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May 3rd, 2013
08:42 AM ET

Opinion: What's racist about a talking goat?

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad - the one some are calling the most racist in history - expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.

The goat's funny.

The names of some of the black men in the lineup are hilarious.

The premise: ridiculous.

And I would think that's the point of a commercial with a talking goat. It's meant to be ridiculous and not taken seriously. It's comedy of the absurd, along the lines of Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," Jerry Seinfeld's parents on "Seinfeld" or "Dude, Where's My Car?"

Does it play on stereotypical imagery?

Yes, and because of that, I can see how some could be a bit put off by a police lineup featuring all black men before a frightened white woman. But come on, one of the suspects' names is "Beyonte."

The circumstances surrounding the scene in the commercial are so outrageously over the top, I found myself snickering more than anything. Similar to the way I snickered during a skit featuring Dave Chappelle, who was making fun of racism with the creation of his character Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist in the South.

And he's black.

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Filed under: Pop culture • Race • What we think
April 9th, 2013
02:18 PM ET

Opinion: Brad Paisley's risky song on race

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - In 2009, Brad Paisley released the song "Welcome to the Future" from his album "American Saturday Night."

In it, he sings about all the cultural changes he's witnessed in his life, including the evolving demographics of the country. He includes glowing references to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The election of Barack Obama inspired him to write it.

It's important to keep all of that in mind because for some, Paisley's latest song, "Accidental Racist," is making him look like an intentional one. I am reminded of an adage (but with a twist): No good ditty goes unpunished.

"Accidental" attempts to address a subject matter so few artists in country music are willing to do, which makes Paisley a brave man in so many ways.

Country music fans are notorious for excommunicating those whom they perceive as undesirable (see Wright, Chely). Despite Paisley's immense popularity, if he makes one misstep, everything could be snatched away. And attempting to bring a blue state conversation to red state radio could be one of those missteps.

"I'm not proud that people's ancestors were beaten and held in bondage," Paisley told USA Today. "But I am sure as heck proud of the farm I live on and the Confederate soldier buried there."

Infusing such a dichotomy into a song can be powerful. Unfortunately, "Accidental" sucks as a song. The chorus reeks like a '90s boy band ballad.

But its greatest sin is that in Paisley's effort to push for racial harmony, it miscasts the country's racial tension - with emphasis on the Confederate flag and Abraham Lincoln - as a distant thing of the past. A relic.

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Filed under: Race • What we think
Reaction to Newtown school killings
December 17th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Parents' promise: I will keep you safe

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) - December 13, 1996.

My son, barely a few moments old, is crying. I walk toward the medical room bassinette where he is lying, smile, and then tell him not to worry... daddy's here. And then ever so gently I place his tiny hand inside mine and again tell him daddy's here... I will keep you safe.

He stops crying.

I start.

And thus began a parent and child relationship that is probably no different than the billions that came before that night and the billions in the 16 years after. Of all the natural instincts that enslave my body, the desire to love and protect my son is a master I have never rebelled against. And I am sure many of you can agree: Being a parent can be both a person's greatest joy and greatest sense of anxiety.

"I will keep you safe," is what we tell them.

And then something like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happens, or the shooting at the mall in Oregon, or the movie theater in Aurora, and you are reminded of how increasingly difficult it is to do just that.

There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine in 1999, and sadly there is not a damn thing to suggest there won't be 31 more.

In my 20 years of journalism, I have had quite a few conversations with mourning mothers and fathers who have had to bury their children. Last year I interviewed a father who dropped his son off at football practice and never saw him alive again - taken by an undiagnosed heart ailment. I cried for hours afterward. I'm sure that father still cries on occasion today.

But something different grips your soul when you know the cause of a child's premature death was not brought on by ill health or an accident, but rather an outbreak of senseless violence that took place somewhere we once viewed as safe - like an elementary school. Or as we saw late this summer in Wisconsin, a place of worship.

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Filed under: How we live • Relationships • What we think
October 26th, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Opinion: Both parties have a huge race problem

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - I would call Sarah Palin's use of "shuck and jive" in a Facebook post criticizing President Barack Obama another one of those dog whistle messages to racists, but it's far too obvious to be covert. The woman who claimed to be an LL Cool J fan in her first book knew exactly what she was doing.

Why she did it is anyone's guess.

Maybe she's still mad Bristol didn't win "Dancing With the Stars," maybe she thought Donald Trump was hogging the dunce cap, or maybe she's so completely tone-deaf she thought she was helping the country.

But she's not. Anything that encourages the decades-long trend of racial division along party lines is not good for the country.

Mitt Romney may very well become the next president. But the polls suggest if he does, he will have little minority support. In a country that is growing browner by the decade, Republicans relying solely on white people to win elections is not a sustainable strategy.

And it's not a strategy that's reflective of the party's long history - from President Abraham Lincoln to a Republican-led Congress passing the Ku Klux Klan Act in an attempt to dismantle the group.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 may have been signed by a Democratic president, but Republicans were the ones who provided the push in Congress necessary to get it to his desk. Remember in those days, Democrats didn't turn a blind eye to racism; they were oftentimes the racists, especially in the South, whose Democratic lawmakers led a 57-day filibustertrying to stop the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Read LZ Granderson's full column

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Filed under: Politics • Race • What we think
Opinion: Oops, I left my sexual orientation at home
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last weekend prohibiting attempts to change the sexual orientation of patients under 18.
October 3rd, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Opinion: Oops, I left my sexual orientation at home

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - This morning I decided to wear jeans.

I could've gone with sweat pants, but I needed to stop by a couple of offices and didn't want to look too relaxed. I could've done slacks but didn't want to look too uptight. I'm not big into khakis and it's too chilly for shorts, so jeans won out.

I decided to go with the French Roast over the Morning Blend. When I got in my Jeep, I decided to listen to Eric Church as opposed to Zac Brown Band or Craig Morgan. I opted not to run that red light. I chose to park on the street as opposed to the nearby lot.

And just before I got out of the car, I chose to be gay.

I was going to make that decision earlier, but you know how hectic mornings can be. I'm just glad I remembered when I did. I've been known to go all day without remembering to pick a sexual orientation, which can make things pretty awkward at home.

Now, if that last part sounds a bit stupid to you, welcome to my world.

The idea that people can just pick their sexual orientation the way the pick what to wear or what kind of coffee to drink is so irrational that even conservative vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had a problem going along with that line of thinking.

Read LZ Granderson's full column
Opinion: When the son surpasses his father
What happens when your son grows into a young man who is stronger and more independent?
June 14th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Opinion: When the son surpasses his father

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - My heart was pounding so hard, it felt as if it were trying to break free from my body.

I couldn't breathe.

I felt dizzy and feverish, and my eyes stung from all of the sweat dripping into them.

And as I was desperately trying to figure out what was happening to me, I suddenly had this debilitating thought: My God, my son is trying to kill me.

Why else would he be running so fast? And so far?

When my 15-year-old asked if I would go jogging with him, I didn't think anything of it. We've worked out together many times before, and though it's been a while since we went running, I play basketball and tennis every week, so I'm in great shape ... for a guy my age.

But something unexpected happened somewhere between me laying him down in his bassinet and me being on the cusp of lying down on the sidewalk I was running on: We got older.

Read LZ Granderson's full column

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Opinion: Poor and fat: The real class war
A class war that politicians don't talk about is the link between poverty, obesity and life expectancy, LZ Granderson says.
June 5th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

Opinion: Poor and fat: The real class war

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - Over the past year we've heard a lot about class warfare, the "Buffett Rule" and the tax code and so on. But if you want to see a blatant form of poor vs. rich, walk into a grocery store. Here we are forced to decide between what's good for our kids and what we can afford to feed them.

Ground beef that is 80/20 is fattier but cheaper than 90/10. Ground turkey breast is leaner than the other two but is usually the more expensive. And many of us can't even begin to think about free-range chicken and organic produce - food without pesticides and antibiotics that'll cost you a second mortgage in no time at all.

Recently Michelle Obama's campaign to get healthier foods into poor neighborhoods came under new scrutiny because two studies found her notion of "food deserts" - poor urban neighborhoods where access to fresh fruits and vegetables are supposedly nonexistent - doesn't quite jibe with the research. The studies have even found that there isn't a relationship between the type of food offered in neighborhoods and obesity among the children living there.

That may be true.

But it is also true that The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a study that found $1 could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips but just 250 calories of vegetables and 170 calories of fresh fruit. And it is also true that Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, is also the fattest.

Read LZ Granderson's full column

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Filed under: Economy • Poverty • What we think
April 25th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Opinion: Boy Scouts feel a mother's wrath

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs Watch him on Tuesdays on CNN Newsroom in the 9 am ET hour.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - Jennifer Tyrrell dislikes public speaking so much that when she was in high school, she almost failed marketing because she didn't want to speak in front of the class.

But when the Boy Scouts of America made a decision that hurt her little boy Cruz, she did what any mother would do - set aside her own fear, spoke up and, with the help of family and friends, is fighting back.

"I've never been involved with any kind of activism or anything like that before, so this is all new to me," the mother of four said. "All I know is this has got to stop."

And by "this," she is referring to the Boy Scouts' policy of banning gays and lesbians from being members or serving as leaders. Earlier this month Tyrrell was forced to resign as den leader of the Tiger Cubs for Pack 109 in Bridgeport, Ohio, because the national office learned she is a lesbian. So even though everyone in the local chapter loved her, she was forced out by the discrimination that is woven into the organization's bylaws.

The cubs of Pack 109 are upset.

Read LZ Granderson's full column 

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Filed under: Family • Sexual orientation • What we think