Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shoppers Drug Mart Keeps Black Products Under Lock And Key

image Well the US may have taken a step forward but the great white north otherwise known as Canada continues to hide its contempt of people of colour behind our national lie of multiculturalism.  A crouton gets more respect than people of colour do.  We are the invisible citizens, the national embarrassment despite our many contributions to the country.

For Non Canadians reading this post, Shoppers Drug Mart is the largest pharmacy chain in Canada. It is as iconic as Hockey Night In Canada, Tim Hortons, Don Cherry, and the Maple Leaf.  You can imagine my surprise when I read at the CBC that a Shoppers Drug Mart in Nova Scotia, has decided to put black hair care products behind lock and key.  If you want to get a relaxer (which costs about 12$) you need to find a clerk to help you.  If all hair care products were under lock and key, I would not have a problem with this decision; however only products specifically marketed to blacks receive this kind of treatment.  Clearly the message to the consumers is that Shoppers views all blacks as potential thieves.

Apparently this is a policy that has been going on for years. Teh thieving blacks cannot be trusted you see.  When asked about racism in the stores policy, the owner of this particular store referred questions to the head office.  Isn’t it just lovely to pass the buck.  I have been in many Shoppers over the years and I have never seen anything behind lock and key besides their foul smelling perfume line.  Clearly this is a policy of the proprietor of this particular store.

Okay fellow Canadians it is time for a reality check.  Racism is not just something that happens south of the border.  I know that you would like to live in denial of the systemic inequality, hate crimes, police brutality, and slavery that have occurred here but black Canadians have paid a terrible price to live here.  Being the final stop on the underground railroad does not erase many of the social injustices that we have had to live with.

Canadians have a tendency to practice a far more subtle form of racism than that which is practiced by our American cousins but there is no doubt that not only do we define ourselves oppositionally to the US (the excuse we use to claim status as an equal society) but that we have largely constructed the Canadian identity by default to be white.  On one hand we are proud to be the last stop on the underground railroad and yet people are astonished to hear that a black person was actually born on Canadian soil.  Yeah believe it or not there are blacks that have been here for generations.

Blackness and a Canadian identity are only conflated with one another when it promote white hegemony.   If one has any doubt as to this fact, a simple evening spent watching Canadian programming will reveal a whiteness that is almost blinding in its erasure of bodies of colour.  The US may present us in prime time as pimps and drug dealers but Canadian broadcasting networks would prefer to pretend that we do not exist period.

Each and every day there are examples of the ways in which Canada is a racist country.  Declaring ourselves not racist in comparison to the US does not mean that racism is not alive and well in Canada.  When politicians can publicly declarethat violence is caused by people who have grown up in different cultures and not the average boy next door”, clearly being a body of colour is to be understood as a criminal.  If our elected leaders can can make statements like this without feeling that it threatens their career, is it any wonder that Shoppers felt justified in locking away, black products?  After learning about this incident, I agree that Shoppers Drug Mart is indeed Canada’s drug store; it’s racist and privileges whiteness just like every other institution.


Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone.  Once again I have the usual collection of posts that I found interesting this week.  Please take the time to check them out.  As usual this is an open thread, so don’t forget to drop it like its hot and leave you link in the comment thread.

I would also like to remind everyone that I am accepting guests posts to help broaden the conversations that we are having on the blog.  Just send me an e-mail with your post and we can take it from there. I would like to thank everyone that  contributed this week, it lead to some really great conversations.

In other business, I am once again reminding everyone about the WOC and ally carnivalPlease submit your posts. I am looking for posts either written by WOC, or that discuss the ways in which race interacts with the other isms.  I’m warning you, if I don’t get more submissions I might have to come knocking on your blog door. 

Read This-and Resolve Again to Be All In

Baynard Rustin, An Unsung Civil Rights Hero

Is it good to give head?

Myths About Lipstick Lesbians

Why I Became A Feminist (written by a man)

Poverty VS Domestic Violence and Women Who Are Homeless

Shared Differences Examines LGBT Students Of Colour

Being “colour blind” Is Not A Solution

TY Turns First Daughters Into “Girlz

White people cannot know how it feels to be a person of colour

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Obama Does The Single Lady

I know I promised to stop posting these Beyonce knock offs but I just could not resist this one.

 

H/T Nukirk via twitter

Friday, January 23, 2009

Drunken Negro Cookies

image While many across the globe celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama, one celebrity bakery was selling Obama Heads.  Ted Kefalinos, proprietor of Lafayette French Pastry declared that Obama “is following in the footsteps of Lincoln and would get his.”  When questioned by Fox news, he denied that it was a threat and inferred that he was only commenting on the fact that both Lincoln and Obama were from Illinois. 

The proper name for these cookies according to Kefalinos is Drunken Negro cookies.  He claims to have taken a census of his regular customers to find out if these were racist and was informed that they were not offensive.  He thinks that these are just a funny face and could not possibly be construed as racist because…wait for it….he has a Cuban brother in law. Are you as relieved as I am by that?  According to one customer who attended his shop, he was actually offering the cookies for sale as drunken nigger cookies, a claim that the socially progressive Kefalinos denies.

I am so comforted to know that the election ended all of the problems of racism in this world and that we are all officially colour blind.  With people as committed to equality as Kefalinos the world is definitely headed in a wonderful direction.  We should all thank Obama for waving his magic wand last Tuesday thus creating this post racial world.  Did you ever think you would see a time when whiteness went as far as to labour to make cookies to reflect our majesty? I’m overcome, now if only I could swallow enough killer kool aid to make me believe all of this crap.  To all you post racial enthusiasts, we can see the little man behind the curtain pulling your strings.

Contact Info for the bakery:

Neighborhood: Manhattan/West Village
26 Greenwich Ave Frnt
New York, NY 10011
(212) 242-7580

H/T gothamist


Keith Luke Rampage To Kill All Non White Bodies Proves This Is Not A Post Racial World

image That is the face of pure hatred and his name is Keith Luke.  He went on a shooting spree in Brockton, after stockpiling weapons and ammunition.  "According to a police report, Luke told police he was "fighting extinction" of the white race and planned to kill blacks, Hispanics and Jews. He allegedly said he had intended to kill as many non-whites as possible before killing himself."

The 18-page report by Brockton and State Police painted a startling picture of sexual violence and racial hatred. It described Luke as an obese, young white man who lived with his mother and spent much of his time on the Internet surfing through racial propaganda.

At the end of his violence Arlindo Depina Goncalves  a homeless man is dead, Selma Goncalves is also dead and her sister is in critical condition after being raped and shot.  Though it was his plan to shoot himself in head, the police managed to apprehend him before he could carry out his plan.

Go ahead, I dare you to say that we are a post racial world.  Swear it on the lives of Arlindo Depina Goncalves,  Selma Goncalves, Oscar Grant, Adolph Grimes III, and Robbie Tolan.   Once again bodies of colour are deemed a threat to white hegemony.  Where was the shining bullet proof black president to protect these innocents?  As much as society wants to believe that Obamas election means that we have progressed socially, the blood of POC still flows freely at the behest of whiteness.

His lawyers are already saying that Luke is mentally unstable and this may well be the case; however his continual visitation of white supremacy hate sites certainly fed his delusion that whiteness is under threat by POC.  Sites like Stormfront act like a new age Klan meeting and function as a cyber gathering place for those who desire to not only privilege whiteness but to dehumanize all POC. 

There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  Some will stand by the slippery slope argument, believing that if we limit any speech we are denying freedom; however if speech purposefully dehumanizes another being, it necessarily encourages violence.  The first thing the Nazis did when they started attacking Jewish people was to construct them as not human and this provided the legitimation for their hate.  The moment we begin to see people as a sub species, it encourages others to believe that they have right to manifest their hatred in violent ways.  Hate groups hide behind free speech, and the ironic part is that they are an assault on freedom.

If he was indeed delusional, Luke’s violent fantasies were fed by groups like Stormfront.  These hate groups are not benign.  They encourage the dissonance of worth and value and are a cancer that we have allowed to flourish.  While many will say that what these hate groups have to say is indeed atrocious, few realize the ways in which they benefit from their existence.  By privileging whiteness as openly as they do they encourage others to continue to act in the interests of white hegemony.

Calling blacks niggers and jungle bunnies may be unacceptable to some, but it allows those who commit less of obvious acts of racism to point to groups like Stormfront and claim to be colour blind because their biases are not as readily apparent.  These less obvious acts of racism are just as damaging as the open aggressive hatred of white supremacists groups.

If this man is indeed mentally ill, I can forgive his actions; however I cannot give a free pass to those that fed his delusions for their own gain.  Larry King recently announced that his son wished that he was black, and in fact Larry declared that it is cool to be black.   When I hear statements like this I don’t see them as complimentary because they are not acknowledging the difficulties that blacks live with everyday.  It might be fun to be just like Oprah, Barack, Denzel or Will Smith however that is not the everyday lived experience of African Americans. 

On a daily basis we come up against racism that is designed to devalue us to the very core of our being and this indeed is not cool.  Though we have allowed a few exceptional POC to achieve what I term “honorary whiteness”, for the majority of us, living as a POC in a society determined to privilege whiteness at every turn, means a daily struggle not to be consumed by hatred.  How “cool” was it to be black when Luke decided that we were a threat?


GLBT Black And Invisible

Since the blame the blacks meme that resulted from the passing of prop 8, I have posted quite frequently about racism in the GLBT community.  Despite how many examples I point to, like the It's Just Like Rosa Parks argument, gay is the new black,  or the racist, genderized minstrel show, Shirley Q Liquor, many in the GLBT community choose to pretend that racism is non existent.  Those that demand an intersectional approach to gay and lesbian organizing efforts are repudiated with the attack that we belong to a naturally homophobic race, or that we are being "overly sensitive".  Both arguments are a strawmans argument, and exist to shut down discussion.

The fact of the matter is, that just like any other social grouping in the GLBT community, whiteness seeks to lead and make its issues primarily the focus for organizing.  In the most comprehensive study done of the the black GLBT population in 2002, 50% of the black GLBT respondents reported racism, or racist experiences when interacting within the GLBT community.  Clearly if 50% of the population is reporting a negative experience, this is not just something a few black activists are critiquing from a position of homophobia.

Same gender marriage has been the big organizing push in the gay community.  While it will lead to obvious benefits, many have pointed out that perhaps this serves white bourgeoisie needs more than it supports the population as a whole. 

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You will note that the number one concern is HIV/AIDS, followed by hate crime and violence.  Considering the the rate at which the disease is attacking the black community can this really be a surprise?

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There is a serious disconnect between the white run GLBT organizing efforts and the black GLBT community.  The fact that critical voices are continually shouted down as too sensitive, reveals the length that whiteness will go to preserve its power even in marginalized groups.  The constant erasure of blacks is witnessed not only by those that are black GLBT but by any and all potential allies.  It encourages the false conception that same gender loving is something unique to whiteness and further encourages blacks not to identify as gay or lesbian as their primary identity.

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Despite being repeatedly told that blacks are extremely homophobic black GLBT members site race as their primary identity.  Now why would one want to identify with a group that completely rejects you? Could it possibly be that despite the mantra by the white bourgeoisie leaders of the GLBT community, that blacks are not necessarily any more homophobic than any other section of society?  Could it possibly be that the black honomophobe construction is dominant primarily to maintain white control over the movement?

Perhaps it is because black GLBT people  realize that their primary area of stigmatization is race.  This came as a surprise as I have often referred to racial discrimination as the first form of discrimination but not the primary one.  I made this assumption based in the ways my womanhood intersects with my race.

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As they interact with the gay and lesbian community and continue to have negative experiences based in race, it only affirms race as an area that must be confronted if there is going to be any advancement at all in the organizing efforts.

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What is clear is that the GLBT community needs to make intersectionality a primary focus of any and all organizing efforts.  Continuing to privilege whiteness over seeking to deconstruct the ways in which race, class, sexuality and gender intersects means that the movement is necessarily fragmented.  You cannot strive for justice while still acting as an oppressor. 

Well there it is in black and white and I am sure that someone will be right along to continue to deny that race is ignored in organizing efforts and that the white face of the GLBT community does not ignore the needs and desires of blacks. If the bourgeoisie white leaders invested half the time that they spent calling blacks homophobes and legitimately included a critique of race and sexuality into their organizing efforts, perhaps it would garner more support.

If people cannot see themselves reflected and then they hear from their GLBT black friends and family about the racism that they are facing within the GLBT community, they are less likely to be the committed ally that they should be.  Sexual discrimination is not a "white thing" and presenting it as such is harmful and reductive. Perhaps learning to share power would yield better results for all concerned.


The Cure For Fatness

image Robert Blue allegedly chained his daughter to a bed for two days because he wanted her to lose weight.  He chained her up to keep her out of the kitchen after he discovered that she weighed 165 pounds and not the 140 pounds that he desired.  He is currently facing felony child abuse and endangerment and false imprisonment with a deadly weapon charges, according to Clark County court records.

This is clearly a case of child abuse based in fat hatred.  As a parent Robert Blue existed with the power to realize his phobias on his daughter and due to the fact that both anti-fat sentiments and authoritarian style parenting are regularly encouraged by our culture, in his mind such behaviour was not only warranted but necessary.

When we combine his behaviour with the fact that the person who he chose to oppress is female, we add a specifically gendered element to his crimes.  Socially women are often valued for their appearance over and above intelligence, talent and skill.  Parents often don't realize the message that they are sending by only praising their daughters physical appearance.  In our gendered society it seems natural to tell a little girl that she is pretty rather than smart.

When a child fails to live up to the impossible standard that we have set for her, quite often social discipline to conform to idealized body standards will occur.  While what Blue did was definitely an extreme example of the ways in which we push our daughters to maintain their weight and dress in clothes deemed fashionable, this kind of coercion is by no means rare.

We view fat bodies as not only unhealthy but highly unattractive.  Airbrushing pictures of celebrities to trim away so called excess fact and flaws is a common practice.  Bulimia and Anorexia continue to be experienced largely by women; thus confirming that our desire to privilege certain types of bodies is damaging.  Blue thought his daughter was unworthy because of her weight.  The association of value and physical appearance is reaffirmed continually by what bodies we deemed beautiful in the media.  To be fat is to be invisible.

The ironic part is that at 165 pounds, depending on height, his daughter was not necessarily fat.  We have come to view underweight as the norm and look at women who are a size 12-16 as fat.  Our views of what a healthy weight is have become so skewed in our desire to escape the label of fat. Very few want to be associated with a label that infers that they are lazy, unkept, dumb and ugly.

It is my hope that Blue will be made to serve a long prison sentence for what he did to his daughter, but we should all be aware of the ways in which we are culpable of the crime that occurred.  Nothing happens in a vacuum and we have taught Blue over a lifetime the ways in which he should view the world.  Until we start to value all bodies regardless of size, fat hatred will continue to be an issue in our society.  The size of the body is not an indicator of worth; strength of  character is. 


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear White People

I was inspired to write this post from the following comment, left on a post entitled, "Go Ahead Say Nigger."

 I think your premise is really weak and holds no value. I am caucasian, proud to be so and would never use the word "nigger" in any context. I don't know about this rule that espouse I have a desire to hold onto but I've never ruled anything but my own mind. I am offended by your righteous indignation because you think every white person wants to use this offensive term in a way that is only reprehensible. Well, let me take the opportunity to correct your alarmist thought process, I've had others say to me "James, you my nigga." I don't like the word but I understood the fact that I was regarded as someone close enough to be referred to in this way. I hope some day you move beyond your antiquated impression of the caucasian mindset. The existence of such intolerance is only evident in small pockets and is reviled when it's expressed.

If there is a critique of whiteness and it isn't about you, don't make it about you. I don't know how many times this has been said.  Whiteness, like racism is a systemic force and while it seems that commentary is said in vague generalities, in actuality, it is a critique about the way whiteness is experienced and functions throughout society.  Though not all white people are alike and benefit differently from privilege based on connections to other isms, what cannot be denied is an inequality of worth and value.  Whiteness is a hegemonic force and acts in its defence daily.  While said defence may take different forms, its goal is to maintain unearned power.

It is a fallacy that the word nigger is only used by blacks as a term of colloquial friendship.  While you will never hear the word from the lips of mainstream media, it is hardly as disciplined and regimented as projected. It may not be your circumstance to interact with those that choose to wield that word as a weapon; however blacks have continually testified to being called that word or over heard themselves, or other blacks referred to as nigger,  Had you taken the time to ask people of colour what their experience with this word is, I suspect you might find that whiteness is not nearly as intolerant of racism as you perceive. 

While using the word nigger is seen as one of the most virulent ways in which racism expresses itself, it is hardly the only offensive terminology.  How often have you heard pundits ask if someone was playing the race card, or heard black women referred to as angry for having the courage to speak their truth?  I cannot tell you how many times in the comment section of this blog alone I have been referred to as angry for having the courage to be critical of whiteness.

My impressions of whiteness are far from antiquated, rather they are based upon by daily confrontations with it.  Unlike you, I do not have the choice as whether or not I will engage with people who do not look like me; whiteness permeates every moment of my existence.  It is like an invading force blocking, burning, and pillaging, all in its path.  Often times it is presented in a paternalistic form to make it seem benign, but to those of us that must negotiate it, the false constructs work to severely hamper our life's chances.  Blackness exists primarily as a spoiled identity to ensure the perception of whiteness as good.

I find it interesting that you would take the time to lecture me on all of the ways in which I am wrong, as though what I have lived is somehow less genuine than your life.  Of course, I am not meant to view your paternalistic attitude towards race as ultimately racist. White people cannot resist the urge to tell POC, about our lives as though they have a modicum of understanding of what it is to exist as an "othered"body in this society.  You cannot know our truth, and therefore the desire to tell us that we are reading a situation incorrectly stems from a deep felt belief that whiteness owns truth.

What I write may seem controversial to some; however unless you can approach these intersections from the point of view of a racialized body, you are bringing to bear all of your privilege in your analysis. One may strive to be an anti-racist, or fight to end oppression, but the fact remains, that being socialized in a racist society one cannot completely decolonize your mind from what which has become dominant discourse.  It may be disturbing and cause a visceral reaction to see a critical approach to white hegemony but this stems from your unacknowledged desire to maintain a racial advantage.

Just as I am shocked when I find that I have been abelist, or homophobic because my intent is liberation and equality, I cannot reverse a lifetime of being steeped in a society that privileges certain bodies.  Working in the cause of justice means realizing that no matter the efforts of the individual, unpacking privilege requires a daily effort. Growth is certainly possible; however we quite often will fall back on the familiar, not only because it privileges us, but because it is comfortable.


Michelle Obama Is A Sexual Being

I am sure that the first dance of the Obamas at the ball is the most watched youtube video in recent history.  I myself have seen it a few times and smiled each time.  What is immediately obvious when you watch it is the love that they share for one another.  Barack has repeatedly referred to Michelle as the love of his life and the expression on his face confirms his statements.

As I watched them dance time and time again last night, the one thing that I did notice was the sexual connection and or tension between them.  When Obama moved in for a kiss, it became clear that they would much rather be alone.  And no it was not just my dirty little mind that went there.

Matt: I think the white house master bedroom is gonna get inaugurated tonight.
arg

Justice58: You know it's true! :) Hubba Hubba!

Sepia: Bow chicka wow wow! Chicka wow wow!

The tension was even alluded to today on CNN.  The reporter quipped that the nation needed a cold shower, after watching the Obamas.  I realized as I watching this, that this was an image of healthy sexuality between a black woman and a black man.  What made it all the more compelling is that there was no artifice involved as it was based on a reciprocal love.

Often times when black women are seen in the media as sexual, they are in the role of a prostitute.  Our bodies are desired for the sake of conquest and then discarded shortly afterward like refuse.  We are the women you fuck and not the women you bring home to momma.  To see Michelle on stage so obviously desired by her husband and to know that this came from a recognition of her value as an intelligent and beautiful woman, rather than being a fuckable wet hole, gave new understanding to black womanhood.

We can be all things and that is what that dance said more than anything else.  While the eyes were on the new president, mine were on Michelle as she revelled in the majesty of the moment and claimed a space for all of us.  As a black woman I am no stranger to the assumptions commonly made about my body based on the colour of my skin. 

The ugliness of these assaults used to even cause me to deny the sexual part of my life to escape.  Asexuality was a defence mechanism I employed to rid myself of the negative connotations that often were married to sexuality and my black body.  When even men of colour refer to us as bitches and ho's, it makes it hard to believe that you are worth more.

From the moment we leave the womb little black girls are under a continual assault.  It becomes challenging to find a safe space where we can express all aspects of our being without facing discipline.  Whether it is the be a good girl and keep your legs closed mantra, preached by the church, or the equally limiting have sex for the pleasure of others, that the media sells, finding a place where you can come to a healthy validation of your sexuality outside of the bodies that seek to construct you, can be extremely difficult. 

Part of what makes Michelle so attractive to black women is that she is whole.  In her we do not see many of the scars that we walk around with but seldom discuss.  Though we are not naive enough to imagine that she, like all other black women have not been assaulted by the constricting roles that we are asked to play, what is resoundingly clear is that she has found a way to negotiate the limitations placed upon her. 

As we smiled and watched her dance with the full knowledge of the wonderful night ahead for the Obamas, how many people realized that this was about more than the dress, the first African American first lady, and the first African American president?  How many consciously realized that they had the good fortune of seeing a black woman as a whole being rather than the compartmentalized menial roles that have historically been assigned us?


When Religion Justifies Raping and Beating Your Wife

image Coburg's self-styled cleric Samir Abu Hamza has used his twisted version of Islam to  support the right of a man to beat and rape his wife.  This is not the first such declaration that we have heard  from so-called men of God.   These so-called holy men use religion to justify their misogyny and in turn preach a message of hate to young impressionable men, who have already been indoctrinated in a culture (western)  that teaches them that women's bodies are ultimately always available.

"In this country if the husband wants to sleep with his wife and she does not want to and she hasn't got a sickness or whatever, there is nothing wrong with her she just does not feel like it, and he ends up sleeping with her by force ... it is known to be as rape," Mr Hamza said.
"Amazing, how can a person rape his wife?"

How can a man who has sworn to love for life rape his wife?  Rape is not an act of love; it is an act of patriarchy, power, and violence.  Though Samir Abu Hamza  uses religion as justification, men have used all forms of reasoning to legitimate their violence against women. 

Steven Tyler of Areosmith claims never to have been rejected by a woman.

When asked in an interview in Elle magazine if he was ever rejected by a woman, Tyler replies, "Never. I'm a persistent motherf**ker. I'm very sensual and very rhythm-oriented and into poetry. Women can feel that."

This is yet another example of the fact that a woman's consent is often not deemed necessary.  In this case, Tyler falls back on his so-called Casanova persona to justify not accepting that no means no.

Late last fall I blogged about a man who routinely raped his wife and considered it marital sex.  She was unconscious and therefore was unable to consent, making any kind of sexual relationship between them rape.  The fact that she at one time presumably consented to such a relationship, was understood as perpetual consent ,rather than a potential violation of her person.

As westerners, we have a tendency to look at Islam and point to the ways in which it is sexist and patriarchal, without admitting that these same forces exist within western culture.  It is far easier to point a finger "at those" people, than admit that systems like patriarchy and sexism span the globe equally.  Whether it is Melbourne, Uganda, or New York, if you are woman, there is always the potential of rape.  We are raised with this knowledge and in time attempt to adapt our behaviour in such a way as to avoid rape.  The sad reality is that a woman's behaviour is irrelevant if a man has the intent of rape.  No matter what precautions we take, or how we dress, if a man has rape on his mind every woman he sees or interacts with is a potential victim.

While it is most definitely necessary to call out men like Samir Abu Hamza, we should do so with the knowledge that though religion is his justification, he is no different than any other rape apologist.  Men don't rape because of religion, they rape to express power over women.  Religion is just one amongst many that patriarchy uses to oppress women.   We need to oppose the patriarchal domination of men by women, in all forms if we hope to end rape.  Only recognizing a rape culture when it is another ethnicity, or religion, does nothing to dismantle patriarchy.

We need to see to take positive steps like feminist parenting of both boys and girls, critiquing the media images that our children see, lobby schools to teach a feminist curriculum,  demanding that governments acknowledge the pink ghetto, and take steps to provide economic opportunities for women.  The only way to destabilize patriarchy and end our rape culture is to empower women in every single sphere of life.  From education, to economics, to politics, to science, women must become leaders.  We must be seen as equal beings  that exist with equal social power to men, if we are to end our rape culture. If we agree that rape is about power then the best way to fight it is with equal power.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When Hyper Masculinity Supports Racism and Sexism In Policing

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"Women want the dick, even when they say 'no.' They want the dick."  Those are the words of the recently suspended CSU Police Chief Dexter Yarbrough.   The aforementioned commentary not only supports rape it blatantly promotes it.  When people deny that we live in a rape culture, they need look no further than statements like this, by those that we have entrusted to protect us.

According to the Rocky Mountain Collegian, Yarbrough regularly encouraged illegal activity.   As we look at the recent murders of men like Oscar Grant, the danger of condoning this kind of activity becomes readily apparent.

In a later lecture, the chief, who was a Chicago policeman prior to entering academia, said sometimes excessive and violent force against a suspect is a "reality of law enforcement."

"If there's a news conference going on, I can't get in front of a crowd and say. 'He got exactly what the f*** he deserved.' You know the police should have beat him, you know. I used to beat ass when I was in Chicago, too. I can't say that.

"I'd have to say, 'Well, you know we're going to have to look into this matter seriously … all of our officers, we like to think that they operate with the utmost integrity and ethics … All of that sh** sounds good. That sh** sounds real good, but in the back of my mind, damn. He got popped. If he would have done it the way we used to do it in Chi town (Chicago), man, none of this sh** would have happened."

While I am very happy that this man has been suspended, the fact that he was allowed to continue at his job with a $156,000-a-year salary is indicative of the ways in which we tolerate police abuse of power. The job of an officer is to protect us from danger and not act as judge, jury, and executioner.

What is further ironic, is that despite being a black man, he felt that it was necessary to train in this manner; with the full knowledge that it is bodies of colour who are most likely to abused and murdered when they interact with the penal system.  He has so internalized hyper masculinity that he has become blind to the ways in which race and class intersect to make POC especially vulnerable to police violence.  If he were not wearing the uniform, Yarbrough would be confronted with the same tactics that he regularly encouraged in the class room.

His activities serve as evidence as to why it is necessary for us to reject the masters tools.  Though he as an individual may have felt empowered, he was legitimizing the abuse of fellow people of colour and all women.  We must actively seek to confront patriarchy and the ways in which it affirms hyper masculinity because it is ultimately counter productive to a free and safe society.

H/T  feministing


How to be a Gori Girl, Shada Meye, Memsahib, or Farangi in India

This is a guest post by Mandy of Feminist Review

There is an interesting push and pull to being a White American woman living in Calcutta, India that turns everything that I thought I knew about power and hierarchy and resistance on its head. I knew before I came that my life would be different, though I wasn’t expecting that difference to take the form of my being constantly confused about the space I occupy in the place where the theoretical meets the actual. I thought that I knew enough about how oppression functions, how my whiteness provides me with a protective shield of privilege that I can call upon at any time (even if I don’t… or try not to) and expect it to work in my favour. I thought I understood how my white skin combines with my gender to keep me one rung down on the ladder, but still in reaching distance to the top—how being a White American means that I represent the world’s biggest superpower, and a history of imperialism and colonialism that I must be careful not to wield in ways that perpetuate the cultural destruction of Others. Then I stepped foot on Indian soil, felt the dampness of sweat start to sting my back as the heat and humidity engulfed my body, and struggled to breathe the acrid, polluted air. I realized that this white girl didn’t know nothin’ about nothin’ in this new place, or maybe in the old place either, and every day since is one where I struggle to learn, and re-learn, what I need to know to be a self-aware agent of social change.

From the jump, let me explain that this isn’t a piece about self-pity, nor is it a plea for sympathy. I admit that sometimes I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking, and I see this piece as having potential to work through some of my own confusion and maybe complicate the, no pun intended, black and white worldview that so many progressives have. I promise to try to be transparent and honest, even if it makes me look bad. I don’t want to hide my fear or my imperfections; we learn from our mistakes, and our fallibility is what makes us human.

Some important things you might should know about me are that I grew up in the South in a working class family consisting of my mother and two sisters. Racism is thick in the air down there, and I breathed it in daily in that well-meaning White person kind of way. I did not, however, live a segregated life. So far as my mom was concerned there were the “good” people of color and there were the “bad” people of color, the latter category being the ones it was okay to call the n-word. I went to a state university that has nearly no name recognition on a full tuition scholarship courtesy of the state government’s use of lottery funds to facilitate poor kids’ access to higher education. I worked full-time while I was in college because, although tuition was paid for, books, housing, food, and other necessities were not. In my women’s studies classes I started to get angry about injustice and make connections between the -isms and conclude that solidarity was a necessity, or as saying goes: “No one is free while others are oppressed.” I fell into that dogmatic space of so many trying to figure out their political identity as “real” feminists, anti-racists, queers, vegans, anti-capitalists, and a whole host of other identifying terms. Authenticity was most important, and the dichotomies of right/wrong and good/bad were so clear cut. After college, I moved to Brooklyn to work as a community organizer in low-income communities of color advocating for women and girls to live self-determined lives. For the past five years my clarity has slowly been eroded, and now I mostly see the world in shades of grey.

Just when I thought the grey couldn’t get any more undefined, I moved to India. Now, I’m not ignorant about Indian culture. I know why people don’t eat with their left hand. I know that it’s inappropriate for men and women, even married couples, to touch each other in public, that speaking to strangers of the opposite sex can be scandalous. (Though let me clarify that so much is rapidly changing here, especially in the big cities.) I know about India’s history of colonialism; the challenges the country faced before, during, and after the British occupation; and the way it currently both loves and hates the West. And coming here, I was nervous about all of what I both knew and didn’t know.

Being a White American woman, I was worried that I wouldn’t be modest enough. I t makes the feminist in me cringe to say that, but when in Rome… And I’m not arrogant enough (anymore) to think that I have the right to impose my cultural standards on a place that is not my culture. (But that’s a slippery slope, right? And what exactly is my culture or their culture since neither is homogenous? But those are questions for other essays.) So task number one was to buy new clothes and jewelry and make-up (markers of both class and modesty) in order to attempt to assimilate and indicate that I was “in the know”. Next step was behavior modification: eyes to the ground, don’t smile too much or speak to loudly, get rid of that sailor’s tongue, call my partner “husband”, and for goodness sake, don’t speak to or touch men! I told myself/tell myself that this is for my own good. It keeps me safer, doesn’t it? I congratulate myself on not being an arrogant American and talk some shit about the one White American woman who refuses to wear a salwaar suit, knowing that I’m being a “better guest” than she is because what I’m doing is respectful of Indian norms. And I really do think these things, but I also think it could be bullshit rationalizations, too—a way for me to eschew my own lack of comfort in salwaar and my own anger at having to hide who I “really” am from so many people. I liken it in my mind to how people of color must feel in White America, and am surprised to feel the same way, and then feel embarrassed that I think it’s an equal comparison, but indignant because I do think it’s an equal comparison. Global imperial power or not, I am still a minority in this place. Right? Confusion.

I get followed by men on the street, and strangers who tell me they’ve seen me around; they know where I stay. And I get stared at a lot every time I leave my flat to go to the food market, to my Bengali class, to meet a friend for coffee. At first I shrugged it off as curiosity. I am a six foot tall white girl, after all. How many of us are there in India? But men are always trying to come up with excuses to talk to me or touch me. They start conversations with my partner (where from? which country?) and then look me up and down multiple times as I try to will myself to disappear. My partner says nothing about it; he notices the overtly sexual stares, but he is uncomfortable too. He doesn’t want to treat me as his property, and he is conflict avoidant. We argue about this again and again. I tell him I’d rather be his property than sexual fodder for some strange man.

When I’m absent, men ask my partner if what they’ve heard about American women is true: that they’re sexually permissive, promiscuous, and available. He tells them it isn’t, that what they see in the handful of Hollywood action movies or Adam Sandler films that play in the big cities isn’t an accurate depiction of most American females. But they don’t believe him. They’ve seen the tourists in their tank tops with bra straps exposed and short shorts sweating in the sweltering summer heat. They’ve watched them take home Indian men from the discos and kick back Kingfisher after Kingfisher until dawn. They form their opinions about what that means in relation to their own cultural standpoint of what it means to be a “good girl”, a marriageable girl, and what it means to be a whore. White women, then, are whores. So I do what I can to mask my Whiteness because I don’t want to be a whore.

Every year there is a film festival in Calcutta that bills itself as showing “art films” in order to bypass the censor board. I was looking forward to attending, and on the first night, I went with some other Americans to see an Israeli film about FGM. The theater was filled, as is the case in most public spaces here, with about 80% men. Well, it quickly became clear to me that the intention of this festival, and no doubt a reason it’s so popular, is to permit films to be widely shown that could easily be described as soft-core porn. The film I saw that night—which I wish weren't representative of the other films in the festival, but sadly is—opened with a scene of about ten naked white women scampering across the beach and into the ocean, but only knee-deep, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to see their naked bodies, right? Then the next thirty minutes was of one particular white woman who was screwing (which was, of course, graphically shown) a bunch of the men in a hippie-style camp in Israel. She then seduces a brown-skinned Arab man, who is exiled from his family because of their relationship, but since her has lots of sex with the white girl, he doesn't mind the excommunication. Eventually, she is violently circumcised (FGM being a part of his family/community customs), which comes across as a punishment for her sexual promiscuity and a warning to the audience that not only are whores punished, but that cultures shouldn't mix. So sitting in this theater of primarily men during all of this was extremely uncomfortable. And as we were leaving (with two other white, American men and an Indian-American woman), this 40-something Indian man literally chases me down the street and keeps trying to talk to me (did you like the film? are you coming to more of the festival what is your name? where are you from? how do you like Calcutta? how long will you stay here? where do you live?), while standing so close that he was almost touching me, and even though I was mildly rude in answering his questions (any sign of annoyance is supposed to be taken as a cue to leave the person you're talking to alone) he continued to walk right next to me for over five blocks until I finally demanded to my friends that we needed to get into a taxi so that I could get away from this man. He never tried to talk to any of the other four people I was with, so I just don’t believe this incident was about cultural curiosity. And the fact that we'd just come out of that movie, and he's all up on me like that made me want to cut him. Or at least scream at him that just because I'm a white girl doesn't mean I'm going to fuck him like that woman in the film or on American TV shows. The reality is that my skin color makes me feel really unsafe here, which is so fucked up because this city is sooooo much safer than NYC in terms of violent crime. But constantly being treated as sexually available makes me feel like I have to be on my guard all the time... or like I need a male chaperone to leave the house, and both of those things just kill me. How do I get used to my white skin contributing to my female vulnerability in ways that it did not do in the States? And, as Renee pointed out when I asked her about writing this piece, am I a tool for Indian men to work out their own residual anger and resentment regarding colonialism? And what do I do about that? Or can I do anything? And how do I maintain my sanity in the process without resorting to ethnocentrism? How do I resist and know that my resistance is appropriate and understood?

So I’ve taken to asking Indian women what I else can do. Don’t yell at them in English because it just provokes them. Ask them what they’re looking at (in Bengali) or what they need. Attract attention (in Bengali) and ask older women for help if you need it. Stay in the “Ladies” sections of the trains and buses. Don’t respond with violence because that only makes you look bad, as violence isn’t viewed favorably and people won’t help you if you’re violent. And all I hear internally is “remain a victim because you don’t have any other choice. You don’t understand how things work here and you don’t want to make them worse. Do what you need to do to get by and try to forget about this other stuff. You’ll be back in America in a couple of years where things will make sense to you again.” For me, that’s not good enough.

So, this is where I’m at with this: perpetually confused, but trying to work it out. Roj ami shikhte cheshta korle shob kichu thik hobe.


When Punishment Is Cruel And Unusual

Imagine if you were a woman who was sentenced to prison for a heinous crime and as past of your punishment you learned you would be denied a critical medical procedure.  This is not  unique occurrence it happens across the United States.  Depending on what state you are imprisoned in, you will not have access to either your hormone treatments, or a sex reassignment surgery. 

This in my mind constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as it is forcing someone to live in a body that does not match their gender identity.  Some states will allow an inmate to continue hormone therapy if they were already on it before they were incarcerated, but no state will allow an inmate to initiate therapy. I cannot begin to imagine the trauma of watching as your once feminized body begins to reshape itself:  breasts would disappear, facial hair would return, and the fat would begin to redistribute.  The person that you are would literally disappear before your eyes.

image Michelle Kosilek fought for the right to continue her hormone therapy in prison and was successful in 2002.  Judge Judge Mark Wolf ruled that she had a legitimate medical condition that needed to be treated.

This decision has been met with a lot of ire.

"Sen. Scott Brown, filed legislation seeking to ban sex-change operations for inmates in 1998. The legislation died in committee.

Brown points out that most private health insurers do not cover sex-change operations, and says taxpayers should not have to pay for such "elective" surgery for inmates."

This denial of rights has caused undue emotional harm to many inmates.  This week the Boston Herald reported that a cross dressing dermatologist took hir life.   Kosilek has said that she feels distressed, "every waking moment".  Kosilek has already attempted suicide twice.  For her sex reassignment surgery is a necessity.

In Colorado, inmate Kitty Grey, who is serving 16 years to life for molesting an 8-year-old girl, is suing the state to provide her with a gender specialist she hopes will determine that she needs a sex-change operation. The state Department of Corrections is already giving Grey female hormones.

"For all intents and purposes, I am a woman in a man's prison," Grey told the Denver Post in an interview earlier this year. "That's like putting a cat in a dog kennel," Grey said.

Colorado officials say that providing a sex-change operation for Grey or any of the other two dozen transgendered inmates in the state's prisons would create security concerns.

Those who are advocating against funding the necessary medical procedure and or medication always site undue expense, moral condemnation, or the inability to provide a secure environment for prisoners undergoing treatment.

Dr. James Michaud, chief of mental health for the Colorado prison system, said he does not believe sex-change operations are medically necessary.

“There are certainly people who are transgender who want surgery and who want to appear different, but I don’t think that makes it medically necessary,” he said.

“It’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Gundrum, who helped write a state law that bars the Department of Correction from using tax dollars for hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.

He said the framers of the Constitution “were envisioning preventing people from being burned in oil or burned at the stake,” not simply refusing to use taxpayer dollars for inmate sex changes or breast implants.

As I was reading articles to write this post, I noticed that the wrong pronoun was repeatedly used.  News agencies also had no issue with using the former name of the people in question.  It seems that to many, these inmates are not worthy of even the smallest modicum of respect. 

This issue is complicated by our general disregard for those who are in prison as well as our rampant transphobia.  There are many who believe that prisoners should be granted only the barest of survival necessities; and therefore view hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery as an unnecessary expense.  There are also those who despite compelling medical evidence refuse to understand that someone who is trans gender needs to be able to express the gender that their body is not reflective of. 

Not all people who are trans gender need or want sex reassignment surgery and or hormone therapy, but for some it is an absolute necessity for them to be able to be a functioning human being.  We have forgotten that prison is also about rehabilitation as well punishment.  What kind of message are we sending these inmates if we cannot validate their humanity enough to give them the medical treatment that they need?  We would not deny someone cancer treatment (note: I am not calling a trans gender identity a disease) or medication to control blood pressure; and therefore we should not deny someone hormone therapy, or a sex reassignment surgery if that is what is needed.

In many cases transphobia is directly responsible for these individuals ending up in prison in the first place.  Many find themselves unemployed because they have no employment protection and are therefore forced to find other means to maintain subsistence.  While not all individuals become criminals, it is fair to state that the cisgendered community, along with our capitalist economy creates the conditions that force some to turn to crime.  It seems to me, that it is a terrible miscarriage of justice to further punish these individuals by housing them in prisons that do not match their gender identity and then deny them the medical treatment that they need.

I know that this post is a little bit awkward, but my intent is to affirm the rights of trans gendered peoples to receive the treatment that they require and to help raise awareness to the ways in which transphobia is damaging.  All people matter regardless of their gender identity, or what crime they have committed. Each and every single one of us is filled with potential and if we could simply learn to reconsider how we value people, this world would be filled with less crime and a lot more humanity.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amnesty International: Barack Obama First 100 Days

About 100 Days
Day One: Global Economy Fixed.  
Day 20: Global Warming Reversed.  
Day 83: Meteor Defence Shield Created.  
Day 93: World Peace Established…
We don’t expect the impossible from US President Barack Obama. But we are asking him to take concrete steps to counter terror with justice.
His first steps should be to: announce a plan and date to close Guantánamo; ban torture and other ill-treatment as defined under international law; and ensure that an independent commission on US “war on terror” abuses is set up.
These demands are part of a Counter Terror with Justice “checklist” of actions Amnesty International is asking Obama to take in his first 100 days in office.
These things ARE possible. Sign the petition and support the challenge for Obama.

The Big Speech

Consider this an open thread to share your thoughts on this historic moment.

My fellow citizens:

image I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


The Historic Inauguration: Looking Southward with Envy

This is inauguration post that I wrote for Global Comment

In Canada we have socialized medicine, same gender marriage is legal, and though we have a disparity between rich and poor it does not come close to the separation in the United States. Our rate of violent crime is also significantly lower.

What we do not have and what we desperately need is a man like Barack Obama. We do not have that one polarizing figure in Canadian politics.

There is no one challenging us to participate in our society for the sake of the greater good. There is no one whose body represents a great change to the status quo.

We remain the great white North. Our “multicultural society” is still represented by whiteness and though racism is definitely an issue, we have a tendency to focus on language and culture differences between French and English speaking Canadians. We are the great salad bowl; the mix that never integrates. The fact that our country is understood as white is certainly not deemed problematic, after all racism is something that only happens south of the border, we tell ourselves.

When Barack Obama becomes president his body will stand as an example of just how far African Americans have come. To blacks all over the world it will signify that despite the ways in which whiteness has constructed our bodies as less than, that we are capable, and intelligent. Globally blacks are among some of the world’s poorest citizens. We have been enslaved, had our lands stolen from us, been forced to mine precious jewels and minerals for the profit of others , undereducated, imprisoned, murdered and forced to watch as our women and children were raped and beaten. We remain a colonized people in a so-called free world.

Blacks from Kenya, to Great Britain, to Nunavut, will watch him take the oath office and experience a sense of validation and worth that the world has often tried to deny us

Finish Reading Here

Stop Trying To Make A Buck Off Of Obama

image

I am going to keep this brief because not much needs to be said.  You cheapen and devalue everything Obama stands for when you commercialize his image to hawk your cheap shit.  I have seen everything from the Obama thong, to the Obama Dildo and the Obama commemorative plates

I understand that it is the nature of capitalism to continually attempt to make a profit but can we not have a little bit of conscience from time to time?  Seriously, this has got to stop.  Slapping Obamas name on your cheap cologne to prey upon those for whom his election is a culmination of a dream is disgusting.  If you cannot market your product without this cheap little ploy, perhaps you don't really have anything worth selling after all.

I Gave Birth To A White Man

This is a guest post by Shawna Foster.

Shawna Foster is your average white mother living in the midwest. She awoke to the issues of women and race through her spiritual work as a Unitarian Universalist.(UUA.org) She has been trained by the denomination in Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression and leads workshops on these subjects at her church for adults and youth. She also supports GLBT rights through the "Welcoming Congregation" program at her church.

I gave birth to a white man. Not THE white man, but one of them. He'll have everything tailored his way no matter how hard he may rebel against the system. People will look at his blue eyes and think he is beautiful and courageous. He will walk down the street and be admired for nothing he did, but benefiting the from the system patriarchy has ruthlessly created for him. He will never be told he is too aggressive for speaking his mind, he is the embodiment of society's decree of
goodness. Even if he were to lose a leg, or to chose men as lovers, his struggle will be easily empathized with while those with brown eyes and dark skin are ignored and used as a token. His pink lips will never want for food, and his blond head will have university education easily accessible to him because admission tests make so much sense to him and his pale hands will be able to pick his friends of any colour whether they like or not. He will come to think of his sister as less and judge her by beauty instead of her mind, and will start to treat all women that way despite the best intentions. They will become objects and playthings to be owned, conquered, and put aside. He will automatically see his father's view as the right way to view the world, and his mother's as interesting, but not as valid. His father's approval should be more important than mine to validate his existence as a man.

And I will tell him of his ways, and tell him of his white history, tell him in the 1900's how my forebears lynched three black men over a small debt, how his grandfather used the word 'nigger' casually, how we were the slave-owners, how the people he loves at church are racist and elitist by believing we can't attract 'others' because 'they' don't worship the same way, show him the 'bad' north part of town under the bridge with the easy check cashing next to the liquor stores with schools and houses that are falling apart compare it to the 'safe' west part of town with planned communities and new schools and open spaces and crisp white streets, how white men raped brown bodies over and over, take him to the homeless shelter and see the majority are women and children crying for a home, how my grandmothers pretended to care as long as it was convenient, how Cherokee blood is only there because of a white man's rape, how even his mother still assumes those who speak spanish are the cleaning people, how his father fears black men on the street, how his teachers praise his opinions but not his black classmates, and he will tell me it isn't his fault. Somehow, he will try to escape the bloody, hypocritical, twisted, harsh hands of his ancestors. While he senselessly gets granted access to the best of the world over and over, it isn't his fault he takes advantage of it. He couldn't be responsible for his ancestor's deeds. He can't change his color anymore than anyone else. However, if it were possible, would he really? If he fully knew the racism, classism, sexism, ism, ism, ism, that he doesn't have to worry about now, would he trade his lot in life for a black man's? And he would say no.

To him, for the first time, he will open the door and look upon the house he dwells in, the house of white privilege and patriarchy, and see it is built upon sand - the tide is coming in. To stem the tide, white patriarchy does what it has for thousands of years: oppress others to add more sand. There he will have a choice to shut the door and live in the house pretending the foundation is sound. Or he can take a difficult road and leave the house built for him that have all
his friends in it. Because when he rejects the paradigm he will not have a house to live in. White males, his friends and his community will look at him aghast when he points out that they live in this house. And the community his appearance oppresses will not forget his ancestors sins and welcome him with open arms. Indeed, the only other person he will find is his mother, and even she runs back in the house of white privilege from time to time, adding sand to keep it from crumbling, sometimes realizing it and sometimes not.

Do not pity this white man or the future choices he has to make. Don't pity the mess white men have made for themselves, hate it. Help destroy it. They have had enough pity, forgiveness and every other advantage. Don't spend to much time thinking about this white man at all, he doesn't deserve it. He has his mother to look after him.


Lessons Not Learned From Martin Luther King Jr.

I was not feeling well yesterday and did not manage to write the post that I had planned to celebrate Martin Luther King day.  As I went through my usual perusal through feminist blogs, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many blog posts dedicated to the man and his dreams.  I have often called out the feminist community for its continued failure to deal with race in a serious and critical manner, but I must happily report that this is one time feminist bloggers did not let me down.

My happiness at the various MLK posts was very short lived. When I started looking at the comment sections, it was clear that many did not feel that it was necessary to engage.  By the time I got to Notes From A Bitch at feministing, I was positively seething with anger. It seems that despite the best efforts of blog owners, readers decided that these posts did not need any significant commentary.

I constantly receive e-mail from readers asking what they can do to challenge white privilege and my answer has not changed. After taking the time to STFU&L, the next step is to engage with POC.  If we do not speak about the issues critically and continue to pretend that they do no exist, no significant change will ever happen.  The failure to interact when the issue comes to race except to grab your pearls and announce to the world the various ways in which you are not racist gets us nowhere.

MLK day posts were the perfect opportunity for whites in the feminist community to reach out to blacks and show us that you care about our issues.  The deafening silence makes me wonder just how committed feminism is to acknowledging the legitimacy of bodies of colour.  For all of you who think that shedding a tear today as Barack Obama gets inaugurated means something think again.  Racism will not end today, tomorrow or the next day.  Nothing significant will change other than a black man is president.  Millions of black citizens will continue to be disenfranchised and you will continue to benefit from their second class citizenship.

As the tears run down your cheek and your heart swells with hope, I challenge you to look at the ways in which you support the system simply by inaction.  I challenge you to see the ways in which you refuse to be a catalyst for change.  What we do not need is more feel good slogans; we need a commitment to change and that begins by meeting each other as equals in conversations about the problems that plague society.

Damn it, why is it so hard to make the smallest effort to engage critically? It does not hurt you in anyway to acknowledge our shared humanity.  WOC have dedicated our lives to advocating feminism, even as our voices have been silenced and yet leaving a few supportive comments on a blog, on Martin Luther King day is too much.  Excuse my anger, but seriously wtf? Where is the hope if we cannot all be brought to together to celebrate the life of a man as significant as MLK?  Stop quoting his words for convenience when you need to prove that you are not racist and start living out his message.