In Paradise Lost, John Milton writes Lucifer’s fall from Grace as an epic tale, a battle between him and God. While it does a necessary job of dramatizing the narrative surrounding Lucifer-turned-Satan’s story, I don’t think it goes far enough. This is not necessarily a failing on Milton’s part, but rather it shows just how limited the scope through which he experienced life could extend. John Milton was a white man who lived in the mid-seventeenth century. The longer I sit with Lucifer’s story, and Milton’s poems, I begin to imagine that Lucifer’s story must be told from that of the perspective of little Black kids abused and abandoned by their fathers.
Most Biblical scholars point to the Book of Ezekiel as the foundational story behind the making, the rise, and the fall of Lucifer. This story, while brief, gives a clear indication of what life was like for Lucifer: a boy who becomes disillusioned of his compulsory reverence for his father, challenges his father and is exiled indefinitely. I don’t view this as a battle. I view this story as one with an unbalanced power dynamic, told by the person with assigned authority and credibility. When viewed in that regard, Lucifer becomes a relatable person with a story that’s not at all unique to him.
When I was just a kid, I remember having a love for my father that was unmatched. He and my mom had been divorced for quite some time. That story was always one that contained a lot of business I was not privy to at the time because it was business that belonged to “grown folks.” However, what I did know is that on those days where I got to spend time with him, I was most happy.
Waking up on Saturday mornings, the first thing I’d do was run up to hug him. I’d, next, find my way to the living room to start playing Mario Kart and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog on the GameCube console. He or his then-wife would be in the kitchen making breakfast. I sat there on the floor, inhaling the smell of sausage while dodging the Banana Peel in Mario Kart or the Piranhas in Sonic.
I remember those moments he would pick me up from my mom’s house, and we’d just drive. Sometimes we found ourselves at a restaurant, other times we found ourselves fishing. We would take the fish, the crabs, and the shrimp we caught back home and he would stand outside in his tank top, with his towel thrown over his shoulder, his shorts, and his sandals—we always referred to them as “Jesus Sandals.” That was my dad, for whom I had a deep love and reverence. We had a relationship until we didn’t. I loved and knew him until I no longer knew him to love him. He had abandoned me; abandoned me for his wife, for his other children, for all reasons that did not matter to me because all I knew is that he had gone.
Then there was my stepfather. Since I was 4, I’d known him. He was my baseball and basketball coach. If he could have been, he would have coached every other sport I played. He was my barber. He was my mom’s boyfriend who eventually became her husband. He was tough, but also gentle. He cared for my mom and all of us in a wonderful way. His words, followed by his actions, assured and reassured us that we would know no pain.
We would take random, fun road trips. He would help us with our homework—albeit, he was a coach in those moments, too, rather than a teacher or tutor. He kept us active in church. And while I am no longer a Christian, and thus, do not measure a man’s goodness by his role in church, I do find it good that he provided us with routine, discipline, and some sort of spirituality. But then, I grew distant from boyhood and proceeded into my teenage years. Much like my biological father, my stepfather abandoned me; except he did not leave our lives physically, he just was no longer present mentally.
With my teenage years, like all other teenagers going through puberty, I’d developed my own sense of self which was often accompanied by an attitude and an ego. I knew what I believed even when I didn’t. I knew what I wanted, even when I didn’t. I knew what I felt. Even when I didn’t. I read a lot and challenged the teachings of my elders even more. Since my twin brother and I were the first teens my stepfather would have been raising, I believe he was unsure of how to respond to being challenged by what felt like his own offspring. So though he never kicked us out of our home, he still abandoned us.
In this way, through these experiences, I relate heavily to Lucifer.
Lucifer’s story reads like that of a kid who was becoming a teen, who started to—as most Black parents would say—”smell himself” a bit. He was proud of his dad, but I believe he was also proud of what he had become. In Ezekiel, it is said that Lucifer is “cast down” from Heaven because his “heart became proud on account of [his] beauty, and [he] corrupted [his] wisdom because of [his] splendor.” But what good is a father who cannot walk his child through windy storms? Of what use is a father who cannot act as a guide to his child, who he created, in the parts of his life where he most desperately needs to be guided? And where is the sin in being proud of who one has become? In questioning what one has always been taught? In challenging the status quo? Can’t it be true that Lucifer, though flawed and imperfect like the best of us, saw that no one person deserved all the glory? That if his father created him to be his most perfect angel, that he, too, could be more than just a servant in his own kingdom? If Heaven truly operates with a “government,” as some scholars call it, why would a dictatorship be the government of choice? These are the many questions I am left with. Not just about God, but about my father and my stepfather, too. Because of patriarchy, men are committed to this idea that there can only be one: the alpha. These leaders are never to be questioned or challenged. But if God is just, and is truly filled with love and forgiveness, for what reason would he reproduce, or even create, this patriarchal and harmful way of life?That’s what the forbidden fruit does. It uncloaks the invisible; it uncovers the secret; it makes bare that which is clothed. Click To Tweet
As I understand the story, Lucifer’s father cast him out of Heaven because he didn’t appreciate that his child had developed his own voice and found his agency, so he abandoned him. He threw him out with no room and no hope for reconciliation. Now on Earth, Lucifer is forced to watch his father create other children, that he would also call perfect, in hopes to replace him. He creates these people in, what the Bible says is, “his image” with the expectation that they will be the obedient, docile children that Lucifer no longer was. They failed. It has been written that Satan—the name of the new identity taken on by Lucifer—has taken the form of a snake and tricked Adam and Eve into eating a forbidden fruit. Most attribute this to Satan being evil. I, however, believe this was an act made out of jealousy, but also as an attempt to unveil that which his father hid from Adam and Eve. Lucifer wanted Adam and Eve to see things as they were; for his reality to not be masked by his father’s promise of paradise through coercive submission and obedience. That’s what the forbidden fruit does. It uncloaks the invisible; it uncovers the secret; it makes bare that which is clothed. Lucifer wanted to show his siblings what his father would not: that neither he nor the world in which they lived was perfect.
I watched my father and my stepfather care for children in a way they had previously cared for me. I watched them both abandon me, one physically and the other mentally, with no regard for how traumatizing those experiences could be for me. I imagine that at the moment Lucifer took the form of a snake, he was just a little Black child with a broken heart, longing for his father’s attention. When I examine his story away from a religious lens, what I find is that Lucifer is the little Black child that I once was. I find that Lucifer is the little Black girl with a dad who felt he couldn’t love her anymore because she was becoming “too grown.” What I find is that Lucifer is the little fat Black boy who did all that his father asked of him, seeking the approval of a man he once revered, only to be left out in the world alone when he stumbled. What I find is that Lucifer is the little Black boy whose father preached a message of love and forgiveness on Sunday mornings only to chastise him on Sunday evenings for being less than perfect. What I find is that Lucifer is driven by a sanctified rage built and sustained from the pain of his forgiving father who just could not find it in himself to forgive Lucifer—a story not unusual to the little Black kid raised by the streets once their father resisted them for being gay, or the young Black child who joined a gang to find family in people who sought to understand them. Lucifer is not evil. He is a Black child who became an adult without ever being given the space to heal from his pain and traumas from his father.
I no longer think of any of these Biblical stories as anything other than mythological tales, but I do find that many of them still have lots of value. What are we teaching little Black boys when we tell them they are to blame for being abandoned by a parent? What are we teaching little Black girls when we interpret their pain as evil? How do we teach Black children to believe in and worship a god that will love and always forgive them when that god couldn’t do the same for his own child? What could have been a story of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation ended in travesty. All of this leads me to believe that Lucifer is no more than an abandoned, despondent Black child who is committed to truth over yielding to his father’s wielded power, but still hoping that the illuminating of his trauma will be enough for his father to reach out his hand in love and forgiveness.
Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Toxic Black Capitalism
Jay-Z’s recent decision to align himself with the NFL has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And for good reason. Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for 897 days. With no sign of him returning, despite maintaining a rigorous fitness regime, many are wondering why Jay-Z did not consult Kaepernick before signing on.
Five am workouts five days a week for three long years. Colin Kaepernick has been waiting in the wings since the NFL colluded to bar him from playing amidst player protests. Eric Reid, who stood beside Kaep in solidarity, has been subjected to excessive random drug tests for just as long. As season after season dredges on, Eric says he has no desire to refrain from protesting and has pledged to kneel during the national anthem this year as well. With NFL viewership in steady decline due to boycotts within the Black community, the league has reached out to an unlikely partner to repair their image and boost their ratings, Jay-Z.
A one-time supporter of the national anthem protests that brought awareness to blatant police brutality, Jay-Z has decided that there’s no time like the present to profit from his brother’s struggle. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z has brokered a deal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Roc Nation mogul is now positioned to serve as a gatekeeper, deciding who’s worthy to take the stage as a Super Bowl halftime act. As the internet reflects on Jay’s very vocal criticism of the NFL and recent Super Bowl Halftime Show performers, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation is lost on no one.
“Don’t Do This”
When news of Travis Scott’s participation in the 2019 Halftime Show reached Jay-Z’s ears, he was quick to ask the “Sicko Mode” rapper not to perform. Citing the poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick as the league turned a blind eye to police brutality, Jay-Z urged Travis to change his stance. But now, the “4:44” rapper is the one that’s turned the other cheek. Stating, “we’re past the point of kneeling”, Jay has all but embraced the ideals of his peers. Considering this partnership an opportunity to change the beast from the inside, Jay said in a recent interview that “this is the next phase.”
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?”
Ever the capitalist, Jay-Z has turned the ostracism of Kaepernick and scrutiny of Reid into a means of personal profit. While preaching Black solidarity, he cradles the all-mighty dollar. To onlookers, this poses a moral dilemma, but we forget billionaires often lack morals and have questionable ethics. While it is unlikely that Kaepernick will respond with his thoughts on the matter, his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and Eric Reid have made their thoughts known.
You can’t trust a man who cheated on Beyoncé to make good life choices
Eric Reid took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to chastise Jay-Z for his decision. Stating, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community,” Reid says the fight is on. He believes that it is “unjust” that the NFL is now “championing” social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing his former teammate. What Nessa has to say was much more scathing.
Sharing a video on Instagram of her boyfriend, Colin Kaepernick, training with his ally, former 49er Eric Reid, Nessa included a lengthy statement regarding Jay-Z’s decision.
Knowing that Jay-Z is helping the NFL rebrand itself is disheartening but predictable. After all, he is a prominent figure in the Black community. It was inevitable that the league would reach out to a “respected” rapper to leverage his image to increase viewership. In fact, it’s the same strategy they used when they reached out to Travis Scott. The only difference here is that Jay-Z is well within the ranks of the wealthy, privy to those dubious politics, and versed in the manipulation of exploiting his own community for financial gain.
Do you believe that Jay-Z’s efforts will lead to further dissension in the NFL? Or will his position as a gatekeeper lead to a fitting resolution? Do you think his relationship with Robert Kraft influenced his decision?
Merited Whiteness: Why Chris Cuomo Responded Violently to “Fredo”
Instead of talking about the obvious wrong of comparing “Fredo” to the n-word, let’s discuss merited Whiteness and Cuomo’s response.
While out with his family, Chris Cuomo was accosted by a man who compared him to the Judas Iscariot of the Corleone family, Fredo Corleone. It’s easy to see why Chris would have perceived the sudden hurling of “Fredo” as an insult, who wouldn’t. Fredo was a man out of his depth. He was intelligent, sure. But he lacked the cunning necessary to navigate life in the mafia. Fredo was a soft-hearted, loveable idiot who said more than he should have to the wrong people. His unintentional slight got him in trouble with a community that felt entitled to his allegiance. This is the very same entitlement that possessed a stranger to believe he held the authority to pull Chris Cuomo’s merited whiteness card.
Fredo’s offense in many ways is seen as something lateral to Chris Cuomo’s presence as a journalist at CNN. The child of the 52nd Governor of New York and brother of the current Governor, who is a staunch critic of Republican politicians and their constituents, Chris stands on the wrong side, to some, in a fight for “American Values.” He is outspoken and detached from his beginnings as a political analyst on Fox News. Being the descendant of a family that is only two generations removed from their Tramonti, Campania Italian origins, The Cuomo’s represent a side of American history that is not often discussed, the assimilation of European immigrants to American whiteness.
When Italians began immigrating to the US, they were not looked upon favorably. But like the Irish and members of other European communities, they united in their “othered” state to gain acceptance, overcome their backgrounds, and race toward the American Dream. But the American Dream isn’t a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog, it’s whiteness. To be White is to be distinctly American, devoid of cultural attachments and devoted to racial supremacy. But like the Borg, whiteness requires assimilation and shared consciousness. Like their hive-minded chant, Magats would also believe “Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
For families like the Cuomo’s, who were privileged enough to own a business and accumulate wealth shortly after their arrival, the trajectory to acceptance was higher than most. As Henry Pratt Fairchild said when discussing the bestowed privileges of whiteness to immigrants, “If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up — very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, and the burden of proof rests with him.” So how, after a single generation, did the Cuomo’s ascend their station? By becoming fast friends with the Trump family.
After Mario Cuomo represented Fred Trump in an undisclosed legal matter, their families maintained contact. Golfing trips in Florida and New York, letters filled with flattery, and partnerships that benefitted the Trumps as developers and the Cuomos political ambitions. Beyond the business relationships of the two families, you have to wonder what values they grew to share. Judging by a 2008 remark regarding Barack Obama where Andrew spouted “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” and Chris’ false equivalence of Fredo and the n-word, they share quite a few. Still, you must wonder why “Fredo” would elicit such a response from Chris. Is it because he feels his status demands subordination? Is it because he felt his whiteness was challenged?
Perceiving the use of “Fredo” as an anti-Italian slur, Chris Cuomo found himself feeling as immigrants did upon their arrival to the “land of dreams.” As explored by Maria Elisa Altese, there is a perception that Italian-Americans have forgotten what it is like to be targeted. Chris Cuomo has lived comfortably in the US as a white man, never before having his status challenged. As written by Robert F. Forester, in a country where the distinction between white man and black is intended as a distinction of value… it is no compliment to the Italian to deny him his whiteness, but that actually happens with considerable frequency.” So in his rage, Chris expressed how entitled he felt to the benefits of whiteness, it’s inclusivity, and how no one like him wants to be Black.