Monday, June 30, 2008
My ego is apparently supposed to be taking a beating this week. Nothing heavy, you understand. But when you were raised to have no self esteem and no sense of your own self worth, the ole ego grows like a weed in that garden.
Fortunately, I have reached a point in my development where my self esteem and sense of self worth are blooming along with my new alamanda vine, so my ego can stand the deflation (though I still feel the pinch and embarrassingly so).
Anyway, I'm probably the last one on the band wagon, having been in cognito, as it were, for the past few months. The blogosphere will fill a vacuum in a minute, I know. But last night, thanks to a comment by Professor Zero, I discovered a new blog called Stuff White People Do. The author is smart, right on the target, introspective and clever. He reads all the same books as I do, watches all the same movies, and shares many of the same opinions. And he's written almost as much in the past ninety days as I wrote all last year.
I was tired when I reached SWPD last night and after about an hour on the site, I decided that I'm no longer necessary to the blogosphere, after all (see what I'm saying about the self esteem and self worth?). Then, I remembered what I had learned the night before (see this post), so I shook off the feeling and just celebrated the blog.
There are a number of wonderful bloggers on my blog roll to the right. If I didn't think my Faithful Readers would get something special from each and every one of the them, they wouldn't be there. But if you haven't read Macon D. over at Stuff White People Do yet, then let me send you on over there post haste.
Just recognize that you're probably gonna be there for a while.
And don't forget about me, okay? ;^)
The YouTube clip featured above is of Tim Wise talking about the origin of White privilege just like I do -- only better. I first saw it at Stuff White People Do. Of course.
"Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at the sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground."
~~ Zora Neale Hurston in Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Freedom Charter said, among other things, that the people shall govern; that all national groups shall have equal rights before the law and shall enjoy equal human rights; that the people shall share in the country's wealth and that the land shall be shared among those who work it. It began:
Perhaps we need a Freedom Charter in the United States. If one was drafted, would it be dangerous to sign it? Would you sign?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
On this day in 1903, Eric Blair was born in Bengal, India. Never heard of him? He wrote under the name "George Orwell."
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." ~~George Orwell
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
I'm in moving mode (again), taking my happy self from one apartment to another here in the same community. This means I've been offline since Wednesday and they're not hooking me up until Monday. Which is more or less like having my oxygen cut off. But my "new" place looks like a Louisiana camp. It's all shaggy and grey outside and has an unpainted front porch and a back deck with a frame for a porch swing. Needless to say, I'm excited about it, even though it means being out of synch with the rest of the blogosphere for a few days.
In the meantime, my buddy Anna sent me this video clip, so I'm passing it on to help my Faithful Readers start the weekend with a chuckle. When you watch it, keep watching through the credits until you see the Grandma re-appear. And keep on keepin' on. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I am contacting the following individuals and sponsors to protest in solidarity with the AAC community and ask that Chapman not be given a free pass on his behavior. I hope my Faithful Readers will join me and the Afrosphere Action Coalition in the interest of reinforcing how important it is for all media, and most particularly the mass media, to show due respect to all people.
Please tell programming executives at A&E that their support of someone with such demeaning views is unacceptable and make clear to the advertisers listed below how you feel about companies that would support a man with Chapman's so loudly stated perspectives. Giving lip service to a pretense of apology is not, never has been, and never should be enough. Chapman says he doesn't "mean anything" by his use of the n-word. Not that I believe that for a second, but even if it were true, that suggestion would be worse than using the n-word itself. I mean, if he's really so racist that he doesn't even consciously register what he's doing when he uses it, then just saying "I'm sorry" isn't going to wipe it all away.
This is the basic email I'll be sending:
"I realize that the business of television is about money and that Dog Chapman is about money in the bank. However, I protest the return of the Dog Chapman show after his racist tirade last year. I do not believe he has changed. I believe that he is sorry he got caught. It is imperative that television networks support respect in media for all people. Do you imagine that anyone watching that show will NOT have heard about what he said last year? To support this man is to support his viewpoints. And I don't support networks or sponsors that condone rabid racism to make money."
If you're a blogger, please Blog Against Dog today (contacting Yobachi here when you do). If you're not a blogger, it's still important that you participate and encourage others you may know (individuals, listservs, etc.) to do so, as well. It's really not just about "Dog." It's about respect in media.
A&E VPs of Programing: Email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Travelocity: Vollmer Public Relations Amanda Borichevsky
Tylenol: Online Contact Form
AT&T: Phone 888-757-6500
Red Bull Energy Drinks: Online Contact Form
The Yellow Pages: Online Contact Form
Allstate Insurance: Online Contact Form
LG HD Television: Phone 800-243-0000
Dell Computers: Online Contact Form
Nintendo: Online Contact Form
Subway: Online Contact Form
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
A few minutes ago, I came across this YouTube video posted by Carmen D. and I just had to pass it on. It hurts to think about how the photos and film clips of Vietnam could now be photos and film clips of the war du jour (is it Afghanistan, is it Iraq, is it -- God/dess forbid -- Iran?). How come? Because The Powers That Be tell lies.
I've posted this poem before, but it's been quite a while and it's one of my favorites.
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God's in his heaven
and all's well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can't be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
"I have been thinking about racism a lot lately. Serbia and Bosnia, Arabs and Jews, Rodney King and Reginald Denney, Maya Angelou, CNN and the 700 Club have me in a pre-apocalyptic spin. I headed for [another country] this summer, looking for a place away from the hate and violence, a safe haven for my family where people are colorblind and everyone is treated with respect…Like I said, I have given racism a lot of thought and I have begun to question my own attitudes about race. How do we become racists? Is it genetic? I cannot answer that question, but I can remember the day, the moment, I became a racist.
"I grew up in…Louisiana. The [Louisiana] I remember as a child in the 1950’s was an idyllic place when seen from inside a glorious bubble of ignorance. There were water fountains that said “whites only” and “colored only” but I just thought they were talking about sorting laundry or something, which was how mom did it. Mom told me once that we couldn’t sit in the balcony of the movie theatre because the balcony was for colored people only. Well, I knew right then that colored people were special people because the balcony was the most exciting looking place I had ever seen and it had to hold the best seats in the house. I wished to be colored too! I was an ignorant child.
"When the Klan burned down our ironing lady’s church…, I thought it was a mean thing to do but I never gave it another thought. The Klan even had a meeting right in our neighborhood which made my parents really nervous and scared, but from inside my bubble of bliss, while it made no sense, it did not interrupt my life. I just forgot about it.
"That old bubble of bliss kept me happy for years until one day when Mom and I were taking our housekeeper…home. I must have been eleven or twelve years old when I made my first racist comment. I wasn’t talking about people, I was talking about crickets and how they scare me “’cause they’re black and creepy.” Well, as soon as [our housekeeper] was out of the car my momma let me know what an insensitive, racist comment I had made. 'How could you say something is creepy just because it is black?' she said. “Don’t you have any consideration for [other people’s] feelings? I even asked you to repeat yourself because I couldn’t believe you would say such a thing!” My bubble burst and a terrible understanding poured in over me, thick as syrup with ancestral guilt. I knew racism.
"I wished I could disappear that day because I would never have wanted to hurt [our housekeeper], she was special. [She] came to us when I was sick and had to stay home from school for a long time. She was a nurse’s aide at the hospital and she was really smart and beautiful with dark chocolate skin and a face that reminded me of Dionne Warwick. Best of all about her was that she knew me, really knew me at my very worst, and she still liked me. (She knew me well enough to know that I was only talking about crickets.) I hoped she loved me because I loved her.
"I believe I became a racist that day because I started to notice what color people were. I started to be really careful not to talk about black things in front of brown people. I started to single out anybody who was colored for extra acts of kindness so that they would forgive my “colorblind,” insensitive past.
"The whole world seems to be going racism crazy now; I do not think I can escape it. It is in everything I see and hear, in all of its many guises: fear and anger, charity and guilt. It just bubbles out from the lips of newscasters, preachers, politicians, poets and everyday people, spreading like some creeping ooze in a sci-fi movie, consuming our minds and our souls. Even in my wonderful hideaway place [outside the U.S.], I was told that my daughter’s friend should not come to visit because she is [B]lack and some people in the village who don’t like [B]lacks might hurt her feelings. I am not going to pay attention to them. We will have my daughter’s friend come for a visit not because she is [B]lack, but because she is a friend. My daughter is neither colorblind nor racist; she still sees people in all the wondrous colors of who they really are. I envy her freedom."
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I would have thought that this whole mess would just go away. I mean, I know that in the U.S. we're given as a culture to some embarrassingly weird tastes. Reality shows pitting human against human in one way or another are all the rage. So, yeah, Duane "Dog" Chapman, the bounty hunter that looks like a professional wrestler who got lost on his way to the rink fits right in.
But a year ago March, his son Tucker threw him a curve. From what I can gather, Tucker went to prison for twenty years on a drug beef in 2002 while he was still in his teens. Then, only four years later (will wonders never cease?) he was released for some reason. Unfortunately, it appears that he hadn't gotten his loose ends tucked in while incarcerated and by the time he'd been out a year, he was in serious need of money. So he taped his dear old Dad during a fatherly chat and sold the tape for $15,000 to the National Enquirer. And this is what "Dog" was caught saying about Tucker's African-American girlfriend:
"I don't care if she's a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It's not because she's black. It's because we use the word 'nigger' sometimes here. I'm not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say 'nigger' and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I'm not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never! If Lyssa [Dog's daughter] was dating a nigger, we would all say 'fuck you!' And you know that...[I]t's not that they're black, it's none of that. It's that we use the word 'nigger'. We don't mean 'you fucking scum nigger without a soul'. We don't mean that shit. But America would think we mean that. And we're not taking a chance on losing everything we got over a racial slur because our son goes with a girl like that. I can't do that, Tucker. You can't expect Gary, Bonnie, Cecily, all them young kids to [garbled] because 'I'm in love for 7 months.' Fuck that! So, I'll help you get another job, but you cannot work here unless you break up with her and she's out of your life...."
Well, it started out just like "Dog" had feared. A&E took his incredibly popular reality show off the air. Tucker's girl friend started talking about suing him. It must have been veeeeery stressful. "Dog" was apologizing like his life depended on it, but it wasn't helping.
True, 40,000 fans signed a petition asking A&E to put the show back on the air. And in December, Roy Inniss of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) agreed to support the return of the show as well. (Excuse me?!?)
Still, A&E (supposedly) would not relent. In February, however, the network announced that "Dog" the Bounty Hunter will return, after all. The plan is to finish televising the unviewed Season 4 episodes beginning June 24th and then commence Season 5 (with a bang, I assume) on July 16th.
Now, you have to understand that my television is only a DVD monitor and not connected to the outside world, so I don't care about tv in the same way that most people seem to. And I don't even care that "Dog" is a former gang member who has eighteen felony convictions for armed robbery and did time for murder in his youth. Hell, in my hey day, I had boyfriends with worse records. And it's really none of my business that he's raising a houseful of children where he admits that the n word is in regular casual use. I'm sure he's far from alone in that.
But he's going to make a more than ample living chasing people down without the cameras. I see no reason to suggest that his racist rant ought to be overlooked. So I am supporting the Afrosphere Action Coalition's Day of Blogging for Racial Justice in Media on Wednesday, June 18th, calling for A&E to scrap this "star" once and for all. I will boycott the sponsors of the show. And participate in such other activities as Afrosphere organizes to affect the situation appropriately. If you would like to do the same, visit BlackPerspective.net and let Yobachi know right away, so that your blog can be added to the list.
I have no doubt that "Dog" is sorry his thirty-year career has taken a hit. And I don't doubt that if his son hadn't had financial problems, "Dog" would probably never have missed a show. And I don't think for a minute that burying one guy for using the n word is going to change anything about this White Supremacist system in the U.S. So, I guess I'm just doing this out of general principle. It's not personal, "Dog." Just think of it as "business." Kind of like when you chase a guy down for having the ill fortune to get on a law enforcement list (the kind you probably used to be on).
There's a point at which a dog loses his "house" privileges permanently. I think that's the situation we have here. It's okay, "Dog". You're still going to be rich. You're still going to look like a professional wrestler. And you'll still be using whatever language you want to in front of your children (I'm sure). But you're just not going to be a tv star any more. You'll get over it.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I'm not sure I ever really believed in Santa Claus, for example. I may have, but I must have been very, very young at the time because it didn't take me long to figure out that there were closets we weren't allowed to look in after a certain point in the fall. And there was a reason for that. I didn't get any less excited about Christmas. I just understood that Mom and Dad were footing the bill. I was okay with that. I didn't care who gave me presents. I just wanted presents. Santa was an entirely expendable idea.
Through the years since that time (and there have been more than a few of them), I have pretty much stuck to this baseline.
I might believe something that is patently untrue, but I won't typically believe it long. For one thing, being in denial about one thing or another has kicked my ass enough times that I have learned the hard way that this is an ill-advised perspective.
Besides, it is what it is. I've been told this is a Navaho line and I, for one, use it a lot. It is what it is. You can believe in Santa if you want to, but it doesn't make Santa real -- even if you believe really, really hard. And while believing in Santa may not do much damage, believing some fictions can.
Sociologist W.I. Thomas discussed why. He wrote that when we believe something is true (even when it is NOT), it can become true in its consequences. In other words, if I come into the classroom with an automatic weapon, giving my students to understand that I've lost my mind and I'm taking myself out and them with me, all hell is likely to break loose. First, they may not believe me. "Is this some crazy explanatory stunt?" they might ask themselves. But if they decide I'm serious, conseqences will ensue. Some will rush for the door. Some will rush for me. Some will hit the floor or jump behind their classmates. And according to the movies, somebody might wet their pants.
When I show them that the "weapon" is a squirt gun and tell them that I just wanted to illustrate W.I. Thomas' theory, the ones left in the classroom will take their seats, shaking their heads, maybe even disgruntled. But the one who pee'ed his or her pants will still have wet pants -- even though the threat was not real. Capiche?
I'm forever running into students who want to "argue" with my "opinions."
"I don't agree with you (or the book or the research or whatever)," they will say.
And I ask them what they are basing their disagreement on. I have no vested interest in "being right." I have great concern about knowing what's real, what's true, what's really going on instead of what we think is going on. So any student (or friend or colleague or blogger or anyone else) who can demonstrate how my understanding of x is flawed is appreciated. But I tell my students from day one that they better be prepared to bring it. I base what I say in the classroom on forty years of personal study, on centuries of recorded history, on replicated scientific research based in solid theory, on seven uninterrupted years of graduate school, and I'm not interested in "arguing" with somebody's knee-jerk opinion based on...oh...whatever they learned from Uncle Joe at the family picnics (especially when it becomes readily apparent that Uncle Joe was basing his opinions on a tract he picked up at church or a case he once heard about from a guy at his local bar involving this Mexican guy who makes more money than him).
I'm not trying to be rude here, but you'd be surprised how simple things get when you just require that people be accountable for what comes out their mouths. So one of the central ideas my students learn, no matter what the topic of the course, is that they need to know what they're talking about.
Unfortunately, it's often difficult to get this across to the rest of the world.
So we have legislators in Louisiana right now about to decide (again) that creationism (the literal Biblical presentation of how the Earth and the human race came into being) is just as valid an idea as documentable evidence to the contrary. These are, according to virtually the entire State House of Representatives here, just two differing opinions and therefore equally reasonable to study in schools. The problem with this, of course, is that when you do that, you teach children (without them even knowing that you're doing so) that an opinion based on "faith" (I just know that I know that I know) is as reasonable a perspective as one based on "fact" (reality). And once you have established that, then an 18-year-old who's never read a single book all the way through, who's never seen anything but the town she was born in, whose experience of life has been totally prescribed by conservative politics and religious television programming, can believe that her opinions are just as valid as those of someone who has worked hard to find out and document the way things really work.
The result of this kind of "individualistic" "thinking" is that it allows anybody to believe anything without having to prove anything. And endless arguments between fact and fiction can then take the place of critical analysis wherein differing interpretations of the facts are argued.
The Ricardo Levins Morales poster featured above is available from the Northland Poster Collective.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
The first date I ever went on with my daughter's father was to see Gwendolyn Brooks read from her work in 1981. At the time, all I knew about her was that she was the Poet Laureate of the state of Illinois (where we were) and that she was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. I wasn't so far removed from my poetry-writing days myself (though hardly deserving of having my efforts called "poetry") and during the question and answer period, I had the audacity to raise my hand and put this icon on the spot by asking, "If you could only give us one line to take with us when we leave here, what would it be?"
I hold my honey and I store my bread
My taste will not have turned insensitive
i used to dream radical dreams
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
"Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed into the enemy’s country, struck a bold and effective blow, destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton and lordly dwellings, and striking terror into the heart of rebeldom, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property, without losing a man or receiving a scratch. It was a glorious consummation.
"After they were all fairly well disposed of in the Beaufort charge, they were addressed in strains of thrilling eloquence by their gallant deliverer, to which they responded in a song. 'There is a white robe for thee,' a song so appropriate and so heartfelt and cordial as to bring unbidden tears.
"The Colonel was followed by a speech from the black woman, who led the raid and under whose inspiration it was originated and conducted. For sound sense and real native eloquence, her address would do honor to any man, and it created a great sensation...
"Since the rebellion, she has devoted herself to her great work of delivering the bondman, with an energy and sagacity that cannot be exceeded. Many and many times she has penetrated the enemy’s lines and discovered their situation and condition, and escaped without injury, but not without extreme hazard..."