Someone recently suggested that I compile some of the best questions and answers from my Curious Cat account and create a website post. I think this is a good idea. This post is Volume 1 (December 2016—May 2017). I may create additional posts in the future. I write my Curious Cat responses pretty quickly from my smartphone, so the writing is less polished and structured than my essay writing. Where possible, I have fixed typos and predictive text errors. I have also edited some of the questions for clarity. There are many more answers that are worth reading on relationships, culture, music, and other interesting topics. You can read all of those on my actual Curious Cat page. Also, make sure you follow me on Twitter.
How are you preparing for these next four years? I honestly don’t know what to expect.
I assume that you have read my piece Donald Trump and the Opening of the Gates of Hades. If not, the piece details some of what I believe is coming.
That notwithstanding, one thing you will never see or hear me do is use the Trump administration as a justification for mediocrity—or as a reason why I won’t pursue excellence. Yes, it is important to push back against the xenophobia and hate that we are seeing as a result of Trump’s rise, but it is also important not to negate the power of human agency. Irrespective of whatever happens in Washington, I’m going to achieve my goals over the next four years.
Is Trumpism for black people? I mean the populist/anti-elite/nationalism.
No. A man who was sued by the federal government for discriminating against black people in housing cannot be said to be for black people. His nationalism is white nationalism—and white nationalism is white supremacy.
Say you were offered a position with a decent salary (by your standards) to advise a politician whose political ideology does not align with yours on black outreach. Would you consider?
Very good question. There has to be some common ground on policy—even if there are serious ideological differences. I can’t help a politician reach out to blacks when said politician’s policies are anti-black and malignant.
Who do you like more? Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump?
Bernie Sanders is unquestionably the better human being. I may disagree with almost all of Bernie Sanders’ political positions, but he isn’t a demon. Trump is a demon.
It’s hard to argue that race relations are better today than they were 10 years ago. Has President Obama been complicit in this? Has he been racially divisive?
Obama’s presidency angered white racists. That’s why race relations aren’t better than they were 10 years ago. I was alive to watch Obama’s “racial divisiveness.” Daring to make a perfectly acceptable statement about Trayvon was considered “racially divisive.”
The notion that Obama was a racially divisive president is a laughable fiction created by the American right. The fact of the matter is that Obama did nothing for black people specifically.
Can an increase in minimum wage truly help reduce poverty?
No. I think people who are serious about helping to reduce poverty should be pushing the idea of skill acquisition. The minimum wage is supposed to be a training wage. It shouldn’t be lived on forever.
The only way to escape poverty in a market-based economy is to acquire skills that are valued in the market. That’s the harsh truth. The fact of the matter is that it is just political posturing to tell people that making a few extra dollars at their minimum wage jobs will meaningfully improve the trajectory of their lives.
Why should we care about low level drug offenders? I say lock them up if they’re destroying our community. Get them out!
This comment betrays a lack of understanding of the current state of American criminal justice. Where is the money? Where is the prison space? The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Not only is the “lock them up” and “get them out” approach ineffective, but it is not economically viable. What low-level drug offenders need is drug courts, which have been shown to reduce drug crimes. You can’t lock up a low-level drug offender forever. Eventually, that offender comes home. We need evidence-based approaches to dealing with crime—not criminologically illiterate policy based on “tough on crime” claptrap.
Thoughts on James Baldwin?
He was a very skilled writer—far more skilled than the modern “replacements” for him. I obviously disagree with him ideologically. Also, I think his overly pessimistic outlook was insidious. However, he’s unquestionably one of the greatest American essayists of all time. (And he made William F. Buckley look silly in their debate at Cambridge.)
What are your thoughts on Marcus Garvey?
I am a big fan. Marcus Garvey is much more my style than Du Bois. Actually, when I was growing up in London, my local library was named after Marcus Garvey.
I think it is deplorable the way Garvey’s legacy has been forgotten. This is largely because he did not subscribe to the fashionable Marxism that blacks worship and treat as a necessary element of blackness and pro-black activism today.
Garvey, like Woodson, is important. He needs to be respected.
Why aren’t you a big fan of W.E.B. Du Bois? Where and why do you disagree?
Du Bois supported eugenics and promoted the “talented tenth” idea. By contrast, Marcus Garvey understood the dangers of birth control being used to conduct genocide against blacks.
As a general rule, I tend to be more sympathetic to thinkers who can get the issue of life right!
The legacy of Thomas Sowell?
I’ll probably write a piece on this when he passes.
Thoughts on Malcolm X?
Malcolm X was a brilliant man. I don’t agree with everything he said and did, but he was right on the money regarding black economic empowerment. (No pun intended.) He was also right to critique black hyperpartisanship. If he were alive today, he’d be so saddened to see the way blacks reliably vote Democratic without demanding political goods in return.
What place should Clarence Thomas hold African-American history?
I have my disagreements with Clarence Thomas, but I have always been extremely critical of the way that white liberals gleefully denigrate him and insult his intelligence. It’s despicable to me. The attacks on Clarence Thomas’ intelligence are definitely racially tinged.
My principal bone of contention with Clarence Thomas is that he was fine with pointing out racism when he was trying to defend himself against the accusations of Anita Hill. He even used outrageously evocative language to do so (high-tech lynching). However, when it comes to other blacks, he’s incapable of seeing racism. It’s very hypocritical.
Thoughts on the legacy of Steve Biko?
His book “I Write What I Like” is excellent. We need more fearless black thinkers and writers.
Current black authors/writers you admire?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes marvelously well. She is making Igbos proud.
Thoughts on Larry Elder?
Jesse Lee Peterson with a law degree.
James Baldwin vs. Chinua Achebe?
As an Igbo man, I’m biased. Chinua Achebe is the G.O.A.T. Baldwin is great, too. Achebe adored Baldwin. Achebe even wrote an essay in praise of Baldwin.
Do you consider Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson revolutionary thinkers for our generation?
I think Cornel West, whether you agree with him or not, is an important and principled thinker. While he may not be currently producing scholarship like he once did, he has an undeniable legacy. By contrast, I’ve read most of Michael Eric Dyson’s books, and I don’t get the hype.
Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson are not equals. Cornel West will be remembered by future generations.
Favorite book in the Bible? Why?
Very good question. My answer would be Psalms. I would say it is my favorite because it is the only book I read every single day.
Honorable mentions: Proverbs, Ephesians, Jude, Colossians, Galatians, Romans, and both letters to the Corinthians.
Is not transubstantiation simply a very literal interpretation of “this is my body and blood”? And also the immaculate conception a valid logical inference from her address as “full of grace” given my angel Gabriel and also her necessary condition in order to carry a divine being?
“This is my body and blood” was not intended literally—hence “do this in remembrance of me.” It’s symbolic. Transubstantiation is extrabiblical and cannot be supported.
Mary being full of grace does not indicate that she was born without original sin. There is literally no scriptural support for the doctrine of Immaculate Conception.
What are your thoughts on the doctrine of speaking in tongues being the “evidence” of being filled with the Holy Spirit?
It makes much more sense than the aforementioned Catholic doctrines that have NO biblical support. Acts 2:1-4 (IN CONTEXT) demonstrates that people were filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
Are religious freedoms for Christians on the verge of extinction in the US?
I find that line of argument to be mostly hyperbolic in the American context. When one considers the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and how Christians are barred from practicing their faith in other regions of the world, it’s just irresponsible to pretend that American Christians don’t have religious freedoms.
I’m Christian (non-denominational) and my wife is Catholic. I grew up in a Pentecostal church and now she would like to learn more about my faith (but in a predominantly white evangelical church). Any advice?
This is interesting. I would recommend that you make sure your wife engages intellectually with the doctrines of your faith—in addition to having the church experience. She needs to understand what you believe and the scriptural support for your belief system. I hope she converts to nondenominational Christianity!
I enjoy your posts on Christianity. What is your eschatological view?
Thank you. I believe 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18.
Is there a Calvinist theologian you admire?
Calvinism is theologically errant. Read my essay: http://voiceofchid.com/2016/01/12/the-errant-and-hubristic-theology-of-anti-lottery-zealots/
I’m a born-again Christian that just rejoined a church a couple of months ago. Ever since I’ve noticed a lot of black people trying to discourage me because of the racist history of Christianity. What should I do?
Ignore them. It’s a silly argument. Wicked people using the Bible to support slavery and other evils does not mean that Christianity is inherently evil or racist.
It is a good thing that you’re developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There’s nothing about Christianity that makes it inherently anti-black. Develop your relationship with Jesus Christ and keep going to church. Don’t be taken in by laughably sophistical arguments.
Why don’t more churches (particularly black churches) engage in apologetics?
Very good question. I think it is because of different approaches to evangelism. Generally, black Protestants do not believe in people being converted to Christianity through argumentation. They believe that people become Christians by the wooing of the Holy Spirit. I think this is misguided because it presupposes that the wooing of the Holy Spirit and philosophical argumentation are mutually exclusive. While there are some people who come to believe solely because someone preached the Bible to them, there are others who come to know Christ through argumentation. Either way, their acceptance of Christ is fundamentally the work of the Holy Spirit.
I find your position on marijuana a sign of double mindedness that a “good” Christian shouldn’t have! Can you please explain how you can be a supposed conservative and support the legalization of marijuana?
You can’t even keep the premise of your question straight. First, you said that my position on marijuana shows “double-mindedness” as a Christian, then you switched the premise to posit that a conservative shouldn’t support marijuana legalization. This is what happens when people throw out labels in lieu of actual reasoning. Christianity and conservatism are not synonymous. Moreover, neither Christianity nor conservatism mandate that one must oppose the legalization of drugs.
Can you show me a place in the Bible where supporting the legalization of drugs is explicitly verboten? You can’t. Also, there are plenty of conservative arguments as to why drugs should be legalized—chief among these being that conservatives do not believe in giving the state the unfettered power to regulate the day-to-day occurrences of people’s lives.
Your question is nonsensical.
Was Fidel Castro a white supremacist or a great ally to African liberation?
The notion that Fidel Castro cared about the plight of Africans is sophistical nonsense. He needed global allies for his communist agenda, and he did what he could to acquire those allies. It is silly to pretend that Castro was a pro-black ally when he did little to nothing to improve the plight of black Cubans.
It’s time for people to stop being snookered into believing that every person who takes a grinning picture with a celebrated black leader is pro-black.
Do you think it’s possible for African people to one day completely liberate themselves mentally and economically?
Yes. In other words, I am not an Afro-pessimist. Africa has a ton of opportunities and resources. All Africa needs is the right political leaders with the right strategies to actualize African economic independence.
Also, it is important for African governments to stop relying on the aid model of economic development. Not only does it disincentivize good governance, but it stymies economic development. Two good books on the subject matter include Dr. William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” and Dr. Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid.” (If you haven’t already read them.)
Do you think the Nigerian government can do more to stop Boko Haram?
I despise the fact that Nigeria’s global image is now inseparable from Boko Haram. As the Igbo novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned: Be careful of subscribing to a single story.
Nigeria is still one of the world’s top producers of crude oil and has lots of opportunities and potential. Its global image shouldn’t be defined by Boko Haram any more than the global image of the United States should be defined by crime in Chicago and poverty in Detroit.
Do you think black Americans who are able to trace back their roots to a specific African nation should get the right to have dual citizenship with said African nation?
I am a big believer in Pan-Africanism (sans the Marxism). Yes, I think if black Americans can trace their lineage back to a nation, they should get dual citizenship.
As I was discussing on Twitter a few days ago, where my specific tribe is concerned, African Americans who come home to Igboland can be given chieftaincy titles. (See photo of Forest Whitaker.)
What do you think about the Chinese getting a foothold in several African countries?
Neocolonialism is a problem that African leaders need to be aware of. However, it is important to note the difference in the Chinese approach to Africa when compared to the approach of the West. The West intransigently clings to the failed aid model of economic development, whereas the Chinese go into Africa with the spirit of entrepreneurship.
I think the Chinese approach to Africa is ultimately better, but they definitely need to be watched. Everything the Chinese do in Africa should meaningfully improve the lives of Africans. African leaders need to be vigilant to ensure that entrepreneurship does not turn into backdoor neocolonialism.
How can the black intelligentsia (academics, etc.) better serve African Americans?
By resisting the urge to theorize away black agency—and no longer using sophistical terms like “respectability politics.”
What’s wrong with black academics using the term “neoliberal”?
It’s just so cheesy. It’s a largely meaningless term that merely functions as an anti-capitalist slur.
Reparations… you said before you don’t like the idea of them. Why?
When did I say that? My position on reparations for the past few years has been that I support it in certain contexts. For example, I agree with the reparations argument in the Caribbean context. CARICOM demands reparations in the form of debt cancelation, and I support that.
In the African American context, I’m willing to be persuaded. A GI bill for descendants of slaves seems like an interesting reparations strategy. I would definitely support that.
Is racial chauvinism a good thing? I mean being pro black? If so how is it not good to be pro white and espouse white power?!
The idea that pro-blackness and pro-whiteness are equivalent is utterly nonsensical.
Being pro-black is just a statement about having pride in black identity—DESPITE the fact that blackness is consistently anathematized throughout Western society. Pro-blackness is a response to white supremacy. By contrast, whenever there is a pro-white movement or group, it is always about the subjugation of blacks and other ethnic minority groups. Show me an example of a pro-white group that doesn’t have anti-blackness as one of its core tenets. You can’t. “Pro-whiteness” is anti-blackness in practice.
Do you write full time? What is your profession?
I am a writer. Writing is what I have always done, and I will write for the rest of my life. I am also training to become a professor.
Top 3 Black/African American books you recommend.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s “The Mis-Education of the Negro”
Dr. Thomas Sowell’s “The Economics and Politics of Race”
Dr. Claud Anderson’s “PowerNomics”
Are you ever in between reading multiple books or do you finish one before the other?
I always have multiple books going at the same time. It’s not always the best thing because I sometimes forget which book contained what. To fix this, I stopped reading multiple books in the same genre at the same time. That way, I can keep all the points straight.
What advice would you give to a young black person aspiring to be an academic?
Read. Read wide. Read a lot. Read often.
After you’ve read, practice writing. Then go back to reading.
You clearly have a firm grasp on logic; did you study it formally? Could you recommend some self-study resources for those of us who are unable to study it formally?
Thank you. I did not study logic formally. However, as someone who has always been interested in debate, I learned it on my own.
Don’t learn logic from Wikipedia. I suggest buying a book and learning what constitutes a logical fallacy. When you know the fallacies, you can avoid them in your own writing and speaking. You don’t need anything complex to begin. Robert J. Gula’s “Nonsense” is a good primer.
How many books do you read a year?
I don’t obsessively count them, but I read between 40 and 80 books a year. It depends on the year. In 2014, I read A LOT of books and my number was probably over 80. In 2016, it was probably around 40. (I read a lot more academic papers last year.)
Approximately how many drafts do your essays typically undergo until you’re satisfied with the finish product?
Finally! A great question!
I am a perfectionist, so I am never satisfied. I just control my perfectionism and send it in after 2-3 drafts. If not, I’d be editing my work forever. With that said, I write pretty good copy, so there isn’t a dramatic difference between my first draft and my published draft.
When writing, do you start with a title in mind, then write content to fit, or do you title your essay after you’ve finished writing?
Another good question! My titles are generally awful. If I am writing for other publications, titles are sometimes written by the editor. I don’t worry about titles at all. Perhaps I’d have more readers if I did, but I really don’t. I always have in mind what I want to say. I care about the quality of my arguments more than the title.
Considering the fact that you’re a bibliophile, how do you determine which books to review? Does it have to “strike” you in a particular way, or be on a specific issue?
The books I review are chosen by editors and I am asked to review them. Remember, I don’t cold pitch.
Have you ever had anyone plagiarize your writing? If so, what did you do about it? If not, what would you do?
In the very few instances I have pitched to outlets, I’ve had my original ideas stolen and given to writers who then produced comically bad versions of my pitches.
I don’t really worry about plagiarism because nobody can beat me at being Chidike Okeem. In the words of the great sociologist and philosopher Lil’ Kim: “You can never be me. You can only resemble.”
Does a book deserve 3 readings? (Especially non-fiction.) This was a recommendation from a professor. Would you agree?
I disagree completely. Time is precious. An author has one chapter (maybe two chapters) to hook me before I’m done. Don’t force yourself to read bad books. The time spent forcing yourself to read bad books is time you could have spent reading good books.
Do you ever use fountain pens?
A great question!
YES!!! I am the biggest pen enthusiast. I’m poor, so I can’t afford the really expensive ones, but I love fountain pens. I have fountain pens from both Parker and Lamy. I want to get some Waterman fountain pens, but they are so expensive. One day!
I’m a struggling writer with a family of four. I don’t want to give up my dream. What should I do?
Write in your spare time, and get used to working through noise. Also, don’t seek instant perfection. It’s okay to write horrible drafts and polish them later. Don’t let anything stop you from putting words down on paper. If you wait for the perfect time to write, you’ll never write.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of rising early. You can get in a good few hours of writing while your family members are still sleeping. If you do that enough times in a week, your work will surprise you.
I hope this helps.
Where did “VoiceofChid” come from?
Good question. My teachers in secondary school in London and my professors in undergrad always commented on my “very strong writing voice.” Also, while growing up in London, I used to regularly buy newspapers. There is a Black British newspaper called “The Voice.” I was a regular reader. Those are the two reasons why “voice” stuck.
Obviously, “Chid” is an abbreviated version of Chidike. The Igbo abbreviation of Chidike is “Chidi,” but a lot of my white British friends call me Chid or Chids/Chidz. Given that people misspell Chidike a lot, I decided to go with “Chid” in the domain name.
You don’t spew a lot of right wing talking points in favor of republicans. Why? I followed you early in your writing career and you don’t throw out any “Red Meat” for us conservative/republicans anymore.
For the record, I never threw out “red meat.” I wrote unique essays that made original points that were framed in ways that were palatable to the conservative audience I was writing for. I was trying to get published. Even though I tried to frame my arguments in ways that conservative readers would identify with, I still got a ton of white supremacist hate mail. Why? Because even at 21, I recognized that the right-wing narrative on colorblindness and race is flawed, and that the right’s argumentation regarding multiculturalism is sociologically illiterate. That’s why white supremacists hated me—and they still do. I’ve always been pro-black.
It is absurd to think I’d still be the same person I was when I was 21. I will be 28 on Tuesday. A lot has happened in 7 years. I was a year out of undergrad when I started writing publicly. I have read innumerable books and papers since then. I went to grad school. I am not the same person intellectually. I have matured. I don’t want to be the kind of writer who pens the same material for 20 years with no discernible growth or improvement. In 2027, you’ll look back at my work and see more growth. I don’t know what that growth will look like, but it will happen. Growth is fundamentally a good thing.
What are your thoughts on essay word length? Do you have an optimal length for your essays? Relatedly, what length was the longest essay you’ve written?
I think an essay should be as long as it needs to be to make all the points. I’m not against longform essays, but I’ve noticed that many long essays are just long for the sake of it. Some people think length conveys gravitas, but it really doesn’t.
I think the longest essay I’ve published online was about 3,000 words.