Friday, June 27, 2008

Black Money Tip: It is not Always Best to own a Home

This is an article explaining some reasons why you might not feel it necessary to purchase a home.  I agree.  What is also true is that there are convenience reasons that an individual may not want to buy: if you are only living in a city for a short period of time, don't want the hastle and expense (not to mention taxes) of home ownership, you have a business that is already giving you a good return or you have a great tax write-off elsewhere.  Owning a home is great, but it is more important to remember the importance of eventually owning SOMETHING.  It doesn't have to be a house. 

Real-estate agents have been pushing the virtues of homeownership since homes were invented. Or since real-estate agents were invented, anyway. Paying a mortgage, they insist, is a can't-miss investment (the tax breaks, the appreciation, the thrill of fixing your own roof!). Renting is for simpletons who don't like keeping their own money.


But does owning a home really trump renting? With the economy stumbling, house prices falling, and credit tightening, many housing experts are questioning the conventional wisdom. "Over the last decade, it may have been true," says W. Van Harlow, an economist at the Fidelity Research Institute. "Clearly, there are periods where [the housing market] will dominate. But give this market correction another 18 months, and it may not be true anymore."

Not so hot. The housing boom produced endless stories of homeowners getting twice what they paid for their homes. But "prices don't always go up," says Jay Butler, director of realty studies at Arizona State University. Even a boomtown like Phoenix has seen median rates of appreciation climb only 4.6 percent a year since 1981. According to a Fidelity study published this year, the return on a dollar invested in real estate in 1963 barely beat that of a low-risk treasury bill.

Click to Read More.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Soulja Boy, Ice T, Kanye West: Hip Hop Beef Gone Bad

Soulja Boy’s music?….not that great to me. But then again, it expresses a type of greatness that I probably can’t comprehend. It’s as if I am an expert in German and Soulja Boy did an Edgar Allen Poe in Chinese. If you go to Youtube and check out the hottest artists in America, you might see that a video has 3 million views, maybe 7 or 8 million if they are really hot. Soulja Boy? Try 30 million.

So Ice-T, you might think Soulja Boy’s music is garbage, but there’s a whole generation of brothers, sisters, white kids, Asians, Africans, Latinos and even Martians who disagree with you.
I respect Ice-T. The man’s game is nuclear war-like and I even looked up to him when his musical career was colder than icecream in an Eskimo’s ass. But never once, even at the peak of his career, has he ever done anything hotter than what Soulja Boy did with his Superman joint. Soulja Boy did more with his “15 minutes” than a lot of artists do with 15 albums.

With that said, Soulja Boy has a lot to prove. First, he has to prove that he can actually write some lyrics that make a lick of damn sense. I don’t exactly sense lyrical brilliance in Soulja Boy’s music. He also has to prove that he has staying power. If I’m still listening to Soulja Boy when he’s a crusty old man dissing some 18 year old artist, then I’ll know he was onto something.
Ice-T, in his “apology” for telling Soulja Boy to “eat a d*ck”, issued the heaviest pimp-timidation I’ve ever seen dropped from one black man to another. Now I know why he was a successful pimp, and I seriously thought he was gonna back hand Soulja Boy through the camera. Ice T (who I actually believe to be a genius) played politics with Soulja Boy, reminding him that by coming at Ice-T, he was also coming at all of hip hop and all of the west coast. I can’t disagree with that, since Ice T’s roots run deep. This brother was dropping records before Soulja Boy was Semen Boy, Embryo Boy or Aluminum lunch box Boy.

But Soulja Boy can come back at Ice T with this: “Grand Daddy OG, you got the whole west coast sewn up, but I got every 18 year old in the world dancing to my song. When you’re rollin on 24s in your wheelchair, they’ll still be reflecting on how they were bumpin to my song on prom night.” Soulja Boy is a lock for the “Greatest Hits of the New Millenium” soundtracks being sold on paid TV programs at 3 o’clock in the morning in the year 2032. My man had a classic with that song, there is no denying that.

It was not my impression that Soulja Boy started the beef, and that is the dividing line. It can be hurtful when you are young in the game, trying to get your respect and an old cat just broadsides you like that. Kobe went through it when he joined the Lakers, which was Shaquille O’neal’s team. Tiger Woods went through it when white men didn’t believe a black man could dominate professional golf. I applaud Kanye West for coming to Soulja Boy’s defense. Kanye made it plain: This is not 1996 anymore. Tupac and Biggie are gone, gangsta rap has turned into something else, and many college sophomores were born during the same year as the tv show, “Yo MTV Raps”. I grew up on Ice T’s music, and I remember 1996. I listened to Tupac every morning before class, and NWA got me through college. So, I respect the west coast, I respect Ice T and I respect hip hop. But there comes a time when the old school has to add another wing of the building and make room for the new school. Soulja Boy is a respected member of the new school, whether we like it or not. Don’t player hate, collaborate and respect this man’s achievements.

Traditions in hip hop are like pillars of a building. On one hand, they give you stability and a strong foundation. On the other hand, they can be rigid constraints that demote progress within the institution. The more I listen to old school rappers complaining about young entrants, I stop hearing rappers, and start hearing “grumpy old mufukaz”. Instead of offering Soulja Boy a meal he would probably refuse (“eat a ….”), maybe Ice T could have invited the man into the studio. Ice T, your game is strong, Soulja Boy can learn from that. He can also learn a lot from the genius that kept you from getting pimped by this rap game, we know how those contracts work. Soulja Boy doesn’t want your game to die, he wants it to multiply. But if you come off as an old hater, your legacy will blow away like dust in the minds of the next generation. In other words, don’t become a lyrical Bill Cosby…..haterology won’t go as far as constructive critiques when you’re dealing with a fellow soldier.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don Imus, Pacman Jones Situation Insults All Black Men

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I received a call today from a producer at WVON in Chicago. My good friend Roland Martin (the black dude on CNN) and I are going to discuss Don Imus tomorrow morning at 8 am. I like WVON, it's literally my favorite station in America. There is a great deal of tradition there.

I was involved with the first removal of Don Imus from the air, as I worked with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on the phone to talk about ways to challenge him. I mentioned that if African Americans engage in a unified effort to challenge his corporate sponsors, we can bring him down. That is what Jesse and Al did, and it worked. As a Finance Professor, I always look to the money first. That is the most critical element of power in a capitalist democracy.

You can imagine how disappointed I was to see Don Imus back on the air so soon. I admit that when I saw Imus appear on Al Sharpton's show, I really believed he was truly sorry for what he did. For him to repeat his actions is simply baffling, and I wonder out loud Rev. Jackson and Rev Sharpton feel the same way.

I recorded some of my thoughts on Don Imus below. The fact that this man can do what he did the first time, get back on the air and repeat the same stunt one year later is yet another reminder of just how little respect African Americans get in white media. No, it's not mainstream media, because mainstream media should reflect viewpoints from all perspectives. The truth of the matter is that most media is owned by people who are not black, so people like Imus and Bill O'Reilly can get away with this stuff without being forced to engage in any form of respect or responsibility. The ownership structure of American media is an artifact of 400 years of slavery and economic exclusion of African Americans. Our grandparents never had the chance to own CNN, FOX or NBC and they also did not have a chance to own the corporations that financially support these media outlets. African American wealth was stolen from us and now lies, in part, in the hands of companies that support racism on the airwaves.

So, the networks continue to insult black people and there are no consequences. Personally, I am getting tired of this crap. What is most ironic is that no matter what anyone says about black people on the air (lynching Michelle Obama, killing Barack Obama, calling Mrs. Obama a Baby's mama, calling Barack a terrorist, or calling black women Nappy headed hoes), someone is always there from the right wing willing to rationalize this behavior (some are even black). It reminds me of a relative I had with a drinking problem. No matter how much you pointed out his weakness, he always had an explanation. America's addiction to racism is a lot like the addictions of my uncle.

It's actually kind of pathetic.

The video is below:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Black Fathers are Not Collective Deadbeats: Barack Knows That

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I received a lot of email from both men and women about my comments on Barack Obama's Father's Day speech. I watched the speech, hoping that I could find some way that I was wrong about Barack. Perhaps his speech writers, surely the best in the business, slid in a line or two conditionalizing his statements to remind us that Father's Day is a day to celebrate good fathers, not to spend all our time mulling over the bad ones.

I looked and looked for that one line of salvation and never found it. That makes me sad, since many of the emails I received were from black fathers who came right out of the Bill Cosby book of parenthood (even though Cosby has made some dirty mistakes of his own as a dad). These men, some of whom were conservatives or in the military, did not understand why little time was spent giving them the same respect we give women on Mother's Day. Instead, they were fed the same old stereotypes of black male irresponsibility. These were the same stereotypes that allowed their ex-wives or mothers of their children to feel completely vindicated for any poor treatment bestowed upon them as they worked hard to stay in their childrens' lives. They were the same stereotypes that keep the 50% of divorced white males of America comfortable that their broken homes are not as bad as the broken homes of black men. After all, the presidential candidates conveniently forget to critique White America in the same way they critique the black male. I thought Obama was 50% white? Doesn't that mean that he is as much a part of White America (thus entitled to critique) as he is Black America? Or is he just the Black Candidate?

To spend father's day obsessing over what black fathers are doing wrong is like going to someone's birthday party with a list of all the things you hate about them. Even if I'd been born with a terrible mother, I would not spend Mother's Day saying "Mom, there are far too many days when you are not there for me the way you should be." It would be even worse if I then went on to tell my father that the breakup of our family was all my mother's fault and that he is completely relieved of any guilt whatsoever.

That is what Obama did when he patted black women on the back and essentially said "That's ok. We know how all those black men are treating you. They're just bad and you're good. Let's spend Father's Day talking about you and how disappointed we are in them." He was preaching to the choir, since I am willing to bet that many of the men in that church were loyal and dedicated fathers, either sitting confused that they were being chastised on their special day or nodding their heads in agreement that black men are collectively a pack of screw ups. "Some do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing is the norm". Does anyone wonder how deformed your existence becomes when you consider the most pathetic segment of American society to be people who look like yourself?

This strikes a chord with me because I have seen it up close. I have seen black women who swear up and down that the reason every man they meet doesn't want to be with them implies that there is something wrong with all men. I see black men who refuse to date black women because they feel that black women are all angry, bitter and nasty. In both scenarios, I correct the individual and encourage him/her to look in the mirror. If all of your relationships are falling apart, you are the only variable that is consistently present in every relationship you've ever had. Either you are consistently choosing the wrong person to procreate with, or you are consistently mistreating the right people who come your way. Women who choose good men and treat them well remain happily married. That's just a fundamental fact and I, as a man, know this because I have chosen the wrong woman at times, and there have been times when I've not given a woman the respect she deserved. In either case, I ended up disappointed.

What is true is that both men and women play a role in the survival of our families. When a divorce or breakup occurs, the children are usually given to the woman. Also, most divorces are not always the sole fault of one party or the other. So, if we are going to define the term "deadbeat dads", we cannot generalize that term to include any man who does not live with his kids. Senator Obama DID NOT, to my knowledge, make that distinction.

What is most interesting is Obama's claim that "far too many men are not in the home....they've chosen to be boys instead of men". This implies that if you get a divorce and the kids live with the woman, then you are effectively behaving as a little boy. This further signals that if Michelle Obama were to divorce Barack and keep the kids, he would effectively become a deadbeat. I am sure that Senator Obama, who would likely spend plenty of time with his children and pay plenty of child support, would become agitated to hear someone speaking about him and other black men as a pack of dead beats, especially on Father's Day. Perhaps he could be consoled with the words "No, we weren't talking about you. We just avoided celebrating you on Father's Day because we wanted to place all the blame on the deadbeats, which includes most black men."

That is where black men are coming from. On Mother's Day, I am not going to spend one second talking about how "there are too many bad baby's mamas keep their child's father from seeing his kids", that "angry black women are divorcing their husbands and taking their children and money from them", or that "black women treat men like crap and then get mad when the man leaves the relationship." I would say none of these things, even though I can name several instances in which this has happened. Instead, I am going to spend Mother's Day celebrating the successes of black women and the wonderful impact they've had on me.

As I said before, it takes two to Tango, black men aren't doing the family break up dance by themselves. Also, the dance of child-rearing is not just being done by the black mothers. Black women are certainly the backbone of the community, but black men aren't just freeloading.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Michelle Obama is Now a Baby's Mama? Fox Should Be Ashamed

Dr. Boyce Watkins

I am not sure if I am the only one offended by this, but Michelle Obama was recently referred to as Barack Obama’s “baby mama” on Fox News.

Here are my questions about this:

1) At what point is it clearly concluded that Fox News is a racist network?

2) What does this say about our country that we have many Americans who will continue to support a network that says things like this about black people? Is this to lead us to believe that we have become equal and respected partners in the American family?

3) Would they say the same thing about Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Cindy McCain or Hillary Clinton?

Here is a link to the story and video.

If you want to see a great video about Fox News Racism, click here.

I have other thoughts as well:
1) When Martin Luther King had a dream that individuals would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, did he take into consideration who would be judging the individual’s character? – Jeremiah Wright, in my opinion, has remarkable character, yet his character was considered racist, flawed and unpatriotic by many Americans. I think this implies that even when we get past skin color, we have yet to get to the point that black culture (i.e. the tradition of the black church for example) is respected and accepted by all of America. While many black Americans may not agree with Jeremiah Wright’s position and tactics, many of us have tremendous respect for him and The Trinity United Church of Christ….I am not comfortable with that church being reduced to a “racist cult”, for they were fighting for black people long before it became fashionable to do so.

2) Even when we get past racism, we still have to deal with racial inequality. Racial inequality is what you have in a society after 400 years of social, political and economic exclusion of a group of people. As a result, years later, nearly every major institution: academic, corporate, the media, etc. is controlled by White America. So, this implies that even if we are not disdained for being black, we are still subjected to the cultural domination and harrassment that comes from:

Media that feels comfortable destroying and humiliating Black American heroes and institutions.

Universities that tell you that black scholarly work done in the black community is worthless.

Jails and prisons filled with black men who have inadequate legal counsel and get longer sentences for the same crimes because (as in the case I just reviewed in Alabama) the DA goes to church with the prosecutor and judge.

Corporations that have very few African American middle and upper level managers.

Most of the financial capital in America controlled by people who are not black, with much of that capital inherited and initially stolen from African Americans.

The NCAA, which earns a billion dollars each year from black athletes, but refuses to hire black coaches (and behaves as if it is a crime when the athlete earns extra money from his/her labor).

The list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter if the dominant culture is deliberately racist. All that matters is that the dominant culture is DOMINANT. Racial inequality becomes the weapon of choice, as the perpetuation of institutions and ideals built on an undeniably racist foundation leads to the dominance of one set of cultural norms over another. The question is not whether Barack Obama is "black enough" for the White House. The question now being asked is whether he is "too black" for the White House. Michelle Obama, Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan and others are the scales being used to measure Obama's blackness, and this has little to do with the color of his skin.

Bottom line: if we feel that America as a country can spend 400 years treating black people as the underbelly of our society and then suddenly flip the script in 25 years, we’re out of our minds. Racial inequality is the toxic social mess created by 400 years of blatant racial terrorism and exclusion. It doesn’t go away just because we’ve stopped being racist or stopped noticing skin color. Rather, a proactive, deliberate effort must be made to clean up the mess that has been created. Until we have racial reconciliation and rehabilitation, we will never have racial harmony. We must also make things right. If I apologize to my employee for the fact that my dead father built my company by raping, murdering and robbing his mother, I can’t simply expect that holding hands and singing “We shall overcome” is going to make everything right. That’s just a fundamental fact. It also doesn't help if I call him a "whining hate monger" every time he brings up the conditions necessary for us to rebuild our friendship on a foundation of mutual respect that recognizes his parents' contribution to building the company that fills my bank account.

Bill Cosby (who I respectfully disagree with on some issues – but I don’t consider him to be another Juan Williams) says you are behaving as a victim if you speak out against oppression. I don’t consider Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King to be victims. My assertion is that you become a VICTOR when you progressively challenge our nation to live up to the liberties for which it claims to stand. If a people have become accustomed to getting abused, then sitting there and taking it is not, in my opinion, the way to make things better. You must become educated, inspired and empowered to command your self-respect.

While I encourage Senator Obama to keep running his excellent campaign, I also encourage all of us to be clear about just how much we are willing to denounce or let slide in order to get to the White House. If a woman sleeps with every man she meets because she is desperately seeking love, she may find disrespect waiting for her instead. Rather, I encourage that woman to love herself and draw clear parameters for acceptable behavior, for then any man who enters her life will be forced to love her for who she is. This example is not meant to sound sexist, for men have many issues of their own. It is only to remind Barack Obama that we must be careful about meeting every unreasonable demand of a country that is sick with racism just because we are seeking their love and approval. I will love black people and Barack Obama just as much if we don’t win this election. Giving up too much in exchange for something you feel you really need is what we in economics call “the winner’s curse”. Let’s not curse ourselves by giving up everything we hold sacred just so we can have a black man in the White House. Parameters of self-respect must be drawn, and we must learn to love ourselves. That is when we become respected partners in the American family.

Be educated, be strong, be liberated. Life is too short to be afraid.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, George Bush, Black America

Here is a series of interviews between myself and Hip Hop Star Vigalantee and Delores Jones. In this commentary (3 videos below) the conversation heads to Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Black America, the prison system, black education, and issues affecting us all as African Americans.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3