its writers. In addition to their disappointment regarding the mid-seasoning firing of Coach Doug Williams, GSU players were tired of the ill treatment they received and deplorable conditions they were being forced to play and practice in. Complaints of a dilapidated practice site, inadequate or hardly any food when traveling, and traveling more than 700 miles by bus to play in a game were just a few of the complaints heard from players. In the news a few days ago, excerpts from a letter talked about staph infection being present in the locker rooms and unclean uniforms being issued for players to use. Feelings of disgust came over me as I considered so many factors that anger me regarding this situation. I thought one of my schools where I used to take care of letters and paperwork for the athletic department. After each game, the coaches would wash uniforms, dry them, and spray some type of concoction to help prevent infection in the locker room. They would perform a clean out at least twice a year and get rid of torn up pads and ruined uniforms. I then thought about being a student at LSU and how much care was shown towards our athletes and how I never felt any envy towards them because they had such a demanding job. They had to attend classes and practice daily and they had to perform at their best for every game. If a game was won they were gods and heroes on campus, but if a game was lost, they were given the side eye, cold stares and nasty comments all over the city. I could only imagine the feeling of being a player under so much pressure and having to perform in such deplorable conditions. I keep trying to understand how GSU has built and remodeled so many campus facilities over the past few years, but it seems that athletic department has reaped none of it.
Lastly, undoubtedly, the conditions in which the players have worked in do not collaborate with the dream sold when they signed to play for GSU. There was a completely different promise laid before them, one that has not been lived up to by the university. Some players signed to GSU as an only option, some signed because of their parents’ encouragement, some signed because of loyalty to the HBCU family…still the came because they wanted to. Now, they are being mistreated.
While it is understandable that the schools faces much difficulty because the state has cut more than fifty percent of the school’s budget, why did it take such a drastic measure for people to become aware of what is really going on? My friends and colleagues who are GSU alum have long complained about the lack of feedback they’ve received about projects for the university. My god daughters and their friends have expressed the constant delay in aid processing and constant changes with lack of information in regards to why. Perhaps, it is a part of our cultural struggle to not be open about things when we need help; instead, we put on the “good” face and perpetrate an image that does not exist while struggling to maintain the bare minimum. Even more upsetting is that nothing has been said by our great governor and I doubt he will approach the subject, and neither will the good black folks of Grambling State. Thus, the suffering of GSU’s finances, specifically athletics, will get worse before it gets better.
Therefore, I said it once, and I shall say it again, HATS OFF TO THE GSU FOOTBALL TEAM! While it is most unfortunate for the school to be in a negative light, this problem did not began a few years ago! It’s been going on. At last, someone, well some ones decided to stand up. And I, for one, am certainly not mad at that. I guess it’s just part of a tiger’s blood…


Don’t Check Your Watch…It Was Time…

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm


“It took over 350 years to be freed from slavery and you thought we’d be equal 50 years after Jim Crow?” ~J.Mayes

This morning I finally managed to drag myself out of the bed to the computer to write on the topic that has been at the end of nearly every writer’s fingertips and on the edge of every citizen’s mind for the past few days. I found myself grief stricken as the verdict of the State vs. George Zimmerman trial was announces. While I had long ago embraced the possibility that this criminal could walk away freely, there was a deep hope that this country wasn’t uncaring as I knew it was. Yet, late on Saturday night, the hopes of receiving justice for the death of a seventeen year old boy who was walking home from a visit from the store were dashed and left on the ground lifelessly, just like the body of Trayvon Martin.

The social media lines lit up with cries of injustice, unfairness, and disbelief in the American system. Other cries of an “American” justice system, justice serving its purpose, and an over play of the race card began to surface as the night went on. However, intense focus on the surface of the situation has blinded so many from seeing the depth of this situation and the danger it holds for African Americans. The tears that I shed that night were not solely because of my frustration with the non-conviction of George Zimmerman, but I cried even more so at the startling realization that is still resting on the forefront of my mind.

Black Americans, America has no respect for you. This is a startling and unnerving conclusion, but a true one. For years, I have proclaimed that my biggest problem with modern society is the blindness of black Americans and the sense of entitlement that the new generation possesses. They are under the misconception that they are just as good as their counterparts and that their mere presence is enough for them to be treated equally and fairly. Young black men think that being athletic makes them an invincible superstar and young black women think that they are made solely to wear weave, shop, and act a rambunctious fool in the public eye. Thus, a misunderstood view about who they are and should be has become a regular perception of the black race by society. The modern generation lacks knowledge about the past and the tireless battles it took for our ancestors to obtain a sense of governmental freedom. This part of American history has been denounced by both white America and black America. As a result, black history is a part of American history that has been ignored and misrepresented. The end result of such misrepresentation has created false self-identities in the black community.

As this point, readers may question what this has to do with Travyon Martin. Well, we have been receiving gentle reminders of America’s lack of growth and tolerance for many years. Ever since President Barack Obama became a viable candidate for the office of president, there have been constant reminders of the general perspective of blacks in America. Reflections of this have been in everything from questioning the location of his birth to derogatory names and public disrespectful treatment towards him.  Still, black America failed to truly address the huge issue of race relations in this country. Issues with our president are only one example of the attempt to awaken a social consciousness.

A little over a month ago, one of America’s most beloved cooks and downhome television stars dropped an ugly bombshell in court. Paula Deen admitted to using the “N” word in conversations on a regular basis for many years and that it was a regular part of life where she came from. Americans appeared to be flabbergasted, verbally lashing Mrs. Deen and demanding that extreme actions take place. And they did. She is still currently losing business deals and connections, causing her success to decline at a rapid rate. Paula Deen has been heavily criticized for something that should have come as no surprise. Many Americans (black and white, but mostly black) reiterated over and over that Deen deserved all she was getting because of personal practices that the masses detested. (See my blog on Paula Deen for my perspective) Yet, America missed an even more important lesson from this unfortunate situation. Americans applauded companies as they pulled her products from their shelves and issued strong public statements disconnecting themselves from her. However, I thanked Paula Deen for opening my eyes and committing the ultimate crime in the black community- snitching. Yes, she told us what really goes on in many board rooms, meetings, and private conversations across the country.  Major companies wanted to rid themselves of Paula Deen, for a scandal this big had the potential to reveal the true nature of many more Americans other than Paula Deen. Still, black America, you missed the mark by criticizing her admittance instead of looking more deeply into the situation. Once again, we missed the wakeup call.

There is a saying which states that the third time is the charm. The third time wasn’t charming for us, but it finally gave a wakeup call that made society stop, reconsider, listen, and react. The actual event occurred over a year ago, but the verdict of the State versus George Zimmerman was what caused black Americans to cry in outrage. It had been over twenty years since a court case caused such uproar in America, but after the verdict was read lists of cases across America with similar incidents and states with Stand Your Ground laws began to get attention. Black mothers hugged and rocked their sons understanding the danger that exists for them. Black fathers cried out in anguish and frustration at the realization of the lack of power they have to protect their families in America. The truth is that “Stand Your Ground Laws” don’t protect black Americans whether they are standing or lying down on their ground. It is unfortunate, but true that young Trayvon Martin had to serve as a sacrificial lamb to get America’s attention. The conviction of George Zimmerman would have caused the case to go away and today black Americans would still be under the misconception that this America works on their behalf. There was more important reason that Zimmerman was not convicted; a movement of massive importance had to occur for the seriousness of this situation to be understood. Finally, the voice of Attorney General Eric Holden is being heard, the story of Marissa Alexander is spreading, Floridians are demanding the change of a law that should have never existed, and other states with the same laws are being criticized, too.

This pivotal case brought senseless death of Emmett Till back to the media and highlighted the startling similarities between two cases that are over half a century apart. It made society recall the great wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the unfair death he suffered. Yet, all of these individuals had to die unfairly for America to make drastic changes. These changes must be legal and personal. For if the death of a seventeen year old child and the acquittal of his murderer doesn’t spark a sense of change within communities, nothing will.

The unfortunate death of young Trayvon Martin was painful but necessary to open the eyes of America, especially black America. Many things have changed since the 1960’s, but so many things have not. Despite the anger and hostility felt by so many, the most important thing that can happen is to educate black children about the past and why it is relevant. Teach them to love and respect others regardless of how they are treated, but to be conscious of situations that exist for black Americans. Tell our children to be noble citizens who have pride in the work our ancestors invested into this country, but stand up for that which is right and fair. Familiarize them with the laws of the state in which they live, but remind them they these laws apply to black Americans more than anyone. Pray with and for our children, but teach them to use the wisdom that is given to make decisions. Most importantly, remind them that Trayvon Martins and George Zimmerman’s don’t just live in Florida. They live all over this country. While we are marching, rallying and making our cries heard today, there will be another situation which arises tomorrow. This is not cause to give up or give in; this is reason to unify in order to create a tumultuous cry that will knock down the doors of difference in society. For this is the only true way that the death of Trayvon Martin and so many others who died at the hands of racial violence won’t be in vain.

There’s Nothing ‘Accidental’ About It

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2013 at 7:16 pm

terroreditedIf the beat drops and the artist is hot, music will make people do a lot of things. The uncompromising truth is that music and its artists influence nearly every level, ethnic group, and socio-economic group of the world. The music industry determines fashion choices, career choices, and these days, even sexuality. Music and its famous artists are the elements which connect people across the world. Music stars seemingly have more influence than political and religious figures. Therefore, when music artist generate lyrics that challenge the general beliefs and positions of a certain group in society, media frenzy ensues to understand the creator of such works. Mostly recently, one of country music’s most admirable stars teamed up with one of rap music’s most influential long-standing artists to release a song that has set off a myriad of opinions about its content. Many people acknowledge a sense of understanding for the alleged positive message attempt, while others question the true motive behind such a song. One general opinion has been that the manner in which the message is conveyed was poor in fashion. Yet, after listening to the song and reviewing the lyrics multiple times, I found a much deeper concept of the song.
As a born, bred, and current resident of the South, this song rang out lyrics to phrases I have heard since I was a child. Country men and women who rock the Confederate flag on their cars, swinging from the front of their porches, and pasted across the centered of their chest proclaim that “it is not prejudice; it’s pride.” I recall being a 4-H’er in Beauregard Parish where there were hardly any other members who looked like me. This was a constant quote issued to me in particular by those who assumed that the image made me uncomfortable. (The assumption was correct for I was a teenager at the time. Yet, I never posed a question or asked for an explanation.) It is understandable that one wishes to be proud of their heritage, as I am an avid celebrator of black culture and achievements; yet, the events, ideals, and statements which are frequently associated with this piece of American pride represent hatred and an unwillingness to acknowledge another race as free men. This flag has even served as the symbol of the KKK for many years. I cannot recollect any instant where an individual of the South made a public statement that they are disappointed with the connection of the Confederate flag to this hate organization. Let us not be contrary to the facts, many people who wear the shirt with the intention of simply paying their homage to their southern family members and pride. However, the popularity of this flag has been largely due to its representation of hatred and racism. Therefore, when an individual is offended or hesitant to befriend one who so publicly flaunts this image, it is not without fair consideration of the flag’s past representation and association with racism. It was only a few months ago that I saw a bumper sticker with a picture of a Confederate flag that said “Fighting terrorism since 1876.” There are several of people from the South who do not run around flaunting this image as a badge of honor yet they have love and respect for their heritage. Therefore, when I heard the lyrics of famed country star Brad Paisley’s new song “Accidental Racist,” I felt that there was no accident at all.
It was not merely the title of this song that appalled me, but also the lyrics. After listening to this song multiple times, I even more disappointed. Lines like “…it ain’t like you and me can rewrite history,” “We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on egg shells, and fightin’ over yesterday” and “And caught between southern pride and southern blame” made me a little furious! It doesn’t stop there. There is one line which states “…they called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears…” This line made me stop and start the song over! Perhaps I was confused, but it seems that the implication here is that the Reconstruction Era was created for black people in efforts to wipe our tears and give us a place to stay. Brad Paisley, perhaps you should visit the history books. Although President Lincoln signed a piece of paper, America, the South in particular, did everything possible to revolt against this change. These revolts included lynching, murdering, making voting illegal, failing to fulfill promises, sending people from nothing to nothing, and even rejecting laws and keeping people in captivity! In addition, if adequately compensating black people were as simple as wiping tears and fixing buildings then perhaps America would be in a much different state day. It seems that Brad is implying “We set your free; now get over it!” Perhaps Brad needs to be reminded that after the Reconstruction Era also came the Jim Crow Era. After the Jim Crow Era came the Rodney King incident California. After the Rodney King incident came the James Byrd incident in Texas. After the James Byrd incident came the James Anderson incident in Mississippi. (Look it up if you have not heard about it.) It would be easier to get over the past if it was not a part of the present. Paisley goes on to state that we are “still siftin’ through the rubble after 150 years.” Really Brad? Perhaps the documents were signed 150 years ago, but even today African Americans are still fighting for equality and rights. Do you want some more Brad? Well, let’s keep going. The next line states “I try to walk a mile in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin.” This is one of my many issues with America; how dare you pat yourself on the back for “attempting” to walk a mile in the shoes of a person who was beaten, battered, starved, humiliated, oppressed, and denied the rights of any civil human being for 300 years. To pat oneself on the back for what you think is a civil act is arrogant and selfish. The blame for this senseless song does not lie solely upon the shoulders of Brad Paisley. He recruited a very well known rap star to support this ballad of American patriotism.
Ladies Love Cool James? Well, this song caused him to lose a lot of this lady’s love. Aside from the disappointment that he would even participate in a song like this, the lyrics that he belts across wavelengths with confidence made me nearly cry out “Don’t do it to us, LL!” But he did. LL Cool J filled his single verse with so many stereotypical and one-side black race assumptions that I had question that I am. The second line of his verse says “I wish you understood what it’s like when you’re living in the hood.” While I did grown up in the projects and I know a large number of people who live in what is considered to be the hood, I do not currently live in the hood nor do several of the other black people I know. Therefore, I was confused about why LL Cool J immediately associated the hood with black people. Is that the immediate perception that he has of his people? As a matter of a fact, I don’t think that he even lives in the hood. He goes on to say “Just because I’m sagging doesn’t mean I’m up to no good.” I will not deny that there is a large of portion black young men who sag their pants; there are also a large number of white young men who do the same and several black men who do not sag at all. Why LL would connect such a negative stereotype to his race and his own son is beyond comprehension. And nope, LL doesn’t stop there; there are references to gold chains and Sherman’s March. I struggle to understand what Sherman’s March specifically had to do with black people; most of our ancestors played no direct role in it. LL follows with the line “I want you to get paid but a slave I never could.” LL, what disrespect to the people who made it possible for you to be here! The truth is you could be whatever was assigned to you or be killed for disobedience if you were born during the slavery era. And for why would you want the supporters of the flag at this time to get money when the money was made by making your ancestors work 16 to 20 hours per day in a hot field. You wanted them to get paid when your ancestors got nothing, not even the freaking forty acres and a mule. (Yes, I brought it up!) Cool James follows up by saying that white cowboy hats make him uncomfortable; I’m sorry LL, I am from the deep South and a white cowboy hat has never made me uncomfortable- only a white hood. It makes me cringe to hear LL pay homage to Abraham Lincoln for signing the paperwork but failing to acknowledge the black men and women who had to put in the physical work to actually see these changes come to pass. I question whether LL actually wrote the lyrics or simply repeated them.
Perhaps Brad Paisley was attempting to mend a broken bridge between whites and blacks in society. Maybe LL Cool J wanted to be a part of a unity song to change the hearts of so many. However, this was an epic fail. If one aims to use such hard core information to write a song, it must be factually and civilly supported. It must be sensitive to both sides of the situation and embrace the ugly truth where it exists. The fact is that this song makes several blanket and general statements about a topic that is covered up by many but far from general. Perhaps, race relations could be better if the Confederate flag had not been used by the KKK as a symbol of hatred and racism for many years. If we lived in a society where generalizations and stereotypes were not so common maybe assumptions about one race or another would not happen as often. Perhaps, if America would not still have prevalent issues of racism throughout society of every level (social or corporate) much of the anxiety felt by black people could be removed. If the stories of the slavery and black contributions to the development of this country would be told just as often and clearly as the story of white contributors is told then maybe the eye of the black man would not be filled with much discretion. The biggest issue is that these injustices still persist in American society. Mr. Brad Paisley, how do you and your country counterparts feel about our black president? *Pause* Do not give the fake statements that those hiding behind masks use; speak the truth. In a perfect world, racism and stereotyping would not exist; America’s dirty past filled with slavery, hate crimes, and stereotypes is not much different from its present state. Race issues have not dissolved they have only morphed.
Ultimately, there is a way that every individual can actively be what this song aims to project (according to Paisley and LL). Individuals must be the person they want to see in others, exhibiting positive character regardless of the action or reaction of others. The goal of those who have gone before was to see equality for all mankind in this country. People must treat others well regardless of their personal opinions. Acts of kindness, humility, and love must be portrayed because it is a part of one’s character, not because it is proper religious or public practices. This is the only way that our country can become one. While society cannot dwell on the past, there is no way to make a better future without freeing oneself from the negative attachments to things that hurt or harmed others. In addition, one can respect the work our ancestors invested to build a better future for forth comers while harnessing aggression and anger. Ultimately, the goal of figures like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Dr. King was to live in an equal and fair society.
Therefore, I apologize to Mr. Paisley; I cannot take his lyrics in the manner that he alleges they were presented. Having previously been a fan of his music, I now will turn a deaf ear to his works. If the wish is for me and my people to let go of things of the past, then others must let go of racism and ignorance. For the Confederate flag may be only a symbol of pride to him, but it is wishful thinking for many others and a constant reminder of pain for me. Racism is not accidental; it is inexcusable, unreasonable, and disgraceful.

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