All posts by Trevor Brookins

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The Socialist’s Journal: Derek Luke

This column by Trevor Brookins was inspired by our story about actor Derek Luke: ‘Derek Luke Slams Instagram Trolls; Defends Interracial Marriage.”

united-colors-of-benetton*I happen to be happily married but…

If I wasn’t married I’m not sure where I’d go to find a date. On the one hand I’d like to say I would find happiness with someone with a church background. But then I’d have to figure out which church. Because while over three-fourths of Americans identify as Christian, some of them are Catholics, some are Baptists, some are Lutherans. Picking any of those denominations would mean limiting my dating pool and I don’t want to do that. I might even broaden my possibilities to include other faiths.

It would be cool to find someone with a lot of money or at least a stable career. But I grew up poor so economic struggle is not going to stop me from functioning. I’ve dated women before who didn’t have everything in their life completely settled and somehow the world didn’t end. Ruling out women of a certain financial background would limit my dating pool and I don’t want to do that.

Ideally she would be a liberal. On the other hand I don’t believe conservatives are crazy, just wrong about some things. I don’t hold it against someone for being wrong especially when it is difficult to institute some of the policies that I believe would benefit the country. Eliminating conservatives as possible partners would limit my dating pool and I don’t want to do that.

Perhaps I’d find a mate with ties to the northeast. My family is based in New York. On the other hand I have family in the south, and Midwest and along the east coast along with the faint possibility of moving to the southwest. Why again wouldn’t I consider women from those areas? After all I don’t want to limit my dating pool.

Newsflash: I’m black. I was raised in a black family. So naturally I would gravitate toward a black woman as my mate. But I was also raised in New York City, possibly the most eclectic place in the world. I’m sure I could find someone of another ethnicity attractive and interesting enough to spend large amounts of time with them. Looking at only black people would limit my dating pool and I don’t want to do that.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’d admit that I am fluent only in English; therefore I have to find someone who speaks English also. Or maybe not. Immerse yourself in a language and you can learn it relatively quickly. I got by in Spain after taking one Spanish course and having a Puerto Rican girlfriend for just a few months. And if I’m trying to expand my dating pool this allows me to look internationally.

I’m not being naïve. I realize that given who I am that the people I meet are most likely going to be English speaking, black, Christians from the northeast who share my political views and have a professional background. There’s nothing wrong with that. Damn if it isn’t hard trying to attract a Pakistani! But if you’re looking for a mate, from my point of view you cast the widest net possible.

I’ve crushed on Jewish women; I briefly dated an African woman when we could barely communicate because of the language barrier; I was the fling of an older and much more financially stable lady, and I paid for everything with one girlfriend. The bottom line in each instance was how they treated me and how happy they made me. All the other stuff can be worked out if you’re making each other happy.

I bring this up because of the flack people still put up with if they are in an interracial couple, or an interfaith couples, or with someone with a different political perspective, or because they moved to be with their significant other or are in a long distance relationship (not such a big deal comparatively). Everybody says they value freedom but then somehow we still see/hear/speak criticism of those who exercise freedom in this most crucial aspect of their life.

A life partner is too important job to restrict the number of applicants.

trevor brookins

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

caitlyn jenner - espys

The Socialist’s Journal: Caitlyn Jenner

Brookins Head Shot*Since the ESPYs last Wednesday and the decision to give Caitlyn Jenner a courage award I’ve contributed to three conversations centered around her worthiness for the award.

And all of the conversations were happening because some people cannot accept that there can be more than one thing in a category. For instance a banana and a lemon can both be considered fruits. European explorers very familiar with lemons could have been surprised when they first encountered bananas. But after a bit of examination and reflection it would have been easy to conclude that “yup, these yellow things with the thick skin, they’re fruits.”

Applying the same logic to Caitlyn Jenner I don’t understand how people are still unable to call her courageous. Many conversations regarding transgender people revolve around hostility because of the perception that transgendered people are trying to trick the general public. That hostility leads to threats of violence. I responded to one person I knew after he used the term “debauchery”. This is the general tone of the American public when speaking about transgender. So I refuse to believe that it is easier to live as a transgendered person rather than assuming an identity based on the gender one was born with. In short – because the country in general seems to be hostile to transgendered people, of course it takes courage to expose oneself as part of that group.

I acknowledge that Jenner’s coming out is a lot easier than for your average Joe who is not an ex-Olympic winner and former reality television star with millions (I assume) in the bank. So yes ESPN could have chosen to give the award to the young lady who fought cancer to play college basketball before succumbing to the disease; yes ESPN could have given the award to the army veteran and multiple amputee who has become a crossfit athlete. Both of those choices would be valid and one might argue better. Fine, just don’t tell me that it isn’t also courageous to put yourself on the firing line. And yes Caitlyn Jenner has put herself on the firing line as evidenced by the reaction to the award.

Apparently she was supposed to go away and hide after deciding to live as a woman; only that’s not how civil rights and civil liberties are supposed to work in this country.

ESPN did the thing that would get them the most ratings. Not commendable, just understandable. But the backlash against Jenner has, mostly, not been about ESPN’s grab for ratings. It’s been about whether she is courageous.

100 years ago when women were agitating for the right to vote many people resisted because they didn’t understand. American society had always operated without women voting. 50 years ago when African-Americans were agitating for civil rights many people resisted because they didn’t understand. American society had always operated with African-Americans not being valued.

I get it. I don’t understand the mindset or motivations of a transgendered person. But I don’t need to understand those things to recognize their courage.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

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The Socialist’s Journal: NBA Free Agency

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*The facts are simple. DeAndre Jordan agreed to a free agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks before he could; DeAndre Jordan second guessed his decision; DeAndre Jordan reneged on his agreement with the Mavericks and signed a contract with his original team the Los Angeles Clippers.

According to the current NBA modus operandi, there is a week in which contracts can be negotiated but not signed at the start of the leagues fiscal year. Because of this, the events surrounding DeAndre Jordan’s free agency were perfectly legal.

There are three ways this situation can go. The NBA can keep the situation as it is; the NBA can change their system of free agency so that contracts can be signed at the beginning of the fiscal year (essentially moving the signing period up to coincide with the negotiations); the NBA can change their system of free agency so that negotiations cannot start until contracts are able to be signed (essentially the opposite).

The NBA has been operating in this fashion for years and this is the first time that such a fuss has been raised over someone changing their mind. So from that perspective it would seem that no changes are necessary. But the DeAndre Jordan negotiations and signing highlight the fact that players can really hamper a team when a verbal commitment is not honored. It is unlikely that a player would intentionally come to a verbal agreement with Team A and then sign somewhere else to undermine them. But the fact that it is possible for such a nefarious scenario to play out is no way to run a business when all of the franchises are in a partnership. Clearly the system as it stands cannot remain.

This leaves two choices. Give teams the ability to negotiate and sign players as soon as the fiscal year begins or restrict teams from negotiating and signing players for about a week. Because the NBA needs a little time to determine the salary cap for the upcoming season is the original reasoning behind the signing moratorium. And because of this moving the signing period up to day one of the new fiscal year should not really be an option. Doing so would put teams in the position of overextending themselves before knowing how much money they have to spend. Or it could lead to artificially lowering player contracts as teams operate extra cautiously to ensure that they stay under the salary cap.

The solution is quite clear: move the ability to negotiate back to the coincide with the announcement of the salary cap. As we have seen with DeAndre Jordan it makes very little sense to negotiate without the ability of both sides to actually agree. This solution is not foolproof mind you. People could begin negotiating early. But there isn’t a way to conduct free agency that avoids that fact. I’m sure players are being recruited through friends of friends and wives etc. throughout each season. But when teams officially start talking to a player the ability to put a contract on the table is crucial.

The problem that the DeAndre Jordan situation illuminated is not just a problem for the Mavericks, although it will affect them the most during the upcoming season. No this problem trickled down to every other team in need of a power forward or center. Certain negotiations only took place once teams knew DeAndre Jordan was not an option and once other players knew the Mavericks were not an option. Furthermore the amount he would sign for would influence what teams offered other players. So the DeAndre Jordan situation affected a handful of teams that might be happier with a different player but didn’t get a chance to pursue that player because of the false reality that DeAndre Jordan’s agreement with the Mavericks created.

One of the critical eras of American history is the early 19th century when the country experienced its first burst of economic growth. The sanctity of contracts was an important element of that growth. The NBA is currently operating with teams and players having the ability to a sort of pseudo-contract. That simply is not good enough nor is it realistic to think that teams will allow this to continue.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: The Peril of Being Hillary Clinton

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*If you had never heard of Donald Trump and his oversized ego, you might think it possible that he is playing a role to help the more viable Republican Presidential nominees look more palatable.

The thing about Trump’s shortsighted (if we are being kind, ignorant if we are being truthful) comments about Mexican immigrants (yes his comments were not just illegal immigrants but all Mexicans) is that it allows every other candidate to use common sense and claim a sensible position on immigration. They can thereby look sensible while Democrats seem radical by comparison. It’s really brilliant.

That is the advantage that candidates like Jeb Bush or Rick Perry have over Hillary Clinton. They already claim the moderate space within Republican circles so they can allow people like Trump or libertarian ideologist Rand Paul expose themselves as less electable; and I like some libertarian ideas.

On the other side of the aisle Hillary Clinton is running almost unopposed at this point. She presumably has most of the power brokers in the Democratic party already on her side, she has the popularity and success of her husband’s presidency, and she has Secretary of State as a line on her resume. It is not really surprising that no one is rushing to try to take on the juggernaut that will be her campaign. It is also not surprising that she has no where to go but down in the eyes of all but the most die hard of liberal voters.

Without someone on the fringes to forward crazy left wing ideas (mandatory abortions until a woman reaches 30 years of age to ensure that they are more emotionally and financially ready for parenthood – and for the record I made that up; I don’t know of any liberal politician that supports such a policy) like Trump has done and will continue to do on the right, Hillary is left to balance sounding liberal enough to keep her momentum while remaining electable in the general election.

Front runner status is not a cakewalk until the national convention. Especially not this early (460 days until election day). Already we see the press with nothing else to report about Clinton that she has restricted their access; or from a different perspective you might say that with nothing else to do Clinton has restricted the press’s access to her campaign – either way. I’ve never been a reporter but I can’t imagine that this is the kind of thing that is so unprecedented and/or important. Of course reporters need to be able to do their job, that’s not the point. But since when do they get to go wherever they want whenever they want around front running presidential candidates? Nevertheless it’s a story. And it won’t be the last sort of nit-picky thing that is brought up regarding Clinton.

This seems familiar. We saw how she handled being the front runner in 2008 and here we are 7 years later after Obama wrenched the support of the Democratic party away from her. It is simply not feasible for her to think she can remain on point for the next 16 months. So either Hillary Clinton is a bad presidential candidate and not meant to be president or she needs to disappear as much as possible for the next few months.

Good luck Mrs. Clinton. You’ll need it.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Quick Hits Part 2

Brookins Head Shot*There are plenty of reasons not to like Hillary Clinton as a potential president; plenty of reasons not to vote for her.

You might disagree with any one of her political stances from abortion rights to the importance of labor unions. But how she handles her email should not be on the list. As president there would probably a dozen checks on anything she did so digital security is the least of her issues.

So you think racism is no longer a problem in the United States? My local paper ran a headline with pictures of the alleged perpetrators regarding $250 worth of credit card fraud. Undoubtedly someone was unhappy about having to call their credit card company and dispute charges. Certainly the credit card company was unhappy about paying for something that their client didn’t really buy. But this isn’t the kind of crime that deserves the front page of the newspaper. Nor is it the kind of crime that warrants placing photographs of the alleged (not convicted) criminals on the front page. But the people charged were black so of course their pictures were on the front page.

My brothers and I love each other. But we are distinct people; I cannot claim my opinions reflect their mindset. So to disqualify Jeb for political positions and actions his brother or father took would be silly. Because, again, there is enough information about his own views to either merit your vote or not.

I’m not sure if Rachel Dolezal deserves credit for living as a black person or derision. But I do know if was unnecessary. There are just too many other ways to promote racial equality.

We just had a horse racing triple crown winner and outside of a few hours nobody in the sports world really cared. On the national landscape at large it was a non-story. When horseracing became established as a big deal during the late 19th century when most people owned horses, knew about horses, and it mattered that my horse was bigger, better, and/or faster than your horse. This hasn’t been the case in at least two generations. NASCAR on the other hand has been steadily rising in the sports and national pictures. For the exact same reasoning.

So you think sexism is no longer a problem in the United States? Chloe Cross highlighted the fact that dress codes for high school students frequently prohibits female students more than male students. Because we as a society A. refuse to normalize women’s breasts/bodies and continue to regard them as taboo and B. refuse to acknowledge that men and boys are able to control themselves when confronted with women’s breasts/bodies. Cross’ school made her change her clothes on multiple days because what she was wearing was deemed to be distracting to other students (boys). I like women, women’s bodies, and women’s breasts. But I don’t stop functioning when I see any of those three things. I’m not the exception either. We as men should be held to a higher standard than we currently are.

I won’t pretend to understand all of the computer science and technology behind the case. But a serious precedent was set by the federal government recently when an individual was convicted because of a search that was conducted illegally in another country. The government didn’t argue that they had probable cause or that a crime was imminent. No they simply searched private areas of a server and found evidence. Granted they may have prevented some serious drug trafficking from happening but I’m not sure that as a society we should co-sign what happened to Ross Ulbricht. At some point we have to be able to say private is private. Isn’t that why everyone was so up in arms over the PATRIOT Act?

When teachers at Sulphur Springs Middle School in Carrollton, Texas gave out ghetto awards either they were making light of the situation that the students were/are in or they were saying the students should aspire to being ghetto. Neither of these ideas is okay.

So you still think sexism is no longer a problem in the United States? Why are there so many problems with women breastfeeding in public? Only because we refuse to see women’s bodies in the same light as men’s bodies.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

trevor brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Supremacists

Brookins Head Shot*Chris Rock has a bit in one of his comedy specials about how it’s okay if fat women talk about skinny women, or how short men can talk about tall men. But the reverse is not acceptable; it’s just mean.

The underlying concept is that it is understood that society values skinny women and tall men more. There have been studies that show attractive people gain advantages over those considered ugly and our society finds skinny women and tall men more attractive, thus their higher value.

Of course Rock was pointing this out for laughs but the idea is valid. Certain groups in society have been put in a better position to succeed historically, and even today some of the remnants of racial, sexual, and religious prejudices remain. There is a reason Mitt Romney had to address his Mormonism and reassure everyone that his faith was not going to be an issue if he were elected president.

The difference between white supremacists and black supremacists is illustrative of this idea. Anyone who professes that society should privilege one racial group over another should be monitored. And anyone who professes a willingness to perpetrate violence to forward their ideology should be prevented from doing so. But it is worth noting that black supremacists usually do not fall into the second of those categories.

Black supremacists grew out of the Civil Rights Movement and efforts to establish the racial equality of black people. Eventually some people went further and affirmed their preference of things related to black people and black culture and asserted the superiority of those things over the things related to European-Americans and their culture. To be clear – black supremacy started as a small percentage of African-Americans and grew to a slightly less small percentage.

White supremacy on the other hand was a foundational belief of the United States. The country was set up to benefit white people based on the labor of other racial groups when possible. White supremacy had been the dominant perspective throughout the history of the United States until the Civil Rights Movment. To be clear – white supremacy started as a large percentage and then got smaller.

This doesn’t mean that black supremacy can’t be a threat to people. On some level it is refreshing that people see it as a viable threat.

But it is also worth noticing that there is very little evidence of black supremacist violence against white people. The mass murder perpetrated in Charleston last week does not allow us to say the same of white supremacists. Furthermore white supremacists target not only black people but also those of any race of advocate for racial equality, thus making them more dangerous.

It is possible to regard the increased frequency of reports on police violence against black people as a sign that the reality of living as a black person in this country having changed, or as simply an increase in the reporting of something that has been happening all along. What is not possible is to deny that race continues to be a factor for some people and some institutions.

When short men make fun of tall men, it is seen as the undervalued group puffing up its chest. When tall men make fun of short men, it is seen as more mean spirited because the tall men don’t need to assert their primacy in our society. The same goes for black supremacy. When they complain it is an effort to be taken seriously. White people have always been taken seriously so there is no need to complain about how things are stacked against them.

And when they react as if they do, black people lose.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.