Yes, this is yet another piece written about Beyonce and her latest album. I have seen people label the tone and impact of Yonce’s latest album as a display of a,“ hip hop generation feminist sensibility.” This feminist label/association is primarily due to Beyonce’s announcement that she is a, “modern day feminist,” and the fact that the Noel “Detail” Fisher (the producer of Flawless) sampled the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie impassioned words from her speech entitled We Should All Be Feminist in the hit record Flawless, which happened to spawn the new highly hashtagable catchphrase, “I woke up like this.” It is important to note that many that have vaulted Beyonce into the oft-politicized terrain of being associated with the F-Word have taken Bey’s association with Feminism out of context. Mrs. Carter calling herself a “modern day feminist” comes from an interview that she conducted with British Vogue. In the interview Beyonce was asked if she considers herself a feminist, which lead to Beyonce saying:
That word can be very extreme … But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman. … I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept. … But I’m happily married. I love my husband.
This is obviously a far cry from a ringing endorsement, or willing association with the historical/political label of being a feminist, but the point of this piece is not to question Mrs. Carter’s association with feminism. Nor is this piece about certain feminists (Pro-Beyonce and Anti-Beyonce) ignoring the fact Beyonce questions, “Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are?” And that in a sense, Beyonce is saying that the feminist box/label is limiting her personal potential/definition of what it means to be a woman. This piece is more so about connecting Yonce’s investment in female empowerment, and having control of their bodies/sexuality and the song Drunk In Love featuring (her husband) Shawn “Jay Z/Hov” Carter. My aim is to critically engage the lyrics of the record Drunk In Love. I want to unpack what it means (based upon the songs lyrics) to be drunk in love, and how being drunk and in love looks (again based on the songs lyrics) within the record.
Beyonce and Jay Z opened the 2014 Grammy Awards with a performance of their hit record Drunk In Love. “Dressed in Saint Laurent black tights, custom bra, La Perla collar body and Nichole de Carle body suit, complete with wavy wet hair, Beyonce belted out the lyrics to the song — expertly twirling in a chair amid strobe lights for the mid-tempo jam. Beyonce completed her outfit with Stuart Weitzman heels and Jennifer Fisher yellow gold and large dagger earrings” (Hollywood Reporter). Jay Z on the other hand was simply decked in the classic formal uniform of masculine decadent fashion- a timeless black tuxedo. This leads one to wonder why we know so much about everything worn by Beyonce, and so little about Jay Z (while ironically Beyonce clearly has on less clothing than Jay Z). The first thing that I thought about while watching this performance (remember this was the opening performance for the Grammys, so it was 8:00 pm) was that this was a bit risqué for not only the Grammys, but also for CBS who had a full blown controversy on their hands via Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during the now infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII, Nipplegate 2004. Side note: America lost their minds when Janet Jackson’s nipple was exposed for less than one second by way of a, “wardrobe malfunction,” but the Red Hot Chilli Peppers did an entire set with four nipples exposed in the 2014 Super Bowl, and nobody had a problem with that- but I digress. The Beyonce performance (which was essentially an homage to the iconic 1980s film Flash Dance) was essentially a primetime network television version of a striptease, a mild erotica of sorts, set to her self-created theme music. Sex sells. I get it. People have a right to express their sexuality however they choose. I get it. This is not myself playing the role of the politics of sexual censorship police. I’m just calling it not only as I saw, but also as it was intended to be seen by all parties involved in the performance. What I did find interesting was the fact that CBS saw fit to edit the audio, censoring what they considered risqué lyrics within the song during two points of Beyonce’s performance. The lyrics that were worthy of censoring was when Beyonce sang, “How the hell did this shit happen…” This seemed peculiar to me, being that the Supreme Court ruled that the FCC is now prohibited from fining and sanctioning any sort of obscene and indecent content. In the past, TV networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS, and others — had to censor certain curse words within programming in order to adhere to specific policies and avoid fines or other infractions. In other words, the choice to censor the words “hell” and “shit” from Beyonce’s performance of Drunk In Love was the choice of those at CBS, not the FCC, and the slippery slope of what is (and or is not) deemed as indecent (Beyonce’s actual performance in comparison to verbal obscenities) is then also a decision of those at CBS. This lead me to focus, not on which lyrics were censored, but which lyrics (and subsequently the themes associated with said lyrics) were allowed to flood the primetime public airwaves.
The censored portion of Drunk In Love happens to be the bridge that connects the verse’s lyrics to the hook (or chorus). As I mentioned the words “hell” and “shit” were not allowed to be played to the viewing audience, but let us look at the bridge in totality. During the bridge, Beyonce sings:
“We woke up in the kitchen saying ‘How the hell did this shit happen?’, oh baby. Drunk in love, we be all night. Last thing I remember is our beautiful bodies grinding off in that club. Drunk in love.
My question is, why was this portion of the bridge suitable for the primetime public airwaves? Look, let’s get this out of the way; the song is about getting hyper-inebriated, having sex, and not knowing how it happened. Now, in the world of Jay Z and Beyonce that’s the recipe for a hit record, but in the real world, that is the recipe for date rape.
According to the Department of Justice, “Approximately 90 percent of date rapes happen with alcohol involved.” A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, almost 20 percent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly by a fellow classmate. Very few will ever report it to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol (Krebs et. al.). I’m in the state of California and in the state of California, if you have sex with an individual who voluntarily consumes enough alcohol and/or drugs to the point where he/she is unable to resist the sexual encounter, prosecutors could charge you with Penal Code 261 PC date rape. This also applies to married couples. California rape law holds that every act of sexual intercourse must be consensual. This is why even a married individual can be convicted of raping his/her spouse under Penal Code 262 spousal rape. What does this have to do with Yonce’s lyrics? Quite honestly, it has everything to do with these lyrics. Drunk In Love is (seemingly) about two hyper-inebriated people that were having sex all night. Based upon Drunk In Love’s bridge, Beyonce and her partner awoke in the kitchen (not our kitchen, which is an important distinction when we think about being familiar with a location) unaware of how they arrived at the kitchen, but it seemed obvious that something sexual had happened “all night.” Based on the bridge, Yonce and her partner were not only “drunk” and “in love,” but they were also incapable of remembering “how this shit happened.” But wait a minute; there is another perspective to take into consideration. We have to take Jay Z’s recollection of the night of drunken love to complete this story.
Mr. Carter emerges onto the record providing not only the male perspective of the aforementioned night, but also (unlike Mrs. Carter) Jay Z provides a detailed account of the drunken love session that lasted “all night.” Based upon Jay Z’s verse in the song, the night transpired like this:
Hold up, Stumbled all in the house time to back up all of that mouth/ That you had all in the car, talking ‘bout you the baddest bitch thus far/ Talking ‘bout you be repping that third, I wanna see all the shit that I heard Know I sling Clint Eastwood, hope you can handle this curve/ Foreplay in the foyer, fucked up my Warhol/ Slip the panties right to the side/ Ain’t got the time to take draws off, on site/ Catch a charge I might, beat the box up like Mike In ‘97 I bite, I’m Ike, Turner, turn up Baby no I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Again, when one does a close reading of Jay Z’s lyrics in Drunk In Love you can see that he, (unlike Beyonce) is fully cognizant of the situation at hand, and is capable of giving a full recount of the events that lead them into the kitchen. Beyonce was alone in pondering, “how did this shit happen.” According to Jay Z, Beyonce, “stumbled all in the house,” and it was time for her to “back up all of that mouth,” about how she was the, “baddest bitch thus far.” There was “Foreplay in the foyer” that leads to the damaging of his Andy Warhol painting. The sense of urgency within the situation lead Jay Z to, “slip the panties,” of Beyonce, “right to the side,” because he did not have the “time” to take her “drawers off.” This sexual encounter was happening, “on site.” This then lead Jay Z to reveal the true nature of the sexual encounter, because (in his own words) he felt as if this sexual session could lead him to catching, “a charge.” For those unaware, to potentially, “catch a charge,” means that one is performing an act that can result in legal problems and possible incarceration. Problematically, Jay Z then mentions that he, “beat the box up like Mike,” (as in former Heavy Weight Champion Mike Tyson who was convicted of rape in 1992) which translates into the level in which he punished the vagina (“box” is a derogatory term for female genitalia) of his wife Beyonce. Post Jay Z exposing the listening/viewing audience as to how he is a particular type of heavy weight champ in the sex ring, he then makes the controversial association between he and Beyonce with Ike and Tina Turner. Like Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, Drunk In Love speaks to the ways in which Jay and Beyonce, “neva eva do nothing nice and easy” in the sexual sphere, according to Jay’s verse they prefer to (like Ike and Tina Turner), “do it nice and ruff.” As Mark Anthony Neal said in a recent blog piece, “We may never know what exactly Mrs. Knowles-Carter and Mr. Carter’s intents were with the song or why they fully felt the need to share as they have,” we do know that when Jay Z made reference to the scene in What’s Love Got to Do with It? (1993), the film adaptation of Ms. Turner’s autobiography I, Tina (1986), when he said, “Baby know I don’t play/ Now eat the cake Anne Mae!” In this particular scene in the film, Ike Turner (played by Lawrence Fishburn) and Tina Turner (played by Angela Bassett) are in the midst of a domestic dispute in a public space. But, for me, the line reminded me of the first time that I had ever seen sexual violence in a film- when Ike Turner’s character rapes Tina Turner in their home recoding studio. Again, to echo Mark Anthony Neal, I have no idea as to why Jay Z chose to go with the Mike Tyson and Ike Turner references in regards to painting the picture of this sexual setting for Drunk In Love, but we do know that those two men were connected to violent sexual experiences with women.
After really thinking about how clear Jay Z was about the entire sexual experience, and how Beyonce, “woke up in the kitchen saying, ‘How the hell did this shit happen,” I took another look at both Jay Z and Beyonce’s lyrics. What I found was that within this song, Beyonce mentions drinking or being drunk 18 times- Jay Z mentions being drunk 0 times. This may explain why Jay Z can fully recall all of the details of the sexual encounter, while Beyonce is wondering how she ended up in a kitchen drunk, again searching for answers to her question, “how the hell did this shit happen.” As I mentioned before, according to the Department of Justice, “Approximately 90 percent of date rapes happen with alcohol involved.” But there is one detail that I failed to focus on; Beyonce did remember something from that night. According to Beyonce, “The last thing that I remember is our beautiful bodies grinding off in that club.” So if, “the last thing” that Beyonce remembers was, “off in that club,” where Beyonce had been drinking, and that the person that she was involved with had her, “faded,” making her, “want,” him and then she awoke in the morning (presumably naked) in a kitchen, there is a possibility that something had been slipped into Beyonce’s drink. Maybe Rohypnol had been put into her alcoholic beverage at the club. “Many victims have reported that after Rohypnol was slipped into their drinks, they blacked out and woke up unsure of what had happened during the course of their blackout. Also, it is important to note that the loss of memory does not necessarily mean a loss of consciousness. Victims can be awake and still experience complete memory loss of the incident. The loss of memory may prevent people from reporting the crime soon enough to be tested for the drug” (Campus Advocacy Network, University of Illinois), or maybe the popular date rape drug GHB was given to her without her knowledge. Whatever the case based on the lyrics, something happened to Beyonce at the club while she was drinking and hours later she had awaken, wondering, “how the hell did this shit happen,” to her.
Now, I know that there will be some people that will read this and say that this is, “just a song,” but I think that there is something dangerous about the promotion of a song that glamorizes being so drunk after leaving a nightclub that you can’t even remember how you ended up in a kitchen in the morning after having sex, “all night.” I wonder what is the message being received by the listener when Jay Z talks about potentially catching, “a case,” for having sex with a woman that “stumbled all in the house?” I am also wondering why did CBS open up the 2014 Grammys, at 8:00pm with an erotic performance of a record about drunk (and potentially drugged) “love,” and felt that censoring the words “hell” and “shit” would make the Beyonce and Jay Z performance suitable for a primetime viewing audience.
Checkmate: The King Could Be on the Verge of Complicating the LeBron vs. Jordan Debate
Before we begin, lets get one thing clear, all debates in sports regarding which player is “the best” or “the greatest ever” are based on personal preferences/points of view, tethered to statistics, and mythology. These debates are subjective arguments shrouded in the illusion of objectivity. In the case of the NBA, the recent debate over who is “the best” has become the Jordan vs. LeBron debate. It is almost a form of National Basketball Association fandom sacrilege to say that someone is the next Michael Jordan, but it is almost a form of NBA blaspheme to say that one is greater than his Airness. I get it, how can you blame those that were mesmerized by Jordan’s role in the evolution of the way that the game of basketball was played and perceived? I mean, come on man, he dunked from the free-throw line with a gold chain on to win the Slam Dunk Contest, he defeated alien cartoon characters in Space Jam, and how can we forget that he is arguably the father of sneaker head collectible shoe culture- He is Jordan. Oh yeah, also, let’s not forget the fact that his Airness has been to the NBA Finals 6 times, he has 6 NBA Championship rings, 6 NBA Finals MVP Trophies, and in his quest to secure his sequence of successful sixes, he never allowed a NBA Finals series to make it past game 6. I mean for real, who could possibly (pardon my French) fuck with that? Who could match his Airness with his own brand of basketball Greatness? Have you heard of this guy named LeBron James? He’s pretty good.
Outside of the fact that players like Scottie Pippen (you know the man that has the same 6 NBA championship rings as Mr. Jordan) reportedly said that LeBron would, “kick MJ’s ass,” on the hardwood, and Magic Johnson told him live on television that he is the, “only player that has chance to be greatest of all time,” LeBron James has begun to stack up the statistical data and basketball mythology necessary to dethrone his Airness as the King of NBA folklore and supremacy. Let’s look at their careers up until their 8th seasons in the NBA side by side. “Why up until the 8th season” you ask, well obviously King James has only been in the league for 8 seasons, but let’s delve deeper. Think about it, both Mike and LeBron won their second rings in their 8th playoff appearance (by the way James was a year younger than Jordan- Mike was 29, LeBron was 28). LeBron has a career playoff percentage record of .638 while MJ had a playoff winning percentage of .587. Don’t forget that Jordan had 2 MVP awards up until his 2nd title, while LeBron has 4 MVP awards, and that’s not to mention the fact that James had (statistically speaking) less qualified coaching (I mean really, no disrespect to Paul Silas and Mike Brown, but Phil Jackson has more NBA Championship Rings than he has fingers). And let me say this (as I stand on my soap box), since we’re throwing around numbers, I would argue that statistically speaking MJ had a better cast of co-stars during his championship run, because I’ll match your aging (and oft injured) D-Wade with the aforementioned Scottie Pippen that was not only one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, but also, during Jordan’s season of batting .202 playing minor league baseball, Pippen averaged a brilliantly complete 22 points (on 49 percent shooting), 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game. Let’s not forget about arguably the greatest rebounder of the 80s and 90s- Dennis Rodman (who had won 2 NBA Championships of his own with the Isaiah Thomas lead “Bad Boys” Pistons). Now, tell the truth, who would you rather have crashing the boards, The Worm or The Bosh (like I said, these debates are subjective arguments shrouded in illusions of objectivity)? I’m not even going to go into Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc, but if I did, let’s just say that Jordan’s “sidekicks” were not anything to complain about. But I digress; let’s get back to LeBron James and Michel Jeffery Jordan, and the career titles earned to tip the scale on who is the greatest NBA Star of all-time.
Jason Whitlock just recently broke the news that LeBron James may be on the road to earning an NBA title that Michel Jordan doesn’t have on his resume- NBA Players Union President. A source with close ties to James told FOXSports.com on Wednesday. “He was very vocal at the meeting during the All-Star Weekend about the need for the union to dramatically change. There is a new executive director coming in and new commissioner. He recognizes that this is the time for the union to change.” This could tip the scales of true NBA greatness.
In the past, union presidents were Hall of Players big name players, such as Oscar Robertson and Patrick Ewing, but If LeBron James runs for Players Union President, and wins, he would become not only the first NBA Superstar in the prime of his career since Isiah Thomas (in the late ’80s and early ’90s) to be the Players Union President, he and Isiah Thomas would be the only two-time NBA Champions (in the modern era of the NBA) to be the President of the NBA Players Union. This title may be one of the most exclusive of NBA titles for many reasons, but one of those many reasons is the selflessness that comes with the position. It doesn’t come with diamond championship rings and golden trophies. It is about giving assist to other players, making sure that other players are taken care so that the collective can share in the spoils of victory.
During Oscar Robertson’s stay as the NBA Players Union President he actually sued the NBA, and The Big-O’s lawsuit triggered negotiations that led to what is now known as free agency, as well as a settlement that paid more than $4 million to then-current players and another $1 million in union legal fees. Pensions for the players improved during his stint and the minimum salary for NBA players tripled. During Isiah Thomas’ stint as the NBA Players Union President, the NBA experienced the most expansive period in the history of professional basketball. A period in which the average NBA player’s salary increased from $300,000 to $1.8 million dollars per season, and (agents may hate this, but the players love it) during Zeke’s time as El Presidente, a league wide agent regulatory system was implemented to combat the excessive fees charged to players by agents, reducing the agents fees from 10% to a maximum of 4%. Yes, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas are more than just Hall of Fame hoopers, they are of the forefathers of modern NBA players making an average salary of $5.1 million dollars per season.
King James and his Airness are both global icons and NBA royalty that have NBA Championships, MVP Trophies, All-Star Game appearances, Coke, Nike, and Mc Donald’s endorsement deals, and millions of adorning fans willing to celebrate their otherworldly physical gifts, but, I am seeing a title that LeBron is earning off of the court that MJ never wanted- the title of the People’s Champ (not to be confused with the Media’s Champ). LeBron James (and the Miami Heat players) stood up in solidarity with the people, showing their disdain for the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. LeBron James tweeted, “#WeAreTrayvonMartin, #Hoodies, #Stereotyped, #WeWantJustice,” identifying with the slain Black teen that was racially profiled and killed for being Black while walking in a suburban neighborhood. LeBron James also recently advised his 9.3 million Twitter followers to support the film Fruitvale Station. In case you didn’t know, Fruitvale Station is a film about Oscar Grant was detained by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police and ultimately Grant was restrained by Officer Johannes Mehserle, and while Grant was lying face down and handcuffed, Mehserle stood over Oscar, drew his gun as he stood over Grant, and fired a gunshot into the back of the 22-year-old. Grant would be pronounced dead the following morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland. This public support vaults LeBron James into a politicized space rarely occupied by the modern super-star athlete. The most prominent of these apolitical global icons is MJ himself. He carefully dodged any political issue that might have jeopardized his ability to make people want to “be like Mike.” In 1992 when Jordan was asked about the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Jordan simply replied: “I need to know more about it.” What more is there to know Mike? Did you see the tape? This is also the same MJ that refused to take a side in the 1990 North Carolina Senate race in which Jesse Helms, despised by many Blacks (if you don’t know about Jesse Helms, let’s just say id he was wearing a white hood, it wouldn’t have been to support Trayvon Martin), was challenged by a black man, Harvey Gantt. Approached by Gantt’s campaign, Jordan declined to get involved, reportedly offering this explanation: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
I will end this piece as I has began this piece, all debates in sports regarding which player is “the best” or “the greatest ever” are based on personal preferences/points of view, tethered to statistics, and mythology. When we begin to tear away the multiple layers of media/marketing mythologies that make up the King James and His Airness, there is one NBA Title that LeBron can have that MJ doesn’t and that’s the NBPA Presidency title. And I believe that LeBron’s seemingly natural inclination to want to identify with the people, and his legendary ability to dish out assist to NBA Players on the court, will suit him well if he is to become the 1st NBPA President of the post David Stern era of the NBA.
*Note: This piece was written prior to Chris Paul becoming the NBPA President.
On July 19th 2013, I witnessed a Presidential speech that was foreign to my ears and eyes. I witnessed a President of the United States personally identify with the wrongful death of a Black male murdered in America, when President Barack Obama said, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” In that moment he informed the world of his personal pain and connection to Trayvon- he publically stood his ground on a highly controversial, racialized hot button issue. But there was another moment of identification that was put on the table served as an alien acknowledgment; President Barack Obama made the idea/reality of, “Black pain,” a topic to be openly discussed. In that moment, Obama moved beyond his personal pain associated with the isolated killing of an unarmed teenage Black male, and spoke of the post racially taboo truth of “Black pain.” In this speech President Obama spoke as if he were (what many of the Black folks that stood in lines for hours to vote for him) speaking on behalf of Black America. Think about these Barack Obama quotes:
If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened, and if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
And let’s not forget when President Obama said:
We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys…There are a lot of kids out there that need help, that get a lot of negative reinforcement, and is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them.
These were not the words of a civil rights activist, a Black Nationalist, an educator in a Black Studies Department, or Black folks in a predominantly Black neighborhood- These were the words of the 44th President of the United States of America.
On July 31st 2013, President Obama put his words into action. According to Politico.com, President Barack Obama told House Democrats that his administration was “looking at measures to help at-risk children, particularly minority youth — a move that comes in light of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.” Politico.com goes on to report that President Obama told Rep. Elijah Cummings that Obama told Cummings, “that it was a ‘good time’ to examine disparities in the criminal justice system, and efforts to help black, Asian, and Hispanic men and boys. The President added that officials need to look at what can be done to aid at-risk youth in general.” This made me think about the quote from his speech when he spoke about how letting the “at-risk-youth” know that “their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them.” I began to think about America being “their” (Trayvon Martin compatible “at-risk youth”) country and what is the norm when it comes to investing in “at-risk youth” and conjointly how is “value” placed upon the Trayvon Martin’s of America. Instead of hearing President Obama say, “African-American boys…get a lot of negative reinforcement,” I began to hear “reinforcement” sound more like law enforcement. I unfortunately began to look past the words of the 44th President of the United States of America and I began to remember the reality of being a Black male in capitalist America.
With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States houses 25 percent of the world’s prison population, over 90 percent of inmates are male, and while 12 percent of the U.S. population is Black, over 40 percent of prisoners with sentences longer than one year are African American. Black Folks are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of their white counterparts, and are sent to prison at ten times the rate of whites. Since 2002, over 4 million New Yorkers have been stopped and frisked in NYC. In 2011, 87 percent of those stop-and-frisked were Black and Latino, and nine out of ten were completely innocent, according to NYPD’s own reports. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Sadly, many of us are somewhat familiar with these statistics about the disproportionate amount of Trayvon Martin like males in America, but are we as well versed in the amount of money being generated off of the storage of Black bodies in the penal system?
The privatization of prisons has become big business for capitalist America. The onset of private prisons began during the Regan era and continued to flourish throughout the Clinton years. Specifically, after Clinton drastically cut the federal workforce, the Justice Departments began to search for and contract private prison corporations for the incarceration of particular populations of inmates such as undocumented workers and high-security inmates (globalresearch.org). It is no secret that private prisons prosper in proportion to the number of prisoners they house, which may lead one to ask if that may be a catalyst to the mass incarceration nation that America has become. The ACLU report, Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarcerations, indicated that the “rise of the for-profit prison companies that have capitalized on the nation’s addiction to incarceration (2.4-million behind bars) will achieve gigantic profits.” Alone, the two largest private prison corporations earned roughly $3 billion in revenue in 2010 (ACLU, 2011). Think about this, within the privatization of prisons in America, there has even been a push for the privatization of phone calls made by prisoners. Inmate collect calls are a “$1 billion dollar market” with prison collect-calling services charging “as much as four times the standard rate for collect calls” (CNNMoney.com). This practice is common in prisons all over the United States, for example, according to Prison Legal News, New York prisons alone generated $200 million in prison cell phone call fee kickback payments from 1996 to 2007. Prison Legal continues by stating that:
Prison phone service kickbacks average 42% nationwide among states that accept commissions, and in some cases reach 60% or more. Put into simple terms, up to 60% of what prisoners’ families pay to receive phone calls from their incarcerated loved ones has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of the phone service provided.
“In many state prison systems, what on the outside would be a 10-cent call costs $9” (Elsner, Alan: 2006). Again, we are just talking about the amount of potential money that can be generated from collect calls made in prisons, this does not include the amounts of money being generated by the exploitation of prison labor by Fortune 500 companies including but not limited to IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and Victoria’s Secret. So when President Obama says that the Trayvon Martins’ of America need to know, “that their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them,” sadly many of them are already aware of the fact that Capitalist America “cares about them, and values them,” as neo-slave laborers. They are aware that Capitalist America, “is willing to invest in them” as Black men in America, not as human beings experiencing “Black pain” in need of “positive reinforcement,” but as commodities, assisting in positive economic returns, under the watchful eye of law enforcement.