Friday, June 29, 2007

The Color of Change

"We, the undersigned, vow to step up in the aftermath of Katrina, to ensure that no one is left behind again.

We commit to doing our part to ensure that all people are regarded as full humans, not as second-class citizens, and that our government is responsive to their needs. We commit to helping those who have been continually ignored gain a powerful political voice.

We will insist that those who have been pushed to the margins become a priority in this country, and that the federal government take responsibility for people in crisis. We will hold the government, and ourselves, accountable.

Together, we will be a powerful force for change."

This is the pledge people are being offered the opportunity to sign at Color of Change. Julian Bond and Michael Eric Dyson are down. I'm down. What about you?
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As ridiculous as it may sound, the photo I was originally using for this post keeps vaporizing. Sigh. It's called "Fourth World" and you can see it here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yes, I'll Have No Bananas!


Several years ago, I came across this upbeat, clever little use of film that suggests we are all One. Certainly a lofty concept, huh? And one that calls up visions of people standing in a circle holding hands around a campfire or swaying back and forth, singing Kum-ba-ya. But I keep revisiting the spot and finding new ways to use it because this lofty concept is, in fact, the Truth.

"The Truth?" you wince.

Yes, the Truth. But what does that mean -- especially in a world where we're haggling incessantly and with good reason over the politics related to issues as basic and inescapable as our skin tone, the make up of our genitals, or the nation of our birth? For the past eighteen months, I've been blogging on the socially-constructed, political notion of "race," but lately, I've been sliding over the line, as it were, increasingly including issues that may not for some of my faithful readers appear on the surface to be about "race." The fact is that Africa and immigration and other topics I've visited of late are not only related to the concept of "race," but are deeply couched in the ideology that produced the concept of race (and gender and nationalism, etc.) in the first place.

Case in point: this post by Sokari at Black Looks. When I first read it, I could feel the gloom of disappointed sorrow descending over my memory of Nelson Mandela being released from prison and my hope at that time for the future of the peoples of southern Africa. "Welcome to the world of the African-American," I thought to myself as I read. Oddly enough, I had just come across this video of Malcolm X in Africa in 1964 calling for the leaders of then newly independent African states to bring pressure to bear on the U.S. government and the power structure it represented to recognize and honor the citizenship of African-American people. He mentioned the U.N. He talked about the similarities between the struggle of Black people in the U.S. and the struggle of people of color around the world. I remember African-American men in prison in the 1970's talking about a petition to the U.N. for redress of their legitimate grievances -- as a people -- against the U.S. government.

Yet here we are, nearly fifty years later, and there have been changes, but seemingly only in the faces of those in power. And most people still do not seem to grasp the connection between the pain of the poor and the disenfranchised in one nation with that of those in another. Oppression against African-Americans in the United States is not more reasonable or less horrendous than oppression against people in Darfur or Mexico or Tibet -- in 1964 or now. In fact, I would argue that the oppressors are the same people, no matter what they look like.

Another crystal clear example of the global connectedness of issues related to race, ethnicity, money, and power is outlined by Kyle de Beausset in this post at Immigration Orange. Apparently, and this is pretty much all over the internet at this point, Chiquita Brands International pled guilty in a U.S. court in March to bestowing $1.7 million between 1996 and 2004 on United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia (UAC), a right-wing paramilitary fighting force famous for its attacks on indigenous people who fight against their own economic exploitation and political repression. Chiquita's version is that they were extorted for the funds to keep their workers safe, but UAC leader Carlos Castano has said flatly that “We kill trade unionists because they interfere with people working.” And for eight years, at least, they killed them on Chiquita's nickel. And ours, since we bought those bananas.

This is not new news concerning the corporation earlier identified in its history as the United Fruit Company. United Fruit lost its shirt in Cuba when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, et al, threw Batista and his collection of corporate and mafioso thugs onto the first plane out. The level of exploitation in Cuba at the time was not remarkable. In fact, it was typical of most Latin American and Caribbean nations and many in other parts of the world, as well. The corporations and governmental elites made out like...well...bandits, if you will, and the people suffered, but then it isn't the fault of the rich that so many are born poor (right?). And United Fruit was just doing what corporations do, after all. But when the dust settled, United Fruit had taken a heavy hit where it hurt them most -- in the pocketbook -- and before it was over, Che, who was going for a repeat performance in Bolivia, lay dead, largely thanks to CIA intelligence and United Fruit funding.

You don't have to be a very rigorous student of the history or political economy of the region to know that the reason Latin American countries have been called "Banana Republics" is that the United Fruit Company/Chiquita Brands International and its other assorted buddies, including Dole and others, have maintained an on-going reign of terror throughout the southern hemisphere since the 1800's. It's hardly difficult -- especially with a modicum of elementary assistance from google -- to connect the dots between the corporations and other U.S. economic interests, the economic elites of the various countries in question, right-wing government repression, and the brutalization of men, women, and children pressed into serving those who have the power to force them to do so and the willingness to murder them if they don't.

But here we have a public trial and guilty plea directly connecting these realities and practices to our daily lives in the United States. The buying and eating of bananas is not just a HUGE business. It's been growing so much every year that they're having to chop down more and more rain forests annually to provide the additional bananas for which we apparently lust.

Now, boycotts always seem a little unrealistic to many of us. I mean, the sense most of us have is: "Heck! What's the difference whether I buy Product X or not? Other people are still gonna buy it anyway and the company is going to go right on making millions. My little $2 isn't going to mean a hill of beans (or bananas)." Nevertheless, I was barely twenty when Cesar Chavez first called for a boycott of table grapes. It seemed like little enough to me to just forego a few grapes. So I did. Then, I lost track of the process and by the time the United Farm Workers had successfully formed and won their battle, I was caught up in the prison movement and missed the memo. So I just lived without grapes. I was into my thirties before it occurred to me that it would be all right now. Boy! Those grapes were tasty!

In any case, it's only by looking back at the historical accounts now that I can see how effective that helpless little effort by a very committed man turned out to be. And I had a part in that. A very tiny, but relevant part.

So I'm calling for a boycott of all Chiquita products across the board from now until hell freezes over. It's not like there aren't other options because there are. And it's not like those other options aren't just as wicked as Chiquita in their principles and their practices, I'm sure. But it's time to make a statement to the corporate world about how it's treating workers. And it's time to give up things, if necessary, not for Lent, but permanently -- in solidarity with those who suffer around the world to provide the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the coffee we drink, the chocolate we dip our hand-picked and pesticide-laden strawberries into.

How is this about "race"? Because there are FAR more people of color than so-called "White" people in this world and they are FAR more likely to be the ones exploited, oppressed and even murdered, to enrich the coffers of European and European-American corporations and individuals who are getting little, if any, indication that anyone not in their fields, not in their sweatshops, not under their guns (literally) either notices or cares. I care! Whatever anybody else does, whatever is or is not part of a mass effort, I for one am done with Chiquita bananas. And it's about damn time.
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NOTE: The poster above is by Ricardo Levins Morales and is available from the Northland Poster Collective.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Can Say Love




When I first saw this video, I was moved to my heart. "Love will overcome"? "Evil will fail"? I don't just hope so.

I'm. counting. on. it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's Saturday! Time To Exhale!


Thanks to The Black Commentator for this cartoon. And kudos to dnA at Too Sense for posting this hilarious video on how we might regulate the use of the "race card"! That's right...check it out now. It's the week-end! Doncha need a laugh?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Passin' It On





One of the truly wonderful things about spending serious time visiting my neighbors in the blogospshere is coming across extraordinary posts by writers to which I may or may not have been exposed before. I've been surfing and reading a lot this week and here is a partial list of some posts I just must share:



1. The Free Slave asks some strong questions about racial identity, while Macha at Double Consciousness mirrors The Free Slave's thoughts with some deeeeep introspection.

2. dnA at Too Sense presents some very interesting information about how famous religious leaders helped to lay the groundwork for physical (as well as mental) slavery here.

3. Charles Modiano, whose recently launched blog, Kill Bigotry!, promises some well-researched and interesting considerations, outlines how we can save hip hop music. Even if you're short on time today, his list of links to twenty superb hip hop videos without gyrating, half-naked women is more than worth the trip! See this one about life on the reservation for an example.

4. And finally, Carlos Castillo at ChaTo addresses some of the overarching issues related to immigration internationally, declaring "We Are Not Criminals".

5. The illustration above is from the Northland Poster Collective. They have a WIDE selection of some of the strongest and most beautiful peace, justice, and union materials out there -- a number of them by the highly talented and original Ricardo Levins Morales -- and the latest word is that they are struggling financially. Check them out and if you can buy something or make a donation, now's the time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The 14th Erase Racism Blog Carnival is up!

White Anti-Racist Parent is hosting the 14th Erase Racism Blog Carnival and, to whet your appetite, this brilliant cartoon by Barry Deutsch ("Ampersand") represents just one of a whole barrage of featured posts. These carnivals get better and better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

History Lesson?

On this day in 1964, after an 83-day filibuster, the United States Senate finally passed the Civil Rights Act, when Senate leader Everett Dirksen said, "We dare not temporize with the issue which is before us. It is essentially moral in character. It must be resolved. It will not go away. It's time has come." Still, when it comes to the rights of people of color, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

While you watch, by the way, don't forget to consider the bull-headed commitment required to keep the Senate frozen for 83 days in an attempt to prevent the vote from happening at all. They read dictionaries, recipes, anything they could get their hands on. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia alone gave a speech more than fourteen hours long! These days, we go to war with less thought. But that’s how intensely they felt about not recognizing the rights of African-Americans as U.S. citizens. And people of color may sometimes feel that the filibuster, in many ways, has gone on and on and on…

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oppression, I Won't Let You Near Me



I intended to leave my castigation of Billy B. Cook up another day, but when I saw this video on The Unapologetic Mexican's myspace page, I knew immediately that it would be a much better use of the space. Thanks again, Nezua. You teach. I learn.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Amandla!

"Africa I guard your memory Africa.
You are in me as the shaft is in the wound."
~~Roman

On this day in 1976, more than 150 school children were shot to death and many more wounded in Soweto, South Africa, when they had the audacity to protest against having to learn Afrikaans (the language of their oppressors) while being summarily brutalized on a daily basis and forced to live in abject poverty with the apparent blessing of the West.

We will honor the example of those valiant youth by visiting Black Looks again today to read Rethabile's post on the Soweto Massacre as well as Sokari's challenge to us concerning the bizarre state of our support for our African brothers and sisters still suffering because of our shared history and their on-going economic exploitation. If Bono is "the African spokesman," does that mean that the children who were murdered in the Soweto Massacre died to set him free?

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Am Descended From Immigrants, Too




I am posting this link* today in solidarity with all who come to this nation in search of a better way of life. May they come freely and find all they seek in safety. And may I be a good neighbor to them all.

Incidentally, I can't resist pointing out that the photo early on in the video showing a straight line of young women in Gibson Girl get-up, the middle one of which looks as if she's been pretty badly abused in some way, was taken in the Kentucky mountain county where I was born. See what I'm sayin'?

*The author of this video chose not to allow it to be embedded, so I'm posting the link. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Getting Back in the Flow


I've been cruising my old blogosphere stomping grounds today. Veeeeery satisfying. I've missed my "homies" (called that because surely those of us who are thrashing out issues related to the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" are, in fact, neighbors in our hearts and minds just as much as if we were living down the block from each other).


Sokari at Black Looks offers a comprehensive and harrowing description of how fences and walls are going up all over the world to keep us all apart (as if!).

Rachel at Rachel's Tavern has a post on the continuing saga of black face that, while a few days old, I haven't been able to get out of my mind.

And finally, Kevin (the Thin Black Duke) at Slant Truth has an excellent discussion about what is and is not cultural appropriation.

Get a cup of coffee, kick back, and join the party.

Time for a New Profile Symbol


It's taken me all night to find this. I think it's going to be my new blog profile symbol and appear wherever I comment on a blogspot blog. But first, I have to upload it and see how it looks in a comment thread somewhere.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Iranian Woman Speaks

I just finished Marjane Satrapi's first two graphic memoir books, Persepolis and Persepolis 2, the latter having been cleverly bestowed on me as a late birthday present by a marvelously savvy woman I know, who is a voracious reader and helps me not to be an oaf.

These books (and there are others now, I understand) are about her life as a girl and then a woman during the cultural revolution in Iran. She's smart and funny and talented and totally unapologetic (which as my faithful readers know, is my favorite characteristic a human can have in this terrified and terrifying world).

I hadn't fully decided to post about her and her work, in spite of the fact that I loved her books, but in traipsing about the internet behind her name, I came across an interview by Michelle Goldman at Salon.com (April 25, 2005) that absolutely made up my mind. In fact, contrary to my usual style, I am quoting a huge hunk of the interview here since she's talking about Iran at a time when we need more rational input about this country and culture. The whole interview, needless to say, is utterly worth reading (not to mention the books, which are MUST-READS), but here's a bit to get you started.

Satrapi: "[T]he world is very fearful, because we don't know who the enemy is. The world is at war, but at war against who? Bin Laden turns into Saddam and Saddam turns into someone else. They all the time talk about security. Security, security, security. But when you talk about security, then everything is about being safe. And being safe also means having less freedom.

"It makes a society much more conservative, looking for security. If you have freedom, then you have more risks. It goes together…My grandmother always said the saddest life is to be born a cow and to die a donkey. That means you are born stupid, and you're going to die even more stupid…What is the interest of life if you're always scared…? What is the point in living? Just eating and shitting and making money?"

Goldberg: Some conservatives here think that secular young Iranians would be happy if America would come and liberate them. What would you say to them?

Satrapi: "Democracy, contrary to what they try to tell us, it's not a paper that you hang on the wall and then you have a democracy…

"...They [America] talk about the human rights in Iran…[H]ow is it that the United States makes the biggest deals with China, and China is far from respecting human rights? What about Saudi Arabia? If you want to talk about an inquisition, the Iranian regime is far from being an inquisition. We have almost a free press, people leave, women have the right to study, they drive, they work. Saudi Arabia, they don't have anything like that! Talk about human rights in Saudi Arabia! Why doesn't anyone go and put a bomb in Saudi Arabia and kill the king?

"…[W]hen the Iranians wanted to become democratic in 1953 with [Mohammad] Mosaddeq and to nationalize our oil, the CIA came and made a coup d'├ętat in my country. Why do you want me to believe that they want to come and make a democracy? We have to make our democracy!

"…For the people who think that America will come and liberate them, I invite them to read the history and see what America has done. I'm not talking about American people...I love going to the United States...I've been for several book tours; I've come for vacation with my husband. For me it's an amazing country. I love the enthusiasm of Americans…I love the pop art, I love the American cinema, there are so many things that I love about America! I love Coca-Cola, you know?

"My criticism is not towards America -- it's towards the American government, which to me are two different things. The America that I know is not represented by George W. Bush."

Goldberg: Do you see similarities between the Christian fundamentalists in our government and the mullahs in Iran?

Satrapi: "They're the same! George Bush and the mullahs of Iran, they use the same words! The mullahs of Iran say we have God on our side; he has God on his side, too. Both of them are convinced that they are going to eradicate evil in the world. But when these words come out of the mouth of a mullah, it's normal. It's a shame that the president of the biggest secular democracy in the world talks with the same words as the mullahs. It's extremely scary."

Goldberg: Do you have any advice for secular Americans who are faced with living in a country that's increasingly governed by religious fundamentalists?

Satrapi: "If I have any advice, it's that every day that you wake up, don't say, 'This is normal.' Every day, wake up with this idea that you have to defend your freedom. Nobody has the right to take from women the right to abortion, nobody has the right to take from homosexuals the right to be homosexual, nobody has the right to stop people laughing, to stop people thinking, to stop people talking.

"If I have one message to give to the…American people, it's that the world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian. We don't know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you. And our governments are very much the same."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Carlos Andres Gomez



Black Amazon tipped me to this man recently, causing me to order his cd, "Live From New York," winner of the 2006 L.A. Music Award for Spoken Word Album of the Year. Receiving that cd, while I wait to purchase the upcoming dvd of his one-man show, "Man Up!", is now causing me to post this example of his work. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Carlos Andres Gomez performing "All We Have."

Why Can't We Live Together?



This post is dedicated to Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez, The Unapologetic Mexican, as well as Sami Al-Arian and his family, and all other humans of color in a world full of people who just don't get it. Blessings.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Remembering the Middle Passage

A little more than 500 years ago, the Portuguese brought Africans as slaves to the island that is now Haiti. For the last ten years, the second Saturday in June (which was yesterday) has been marked around the world to remember those who died (possibly as many as thirty million) on slaveships from Africa to the Western Hemisphere over the centuries that followed. Since the first leg of the trip was always from Europe to Africa and the last leg was from the "New World" back to Europe (loaded down with money and products, such as tobacco, coffee, sugar, and cotton), the voyage across the Atlantic was called "The Middle Passage."

I know I'm a day late, but I've decided to participate anyway by posting a poem I wrote some years ago to honor a Haitian woman revolutionary I once knew. I am thinking today of those who were stolen from their families and those who died crossing the Atlantic and those in Haiti and elsewhere who suffer still because the godless practice of slavery was ever implemented in the Western Hemisphere in the first place.

~~A Woman of Haiti~~

A woman of Haiti: black and beautiful as the night, enshadowed as only night can be, slipping through bushes against a house that is all houses, sliding across dark water to tease the eyelids of restless sleepers.

A woman of Haiti: of pain and empty stomachs, of ancient religiousity, of refusal to give in to despair, even in the face of a thoughtless and laughing universe.

A woman of Haiti: music coming out of ears and nostrils, hips and legs dancing, dancing, dancing from planet to planet while old men hunger and young men weep.

A woman of Haiti: singing in Creole, laughing to music, dancing in bright skirts into a future made of glass.

A woman of Haiti: learning, growing, demanding, knowing, asking, yearning, grabbing, pushing away, expanding her mind to meet her potential without knowing where her potential leads.

A woman of Haiti: making revolution with her body, shooting poem bullets and lobbing pen-and-ink grenades to blow up lies and ugliness, to waken death and make it run away.

A woman of Haiti: standing on legs like pillars, legs made of sea salt, legs like a statue, legs like trees, growing out of the earth of Haiti and reaching deep into her soil, deep into her hidden recesses, deep into the secret places of her history.

A woman of Haiti: screaming in the marketplace that her man is dead and she has no children.

A woman of Haiti: with feet scattering flames before her, leaving bloodprints on the ground of a continent that doesn't speak any of her languages.

A woman of Haiti: whose body passed over from Africa in ship bellies, but whose soul sneaked across on the ocean floor carrying an old knife with which to set her people free.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Paris in the...er...Summer

I was doing a really good job of sneaking around privately on the internet, studying the recent photos of Paris Hilton in the international mass media (how will she ever move on from this, one wonders?), and frankly, embarrassed that I was even paying attention, when I came across The Angry Black Woman's post on the situation. And then I realized why I was so mesmerized.

It's not just sour grapes. I don't wish Paris Hilton ill. Hell, I don't even know the woman. And I try not to wish anybody ill because I honestly do believe it rolls back on ya. And I most certainly do not think this is an indicator of "justice" being served. There is no justice that I can see in this world at this time outside of the justice I already mentioned (which some people call "karma" and which is plenty enough justice for many of us in the end, but does not release us from the responsibility of trying to treat others the way we would want to be treated). Whether or not Paris does the time for doing the crime is not in any way going to affect the balance of power in the U.S. or in the world and certainly not in the courts.

However (and you must have seen this coming, right?), there is something about seeing a rich, young, White woman in handcuffs freaking out in the back seat of a cop car that illustrates most graphically the chasm between her and the rest of us, most particularly those of us who happen to be of color. In contrast, in her post, The Angry Black Woman offers the example of what happened to Jonathan Magbie of Washington, D.C. I would offer what happened to 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who was killed by a group of "officers" on his first day in a youth "facility" here in Florida, where he was placed for the heinous crime of trespassing on a school yard he'd been told not to visit. (Talk about the punishment fitting the crime.)

It's true that the "facility" and others like it in Florida have been subsequently shut down. And it's true that the state of Florida recently agreed to pay Martin's parents five million dollars in apology. Both of these actions, by the way, were made in direct response to a video tape that turned up showing the whole horrifying episode, which could bring us to ask how many people of color -- men, women, and children -- have been and are being similarly brutalized on an on-going basis because there is or was no video.

But my point is, as it often is on this blog, that neither Paris' story, nor Jonathan's, nor Martin's will change, I fear, the use of the justice system in the U.S. and the world as a tool of oppression against people of color, the poor, and those who are their allies. In fact, I'm having trouble understanding how Paris Hilton wound up there at all.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And the Baton Is Passed

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about the fact that, when understood, statistics can only bear out the facts, that is, that they really can't "prove" what is not true, they can only appear to do so. Another difficulty with statistics and, therefore, studies, in general, is how they are interpreted and then presented to others, particularly for use in policy-setting. A case in point is the "Black Males Left Behind" study conducted by Dr. Ronald Mincy, formerly of the Ford Foundation and now a professor of social policy at Columbia University. Dr. Mincy was called to testify on his findings before a Joint Economic Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., this spring and, while I haven't seen a copy of the study report, the way Dr. Mincy was quoted in the media, it sounds as if he's missed some crucial considerations and made some rather typical and even stereotypical assumptions.

Now, on the surface, this would appear to be a silly statement. I mean, who am I to call into question the conclusions of a Ph.D. at Columbia who has clearly put enough work into his project and his career that he has wound up in front of the U.S. Congress, right? But my concerns are fairly simple and straight-forward.

I first started doing this kind of analysis fifteen years ago when I was neck-deep in a dissertation I didn't ultimately finish. The dissertation had to do with the way sociological writings about race can purport to be saying something fresh and even radical, but that the words and sentence structures chosen can actually deliver the same old message anyway. For example, if I write, "There are 365 churches in Cholula, Mexico," the statement reads without particular moral or historical impact. It reads as if the people of Cholula must surely be very religious people, especially if you understand that Cholula is not that big of a city. If, on the other hand, I write, "Spanish conquerors forced the indigenous people of the city to build a Catholic church on the site of each of 365 pyramids present when the Spaniards arrived," the reader is more likely to arrive at an entirely different understanding of the matter.

Dr. Mincy, at least according to the article I read, is making a number of problematic mistakes in interpreting the available data that will lead policy-setters awry, if allowed, in reference to a situation about which he is right to be massively passionate.

Census data is telling us that half of all young African-American men are unemployed and that roughly 30% of them will do time in prison. Further, these same statistics tell us that, of the 40% of African-American men who drop out of high school, 72% are jobless and they are twice as likely to go to prison as their high school graduate counterparts. These statements, as horrible as they sound, border on "ho-hum" for anybody who lives in a low income neighborhood. Driving down the street where I live, it seems as if there are more young Black men standing around every day and with an ever-increasing law enforcement presence accordingly. This is not new news.

So why is Dr. Mincy in Washington? Because of how he's interpreting the data, that's why. In other words, he is saying what the administration, leaders, academics, and social policy pundits want to hear. He's blaming the situation on single parent families, which are primarily headed by women.

"Living with a single mother increases the likelihood of dropping out of school," he is quoted as saying. "The effects of single parenting on dropping out of school are larger, the longer a child is in a single-parent home, and larger for boys than girls."

Let's see if I can write this loudly enough for Dr. Mincy to hear it all the way inside his ivy-covered office at Columbia: "It's not the single-parenting...er...Doc-tor! It's the lack of income!!!" I'd like to see Dr. Mincy raise a child (or several) on the minimum wage -- or less -- in the year 2007 in the U.S.A. All the corroborating statistical data is available for this perspective, as well. Women make about 75 cents on the dollar as compared to men. In fact, if an African-American man can get a job, Census data tells us that he's going to make more, on average, against what White men make, than women do -- even European-American women. Additionally, the single-parent woman who receives anything, averages very little more in child support than $300 per month (not per child, but at all). About a quarter receive nothing. And the unemployment ocean in which Black men are drowning is certainly not helping this much.

Let's make this as clear as possible. If women -- all women, and most particularly all women of color -- were paid a living wage for the work they do and supported with the practical necessities of life (such as affordable housing, transportation, and day care); if all fathers were held fully responsible for their participation in the economic lives of their children -- and helped to accomplish that (regardless of whether or not they are presently "tapping that"); and if all children, and most particularly children of color, were supported with universal physical and mental health care, a fully-funded educational process, and a rich and enriching selection of activities outside of school, then Black men would not be flocking into jail, starting in their early teens. This is NOT -- hear me, now -- a function of their mothers being SINGLE. (He-llo!) If it was, we could just line folks up in two's, marry 'em off, and solve the problem.

Dr. Mincy does throw in the "secondary" issues of bad schools, institutionalized oppression in the form of racism, and the disappearance of millions of jobs as a result of a manufacturing economy that has been steadily shriveling since the 1970's, but ultimately he points to the "experience of welfare reform" as the light at the end of the tunnel. And there we have it: the reason he's the one who's testifying.

When Clinton shoved through his promised decimation of the welfare system in the U.S. on his way out the door, everybody in the field of social service knew the new policies were going to be disastrous in their repercussions. The so-called "principle" sounded good. Women -- who had become "dependent on the system," it was said -- would be "helped" and "encouraged" to get off welfare by having their assistance pulled. It was the equivalent of throwing a five-year-old in a pond and telling her to swim or die. Forget racism (which discriminates against her and has taught her to see herself as incapable and unworthy, in any case). Forget the lack of jobs and the fact that more -- at every level -- are exported daily. Forget the fact that we can afford billions of dollars a month to kill babies all over the world, but we can't afford to feed and educate them in our own communities. And forget that she cannot do anything about any of these things. Just throw her in the water and ignore the cries of the babies hanging on -- for dear life -- around her neck.

So, Dr. Ronald Mincy appears to be the new Dr. William Julius Wilson (the African-American academic who received a major Ford Foundation research grant and became in the early nineties the President of the American Sociological Association for holding that the destruction of the inner city was the fault of middle class African-Americans who moved out). Shame on you, Mincy. Enjoy the rarified atmosphere up there in Washington, but don't ever forget that, when the dust settled on the plantation, regardless of where he was living, even the House-Man was Black.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Aunt Jemima or The Souls of Black Folks Revisited

There's a new listing on my blog roll: Beautiful, also, are the souls of my Black sisters, which I've listed as Black Sisters Souls. Ann, who writes this blog, did an incredible job of outlining the history and relevance of the development of Aunt Jemima, of pancake flour fame.

If you can read what Ann has to say and then not sign her petition to lay Aunt Jemima to rest (finally), you need to re-read it. This is not about warm, syrupy breakfasts. But I'll let Ann make the argument. (And much thanks to Rachel for tipping us to this.)

By the way, if you can, locate and watch "Ethnic Notions", an hour-long video on how Aunt Jemima and other images of African-American people were developed for the express purpose of stereotyping them so that they could be exploited. It's depressing, but excellent and underscores even more broadly Ann's points about Aunt Jemima specifically. Larger libraries would probably have a copy or might be willing to get it, if you suggest that they do.