Friday, December 16, 2011

Apparently Black Hair Products Justify Racial Segregation

'Swimming Pool_03' photo (c) 2010, ajari - license:

Ever since segregation became illegal, there have been some White folks willing to jump on any opportunity to bring it back. Of course, this never makes them racist, because they have some trumped up excuse to explain the need to exclude Blacks.  
CINCINNATI (AP) — A landlord found to have discriminated against a black girl by posting a "White Only" sign at a swimming pool wants a state civil rights commission to reconsider its decision.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission found on Sept. 29 that Jamie Hein, who's white, violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign at a pool at the duplex where the teenage girl was visiting her parents. The parents filed a discrimination charge with the commission and moved out of the duplex in the racially diverse city to "avoid subjecting their family to further humiliating treatment," the commission said in a release announcing its finding.

An investigation revealed that Hein in May posted on the gated entrance to the pool an iron sign that stated "Public Swimming Pool, White Only," the commission statement said.

Several witnesses confirmed that the sign was posted, and the landlord indicated that she posted it because the girl used in her hair chemicals that would make the pool "cloudy," according to the commission.  (source)
Don't we live in a wonderful post racial world?  I love how people keep trying to claim that things are getting so much better, and yet we have incidents like this continually cropping up. It was just a scant few weeks ago that Hermain Cain Uncle Ruckus, was lecturing Black folks about our failures, and declaring racism a thing of the past, as the GOP clapped happily.  Apparently, Whiteness does not mean to be racist, but they somehow keep coming up with reasons to exclude or oppress us at will.

GBLT Hollow Characters: Lesbian Shark, Gay Uncle, Gay Maris

One of things we often complain about in this genre is the absolutely absence of GLBT characters. This is especially true when it comes to the trans community who are particularly erased.  It should be noted that erasure is its own form of oppression as we typically deny historically marginalised people the right to take up space and participate in society.

The other sign of the coin are authors who decide to include a GLBT character but then give such ridiculous portrayals, that erasure almost seems like a gift. There are many ways a GBLT portrayal can fail - stereotyping, grossly offensive tropes but today we’re looking at the Lesbian Shark - a trope Christopher Moore introduced us to, the Gay Uncle, brought to us by M.L.N Hanover and the Gay Maris, introduced to us by Teen Wolf.

There are sharks in nature that cannot stop swimming. If they do, oxygenated blood doesn’t pass their gills and they die - literally drown. And so it is with the lesbian (or gay male) shark. If they stop mentioning that they are a lesbian, fail to refer to it every 5 seconds, then they disappear. 
So it is with Jane in A Dirty Job. She’s a  lesbian. This is pretty much all she is. Whatever scene she appears in, her sexuality will be mentioned. If she has a conversation, there’s a good chance her being a lesbian will be raised at some point in the discussion. This is the sole reason for this character existing. She is a walking avatar of her sexuality, if she weren’t a lesbian there would be nothing there at all. She’d have nothing to talk about, nothing to do. her sole actions are supporting the main character and making sure there’s no chance we missed her being a lesbian. This feeds the trope that when someone is GBLT that that remains the only defining characteristic of a person - they are nothing but an avatar of GBLT-ness. Any other traits about this character are not worth depicting (which presents being GBLT as excessively weird and overwhelming) or are completely absent. And that absence in turn creates the idea that all GBLT people are the same - homogeneous with only one real feature rather than unique individuals.

There is also no attempt to develop her as an actual character or an actual person - she is simply the lesbian sister, removing her as a person and instead turning her more into an extension of the protagonist.

In Unclean Spirits, M.L.N Hanover introduced us to the Gay Uncle who wasn’t.  From the very beginning of the book we know that Eric is dead and what matters about him is that he has dedicated his life to fighting evil spirits and he is an uncle. His niece Janey knows nothing about him and fixates on his supposed sexuality.  For a large part of the book, every reference that includes Eric comes with the announcement that he was gay. Even the fact that he owned several properties is enough to cause consternation because it is believed that he was gay.  My personal favourite however has to be the gay uniform of the White shirt because that was all Eric had in his closet.  After you have reached the point of being irritated with the continual reference to Eric’s sexuality, it was revealed, ZOMG he was not gay.

As appalling as Hanover’s not-gay Eric was, it represents a typical approach to introducing GLBT characters in a book.  The reader is continually beaten over the head with the reminders that the author is talking about a gay character in case you missed the first 20-30 references.  Their sexuality becomes the most important thing about their identity, obscuring anything else about them as a person.  
The gay uncle is popular because he quickly becomes a handy dandy sidekick.  It is assumed that he is wiling to take risks because he has no immediate family of his own and of course this also allows for the perpetuation of the abstinent gay man.  Yep, he’s gay, gay I say, but not so gay that he has sex anytime this century.  The moment Eric moved from being the gay uncle who swooped in to save Jayne to a man that had lovers, suddenly he became straight.  Only straight men have to time for sex.   

Enter to Win The Fangs for Fantasy E-Reader Christmas Giveaway

Hello everyone, as it is my custom to cross post the giveways that Paul and I run on Fangs for the Fantasy, I thought you would like to know about our latest and extra special giveaway.

Hello everyone, when Paul and I first started Fangs for the Fantasy, we saw it as a place to critically discuss a genre that we love very much. Urban Fantasy often gets a pass on its many fails because its nature encourages critics not to look at the under lying messages in the stories. Overtime our little project has become a vibrant community.This is why we decided to hold an extra special giveaway this month to thank everyone for turning our blog into a place with lively discussion and a new online home.

One lucky person will win:

Yes, a 7.0 TFT ereader with earphones for listening to MP3 and MP4, on USB Cable and a Power Adapter.  The ereader itself understand various popular formats.  If you love to read, this is the prize for you.  You will be able to store hundreds of books and take them with you everywhere you go.  That's right, your library will fit in the palm of your hand.

Read More

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Lakota People Are More than Poverty Porn

ABC produced a special entitles Children of the Plains that focused on issues such as crime, alcoholism, and unemployment occurring on a Lakota Indian reservation.

The following is a snippet from a piece published on The Indian Country Today Media Network:

The tone is set early as Diane Sawyer calls the Lakota “hidden” and “forgotten.” These terms may be accurate in some sense, but they’re strangely bland and neutral. It’s as if Americans wanted to help the Indians all along but couldn’t find them.

That isn’t the case, of course. In reality, words like “neglected,” “scorned” or “betrayed” would work just as well. But those would shift the blame from the Indians to the white man, and Sawyer doesn’t want that.

The episode’s first half is little but a grim litany of facts and images: unemployment, alcoholism, overcrowded trailers, crumbling floors and ceilings, and so on. There’s no explanation for why this is happening—merely a statement of its existence. Are the Lakota responsible for their own plight, or is someone—the government or big business—causing it? You won’t learn the answers here.

The stories are manipulative to the point of tears—literally. A boy cries because his mother is an alcoholic. A girl cries because she tried to commit suicide. The school principal, an old lady in a motorized chair, cries because her work is so difficult.

Even when the subjects don’t break down and cry, their stories are framed negatively. Another girl gets pregnant and thinks her future is ruined. A five-year-old’s father is killed in a drunk-driving accident.

It’s not that any of these stories are false or unrepresentative. But they seem chosen for the maximum heart-tugging effect. (source)
I highly recommend you read the entire piece, as it goes on to explain why such documentaries constitute poverty porn, and the way in which actual historical events are ignorend or manipulated to grant victim status, without any ownership or responsibility on behalf of the oppressors, or acknowledgement of agency shown by the subject in question.

This was article was not the only response to the 20/20 special.  Young Native American children created their own video in response to Children of the Plains. I love this video, because in their own words, they define who they are and what they stand for.

Bella Swan and the Pitfalls of Desire

 I'm a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I'm a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I'm a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary living and loving.  I blog at Irresistible Revolution.

**mild spoilers for 'Breaking Dawn, Part I'**

Bella Swan haunts me. Ever since I watched "Breaking Dawn: Part I" two weeks ago, she flickers at the edge of my consciousness, both beckoning and insidious, like a succubus ghost from a Japanese horror story. For a long time I avoided the Twilight phenomenon; when the books and movies were gaining cultural momentum, I was divesting myself of a harmful relationship and grappling with the realities of sexualized, genderized racism at college and thus had no interest in a what I perceived as a pseudo-feminist modern day white fairytale that was inculcating a whole new generation of girls with patriarchal ideas of love and romance. I simply couldn't understand why I should.

But desire is a tricky thing. Like that beckoning ghost, it occupies spaces in our psyche that frighten us, even as they sway us with their power. And Twilight, ultimately, is so wildly popular because it holds desire in the palm of its hand like a promising red apple, proffering its delightful sweetness to anyone who dares to bite. The saga would have us believe that desire is visceral, natural, uncontrollable and innate: like Edward and Bella's passionate attraction, it simply is. But desire is also constructed, historicized and politically significant; it doesn't spring from a pure psychic source, rather it emerges out of the perplexing, delightful and sometimes frightening interplay between our physical and psychological propensities and the socio-culture of the world we inhabit.

I watched 'Breaking Dawn' because I wanted to understand why this vampiric romance was so desirable, to so many. And because I knew, that if i had been fifteen when the books came out, I probably would have been as enthralled as any Twi-hard today. I wanted to open myself to the possibility of being enthralled, once again, by a narrative I had long since rejected. I didn't want to be an 'objective' outsider, coldly dissecting the Twilight phenomenon while evincing barely concealed distaste for Twi-fans. I love cultural analysis because I love culture; the reason I engage critically with cultural phenomena is because of my lifelong immersion in that phenomena. I reject the notion that such immersion precludes the possibility for critical thinking. In fact, I think much of the scorn and dismissal of 'Twilight' and its fandom emerges out of a misogynistic tradition that devalues female-embodied experience as disgusting/ridiculous. So two days after Thanksgiving, I headed to the theater and purchased my ticket.

Gene Marks Is Not a Poor Black Kid

'Old computers' photo (c) 2006, Leif K-Brooks - license:

Hey did you know that the streets are paved with gold?  Did you know that if you work hard enough, you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps and enjoy the middle class lifestyle?  Yes, this is what America is all about.  No matter how humble your beginnings, everyone has a chance to succeed, no matter where they come from, or what race or creed they are.  The aforementioned is the national myth of the United States, and far too many still quote this bullshit as though it is an absolute truth.  It very rarely takes into consideration systemic inequalities, or the fact that the widening gap between the rich and poor is predicated on exploiting 99% of the population.  A Black president, and Oprah Winfrey aside, most people will live and die, not far from where they were born, and today, a child is more likely to experience a drop in class than an increase.  That is the reality, and yet Gene Marks writing for Forbes just had to let us know in his own special paternalistic way that there is hope.
I am not a poor black kid.  I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background.  So life was easier for me.  But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city.  It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them.   Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind.  I don’t believe that.  I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.  Still.  In 2011.  Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

It takes brains.  It takes hard work.  It takes a little luck.  And a little help from others.  It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available.  Like technology.  As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently.   I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city.  Even the worst have their best.  And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities.  Getting good grades is the key to having more options.  With good grades you can choose different, better paths.  If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

And I would use the technology available to me as a student.  I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays.  That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home than on the streets.  And libraries and schools have computers available too.  Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet.  Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all. (source)
I am glad that Marks started off his piece by saying that he is not a poor Black child; however, that is where he should have stopped his treatise.  The truth of the matter is that as a White man with a middle class background, he has no business getting on a pedestal to lecture Black kids about how they are doing it all wrong, of course paternalism know no bounds.  I will however say that I agree that many are unaware that certain programs do exist.

Marks takes care to tell us that all of his suggestions will require hard work, but what he does not for a moment admit is that for many they are impossible.  Black kids start school with the same amount of excitement and desire to learn as White children, but by the time they reach the third grade, they are actively discouraged and set into a mode of thinking that learning is unimportant.  The education system is specifically designed for a Black child to fail, even if they have parents committed to their success. Teachers are no different than anyone else, and this means that they have the same racial and class biases that work to stigmatize and discourage a child.  I think that Marks has watched to many movies with White teachers leaping in to save poor children of colour from their ignorance.

It's Not Just Antisemitism

I have a hard time with much comedy because comedians have a tendency to prey upon historically marginalized people for a cheap laugh. In many cases it does not seem problematic to the comedians because they are buoyed by their own privilege. Sometimes comedians know damn well that they are being offensive but then claim that they are shock jocks and people need to learn to laugh at themselves.  This is of course yet another example of their privilege. I rarely watch comedic routines with my kids because of the aforementioned factors but decided to give Jeff Dunham a try after he was recommended. 

The minute I saw Achmed The Dead Terrorist, I knew that we would be having a conversation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Protecting Children From “Inappropriate Materials” Equals Homophobia

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.   

Gather around folks, it’s story time.

Now back in the 80s, in the decade I was born in the UK we were governed by the Tory party lead by She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named. And they did many many things that will cause many many people in this country to curse their names, stick pins in their images and look forward to dancing on some graves.

While the full list would be very very long, today I’m going to talk about Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. If there were any British GBLT people in the room you can identify them by the way they just started cursing, breaking things and generally working into a spitting rage

See, this little law and spectre of our childhoods, prevented local governments from promoting GBLT people as real loving people with real loving relationships. Particularly and most painfully it prevented schools from mentioning GB LT people at all – and certainly in anything like a positive light. This, obviously, meant that if teachers were even inclined to prevent homophobic bullying, they weren’t actually able to do so. As an extra consequence, we never heard of any GBLT role models at all. I never heard of Alan Turing and I’d long since left school before I discovered that *gasp* Oscar Wilde was gay!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Teenager Gets Suspended, After Reacting Violently to Ongoing Racist Attacks

'Basketball' photo (c) 2008, Ryan Fung - license:
I have written many times about the struggles my oldest has had negotiating the racism in our small town.  I know that despite the mantra about childhood being a protected class, this definition only applies to White, able bodied, class privileged, cis gendered children.  If you are a child from a historically marginalized group, by the time you get out of diapers, you will have negotiate a discourse which 'others' and erases your humanity.
A Buffalo girls basketball team was suspended after the players allegedly used a racial slur as part of their pregame cheer.

Tyra Batts, the sole African-American on the Kenmore East High School’s squad, told the Buffalo News that her teammates would hold hands before the game, say a prayer and then shout "One, two, three (n------)."

The practice came to light when Tyra was suspended for getting into a fight about the use of racial slurs during practice, according to the newspaper.

She said that she was alarmed by the cheer, but had been outnumbered and told that the use of the slur was just a team tradition.

"I said, 'You're not allowed to say that word because I don't like that word,'" she told the newspaper. "They said, 'You know we're not racist, Tyra. It's just a word, not a label.' I was outnumbered."

The 15-year-old eventually exploded after a practice when a teammate called her a 'black piece of (expletive).’ She says she got into a fight with the girl later in school.

"It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team," she told the newspaper.

Tyra’s suspension was shortened after the principal learned of the racial allegations. At least a dozen girls were suspended. (source)
Gee, wasn't it nice of school officials to shorten her suspension.  Certainly, such magnanimous behaviour must be noted and celebrated.  They even went as far as to suspend the girls who were taunting Tyra Batts, and so I suppose all's well that ends well right?  What I want to know is where were the adults while the girls where screaming, "one, two, three nigger"?  I find it hard to believe that each and every single one of these chants happened in isolation. If these girls felt comfortable saying what they did, it can only be because there is a culture of racism alive and well in that school.  The girls who were suspended will serve their time, and life will go on for them, but it is Batts who will have to have to live with lasting effects of their racist assault. Unfortunately, Batts will join the ranks of Black children who have learned at the hands of Whitness that the colour of their skin determines their worth in a White supremacist world.

Poverty, Motherhood and Death

When a child is born, along with the overwhelming sense of love, comes the weight of responsibility.  All that stands between that child and hunger, pain, or homelessness, is a mothers love.  Though I have always been able to provide for my children, and even spoil them on occasion, I would be lying if I did not confess that fear sometimes grips me.  Unfortunately, the ability to provide is something many cannot do in this current economy.  Along with the fear and shame, comes the societal judgement on one's ability to parent.  An impoverished mother does not love less, she is simply trapped by systemic forces.
LAREDO — The woman who shot her two children and then killed herself in a food stamp office here uttered words two weeks ago that seemed to have foretold her extreme actions and now sound chilling in retrospect.

“She said to me, ‘I don't know what my kids will do if I ever die. I don't want them to suffer,'” recalled Janie Rodriguez, manager of the Towne North Mobile Home and RV Park, where Rachelle Dianne Grimmer, 38, had lived with her two children since July.

Grimmer, who moved her family to Texas from Ohio more than a year ago, was a good tenant who showed no signs of being disturbed and was “very protective” of her children, Rodriguez said. She died at the scene of the shooting Monday.

Son Timothy Grimmer, 10, died Thursday evening at University Hospital in San Antonio after his father decided to withdraw life support, Laredo police said.

Daughter Ramie Grimmer, 12, died about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

During a seven-hour standoff with a SWAT team, Grimmer was armed with a .38-caliber handgun and at least 50 rounds of ammunition, police said later. She at first held two state office workers and later a supervisor hostage before releasing them.

Ramie, before she was shot close to midnight, updated her Facebook page to read “may die2day.”

Grimmer, who homeschooled her children, subsisted on child support payments, Rodriguez said. She often relied on food supplied by neighbors and was distraught over being denied food stamps.

Her application was rejected last summer because she hadn't submitted all the required paperwork.
Their poverty stood out even in a poor part of Laredo.

“They came barefoot sometimes,” said Moises Nuñez, 10, adding that he played with the Grimmer children. “Their clothes were ripped.”

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Mary Lee Shepherd, the children's paternal grandmother who lives in Helena, Mont., said her former daughter-in-law had a history of mental illness but declined to give details. (source)

The Death Penalty Is Not About One Individual

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

Gary Haugen wants to die. The convicted murderer was scheduled to be executed – a euphemism for murder by the State – in December in Oregon. All systems were go until Gov. John Kitzhaber put the kibosh on the killing.

According to the Huffington Post, Kitzhaber said that he would not allow anyone to be executed while he is in office, and he called Oregon’s death penalty law “compromised and inequitable.”

Death penalty supporters are surely up in arms about this one, and Haugen himself called Kitzhaber a “coward,” but the reality is that Kitzhaber knows what pro-death activists don’t – that the death penalty is not about one individual. 

The death penalty is about us as a society. The death penalty is about us as a species. The death penalty is about us as human beings.