Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scott Baio: Black Friends Don’t Make You Immune To Racist Actions/Words

It seems Mr. Baio was fooling around on twitter when he decided to post the following image of the First Lady.

imageWOW He wakes up to this every morning,” were the words that accompanied the image.   This of course immediately caused an upset.  Many people tweeted about the racism of his actions and he even received death threats. 

First, let me say unequivocally, that threatening someone, or their family is never an acceptable response.  It is very understandable that his commentary enraged people, however violence is not an appropriate response.

Baio immediately went on the defence by tweeting:

"I'm NOT racist for posting a pic of M.O. My WIFE'S BEST FRD IS BLACK, HELLO."

Notice that he does not have a Black friend, it’s his wife.  Of course this alleged friendship supposedly makes him immune from all of the racism that is a systemic part of society.  Somehow, even slightly engaging with Black people erases White privilege.  To all of you supposed Black best friends, please tell White people that your life does not equal a get of racist charge.  Baio is so  racially privileged  that he did not even realize that his defence falls under the category of racist 101. 

First, Baio started out by putting up a clearly unpleasant picture of Michelle Obama and then he referred to her as “this” as though she isn’t a person.  The reason that this infuriated people so much is because Black women have historically been constructed as ugly and decidedly unfeminine.  For many, Michelle Obama represents the best of what Black women have to offer.  She is educated, a mother, beautiful and highly intelligent. 

From the moment that Barack Obama announced his intention to run for office, Michelle has continually been attacked.  She has been compared to apes, she has been called ugly, loud, aggressive and even angry.  These taunts have their foundation in sexism and racism.  They are based in the idea that the Black woman is the unwoman of the world.    So, it is without equivocation that I can state that when Baio posted that image of Michelle Obama, he was indeed being racist.  This is a man that cannot compete with Michelle on her worst day.  While he was busy trying to be Charles in Charge, Michelle was graduating Suma cum laude.  She exists as a threat to his privilege and it is this that spurred his desire to attack her.

There can be no doubt that Baio has long since imbibed White male privilege:

If YOU are born in AMERICA, U ARE AN AMERICAN. I don't insist on being called Italian-American. Therefore Black Amer are not Afr-Amer. Or that would mean people (white or black) born in Africa would be called African-Africans ... Just a thought to think about...

Are you following this?  Because Baio does not want to be called Italian-American he can declare that Blacks are not African-American.  Of course, there is no privilege and display of power in this statement.  White people certainly don’t have a history of re-naming Blacks and dismantling our culture to suit their designs.  It is not his place to tell people how to identify but lord knows you cannot tell a White man that.

Scott Baio is full of fail.  I doubt that he has learned anything from this incident.  Part of the problem is that men like him believe that racism only comes from people wearing white sheets who scream White power at every opportunity. Racism need not manifest in this manner to be harmful, it only need imply that someone is less than because of the colour of their skin. It is clear from his actions and words, that the only thing Baio should be in charge of is challenging his own unacknowledged privilege.

H/T Shakesville

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for another great week of conversation. It warms my heart to know that Womanist Musings has turned into such a thoughtful and aware community.  We have even had a reduction in trolls recently and for that I am thankful.   Disagreement is normal and even healthy but it is important that it be done in a respectful manner.  It is very important that this remain a safe space.  I don’t always catch all of the comments so please notify my via e-mail if there is a comment that I missed.  Also, I would like to ask your help in growing this community.  If you read a post that you really like please consider stumbling, it or adding it to any social network that you frequent. 

Below you will find links to posts that I found interesting this week.  I did not read the comment section of these posts, so please read at your own risk.  Please show these 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.

Racism & Stereotyping: The Affects On Our Children On Our Future

Book Thoughts: Racefail on Magic Under Glass Cover

Lines That Shouldn’t Be Crossed

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday

Sex workers are not sex offenders

On Haiti: Dear journalists looting does not exist in a disaster  area

Is Obama Failing The Gay Community?

Autism and Genetically Modified Foods

Scientists Are Working to Cure Our Hair

offer white apologetics (instead of just apologizing)

Lets Not Forget The Black Women Who Defined The Civil Rights Movement

Saturday Short: The Conversation Between Obama, Bush and Clinton (in my mind anyway)

Disability is not your analogy

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday

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Hello everyone.  This is it, we made it; after today the work week is over.   I have to go out of town today and so this will be the only post of the day.  In the spirit of continuing the conversation, I would like to tell you a little story and leave you with a question.

Year’s ago I used to start work at 4:30 in the morning.  Yes, you read that time right.  As you can imagine, I was highly dependent upon coffee.  At any rate, one morning I arrived at work to find that my employer had committed the ultimate sin, they had run out of real coffee.  Well okay, they had coffee but it was decaf.  Who the hell drinks decaf at 4:30 in the morning?  It damn near caused a revolt amongst the staff.

So, what is your morning drink and what would you do if you were suddenly prohibited from drinking it because of the actions of another?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christian Aerobics: Yeah Feel The Spirit

Because I am easily amused, I simply had to post this video.  Christian aerobics?  Is there anything that people aren’t willing to wrap in bullshit to sell. I think the guy in the back needs to pray that God will grant him a sense of rhythm.  Honestly, he makes the whole white men can dance meme believable.   Perhaps he can audition to be a back up dancer for Vanilla Ice, because he seems to have perfected the art of being one beat behind everyone else.

Well, I suppose that we have learned that real Christians only side hug but shake their booty for Christ if it involves making a profit. Come on everyone, let’s do the sanctified slide .  Come on now, you know you want to shake the devil off.  You know that nothing can escape the touch of true God fearing people.  What I really wonder is how we are supposed to take the public face of Christianity seriously, when they reduce it to pure ridiculousness at every turn.

H/T Jezebel

Douche Alert, Rolling Stone Chats with John Mayer

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I suppose I am waiting for the world to change, i.e recognize that John Mayer is a douche of epic proportions.   Who could forget his rape charged commentary to a female reporter and yet people continue to support his music career.  When I saw him performing on Larry Kings benefit to raise money for Haiti, all I could think is that Mayer has proven himself to be no lover of humanity.  There are women dying there as well and his penchant for wallowing in White male privilege, hardly makes me believe that he finds this a terrible thing.  If you do not respect women, how can you possibly claim to respect life?

What better way to inflate his already over inflated ego, than to give him a platform from which to spread his noxious opinions.

He says of ex-girlfriend Jennifer Aniston, “I’ve never really gotten over it. It was one of the worst times of my life,” and that his life has become a cycle of new girls rejecting him in clubs. “Blowing me off is the new sucking me off!”

Right, because women should be so grateful to be in his presence, that we should immediately commence sucking his ever so unworthy dick.  Also, may I add a kudos to Jennifer Aniston for escaping.

“Do you think it’s going to take meeting someone who I admire more than I admire myself? But isn’t it also about a beautiful vagina? Aren’t we talking about a matrix of a couple of different things here? Like, you need to have them be able to go toe-to-toe with you intellectually. But don’t they also have to have a vagina you could pitch a tent on and just camp out on for, like, a weekend? Doesn’t that have to be there, too? The Joshua Tree of vaginas?

Item number one, not all women have vaginas and they are not any less female than any other woman.  Item number two: reducing a woman to what is between her legs is highly sexist and reflective of Mayer’s unacknowledged gender privileges.  He does not want a woman with a functioning mind because that would mean he would be held accountable for his atrocious behaviour.

“All I want to do now is fuck the girls I’ve already fucked, because I can’t fathom explaining myself to somebody who can’t believe I’d be interested in them, and they’re going, But you’re John Mayer! So I’m going backwards to move forward. I’m too freaked out to meet anybody else.”

Me thinks thou doust protest too much.  The problem is clearly not female insecurity, but Mayer’s insecurity.  If you need to run women down to feel superior, clearly you don’t have much to offer in the first place.

I think we have a responsibility to all of  the women who listen to his music, to publicize exactly what his beliefs are.  Every time you buy one of his cds, you are supporting misogyny.  Women already make so much less than men and therefore spending our valuable dollars supporting someone who demeans us at every turn is unacceptable.  The man cannot and should not be separated from his politics. 

H/T Gossip Candy via Feministe.

PeTA’s 2010 State of the Union and the Sexualization of Black Women

The following video includes full female nudity and may not be acceptable for work.

Once again PeTA reveals that its true objective is not ending cruelty to animals but debasing women.  When we consider that there has never been a female president, putting a woman in this mock situation and showing her stripping off her clothes to the cheers and jeers of a mostly white male audience is highly problematic.   Black women in particular have been historically constructed as Jezebels.  Our femininity is often soundly rejected, unless the goal is to paint us as sexually depraved.

If PeTA cared about how Black women have historically been treated, it would never have staged a mock up with one taking off her clothes in front of cheering White men.   To justify the rapes that occurred in the slave cabins, Black women were said to have tempted White men with our uncontrollable sexuality.  Even though the power dynamics clearly favoured the White male slave holders, it has him that was constructed as powerless. This ad  promotes the idea that Black women exist to perform for White men thereby asserting that Black women's bodies are ultimately consumable for the purposes of sexual pleasure.

PeTA recently ran an ad featuring Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks.   They used the first ladies image without prior approval causing the White house to demand that PeTA cease and desist.  Simply because someone does not wear fur, does not mean that they support PeTA.  It never occurred to PeTA to ask beforehand because it does not value women’s bodies and after viewing this video, it is even more clear that they put even less importance to the bodies of WOC and how they are perceived.

At the end of the video, PeTA has shocking images of animal abuse.    If their real desire was to end animal cruelty, these images are more than enough to make a significant point.  The truth is, PeTA’s objective is to paint all other marginalizations as secondary to that faced by animals and that is why they routinely features ads that are sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic etc.,  The oppression Olympics engaged in by PeTA only serves to reify the very same hierarchy that PeTA claims to be against.

PeTA is simply a predatory organization whose message gets lost because it is intent upon reductive tactics.  It is their belief that any publicity is good publicity and therefore; they will not acknowledge that continually demeaning marginalized bodies is not only harmful but extremely dangerous.  If certain groups are not seen as human, it is much easier to target them for violence, hatred, rape etc.,

I have been asked why I always spell PeTA with a lower case e and the answer  is quite simple,  they can never be understood to be ethical as long as they continue to  use such reductive tactics to get their message out to the public.  No PeTA ad I have ever seen, has convinced me of anything other than the fact that isms hurt people. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mary J Blige and Why She Is Not Like Chris Brown

Mary J Blige was at a party when she caught her husband looking at another woman

The singer slugged Isaacs, drawing blood, after she thought he was flirting with a waitress. "She turned to him and was screaming, 'You're not going to ruin my night,' " our witness says. "They got up in each other's faces before someone tried to separate them, at which point she shoved the guy aside, pulled back and popped [Isaacs] in the face." The source said Blige, Isaacs and their entourage were whisked through a door to the attached club Pink, which was closed. Our witness relates, "She was yelling at him, 'What are you gonna do, Chris Brown me?'

In following video at approx 1:08 Marys punch is caught on tape.

Blige has a history of abuse in her family and has worked as an advocate to end domestic violence.  There can be no excuse for this violence.  No matter how enraged she was at her husband she should not have hit him. (note: even though I have written the previous sentence in bold I wonder how many will ignore it?)  That being said I believe it is a big leap to question why the media is not attacking her in the same manner that it attacked Chris Brown.

Danny of Danny’s Corner of the Universe has suggested that this is a matter of excusing female violence.  Despite the fact that Blige drew blood with her assault, her attack was nothing like that engaged in by Chris Brown against Rihianna.  Issacs (Mary’s husband) was not covered in bruises and his life was not threatened.  To claim that there is any similarity between the two cases reduces the horror of what Rihianna went through.

Rihianna was alone in a car with her abuser and actually feared for her life. Though Issacs pride may have been damaged by being hit by his wife in public, the club was filled with more than enough witnesses to ensure that the attack did not escalate.  In the days that would follow, there were no media releases documenting his abuse for the world to see.

There are certainly male victims of domestic violence but to claim that this incident rises to that level or is representative of unacknowledged female violence is grasping at straws at best.  There will always be those who will seek to take occurrences like this to complain that male suffering is not recognized by society.  To be fair, female victims of domestic violence far out number men. Violence against women is normalized in every single social institution because women are devalued. 

I also think it is necessary to point out that even though Chris Brown did face some attack in media, there were those that firmly blamed Rihanna for her own abuse.  They justified what Chris did to her because she was looking through his phone calls.  In no way should a victim be blamed for the an attack and yet this is routinely what happens when women are raped, beaten and even murdered. 

All violence is wrong but if we are speaking about violence between genders, it cannot and should not be ignored that women are more often on the receiving end of it.  No matter how hard men’s activist try to dispute this fact, shelters serve as evidence of just how damaging male violence is to society.  Children who grow up in homes in which they routinely see their mother beaten carry the results for a lifetime.   Male violence toward women has never been the exception, it has always been the norm.


American Idol and Pants On the Ground

If this does not make you say go Larry Platt, I don’t know what will.  Brother needs to hurry to a studio ‘cause this song is a hit.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had to say to Destruction, boy pull your pants up.  You can bet when he gets home from school I will be playing this for him.

H/T  Rippa.

Wednesday What’s Up?

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It’s officially hump day.  After today the worst of the work week is hopefully over.   Please consider this your open thread to chat about whatever you would like.  Are you reading anything interesting?  Have you seen a great movie? On Sunday and Monday despite my loud complaints that it was grounds for an undivorce ,the unhusband subjected me to 4 hours of the terrible show 24.  Is that suffering or what?  Tell me what is going on with you and I will see you in comments.

American Apparel Goes Tribal

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Where to even begin with what is wrong with this. Hmmm should we start with the fact that when Whiteness wants to go tribal, that Africa is where it turns thus devaluing bodies of color?  Yes, let loose your inner savage and go African, however be sure not to let your desire move beyond your clothing because White women must remain the marker for civilization. 

Of course we must mention the fact that Zebra’s are synonymous with Africa.  Africa cannot be separated from an animal link because that would encourage the belief that Africans are people and we cannot have that with all of the time that Whiteness has invested in creating Africans as “other” can we?

By continuing to appropriate, Whiteness is claiming ownership to these symbols without having to live with the limitations that it creates.   This so-called tribal clothing consumes the other even as they appear to celebrate difference.  They declare the right of Whiteness to not only declare what constitutes an African, but to use that construction as it sees fit.  Ze who labels controls the image.

Tammy writing for Racilicious has an excellent take on this clothing line and the implicit cultural appropriation. I simply do not have the energy to expand any further.  I will however say that the day Whiteness is understood to be represented by some in vogue animal, then perhaps we will have equality.  Deciding that animals are representative of people of colour only proves how far removed we are from a colour blind society.  But hey thing are getting better right?  (snark)


Mike Greenberg on Martin Luther Coon

Mike Greenberg of the ESPN show Mike and Mike thanked listeners for joining them on Martin Luther Coon Day.”  When he realized his gaffe he changed his wording to King. 

King has apologized for his gaffe.

ESPN broadcaster Mike Greenberg is apologizing for saying the words "Martin Luther Coon" on his morning radio show.

The words were spoken on Martin Luther King Day.

The SportsCenter anchor and Mike and Mike in the Morning co-host says he was "talking too fast -- and slurring my words" when he committed the gaffe on the radio Monday.

Greenberg issued an online apology stating "I would never say anything like that, not in public, or in private, or in the silence of my own mind." He said he felt "horrible" about the words.

First, let me say that I believe that it is a good thing that he apologized but I simply cannot believe him.  This cannot be a simple slip of the tongue because coon and king sound nothing alike.  It would take a real leap of the imagination to believe that of all of the words he could have slipped up with, that coon innocently fell from his lips.

He specifically said that he would never think such thoughts in the privacy of his mind and that cannot be an honest statement.  He had to have been thinking it to say it.  At this point, it seems more likely that he apologized because he got caught rather than a feeling of true remorse.

This apology smacks of a fear of rightly being called a racist.  Greenberg is well aware that any backlash that  causes him to lose sponsors would mean the end of his show.  There are going to be a few people that will look at his record and crack this up to a gaffe, however that would be a mistake because no matter how well meaning or kind a person is, racism is a part of them because we live in a racist society.   We can play with words and say that what he said was racist, rather than calling him a racist but that does not change the facts.   Accepting this apology means that once again Blacks are being asked to turn the other cheek.  How many times are we expected to accept the fake apologies and lies of Whiteness, while our humanity continues to be impugned?

It is time that a message be sent that we will no longer tolerate these fake apologies after the fact.  If we fail to issue consequences for racist behaviour it will continue unabated.  A message needs to be sent to Whiteness that our humanity is worth something and no false apology makes up for the harm that is caused when they decide to invoke White privilege.  It is time that Whiteness be held accountable and this means that Greenberg needs to be called on what he said. 



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let’s Celebrate MLK Day With Fried Chicken

Everyone knows that Black folks loves them some chicken.  It is just one of those racist tropes that keeps on giving.  Is it any wonder that when Denver public school board decided to celebrate MLK the lunch menu included, southern-style chicken, collard greens,  and a biscuit.  After reading the proposed menu was I the only one thinking where is the watermelon?  If you are going to go with a racist trope, why not go all out.

imageWell it seems before the Denver school board could go along with their celebration, a parent complained

Denver Public Schools changed the Friday meal to the manager's choice for Friday. Jennifer Holladay, the parent who originally complained about the menu, e-mailed KMGH a statement that said: "I'm confident we'll see stereotype-free menus in the future."

Howard said the incident is an opportunity for the school system to become more involved in the annual Marade. Howard said the Denver Public School district has shown low interest in the festivities in past years and it's time for them to get involved.

The Houston School District has offered fried chicken and collard greens on Martin Luther King's birthday for years. Last year, in response to questions, they issued the following statement:

"The Food Service Department often runs a promotion in celebration of his birthday. The promotion includes posters and public-address announcements promoting the special meal served in the cafeterias, as well as his message of remembering to celebrate with the spirit of giving back to the community ... 'a day on, not a day off.' A menu committee researches all promotions and has utilized the MLK Center of Atlanta as a resource for information about this famous leader. Elaine Hall, from the Archives Department at the King Center in Atlanta, has informed the committee that Dr. King's favourite meal includes fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread and sweet potato pie."

This idea is problematic on two levels.  We typically feel that we can experience culture through food and in doing so, we are literally eating the “other”.  It is reductive and encourages the idea that through food we can experience what it is to belong to a particular subset.  This is no different than a non-Asian person going out for Dim Sum to celebrate Chinese New Year.  I am sure Dr. King enjoyed the occasional steak but that was not on menu.  A steak would not serve the purposes of this celebration because it does not suitably mark Dr. King as “other”.

How many times are people of colour to be degraded through food?  If it is not watermelon, it’s fried chicken.  Each time some excuse is proffered to pacify us until the next time that Whiteness decided to remind us that we are other.  For the millionth time:  continually associating Black people with chicken, collard greens, watermelon etc., is RACIST. You cannot excuse it  and don’t pretend you didn’t know that it is offensive because Blacks are tired of having to attack this particular meme.  Who do you think created the stereotype in the first place?  If Black people were going to invent a social meme, we certainly would  have choosen something far more positive.

H/T Gus aka Allison McCarthy


Tune in Tuesday: Kiddie Torture Edition

I have recently spent quite a bit of time tweeting about my desire to kick Mickey Mouse in the knee caps for singing  the Hot Dog Song.  Mayhem has become hooked on the family channel like it was a hooked on phonics program.  I have decided to share a few of the tortures that I am daily forced to suffer.  Each time one of these programs comes on, I am expected to sing the theme song as though it does not signal the beginning of the thirty minutes of torture.

Now I ask you dear readers, after going through nine months of him jumping on my bladder and cleaning up litres of gross body fluids, is subjecting me to the above horrors anyway way to say thank you?  My angst has reached such a level that Sparky has considered going into the protection racket for kiddie cartoon characters. 

Mothers Day is fast approaching and Mayhem had better remind the unhusband of my sacrifice when they go shopping. LOL  If you are a parent please share the kiddie torture that you are subjected to and for those who are not, take a stroll down memory lane and share the torture that you subjected your parents to.

Anderson Cooper Saves Boy From Looters

The following video is extremely graphic

First let me say kudos to Cooper for having the sensibility to drop his camera and help.  I do however take issue with the people of Haiti continually being referred to as looters.  These people have less than nothing and this has been the case for centuries.  It is easy for people like Sanchez to sit in his safe little office and decry their behaviour, but the truth is that none of us knows how we would act in the same desperate circumstances. 

The idea that these people are looters is ridiculous when you consider that Western nations have had no problem stealing from them for centuries.  I suppose saddling Haiti with a punishing debt and supporting heinous dictators is simply the civilized way of life, while fighting to get a few commodities is simply savage.  The problem with the West is that we have always affected a form of distance from our crimes, thereby denying the true horror of our actions.

These people were taking candles.  The electricity in Haiti is obviously not functioning properly, thus making candles a necessity but somehow the acquisition of said products is terrible.  Showing Anderson rescuing this boy without emphasizing western responsibility for these terrible circumstances only helps to solidify the White man’s burden aspect to this tragedy. 

Shortly after hearing that there was an earthquake in Haiti, I knew that Cooper would be on the first plane.  He does after all have to bring a face to all of that Black suffering and show the appropriate White liberal outrage.   Who could forget his serious reporting during Hurricane Katrina.  Thank goodness Anderson was there to show some caring on behalf of the White liberal elite.

What continues to happen is that people of color die and then Whiteness shows up on time to get it all on film.  We cheer their courageousness and dedication to journalism all the while safely consuming with voyeuristic glee the break down of any form of order.  I am reminded that a scant five years ago a tsunami hit Bangladesh and the western media went rushing cameras in hand to document the horror.  How many today are still concerned with the people of Bangladesh, though the poverty continues unabated?

We don’t really want to feel their pain or even identify with the victims.  We want to consume it, just like we consume any other product that is placed before our mindless society of troglodytes.  We don’t want to hear about western guilt because this trope only works when others are the savages or when we cannot actually smell and taste the blood.

Once again the Blacks are the mindless looters and savages dependent upon Whiteness to save it.  Nice to know that things have not changed; consistency has always been a necessary function of neo-colonialism.  Not to worry though, those who gave on Larry Kings celebrity packed special show can know that they did their part.  Isn’t that what western society is all about, everyone doing their bit?  If we fail to see the Haitians as human beings so much the better, it will make it all that easier when five years from now the celebrities have gone on to touting the next bloody spectacle.

A Spark of Wisdom: A Right Does Not Grant You The Freedom To Oppress

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 This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

Thought, Conscience and Religion - Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights

One of the increasing memes I've seen, especially as a member of the gay community, are religious groups claiming to be brutally oppressed because,  well, because they can't make me not exist. However that is hardly the first or only way in which the Right to Religion is grossly abused and twisted. From destroying the scourge of evolution, ramming gays back in the closet, to abstinence only education, to having the screaming meemies if anyone DARES say "happy holidays," to demanding that crosses and 10 commandments be plastered on every flat surface - there is a common theme.

That their Right to Religion is somehow being violated when they are prevented from imposing the tenets of their faith on other people. That they are being somehow oppressed because they cannot force others to conform.

And this is grossly wrong. First of all, even invoking the language of oppression in these circumstances is not only wrong but it's positively indecent. Seriously, when you make up not only the majority, but also the majority of the people in power, in all branches of government, in all branches of the judiciary, in the police forces, in the army, in the civil service, the health service - in just about every profession and every segment of power then there is a REALLY good chance that you're not oppressed.

It is OFFENSIVE for a dominant and powerful group to claim to be marginalised and oppressed. It shows a level of privilege and cluelessness that boggles to an extreme. It also shows a gross level of entitlement as invariably such claims are actually someone whining because they can't impose their belief on other people. It's also pretty damn comic.

Let's make this abundantly clear:

YOUR RIGHT TO RELIGION DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE A "RIGHT" TO FORCE OTHERS TO CONFORM WITH YOUR FAITH.

That means you cannot/should not demand public bodies and institution endorse your faith and its symbols on public buildings, court rooms and in public decorations. Put up what decorations you want - but why should others decorate to your taste and faith?

That means you cannot/should not demand schools force your religion on students. You should not pressure schools to present religious belief as fact. You should not try to use schools as tools for enforcing conformity and dogma. If you wish to impose on your kids then do so (though I don't agree) but you don't set the standard for education.

That means you cannot/should not force IGNORANCE on those students because of the doctrines of your faith. You should not be presenting religious dogma as science. You should not be trying discard science in favour of beliefs. You should not be hurting those children, their education and their future chances by replacing learning with scripture.

That means you cannot/should not force schools to deny an entire segment of the population exists (guess what? A generation of kids not knowing a damn thing about homosexuality won't make us disappear).

That means you should not put lives at risk by denying essential medical knowledge (and what is abstinence only education if not that? Or the oppression of contraception and abortion services). It means you shouldn't be making people's life and medical choices for them. Your right to religion doesn't give you the right to control their lives, their bodies, their health or their choices.

That means you cannot/should not force people to follow YOUR winter holiday in YOUR way. People celebrate their holidays as they choose. You are not oppressed by your neighbour celebrating Hanukah or Kwanzaa. You have no right to force everyone to have a Christmas tree. You should not have a heart attack because someone presumed to say "happy holidays"

That means you cannot make religious choices for others - preventing them having medication, medical procedures, access to products, services, employment, education, housing and even other rights just because your faith disagrees. It's their choice, not yours. You have no Right to make their decisions for them. You have no right to deny their agency, their needs or their existence.

Your right to Religion doesn't mean you can violate other people's rights. Your religion doesn't justify or excuse attacking, harming, persecuting or generally screwing over other people. Shockingly, they have Rights to. And no, you don't get special privileged Rights that are worth more.

Applying your religion to yourself and I will fight alongside you to protect your right to do so and I will demand the law protect your right to your faith. But your religion stops where I begin and you have no Right to infringe on me with your faith.

I am a religious man. My religion is important to me but, amazingly, someone else's religion is not. The tenets of someone's religion applies to them and (maybe) their co-religionists. When you start applying them to others it's not about rights any more - it's about privilege, dominance and power. And you have no Right to those.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr: A Legacy Ignored

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...And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society...

Martin Luther King on racism, poverty, capitalism, and other big questions

In the states, Americans are observing a day of remembrance in honour of Martin Luther King Jr.  Today the networks and blogs will showcase Kings famous I Have A Dream speech.  This speech makes people comfortable because it was from a time in which Dr. King chose to focus on race.  Most can see segregation today, for the evil that it was.  The unfairness of being forced to pay taxes without the ability to vote, based on the colour of ones skin is truly against democratic principals and this simple truth is recognized today.  These concepts make people comfortable because they do not require a great change in philosophy.   When we reduce Dr. King’s dream to these ideas, it is easy to believe that his wishes have been fulfilled and that we are living in a post racial world.

There is a reason why few will quote Dr. King after 1963.  At the time of his death, Dr. King had an approval rating of less than 30%. King had begun to protest the Vietnam war and was about to engage in a war on poverty that would unite all of the working class against oppression.   The link between civil rights and anti-poverty caused many of King’s liberal allies to experience fear and anxiety.  It was his goal to force Congress into passing an Economic Bill of Rights for the nation’s poor. King realized then, what so many fail to recognize today; capitalism leads to impoverishment and the specific devaluation of large sections of society.  Is a man worth less because the system in which he resides is designed to deny subsistence and dignity?

A year before his 1968 death in Memphis, in his "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community," King wrote: "I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

King wanted a guaranteed income to insure that all citizens lived at a median.  African Americans have long since realized that their labour helped to build the U.S .into a country of riches.  Slavery was based in race but it was also about establishing the cheapest form of labour.   Without this labour, the U.S. would never have become a country of wealth and to this day this fact is denied to promote the false idea of meritocracy.   America has always ridden on the backs of the poor and the powerless.  To poor Whites it would offer Whiteness as a salve for the punishing conditions of poverty.  Just as in Dr. Kings time, the overvaluation of Whiteness still causes many to act in ways that are against their class interest.  A class struggle would unite the poor, thereby allowing its numbers to overwhelm the ruling elite.

King was hated at the end of his life because he realized that all oppression are linked and that a class struggle was a necessary next step to bring justice to a country of elites determined to protect their undeserved luxuries.  Kings ideas were not new and one can certainly see Marx in his writings, however; the elite  employed red scare tactics to taint his message.  Though pure capitalism has proven to be an impossibility, the ruling bourgeoisie  have managed to convince  the poor who are themselves dependent upon social safety measures, that socialism constitutes an evil.  In the conversations regarding health care, you can specifically see this strategy play out today. 

If we are to fulfill Dr. Kings legacy, we must do more than strive for a world in which race division no longer exists.  We must work towards a world in which the poor no longer exist as a class.  This is the dream that few remember as being part of Dr. Kings message.  If we are going to dedicate a day in  celebration to his life, reducing the message to the concepts that make us comfortable does a disservice to everything he stood for.

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty”.

-Dr. Martin Luther King-



After the earthquake, Haiti needs more than your latte money

This is a post I wrote for Global Commentimage

Media images appear to be prime motivation this week in a collective, mobilized response underscored by Western guilt. Bombarded with dust-covered corpses, blood and broken bones, and bodies rotting in the hot sun, millions around the world have donated their money to various relief organizations in support of Haiti. The United States has even organized a text message campaign which allows cell phone users to donate as little as ten dollars by texting the word “Haiti” to a central national phone line. However, this feel-good effort fails to address the circumstances which created this catastrophe. Haiti cannot afford to the typical, Western, Bono-style activism: here today and gone tomorrow, even as its citizens continue to endure the effects of enormous national debt and unfair trading practices which have historically impoverished the nation.

France considered Haiti to be the pearl of the Caribbean and set about stealing both its natural and human resources at will. The average lifespan of a slave in Haiti was a scant twenty-one years, due to harsh living conditions and limited supplies of food. Instead of recognizing the Haitian struggle as akin to that engaged in by Americans against British tyranny, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson gave foreign aid to the supposedly beleaguered French slave owners. Haitians won their freedom from France through armed conflict, defeating Napoleon Bonaparte and the most powerful army in Europe — this is the history that most outside students are familiar with. But what most miss was a move that cannot be considered anything but extortion.

France demanded the sum of 150 million francs in payment for the freedom of the Haitian people. What France could not hold through force, it did through economic colonialism; by 1900, over 80% of Haiti’s annual budget was directed at paying this spurious debt. This form of neo-colonialism would serve as a model for the impoverishment of much of the Global South. Under the crushing weight of such debt, Haiti was unable to ensure its citizens a desent standard of living, forced to take loans from France, America and Germany to service the debt. It was not until 1947 that Haiti managed to pay off the debt it incurred to achieve its freedom.

But this state of economic slavery would not be enough to pacify American capitalists. Woodrow Wilson, the father of the now defunct League of Nations, a supposed signifier of American global peace efforts, would invade Haiti in 1915. From there, U.S. troops dismantled the Haitian government for failing to submit to American ownership of Haitian lands. Setting the standard for democracy, a new government was then elected with a 99% favourable vote by the mere 5% of the population that was actually allowed to vote. Thousands of active or suspected political protestors were slaughtered by the U.S. occupying force.

Even after the official US exit from Haiti, its influence would continue to cause a reign of terror upon the people. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, were embraced by the U.S. government, even as they ran up debt to pay for a lavish lifestyle and brutally terrorized the Haitian people. In a move of shocking brutality, tens of thousands of Haitians were killed largely by the paramilitary leader, Tonton Macoutes.

Finish reading here

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Shame:True Dat Edition

image I spend quite a bit of time chatting with Sparky.  He is very sweet, hilarious funny and very bright.  For those who don’t know, Sparky is British.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with him and I must say his accent is quite charming.

We were on gchat the other day when he used the phrase true that in a response to a comment I made.  First off, the phrase is true dat, not true that.  Seriously, what kind of Englishman uses the phrase true that?  I was horrified.  Of course, Sparky defended himself with the claim that his accent allowed him to use this phrase because it made anything sound charming.

I will agree that a true Englishman can almost make saying the word fuck sound charming but true that is a stretch at best.  They also have very interesting way with words.  Who doesn’t appreciate the term sod off?  In fact, it can actually sound a little jolly if said in the right frame.  I am not quite sure why calling someone a wanker is such a terrible thing because let’s face it, most people are going to get themselves some happy over the course of a lifetime. 

image Just when I decided to crack up his usage of the true that to a weird little eccentricity, he followed that by talking about wishing to give someone the side eye.  I have to say that crosses some kind of barrier.  Side eye?  Really?  I had to tell you, I was not feeling that one in the least.  Englishmen preserver, they watch football and drink great beer but never and I do mean never do they say or give the side eye.

Then he offered me the final proof that he has some sort of disconnect with the whole Britannia thing….the man does not drink tea.  How can you be British and not drink tea?  That is like being Canadian and not believing in attack beavers. I’m sure that this has to be some sort of crime.   He must be living in hiding or the local magistrate does not know of his high crime.  Did I mention this NON TEA DRINKER then had the nerve to insult my habit of having a cup of green tea in the morning.  Green tea is too tea.

Well I call shame on Sparky.  He has officially ruined all of the ridiculous stereotypes that I had in my head regarding the British.   How can I ever live the life of an ignorant anglophile again?  Bad Sparky, bad Sparky.

If Sparky has ruined all of your illusions, let him have it in the comment section.  I firmly believe that such behaviour must be controlled.  Also, if there is something that you do that anti the stereotypes associated with your country of origin please share.  Imagine, the idea of individuals running around the planet.