Saturday, May 1, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone.  What a week of conversation!  I have to say I love the way that this community does not shy away from the tough topics.  I love that we learn together, and the way that we share.  I can never say thank you enough for that.

In the spirit of continuing to broaden the conversation, I am  officially reminding everyone that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  If there is an issue that is not getting enough coverage, or something that you really want to discuss, please feel free to either send me your original work or a link back to your blog via e-mail  womanistmusings [at] gmail.com . The more people that contribute, the better the conversation will be.

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

The Evolution of Cosmopolitan Magazine

Does Culture Disappear?

President Obama: A Transgender Veteran is not an “Impersonator,” “It”, or “Shim”

Elton John’s Bittersweet Message To Ryan White

In advocating for others, listening is prime

Brown Like Me

I Was Three  ( Trigger warning post describes sexual abuse)

Challenging the Inexplicably of the Transgender Community

The Black Girl’s Manifesto: The Basic Rights of Femininity

Don’t wrap your misogynist beliefs in a faux-concern for the disabled

What if there were more feminist journalists? I bet substituting the word “sex” for “rape” would be a lot less common that’s for sure…

Piece of me

What is Asian American Really?

The Welfare Queen

On Being A Disabled Blogger

This is Not an Analysis of Rape Culture. This is a rant (extreme trigger warning this post details child abuse and rape)

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Friday, April 30, 2010

“Lo que no haces podrĂ­a matarte, or, what you don’t do may kill you”

 

image Eugenia de Altura is a female graduate student conducting research on issues of women and gender in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America with the exception of Haiti, and over 60% of the country’s population is of indigenous descent. Eugenia’s postings explore women’s rights, sexuality, and reproductive health in Bolivia and in Latin America as a whole.

When Bolivia’s Ministry of Health announced earlier this month that it would vaccinate 30,000 adolescent girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV)—a leading cause of cervical cancer—I was surprised by only one thing: the complete absence of opposition to the plan.  In the United States and in other countries where the vaccine has been introduced, conservative elements and religious institutions have often opposed it for the same reasons they oppose birth control education in schools—that these measures will somehow encourage young people to have sex.  (Instead, the rightwing argues that if we do not vaccinate and provide birth control to young people, they will abstain…forever.)  Whether because the HPV vaccine is so little known in Bolivia, or the Catholic Church is too busy with other issues, the campaign sparked not a peep of protest from the right.

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 And I must say: thank goodness.  Cervical cancer is the leading cancer affecting women in Bolivia, with five women dying daily from the disease.  Since cervical cancer typically has few symptoms until it is quite advanced, the best way to check for cervical cancer to get a yearly pap test (which detects changes in cervical cells).  While 11% of women in the U.S. fail to get their yearly pap tests, 72% of Bolivian women report never having had a pap.  With such low rates of screening for cervical cancer, it is not surprising that so many women in Bolivia have the disease.

Undoubtedly, part of Bolivian women’s reluctance to go to medical centers for pap tests is that western medical facilities often fail to address the cultural differences of their patients.  Over 60% of Bolivia’s population is of indigenous descent, and many indigenous Bolivians report suffering mistreatment at western hospitals. Patients report being yelled at or called stupid by medical personnel, and pregnant women are often prevented from giving birth in the traditional squatting position and from taking the placenta home with them (many indigenous women bury the placenta in the earth following delivery).

Too often, Bolivian women’s reluctance to get their yearly pap exams is chalked up to their “ignorance”  and lack of acceptance of western medical care.  While it is likely true that too few women in Bolivia understand the importance of the pap test, it is also unrealistic to expect them to go get the test, when so many report suffering mistreatment at these facilities.  Don’t get me wrong—I am delighted that there is a growing interest in Bolivia in preventing cervical cancer, and the vaccine is a great way to start.  But training medical personnel to provide comprehensive, non-judgmental care to women will, I expect, accomplish even more.

Editors Note: Eugenia requests that if you are interested in specific subject on Latin America that you would like to see more coverage on to please let her know.

It’s Friday and the Question is….

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I have been thinking a lot about gender performance recently and the way in which we do certain behaviours to be understood as male or female.  There are things that we do unconsciously every day-- for instance women cross their legs when they sit.  There are behaviours/actions that we consider to be chores and would drop them if we thought that we wouldn’t have to put with other people’s snark.  So, the question this week is: what gender based behaviour (eg. shaving your legs), would you quit doing if the social pressure were to suddenly disappear? Let your inner bohemian hang out in the comment section.

“Dirty Mexicans” on the Internet

Many people use the internet to expose the inner bigot that they are reluctant to visibly show to others, and some simply use it as yet another avenue of oppression. Former MLB player and current Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket producer and talk show host Mike Bacsik, took to twitter after the Mavericks lost to the San Antonio Spurs to relay his frustration.

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The comments have since been removed from his twitter feed, and Bacsik has apologized for his language.  He has also been suspended:

"Mike Bacsik's comments were unacceptable and offensive, and are inconsistent with the core values of KTCK and Cumulus.  We have made the decision to suspend Mr. Bacsik with the hope that he will take this time to consider the insensitive and hurtful nature of his comments," said Dan Bennett, Cumulus Radio vice president and market manager. [source]

Last week I wrote a post in which I revealed a few of the hateful comments that are in the Womanist Musings spam queue.  Most bloggers will occasionally do something similar; however, it is only a minute synopsis of the amount of bigotry that regularly happens on the internet.

Many mainstream sites are not safe, because commenters regularly engage in racism, homophobia, ableism, sexism, or fat hatred.  Watching people actively oppress is never something that one has to seek out, because it is an everyday phenomenon  of online discussions. Unlike off line, where oppression is often very nuanced and covert, on the internet it usually amounts to some form of overt attack.

With all of the examples of oppression, there are still so many people who come to sites like Womanist Musings and expect to be taught.  When an incident happens, a marginalized body must always justify their anger and even then, if a person is dedicated to maintaining their privilege, they ignore the answer.  Marginalized bodies find themselves having the same conversations with people they interact with, each time having to prove how bad it really is --despite the fact that the evidence is everywhere you look.

Some will take comfort because Bacsik was disciplined for his racist vitriol; however, it is clear that despite the fact that consequences are occasionally meted out, that people still seek personal gain by oppressing others.  The benefits may not seem readily tangible, but no privileged body wants to face the same oppression that a marginalized body does.  No straight person wants to know what it is like to be bashed for their sexuality, and no White person really wants to be devalued on sight for the colour of their skin.  Believing that one is better than oppressed bodies justifies the hierarchal imbalance that we live with.  People oppress not because they see the  inferiority of another, but because they fear being on the receiving end of the treatment that they readily give out.

This fear frequently manifests as rage in the face of any kind of resistance, because the ability to oppress is viewed as a birth right.  Whether it  is the able bodied, men, heterosexuals, or those who exist with class privilege, people believe the lies they have been socialized to believe, even when it directly hurts them -- so much so, that decolonizing ones mind becomes an epic if not insurmountable task.

Marginalized bodies have nothing to prove because the evidence of their oppression is everywhere you turn.  When you demand request that we teach you our pain, you are rejecting what is right before your eyes and again, demanding that we perform to your satisfaction.  It is not simple cluelessness, it is wilful ignorance and that is a symbol of privilege. Despite the apologies and the petty fines, the hate and the bile continue to multiple and therefore, I can find no comfort in empty gestures. 

So I suppose for some, this will amount to an inability to make marginalized bodies content, but how can we accept band aid solutions when the hatred is so visceral?   Mike Bacsik’s racist display will quickly leave the front pages, only to be remembered by the people he verbally assaulted –and yes, hate speech is an assault.  Today, someone far less famous will say or do something racist, sexist, homophobic,  classist, ableist and fat phobic, and it will be left to the marginalized body to deal with the fall out.  The cost of this hatred is that we live stressful lives, and often die much earlier, but what is the loss of happiness and human life when we have imagined rights to uphold?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now Republicans Want to Microchip Undocumented Workers

 image I have not written about the terrible law in Arizona because for once, not only is an incident of clear racism getting mainstream media coverage, it is being covered across the internet on various blogs.  Generally speaking, I don’t comment on U.S. elections; however, 3rd District Republican candidate Pat Bertroche has forced me to break my silence.

Speaking at a forum Monday in Toledo, 3rd District Republican candidate Pat Bertroche said police should catch illegal immigrants and document their whereabouts.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that he added, "I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal?"

Bertroche — one of seven Republicans seeking the nomination to run against Democrat Leonard Boswell — said in a statement Tuesday that his comment was social commentary on how inane the immigration issue has become. [source]

Social commentary?  Lowering an undocumented worker to the status of animal and then suggesting that they be micro- chipped is not only inhumane, it is very reminiscent of the branding that occurred when a runaway slave was caught.

Republicans like to remind everyone that they are the party of Lincoln; however, what they stand for today is racism, and a rabid fear of losing White privilege. The way that they have created immigration as an issue to attack Latinos, while ignoring that there are plenty of people in the states who are there illegally, who are White, is very telling.  This is not about protecting the integrity of the U.S., this is about perpetuating White supremacy, and the fear of what the change in population dynamics will bring as minorities become the majority.

It’s ironic that Republicans often refer to Obama as fascist, because their way of governing most closely mirrors the now defunct third Reich.   Those who fail to speak out against racism have determined that White supremacy is valued over and above a fellow human being, and this is truly a sad thing.  Politicians represent the people and from the actions and statements of Republicans, it is clear that there is a sickness festering in the U.S.

H/T The Feminist Texican



If You’re Black and Play Football, Your Momma Must be a Prostitute

image I am not a football fan and whine copiously when the unhusband watches the very rare Redskins game; however, I simply had to comment on the fact that Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins franchise, felt it appropriate to ask potential NFL first rounder, Dez Bryant in an interview prior to the draft if his mother is a prostitute.

“This is supposed to be a great moment for me,” the 21-year-old said. “Trust me, it’s not. But I try to stay positive for my mom and my younger brother and sister. I don’t want to ruin it for them.”

“They asked me if my mom’s a prostitute,” Bryant says, an account that was confirmed by Wells, who attended the meeting. “No, my mom is not a prostitute. I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it. I got a lot of questions like that: Does she still do drugs? I sat and answered all of them.”

Bryant’s mother, Angela, had him when she was 15 and conceived his younger sister and brother within the next three years. She reportedly sold drugs, and she served a prison term during Dez’s childhood; at various times he lived with relatives and family friends. Dez and Angela are very close, and she will be with him at Wells’ house for a festive draft party Thursday evening. [source]

 

How is this relevant to what amounts to a job interview?  I understand a desire to protect a franchise; however, lets face it, the current players of the NFL leave a lot to be desired already. This is about shaming this man for his childhood poverty and it most certainly was an act of racism.

One cannot ignore the ways in which the construction of poor women of colour played into this question.  Black women are always hyper sexualized and viewed as available by patriarchy.  Even if Dez’s mother had resorted to prostitution to raise the money to support her children, why is it the business of his future employer?   If anything, it does not stand as an indictment against Dez, but an indictment against a society that does not support single poor mothers enough to allow them to avoid making this choice.

Though Ireland has reportedly apologized for asking Dez if his mother is a prostitute, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross does not seem very determined to condemn the inappropriateness of the question.

"As an owner of many companies and organizations, including the Miami Dolphins, I have always strived to comply with the highest standards in all aspects of my businesses including recruiting.

"In interviewing employees we always look to obtain relevant and appropriate information in adherence with the best industry practices.”

A man that was truly upset by the actions of one of his employees would not have released such a terse statement.  It reads like displeasure for being caught rather than disavowing this sort of behaviour as a legitimate business practice. 

When we think about athletes, we always consider the social power that they have due to wealth and fame; however, it is not often that we consider the power imbalance between the athlete and the owner/franchise.  Dez was in a vulnerable position when he was asked that hideous question by Jeff Ireland. The fact that he felt he needed to respond to the question and remain calm, evidences that he knew how important his answer was to his future.  You see, privilege in one area does not amount to privilege in all. How many potential draftees have faced similar humiliations in order to play professional football?

Amidst her mistakes, which by the way we all have, Dez’s mother Angela must have done something right to get her son to this point.  Instead of looking for all the ways in which we can shame her, we should be looking for ways to celebrate her.  You see, shaming of Black mothers has become a social hobby because it allows the devaluation of Blacks and supports patriarchy.  For white men it is a win-win situation.  Is it any wonder that White women are held up as the feminine ideal when the course of ever day life it is deemed appropriate to shame a Black woman?

H/T The Field Negro

 

 


True Blood: Mini Episode 1

Clearly I messed up on the start date for the mini episodes, but thanks to youtube, I was able to catch the first one. 

My oh my, how I have missed Skaarsgard.  I cannot wait to see him in something a little steamier this season.   I will be posting the mini episodes as I come across them, as well as doing a wrap up of each episode when the season starts.  Consider Womanist Musings, your place for all things “True Blood”.

It’s Official, Quebec School Discriminated Against Filipino Child

image Children of colour have much to over come in the education system.  Not only are they discriminated against in subjective classes, they must deal with a complete erasure of their history in the average school curriculum.  Parents of colour must heavily invest in their children to thwart the racism of the education system. 

Luc Cagadoc was in grade 2 (note: that would make him between 8-9 years old)  when he was centered out by Martine Bertrand because he was using a fork and spoon to eat his noodles.  This is the traditional way in which Filipino's eat, but to Bertrand it was disgusting.

The boy's mother met with her son's lunch monitor, Martine Bertrand, after she told him that his habit of eating his noodles with both a fork and a spoon was disgusting.

Maria Gallardo said she explained that the practice was a tradition in the Filipino community, but that Bertrand was unwilling to compromise.

When Gallardo tried to meet with the school's principal to address the situation, Normand Bergeron dismissed the request and said her son should learn to eat like other Canadians.

On another occasion, when Luc had forgotten to wash his hands before eating, Bertrand asked whether hand-washing was a common practice in his country.

When she showed up at the school again to deal with the issue, Gallardo was sent a letter by the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board ordering her not to return. [source]

Luckily for Luc, his mother would not tolerate such naked discrimination and she took the issue to the Human Rights Commission.  In the end “the court ordered the school board, Bergeron and Bertrand to each pay Luc's family $5,000 in damages for their cultural insensitivity. Bergeron was also fined $2,000 for his lack of remorse”.

Though those involved were fined, it cannot undo the damage that has been done.   The sting of being marginalized and centered out for being different will be with Luc for the rest of his life and leave an indelible mark on who he is as a person. 

I have written repeatedly about the loss of childhood for children of colour and this incident is a very good example.  Much younger than White children, children of colour learn that they are often powerless due to race and that something is wrong with them.  We have a social myth regarding the innocence of children; however, the label child is not equally applied.  The innocence that we protect belongs to White children.

Talk to any adult person of colour and they can tell you about an incident in childhood that opened their eyes regarding their place in society.  As a child, it is incredibly painful to live through and as a parent, it is incredibly painful to watch, because you know that you are absolutely powerless to protect who you love the most. Racism is the inevitable curse that each child of colour must confront. 

Having a monetary reward is a small penalty for the innocence that they stole from this poor child.  The fact that they were both able to keep their jobs speaks to a complete denial about the impact of racism.  In the future, I am sure that Bergeron and Bertrand will be more covert with their racism, thus making it hard to prove; however, I highly doubt that their attitudes will disappear.  People like this should not be working with young impressionable children, but then again education is as much about learning the three r's, as it is about being socialized into performing specific roles – so perhaps Bertrand and Bergeron did their job after all-- White supremacy wins again.

H/T Angry Asian Man


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

White Service at the Ritz-Carlton Naples

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I worked with the public for many years before becoming disabled and let me be the first to say that it truly sucks.  The customer is always right is still taken as gospel by some corporations and this is especially true in times of a recession.  

Good service can be the one thing that distinguishes a business from it competitors, and today every edge is important because of the state of the global economy.  It seems that the Ritz Carlton Naples had profit in mind when it decided to fulfill a request that a guest not be served by "people of color" or staff with a "foreign accent.” 

The posh Ritz-Carlton Naples is being sued by one of its current employees, a black man of Haitian descent who says the hotel discriminated against him by not allowing him to serve the family at its restaurant in March.

Wadner Tranchant, 40, says in the lawsuit obtained by ABC News that the upscale resort created a work environment that was "hostile or abusive." Tranchant still works at the resort, according to his lawyer Michel McDonnell, who would not comment on the suit, saying the complaint speaks for itself.

I can understand a business wanting to produce a profit, but this is ridiculous and absolutely constitutes a harmful working environment.  Such a request should never been deemed acceptable.  Just as the hotel has a responsibility to ensure a comfortable, stress free stay, guests have the responsibility to not leave a basic respect for humanity at the door.

This has personally happened to me at a former job and I can tell you it is soul crushing.  Customer service is hard enough to do without having to worry that you are not fit to do your job because of the colour of your skin.  I once interacted with a customer that demanded that all female staff avoid eye contact with him.  That’s right, he wanted us to service his needs while looking at the ground because he considered women inferior.  The family in question decided that they were to good to interact with people colour and by acceding to this request, The Ritz Carlton Naples compounded their ignorance.

The solution to this was really simple – The Ritz Carlton Naples should have asked their guests to leave.  It is clear that they would have been out money, but isn’t human dignity worth more than that? There is always a reason why equality and justice can wait, because privileged groups do not feel the sting of oppression.  Until it happens to you personally, you cannot even begin to imagine being “othered” in this way.  Tranchant deserves more than having to serve this family of bigots, and I for one hope that this mistake costs The Ritz Carlton Naples enough to teach them a lesson about human value over the almighty dollar.


Canada Rocks, Embrace Your Denial

Online  I mostly converse with people that are not Canadian.  Inevitably, they will make some crack about hockey, (MONICA) and we are forced to school them about our game. I trust the Olympics made the point clear.  Sometimes, as in the case of Gus, Allison McCarthy, they live in full denial and claim that American bacon is better than the ever so scrumptious Canadian bacon, or that the weak Bald Eagle can even hold a finger (I suppose I should say claw) to the noble Beaver.  Yep, it’s all about the beaver people.  The  following is what Allison had to say on the matter:

The Eagle could lift the beaver with a swoop of her claws no contest

Also, beavers can't fly I know it's hard to accept defeat, but face it -- Bald Eagle > Beaver

See how it comes down to the ability to fight and not just pure awesomeness. Of course it comes down to fighting for her, but we Cannucks are the worlds peace keepers (Or at least that is our national lie narrative). The Beaver builds hir own home because ze is an industrious animal.  There is something to praised about that.  And tell me, who in the animal kingdom can give the words show me some tail real meaning, the way a beaver can?  You see, you are jealous already.

Some people.… A.K.A Sparky, just embrace their Cannuck envy and send me ridiculous videos.  Check exhibit A

Clearly, the man has come to the conclusion that the British Bulldog cannot compete with the sheer magnitude of win that nature has invested in The Moose.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of Cannuck envy to be found online. 

So let me break this down for those living in denial, (and I say this as a friend) The Beaver, Moose, Canadian Bacon, Hockey, Curling, Poutine, and Maple Syrup all rock.  Embrace your jealousy, it will only make you feel better to come to terms with all that you have been denying.

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Doesn’t it make you wanna grab some harem pants and sing can’t touch this?

 

 

 

I think it even saddens me a bit to realize that you don’t even have the privilege of drowning your sorrows in a nice steaming hot cup of Timmy’s Coffee.  More is the pity eh?  Did you catch that, I said eh…

Okay moment of ridiculous nationalism over.  Situation Normal All Fucked Up, Roger and out.


Sandra Bullock and her Secret Baby

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Sandra says of her decision to divorce: "I'm sad and I'm scared." Louis was born in New Orleans, and Sandra and Jesse began the adoption process four years ago, and brought Louis home — in secret — in January. Only close friends and family knew about the child. Sandra is clearly smitten with Louis, saying,
"He's just perfect, I can't even describe him any other way," and "It's like he's always been a part of our lives." [
People, People, AP]

Aww isn’t that sweet?  Another White earth mother finding fulfillment raising a brown baby.  Thanks goodness she has Louis to help her get over her cheating husband. Isn’t it wonderful that she has an Oscar and a brand spanking new Black baby to commemorate her role in “The Blindside”?

Yep, she kept him a secret for his own good, cause a three month old baby would have been affected by the negative press.  Give me a fucking break.  It couldn’t possibly be about the close relationship to the character she played and the race of her son some black woman’s child could it?  Then of course, when it was revealed that she had been married to a man with dubious (note: the word dubious is a generous choice of words) views on race, out comes the news of this wonderful Black baby that she is soooo in love with.

Yeah, I am full of snark on this one.  As I said in an earlier piece, it says something about her that she married Jessie James in the first place.  Don’t tell me that the man just lost his mind when he saw McGee, one does not just fall into bed with an admitted White supremacist without having racist views.  But poor innocent, sweet Sandy just missed all of this.  Think about the fact that this is the same man that she had initially thought to raise a Black child with.  I suppose when massa daddy said something racist, Bullock planned to be right there to teach little Louis not to be sensitive -- after all, it’s a wonderful world right?

Really I wish Sandra would just go back into hiding.  The world has seen enough White celebrities toting around their Black/Brown babies.  Granted, at least she didn’t steal the child the way that Madonna did, but still, enough is enough.  She could have used her influence and her wealth to help struggling Black mothers, and she could have advocated for change in the adoption system, but instead she decided to become an earth mother as her next staring role.  This is about Sandy and not little Louis.  Kiss his little feet and dry his tears, but what are you going to say when the child gets called nigger -- cause I guarantee it will happen, and it might even be done by someone who looks like his dearest White momma.

Louis will now have all of the privileges and rights that come with being the latest pet of a White woman, so it really is too bad that he won’t be able to catch a cab when he grows up. But hey, he has the honour of becoming someone’s living breathing liberal credential.

 Editors Note:  Due to the vitriol that is appearing in the comment section and the hate speech that is landing in the spam que, this post is now closed for any further comments.  I apologize for the inconvenience; however, there are limits to what I will tolerate.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tune in Tuesday: Spandu Ballet True

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Sorry the embedding is down, but please click the image to hear the song.

I chose Spandu Ballet this week because the unhusband has been singing this song repeatedly.  I understand getting a song stuck in your head, but Spandu Ballet --I mean really. I am starting to wonder if this is punishment for not telling him what his birthday present is.   I really do believe this is worse than the time the man had the nerve to insult my cornbread.   Yes, with the disasters he has produced in the kitchen, he thought he still had the right to complain.

At any rate, this week I think that we should use “Tune in Tuesday” to complain about the music taste of someone who is dear to us.  What song does your beloved love that makes you question whether or not they have any taste in music?

Bill C-389: Canadian LGBT folk, have you been calling or writing your MP?

This is a guest post from Mercedes Allen of Dented Blue Mercedes

I received a comment this evening, indicating that Bill C-389 would be likely coming up for discussion in the next month in Parliament:

“Developed in consultation with trans rights groups, Bill C-389, proposed by New Democrat MP Bill Siksay, would add gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code, alongside prohibited grounds of discrimination such as race, religion, and sexual orientation.”

This is essentially employment / housing non-discrimination and hate crimes inclusion in one bill. You can visit billc389.wordpress.com to follow the progress of the bill as this comes nearer to discussion.  I’ve previously written about this bill, with details for those who are interested in more information.  Despite a common misconception, it is a Private Member’s Bill, and therefore did not die when Parliament was prorogued.  It entered first reading in May of last year, and second reading hasn’t been put on the calendar yet, but should be shortly (when it does, the details will be entered here).

To help, find out who your Member of Parliament is, and call or write (don’t email at this point, because some MPs delete them without reading).  There has been some support expressed from members of all parties, so don’t assume that if your MP is from x party then it’s pointless to call.

And don’t forget to contact other allies and have them do the same.

To find out who transgender people are and why you should support equal rights protections for them, you can visit albertatrans.org, Press For Change’s (UK) “Engendered Penalties: Transgender and Transsexual People’s Experiences of Inequality and Discrimination,” EgaleCanada’s Trans resource, Gender.org, and I can locate more if you like.

If you’re part of a trans or LGBT organization looking for an info brochure that you can hand out to educate people on transsexuality (where much of this legislation becomes crucial), I have a printable brochure available online, free to print and use.

———————–

NEW: Do you have a story of trans-related discrimination at your job or public accommodations?  Have you ever been assaulted for being trans?

Tell me your story in a couple paragraphs, and let me know a name or nick that you’d like attributed.  I’ll do my best to post them here, where people can refer, to see and/or show exactly why passing this bill is important.

Don’t You Dare Touch the Animals, but Women Are Fair Game: Why Does Nike Continue to Do Business with Ben Roethlisberger and Other Athletes Who Have Abused Women?

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This is a guest post by Max Reddick. He blogs over at soulbrother v.2.  I discovered Max quite by accident and since then he has moved me with his eloquence and tender heart.

 

 

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What do Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Ben Roethlisberger have in common?  Well, perhaps three things stand out.  All are highly regarded professional athletes, all have very lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, and all seem to treat women with only the most utmost disdain.  Let’s take a look at a few cases in point.

If you recall, in 2003 a female employee of a hotel in which he was a guest accused Bryant of sexual assault.  After some coercion, Bryant admitted sleeping with the young lady, but denied that it was assault. 

After some sloppy and irresponsible police work that allowed the victim’s name and other very personal information to be leaked to the press, the victim was understandably reluctant to testify, and charges were later dropped.  But Bryant did settle the civil suit brought against him by the victim out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Though Bryant did make a written apology, he never took full responsibility for his actions.  Nike did not suspend him, but scaled back their marketing efforts utilizing Bryant momentarily, but as soon as the dust settled and the incident dropped from the very short public memory, they went right back to him.

And let’s not forget the recent case of Tiger Woods.  No, Woods did not sexually assault anyone, but after an incident at his home in which his wife allegedly assaulted him after learning of an adulterous affair, restaurant hostesses, waitresses, strippers, and porn stars all came out of the woodwork claiming to have had sex with him.  Not only that, they had the bawdy text messages to prove it.

Though most of Wood’s other major sponsors dropped him, Nike remained loyal though they scaled back using his image, and when he returned to golf after about a six month hiatus getting his personal life straight, Nike marked that return with perhaps the most ingenious marketing scheme ever featuring a stoic, silent Tiger Woods staring into the camera as a voice over of his deceased father questioned his motives and mindset.

Now we can get to the case of one Mr. Ben Roethlisberger.  Now, again because of shoddy, inept police work, the details are kind of cloudy in the two allegations brought against, but one thing is certain;  Mr. Roethlisberger likes to drink to excess, and he is very proud of his penis.

In each of the two allegations, the young ladies report a drunken Roethlisberger first exposing himself to them.  And I have never seen Roethlisberger’s penis;  perhaps it is a majestic, chubby little fellow, and he has every right to be proud of it and show it off.  However, this behavior is wholly unacceptable.  

Additionally, the young lady making the second allegation reports that Roethlisberger forced intercourse on her even after she told him that it was not okay while two off duty police officers acting as his bodyguards ran interference to keep her friends from coming to her aid.

It seems to me that anytime you pair up professional athletes and policemen, you have to lock up the women folk because absolutely anything is bound to happen. 

In all these cases professional athletes took advantage of women in some way.  And in all these cases Nike did not terminate their lucrative endorsement deals.  But do you remember NFL quarterback Michael Vick?  Soon after charges were filled by officials in Vick’s 2007 dog fighting case, Nike summarily terminated his endorsement deal citing the morality and personal conduct clause in his contract.

You might argue that Vick was actually convicted of a crime while the others have not been, but keep in mind, Nike terminated Vick’s contract after he was charged, not convicted.  And not only that, a little money spread around and Keystone Cop like investigations by the local police departments caused the charges to go away. 

And even if the other athletes in question were not convicted, enough evidence exists of their misconduct and blatant mistreatment and disregard for women to seemingly activate the morality and personal conduct clauses in their contracts because their behaviour has certainly been, at the least, morally reprehensible. 

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger six games after reading the police report and the 572 page report issued by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations detailing Roethlisberger’s actions in this last incident.

But this is the upshot of it all.  Nike is perhaps the most powerful sportswear corporation in the world;  they dominate the market.  And though Nike has done some wonderful things toward the progress of women athletes and women’s athletic programs throughout the control, they have dropped the ball when it comes to policing the conduct of the athletes of their payroll in regards to women.

And because of Nike’s worldwide presence and influence, its inaction reveals the seemingly diminished value it places on the lives and well-being of women and girls.  You could make the argument in the case of Tiger Woods that in his discretion, the only people hurt were his wife and family, but in the same instance, his case tacitly makes the statement that money and power gives one license to treat women as they choose.

Even now I am perplexed as to why women, women’s groups, and their supporters have not called for a boycott of Nike or besieged its corporate headquarters in an effort to determine why Nike would terminate its business relationship with an athlete for mistreating animals but not for mistreating women.  They seem to be looking on passively, waiting for the other shoe to drop. 



Black Mothers are in the Best Interest of the Black Child

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When I first became a mother I was terrified.  I know that some women experience a modicum of fear regarding the prospect of raising a child – from what diapers to choose to being a good role model, there really is much to fear.  A child is the single largest responsibility that you will ever have, but my fears were far more involved, you see I am a Black mother of a Black child and that means at anytime my fitness to parent can be called into question.

For the first few months of Destruction’s life, I worried that some one would take him from me. I obsessively performed motherhood, reading any parenting magazine that I could get my hands on, because I knew that Black women have never been considered competent to raise our own children. When we would go out together, inevitably I would be considered his babysitter because Destruction was very light skinned when he was first born -- and this hurt more than I can ever convey to you.   I clutched my child to my breast seeking to protect him from the world and build a relationship with him.

I knew from the moment I looked in his big brown eyes what a special child he is and I promised to protect him to the best of my ability, and guide him in a path that would hopefully lead to a happy life.   Promises like the ones I made are often unfulfilled by mothers of colour, not because we don’t care, but because the system is designed for us to fail.  Many of us are raising our children in poverty, and this means that we must struggle to provide their basic needs. 

When the cupboard is empty, it is not because we have failed, but because society has yet to see food as an essential right.   Many of us would love to spend hours watching educational programs with our children, and significantly investing in their education, but when you have to work two jobs to keep a roof over their heads it becomes impossible – yet there is no understanding of this, and instead we are portrayed in the media as giving up, or not understanding the importance of education. Mommy and me playgroups aren’t possible for many, but that does not mean we love with less passion, or are somehow devoted any less than  affluent White mothers.

It seems that the best interests of the child always involve removing hir from the Black community, thereby severing their history and familial connections.  This is a form of social attack that Whiteness has been perpetuating for generations.  Ask a First Nations woman how comfortable she is having a White woman hold her child.   The White woman as expert has destroyed families and filled the earth with the salty tears of children who long for their mothers touch.  No White woman is better at raising a child of colour than a WOC.  Your best intentions and liberal credentials don’t amount to a pot of piss.

So, in all honesty, I really don’t want you anywhere near my child.  I don’t want you to touch him, hold him or even grow to love him, because your love has proven toxic to mothers of colour for generations. We watched as you sold our children for profit and then bought new ball gowns.  When you handed us your children as substitute -- a pale reflection of the love we once knew, you turned your eyes on our bitter tears.

Even now you continue to use the best interest of the child as you cart our babies to soccer tournaments and we are left with an echo of the love we once knew.  No matter how liberal, educated, or well-meaning, you cannot know what it is to love a Black child, the way we love the fruit of our womb.  You have not suffered for a simple touch or wept at a passing glimpse --but we have and we continue to. 

When we rail about inter-racial adoption, because once again White women are better prepared to raise our babies, White women point to the high number of Black children in the system as proof of why their guardianship is infinitely better.  It is not the Black woman or the Black mother that has failed, but the very institution that you use to help you steal our babies.   The cost of adoption is exorbitant, and how many poor and working class families are excluded on that basis alone? Yet, the problem is not the system we are told, the problem is that we don’t want our own babies.   White women  ignore their own self-interest, because the end result is that it grants them access to our children.

It’s ironic that Whiteness creates and maintains racism and yet believes that it is best able to teach Black children how to negotiate it.  Oh I know you have Black friends, and have read the “I have a dream” speech, but you cannot know what it is to be victim to the system that allows your  children to be under educated, exploited and demeaned everyday -- even as they are taught to love everything White and hate everything Black.  You cannot know, because you are a part of the problem and no matter how many times you listen to the Tom Joyner morning show, or read Maya Angelou and feel uplifted, you can empathize but never truly understand.

I don’t want to settle for your version of the best interest of the child, because Whiteness continues to ignore the best interest of Black children.  You indoctrinate them, reduce them, and rob them of their childhood, all the while proud of the fact that you read O Magazine and can quote Audre Lorde.  The best interest of the child is to allow Black mothers the opportunity to raise Black children.  The best interest of the child is to educate them, even as you fill their lives with love.  The best interest of the Black child involves teaching them their history, and preparing them to deal with a White supremacist state -- but then realizing all of the aforementioned would mean truly owning racial privilege, and that is something Whiteness has never been interested in doing.

Editors note: The image used in this article was painted by Andre Ajibade, who is an excellent artist.


Spark of Wisdom: Yes, GLBT Representations in the Media Hurt Sometimes

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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.

Beloved and I have lots of random scheduling, especially through the week. I work long hours, have a blog, read vast arrays of blogs, new sites and random things that amuse me.  I also leave my deadlines to the VEEEERYYYYY last minute then inter myself at work until I'm sure he needs a photograph of me to remember what I look like.

Beloved doesn't work long hours, but he does work... random hours. And his endless enthusiasms do eat up his time (and my tolerance).  When he has a new whim it does tend to eat many hours of his time. Of course, I do try to spend time with his hobby du jour, but after a couple of hours even I run out of sarcastic commentary.

So we have 2 rules - we always eat together in an evening, and Fridays and Saturdays are ours, together. And on Saturday that means coiling on the sofa with some nice bottles and whatever our Skyplus has been told to record over the week (we record far more than we ever watch and are steadily falling behind).

This is us time, comfort time. When all the badness of the world is reduced to whether or not my glass is full and whether, if I poke him in enough places, Beloved can be convinced to fill it up.

And yet, while I snuggle up happily to watch Waking the Dead or Silent Witness (cheesey crime dramas? Yes I likes them), Top Gear (Richard Hammond. Enough said), Lie to Me (Tim Roth. Don't look at me like that, you know you would too) and so many other wonderful shrines of cheesey goodness, ready for a nice lazy evening...

Except for the last few weeks now we've been brought to a screeching halt and fallen back on cheesey DVDs we've watched a dozen times. Which means we're getting ever further behind on our recordings.

Because in the last few weeks we've had - depictions of anti-gay hate crime, depictions of religious gay youths using "aversion therapy" to hurt themselves when they have "impure" thoughts, a young man killed by the manager of his gay lover for fear that his sexuality would ruin their career, and people driving across a renowned conservative southern state of the US with "manlove forever" written across the side of the car to see how angry the locals get. More than a few cringe worthy stereotypes than I could shake a stick at - oh and a B&B called, oh-so-funny -  "The Happy Faggot"

This does not make for a happy evening of cheesey TV consumption. In fact, it leaves Sparky very grumpy and sad and hurt and angry and generally uncomfortable. I hesitate to use the word "triggered" because I'm not sure how extreme a reaction needs to be to be considered a trigger, but it does not leave me in a happy fun place with booze and Beloved poking.

And that's pretty damn sad. It's pretty damn sad that there is so much anti-gay badness in society that I can't relax in front of the television without worrying that I'm about to be dragged down bad-memory-lane or left cringing and uncomfortable. It's sad that I've reached a point where I can't sit down on our happy, fluffy Saturday nights and just watch television without checking the synopsis first to make sure nothing we're watching is going to hurt me.

Of course, the alternative to that tends to be a night of straight viewing, with nary a gay in sight. I can look forward to a full night of comfortably not having the media stomp all over my sore spots, dredge up the bad memories or make me upset and frightened - but only because it reduces the world to the grand Straight World of Hetlandia

Is there a solution to this? I mean, I can see the argument now, "he complains when there are gays on TV then moans when there aren't!" aren't I an awkward little thing? And yes, covering over all the negative aspects of homophobia in depictions of gay people would be deeply problematic as well. See, I'm even more awkward? But the problem with depictions of homophobia is that they're essential for straight people - so straight people can learn and come close to understanding. We don't need to be taught these lessons, we've already learned them, often painfully. We don't need depictions of gay pain and gay loss and gay sadness and gay angst and anti-gay cruelty. They're essential portrayals and they benefit us - but they're not for us.

I'd like to be able to just turn on the television and relax. I'd like to not have to approach the media with caution and fear. I'd like to lay back and enjoy my evening without being hurt. I'd like to spend a night NOT being faced by homophobia.

And that's ultimately it. I want to spend one night, one comfortable, us night where I don't have to deal with this. Just one night when I can just be without having to worry about it, without having all my sore spots poked. And I'd quite like to have that without having to erase my existence or burrow through all of TV-land for niche programming

It doesn't seem a lot to ask, it shouldn't be this hard.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When you Transgress the Gender Binary

The following images appeared at Bossip.

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Boy, we tell ya! We spotted this picture and thought it couldn’t get any worser...until we spotted the one below of him turned around!!!

Pop the top and peep fruity-pops’ backside

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The sole purpose of posting these images was to hold this man up to ridicule and the Bossip commenters did not disappoint.

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Socially we are very invested in maintaining the gender binary and the moment someone does not perform gender to match the constructed norms they are disciplined.  How does this man posing for a picture really become threatening, unless we have decided that certain bodies are abnormal specifically to maintain underserved privileges?

Gender is something that is a concern for everyone because we are all disciplined.  Women can be attacked for not being suitably feminine, gay men are called swishy and effeminate, the trans community faces various marginalizations including but not limited to discrimination in employment and housing, and even heterosexual cisgender men can quickly find themselves the center of ridicule, the moment they admit they are not he-men.

We spread the social lie that everyone is allowed to pursue happiness as long as it is not damaging to others, but clearly this is not the case.   Even though we know that the gender binary is a false construct and damaging to so many people, we continue to perpetuate it in many aspects of life.

Gender continues to be a very important area to organize around, specifically because it effects millions of people across the globe everyday. And when we ignore it’s significance because it may not seem readily apparent, we set the stage for our own maginalization.  The category of male and female are not nearly as opposite as we tend to believe, and in fact whether cisgender or not, each day we perform actions that are perceived as belonging to the opposite gender.  If you are a man cooking dinner or a woman using a drill, you are guilty of breaking the gender binary.

Life is about performance far more than we realize, and it is only very young children, who actually have the true capacity to simply exist outside of these very specific roles.  No matter how progressive we may believe that we are, social pressure works to cause conformity even when it is not in our best interests.  Consider the recent furor because Monique went to a formal affair without shaving her legs. It’s about more than body hair; this incident was about what is understood as an authentically female body.

Each time we reinforce gender as something that is biologically determined, rather than something that is socially constructed, we ensure that at some point we too will be stigmatized.  If one happens to be cigender, heterosexual and male such stigmatization may not end in death, but for many other people, it can at a very minimum lead to violence and often to death.  Many trans women know this experience first hand from facing attacks after being read as trans.

Someone transgressing the gender binary does not pose a threat to the individual, rather they pose a threat to a limiting and harmful construct.  When we attack, not only are we affirming the gender binary, but solidifying the hierarchal structure of our society.  The value of a person can not and should not be based upon an artificial performance, but rather what they contribute to society.  When we attack viscerally, as the Bossip commenters did, we are doing as much harm to ourselves as the victim of our vitriolic hate speech.

 


Latinos in Children’s Programming: What Does Handy Manny Teach Us?

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Several times a day Mayhem watches “Handy Manny”.  He loves to watch as Manny and his tools fix things.   At first, I was quite pleased with the show because Latino representation in mainstream television is severely lacking. I was particularly pleased by the fact that Manny has had disabled characters, most notably a deaf man who communicated through sign language.  What’s not to like right?  In Manny you have a visible minority who occasionally speaks Spanish, and occasionally has darker skinned Latino characters in the episodes.

Here is the problem, Manny is a handy man.  I am not going to say that fixing things is not a good profession, but I think that it is important to point out that once again Latino’s are being represented by manual labour.   I think that this is very representative of the roles that many think that Latino’s occupy in the U.S., even though they are actors, lawyers, architects, doctors, writers, poets, activists, and politicians.  There isn’t a single occupation short of the presidency where Latino’s have not been represented. 

It is not enough to see a character on television to say that it counts as representation, one must consider what roles they play.  Overwhelmingly, when a brown/black body is portrayed in the media, the role is reductive and is not representative of the diversity that makes up the various communities.  What does “Handy Manny” teach a Latino child that they are to aspire to?

In general, stereotyping constitutes a negative generalization used by an in-group about an out-group… [T]he in-group might hold the idea that “If you speak with a Spanish accent, then you must be unintelligent.” Hispanic professionals must be aware of these differences in perception of the Latino/a stereotype as it might prove invaluable for personal career advancement as well as for the professional development of the Hispanic workforce and its impact in the U.S. economy as a whole. [source]

“Handy Manny” amounts to negative racial stereotyping for children because it once again depicts someone of Latino heritage in a service role.  If Disney had a multitude of Latino characters employed in various occupations, “Handy Manny” in and of itself may not necessarily constitute something negative; however, when the media representation of Latino’s, who amount to 13% of the U.S. population are lowing paying service sector jobs, gang members, or baby making machines, it is a systemic attempt to construct them as less than.

“Handy Manny” is easy to ignore specifically because it is a show aimed at children; however, when we consider that the media often serves as method of education, it is extremely dangerous to do so.  Children are not born understanding that race has a specific value for different bodies, we teach them on a daily basis through everyday ordinary acts.   It is the everyday representations through the media, and other agents of socialization, that teach them about hierarchy and their place in it.  

So when we see “Handy Manny” and say hey, there is a Latino cartoon without understanding that this is one of the very few images that children will see, it becomes problematic. As White children grow, not only are they certain to see themselves reflected in the majority of the media, they are also certain to see Whiteness in a vast variety of rolls, thereby teaching them that  their colour does not serve as a barrier for success and that they rightfully can aspire to any profession that they desire.

As parents, instead of lauding “Handy Manny”, what we should be doing is agitating for further representation so that the character can be properly contextualized. Having one show in which a Latino character is featured is not representation, it is a crumb from the table of plenty. Shows like “Handy Manny” are often cited as evidence of change when the opposite is in fact true.  We are not post-racial as long as racial stereotypes constitute the majority of representations. Racism hurts more than children of colour --the White children watching are learning to overvalue their Whiteness, and thus perpetuate the vary same bigotry that has existed for generations. If we truly cared about all children, we would not corrupt their innocence by teaching them that some bodies are worth more than others based solely on race.

 


Restore Stephen Baldwin

I promise, this is not some sort of joke, these people are actually serious.

transcript:

Long ago in the land of oz lived a man named Job.  Job was the most influential man in the east.  A man of great wealth who stood for righteousness and God.  Through trials he lost his children, his health, his home and wealth, yet Job stood in faithfulness to God, never turning his back on him.  Because of this he was instantly restored by all who knew him.  Stephen Baldwin of the famous Baldwin brothers Hollywood clan is a veteran actor who has starred in over 60 films and television shows.  He’s no stranger to the Hollywood life of glitz glamour in the public eye.  In 2001 he had an experience that changed his life forever.  He became a born again Christian giving his life to Jesus Christ.  Over the next few years he became very vocal about his faith, using his spotlight to boldly preach the gospel to millions of people.  However, because of his convictions it began to cost the loss of several jobs, most recently a highly publicized bankruptcy.  He had been publicly ridiculed and insulted by people who think that he has been abandoned by God.  A simple search throughout the internet will reveal that people not only mocked Stephen but mocked God as well.  In response to this with the permission of Stephens ministry president Daniel Southern we have established RestoreStephenBaldwin.org a privately funded and managed website.  Our vision is to Stephen Baldwin publicly restored in front of millions.  Stephens platform will increase, allowing him to reach even more people with the gospel and God will get all of the glory.  Job was stored by the people, all who knew him.  This website was created in footsteps of Jobs restoration.  If the people of God come together and each give a small token gift we can see a massive restoration of a Christian public figure and all of the glory will go to God.  Join the movement, visit RestoreStephenBaldwin. org.

Stephen Baldwin has made millions of dollars within his lifetime and because he overspent, and did not manage his money properly he is a victim?  He is a member of the most privileged class ever to walk the face of the planet, and yet we are to believe that he is being persecuted for being a Christian?   It’s people like Baldwin that give Christianity a bad name.

I think what I find amazing about this entire situation is that America has a strong pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality even when you don’t have a boot.  Here we have one of the most privileged members using fake persecution to justify his failures whereas; a poor woman of colour would be granted no quarter. You see, poor women of colour are told that there is no reason to fight for women’s right because equality has been achieved.  We also supposedly live in a post-racial world thanks to Barrack Obama and Oprah Winfrey and therefore; racial discrimination is not considered a relevant factor in the continuing social imbalance.  When POC are persecuted, it typically not associated with systemic factors-- it usually becomes conflated with a supposed lack of personal responsibility.

Poor Stephen Baldwin is suffering because his family (also millionaires ) will not help him. “His family does not perceive Stephen’s predicament as a matter of spiritual warfare. They see Stephen’s outspoken Christianity as poor choices therefore they will not help”.  Stephen Baldwin claims that: “When he became an outspoken Christian in 2002 his income went down by 70% when he refused roles with gratuitous sex and violence”.  Of course, this has nothing to do with his personal choices –oh no, it is systemic oppression. 

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Stephen Baldwin needs this money because:

Stephen’s influence is in Hollywood. Hollywood worships money and without it you are seen as a loser and cannot be an effective influence to this group. Stephen needs several million dollars to pay all of his creditors but he deserves hundreds of millions for his Job like faithfulness in the face of relentless loss and persecution.

There is no large push to restore the property and money taken from the Japanese because of internment in WWII.  Even daring to bring up reparations for 310 years of slavery is enough to start a backlash regarding how no one in the current generation has ever enslaved anyone -- never mind that they continue to benefit from slavery --but Stephen Baldwin needs to be restored because of the persecution he faces.

There are real examples of suffering in this world and Stephen Baldwin does not fall within that category.  I am going to use his own words against him and suggest that he get a real job.  You see, unlike bodies that face real marginalization, fat people, POC, women, older citizens,  the TLBG community, etc., Baldwin is capable of getting a job paying a living wage and I heartily suggest he take that option.  It is after all about individual responsibility isn’t it…

H/T Red Queen



The Obama Placebo

This is a guest post from Godheval

image I am a writer, a philosopher, a dreamer, and an idealist.  I have no credentials worth mentioning, and I don't presume to know anything about anything.  I am merely a man, and a person of color, and I am always contemplating what that means for me and my relationship to the rest of the world.  That relationship is negotiated by an overwhelming sense of justice, something I mitigate with a harsh rationality lest I come completely undone by my emotions.  I blog about social issues, culture, politics, philosophy, and entertainment at Godheval.net.

What should Obama’s Presidency mean to people of color?

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President Obama: Symbol of a Post-Racial Society?

image In the latter weeks of the Presidential election, I had already started to become disenchanted with Mr. Obama.  For the same reasons as most progressives – his steady accommodating shifts towards the right, as he positioned himself as a rank and file Democrat.  Don’t get me wrong.  I voted for him, and I can even say I like the guy, but so far he has not been a President who has lived up to all the “hope”.

In thinking about what his presidency means, with regards to him being the first African-American to take the office, there was much to consider.  So much talk about its historicity, and its symbolism, and the introduction of the term “post-racial” to the common parlance.

It’s mostly nonsense.

There is no doubt in my mind that had Barack Obama been anything other than African-American – even Hispanic or Asian or any other non-white minority – that he would not have won the primary, let alone the overall election.  I do not mean to take anything away from Mr. Obama – he is brilliant, eloquent, right-minded, and every bit qualified to occupy the office of President of the United States.  I mean to say that his ethnicity shone like a beacon to draw attention to his many other merits, whereas he may have been obscured by other Democrats more established around the time that he made his first mark on the public back in 2002.

Let’s not harbour any illusions here.  Mr. Obama’s ethnicity secured him much of the non-white vote – especially amongst African-Americans and Latino-Americans, which make up a sizeable portion of the electorate.  Again I am not saying that the groups voted for him simply because of his ethnicity, but because his ethnicity gained him their attention.  In terms of adequately representing the needs and interests of the non-white demographic, Obama was hardly the best candidate.  That honour goes to Representative Dennis Kucinich, who even had the political chutzpah – no, the balls – to say that he would have a discussion around the issue of reparations.  But Obama was the better politician – he knew how to navigate the waters between left and right so as not to out himself as too much of a liberal like Kucinich, accusations of being a socialist notwithstanding.

And so he won.

But what does his victory mean, really, to people of color?  To me?  Not as much as all the “historicity” and “symbolism” suggests.  In some ways, I feel that his victory may even have set us back, as a nation still struggling with its identity and attempting to reconcile the differences between its disparate ethnic groups.  The idea of a “post-racial” society is nothing short of regressive, because what it does is promote the idea that we are somehow beyond racism simply because we elected an African-American President.  Given the progress that we have made in this country’s 234 year history – full of small hard-fought victories – how could a two-year campaign and election possibly have served to completely eradicate racism?  It’s a ridiculous – and delusional – proposition.

Video Transcript:

Chris Matthews: You know, I was trying to think about who he was tonight.  And uh...it's interesting.  He is post-racial, by all appearances.  Uh, you know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.  You know, he's gone a long way to become a leader of this country past so much history in just a year or two.  I mean it's something we don't even think about.  I was watching and I said wait a minute, he's an African-American guy in front of a bunch of other white people and there he is President of the United States and we've completely forgotten that tonight.  Completely forgotten it.

Mr. Obama, throughout his candidacy, worked hard to isolate himself from his identity as an African-American, in that he attempted to remove race from the campaign altogether.  He was astute enough to deliver an excellent speech on race, but it was mostly to resonate with the post-racial idealism of white liberals and to placate white dissent that came in response to the Jeremiah Wright controversy and Obama’s own comments about the “typical white person” during a radio interview.  He made sure to emphasize his blended heritage, to make himself relatable to white Americans, many of whom in their “post-racial” thinking were quick to argue during discussions of race how Obama wasn’t just black, but half-white.

I am not amongst those who have ever criticized Mr. Obama for not being “black enough”.  As a person growing up in this country with his skin color, his features, his name, I have no doubts that he had the full “black experience”, and that he came through it for the better.  It would have, however, been more historic had the first African-American president been a descendant of the enslaved Africans who formed the very backbone of this country.  It would’ve served as a more direct metaphor for “how far we’ve come”.  Still, I will never begrudge Mr. Obama his heritage.

As for symbolism, what exactly does Mr. Obama represent?  He gave white Americans the opportunity to prove – to themselves, at least – that they were not racist, because they voted a “black” President.  But here’s the problem.  In the ways that Obama divorced himself from race during his campaign – such as his clever universalizing of the reparations question – and in how his policies do not reflect any particular concern for people of color, he is the United States’ first African-American President in image only, not in representation.  I do not in any way mean to say that Mr. Obama, or any other person of color, is obligated to act on or even to have such concerns, but if we are talking about how symbolic his presidency is, then he is not an adequate representative of people of color.

Even spectators in other countries have honed in on this:

But it is now time that he lives up to his reputation. Being the first black president does not mean he will automatically champion black issues, or other minority appeals.

His skin colour is slowly blurring into the background of the White House. He is being measured not on his place in history, but on how his reign will affect history.

[...]

Having Obama as a black head of state in the most powerful country in the world will not solve the crises affecting minority populations in the nation.  He is simply the face for a white establishment, who happened to support him to the top because they saw a possibility for a win.  He is, first and foremost, an American President.

— Amy McQuire, National Indigenous Times, Australia

In other words, Obama was “black enough” to be the first African-American president, to allow white people to convince themselves of a post-racial society, but not black enough to rock the boat.  To clarify, this is not a criticism of Mr. Obama himself, but of a society that could elect an African-American president so long as he didn’t call too much attention to his blackness.  Had Mr. Obama even dared to use the word “reparations” during his campaign, he would’ve crashed and burned that instant.  During that reparations question on the CNN panel, only John Edwards had the personal integrity to plainly admit that he would not even address the issue.  Only Dennis Kucinich had the courage to acknowledge that it was an issue worth discussing.  Obama – in what was undoubtedly the right move, politically – danced around it brilliantly.

I am honing in on reparations not because I think it is a pressing issue, but because it is one that highlights the ideological divide between white Americans and Americans of color – regardless of their political orientation.  The candidate willing to address such an issue directly, in a country where white Americans are the majority and still ill at ease discussing race issues, risks political suicide.  It was okay for Dennis Kucinich, who has already found his niche as a hardcore progressive.  But it is for that niche, also, that Kucinich may never be a viable Presidential candidate.

What does it say about a post-racial society that a candidate who wants to discuss the most sensitive issues around race and racism, and our country’s divided legacy, is automatically removed from any chance of being our President?  It suggests a real definition for post-racial:

post-racial

adjective.

beyond discussions of race & racism

Origin: 2008–10, Americanism

Word Origin & History

A term used to describe a society or time period in which discussions around race and racism have been deemed no longer relevant to current social dynamics. Popularized after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America in 2009.

There is no question that people of color hoped that Barack Obama might better represent their interests – interests that have been mostly ignored by long succession of white male Presidents.  They certainly did not need a President whose election suggested that their issues were no longer issues at all, that we as a nation had somehow grown beyond those issues – which, in effect, undermines any attempt at discussing them.

The election of a female president would not suddenly resolve gender inequalities or render all feminists movements obsolete.  The election of a gay president would not suddenly mean that the entire county has accepted homosexuality.  The election of a disabled president would not suggest that we do not still have a long way to go with regards to accommodating and fairly treating our disabled citizens.  So why in the world should the election of an African-American man to the Presidency symbolize this country having overcome its deeply rooted history of racism?

You wanna talk symbolism?  It would’ve been symbolic for a white American President to issue a public apology on behalf of the United States for slavery – much like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Aboriginal Australians.  The mere idea of this apology nearly saw Bill Clinton crucified when he considered it.  In the end, he very cleverly “acknowledged the evils of slavery”, but without issuing any formal apology.  For white Americans, who love to address the issue of slavery and its legacy with the fact that they, personally, had nothing to do with it – they view such an apology as an admission of personal guilt.  They do not seem to understand it as a symbolic gesture.  And it seems to be a matter of national pride – of “patriotism” – to never acknowledge the grievous mistakes your country has made and continues to make.

The apology has been a long time coming, and it will be a longer time still before we ever – if we ever – see it.  Barack Obama cannot and should not be the President to make it, and for his political savvy I am certain he will not.  It would, after all, change what should be a symbolic gesture into an ironic one.

Personally I would have taken another white male President with the courage to have the necessary dialogues around race and racism.  A President who rather than bringing together a professor and a cop for a beer, dared to bring together an entire nation to discuss the issues that continue to divide them.  I would’ve been willing to put off the election of the first African-American for another 20 years in exchange for that kind of President.

While we wait for that President, Mr. Obama can continue to serve as a placebo solution to the problem of race and racism in the United States.  I can only hope that while the country is so busy convincing itself that we have suddenly become “post-racial”, that we do not lose the opportunity to bring about real change in our social dynamics, under the false pretext that such a change has already taken place.