Saturday, September 26, 2009

I’m Gay: Coming Out In The Media

Once again, he is so bang on correct.  The way that coming out is constructed in the media is absolutely ridiculous.  I mean seriously…they make it seem like someone is admitting to murder.  Heaven forbid the media just have GLBT people going on with their lives just like everyone else.  Oh no, we cannot possible portray being gay or lesbian as anything other than an oddity.

What Bacon Does To Children

Okay, I have to admit that I lost my mind laughing at this one.  In my house it would probably be the removal of cheese, that caused a mutiny this big.  It seems that when kids decide that a certain kind of a food is their favourite, the mere suggestion that they give it up is enough to cause an uproar.  You will note, that he had a fine day until she threatened his bacon, which he believed was good for him.  What food would you or your family mutiny over?

H/T The New Black Woman

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hey everyone.  We had yet another great week of commentary and I wish to thank you all for participating.  The postings have light because I have not been feeling well for the last couple of weeks.  Thanks to all who guest posted, your contributions are greatly appreciated. 

Tomorrow Allison, Monica and I will be doing another show on blogtalkradio at 8pm EST.  We decided to kick it old school this week and have a girl chat.  Listen in as we talk about events of the day as well as revel personal tidbits.  This is a great opportunity to call in and ask questions that you may have always wanted an answer to. Here is a link so that you may listen live. For those that miss the show, I will have a link to the archived podcast up on Monday.


Below you will find some links to posts that I found interesting this week.  Please show the bloggers some love and check them out.  When you are done,  don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

The Sad Saga of Caster Semenya

Incest rape in the media: from Elizabeth Fritzl to Mackenzie Phillips

conflict and love

LHM: Young Lords and Health Care Reform

The Nature of Love (According To Me)

The “Outing” of Tavis Smiley

Men lie, women lie but numbers don’t – let’s talk about women and poverty shall we ?

Failful Reporting Ahead

The BINGO Project

What’s So Hard About Inclusion?

‘For Colored Girls’ Who Don’t Like Tyler Perry

Articles on women’s unhappiness makes  me unhappy

System Shutdown

If You Drink Pepsi, You must be a queer, hate families and support abortion

New study on negative effects of smacking children


Friday, September 25, 2009

Nike Commercial Makes Black Athlete Look Like…an Animal? An Alien? What?

This is a guest post from femonade

This Adrian Peterson Nike commercial has been playing for the last few weeks…and its so horrible, I literally have to turn my head whenever it comes on.  WTF?  A black man cant be a great athlete without likening him to…an animal?  An alien?  Something inhuman, and some manner of scaly-skinned freak?

Here's what Nike had to say about their new “Nike pro-combat” campaign:

Peterson’s dynamic talents and powerful on-field persona are portrayed in “Alter Ego”, but it’s the image of last season’s NFL’s rushing leader sitting on front of his locker at game’s end that provide the title for the ad. A 3-D overlay treatment of the distinctive Nike Pro Combat deflex pattern on Peterson’s skin is symbolic of an implied transformational experience for athletes who wear the product, and creates a visually compelling closing to the ad.

m-kay.  He isn't supposed to look like an animal, his “embossed” skin is supposed to resemble the texture of their new protective gear.  Are we really supposed to believe Nike's claims here:  that they intend to convey to the consumer that pro-athlete Adrian Peterson has transformed into a shoe?  literally not. buying.  it.

In my estimation, the best-case scenario here is that Nike wanted not to give a black man animalistic or inhuman qualities, but used “texturized” black skin to evoke a skin-branding ritual with a sordid history, but that has been somewhat reclaimed recently by black fraternities.  Sadly, I suspect I am being very generous here, but even if that were Nike’s true intent, evoking skin-branding is not unproblematic.  In reality, skin-branding is literally a dehumanizing ritual that has roots in slave-ownership, where animals and people were branded to broadcast to whom said property belonged.  Besides, rich, white corporate types don't get to “reclaim” offensive language and images for profit (see here for a discussion about a new mobility scooter called “The Spazz”). But let’s stop pretending that skin-branding was the message contemplated, or easily read into, Nike's newest campaign.

Quite obviously, portraying black people as inhuman “animals” has roots in black American slavery, where black women and men were literally bought and sold as property.  Black physicality and sexuality have been and are currently treated as if they were “animalistic” rather than human in nature, and particularly when considering the historical context, that's a problem.  (does Nike not know this?  please).

Stereotypes of black men being athletically gifted, as well as “hung like horses” persist, along with an uncomfortable “upside” of this othering: these traits are also viewed as complimentary, or a sexual or competitive challenge.  Black female sexuality is also viewed as animalistic and a commodity, but perhaps without a comparable benefit to black women: women as a class are severely devalued in our culture of deadbeat dads and conservative fiscal attitudes, where women and children are not joyfully supported, and women's autonomy and well-being are politicized by the rhetoric of reproductive “choice.”

Big dicks and jungle fever might be fun to fantasize about for some, but there are grave and tangible consequences to these stereotypes, and the price is paid daily by black families.  Blacks are underrepresented as high-wage earners, in college enrolment, as elected officials, and in the upper echelons of the corporate and financial elite.  This is almost certainly related to the stereotyping of young, black bodies: there are ongoing consequences to the discrimination blacks face as young people, from the first time they are seen as sexual, and therefore a threat.

When young black men are unfairly viewed as being animalistic and out of control, and then surveilled, arrested and prosecuted if and when they cross the line, and given harsh prison sentences for even relatively minor crimes, (link) the consequences linger.  For example, third and subsequent drug convictions can lead to indefinite or permanent ineligibility for federal student loans.  And young black women are viewed as a sexual commodity by black men and others, but are left to languish in poverty and with few options if they become pregnant in the process.

In fact, the dichotomous stereotype of black female sexuality as ”jemima versus jezebel” seems particularly likely to result in early pregnancy:

[T]he sexual revolution of the 70s and 80s did not run very deep in matters of sex as it plays out in black life. So the black Baptist preachers seem to have the last word on black sexual ethics, these days. And their ambivalence toward sexuality is legendary, witness Jesse Jackson.  [...]  black female sexuality is governed more by the inadequacies of black Protestantism, puritanical to the core, and unable to confront matters of sex and sexuality beyond the proscriptions in the Bible. The attitude is, Don’t ask, don’t tell. Be silent. Thus the general response of these young women is that their mothers told them wait until marriage before sex, and nothing more. They all thought it was good motherly advice. Few however followed it.

and again, the effects linger.  On the issue of young mothers’ access to a college education, the christian science monitor reports:

Beyond [having no available on-campus undergraduate mothers'] housing and child care, these women sometimes face another challenge: stereotypes about young mothers. “Right now in our society it’s deemed that if you’re a young parent, you’re doing it wrong, and you’ve ruined your life,” Ms. Alemar says. “Twenty years ago, if you had a kid at 30, it was [considered] odd. Now if you have a baby before 30, it’s odd.”

Nike is surely making a bundle using racially and sexually offensive images to sell shoes and athletic equipment.  But as we often have to ask regarding corporate activities, what is the affect on the rest of us?  Black men and women are shouldering the burden of this “othering” and whites gain status whenever that happens.  But it’s a complicated matter, when everyone’s desire is created within a corporate and consumer culture that has no regard for our welfare, and serves only its own interests, and those of its shareholders.  (see here for Nike’s own “corporate responsibility” page).

Men and women of all races, so long as they have the desire and the disposable income, are going to purchase big-name products, if for no other reason than that there are few alternatives.  People may even go out of their way to purchase the Nike brand specifically, due to the quality and availability of their products, or the image their advertising firms have created.

Worse, Nike obviously has every reason to believe that this offensive ad will cause sales to increase, or they wouldn't have done it.  What did their marketing department discover in their research that lead them to this conclusion?  What is it about American corporate and consumer culture that's going to almost certainly bear out that result?  Note Nike’s message to its investors:  they are a “growth company,” founded on the premise that “if you have a body, you are an athlete.”  Perhaps it would be more honest for Nike to have said to all of us “if you have a body, you are a consumer.”  Message intended, message received.  now…WTF is up with that ad?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Illegal" Word is a Gateway to Racism and Exploitation

H/T angry asian man

What Is Racism?

In some cases it is easy to discern that someone has said or done something racist by the cross burning on your front lawn or the rabid shout of die nigger die.  No one could doubt that the aforementioned actions and or statements are indeed racist.  Racism today is often not as clearly expressed, because those that once wore their white sheets proudly in public, are now ensconced in suits and ties, feigning respectability.  This has caused a debate to ensue as to what legitimately constitutes racism.

Some, like Jimi Izrael of the Root, believe that they have the right to proclaim that their opinion is definitive.  This kind of assertion leads to confusion when liberal/and or anti-racist Whites attempt to negotiate their undeserved privilege.  Who are they to believe, when one person declares racism and another vehemently denies that race is a factor?  A truly aware White person knows that they do not have the experience to make the judgement call and they further recognize, that there will always be a conflict of interest.

image People like Jesse Lee Peterson have made a career out of denouncing any and all assertions of racism on the part of many in the Black community.  They are used by the right wing media to forward an agenda which entails maintaining White hegemony and denying the civil rights of people of color.  We further have uncle Thomas, sitting on the supreme court who takes his marching orders from Scalia. Simply because someone is of color, does not necessarily mean that they are acting in the best interests of people of color.  If you have any doubt, just ask Bill Cosby about pound cake.  Sure he can speak out now, but where was he during the civil rights movement, when little Black children were standing up against police dogs and water hoses?

He was busy announcing to the world that he was simply human.  He knew that his career as a comedian might be effected if he dared to involve himself in something as contentious as race.  Today I have little respect for Cosby.  His analysis ignores systemic racism as well as class.

Who does have the authority to speak on behalf of the Black community? Farrakhan is understood to be racist to many Whites and yet he has been known to say some profound things.  Sharpton has a quick wit and dares to speak truth to power, yet many view him as little more than an ambulance chaser.  Though Jessie Jackson has done great work; his clearly jealousy invoked commentary about Obama, has lead many to turn their back on him.  We further know that the voices of Black women are often silenced and ignored in favour of pushing male headship.  Is it even possible to have a Black female leader, when we are constructed as either licentious whores, or nagging ball busting freaks by the very men that are supposed to be supporting us?

What we often forget is the diversity within the Black community.  Though we are share a common denominator in terms of race, hueism, class, gender, age, disability and sexuality divide us.  Is it even possible to use the term community to signify such a large group of people?  A same gender loving man of class privilege, is going to have different needs than that of an elderly Black woman living on a small pension.  We know these differences exist and yet when speaking about Blackness, the issue of racism is often attacked from a one size fits all position.

Racism is about more than how it effects a group of people, it is also about how a particular incident is understood by a single individual.  If one feels oppressed or “othered,” then an act of racism has occurred. Who is Jimi Izrael or Jesse Lee Peterson to deny the reality of the feelings of another?  It is possible for one to say that as an individual, I did not feel that this was a racialized attack, however; to speak on behalf of a community as diverse as that of the Black community, takes a certain from of hubris and arrogance. 

Black people do not enjoy calling out racism.  Each time we do so it hurts because it is a reminder of the fact that we have yet to achieve equality.  Just as it costs us to endure the stigma of being understood as less than; speaking truth to power often results in wounds that are not visible but deeply felt.  It takes courage to stand and be counted and yet such bravery often results in derision.  If I, or anyone else says that they feel an incident is racist, it should be believed because of the cost of such assertion.  No voice be they Black or White, has the right to tell another that their feelings are somehow illegitimate.

Trans Sex Worker Assaulted

image Sex Workers constitute a particularly vulnerable segment of society.  Due to the work in which they engage in, often when crimes are committed against them, the  justice system fails to act appropriately.   Even a serial killer is not enough to push police into striving for an end to violence against sex workers.  When the justice system does finally catch a murderer, one day in jail seems to be an appropriate sentence.  We are, after all, only talking about sex workers.  Some will even go as far as to turn the murder of sex workers into a joke

Imagine how this already vulnerable category, is further devalued when the sex worker in question is transgendered.  Trans people face high rates of violence.  Simply walking down the street is enough for some to be ridiculed and scorned.  Due to cisgender bias, many trans people are forced into the sex trade in order to survive.  In instances like this, they are both fetishsized by the John and then disciplined by society for even existing.  When we limit legalized forms of employment due to cissexism, what choice do we give the trans person in question but to turn to other methods to survive? 

In Vancouver, British Columbia, a trans gendered sex worker has allegedly been assaulted.  The police know the address and the phone number of the man who allegedly committed the assault by gun point.  At this time, the police believe that they do not have enough information to press charges.  It seems as though the case has been reduced to the victims testimony versus that of the alleged rapist. 

It is extremely difficult for anyone that has been raped to step forward and report the crime. Society is very quick to blame the victim.  The clothes you were wearing, why you were out so late, how much you had to drink, and even your sexual history, quickly become fodder for gossip. The life of the victim is deconstructed to the point that s/he is ultimately responsible for their own violation.  Imagine how much more difficult this is for a sex worker that is trans. This person immediately straddles two identities that society has specifically chosen to devalue. 

Why is the word of the alleged perpetrator that much more valuable than the victim?  Being a trans sex worker does not automatically render one untrustworthy.  In fact, considering that we know how difficult this would have been for the victim, in my mind it makes her accounting of the alleged incident more likely.  

Police Department spokesperson Lindsay Houghton confirmed police were called to an apartment on Burnaby St at about 4 am Sep 12 where they found the victim of the assault. “Other than the sexual assault, the victim wasn’t injured,” Houghton said. “The gun wasn’t fired.”

I would say that the injury from a sexual assault is more than enough pain for one person to endure.  It seems as though the police are determined to belittle how traumatizing this must have been to the victim.   Would they have acted quicker had they found her shot to death in her own home?

image Justice is not a word that has much meaning amongst the trans community or sex workers because often the crimes against them go uninvestigated. The lack of action by the criminal justice system, further empowers those that believe that they have the right to be violent.  Justice is not just blind, for many segments of our society it does not exist at all.  All bodies matter and until we can all embrace that one single fact, the streets will continue to be filled with the blood of the marginalized.

The Deal With Disability

Being differently abled means that we must constantly negotiate the assumptions of others.  I was out shopping yesterday when a woman assumed that because of my scooter, that I was unable to cross the street by myself.  I don’t think that I have had such a clear explanation of what a red light meant since I was six and my Dad was attempting to teach me cross the street. I have often wished that I had a way to record these incidents because when I re-tell them to family or friends later, I often get an incredulous look. 

Thanks to the F Word, I came across a blog the chronicles the life of a woman with cerebral palsy.  It’s called The Deal with Disability.  She writes about people that are abelist that she interacts with.  Some instances are even chronicled on video thanks to a very discreet camera that she has mounted on her wheelchair.

She handles these incidents with such humour, grace, and tolerance.  I have a tendency to snap and lose my patience with the idiocy of others and perhaps this has to do with the newness of my disability.  I spent quite a bit of time on her blog and I must say that I learned a lot.  She even takes the time to chronicle the times when people get it right.

I spent quite a bit of time reading this blog and I must say that I highly recommend it.  Not only did it teach me how to react when people are ableist with me, it helped me consider some of the ways in which my assumptions have lead me to be ableist to others.  We are disabled because the world was not designed for our needs and a reasonable accommodation opens up the world. Perhaps if we take the time to teach others, they will be less tempted to be ableist with the next differently abled person that they meet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Origin Of Stupidity

Sometimes you run across a takedown that is so good, that it simply cannot be improved upon.  Have a look at what happens when religious fundamentalists decide that they can disprove science.

Stealing Canned Meat Could Lead To Death

image A young First Nations woman was in Winnipeg for medical reasons.  She entered Okay Groceries and allegedly stole a can of meat. In a confrontation with the store owner, it is alleged that he hit her over the head.  Five days later, Geraldine Beardy died of her injuries. The 61 year old owner,is facing a charge of aggravated assault, which may be upgraded to manslaughter or second-degree murder if police rule 29 year old, Beardy died because of an alleged blow to the head.

At most, that can of meat cost 3.99, is that really worth the life of a human being?  We have been taught to protect property at all cost.  This woman was supposedly drunk and could not have posed a legitimate threat to the store owner, therefore; his alleged actions were predicated on protecting canned meat and profit.  This is how cheap life has become.  We already know that First Nation citizens are highly devalued in Canada and therefore it is quite logical to believe that her race  and gender factored into this alleged assault.  I highly doubt a 61 year old man, would have confronted a white male with a weapon over a can of meat.

Alleged incidents like this prove how disconnected we have become from each other.  We are not talking about over valued diamonds or a television set, we are talking about food, a human necessity.  The fact that we have commodified food is one of the great evils of the capitalist system.  Everything that we consume has a price tag but not everything is of equal value.  Food, water, shelter, clothing and education are human rights, we have simply refused to understand them as such because of the overvaluation of money, over our fellow human beings.

We have heard much about the evils of socialism, without realizing that socialism, unlike capitalism saves lives.  Socialism means that people who otherwise would not have been able to afford healthcare receive treatment.  Socialism means that children receive an education and are therefore able to grow into adults that can participate in society.  Socialism values people.  As the economy continues to worsen the overvaluation of money will lead to death.  The unfortunate case of Geraldine Beardy evidences this.  How much is a can of meat worth to you?

There will be those that will argue that she should have visited a food bank if she were hungry, however; food banks are increasingly running short of food.  They will only provide enough to get through a few days and you are only allowed to visit once a month. No one should ever go hungry in a country as rich as Canada. Hunger has become a way of life for many.  First Nations citizens are the poorest individuals in Canada.  The average First Nations family subsists on ten thousand dollars per year.  In times of recession, it is the most marginalized that suffers the most.  It is the combination of the systemic elements of racism and poverty that lead Beardy to be in that convenience store. It is incredibly sad that anyone would believe that protecting a can of meat was more important allowing another access to food.

Keeping Blacks Out of St. Bernard

This is a guest post by the Czech

"The Czech is a non-profiteer who cares rabidly about social justice and human rights, and who suffers from Chronic Outrage Fatigue."

I have to say something about this craziness. I will tell the story of racist housing policy in St. Bernard Parish, LA below, and hope to follow up down the line, as the story develops. What follows would be hilarious if it weren’t so… nefarious.

St. Bernard Parish is located to the south of New Orleans. Whereas New Orleans is 67% black, St. Bernard Parish just a few miles away is only 7.6% black.

Hurricane Katrina severely damaged both St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish (whose boundaries are identical with New Orleans city). In St. Bernard, nearly all of the housing where black and low-income renters lived was destroyed, eliminating much of the already tiny black population.

Now, the white residents of St. Bernard are fighting an all-out battle to prevent blacks from returning or migrating over from New Orleans, where there is also an affordable-housing shortage. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, which has been fighting against racist housing policies, has a detailed timeline of the battle.

It officially started when Craig Taffaro Jr., president of the St. Bernard Parish Council, introduced the infamous blood-relative ordinance, which states that property owners can only rent to their blood relatives. The ordinance passed in 2006. Before the storm, whites owned 93% of the housing stock. (reference) We can see pretty easily the effects of such an ordinance.

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) sued the Parish for racially discriminatory housing practices and won. The Parish settled, and then enacted an ordinance banning multi-family housing, i.e. most rental housing, affordable housing and most forms of public housing.

The same judge, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is apparently awesome, found St. Bernard to be in contempt of court and ordered that the ban be repealed, as it also violated the Fair Housing Act. She also ordered St. Bernard to pay fees, costs and damages to GNOFHAC.   So the Parish went ahead and repealed the ban, simply switching it for a year-long moratorium on multi-family building.

Provident Realty Advisors then applied to the Parish to build affordable housing projects. After a public hearing rife with racist statements both implied and open, their application was denied. After GNOFHAC took the Parish to court again, Judge Berrigan found them in contempt of the court order and hit them with more fines. She also had this to say:

Based on the factual record and judged under a clear preponderance of the evidence, the Court finds that defendants’ conduct since March 25, 2009, by subverting the re-subdivision process, has a discriminatory effect on African-Americans and therefore violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604(a), and the terms of the February 2008 Consent Order.

Does St. Bernard Parish get it yet?

DUH, of course not. As a matter of fact, the Parish Council is seeking a ballot referendum that would force any developer seeking to build a development with more than 12 units to have their plans approved by a public referendum, which the developer would also have to pay for. How soon will this be voted on?  “In order to get the measure on a Nov. 14 ballot, the parish would have to pass the ordinance and get approval from the state Bond Commission and the secretary of state’s office before Sept. 29.”

Meanwhile, Judge Berrigan is fed up with St. Bernard’s delays in approving Provident’s development application and has granted a THIRD motion of contempt against them just last Friday, saying:

Defendants are hereby enjoined from interfering or withholding approval of Provident’s re-subdivision applications. Provident’s re-subdivision applications are deemed approved.

…If the defendants fail to meet any of the various deadlines without advance notice and good cause shown for their failure, a daily sanction beginning at $5,000 for the first day, and increasing to $10,000 each day thereafter per each individual missed deadline will be imposed.

New Orleans, Louisiana, this 11th day of September, 2009.

Booyah St. Bernard Parish Council and racist inhabitants.

This story is developing. So is my analysis. More to come.

Learn more:

From GNOFHAC: Timeline of the Lawsuit

The Root: Keeping St. Bernard Parish White

Facing South: Fight heats up over discriminatory housing laws in New Orleans area

Read the coverage at the Times-Picayune, starting here: St. Bernard Parish Council housing plan drawing fire

Scathing Times-Picayune Op-ed: Housing bias in St. Bernard Parish is proving costly in the long run

Scathing Times-Picayune Editorial: Legally and Morally Wrong

Hey “Californication,” there’s a difference between rape and sex

I have a new post up at Global Comment


“Californication” stars the Golden Globe award-winning actor David Duchovny as bad boy writer Hank Moody. It has just begun its third season and has been a hit for Showtime. The central drama focuses on his inability to maintain a relationship with the mother of his child, Karen van der Beek, played by Natascha McElhone. The supporting characters include Evan Handler as Charlie Runkle, Pamela Adlon as Marcy Runkle, and Madeline Martin as Becca Moody.

The show has pushed boundaries from the very beginning. It has featured a scene with Moody, a middle-aged man, having sex with an underage teenage girl. There have been scenes of BDSM, drunkenness, drugs and lesbian sex. The relationship between Moody and Karen functions as a slight cover to legitimize the outrageous juvenile behaviour of the male characters, which is wrapped in a thin layer of satire. Even as the male characters profess to love the women in their lives, their antics imply that women are actually disposable the moment an orgasm is achieved. On “Californication,” masculinity is ultimately sardonic and puerile.

image Hank Moody is a man-child who claims to love women, but at the same time, he is ready to reduce them to parts in order to satisfy his sexual inclinations. At one time, his best friend Charlie Runkle acted as the voice of reason, but as the series has progressed, Runkle has displayed his own desire to privilege his sexual needs over his wife and even his job. Not satisfied with being humiliated when his actions lead to disaster, Runkle even financed a pornographic movie. When he could sink no lower, he began to desire the comfort of the familiar and once again sought out his wife. Unfortunately for Runkle, Marcy had moved on.

In the second episode of the third season, we find Marcy and Charlie sharing their home while pursuing a divorce. Marcy has made it very clear that, despite the wishes of Charlie, their relationship is over. In what is obviously a form of rebellion, Marcy begins dating a Black man. Charlie refers to him as his Nubian brother, thus indicating that it is his color which we, the viewers, are directed to focus upon. The big Black penis, though unspoken, is meant to be conceptualized as invading the sanctity of whiteness.

As the evening progress, Charlie shares a drink with Moody and upon his return home, he hears Marcy and the Nubian brother engaged in sex, which he immediately perceives as rape:

“Marcy: Oh Jesus, you’re going to rape me, aren’t you?

Nubian Brother: You bet your sweet-ass, rich White lady.

Marcy: I’m not rich.

Nubian Brother: You own a spa. Don’t lie to me.

Marcy: Oh, oh my God. Put that thing away. That big thick purple thing.

Nubian Brother: That’s right, you better recognize. This thing is a one-eyed, one lord, purple White woman eater.”

When Charlie bursts into the room, he finds the Nubian brother penetrating Marcy from behind. Even as he jumps on top of the man, attempting to pull him off of Marcy, the Nubian brother continues to thrust. When questioned on his actions, Charlie professes to be saving Marcy. Naturally, a pure White woman could never desire sex with a Black man. This is further legitimized when Marcy admits that they were “role playing” and that she and her lover were engaging in a rape fantasy.

Finish reading here

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last Words That Are Not Famous: The Sounds Of Death Row


I am not a believer in the death penalty.  It amounts to murder and those most often subjected to this cruel and unusual punishment, are often poor and of color.  Justice is not blind and in fact it regularly privileges those that are already living with advantages.  Once someone enters the penal system we have a tendency to think of their crime and forget the fact that they are still human beings that feel pain.  Many believe that they are deserving of said pain because of their actions, but if we lower ourselves to that level, are we really any better than those we seek to punish?

I came across the Texas Department of Criminal Justice page with a listing of executed prisoners.  It has their crimes and their last words.  I believe that it is important that these words be heard and that these men be remembered.  These are the words of men who were murdered by the state because the US has not moved past the point of believing that answering violence with violence is acceptable.  As much as they may be guilty of heinous crimes, they are also victims.

Johnson, Johnny 02/12/2009: The Polunsky dungeon should be compared with the Death Row Community as existing not living. Why do I say this, the Death Row is full of isolated hearts and suppressed minds. We are filled with love looking for affection and a way to understand. I am a Death Row resident of the Polunsky dungeon. Why does my heart ache. We want pleasure love and satisfaction. It. The walls of darkness crushed in on me. Life without meaning is life without purpose. But the solace within the Polunsky dungeon, the unforgivesness within society, the church Pastors and Christians. It is terrifying. Does anyone care or who I am. Can you feel me people. The Polunsky dungeon is what I call the pit of hopelessness. The terrifying thing is the US is the only place, country that is the only civilized country that is free that says it will stop murder and enable justice. I ask each of you to lift up your voices to demand an end to the Death Penalty. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die we die to the Lord. Christ rose again, in Jesus name. Bye Aunt Helen, Luise, Joanna and to all the rest of y’all. You may proceed Warden. (began singing)

Scheanette, Dale Devon  February 10, 2009 : Is the mic on? My only statement is that no cases have ever tried have been error free. Those are my words. No cases are error free. You may proceed Warden.

Davis, Larry  July 31, 2008 : Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. It is finished.

Chamberlain, Karl June 11, 2008: I want you all to know, everyone with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Thank you for being here today to honour Falicia Prechtl, whom I didn't even know. To celebrate my death. My death began on August 2, 1991 and continued when I began to see the beautiful and innocent life that I had taken. I am so terribly sorry. I wish I could die more than once to tell you how sorry I am. I have said in interviews, if you want to hurt me and choke me, that's how terrible I felt before this crime. I am sorry, it is her innocence and her life which began the remorse every since December 1, 1991. I have embraced life. Thank you for being a part of my life. I love you. May God be with us all. May God have mercy on us all. I am ready. Please do not hate anybody because.......(end of statement)

Pippin, Roy March 29, 2007: Yes sir,  I charge the people of the jury.  Trial Judge, the Prosecutor that cheated to get this conviction.  I charge each and every one of you with the murder of an innocent man.  All the way to the CCA, Federal Court, 5th Circuit and Supreme Court.  You will answer to your Maker when God has found out that you executed an innocent man.  May God have mercy on you.
My love to my son, my daughter, Nancy, Kathy, Randy, and my future grandchildren.  I ask for forgiveness for all of the poison that I brought into the US, the country I love.  Please forgive me for my sins.  If my murder makes it easier for everyone else let the forgiveness please be a part of the healing.  Go ahead Warden, murder me.  Jesus take me home.

Charles Nealy March 20, 2007: The reason it took them so long is because they couldn't find a vein.  You know how I hate needles - I used to stay in the Doctor's Office.  Tell the guys on Death Row that I'm not wearing a diaper.  I can't think of anything else.  You all stay strong.  Now you can put this all aside.  Don't bury me in the prison cemetery.  Bury me right beside momma.  Don't bury me to the left of dad, bury me on the right side of mom.

Kim Schaeffer, you are a evil woman.  You broke the law.  The judges and courts helped you and you didn't have all the facts.  When you look at the video, you know you can't see anyone.  You overplayed your hand looking for something against me and to cover it up the State is killing me.  I'm not mad or bitter though.  I'm sad that you are stuck here and have to go through all of this.  I am going somewhere better.  My time is up.  Let me get ready to make my transition.  Doug, don't forget Marcy.

It’s all so civilized isn’t it?  They are presumed innocent (yeah right).  They get a judge or a jury of their peers.  When they cannot afford a lawyer one is provided for them.  (Remember you do get what you pay for in this life)  The prisoners eat one last meal (as long as it comes in under ten dollars, no sense breaking the bank)  They are given a chance to make a final statement, which is quickly forgotten or not even reported in the media.  Then they are put to sleep.  It all seems so nice and easy doesn’t it?  Thank goodness the drugs prevent their bodies from contorting, we wouldn’t want the witnesses to be traumatized by watching someone in the throes of death would we?  No matter how humane the government seems to think this process is, murder is murder regardless of whether or not a single drop of blood is spilled in the process. 

Tom DeLay On Dancing With The Stars

Since I was subjected to this, I am sharing it with you. 

Did it make you want to laugh or wash your eyeballs out?

Schools Teach More Than The Three R’s In Arlington

image We don’t like to think of schools as indoctrinating children but in truth we all must admit that they do more than teach them the basic skills to participate in society.   Case in point can be seen in Arlington.

A parent tells other parents that they can’t be in the PTA if they don’t speak English.

An Anglo teacher tells African-American parents that their well-behaved second-grade son might be in a gang because of how he dresses.

A teacher makes it difficult for a student observing a religious event to pray during the day.

They held a three hour diversity training seminar to deal with the issues.  It will take a lot more than a few hours devoted to diversity to ensure that the problems will be fixed.  Whether the district admits it or not, these issues are systemic.   As minorities we depend on education to rise above the social circumstances to which we were born into, but if it teaches our children that they are secondary citizens, what hope is there that they can achieve the success that education supposedly promises?

It is difficult enough that schools have a tendency to ignore the contributions of people of color or re-write history to support whiteness.  Look through an average textbook and you will notice that even in progressive areas, the images still have a tendency to reflect Whiteness.  Even without actively teaching racist ideas, the erasure imparts the message that people of color are not equal participants. 

image There was an uproar when it was announced that seventy-five percent of Oklahoma high school students could not name George Washington as the first president of the United states.  I will agree that this is important information, however; why were these people not alarmed about the lack of inclusivity in education?    This is just as damaging as not knowing about George Washington.  I am sure it never even occurred to these people that the trauma of never seeing yourself reflected in a positive manner is extremely harmful. 

Schools reaffirm social messages.  They don’t teach children to think critically, or examine the ways in which hierarchy is ultimately destructive to so many.  The number one lesson children learn is to wait and to respect authority.  This is the legacy that we are imparting to today's children.  Raising automatons is exactly with the right wing wishes to promote because conservatism is about defending underserved privilege.  The society that they wish to conserve/and or promote, is one that deemed white male hegemony as natural and good.  Is it any wonder that a teacher can call a second grade student a gang member?

Parents of color face very difficult circumstances.  Not only are many working two or three jobs to ensure that their children are clothed, housed, and fed, they must often fight against schools to ensure that children learn to value themselves.  We love our children no less than any other parents and it is absolutely heartbreaking to know that we must send them out to face a world that is not going to see how precious they truly are.  It is parents of color that must wipe away the tears of confusion, as we try answer the difficult questions.  Unlike White children our kids receive few positive messages.  We cannot trust the system because it has repeatedly betrayed us.  I will trade them three hours, for a lifetime of negotiating a system that refuses to people of color as valuable.

Tune In Tuesday: Metallica Enter Sandman

I used to bring a cd player to work to avoid talking to my co-workers on break.  It is not that I didn’t like them, but the inane chatter would just get on my nerves after awhile. We were people thrown together by circumstance and I hated pretending that I actually liked some of them.  It is not in my nature to be false.  At any rate, one day I was listening to Enter Sandman, which happened to be one of my favourite songs at the time. It had just the right amount of anger to deal with the emotions I was feeling about doing a job I hated, when someone commented that I was probably listening to R&B.  Imagine their surprise when I told them I was listening to Metallica.  Mouths literally dropped open.  What the hell was a Black woman doing listening to Metallica?  It was like I had disrupted their world order or something.   “Don’t let the dark skin fool you,” I said.  “Black people listen to all different kinds of music and some of us are even well spoken and educated.”

I have some crazy taste in music.  I can go from Metallica to Neil Diamond, to Beyonce to Pavarotti to Annie Lennox, it all depends on my mood.  I think that it makes me eclectic.  I am always amused by those that seek pigeonhole me based on my race.  They want me to perform Blackness in a way that makes them comfortable. Heaven forbid I step away from the great coloured hive and assert my individuality, suddenly the world is askew. 

At any rate, please share any thoughts on Metallica or times in which you surprised people by your music choices.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama Better Keep The Blacks In Line

image When it became clear that Obama was going to win the Democratic nomination, the disciplining of Blackness began.  He assumed quite correctly, that he would get the majority of votes from Blacks and therefore concentrated on winning over White voters.  He immediately began chastising Blacks for our failures.  Anyone remember the fathers day speech?  Where was his nod to Black fathers that are there every day doing the heavy lifting?  Not every Black man is a deadbeat dad.  How about acknowledging that there are White men who have no problem  walking away from  their children? 

Anyone remember how he gently chided Bernie Mac when he performed at a fundraising dinner?  If you have ever watched the now deceased Bernie Mac, it was clear that his comedy, though funny, is not for everyone.  Why should Bernie have changed who he was? We know that Black people have always been told to sit and be quiet and therefore apologizing for our speech is offensive.

We move on to the famous Eric Holder speech where he dared to speak truth to power.  Obama damn near broke a leg running to escape that one.  Heaven forbid that Whiteness be called out on the racism that it has engaged in.  As a Black man, Obama has to have known, that there was truth in what Holder said.  He seemed to be more concerned with holding onto the White people that voted for him, than supporting the Blacks in America that are suffering under the burden of racism. 

When Obama has been attacked, many Blacks have been quick to defend him.  He is the first African American president and therefore we realize the burden under which he operates.  We have been patient, understanding that as the president he must represent all people.  When he initially spoke out on the Skip Gates incident, declaring it racial profiling, we nodded our head in agreement and breathed a sigh of relief, that finally Obama was recognizing that as much as he needs his White voters, he responsible for helping Blacks reach the promised land that Martin Luther King spoke of so long ago.

No sooner than we could take a deep breathe, Obama began to distance himself from the charges of racial profiling. The right wing media was quick to declare that the president had no business commenting on this incident. Of course, Obama spoke to quickly, men like Rush Limbaugh were on the radio saying that it was Gates, rather than the White officer that was at fault.  Fox news started to increase the hyperbole and racist taunts and therefore Obama had no choice but to back away from his statements. The beer summit certainly went a long way to addressing the racial disparity between Blacks and Whites didn’t it?

Then we have the idiot Kanye West speaking over a White woman as she was accepting an award.  Kanye was subject to many racialized attacks on twitter that clearly displayed that people were not as much upset about not hearing an acceptance speech, but that a Black man had the temerity to step out of line.  We all know that socially it is the place of White men and not Black men to oppress White women.  Of course, this incident was perfectly within the right of Obama to state a critical opinion and therefore Whiteness had nothing to contribute to the issue.  Where were the calls that affirmed that this incident was to minor for a man of Obama’s position to comment on?

When former President Jimmy Carter spoke about the racialized attacks which have been aimed at the Obama administration, where was the support of the president?  He did not confirm what any reasonable person would have surmised.  Instead we once again were subject to the virulent denial of the right wing media. 

We are all aware that it is Obama’s aim to become a two term president and therefore he must be wary of the ways in which he addresses race.  His behaviour so far has not been that of a cautious man but that of a man who has determined to submit to the desires of Whiteness.  There are many issues that can wait until 2012 but Blacks need affirmation and support today.  What the hell is the point of having an African American in office, if he can so readily ignore the effects of racism?

For The Mormons Being Gay Is Still A Choice

image According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the 19th annual conference of Evergreen International, a nonprofit group that helps Mormons "overcome homosexual behaviour" and "diminish same-sex attraction." The event was held at the LDS Church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.

I wonder how Elder Bruce would react if he had to attend a seminar to help him overcome heterosexuality?  The problem with this line of thinking is the assumption that heterosexuality is something that is naturally occurring, whereas; homosexuality is a choice.  Sexuality, much like gender, is not something we actively choose.  Even if I were to mentally desire to become a lesbian, overtime my inclination towards men would lead to a pressing desire to assert my sexuality.  This is not because lesbianism is unnatural but that heterosexuality is my sexual orientation.  At no time in my life did I decide to become a heterosexual, I was just born that way.  The same is true for those that are lesbian, bisexual or gay. 

Whenever the devil -- whom Hafen referred to as "the adversary" -- tries to "convince you that you are hopelessly 'that way,' so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying," Hafen said. "He is the father of lies. "In the early 1970s, the public and most lawyers, doctors and therapists saw homosexuality not as normal adult behaviour but as a psychological disorder," he said. "We have witnessed primarily an aggressive political movement more than we've witnessed substantive change in the medical or legal evidence."

Not to demean the mans religion but if we are all made in the image of the creator, would that then not mean that homosexuality, bisexuality, and lesbianism, are very much a part of the Lords plan?  What gets me about these religious leaders is their stubborn obsession with what people are doing sexually.  Why are they not speaking about crimes like hunger, homelessness or a lack of healthcare?  I’ll tell you why, those things aren’t titillating.  Organized religion knows that sex sells, just like the head of any advertising agency.  As long as people are talking about sex or thinking about sex, they will ignore the various ways in which these so-called religious leaders are not speaking for many of the powerless, who in the time of Christ would have been his congregants.  Furthermore, by privileging heterosexuality they reaffirm the little social power most people have.  Many have long ago internalized the false notion, that the only way to express power is to do so in a coercive manner.

Many religious leaders like Hafen, would love for homosexuality to continue to be understood as a pathology because it reaffirms heterosexual privilege.  If anything, it is the LDS that is the father of all lies.  While these homophobic haters  cling to Leviticus, they ignore so many other biblical commandments.  God did not ask Hafen to stand in judgement of others and therefore; he speaks with an authority he does not possess.   There is not one righteous man and all are sinners in the eyes of God and so Hafen should be worrying about his own salvation.  Preaching hate and divisiveness was not the message of Jesus.   These so-called men of the cloth betray their beliefs when they construct a child of God as less than or presume they have the right to dictate who is and who is not righteous.  The LDS has sinned and sinned repeatedly against the LGBT community and perhaps one day it shall receive the judgement that it has so unabashedly called down upon so many others. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

CNN's Rick Sanchez Calls FOX News Liars

Right on Sanchez.  I especially loved the part, where he showed Bill O’Reilly complaining about the way that CNN covered the event.  That was a great call out.  The problem with Fox is that it does not believe in airing the news, it thrives upon propaganda and rhetoric.  All news networks come with a certain spin but Fox long ago stopped pretending to be fair and accurate and decided to be the voice of the right wing fringe.  This has gotten them a lot of ratings because no other news agency is pandering to their lunacy, however; the repercussion of this decision, is that FOX must invent the news rather than report the news.  I think Rick did a wonderful job in showing the ways in which they are willing to lie and distort facts in order to push an agenda.  If the right wing fringe and Fox news had a point to make, they wouldn't need to lie would they?

Racist Sheriff Arpaio greeted by angry, militant protest

image Loud shouts of “Racists go home!” greeted Arizona’s Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and his cronies as he entered the Marriott Hotel for an event to promote his new book, “Joe’s Law.” Hundreds militantly protested outside for hours, despite a large Houston police presence and a counterprotest by U.S. Border Watch.

Inside, the event was disrupted by four protesters, one of whom paid the $30 entrance fee and stood in line to get Arpaio’s autograph. When she got to the front of the line, Liliana, a Colombian immigrant, handed Arpaio a certificate and loudly proclaimed, “I am here to present to you the Bull Connor Award for your promotion of racial discrimination, disregard of human rights, abuse of power and general hatred of the ‘other.’ You are a racist and a criminal!” Connor was the infamous Alabama police commissioner and Ku Klux Klan member who used attack dogs and fire hoses on African Americans in the 1960s.

Report and photo by Gloria Rubac

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Sunday Shame: Sporting Edition

I believe in full disclosure, so I will admit before starting this post by saying that athletics is not something I am good at. I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a baseball.

Some believe that hockey is a birthright of all Canadians. On a saturday night you can find many a proud Canadian singing the anthem in preparation to watch hockey night in Canada.  The beer gets poured (note: bottles only, beer in a can is frowned upon), as armchair players begin to discuss trades, and team strengths.  All of this simply makes me want to go to sleep.

image I even have the nerve to commit Cannuck  blasphemy and openly call out Don Cherry out for being a big mouth, bigoted idiot.  I cannot even believe he made the list of most important Canadians. Does he hypnotise people with all of the ridiculous colors he wears, into believing that the hyperbole that he spews weekly, is rationale discourse?   Before you object, this is a man that was angry that Canadians didn’t join the Iraq war, while he openly mourned the loss of Cannuck soldiers in Afghanistan.  Hello idiot, the greatest display of respect for the troops, is to never break their trust by asking them to put their lives at risk, so that rich men can increase their wealth, and white men can oppress brown people.

So I guess that this week I am openly admitting, that this red and white wearing, timmys drinkin, poutine eating Cannuck, cannot stand hockey.  There, I said it, out in the open for all.  I cannot stand the fighting and posturing of the NHL.  I don’t even see what the big deal is because hockey is NOT the national sport, contrary to the ignorance of many. You naysayers can sing the good ol’ hockey game until the end of time.

I am not the only Cannuck to despise hockey so fess up.  Stand with me in solidarity.  As for you Americans, don’t worry I have not forgotten you.  Speak up if can’t stand football or baseball.  In fact for those that can’t stand football, I am in complete solidarity with you.  Football can take up a perfectly good sunday and monday night that be used for better things. I also cannot stand the way that the last two minutes can last for nearly an hour, run the clock damn it.