promises are kept

thoughts from the mind of Mitch Brown

Month: January, 2013

The Life And Times Of A Student Journalist: Vol.1

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Intro:

As another semester starts, the vibe on campus, as students come back from winter break, is always a little different than the vibe when school starts in August. The pep in the step of students is not as noticeable as it was when we head back to school at the end of the dogs days of summer.

We are heading back to the grind at UCM in shitty, cold weather, and optimistic bright eyes will be replaced by those who look like they have a date with a firing squad, or the Gulag, or Auschwitz, or maybe I’m just doing some projecting based on how I feel. No, I don’t graduate this spring, but graduation is within sight.

To be honest, my college experience hasn’t measured up to what I envisioned, and as I think about the future, I find myself thinking about the recent past, as I reflect on what it means to be a student journalist.

After three years of writing for the student newspaper, the Muleskinner, my efforts are being noticed. It really dawned on me last semester, as a I came to a greater understanding of the impact I have, even if it’s on a micro level in a small Missouri town. The impact was brought to my attention through the words of others, going to Wal-Mart and having a clerk I’ve never seen before ask me if I write for the school paper or having someone with a well established position at the university telling me he’s enjoyed my work throughout the years and what I do is important in a democratic republic.

I: Small Town Journalism Doesn’t Mean Shit:

That’s right I said it. The location of where I’m getting my feet wet practicing my chosen profession doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, and I have no desire to stay here after graduation, and I have no desire to work in any community/market that resembles this one. To write about that which is newsworthy, one must live in a place where there is actually something of note going on.

The news editor I work under said there is a disconnect from the “community” I report on, and it shows in my writing. I thought no shit: this is a small town, and I don’t have a small town mentality. I have a full understanding of where I’m at, and to be honest, I’m not White; I’m not a Christian, and I’m not simple-minded, so how could I feel a connection to the “community” at large? I live here, but when I go to work on a story, I keep my mind also focused on that which is outside of the area.

Allow me to explain…

I could care less about what goes on in the “community” of Warrensburg, I could care less about a church chili cook off, the opening of a new fast-food hot dog restaurant, or the homecoming parade. How much bankability do stories on such horseshit like that have outside of the area? How much appeal would something like that have in a major big city market? (which is where I’m trying to go)

A lot of the stories I do are assigned to me; others are the result of me keeping my eyes open for events happening on campus, and I’ll ask permission to cover them. With the stories that are my idea, I keep in mind that which could appeal to a major market. It’s not even about that which is pleasing to a small town audience, but more about building my portfolio/resume. I’ll give you an example…

In September of 2011, Larry Sabato came to speak on campus about the presidential election. Sabato is a nationally known author who was labeled as “the most accurate prognosticator”( when it comes to political matters) by MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News. He briefly appears in a documentary about Larry Flynt called “The Right To Be Left Alone.” Shortly after I did my story on his presentation at UCM, I heard an interview with Sabato on National Public Radio. By focusing on a national figure speaking about national issues, the story has appeal that expands beyond the campus. The story becomes like a chip I can cash in later. That’s one that’s definitely going in my portfolio.

II: Something I Refuse To Do: (A Few Words On Declining Literary Standards)

When I took Copy, Layout, and Editing, it was hammered into our heads to write at an 8th grade level, because that’s supposedly the level the average American reads at. This is something I refuse to do. I refuse to lower the bar of my writing to accommodate those whose literacy level is stuck on a sub-par plane. Why should journalists facilitate declining literacy standards? Shouldn’t public educators do their best to try to raise up a higher national standard? Many complex global situations can not be properly explained or analyzed using 8th grade language.

I spent my late teens and early 20s surrounded by musicians, and I feel I’m able to do with words on paper what they did in the studio and onstage. In my hands, the word processor becomes the equivalent of a guitar. Words are not “just words.” They have context, connotation, even feel and texture. I feel I ‘m able to use words on paper like how a guitarist uses notes and chords and a drummer uses rhythm and timing. If words like vernacular, lexicon, or amalgamate will fit perfectly with the tone of what I’m writing about, I’m going to use them. I’m not going to stifle myself.

With a declining literary standard in effect, I often wonder if another Hunter S. Thompson, William F. Buckley, or Christopher Hitchens came along would the mass populace even take notice. These men of the letter did not write at an 8th grade level, and today someone needs to pick up the torches they set a blaze.

III: When A Rebel Picks Up A Pen:

I’m not the average UCM student, on so many levels, and I stop and think about how much of my writing and approach to journalism was informed and influenced by the punk rock sensibilities of my teen years. When I say punk rock I’m talking about Black Flag not Blink 182. My appearance is not the same as it was in my teens, and I next to never go out to shows anymore, but the rebellious spirit of my past never died, and it’s not thoughtless rebellion as a phase. If I have an issue with the status quo or a societal convention, I’m going to be able to explain to you just what my source of contention is, usually after long deliberation about the issue in question.

I was once told that there is a sense of ego all over my writing. My best friend Mike said he doesn’t see ego in my work, but rather a certain style and bombast. He once said “even the way you write is aggressive.” “It has the the cadence of machine gun fire, like being hit over the head with fact, after fact, after fact.” Mike said that I’ve found my voice and developed my own style. He said it’s so strong, so identifiable that if you took my name off of one of my piece’s, someone who was familiar with my work might be able to figure out who wrote it.

Going back to how a punk rock mentality influences my work. Part of it is that I am ready to lock horns with authority. (if, and when, necessary) I do not view authority in some sanctified, exalted light. Authority is to be revered when said authority is acting in righteousness. When authority is abusing their position, someone needs to say something.

When police departments run surveillance and wiretaps on law abiding citizens, when presidents give executive orders that violate constitutional law, or when pedophile priests molest kids, someone should raise their voice and say FUCK YOU! And now thanks to a college education, I have about 101 eloquent ways to say FUCK YOU! ( I really think I was so built for this)

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What In The Hell Is Wrong With Young Black Males??

SWAGFAG

A couple of nights ago, I had a truly retarded interaction.

As I’m walking home, I see four shadows in the distance walking in my direction. It’s dark, so I can’t make out any details of their appearances, no big deal.

As I get closer, one of the four shadows starts rapping, no lyrics that I recognize, just a bunch of gibberish, like he’s trying to free-style and can’t flow.

The second I’ve passed him and am about an inch behind him he raps “see that guy– he is a square.” I knew this was directed at me. How did I know this for certain?– pattern recognition, that’s how. Similar yet different situations happen to me on campus regularly. Every so often when I’m walking somewhere on campus, I will pass a young Black male, and as he gets closer in passing, or I get closer, all of sudden he will break out a rap, usually something “gangsta” and threatening. And as I’ve completely passed him, he stops. My presence alone seems to be the catalyst for this verbal show of bravado; it doesn’t start until I get close, and it stops as I get further away from him.

If it wasn’t in the socially acceptable form of a rap, such behavior would look like a schizophrenic talking to himself. But they aren’t talking to themselves; for some reason, they want me to hear this. I don’t get the motivation behind this. It reeks of insecurity and a cry for attention.

But this incident was a little different because this swag-fag lobbed an insult at me, in an indirect/ yet direct/ passive aggressive manner, and I’m 99% certain it was directed at me. The only people on the sidewalk were me, this guy, and the three people he was walking with, two males and one female. There is no one else around. I’m pretty sure I was the “that guy” he was calling a square. I know this m.o.

I wasn’t in the mood to lay down to an insult, so I decided to check the kid: I turned around and asked “who’s a square?” He didn’t respond. I then said “Hold up, are you talking about me?” Then he did respond. He started yelling his head off, saying he wasn’t talking about me.( when I knew he was) He then yells “You wana lose yo’ life tonight,nigga.” I’m not one to automatically dismiss such talk, but what he did next let me know he was full of shit.

He didn’t lift up his shirt to display a chrome .45, like Ice Cube in Boyz In The Hood. Instead he yells out “ALL I GOTTA DO IS MAKE ONE PHONE CALL.” “I GOT THE PHONE RIGHT HERE.” This made me think he might have been mentally retarded. I didn’t have to pull his bitch card; he put it on display when he held up his cell phone, like that was supposed to scare me. I guess an iPhone is an instrument of death now.

He’s talking about making a call when he’s got backup with him, and I’m all by myself. I asked who he was going to call and told him “that’s a lot of bark.” He then parades out into the street, away from me, posturing like he wants to fight and yells “THE STREET’S RIGHT HERE NIGGA.” I told him that if he was going to attack me, I would defend myself. I then walked away, continuing on my way home, and he continued yelling the typical shit. By turning my back, I gave him the perfect opportunity to run up on me. He wasn’t serious; it was all bravado and posturing. If he was a “gangsta,” he would have shot me; if he was brawler, he would have socked me. He looked like he was all of 18, and he was acting like he was about 11.

Such nonsensical behavior is not a rarity; it’s common among a huge segment of Black males. Such behavior is the reason why I have more Asian friends than Black friends, why I have a lot of international student friends, yet I’m friends with none of the basketball players at UCM.

As I arrived back at my apartment, I thought I should have hit him. But that would have run counter to the credo and code of behavior I’ve adopted. When it comes to violence, I will only get violent if someone brings violence to me, in the case of self-defense or to help a friend who is in harm’s way.

Given my analytical nature, I started thinking about what compels someone to act like that. My guess is it’s partially the result of what happens when someone listens to Rick Ross all day and believes the Scarface inspired fantasy tales from a morbidly obese former prison guard can become their reality.

I also have to wonder how did this behavior become so prevalent throughout a race of people.

George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, once said “ the Negro is an immature race,” and unfortunately I see that. The perspective of someone like Rockwell was undoubtedly from the fallacious point of view of an assumed genetic inferiority of Blacks, but because I have knowledge of psychology, I’m able to probe a little deeper and come up with more substantial reasons.

What creates frozen emotional development? One answer is trauma. You will see this in those who have been molested, along with alcoholics and drug addicts. A history of trauma is prevalent with the history of the African-American. The system of slavery itself served as a long time hindrance to development and advancement.

The fatherlessness that is prevalent among African-Americans also factors into the equation. It might be an old school point of view, and some of my professors with feminist leanings might accuse me of using gender biased language, but only a man can teach a man how to be a man. Part of being a man is conducting yourself in a dignified and respectable/respectful manner, respecting those around you, until they give you a reason not to. When you have widespread fatherlessness and broken homes among a people, that leaves the perfect opportunity for any type of nonsense to come along and fill the void of a male role model.

I can understand the contributing factors that lead to douchebags acting like the swag-fag I had words with, but it’s a universe removed from my mentality; I don’t see how it’s OK to fuck with people at random who aren’t bothering you, but I think I can explain that, too…

Both the swag-boy and the dignified, intelligent brother were raised in a society with the lingering ghosts of a past that placed them both as second class citizens. The ambitious, intelligent brother gets busy using his talent, intellect, and drive to help dismantle the fallacy of Black inferiority. The swag boy and the pseudo gangsta corroborate the so-called “stereotypes.” They can’t compete in a so-called “ White man’s world,” so they create an insular, micro world in which they can feel important and valued in, but in the back of their mind’s they know the educated, ambitious, suit and tie brother will end up surpassing them in the game of life, so they lash out at him, knowing he has the potential to achieve what they can not. In psychology, such behavior is called misdirected aggression, but in the modern, common vernacular it would be called being a hater.

To be completely on the nose about things, the behavior of most young African-American males is embarrassing and pathetic and would have Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Frederick Douglass spinning in their graves. While incarcerated, Malcolm X read the entire dictionary from cover to cover. Paul Robeson was classically trained in the art of opera singing . In this day and age, to be a young Black man pursuing such high-brow interests is to run the risk of being called a sell-out, bitch, or square.

I once had someone tell me I could serve as a role model for wayward Black youth. I wouldn’t even want to do that. I’m not trying to play a Joe Clark role, and for someone to play the role of a role model, they have to be in a position in which they are looked up to. I don’t think those who he would have wanted me to reach out to would even listen to me. They think I’m a square, and at this point, I think the damage is irreversible, with lower-class millennials in general, and concerning the mentality that so many young Black males have chosen to accept, it’s now become a matter of self-inflicted damage.