July 2, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
â€œLiquor make you tell the truth.â€
My Aunt Sarah used to tell me this whenever someone in the family would try to apologize for getting drunk and hurting someoneâ€™s feelings. Her point was that, despite our attempts to â€œblame it on the alcohol,â€ the state of inebriation doesnâ€™t prompt us to say things we donâ€™t really mean. Instead, spirits simply remove the inhibitions that suppress our innermost thoughts and feelings. As a result, we should not put much stock in the subsequent apology, which has more to due with embarrassment than remorse.
This has certainlyÂ proved to be the case for Mel Gibson.
In 2006, an intoxicated Gibson was pulled over for speeding on a Malibu highway. As the police attempted to take him into custody, Gibson went on a lengthy and vicious anti-Semitic tirade, blaming the Jews for everything from global warfare to Bobby Brown leaving New Edition. Fully aware that such moves are a severe occupational hazard, a sobered up Gibson quickly issued a public statement in which he expressed regret and shame for his antics. More importantly, he expressed disbelief at the anti-Semitic venom of his own comments, assuring the public that his drunken rant was not reflective of his true beliefs. To underscore his point, Gibson quickly checked into a rehabilitation center, sparking a new celebrity trend of using rehab as means of wedging space between their hate-speech and their individual character.
Soon after the incident, Jewish leaders like Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, made it clear that they were unwilling to accept Gibsonâ€™s apology. Simply put, they didnâ€™t believe him.
The mother wit of my Aunt Sarah aside, there were multiple reasons to believe that Gibson was less than contrite. Despite numerous attempts, Gibson failed to unequivocally reject his fatherâ€™s claims that the Holocaust never happened, instead choosing to sidestep the question with fancy rhetorical footwork. Also,Â The Passion of the Christ, Gibsonâ€™s record-breaking film, placed exclusive blame on the Jews for the death of Jesus at the expense of Roman accountability. Additionally, Gibson had made a career of uttering equally vicious public statements against other groups, such as women and the LGBT community. Surely, all of these issues weighed into the ADLâ€™s decision to reject Gibsonâ€™s dubious apology.
Now, in the wake of Gibsonâ€™s most recent outbursts, they have been proven right.
According to several published reports, Gibson has been caught on tape and e-mail making equally offensive comments during an argument with his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. In the midst of an intense argument over custody of their 8-month-old child, Gibson repeatedly called Grigorieva a â€œb—-,â€ â€œc—,â€ and â€œwhore,â€ promised to burn down her home, and threatened to sodomize her. Gibson warned his ex that her appearance would get her â€œraped by a pack of niggers.â€
Apparently, they didnâ€™t cover racism and misogyny during his last trip to â€œhate rehab.â€
July 2, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a major decision. In a 5-4 ruling, the high court determined that the Second Amendment applies to the ability of state and local authorities to regulate gun laws. Although the decision promises to impact all sectors of the country, it will have its most immediate and direct effect on Black communities, which have the most rigid and repressive gun restrictions in the nation.
As someone deeply concerned with violence prevention, it is tempting to echo the angry sentiments of mainstream American liberals, who regard the latest decision as a major step backward. For them, gun ownership is an expendable rather than inalienable right, one that is worth ceding in exchange for a more peaceful society. While I sympathize with such a desire, I find the cost of the ticket too high.
As citizens of the United States, we live in a nation founded on revolutionary violence and sustained through a range of violent practices. It was this belief in the redemptive possibilities of violence that informed the creation of the Second Amendment, which allows citizens to keep and bear arms to prevent the creation of an unjust, anti-democratic, or outright tyrannical government. In other words, American democracy is underwritten by the possibility that everyday citizens can fight back if the government no longer acts in the interest of freedom and justice. For Blacks, who have never received the full protection of the State, such a right must be viewed as an indispensable nonnegotiable component of complete citizenship.
Despite (or perhaps because of) its romantic cultural obsession with guns, the United States government has gone to great lengths to disarm Black bodies. From the pre-Civil War â€œSlave Codesâ€ that explicitly prohibited Blacks from possessing firearms, to exorbitant post-war gun tariffs that priced Blacks (and poor whites) out of the gun market, the State has always attempted to take guns out of the hands of Black citizens. Such conditions rendered Blacks even more vulnerable to state sponsored forms of terrorism, abuse, and exploitation.
Although todayâ€™s gun control laws are facially neutral, they continue to disempower and literally disarm poor communities of color. Over the past 20 years, many states have imposed gun permit laws that allow police and other state agencies to determine which individuals are â€œworthyâ€ of gun ownership. Gun bans against public housing residents, expressly designed to prevent violent crime, have served to disarm poor Blacks almost exclusively. While rural white communities have done little to encroach upon the gun possession rights of citizens, majority-Black urban centers like Washington, D.C. and Chicago have imposed draconian anti-gun laws on the community. Regardless of intent, these laws have a clear and disproportionate impact on poor people of color.
June 25, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Last week, while celebrating his first NBA championship, Ron Artest made a different kind of history within the Black community. During his post-game interview, the mercurial Los Angeles Lakers star gave a public shout-out to his psychiatrist, whom he credited for helping him successfully navigate the pressures of playing on one of the biggest stages in professional sports. In doing so, as Mychal Denzel Smith brilliantly points out in his recent essay, Artest may have created new space within the public sphere for discussing Black mental health without fear and shame.
The need for reshaping and reinvigorating the public conversation on Black mental health could not come a moment sooner. Despite comprising only 12 percent of the United States population, Black people represent more than 25 percent of the nationâ€™s mental health needs. Over the past 30 years, Black male suicide rates have climbed by more than 200 percent. The depression rate among Black women is 50 percent higher than their white counterparts. Rates of somatization â€” the emergence of physical illness related to mental health â€” occur at a rate of 15 percent among both Blacks and women, as opposed to 9 percent among Whites.
The rising mental health needs among Black people are further compounded by the continued lack of mental health service utilization within the community. While only one-third of all Americans receive care for mental illness, Blacks remain statistically less likely to access proper mental health services than other racial groups.
These numbers suggest that the Black community is in the midst of a full-fledged mental health crisis.
Although it is necessary to shake the cultural stigmas that enable the current crisisâ€” the view that mental health maintenance is anti-Black, anti-masculine, and anti-Christianâ€” such work must be accompanied by an equally engaged effort to address the structural issues that compromise Black mental health. We must begin to spotlight the connection between mental health and other social problems plaguing the Black community. We must understand the collective power of social, cultural and institutional forces in producing, intensifying, and concealing the unique mental health issues confronted by Blacks in the United States.
While all racial and ethnic groups suffer from mental health issues, Blacks are a particularly high-risk population due to their overrepresentation in contexts of social misery. Currently, Blacks account for 40 percent of the countryâ€™s homeless population and nearly 50 percent of the prison population. Black children represent nearly 50 percent of all foster care and adoption cases. Additionally, almost 25 percent of Black youth are exposed to enough violence to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions not only play a direct role in producing and exacerbating mental illnesses, they also create new levels of social marginalization and isolation that further distance vulnerable populations from the services that they need.
Poverty’s affect on mental health
Black mental health is further compromised by economic inequality. While 16 percent of the nation is uninsured, nearly 1 in 4 Blacks live without health insurance, thereby making it difficult to access appropriate mental health services. Blacks with health insurance still have average employer based coverage rates of only 50 percent, compared to 70 percent for their White counterparts. These conditions, combined with the disproportionate absence of living wages within the Black community, make mental health services financially nonviable for many Blacks.
While economically disadvantaged Blacks have access to government-run mental health resources, individuals often have to navigate an extremely bureaucratic and fragmented maze of mental health services. Those who ultimately receive services often do not obtain them through the actual health care system, but through agencies like public schools, welfare offices, and the court systemâ€” none of which have the appropriate resources. As a result, many poor Blacks receive uncoordinated, inconsistent, and ineffective levels of care that ultimately discourage them from utilizing the system.
Many of those in prison suffer from mental illness
In addition to poverty, the impact of the prison industrial complex on the current Black mental health crisis cannot be overstated. Beginning with President Reaganâ€™s aggressive efforts to close mental hospitals and cut off federal aid to community mental health programs in the 1980s, the United States has witnessed a dramatic increase in its homeless population. Concurrent with this neo-liberal assault on the welfare state, neo-conservative lawmakers successfully aimed to criminalize ostensibly anti-social behaviors like panhandling, public drinking, and public urination, all of which are routinely linked to mental illness. (As with with nearly all criminal justice matters in the United States, arrests, convictions, and sentencing for these offenses are disproportionately assigned to poor Blacks and Latinos.) As a result, many individuals who would have previously been under medical supervision for their mental illnesses (including drug addiction) are now chattel within the for-profit prison industry.
June 25, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Last week, I gave a graduation speech at Furness High School in Philadelphia, where I was once a teacher. Here’s a few excerpts:
June 8, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
In a recent interview, rapper Slim ThugÂ unleashed a very disturbing attack on Black women, here’s an excerpt:
…Most single Black women feel like they donâ€™t want to settle for less. Their standards are too high right now. They have to understand that successful Black men are kind of extinct. Weâ€™re important. Itâ€™s hard to find us so Black women have to bow down and let it be known that they gotta start working hard; they gotta start cooking and being down for they man more. They canâ€™t just be running around with their head up in the air and passing all of us.
I have a brother that dates a White woman and he always be fucking with me about it saying, ‘Yâ€™all gotta go through all that shit [but] my White woman is fine. She donâ€™t give me no problems, she do whatever I say and yâ€™all gotta do all that arguing and fighting and worry about all this other shit.’…
While many people dismissed it as a publicity stunt or the rant of an ignorant rapper, I felt compelled to respond to him in the form of an open letter.
A few days ago, you made comments inÂ Vibe magazine that have caused a great deal of controversy. While I appreciate your willingness to offer your opinion in public, you made several statements that were not only unfair and untrue, but deeply damaging to our community. Normally, I would reach out to you privately, but since your comments were made in a very public place, I feel compelled to respond in the same manner.
As an artist who is respected by millions of fans, particularly young ones, I found your comments to be hurtful and irresponsible. For good or for bad, our children follow the lead of you and other artists for everything from fashion and slang to self-esteem, body image and relationships. Imagine how a young black girl feels to hear from you, her role model, that her â€œstandards are too highâ€ and that she should â€œbow downâ€ and â€œsettle for less.â€ Consider the pain that our beautiful brown skinned babies feel when Yung Berg says he doesnâ€™t date â€œdark butts.â€ Think about the self-esteem of our community when Nelly refers to our mothers, sisters, and daughters as â€œTip Drills.â€
As celebrities, your public comments are not just your own. Instead they influence the choices, beliefs, and lives of an entire generation of young people who look to you for direction.
Of course, you have every right to say things that you think are true. The problem, however, is that there was very little truth in your comments.
In your interview, you talk about how much better white women treat their partners than black women. If what youâ€™re saying is true, why do Whites have the highest divorce rate of any group? Do white men get tired of being treated like kings? In reality, it seems that you are buying into (and selling) a stale but dangerous ideal that constructs White women as ultra-feminine, loving, queens, and Black women as angry, selfish, and untrustworthy hoes.
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