Saturday, January 17, 2009

Justice Is A White Mans Word

Bernard Madoff ran a 50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Over the Christmas season he attempted to send jewellery to his sons and the prosecutor suspects that he is busy trying to hide assets.  At least one man has already committed suicide upon learning of the money that he lost by investing with him. Bernard Madoff is yet another example of the ways in which whiteness is privileged in the justice system. Many who invested their life savings with him are on the verge of financial disaster.  To him his victims were just faceless entities but the people who had their retirement savings invested with him, counted on him to be honest in his dealings.  Here we have a man who ran one of the biggest financial scams of all time and where is he sleeping - in his own bed.

Let's do a comparison between Bernard Madoff and 54 year old Roy Brown.

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ktbs reports:

A man who said he robbed a downtown Shreveport bank because he was out of a job and hungry has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for first-degree robbery.
Roy Brown, 54, of Audrey Lane, pleaded guilty in Caddo District Court to robbing the Capital One bank in December 2007. Brown admitted walking up to a teller with one of his hands under his jacket and telling her it was a "stickup."
The teller handed the man three stacks of bills and he took a single $100 bill, told her he was homeless and left, police said.
Brown surrendered to police the next day, telling them his mother didn't raise him that way.
Police let him sober up and interviewed him two days later. Police said Brown told them he needed money to stay in a downtown detox center, had nowhere to stay and was hungry -- so he walked up the street and robbed the bank.

Here we have two vastly different interactions with the justice system; a black man who turned himself in after stealing one hundred dollars because he hungry and Madoff who stole billions to feed his greed and ego. How does the man who stole 100 dollars out of a sense of desperation merit 15 years in jail, while the billionaire sits in his luxurious home surrounded by his ill gotten gains?  Someone want to tell me again about how blind the justice system is?

It seems that as long as you have whiteness and wealth, justice is what you can afford, but for POC who are poor, "justice" is something we have yet to achieve. Though Brown clearly committed a crime his sentence reflects more about his blackness and class position than it does what he actually did wrong. What galls me the most about this is the fact that daily blackness is constructed as criminal; yet when someone who is white is commits a crime it is understood as an individual action.  Many white traders have been charged with embezzlement and insider trading, creating tragedy in their wake, and yet whiteness is not synonymous with thief and danger.  When we think of the person who is most likely to rob us blind, the image of a white man in a thousand dollar suit is not what instantly comes to mind.

The social construction of blackness as criminal is what allows the justice system to imprison generations of men.  It has emboldened the police to treat our lives as valueless, as they slaughter us and violently abuse us.  I am quite sure that Madoff did not for one moment believe that his life was in danger when he was arrested.  He knew without being told that his whiteness and  his wealth would protect him from any serious harm.  Watching the imbalance in a system that is supposedly blind proves once again that despite Obama wining the election, the US is a racist society, determined to maintain a strict hierarchy of worth and value based in whiteness and capitol.

H/T Red Exile League


Drop It Like It's Hot

This week I would like to announce the WOC  and ally blog carnival.  I tried to organize this once before but did not get enough responses.  It is my hope to be able to run this carnival once a month and feature posts that show an intersection of racism and all of the "isms".  It is often the invisible elephant in the room and the more we all work hard to shed light on the different ways in which our society is divided the closer we will move to a post racial world. 

Here is the link to the carnival web page...Please take the time to submit something.   I would like to also remind everyone that I am accepting guest posts, so if there is something you want to get off your chest, just send me an e-mail. I am trying to broaden the conversations that happen here.

Once again I have another great line up of posts that I would like to share with you.  Please take the time to check them out and don't forget to leave your link behind in the comment section.  Drop it like it's hot y'all.....

Some Thoughts On Choosing Sides Or The Ongoing Betrayal Of Black Women By Black Men

A Girl Like Me- Digital Femme

Women's Work and The Economy: Imagining Equality

The Right Wing Is Going To Starve

Dear Sir Or Madame

African-American Transgender History 50's Style

Hey Republicans --Denial is not just a river in Egypt and personal responsibility is not just for the poor, single  mothers!

Disruptive Women In Health Care: Infertility

Radical Feminism And The Bluest Eye

think they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps

Oprah Just Honoured Gloria Steinem Why Am I So Mad

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Will Smith: Fame, Whiteness and Racial Denial

Today I popped over to Racialicious and was confronted with the following.

image It was as if some part of me was validated [after Obama won the election.] It was something that I’ve known for a long time that I couldn’t really say: ‘You know guys, I really don’t think America is a racist nation.’ I know that I feel like that sometimes but I just don’t believe that. There are racist people who live there but I don’t think America as a whole is a racist nation. Before Obama won the presidency I wasn’t allowed to say that out loud because people would say: ‘Oh yeah, of course for you, Mr Hollywood!’ ”

Quoted in the Daily Express

I will start off by giving Smith his due, and admit that he is  most definitely Hollywood gold.  Today when one thinks of a box office smash, Will Smith is the first name that comes to mind.  When we look at Will Smith though he is a black man, his fame and class privilege have allowed him to transcend many of the negative social stereotypes that are often associated with black masculinity.

The near invisibility of his colour has definitely been a highly managed phenomenon. Smith took the Bill Cosby path to fame. With the exception of his role on Fresh Prince of Bell Air and as Ali, he has specialized in what I refer to as "every man roles" i.e acting in movies in which there is little to no commentary on the blackness of his skin. Is it really any wonder that he believed in the post racial myth even before the election of the Obama? 

His body of work does not include any reference to the ways in which blackness is still a problematized identity in this society; in fact it serves more as stabilization of whiteness, in that it supports the idea that we do not live in a society that is extremely divided along race and class lines.

Will Smith can afford to take the position that there are only racist people because the chances that he will end up like Oscar Grant are slim.  Should he get pulled over for running a light, he will mostly likely be asked for his autograph instead of staring down the barrel of a gun.  His class privilege and fame can completely allow him to ignore the ways in which being a black man constitutes marginalization and exploitation in this society.

Clearly the man has been indoctrinated.  America is a racist, patriarchal, sexist, abelist, homophobic, capitalist state, and only those that exist with privilege are able to deny the reality of this situation.  Even if we  took  the incidents of racial conflict individually, how do we avoid the question of how these people came to their belief system?  We are not tiny little islands, we are interdependent and highly social beings.

Will Smith wants the world to view him as just a man and to a large degree he has been successful; however even his hero Obama cannot escape his blackness as president of the United States.  To maintain his Cosby path to celebrity, Smith cannot afford to admit the degree to which America is racialized.  The moment he reminds his fans of the obviousness of his being, he will remind them of their unearned privileges. 

Whiteness needs content blacks like Smith,  blacks that will not openly challenge the status quo in exchange for receiving some of the benefits of whiteness; thus supporting the lie that we have transgressed the racial divide.  The Will Smiths and the Oprah Winfreys end up being used as tools by people of race and class privilege in that they are held up as examples of inclusivuty and meritocracy.  If the accomplishments of the aforementioned were readily available to all, rather than just a freak phenomenon, they could stand as proof of change, but the fact remains that for most POC the lifestyle lead by Smith is unreachable.

Just as Smith needs whiteness to maintain his celebrity, whiteness needs Smith to maintain its mendacious spin on the facts.  It would not be in his best interest to face the truth of the ways in which the system that he claims is so colour blind manipulates his success to its advantage.   Blacks that challenge racism are not revered, we are considered angry malcontents.  The refusal to sup from the masters plate is considered a betrayal.  Whiteness wants gratitude for the table scraps not a challenge to its authority. 

If Will were to begin critiquing social imbalance he would be dumped in a New York minute and it is this awareness that encourages him to live in denial that the true cost of his elevation his loss of connection with the lived experience of blacks across the United States.  Obama may be president and Will may be the biggest star in Hollywood, but the US still functions like a neo apartheid state with people of colour waiting for a stamp on their passbook.

Editors note: This post is dedicated to D whom I love very much, but will forever be wrong about this and many other things.  I will try and get to the ATM post sometime in the near future ;)


Fight continues for reproductive justice

By Kris Hamel

Published Jan 15, 2009 8:47 PM

Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion as a woman’s right, will be 36 years old on Jan. 22. The 1973 ruling was wrested from a reactionary bench after years of struggle by women and their male supporters, as well as many legal and medical groups. Ever since, women’s right to reproductive freedom has been under vicious attack by right-wing, racist, anti-woman and anti-choice forces.

In the November 2008 election, voters reaffirmed their support for reproductive rights by defeating anti-choice ballot measures in South Dakota, Colorado and California. Across the U.S. they overwhelmingly chose Barack Obama for president. Obama supports the right to abortion and women’s reproductive health care.

Roll back Hyde Amendment, other restrictions!

A letter to Melody Barnes, head of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, was prepared by the Hyde–30 Years Is Enough! campaign, a project of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Women’s rights and reproductive rights leaders met with Barnes and other members of the Obama transition team in December to begin discussing how to “ensure real reproductive choices for all women.”

The letter states in part: “For more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment and other funding restrictions have affected the poorest and most vulnerable of low-income Americans, with a disproportionate impact on women of color and immigrant women. The Hyde Amendment denies abortion access to the 7 million women of reproductive age who are currently enrolled in Medicaid. These funding restrictions are the most detrimental of all attacks on safe, legal abortion care, and represent a clear violation of low-income women’s human rights.”

The Barnes letter urges Obama to “strike language in his first budget that blocks women’s access to abortion care, including restrictions on abortion funding for Medicaid-eligible women and Medicare beneficiaries (the Hyde Amendment), federal employees and their dependents (FEHB), residents of the District of Columbia, Peace Corps volunteers, Native American women, and women in federal prisons. Though attached to different funding streams, we consider these restrictions to be a single issue requiring consistent and equal treatment by President Obama.”

The letter to Barnes further states: “By striking funding restrictions, President Obama can place abortion back in the context of health care, thereby setting a new tone and signaling to Congress his commitment to comprehensive women’s health care. [T]his early commitment will bolster the efforts of our diverse and growing grassroots advocacy campaign as we continue educating the public and Members of Congress about the urgent need for a full repeal of these restrictions.”

Only 43 percent of House members in the new Congress are abortion rights supporters. The U.S. Senate now has 40 members who are committed to reproductive rights. (www.naral.org)

Among the signers of the Barnes/Obama letter are dozens of national organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, Catholics for Choice, the National Organization for Women, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and Black Women for Reproductive Justice. Dozens of local and regional organizations are also signers.

Bush’s parting blow to women

On Dec. 18 the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a new regulation affecting 17 million poor women–a disproportionate number of whom are women of color–who are enrolled in public health care programs. The restrictive regulationsignificantly impairs women’s ability to get such basic reproductive health services as contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their own health.

A Center for Reproductive Rights press release stated: “The new regulation allows people only tangentially related to the provision of health care and an increased number of medical institutions to refuse a woman care based on religious and moral beliefs. HSS claims this will further protect health care providers against discrimination; but in reality, it leaves women who rely on public programs unprotected and seriously violates their rights and needs as patients. HSS also purposely leaves the door open for health care providers to justify refusing a woman basic forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs.” (www.reproductiverights.org, Dec. 18)

Advocates for reproductive rights are urging incoming-President Obama to immediately rescind the new HSS regulation. The petition “Urge Obama to Take Action” can be signed at www.naral.org.

Just as it took a mass struggle to win Roe v. Wade 36 years ago, access to full reproductive health care for all women will involve grassroots organizing to build a strong, broad-based coalition for women’s reproductive rights. This struggle will continue on a national and state-by-state basis in order to stop ongoing right-wing, anti-choice initiatives and begin establishing reproductive justice for all women.

The writer is a co-founder of DANFORR–the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights, one of the signers of the Barnes/Obama letter. Email kris@workers.org.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Racists Play With Leave It To Beaver

In yet another stunning example   of our post racial world, racists have taken a decidedly white sitcom and married it to  their interpretation of blackness.  What I find ironic about this is that original show was decidedly racist in its purposeful erasure of POC and then by adding this virulent commentary over top it serves as evidence of how far we still need to progress to become an equal society.

This video is presented as though it  is comedy.  The idea that blackness can be represented by using the word nigger, and making reference to rap culture is a mockery of who we are as a people.  Is whiteness accurately represented by Leave it to Beaver?  While the makers of this video attempt to hide their racism behind supposed comedy, in actuality it is a concerted effort on the part of whiteness to construct blackness as a daily moronic sambo routine. 

What we are meant to take away from this, is that whiteness  is normal and good.  Whiteness becomes corrupted when it interacts with blackness because African American culture is necessarily ignorant, uneducated, and childlike.  You will notice that the adults are full of disdain for Beavers behaviour.  It is not accidental that Beaver the youngest child is chosen to "play blackness" as blacks have a history of being constructed as childlike to justify the so-called need for paternalistic white stewardship.

There are some that will ask where the hell is my sense of humour. Why isn't this funny ha ha ha?  It isn't funny because these stereotypes are routinely employed by whiteness to ensure its continued hegemony in the race pyramid.   The idea that rap culture can be used as an accurate representation of black culture  is fallacious in the same manner that it would be to use a model of inbreeding mountain people to represent whiteness. 

Abortion, Femicide And Somewhere In Between Women's Rights

Most cisgendered heterosexual women at some point must make choices regarding reproduction that have very real effects on their lives.  Feminist have argued that that not only do women need access to birth control, we need access to safe abortions.  It is a well known fact that outlawing abortion does not mean women will not stop having them;  furthermore when access to abortion is reduced, or denied women will take drastic measures that often times end in illness and many cases death.  What most pro-choice people fail to realize is that by not allowing women to choose, two lives are needlessly put at risk instead of one. 

This desire to ensure that women have access to safe abortions is now coming to conflict with femicide.  In many nations boys are the preferred child and when some women discover they are having a daughter they abort the fetus.  "In countries where sex-selective abortion occurs regularly, 108 boys or more are born for every 100 girls (without human interference, 104-107 boys are typically born for every 100 girls. Estimates vary but several countries in East and South Asia (China, South Korea, Taiwan, India)have a birth sex ratio of 108 or more.

According to Bela Ganatra Son preference is strong in all of the Asian
countries where sex ratio elevations have been seen. Patrilineal inheritance and kinship as well as patrilocality make boys more valuable to the natal family. Farm-dependent economies require male workers and in the absence of state-sponsored schemes, sons take responsibility for ensuring old age security for their parents. In south Asia, the dowry system adds to the economic disadvantage of girls. Religious traditions (sons perform death rites in Hindu tradition and ancestor worship in the Confucian tradition) also encourage son preference.

The ultrasound which is a necessary tool to discover the health of the child is being employed as a tool of sex selective pregnancy. This has caused a restriction in access to abortion after the 12 week period.  Not all women are aware that they are pregnant at this point and those seeking an abortion are restricted on the basis that they are seeking a sex selective abortion.

image

Even in cases where the abortion is allowed beyond the 12 week period the system can only rely on the integrity of health professionals to ensure that the decision to abort is not based on the sex of the fetus.  According to Ganatra, this has lead to the creation of "mobile clinics" manned by pharmacy assistants and local practitioners offering ultrasound services for the sake sex detection to the masses.

The solution is not as simple as outlawing ultrasounds, banning abortions, or outlawing these so-called clinics.  Even in cases where the technology has not been available to ascertain the sex of the child, it is not uncommon to find female children abandoned or murdered upon birth.  The desire to eliminate sex selected abortion in some cases has been used as justification to outlaw all abortion, on the grounds that it is never possible to ensure the true intentions of the mother.

The Catholic family and Human Rights  Institute claims that there are  are as many as 100 million missing baby girls because of sex-selected abortion. Clearly gendercide must end.  The growing imbalance in the male to female ratio, indicates that boys are still valued over girls.   These babies are dying before they even have the chance to live simply for having the misfortune of being created in a society that has deemed women a burden, or unnecessary to maintenance of a healthy and functioning society.

I will never say that gendercide is an appropriate reaction to the patriarchal desire to privilege masculinity.  The solution to this issue cannot be the reduction of access to abortion because it only confirms the belief that women are of no value.  How can we produce an equal society if certain members are not able to have complete autonomy over their physical beings? Further restriction of abortion infantilizes women and causes people to question our ability to make conscious decisions about our maternity.  Not  every abortion is inspired by a desire to ensure male progeny and this is the fact that is being overlooked.

The solution lies in rebalancing society so that womens lives become valuable. Education is the only answer to this issue.  Empowering women through education to participate as equals in society will lead to economic freedom.  Women who are capable of supporting themselves and understanding that their worth is not based in their gender, are more likely to make decisions about reproduction that do not include a gender bias.  If women are capable of providing for their families, the overvaluation of masculinity based in their role as providers will reduce.

Patriarchy will latch onto anything that increases their control over womens bodies and womens lives.  While gendercide is terrible, and must be brought to an end, recognizing that are various reasons that one chooses to have an abortion is important, in that asserts that no monolithic woman exists. Not all women are cut out to be mothers, and not all families can afford a new child simply because an egg has been fertilized. Empowerment is the key to brining an end to this travesty, not outlawing a procedure that is essential in allowing women to make concrete decisions about their lives.  The debate need not come down to abortion versus femicide, it can simply be understood as search to find ways to improve the lives of all women.


Love Hotels and Getting Your Kink On

In our most private moments we have sexual thoughts that we do not share with others.  Often times theses fantasies are constructed from some of the most disturbing aspects of society. The question is, is it permissible to encourage said fantasies by providing a venue in which people can act them out? 

Wired reports on a love hotel in Japan designed to provide an element of privacy and fantasy for couples.  Most of the rooms are based upon female subjugation as mechanism to encourage sexual release.

image "The walls of the Sexy X Room are covered with photographs of tied-up Japanese women from the '80s. Imagine the thrill of cuffing your date to the giant black X, and then dominating her while looking at photos of thousands of other women who have been dominated before her."

 

image "School girl fantasies pervade every culture, but there's something about the sailor uniform that makes boys go wild. This room replicates a typical Japanese public high school classroom. Notice how .the clock is set to 3:40 p.m., right around the time when most students have left the building and you can have your horny after-school detention student all to yourself."

image "Now that Japan has women-only subway cars and new anti-groping laws, it has become much harder for commute-time perverts to act out their fantasies. The Subway Room lets train fetishists relive the glory days, before women were empowered and trainmasters had the authority to impede skirt-flipping. It even features a button pervs can push to make subway sound effects."

image "People who would rather date Sailor Moon than their high school prom queen can check into the Manga Room. Submissive cartoon girls personifying the phrase "no means yes" watch over you as you do your thing. In a setting like this, handcuffs are indispensable."

 

 

All photos taken by Misty Keasler

The fantasies that this hotel promotes are not harmless.  Even though the people participating are well aware that their desires are not socially acceptable  in the larger world, the availability of these pleasure rooms provide a degree of legitimacy.  Though these rooms are rented by consenting adults I cannot help but notice that within these adult spaces, only one sex is granted a dominate position.  These rooms exist to promote male fantasies.

The submissive role of women encouraged by these rooms constructs women as existing only for male sexual pleasure.  There is no reciprocity, or even room to consider that women have sexual fantasies that require fulfillment as well.  While this behaviour is engaged in by consenting adults, it is far from problematic. 

When women are sexual beings we are called sluts and whores.  The only kind of sexuality permitted is in service of the male orgasm.  Whether it is patriarchal love rooms or the money shot in porn, female  agency, and legitimate sexuality are often divorced from our discourse concerning sex. 

The fact that none of their rooms are dedicated to highlighting the ways in which women are sexual outside of the male gaze is particularly telling.  While these hotels continue to flourish they speak to the various ways in which women are highly constructed beings.  Though many would have us believe that we have moved to a post feminist time, the continuing desire of patriarchy to reduce women to living pleasure dolls stands as proof that we have not yet reached a stage of true equality.

H/T Feministing Community.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Sho Nuff Knows Boss

I must be some kind of glutton for punishment. I keep banging my head against the same wall.  White privilege must be dismantled if there is any hope that one day we may reach a point of a post racial society.  I recently wrote Gay, White, and Male Still Equals privilege and the comment thread is full of denial and hatred.  Moderating it made my head hurt.  When I thought that things could not possibly be any worse I wrote Go Ahead Say Nigger.  That post was linked to by a white supremacist site and the white sheets came out in full force.

Womanist Musings continues to have troll infestations because I refuse to be silenced.  I refuse to pretend that whiteness is meant to lead, or is in any way superior to me.  What I find interesting is the lack of imagination used in all of the counter attacks, I'm angry, ignorant, talking about all white people, racist, clueless, etc and etc,. For all of the power that whiteness has, the excuses that it uses for maintaining it are just tired and old.

To all of you OH NOEZ people; if it is not about you don't make it about you. Understand that when I am speaking about whiteness, I am referring to it in a systemic sense.  While you may feel that you are not racist, you are certainly not colour blind; so don't give me the bullshit about how you don't see colour.  Everything in your upbringing has taught you to not only see colour, but to assign  value based judgements. 

The ability to quote Dr.King pre 1963 does not mean that you are down with the struggle.  Pointing out your black friend is like introducing your pet at a dog park.  Approaching me with slang, thinking that you are speaking "my language" only proves your ability to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Assuming that I like rap, hip hop or R&B just serves  to prove that you believe that all black folk are the same. 

Don't refer to me as articulate, or tell me that I don't sound black.  I went to school just like you did and believe it or not they teach blacks to read, write, and do math...Yeah I know who would have thought eh?  It is further unnecessary to continually refer to the color of my skin.  I own a mirror and I am not shocked when I look in the mirror and see a black face looking back at me.

I am not beautiful for a black girl.  I am a damn gorgeous black woman.  This does not mean you get to go on about how exotic I am, or question were I am really from.  My birth certificate says Canadian and that makes me just as Canadian as you.  Not all blacks got off a boat from somewhere, or are looking to find someone to marry for the sake of citizenship

When you see me with my children, don't assume that they don't have a father awaiting our return.  I know that the media projects the idea that we are all single mothers, but some of us are in happy faithful relationships.  Just because I am a black woman do not assume that I have an open for business sign on my underwear.  Whiteness has taught you that you are irresistible and that all black women crave dick continually, but I will shut you down and publicly shame you, so please for the sake of your own self pride, stick to stroking one out over a porn mag, you will find no satisfaction here.

The poor disenfranchised white man/woman routine simply makes you look ridiculous. I don't care that your cousin/ friend/son cannot get a job as a fireman or police officer. Have you looked at these departments?  They are all overwhelmingly white.  I don't care that you didn't get into the college of your choice either.  There are plenty of lily white campuses for you to attend, where they pretend to be institutions that promote an inclusive environment.

Finally, just admit your privilege. You insult my intelligence every time you deny it or stand on your head to try to explain that it isn't what it looks like.  It must be nice to walk through stores and not be followed.  It must be nice not to be pulled over for driving while white.  It must be nice to see positive representations of yourself in every single social institution.  Privilege is as much a part of your life as breathing; therefore you might as well acknowledge what is obvious to all.

You don't need to wear a white sheet to be a racist, you simply need to spend your life enjoying your unearned privilege while POC struggle to achieve some form of social inequality.  I sho nuff knows boss that life is hard, but truthfully you have no idea how much more difficult it can be when you must face this world as a black woman in a world that values only whiteness.


Unraveling the Cliché of the Single Parent

The Inkognegro is a former Political Consultant and staffer from Pittsburgh, who now lives in Fort Worth, TX with his wife of 3 years and his two sons during the summers. He blogs @ Inkognegro 1.75 and is currently racing his mother for a Bachelor's degree.  His mother is winning.

Through no accident of the cosmos, I found that in burying my maternal grandmother I had witnessed a seamless evolution in our culture before my very eyes.

I was provided with a front row seat in the world of Single Parenting as it has evolved through the latter half of the 20th century. I have seen it grow from a dirty little secret, to a necessary evil, to a political football, to an acceptable life choice.

In 1918 a little girl was born in Washington DC who would never know the feeling of a close-knit family upbringing from the vantage point of a child. She vowed she would provide better to her children if God Blessed her to do so.

In 1943 that young woman of sketchy family history married a man of small means but large family roots and moved to Pittsburgh in search of a dream and avoidance of the military.

In 1954, my three year old mother was watching as my grandmother fended off her recently deceased husband's family insisting that she pick up her five children and bring them back to Washington, DC from Pittsburgh to be divvied up like Halloween candy to aunts and uncles that none of them knew so they could have a "proper upbringing."

In 1973 I watched my mother bury the musician's wife life that she knew and accompanied her to night classes at the University of Pittsburgh while she worked on a degree she would only get to the precipice of 35 years later because of a lifetime of putting family first.

In 1977 I had a conversation far more mature than seven year old needs to have with my mother as she explained to me why that old man who worked with the project police was hanging around more and more. And why she was suddenly gaining weight.

In 1980 my father brought me back from my yearly week long trip to wherever he was living at the time to tell me he was moving to California and that he was going to let my Step-father be the kind of father I deserved, because he couldn't/Wouldn't

In 1983 I watched as my mother came to grips with the reality of a life as a single parent again, now with a teenager and another little boy who watched cancer ravage and then kill his father.

In 1984 I watched my mother bury my Step-father just as I watched her bury the memory of her life with my father and step into a world totally different than the world she fled for marital bliss and homemaking.

In 1988 I bid my mother adieu as a fled the city/nest for the world of College, leaving her behind with a younger brother rapidly approaching a turbulent bout with Puberty.

In 1990 I returned to the nest with my tail between my legs and found that nest I flew unsteadily away from in NO way resembled the nest my brother was currently occupying a mere 8 years later.

In 1992 I fled my mother and brother again to reconnect with my heretofore invisible father.

In 1993 I left a promising College situation in California to move East to Suburban Washington, DC to help my mother with my brother, who had been pulled into the rabbit hole of a version of Black Manhood that was rapidly feeding upon itself.

In 1996 My mother and brother left me in MD to return home to Pittsburgh to care for HER mother, who had reached a point in life where she no longer should/wanted to live alone.

In 1997 I married a beautiful young woman who deserved so much better than the likes of me even as I deserved a whole lot better than the likes of her.

In 2002 I separated from said young woman leaving behind two young sons in an act that would ultimately make their lives more difficult and more fulfilling at the same time.

In 2004 I moved into a house with a lovely woman with three lovely children in an attempt to fix the mistakes I had made.

In 2004 I soon realized that I was so busy raising her children that I was neglecting my own…and that she was okay with that…and that THAT was NOT okay with me.

In 2005 I fell in love with a woman who had no children in part because she spent her life teaching them.

In 2008 I found myself temporarily raising two small children whose mother claims to need time to get herself together.

In 2008 I found myself approaching parenthood yet again; this time in a whole new circumstance.

In 2008 I returned to Pittsburgh to partake in a pilgrimage of my Maternal Grandmothers final days, as all of her Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and GREAT-GREAT-grandchildren, who were able came to pay their final respects to a woman whose dogged determination had borne the fruit of over 100 productive lives.

I sat in my mother's living room and watched 70 years of one woman's single parenthood writ large and in three dimensions reveal itself in all its subtle grace and honour.

It defied mere cliché.

It defied a single post.

It requires more time and more words than a sound bite culture will ever give it.

It requires the patience of the reader and the diligence of the writer.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oscar Grant, Police Violence and the War on Black Men

I have a new post up at Global Comment.  When I wrote it the officer who shot Oscar Grant had not been charged.  Today I learned that he has been arrested.

In the United States, there are more black men in prison than there are in college. There are racists that would attribute this phenomenon to the supposed “natural criminal instinct” of black masculinity. But to make such a determination it is necessary to divorce the ways in which racism is systemic. From childhood, we are socialized to equate racialized bodies with various nefarious acts. The black male is constructed as both hyper sexual and masculine. He is the rapist that all white women must fear, the thief that all store owners must be on their guard against, and finally the drug dealer and gang member that plagues police across America. The black male is constructed as the ultimate threat to civilization.

These beliefs have become ingrained and often stand as justification for the ways in which the penal system abuses and murders the black men that come under its jurisdiction. From the racist death penalty, to the black men that have been murdered in police custody, it is overwhelmingly clear that justice is not blind. Like any other social institution, much of its energy is spent in the maintenance of white hegemony. This is not news to blacks who have been forced to interact with law enforcement.

For generations within our communities we have been aware of the so-called suicides in prison cells, the beatings and bruises that lead to bloodied scabs. Our bodies have borne witness to police brutality in a way that the white bourgeoisie cannot even begin to fathom. When standing in your own driveway can constitute justification for an officer to discharge his weapon, where can a person of colour feel safe?

Rest of the article at Global Comment

The Black Church Needs To Start Practicing Some Love

I followed a tweet to Blackvoices where I was to find a statement by ordained minister Clifton Davis.  It immediately caught my attention because I have been following is career for a very long time.

image "It seems as though gay lifestyle has become commonplace. I have nothing against someone who is gay. They have the freedom to live their life, but in the house of God -- although He loves them in their sin -- He wants them out of it. I love my gay friends, but I would rather see them walk in accordance with the Word of God...and I sure don't want to see women kissing [women] on the air. I'm offended by it."

Where to begin with Mr. Davis.  Shall we begin with the first offence.  Gays and Lesbians don't have a "lifestyle", they have a life.  Say it with me for the world to hear. Gays and Lesbians have a life.

I would like to know what the obsession is with the mighty black church and homosexuality.  For years all that can be heard is  the perils of sin.  I wonder how many sinless days the good reverend Davis has had?  Does he honour the Sabbath day and always keep it holy?  If he is so concerned with sexual sin why did he have no problem kissing a woman that was not his wife on national television?  One need only have a lustful thought to have committed adultery and he went as far as to kiss a woman...in fact it occurred on several occasions.  Should we all be praying for his sinning ass?  Should we all be disturbed by his "lifestyle choices".  In a word HYPOCRITE.

While ministers in the black church speak about how offended they are by homosexuality what they are forgetting is that this an expression of love.  Even if the bible viewed this as sin which I am not convinced that it does, it is a sin based in love which is far better than all of the sins most commit on a daily basis. God/Goddess commanded that we should love one another.  Where is this mans love for others?  He is to busy sitting in judgement when the bible clearly states judge not least ye be judged. 

I am not a theologian, though I have attended enough church services to last me a life time.  I cannot quote masses of scripture, but I do believe that the one message that God/Goddess wants us to internalize is love.  Imagine a world where love instead of hatred where the primary driving force.  Imagine a world where we willingly put others above ourselves.  I am tired of these men and women of God using religion to promote their hatred.  Their ministry is the perversion and not the love shared by the gay and lesbian community.


Everyone Deserves A Roof

EDAR is the name of a portable housing unit designed by Peter Samuelson.  After noticing a homeless woman sleeping in a box that held a refrigerator, he decided that something more can and should be done.

“Well into the twenty-first century, if the best our advanced society can do for the hundreds of thousands of homeless human beings… men, women and children… who live among us is the cast-off box our refrigerator came in, what exactly does that say about us?” - Peter Samuelson

The government has finally said the dreaded R word: recession, but are we not all actually in a depression.  Daily the jobless rate rises and with most already living pay check to pay check being out of work for even a few weeks is enough to push those already living on the margins into homelessness.  We can no longer walk past these people as though they are non existent. 

This crises highlights exactly why I believe that our idea of private property as normal is deeply inhumane.  With all of the advances that we have accomplished, to know that there are families sleeping on the streets because they could not afford to pay a blood sucking landlord is a terrible thing.  Shelter should be considered a human right. 

The only thing we have not commodified is air, and in time if we can find a way we will turn a profit from that as well.  When will there come a point when we decide that people are ultimately more valuable than money? You cannot eat money, or gain shelter from money, it is only a means of exchange.  The will of the market does not care about the surplus population, it cares only about amassing more profits.

While I am thankful that EDAR exists and fully support anything that makes life easier for those that are suffering, I cannot help but ask, can we not do more?  I think about the 6000 sq foot homes, sports cars, and the shiny blood baubles on display, and wonder how it is that one person can live in such wealth when millions are suffering. No one is entitled to such privilege and yet we have created the differences between us as a natural occurrence.  We talk about survival of the fittest and forget that mankind is better than that, we have the ability to think and reason.  For all of our intelligence, what have we wrought but pain and suffering to the planet we call home?

In these tough times those of us that understand that we must all share our burdens must band together if we are to have any hope of a brighter tomorrow.

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For more information on EDAR---remember everyone single one of us matters and everyone deserves a roof.


Hate

Tahani Salah

Transcript is below the fold

I have this image in my head that one day when I step off this airplane I'll be on this land where the air is sweeter than any fruit I have tasted and that the land is softer than any cloud I could have imagined and that peace was possible.  But for now the mothers of our holy land are being stabbed,  raped and murdered and before I could get to her she has fallen.  My siblings and I feel guilty that we haven't given her ourselves.  For we bleed her blood for her blood runs through me.  I speak for her will and her people even thorough there is no one to listen anymore and still your questions stand.  Why do these young Palestinian children hate so much?  It shouldn't be why it should be what kind of hate do they have because it was never for a people or for a cause.  This hate keeps them alive.  This hate makes them live another day even though there's nothing to live for.  This hate makes them want to have children just to teach them not to hate, because on the other side hate is grown through children.  Hate is grown through trees in the shape of a v and never for peace for their own protection.  Hate is grown through black sheets and separation, never integration.  Hate is a factor in our country.  We teach our children to step and throw baseball at little league games while crowds of parents cheering behind them and in other countries there are six year old children steps they're throwing rocks  to protect the tears and the lives of their grandparents.  They're anchored to the cause.  So maybe this hate is not your ordinary hate.  Maybe this hate kept my father alive. Maybe this hate makes children feel as though they have to hold their  shit in one acts a day just to feel full.  Before you could even say you didn't mean it that way, six year old children walking down roads kicking pebbles the wrong way get shot at.  Seven year olds walking down roads, speaking the wrong language at the wrong times get shot at.  And before you could ever say you are sorry the mothers of the holy land are being stabbed, raped and murdered.  And before you could get ever get to her, she has fallen.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The View Takes On Anne Coulter

When colluders of the world finally elect a leader there is no doubt in my mind that Anne Coulter will be crowned queen.  When even Elizabeth (of all people) can see that your arguments are clearly sexist, how can you possibly continue on with the charade that you are anything other than a colluding troll?

I listened as she complained that she was being attacked and I thought to myself, poor little princess can throw a punch but cannot take it.  It seems freedom for the likes of Coulter involves demeaning and attacking the most vulnerable without being accountable for their actions.  She is so busy blaming women that she cannot take a moments pause to consider the ways in which patriarchy creates the conditions that lead to impoverishment of so many.  Were we to choose to support motherhood instead of denigrating it at every turn, the problems Coulter sites  would not be an issue.

Attacking the vulnerable is exactly how right wing neo-cons like Coulter get off.  Though I tried not to be happy when her mouth was stapled shut, I must admit that as I listened to her attack those that need our protection the most, what I wanted was her silence.  Colluders like Coulter are used by the capitalist patriarchy to endure their continued headship.  While she waxed anything but prophetic, her blindness to the fact that the same system that she was defending also devalued her because she is a woman astounded me.  Just because your pedestal has a bit of extra gold on it, does not mean that it is not still a burden weighing you down.   For the good of all women world wide, Coulter shut the fuck up.

Negotiating White Spaces

Unlike people of colour, whiteness can arrange and specifically choose to surround itself with whiteness.  It may be forced to tolerate a token POC in the room, but it certainly can arrange to never be the only white person in the room.  This allows for a certain level of comfort and purposeful ignorance.  By specifically choosing not to engage with POC, whiteness can ensure that it is never at a disadvantage. 

This level of comfort is not something afforded people of colour.  Each day we must interact with our oppressor, for everything from purchasing a stick of gum to attaining gainful employment.  Even in moments of privacy, simply turning on the television will bring whiteness into what is meant to be a safe space.  Whiteness is tantamount to big brother watching us all, manipulating and exploiting at will for gain.  POC lead a panoptic experience; constantly observed for signs of rebellion we learn to change our behaviour to appear non threatening and docile.  The repercussions of asserting autonomy leads to certain chastisement and often times pain.

From the moment we leave our mothers womb we begin the journey of negotiating whiteness.  For some our lives will depend on ensuring that we are perceived as posing no threat, and for others the chance to live a middle class lifestyle will depend on our ability to pass as the mystical Negro, even as the role causes bile to rise  from our stomachs.

Whiteness fiercely guards the spaces that it has come to rule over.  Like a jealous lover it watches over us awaiting a betrayal that is sure to come.  How can we be faithful to that which we despise? We are a colonized people, held hostage for the benefit of those that use the words equality, humanity, and shared responsibility with a dishonest and malicious tongue.

To negotiate whiteness is to understand that self preservation means withholding your rage, swallowing bitter tears in times of pain, and making something out of the remnants that are offered.  Should you have the courage to challenge the status quo it means isolation and derision. 

Even as I write this, I find my thoughts turning to those that complain about being forced to use "PC speech". They feel disciplined and controlled because in certain circles they must consider the experience of others before they speak, and yet for people of colour, the minute we leave our homes, every action and every word is a constant negotiation.  If we are facing more than one site of oppression: like ability, or sexuality, the prejudices may over lap in such a way that a safe space truly exists nowhere. 

Knowing that hostility comes with being black in a society that values whiteness, and  learning to negotiate it in such a way that you can retain your self respect, is of  paramount importance.  Many have internalized the negative characteristics that are associated with blackness to the point that they injure themselves.  Racism comes at a high cost for those of us that must deal with the brunt of it.  It is ever present and cannot be ignored.

Whether you are driving while black, or simply have the nerve to believe that you should exist with freedom of movement, living as a body of colour means performing your blackness.   Should you happen to be "articulate", educated and strong willed, whiteness will be sure to act defensively and remind you that blackness is not what you want it to mean, but what they have constructed it to mean for their own ends.  Though I called this post negotiating whiteness it really should have been called surviving it because for too many blackness means death.

Some in the African American community believe that we can reclaim spaces and or words.  How can we reclaim that which never belonged to us? Even that which we owned outright has been stolen and corrupted.  It is my belief that it is time to refashion blackness.  Assimilating to point where blackness becomes unmentionable should not be the goal.  It is not about blackness becoming as invisible in normalcy as whiteness, but understanding that we exist as a unique people with a broad and beautiful culture and history.

Acceptance means reaching a place where we no longer are forced to negotiate whiteness.  Separate, unique and valued is a state that blackness needs to achieve.  Understanding that difference is not only acceptable but necessary to a diverse thoughtful society should be our aim.  Encapsulating goodness as whiteness means that for some, our experiences and our needs will forever be ignored.

I have been called a racist more time in the past year since starting this blog than in the past 3_ years. Much of it stems from the fact that I refuse to capitulate to the false notion that whiteness should maintain its privilege unquestioned by all. It wants silence, in fact it needs silence if it is to continue to rule.  The taunts of reverse racist are an attempt to maintain the unequal power division in society. Whiteness is well aware that those that do not question are truly enslaved both body and soul.  It is a systemic force that often behaves in the same manner of patriarchy.  It will rail into the wind, distort facts, and oppress in any way possible rather than face a loss of power.

Power is the heart of racism.  It is the one aspect we seldom delve into.  We construct difference as naturally occurring without realizing the many institutions we have created to ensure that dissonance occurs daily.  Power is wielded purposefully and is no accident of nature.   Racists want to assert power over others and racial difference is only the mechanism that they use to achieve their ends.  When we view whiteness what we must never forget is that it equals privilege + power and unless we challenge both aspects we will forever be spinning in circles.  Whiteness is not more beautiful, or more intelligent, it simply exists with more power.


Because I Had The Choice

Mayhem and Destruction often provide the inspiration for my posts and this time is no different.  Destruction has been aware of the facts of life for quite sometime; however,  he occasionally asks questions for the sake of clarification.  Recently he expressed  concern about the way he was "hatched".  He is fascinated with the idea that I am walking around with little eggs inside my body.

I informed him that only birds and reptiles hatch and that I pushed him out of my body.  He looked at me in absolute amazement before uttering the words, "mom that had to hurt."  Yes, I told him but it was worth it because I love you. Then he said, but you were kinda stuck though mom, once the baby is in your tummy you have to have it.  This is when I informed him about abortion.

This was the first time he had heard of such a thing but I felt that it was important to discuss this with him.  Destruction can be certain of one thing, because I had a choice he is a wanted child.   When I became pregnant with him 8 years ago, I sat and thought about wether or not I was capable of raising a child, what the financial liabilities would be, the ways in which my life would change and if I even wanted to be a mother.  I was able to ask these questions because I live in a country where I had a choice.  There was no spectre of a back alley abortion, or a coat hanger that might lead to certain death.  The ability to choose meant that the decision I made all those years ago to become a mother makes Destruction a wanted child.

I was able to ask questions and make a reasoned decision based on the facts of my life.  This is not something that all women are able to do.  As much as we talk about bringing freedom and democracy to foreign lands, the real meaning of freedom is having the ability to choose.  For so many women globally though they supposedly live in a free societies, they are not able to decide whether or not they will allow a pregnancy to go full-term.  Since only women can get pregnant this lack of autonomy is a completely feminized form of oppression.  Men who will never know the risks involved in giving birth actually get to vote when it is not their lives at stake.  Imagine the audacity it takes for a man to decide to completely deny the sanctity of another being with full knowledge that many women world wide are the one raising the children  The statistics do not lie, despite the excuse that life is precious men find a reason to opt out when it comes time to work a double day, do the laundry, cook the meals, clean the puke and the shit - hey testosterone is about making the decisions not following through with them.

Apparently I need to "re-tool my feminism".  I have been told that advocating on behalf of women is sexist.  I suppose I could spend my entire life devoting my energies to patriarchy like the other colluders, but ultimately I believe that all people deserve respect and since patriarchy cannot see its own privilege I refuse to labour on its behalf.  So much of womens energies are invested in nurturing the males in our lives.  We do this from a place of love but these relationships do not entitle men to complete control of every aspect of our lives.  Motherhood is not like buying a sweater, there is no return policy.  This is a decision that effects your entire life.

If women can work, pay taxes, keep house, run companies, and become professionals in a myriad of fields, I believe it is safe to assume that we are capable of deciding what is the best course of action in the case of unintended pregnancy.  To deny us this right is to reduce us to children.  To deny us this right limits not only our freedom, but is a direct denial of our humanity. 

Destruction is alive today by choice. I weighed the options and knew that it would be difficult but ultimately decided that this was something that I wanted to do. I don't look at him with resentment because I chose to give him life. He is wanted and loved and everything I do daily, translates that message to him.  He is growing secure in the knowledge that I, his mother am a safe place.  In my arms he finds comfort and safety. 

Unwanted children do not have the same kind of security.  Unwanted children do not know this kind of love.  These pro-lifers don't really care about the life the child inherits; a heart beat is all that is important and that is a truly selfish act.  No child should be born that isn't absolutely loved, they are far to precious to be abused and neglected in the manner that  many commonly do.


Negotiating A Bi-Racial Identity In A White World

This is a guest post from one of my readers Mercedes Martinez.  It originated as an e-mail but I was so moved by what she had to say that I asked her permission to post it on the blog.

I am a twenty-eight-year-old Chicana. I am the mother of 7-year-old twins, partnered to a white man. My White mother grew up in a small, racist, East Texas town where she reigned as Autumn Empress. She became a college professor teaching developmental classes. My Mexican father was raised in Austin, Texas where he survived violence due to his accent when the high schools were finally integrated. He became a lawyer, prosecuting domestic violence. I am light-skinned, dark-haired and dark-eyed, commonly mistaken for either Jewish or Italian, mostly by people from the North. I was raised with economic and educational privilege, things that sadly go hand in hand.

I think that my father feared that due to my light skin I would not have a Chicana identity, that my color privilege would allow me to ignore the racist structures of the world. When I was a young child he would take me to department stores, in his suit and tie, and the department store clerks would jump to make suggestions about his clothing needs. However, when we went to the same stores on the weekend, my father dressed in a guayabera and jeans, the department store clerks wouldn't even look at us. He would then kneel down, looking at me intently, and say: "This is racism, this is classism." Through these experiences, my racial identity began to develop. (side note: have you noticed that classism isn't a word according to Microsoft? Who would have thought?)

To be bi-racial is to have all people at all times policing your identity and how you should construct it, just ask President-Elect Obama. To this day, it is hard for me to talk about my racial identity openly and honestly, I am very clear with people that I am Chicana, but then the questions and ignorant statements come, as if random individuals have any right to question my identity. In everyday conversation there just seem to be too many assumptions. I "talk like a White person," read: educated. Or, I "look White" when the person speaking has no understanding of the diversity of skin color in those whose ancestry is one involving colonization. When I speak about racism and the way that I survive in a system of oppression there is much pearl clutching and surprise: why would I be treated in such a way when this person understands my body as being White? This is the "gift" of White privilege, something I am intimately familiar with. I "might as well be White" or an individual will tell me, as if they are bestowing some ridiculous blessing upon my head that they "think of me as White." I am not White, I will never be White, and I don't want to be White. Yes, I could choose to pass, I could take my husbands name, go by my middle name, Shannon, and forget everything that my father, grandparents, aunts and cousins every taught me or wished for me. But what kind of option is that? To lose a beautiful family and culture in exchange for a life of fear and shame. I choose to be proud of who I am, and reject the "gift" of White privilege. However, I want to be clear that this creates a very careful balance between the rejection of the lie of White privilege, it is not something that can be bestowed upon another, and at the same time I must acknowledge the ways in which I do have light-skinned privilege and how that works in the world.

To those who would try to "gift" me with a White identity, I try to explain what it is to be bi-racial. To suffer repeated violence at the hands of those who think I am "trying to be White" or just purely to assert their White superiority through giving the Mexican a concussion. These are not things that happened to my father 30 years ago, but power structures that were enacted upon my body. Thus, while these ignorant White people might think that I am White, they do not speak for their race as a whole.

Similar statements about the ways in which the world chooses to construct my identity for me can be made about the Chican@ movement. I find myself frustrated at times with the movement. In many ways this is a movement founded on the concept that we are a colonized people, and a mesitzo race, and that we choose to be construct ourselves as Chican@ to show solidarity with the indigenous people of Mexico and to privilege out indigenous heritage. However, the movement as whole is distrustful of those of us of more recently mixed-race. To some degree, this is for good reason. If a bi-racial individual is light-skinned, which is of course not always true, we do have the ability to quietly melt into Whiteness. We can claim this privilege at any time, as we cannot visibly be constructed as POC, it only through our names, or accents, or family histories that we can be "outed." We must prove our dedication to our racial identity, families, heritage and solidarity with other POC. I understand and empathize with this cautiousness. It is a fact that many light-skinned families have chosen to change their names, or the pronunciation of their names to claim White privilege, mostly to the derision of both Mexicans and Whites. Clearly, there is no inherent solidarity among people of color; however, when individuals of color choose to construct bi-racial people's identities for them, describing them as not brown enough, or what have you, they are participating in, and continuing to create, a culture in which identity is assigned to a body. This is a game that is whole-heartedly divisive.

I would love to tell you that this lack of "official" identity is a place of empowerment and an opportunity to create myself outside of the existing racial system. However, that is not the case, power will not let go of a body so easily. Simply, to be bi-racial is to be culturally without a home. In my case, it is a bind created by a lack of clear racial identity and gender. I am not White enough and I am not Mexican enough. I am expected to be conform to both White and Mexican ideas of womanhood, an especially ridiculous and impossible endeavor. White men tell me that they love Latinas, and that I must "treat my man right" because I am Mexican. Mexican men tell me that I am "too independent," or that they are glad that I married a White man because "no Mexican man would have put up with your shit." When I chose to partner a white man, to many POC, I became a race traitor. They perceived this as my choice to further obscure my Mexican identity. Now, I am raising twin daughters who are light-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed and yet look exactly like my father and me. I find myself sharing my father's fears. I fear that they will not understand what it is to Mexican, that they will not know their own privilege. But, also like my father, that is my job, to raise them to understand the way that their privilege works in the world.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Transphobia In Action

Privilege uses fear as a mechanism to support its power. Privilege continually seeks to construct marginalized bodies as predators.  Gainsville, Florida introduced an ordinance allowing trans gendered individuals to use the bathroom to which they most closely present as.  Of course such a victory to cisgendered privilege could not go unchallenged.  The Citizens for Good Public Policy have released a commercial to make the public aware of "the threatening position" that "we "are placing ourselves in by allowing this law to stand. 

In the commercial we have a male person entering a female bathroom.  With all of the violence that transgender individuals face, the chance that someone appearing male entering a female bathroom is ridiculous.  The ad further equates a trans identity with paedophilia. A predilection to be sexually attracted to children has absolutely nothing to do with a  trans identity. Gender and sexuality are two separate issues; but to these bigots they are readily interchangeable if it means that they will be able to use their power to ensure the continued marginalization of a vulnerable group in society.

It is further extremely misleading to construct trans gendered individuals as criminally inclined.  When we look at the statistics it is clear that cisgendered individuals are the ones committing the crimes that are violent, as well as the crimes that are of a sexual nature. If one group of people should live in fear it is the trans community, because they are the ones that are daily assaulted, raped, brutalized, and murdered by people to threatened by the loss of their own privilege to have  respect for life. 

How many times do we have to see the trans panic defence used to justify homicide?  Where is the list of cisgendered bodies murdered by trans people?  Where is the list of cisgendered people assaulted by trans people?  The aforementioned lists do no exist because the victims of violence and hatred are trans people, not the cisgendered majority.  This commercials posits a possibility that in reality is completely reversed.   Allowing someone with a trans identity to use the bathroom of the gender to which they most closely represent is not going to harm anyone.  What these people fear is that we will all move just a little bit closer to deciding that everyone deserves to live with human dignity.

So if you will just excuse me for one moment to share with you my first thought upon viewing this commercial.  Fuck you Citizens for Good Public Policy.  A good public policy entails the validation and recognition of our shared human rights, not pushing your petty hateful agenda.

H/T Box Turtle Bulletin


Go Ahead Say Nigger

Yes you read the title of this post correctly.  I am tired of hearing white people whine about not being able to say the word nigger.  Blacks get to say it with impunity, and if we are really racially equal, all people should be able to say the word is the common refrain.

Here is the deal. March your racist ass to the centre of Harlem. Clear your throat, throw your head back and shout Nigger at the top of your lungs.  After you recover from the beating that will probably ensue, you can take comfort in the fact that you were able to say the word.

What is with the obsession with whites wanting to say the word nigger?  Obviously this word has negative social connotations because it has been used to denote blacks as inferior beings.  Just because some black people have tried to reclaim the word, using it as a term of camaraderie, does not mean that we all feel that this word should continue to be used in any context.  Other than when what I am writing necessitates its usage, the word nigger is stricken from my vocabulary. I don't remember either of my parents telling us that we could not use the word but we (my brothers and I) were all raised with enough racial pride to understand that this word is a hate word.

It seems that having the ability to say nigger is all that whiteness is envious of.  When was the last time you heard someone who is white complain that they were not over represented in prisons, or subject more often to the racist death penalty? How about begging to get that wonderful substandard education that is offered in ghetto schools?  OOOH, I know whiteness wants to be subjected to racism everyday, because it is oh so very envious of black people.  Perhaps they would like to live with the knowledge that their sons are more likely to die from violence than go to college.

NAAH, the only part of blackness that whiteness wants is the ability to use the word nigger with impunity.  Yeah, they want to be just like us don't they.  We hear all about how the pendulum has swung to far, and that whiteness is under attack, yet within the first wee hours of 2009 three black men were violently shot by white police officers and two succumbed to their wounds. 

The desire to use the word nigger with a sense of camaraderie, the way that certain blacks do is not really what is desired.  The desire comes from a place of anger and hatred.  Guess what, you don't need our permission to use the word nigger in this way because you already do.  Just because you have developed enough self-preservation not to say it to our faces, does not mean that the word has been deleted from your vocabulary.  When you are driving alone in your car and some black person cuts you off, don't tell me that the words fucking nigger don't instantly pop into your head.  Don't tell me that when you are with your white friends that your inner racist does not express itself because now you feel safe.

So go ahead say nigger to your hearts content because whites that wish to say that word do not have that desire from a place that  loves blackness.  A bigot has never needed our permission to hate us and therefore this whining about not being able to say the "n word" is nonsense.  Did they need our permission to enslave us? Did they need our permission to enact Jim Crow laws?  Did they need our permission to leave us to die in the wake of hurricane Katrina? 

Let's be honest, it's not about the word nigger, it is about a desire to be able to continue to rule without threat, or challenge to authority.  It is about getting us to believe all of the lies that have been told about us. Whiteness desires mental and physical slavery.  The truth of the matter is, no matter how much that word may offend me, even without its usage, whiteness has been able to make sure that we are continually subject to racist assaults.  Though this one particular word is painful, is it really any more painful than the daily onslaughts endured by blacks just to ensure we able to continue to draw breathe? 

So I say again...say nigger to your hearts content.  Yell it, embrace it, let your inner racist out.  It matters not because your actions have already defined you for what you are.  We are not blind to the continued racism of whiteness, we live with it everyday. 


Presidential Eye Candy

 image Michelle Obama is an extremely beautiful woman.  There can be no denying that when she enters a room she immediately fills it with her style and grace.  This is one aspect of her being. Michelle is extremely accomplished and this is now being overlooked by the desire of the media to turn her into a fashion plate. As the inauguration draws near, speculation on "the dress" has become daily commentary on most news outlets.  I find it interesting that no one cares what the first black president will be wearing, but his pretty little wife better make sure she has the right outfit for the occasion.

As the future first lady, she is one of the most socially constructed individuals in the United States. When she isn't being called angry, a baby momma, racist, anti-feminist sell out, ape, or unpatriotic, the world is trying to turn her into the next domestic diva.  Michelle like all other first ladies is expected to smile pretty, speak when spoken to, refrain from expressing an opinion, while ensuring that the white house runs smoothly.  We certainly cannot have a foreign head of state find a lump in their oatmeal.

The first lady has a lot of responsibility on a day to day basis, yet it is unpaid labour.   Just like women's work across the globe it is assumed that this is labour that she will be happy to perform for her husband.  Why wouldn't she want to work long hours for four years unpaid, isn't that every woman's dream?  A nominal title does not erase the fact that this is labour exploitation.  At this time we have never had a first husband but on the occasions that a president has been single, a female member of his family has always stepped in to play the role of first lady unpaid. Being the perfect hostess is supposedly a woman's pleasure.

Instead of spending so much time focusing on what she is wearing, perhaps women should be asking the more pertinent question of why she isn't going to be paid for the labour that she will be performing.  We should be making connections between Michelle's unpaid labour and the work that women do in the private sphere daily that maintains the public sphere. 

The work done by the first lady is the perfect example of the ways in which women's labour is highly necessary, yet socially devalued by all.  It is not counted in the GDP or GNP; women's labour never factors into any national  budget and yet without someone cooking, cleaning, raising children, and all the other support staff work performed by women, the capitalist mode of exchange would implode. 

We are not pointing out larger connections. We are reinforcing the idea that Michelle is nothing more than eye candy by daily focusing on what designer she will be wearing, or talking about her supposed star power.  I don't care if a dress worn by Michelle immediately sells out, what we need to emulate is her ability to think critically about the larger connections. 

The woman graduated Suma Cum Laude and we are obsessed with a dress.  It is like she has become the nations dress up doll rather than a sentient being with real emotions. I know that it is tempting to play barbie with Michelle because we have been taught that all women can and should be reduced in this manner, but if we feign to have any concern for our daughters, we need to resist this patriarchal practice and start focusing on the ways in which femininity is diminished by turning her into presidential eye candy.


Lili's Hands

Kelly Tsai

Transcript is below the fold.

Introduction:

For people who don't know what an overseas contract worker is, in the case in Asia right there are certain countries that are doing like blinging like good like economically right.  You are talking about places like Singapore, places like Taiwan, places like Japan.  There is many places there is many historical reasons for this, please get on Wikkipedia or Google and educate yourself. When I say educate, you say yourself, educate (myself) educate (myself) that's actually right you wanna say myself.  You see that lady is smarter than all of us combined so give it up for her.  So certain countries are doing better economically than other places like say Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka right.  So in the case of Asia there is a lot of young women, men as well, but a lot of time young women go to work as domestic workers usually in different countries and so this piece is called Lili for a young woman who is from the Philippines. Who worked for my Auntie in Thailand and Lili and I became good friends when I was there two years ago.

Lili's hands are small red and cracked.  She uses them to slice the fish from the market, smash garlic with the edge of the cleaver.  To spin the tap for the cold water, to spin the bitter melon and suck it of its dry newspaper.  Lilis hands wiped  down the counter with lightening speed, piles buns soft with heat onto a plate.  Lili's hands dashed sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, into the steaming wok which burns blush onto her cheeks.  Lili's hands cube the tofu, cure the chicken feet, and wipe the shit stains from my aunts toilet.  Lili's hands tug at the end of her t-shirt making jokes in English, Tagalog and Mandarin, pretending not to understand the arguments, pretending not to notice. Lili's hands message my uncles feet cracked from a lifetime of a soldiers walk. She cracks, contorts and twists his soles as he scowls tv watchin, Steven Chow gung foo chop his way over a wall. Lili's hands cradles her cell phone close to her ear to hear the voice of her husband in Iloilo. The one that calls her mama and cracks on air mailed karaoke tapes.  American love songs, American pop songs, Lili's hands rub acetone over her fingernails and keep her fed in Iloilo, Manila, Singapore, Tai Pai, from bitchy house mothers to wicked roommates, her fighting sisters and runaway friends.  Lili's hands know how to work.  Lili's hands ball into tiny fists as she pulls the blanket over her face in the back room on the cot next to the washing machine, 'cause she has a good employer, my aunt.  My aunt who doesn't rape, or beat or stab, or cut her wages.  My aunt who depends on her for her life.  To keep her family together as well as her kitchen.  To make food for people who otherwise wouldn't come.  To give to an old woman who often forgets how to.  Channel, Gucci, plastic surgery, and gold. Lili's hands pray to the Gods in the church, and the wind and the Filipino government, smiling she proclaims I must fight, for so many stories she grips in these hands. So many challenges to the pulse, she knows she is gonna be there when her contract is up with her man, her baby, her motorcycle, her house, her sugar factory. In iloilo the day her hands can finally work for themselves.