Thursday, August 30, 2007

A "Considerate Dreamer"

You are a Dreamer

Your combination of abstract thinking, appreciation of beauty, and cautiousness makes you a DREAMER.

You often imagine how things could be better, and you have very specific visions of this different future.

Beauty and style are important to you, and you have a discerning eye when it comes to how things look.

Although you often think more broadly, you prefer comfort to adventure, choosing to stay within the boundaries of your current situation.

Your preferences for artistic works are very refined, although you vastly prefer some types and styles to others.

Though your dreams are quite vivid, you are cautious in following up on them.

You are aware of both your positive and negative qualities, so that your ego doesn't get in your way.

A sense of vulnerability sometimes holds you back, stifling your creative tendencies.

You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

If you want to be different:

Your imagination is a wonderful asset, but don't just dream—be bold enough to take action and explore new things.

Consider a wider range of details and possibilities when thinking about the present and the future—don't be too set in your ways.

You are Considerate

You trust others, care about them, and are slow to judge them, making you CONSIDERATE.

You value your close relationships very much, and are more likely to spend time in small, tightly-knit groups of friends than in large crowds.

You enjoy exploring the world through observation, quietly watching others.

Relating to others so well, and understanding their emotions, leads you to trust people in general, even though you're somewhat shy and reserved at times.

Your belief that people are generally well-intentioned contributes to your sympathy regarding their problems.

Although you may not vocalize it often, you have an awareness of how society affects individuals, and you understand complex causes of people's behavior.

You like to look at all sides of a situation before making a judgment, particularly when that situation involves important things in other people's lives.

Your close friends know you as a good listener.

If you want to be different:

Because other people would benefit immensely from your understanding and insight, you should try to be more outgoing in social situations, even when they make you uncomfortable. Others will want to hear what you have to say!


(scroll over colors to see assessment)

Well, those who know me? On target or full of crap? Link me to yours!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Widen Your Circle Of Compassion


"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."

Albert Einstein - (1879-1955) Physicist and Professor, Nobel Prize 1921

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Is Sedona Calling?

Yes.. it's astrology. What of it? ;-)

Free Will Astrology
Week of August 15

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): "I am in continuous pursuit of the color red," says artist Andy Goldsworthy, whose specialty is creating large outdoor sculptures made of natural objects. "As I approach the source of the color red, the more I understand it." That's why he's so fond of red rocks, whose hue comes from iron, the same element that makes our blood red.

Your next assignment, Taurus, is to develop a more intimate and expansive relationship with red. Color therapists say that it inspires vigor, zeal, determination, and primordial longing. But don't just let the experts define your connection with red. Find your own meanings, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A good day of nothing

Just a quick YAY post.

Well, it started out with me getting rather freaked with my stupid "stalker". No, I realize he's not really a stalker. However, he did decide to start harassing me personally on his little show, then followed me over to my message board to further cause me grief. Which really, I never should have even let him in, in the first place. But as my dear friend Dave will tell you- that is what I do. Give people chances. I'm just an optimist at heart, I suppose. It all ready bit me in the ass too- as I've all ready had to delete his sexist ways from a thread.

So I noticed that he wrote a review of my podcast on the Podcast Pickle website, and (duh) it wasn't a good one. I would never expect it to be a good one- but I got a giggle that he took the time, and made a comment about it on another place I network socially. About 10 minutes later I get a message from him on the pickle saying he was told by someone I referred to him as "stalker", and what that meant. So, I promptly blocked him from contacting me there.

Then I spent the next two hours changing my preferences to friends only and weeding through requests for people to follow my messages. In that, I think I found the culprit. But I was SO annoyed that I actually had to cut myself off from the public somewhere on the internet- I've NEVER felt the need to do that before.

Anyway, so as I was doing that, two neat-o things happened. The first was from a fellow podcaster inviting me to be part of a panel about women in podcasting at this year's Podcast and New Media Expo. I didn't even know there was going to be a panel! (which will be Friday at noon, over at the LA Podcaster's booth on the expo floor.) So there are two panels I'm going to be a part of now that weekend, this one along with the Political Roundtable I'm hosting. Then my dear BTF Tabz asked me to put together an audio about listening to a podcast (the basic how and where). Which is pretty much done since I've done one in the past, so YAY!

It definitely cheered me today-a small boost of validation. Not to mention my kiddos going back to school! We ALL needed them to go back, kids included! So what could have turned bad, ended up being a pretty good day.

Tomorrow, I actually DO something though... hehe I got my day of serenity.

Words are the same, we just change who says them!

I take you now, to 1994...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I don't blame her for being angry

This seemed like a good post to end Blogging Against Racism Week on. As much as I enjoy the education I receive about race from wonderful, insightful, honest bloggers such as Field Negro and Free Slave, I feel I can connect more with Angry Black Woman's blog and view. Maybe it's the fact we're both women? I have no clue.

Regardless, she is very good at making me see things I totally never would have seen because I'm a white gal. Things I completely take for granted because of my skin color. For instance, click the title of this entry and get an example. The Television Universe is white, apparently:

"I love writing SF, reading SF, and watching SF television. I used to love watching SF television a lot more. now I’m just left wondering why the universe is so fucking full of white people.~Major case in point: Battlestar Galactica. I’m speaking of the new show here, not the old one. If you look at that show for about 10 minutes (any 10 minutes will do) you might notice that there is a major lack of people of color. It’s not a trick, that’s just how the whole show is. I don’t watch this show. I have watched some episodes and I have heard a lot about it, but I missed the mini-series and thus couldn’t get into it at first.

"12 colonies or planets filled with humans. So far I have seen exactly 2 black people (one was killed 42 minutes after he showed up on the screen), one Asian person (who isn’t even human, she’s a Cylon in disguise), one Latino person (whose son, for some crazy reason, is played by a white dude), and that’s it. The rest of the people are all white. White people everywhere. This is stupid. If you have billions of humans on 12 planets I refuse to believe that only the white people would survive. Statistics say so. Unless there weren’t many black people on the colonies to begin with.

I think the backstory is that Earth was the home colony that people flew away from millennia ago. Apparently only white people were smart enough to build spaceships to fly away from earth and took along a few darkies so that they could create some ‘exotic’ babies every now and then. Or maybe SciFi channel just sucks ass. I think that might be the case.

"What else can you say about a network that allowed the guy who made the Earthsea movie turn all of the people white except for that one guy? On Stargate the black people are all slaves, but the white people might be slaves or they might be rulers or they might be accountants. On Atlantis they gathered together scientists and military folks from countries all over the world, and yet the only person of color from Earth is the one military guy. All of the other black folks come from another galaxy. From backwards, tribal planets no less. Oh, except for that one Asian chick in that one episode.

Don’t get me started on Andromeda."

Really- I never would have given it a second thought- and never did. That is exactly my privilege- to not see color right away. When I put myself in a person of color's position (and I am in no way implying that I ever really can- just trying to see from their perspective), it's very obvious. Such an imbalance, in a world that is supposed to be working towards equality. I say "working towards", because this is just another example of how we have in no way achieved it.

Now, if you look through the comments on this blog entry, some ignorance shines through:

"By the way, if it sucks so bad that Sci-FI has too many white people, why don’t you lobby BET for some F&SF productions? Tired of Euro fantasy worlds filled with caucasians? Write your own and get them published. The ancient histories and pantheons of the aboriginal people of Australia or the inhabitants of Africa seem to be rich fodder for this kind of development.

Personally I think it’s sad that anyone who enjoys F&SF can be so totally stuck on race, that they feel they need to boycott or pitch a fit until “more people like them” start showing up. As I have already stated, half the time in F&SF the heroes and main characters aren’t even human, so why the huge hangup on skin color?

Let’s shave Chewbacca and find out what color he is! He’s probably white too! AIIGHEEEEEEEE!

Silly."

Always the automatic comeback- the "if you don't like it, then YOU do something about it". Always pushing the responsibility off on someone else. And this was a laugh- just go write your own stuff! Now, ABW may be a writer, but I'm sure there are plenty of Sci-Fi Fantasy lovers who are people of color who are not writers. No, the responsibility falls on those who choose to portray people of color the way they do. Then to suggest they ask a "black network" to air more of the these type of shows, just reveals how deep in privilege this person is.

Lobby BET for the diversity in programming? Wow, is he serious? Which analogy would be better for that comment- sit at the back of the bus, or drink from your own fountain?

There should be more diversity on the networks most of the white people watch- period. I had thoughts about this a couple of months ago when I watched Roots. It's the 30th year anniversary of the film, and where could you see it? TVOne. Now, how many people have TVOne? And really, how are you going to get through to those who REALLY need to see it? (meaning: white people).

Point being, that movie should be on a major network every year (I'll let you figure out the month). Major TV channels should have their writers write more diversely. There needs to be a higher awareness. You certainly can't get the people more aware, if you can't have the programming they watch be more aware and sensitive to race.

And no, aliens on sci-fi shows do not count.

Scheduled To Die For Not Killing Anyone

From Democracy Now last Thursday:

Three weeks from today, a 30-year-old African American man on death row in Texas is scheduled to be executed. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death ten years ago for the murder of Michael LaHood, a white man. The trial judge, the prosecutor, and the jury that sentenced him to die admit he never killed anyone. Foster is scheduled to be executed under a controversial Texan law known as the law of parties. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred. In Foster's case he was driving a car with three passengers, one of whom left the car, got into an altercation and shot LaHood dead. We broadcast a rare interview of Kenneth Foster from death row and speak to his family in Texas as well a journalist who has closely followed his case.

On Tuesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied death row prisoner Kenneth Foster's final appeal. In a six-to-three decision the appeals court denied Foster's final writ of habeas corpus. Foster's last recourse is the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Texas Governor Rick Perry. According to Foster's criminal attorney, Keith Hampton, five of the seven board members must recommend clemency in order for Governor Perry to consider granting it. Kenneth Foster's scheduled execution date is August 30th.

http://savekenneth.blogspot.com/
http://www.freekenneth.com/

Definitely a good episode of this show to listen to. I can't think of a single reason this man should be put to death. All because of a stupid ass-backward law.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Check my what?

A good friend and ally in the fight against racism recently posted this guide on privilege on the TS message board- and I want to share some of the points here for today's (almost too late!) installment for IBARW.

It all starts with one simple self-realization: you are privileged. Chances are, your reading that has made you feel defensive. While it’s a perfectly natural, and common, reaction, don’t let it get in your way of actually thinking about what the statement means. What you need to realize is that we all have privilege to some degree: white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc. The hardest thing is to do is to get over your instinct to fight and say, “But I’m not like that!” If you can do it, you’ve completed the first step towards being a nice guy in reality rather than words.

I went through this when I came to the realization of my own privilege. It's like swallowing something bitter- getting a dose of reality. But then you realize you've taken a huge step just by having the realization. Remember, you are not bad for being privileged- but:

You don’t have any control over the privilege you were given, and we get that. It’s important for you to get that, and get that we aren’t saying that, and then realize what that means when combined with your privilege to pretend that you aren’t privileged. Confused? Simply put: you aren’t bad for having privilege, but not being able to give up your privilege is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for bad behaviour. So, what, then, to do about it? Well, finding a balance between accepting your privilege and fighting against it is not easy. I still struggle with it on a daily basis. But, one way to start is to listen to and take feedback from minority groups. They are a good judge of how your actions come across to them. Not everyone’s opinions will be the same, but eventually you’ll come out with some semblance of balance that works for you and those around you.

This is key- I know I'm not a bad person because I am white. No one is automatically a bad person because of their privilege. We have no control over that. We do however, have control over all of our other actions (or more importantly, non-action) in regards to said privilege.

This one gets me in trouble all the time:

Privilege is perpetuated in part by the silence of people when one of their own group does something questionable. This can be an inappropriate joke, or someone admitting that they committed a crime against a minority (eg. rape), etc. We’re conditioned to not say anything, especially if we’ll be the lone voice of dissent among a peer group, but when you tell the offender that hir behaviour is not cool, you may be pleasantly surprised by the group’s response. Or you may be ridiculed. I’ve had both happen to me, and with certain groups (like my family), I try to pick and choose my battles. With others (like most of my friends), I’ll risk losing them rather than keeping friends with questionable values. It won’t always work, and you have to find your own balance, but just saying something, or even backing up another dissenter, can go a long way to improving a situation. And, please remember, while it’s a good thing for you to be engaging in this, you shouldn’t expect to be rewarded by minorities for your efforts; oppression may be a new experience for you, but it’s something we live with every day of our lives.

Most people I have encountered to talk about race, are happy with what I say to a point. When I tell them they might be a little insensitive about something, I always seem to get the "reverse racism" card played back at me. You know, I'm racist against white people, or I hate men, or whatever. But I know I can't be quiet, the topic of privilege and understanding it is too important. My skin has certainly thickened, though. :-)

Oh there is tons more at the page, I encourage all of you who read here to take the time and learn. Also some great links to even more information. I will leave you with the last bit of advice from the page:

But if you feel the burning desire to leap to your own defense and declare, “I’m not the problem!” then you just might be. The facts are, people who have followed the steps I’ve outlined will most likely not be the problem. If they are the problem, they accept that and will be working on a way to be less of the problem. If they’re not the problem, then they feel no need to protest the critique by saying that since they aren’t the problem, then the poinit is obviously invalid. So, whenever you feel an urge to defend yourself against a criticism about your privileged group, think about why you feel that way. Chances are, the more aware of your privilege you are, the more you’ll see it as a knee-jerk reaction about having your privilege challenged (even if you don’t, in fact, engage in the behaviour being ranted against).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Facts? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts!

Racism, White Anxiety and the Projection of Personal Inadequacy

By Tim Wise

The electronic messages I receive from overt racists would be hilarious were they not so sad, so indicative of an inability to do basic research, interpret data once discovered and then fashion an intelligible argument. That the American educational system is failing may be a matter for open debate, but on this score--its success or failure at turning out people who can think critically--its inadequacy is almost beyond the scope of rational disagreement.

They come in different types, these dispatches from the land of white racial narcissism: But whether raw and ignorant (as in the almost daily and angry reminders of my romantic fondness for black folks--this hardly being the way in which they phrase it), or cool and calm (as with the pseudo-scholarly claims of proven genetic differences between whites and everyone else), there are several things the racists have in common. First and foremost, these include the tendency to only see what they want to see, while studiously ignoring any evidence that gets in the way of their worldview.

So just last night I received a note from someone seeking, as with so many others, to justify their contempt for people of color by claiming:

"Here in Manchester, New Hampshire we historically had a very low crime rate. Now with the influx of minorities in the last few years the crime rate has soared. We have perhaps a two percent minority population in the area and they commit roughly half our crime. That's not hysteria or imagination. Its (sic) a fact in the newspapers and on the nightly news."

Therein, the writer is making several claims which deserve examination, and which upon said examination prove to be utterly without merit. They are:

1) An increase in the number of persons of color in Manchester has resulted in a significant increase in crime over the last several years;

2) People of color commit about half the crime in Manchester, despite being only around two percent of the population, and this we know because;

3) The media tells us so, via their daily representations of criminal activity and criminal perps, both in print and broadcast mediums.

First things first: that people who write things like this, and who normally are quick to distrust anything they see on television, would cite the nightly news as the definitive source for understanding crime, and who commits it, seems a bit disingenuous to say the least. More to the point, relying on media representations of criminality is almost guaranteed to result in less understanding of the problem, rather than more. To begin with, papers and TV only cover a statistical handful of crimes committed. What's more, according to multiple studies of news broadcasts (especially at the local level) people of color are over-represented in stories about crimes, relative to the share of crime for which they are actually responsible. Crimes committed in a given area by whites are less likely to receive coverage, either because they are more easily covered up (the relative insularity of suburban and upper-middle class communities tends to protect residents from having their misbehaviors catalogued publicly), or because media outlets, being concentrated in larger urban areas, choose the easiest route, which means covering crimes closest to their stations and offices.

Even more importantly, the argument put forward by the racist from Manchester was simply wrong.

In point of fact, crime in Manchester has not risen, but fallen over the past several years--the precise time when the population of persons of color in the city was increasing. In other words, the position taken by the racist isn't only false, it is the exact opposite of reality. Though the percentage of folks of color there is still pretty small (about ten percent of the total) the numbers have increased in the last decade, even as crime has declined.

According to FBI data available here, most serious crimes in Manchester are down, many of them considerably, since 1997, even though the population has risen. This means the crime rate (crimes divided by population) has fallen even further. The murder rate has fallen, as has the rate for rape and sexual assault. Although robberies are up since 1997, they have fallen over the last two years and seem headed downward again. Aggravated assaults are higher than the late 90s, but are also falling since 2004. Burglary has fallen dramatically, as have larceny and motor vehicle theft. In all, during the period of increasing minority presence in Manchester, the number of serious crimes (Index Crimes in the parlance of law enforcement) has dropped from roughly 5,000 incidents annually to just under 4,000, all while the overall population was growing. If the number of crimes have fallen by about twenty percent, even while the population grew by more than five percent, this means the crime rate in Manchester is down by roughly a fourth since the late 90s. Hardly a reality that supports the racist worldview of the person writing to me, or others like him.

After just a five minute Google search (so simple, even a racist can do it) I also stumbled across an article in which police in Manchester note that drugs have become far less of a problem than was the case fifteen or twenty years ago when the city was whiter. So the more black and brown folks, the less drugs apparently. Which makes sense actually, seeing as how all the available data indicates that whites are equally or more likely to use drugs than either blacks or Latinos, contrary to popular perception.

After collecting the definitive data on crime in Manchester and sending it to the person who had taken the time to share their ignorance with me, a reply came back, which, although entirely expected (after all, true believers, be they religious or racial zealots are rarely willing to learn anything), was nonetheless disturbing. To wit:

"My argument is that the color of crime is black and you can play with the numbers all you want but like I said my eyes and ears do not deceive me."

So there you have it. Facts don't matter. Data doesn't matter. Eyes and ears, filled with the partial and inaccurate representations of crime in the mass media (not to mention racist websites and organizations like American Renaissance, which sites my detractor apparently visits as often as most people move their bowels) are what matter.

That the color of crime, in Manchester and nationwide, is not in fact black takes literally a matter of minutes to ascertain. As for Manchester, although I could find no information as to the racial makeup of criminals in the city, the fact that crime had been dropping, even as the number and share of persons of color in Manchester had been growing, certainly seems to mitigate against the notion that blackness and crime are synonymous. Additionally, I was able to find a list of registered sex offenders in Manchester, which noted the race of the perps in question. As of early 2007, there were 237 registered offenders on the list, and all but eighteen (meaning, ninety percent) were non-Hispanic whites. So whatever the color of the guy who just robbed the liquor store may be, the color of the guy who's flashing your kids in the park (or worse) is decidedly more pasty in tone.

Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the white criminals in Manchester are not only more numerous, they also seem to be of a particularly stupid sort, as with the man who, in early July, robbed a bank dressed as a tree. Apparently, the middle aged white male (come to think of it, the same demographic as that which disproportionately frequents white supremacist websites--coincidence? Methinks not) robbed the Citizen's Bank in Manchester, with tree branches attached to his body with duct tape. He also had glasses and a blue shirt, both of which probably tipped off the tellers to the fact that he was not really a tree. Nice try though.

Nationally as well, although the crime rate for blacks is higher than that for whites--according to the research because of conditions of extreme poverty, and the dysfunctions that regularly flow from living in highly concentrated, overpopulated urban spaces--the fact remains that African Americans commit only about one out of four violent crimes in the U.S.

According to the annual victimization surveys taken by the Justice Department (which give a more complete picture of total crime, by taking into consideration crimes that go unreported to police), blacks in 2005 committed twenty-four percent of all violent crimes in the nation, where the race of the perp was known: about 1.2 million incidents, out of approximately five million in all. Even if we assign a good percentage of the white perps' crimes to Latinos (most of whom are classified racially as white in the data), this would still leave the responsibility for the majority of violent offenses on white folks, even using the most restrictive, Hitler-friendly definition of the term. So, the color of crime is not black, but mostly white, and not just for corporate misconduct, where we might expect this to be the case, but even for regular violent crimes.

And since whites are about five times more likely to be personally victimized by another white person, it is especially absurd for whites to spend our time--as so many of the folks who write me obviously do--worrying about black or brown criminals hurting us. While they panic at the sight of even a few persons of color on their block, white kids are vandalizing the neighborhood, white men are driving drunk to and from their homes, white folks are molesting children, dealing drugs, cooking up meth, or burying two dozen people under their houses (serial killing being one of our specialties as well). A little perspective is in order, but rarely to be found for those whose racial animosities, insecurities and resentments blind them to the truth.

And so I expect to receive messages like this one again, probably several before the end of the week, none of which will be any better thought out than the one before it. And all of which will demonstrate, even if only subtly, the deep-seated psychological dysfunction at the heart of racism: the fear that one is not, in fact, superior, but rather inferior. White supremacists, I'm starting to realize, don't really believe what they're saying--not deep down, that is. They look around and see that light skin is a recessive trait the world over, that indeed they (we) are the odd ones on the planet in terms of pigmentation. They see the economies of the white west faltering, slowly (or perhaps not so slowly), being challenged by that of China, among others. They see people of color excelling in any arena where they are given full and equal opportunity (not enough arenas, to be sure, but still); they see a popular culture in which people of color are among the nation's most revered symbols of what's hip, in spite of the profound inequities that still plague the larger social systems and which tend to favor whites. Cool is not Elvis or James Dean, or Cary Grant, or Frank Sinatra anymore: it's P-Diddy, or Jay-Z, or Russell Simmons, or whomever. White women are more likely to hang on the words of Oprah than their mostly white husbands (Ok, so neither of those may be such good things, but you get the point). They see a world in which global white supremacy is everywhere being challenged. In which the white world's militaries are incapable of subduing a rag-tag bunch of insurgents, with darker skin. In which they themselves have accomplished little, despite all the good things to which they felt entitled as white people, mostly men, all these years.

By lashing out, calling other people by racial slurs, or seeking to pathologize them (as if they were the inferior ones), white supremacists can protect themselves from the insecurity that truly gnaws away at them. For if there is one thing I've learned over the years it's this: truly amazing talents never need to tell others how truly amazing or superior they are. They just go out, do the work, and demonstrate their excellence silently. They need no cheerleaders. Those who publicly proclaim how great they are, on the other hand, are almost always trying to convince themselves. And apparently, given their persistence, they are finding the job harder than they imagined.


http://www.lipmagazine.org/~timwise/stinkinfacts.html

A view of how 'important' civil rights is to one political party

From a post I made on the Tap back in July:

Seriously. One? Only one? Wasn't worth shuffling the schedule around for? Oh dear GOP, even FAKING caring about this debate would have shown a little more about you, than what this photo gives away.

The NAACP invited all 9 Republican candidates to the forum, but only one showed up: Tom Tancredo. All the Democratic Presidential hopefuls showed up for their forum, btw.

Anyone who sees this photo, and believes any of the bullshit that comes out of the GOP's mouth regarding civil rights deserves exactly the candidate they get. I'm sure I wouldn't agree with anything Tancredo says on many issues, but I tell you I commend him greatly for showing up there.

The rest of the lot make me sick. They should be ashamed. And HELLO- media? Why am I getting this photo off a blog, instead of off every major news site on the internet?

Completely. Disgusting. They have absolutely no class whatsoever.

Pffft.

Don't Miss The Point

An article from back in April, with my thoughts and boldings throughout:

Passing the Buck and Missing the Point:

Don Imus, White Denial and Racism in America

By Tim Wise

April 15, 2007

Let us dispense with the easy stuff, shall we?

First, Don Imus's free speech rights have not been even remotely violated as a result of his firing, either by MSNBC or CBS Radio. The First Amendment protects us against state oppression or legal sanction for our words. It does not entitle everyone with an opinion to a talk show, let alone on a particular network. To believe or to demand otherwise would be to say that Imus's free speech rights outweigh the rights of his employers to determine what messages they will send out on their dime.

Secondly, those who are telling black folks to "get over it," when it comes to racial slurs, such as those offered up by Imus, are missing an important point: namely, the slurs are not the real issue. The issue is that these slurs (be they of the "nappy-headed ho" variety, or the semi-psychotic string of vitriol spewed by Michael Richards a few months back) take place against a backdrop of systemic and institutional racism. And that backdrop--of housing and job discrimination, racial profiling, unequal health care access, and a media that regularly presents blacks in the worst possible light (think the persistent and inaccurate reports of murder and rape by African Americans in New Orleans during the Katrina tragedy)--makes verbal slights, even if relatively minor, take on a magnitude well beyond the moment of their issuance.

Those who so easily let slip dismissive cliches, such as, "sticks and stones," have rarely themselves been the ones for whom slurs signaled a pending or extant campaign of oppression. So, for those whites who seek to change the subject to slurs used occasionally against us--like honky or cracker--please note: it is precisely the lack of any potent, institutional force to back up those words, which makes them so much easier to shrug off. But people of color are well aware that the slurs used against them, particularly when verbalized by whites, are often the tip of a much larger and more destructive iceberg, beneath which tip lies an edifice capable of shattering opportunities, of damaging and even destroying lives. In truth, even the words themselves can injure, especially the young, for whom an insistence on the development of thick skin seems especially heartless.

Exactly. I know that I can't think of one time in history that whites as a whole have been systemically and even socially discriminated against. And that is a huge point, indeed.

Third, and please make note of it, this is not the first time Imus had done something like this. In the past he's referred to black journalist Gwen Ifill as "the cleaning lady," a Jewish reporter as, a "boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy," and Arabs as "ragheads." Furthermore, he handpicked a sidekick who called Palestinians "animals" on the air, and suggested that Venus and Serena Williams would make fine centerfold models for National Geographic. Imus is a serial offender, and his contrition now, while perhaps genuine, has been long overdue.

So, a quick review: Imus is a racist, words can wound, and his employers had both the right and responsibility to fire him. But such is hardly the stuff of which meaningful commentary is made. So now, let us consider a few other matters as they relate to the Imus affair: matters that have been largely under-explored amidst the coverage of this story in recent weeks.

White Hypocrisy, Personal Responsibility, and Shifting the Blame to Black Folks (whaaa? More??)

One thing has been made clear by the Imus incident: namely, white folks are incapable of blaming other whites for white racism and racist behavior. Despite all the demands by whites that blacks take "personal responsibility" for their lives, their behaviors, and the problems that often beset their communities--and especially that they stop blaming whites for their station in life--the fact is, we can't wait to blame someone else when we, or one of ours, screws up. So please note, from virtually every corner of the white media (and from black conservatives who are quick to let whites off the hook no matter what we do), the conversation has shifted from Imus's racism to a full-scale assault on rap music and hip-hop. In other words, it's those black people's fault when one of ours calls them a name. After all, they do it themselves, and Imus can't be expected not to say "ho" if Ice Cube has done it. At this point, I'm halfway expecting to hear Bill O'Reilly say that white folks wouldn't have even heard words like nigger if it weren't for 50 Cent. (LOL... oh he's funny!)

But this kind of argument is not only absurd on the face of it, even more to the point, it's a complete affront to the concept of "personal responsibility." It ranks right up there with telling your mom that "Billy did it too," back when you were ten, and playing ball outside, and broke your neighbor's window. As I recall, mom didn't really give a rat's ass, and responded by saying something about Billy, a bridge, and whether his desire to jump off like a damned fool would inspire similar stupidity on your part.

How do you say.... personal responsibility? What a concept.

By seeking to shift blame for Imus's comments, or those of Michael Richards, or whomever, onto black folks, white America has shown our duplicity to be something over which we have no shame. Of course, we've been doing it a long time. Witness the way that whites are quick to point out--whenever the issue of slavery is raised--that "blacks in Africa sold other blacks into bondage," as if that would make blacks every bit as culpable as the folks whose wealth was built by the slave system; as if Europeans had only come to Africa for the weather, and had been coerced into the transatlantic slave trade. Or consider the way that whites blame indigenous people for the mass death they experienced after the invasion of the Americas, by saying, with no sense of misgiving, "Well, it wasn't our fault, I mean, they mostly died of disease," as if native folk would have contracted these diseases short of the desire by whites to conquer the planet for our own aggrandizement. Or consider the way that whites seek to rationalize racial profiling, by arguing that since blacks have higher crime rates, individual and perfectly innocent blacks really can't complain when cops target them, and should instead blame their own for the way blacks get viewed, and treated; same thing with Arabs and terrorism. It's their fault, in other words, personal responsibility be damned.

Hey! I just said that!

Rap has been an especially useful scapegoat, such that whenever whites act out in a racist way we seem quick to blame rap. In fact, sometimes, when whites commit violence we blame rap too, as with the two school shooters in Jonesboro, Arkansas in the late 90s, who were reported to love rap music, as if that would explain their decision to ambush their classmates. When whites throw "ghetto" parties on college campuses, which denigrate the humanity of persons living in this nation's poorest and most marginalized communities, they routinely claim to be merely mimicking what they've seen on MTV. Snoop Dogg made 'em do it, see? Or perhaps it was Jay-Z, or Biggie, or 'Pac. Odd how the Sopranos never get blamed when white folks kill someone, nor the Saw movie trilogy, or, for that matter (since we're on the subject of music), Johnny Cash, who sang about shooting a man in Reno "just to watch him die." Hell, Johnny even sang that song in a prison to a bunch of inmates, with no apparent concern for inciting violence on their part.

And speaking of Cash, the rush to blame rap is especially intriguing given the history of violent themes in country music--a genre that is never blamed whenever some white, NASCAR lover commits murder. Consider country legend Porter Wagoner, whose song "Cold Hard Facts of Life," tells of a man who kills his wife for cheating on him. Or better still, "The First Mrs. Jones," in which Wagoner's protagonist, speaking to his new wife--who has just left him--tells her how he stalked and murdered his former betrothed, after which killing he buried her body parts in the woods. In other words, unless the "second Mrs. Jones" comes back to him, she's going to join the first one, pushing up daisies in the forest. If Young Buck dropped a song like this, white America would be screaming about how he was encouraging violence against women. But for Wagoner, a revered member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, no such concern attaches. He's just "telling a story."

Then there's Johnny Paycheck's classic, "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill," or Jimmy Rodgers who sang, "If you don't want to smell my smoke, don't monkey with my gun," or several of the violent ditties recorded by Spade Cooley in the 1950s: a man who didn't just sing of violence, but also practiced what he preached, by beating his wife to death in front of their teenage daughter in 1961. That rap is viewed so much more negatively than any other genre of music--so many of which have had their fair share of disturbing, violent and sexist imagery--attests to the racialized way in which danger has come to be understood. Only a fool could think race wasn't the primary reason for the double standard. In fact, research has found that when lyrics with violent themes are presented to whites in a focus group, as being rap lyrics, the participants respond far more negatively than when the same lyrics are presented as the lyrics they actually are: from a folk song, sung by whites.

But blaming rap is not only conveniently opportunistic, and intellectually dishonest, given all the pandering about personal responsibility. It also ignores the reasons why rap music sometimes--though not as uniformly as some seem to believe--peddles images of violence, or lyrics that are sexist. After all, if eighty percent of all rap music purchases are made by whites (and that is the conventional wisdom), then white consumers must be responding, via their purchases, to an already held impression of black people. Without such a pre-existing mental schema firmly in place, the images of blacks as gangstas, pimps, dealers and "hos" wouldn't resonate nearly so much as to make possible billions of dollars of sales annually. In other words, perhaps whites need to consider the possibility that the thug image has been marketable, and thus created a financial incentive for black artists to play to that trope because these images comport with the negative things that much of white America believes about blacks in the first place. Things which they believed, it should be noted, long before Cool Herc threw his first house party in the Bronx.

If white folks were interested in buying CDs by rap artists who sang about radical social transformation and community uplift--and yes there are many, many such artists out there--then that's the music that would be churned out in larger numbers. But white consumers aren't, by and large, looking to buy songs about overthrowing the system from which we benefit. White boys in the stale and lifeless 'burbs would rather listen to songs about guns and drugs, and being a thug, through which music they can live a more exciting life, if only in their fantasies. So in the ultimate irony, it is white buyers who make that kind of rap profitable, but instead of asking for any responsibility from them, we blame the artists for doing what they're supposed to do in a capitalist system, which is respond to market demand, no matter the social consequences. Naturally, of course, it isn't capitalism that gets the blame--a thoroughly European creation that has brought misery to millions, as did state socialism (another issue from the womb of Europe)--but rather, the black folks who have taken the bait offered by the market system. Even better is to read Cal Thomas's column from this week, in which he blamed liberal values and permissiveness for the coarseness of rap music, rather than the values trumpeted by the right, like profit-making.

Sticking Our "Buts" in Where They Don't Belong

In addition to trying to shift the blame for white racism onto black folks, we whites seem to be congenitally incapable of simply condemning racism, and after such condemnation, ending the sentence with a period. No indeed, after each condemnation it appears as though we are compelled to offer a comma, followed by a semi-exculpatory clause, which minimizes or outright nullifies the force of the condemnation itself.

As in, "Yes, what Imus said was horrible, and mean-spirited" (and sometimes we'll even admit, racist, although several were unable to verbalize this word), "but he does wonderful charity work," or runs "a camp for kids with cancer."

As in, "Yes, what Michael Richards said was awful and racist, but he was heckled and just lost control" (actually, witnesses say he started in on black audience members before they had said anything to him, so this excuse is not only flimsy, in any event, it's also a lie).

As in, "Yes, Mel Gibson was wrong to say those things, but he'd been drinking."

As in, "Yes, those white officers who shot Amadou Diallo were wrong, but it's tough being a cop in a dangerous neighborhood."

As in, "Yes, the founding fathers mostly owned slaves and were racists, but they were just products of their time and can't be judged by the standards of today"--an argument that is thoroughly offensive, since, after all, admonitions against theft and murder (both of which were implicated in the slave system) have been around for thousands of years. Not to mention, the idea that "everyone felt that way back then" is false: the slaves certainly didn't, and neither did white abolitionists.

Or, my favorite, as regards the Imus matter: "Yeah, Imus was wrong to say what he said, but the people criticizing him, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, are even worse." One has to wonder what white folks would do if Jackson and Sharpton weren't around; who would we have to divert attention from our own biases? Attacking these two is the default position of white America whenever one of ours does something wrong: "Well what about Jackson? What about Sharpton?" This is then followed by a reminder of the former's "Hymietown" statement, and the latter's involvement in the Tawana Brawley affair.

But even if one accepts the standard white critique of Jackson and Sharpton, the argument nonetheless amounts to a colossal failure to apply "personal responsibility" logic to oneself and one's community. It is yet another attempt by whites to change the subject. Not to mention, both men's past foibles exacted a price from them as well, from which it took several years to recover. It's not as if they received a free pass, and to be sure, had either man had a radio show at the time, there is no doubt that they too would have been canned by their employers for making racist, or anti-Semitic comments. Twenty-three years later, Jackson's comments about New York still haunt him, and no doubt had an impact on his political career, for example. As with Jackson and Sharpton, Imus should be able to redeem himself over time, to be sure. But as with both men, he shouldn't expect redemption to happen immediately, and without first paying a price.

And truthfully, to say that Sharpton and Jackson are more offensive than Imus is almost incomprehensible. On the one hand you have two men who have spent their entire adult lives in the struggle for equal rights. On the other, you have a talk show host whose career has been about offending people and pushing the boundaries of good taste. A man who told 60 minutes in 1998 that he hired his co-host, specifically to tell "nigger jokes." A man who calls tennis star Amelie Mauresmo a "big lesbo" on air. A man whose contribution to the world amounts to shocking people in morning drive time. Hardly comparable to registering voters, fighting for civil rights, running empowerment organizations that seek to build community unity, or any of the other endeavors in which Jackson and Sharpton have been involved.

But here's the bigger truth: if white folks are tired of seeing Jackson and Sharpton out front whenever white racism rears its ugly head, there's an easy way to solve that problem. Namely, all we have to do is do the work ourselves! If whites were willing to stand up and unapologetically, and without equivocation, condemn the racism in our community--following the lead of grass-roots folks of color with names far less known than the two men in question--perhaps Jackson and Sharpton wouldn't have to be the ones leading the rally. Maybe they could take a break. Maybe they could get a much-needed and earned vacation. But that's the problem: most whites do nothing in the face of racism. Most of us don't speak up, don't talk back, don't challenge family, friends, colleagues, or anyone else when they engage is racist actions or merely tell racist jokes. We sit back and remain largely silent, or condemn but only with caveats included. No wonder black leaders like Jackson and Sharpton end up being the visible faces of resistance: we aren't showing up at all, so what are they supposed to do?

At the end of the day, it is white silence and collaboration that has always made racism--whether of the personal or institutional type--possible. If whites had, in larger numbers, joined with folks of color to challenge white supremacy, there is no way that such a system could have been maintained. There is no way that racist persons would be able to spew their venom without fear of reprisal, in most cases. They would know that such verbiage, or racist actions would be met forcefully, and that those engaging in such things would be ostracized. But white silence and inaction has given strength to the racists, whether on radio or in corporate offices, or government positions, or police uniforms; it has emboldened them to act out, since they have long had little reason to believe anything would happen. Slaveowners would have been powerless had the whites who didn't own slaves stood up to them and challenged their evil; so too with segregationists, those who lynched thousands of blacks from the late 1800s to the early 60s, and those who engage in discrimination today. The silent and passive collaborators with injustice are just as bad as those who do the deed, and have always been such. And too often, those folks have been us.

So deeply rooted this denial goes. The longer it's ignored, the longer we stay silent, the deeper it roots.

Only when whites decide to connect with the alternative tradition of resistance, as opposed to collaboration, will things change. Only when we choose to take our place in the line--however much longer it should be--of antiracist white allies, will we be in a position to lecture folks of color on how they come at the issue. And even then, we'll have far more to learn than to teach in that regard. But until that time, and for however long white folks decide to remain on the sidelines in this struggle, our entitlement to say much of anything sideways to the Jacksons or Sharptons of the world will remain virtually non-existent. Pay some dues, and then maybe you can talk. Until then, shut it down.

And Yet, the Bigger Issue: Missing the Systemic Forest for the Individual Trees

But perhaps the biggest problem with the coverage of this one man's racism, is the way in which the media rushes to cover individual acts of bigotry, a la Imus or Michael Richards, while largely ignoring the larger issue, and evidence of widespread systemic racism in health care, criminal justice, education or employment.

So by now, pretty much everyone knows what Imus said, which is fine, so far as it goes. But why has there been no news coverage of the recent report that complaints of housing discrimination, including race-based complaints, are at an all-time high, and where is the outrage?

Why no coverage of the new report from the United Church of Christ, indicating persons of color are far more likely to live in neighborhoods where hazardous waste sites are placed, and that the typical host neighborhood for such sites has twice as many people of color as the typical neighborhood without such a site? And where is the outrage over this kind of environmental racism?

Where is the coverage of the recent study, which found that less access to high quality health care is the primary reason for higher prostate cancer death rates for black men, relative to white men? And how many have heard that according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 900,000 blacks died from 1991 to 2000, who wouldn't have died had they had access to health care that was equal to that received by whites: roughly 90,000 African Americans each year? And where is the outrage over racial disparity in health care?

Where is the media fanfare about the recently updated research from Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, to the effect that the racial wealth gap between whites and blacks has remained huge, even as income gaps have fallen? Oliver and Shapiro report that even among college-educated black couples with middle class incomes, their wealth disadvantage relative to similar whites remains massive: on average, these African American couples have less than one-fourth the net worth of their white counterparts. In large measure, the wealth gap can be traced to policies that historically restricted black asset accumulation and gave whites significant head starts in the same area, yet their findings have been reported in virtually no white-owned media outlets.

Or what about the research from Vanderbilt University, which finds that light-skinned immigrants to the U.S. have incomes that are significantly higher than those of immigrants who are otherwise similar--in terms of experience, education and skill levels--but who have darker skin. According to the research, which adds to a long line of data suggesting the role of colorism in the playing out of white supremacy, being one shade lighter than another immigrant is as beneficial to a person's income as an entire additional year of schooling. But where has the coverage been on this issue, and where is the outrage?

In other words, perhaps the biggest problem with the Imus coverage is the way that even liberal commentary on the subject has tended to reinforce the notion that racism is a one-on-one kind of thing, an interpersonal problem, or a character flaw, for which the easy solution is banishment from the airwaves, or perhaps several sessions of counseling.

When talking about racism, broad strokes have to be used. You can't look at one problem and solution as the thing to finally end racism. It doesn't make any sense in the slightest. Obviously, it doesn't seem to be solving the problem either.

So long as the bigger problem of institutional injustice remains off the radar screens of the media however, even victories against personal bias will remain largely irrelevant. And this is so because it is that larger racial inequity that so often contributes to personal bias in the first place, by giving the impression to weak-minded individuals that those on the bottom of the social and economic structure must have something wrong with them, or else they'd be doing better. That is what our society encourages us to believe, after all. Until we get a handle on racism as a social phenomenon, we'll be unlikely to make lasting progress on ending it as a personal one, whether for Imus, or anyone else.

All I can say is, exactly. To refute what is said here, really just seems to be more denial. I had someone go so far as to tell me that systemic racism is a conspiracy theory, and was just shocked. How deeply rooted can denial be for someone to claim conspiracy before looking at the problem? And, conspiracy against whom? Whites? I mean, honestly....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Email From Color of Change


Dear Dani,

A few weeks ago, we launched a campaign to bring visibility to the case of the Jena 6--six young black men in Jena, LA set to face more than 20 years in prison for their alleged role in a schoolyard fight. We're already making a difference, but we could still really use your help.

Last Tuesday, over 300 people from across the country descended on Jena: we rallied in front of the courthouse, marched through downtown Jena, and cut through a line of sheriffs to hand-deliver petitions from more than 43,000 ColorOfChange.org members to the District Attorney's office.

It was quite a moment. The families were beaming because they knew that we had their backs. And, from the looks on their faces, it was clear that the authorities hadn't anticipated such a growing and powerful force. We've also gotten the attention of Governor Blanco, who finally started sending responses to the over 50,000 emails ColorOfChange.org members sent to her office. And, together, we've raised more than $55,000 for the legal defense of the Jena 6.

But we've got a ways to go. At this point it's key to keep pressure on the Governor by continuing the emails, and we're planning a bigger event in mid-to-late September. You can add your voice (and find out more ways you can help) by clicking below:

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2069-181848

Here's the rest of the story, as we told it a few weeks back:

Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2069-181848

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on September 20th, and could go to jail for 22 years.5

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. They will lose precious years to Jena's outrageous attempt to maintain a racist status quo. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Please add your voice to the voices of these families in Jena, and help bring Mychal, Theo, Robert, Carwin, and Bryant home. By clicking below, you can demand that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2069-181848

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
August 8th, 2007

References:

1. "Injustice in Jena as Nooses Hang From the ‘White Tree,'" truthout, July 3, 2007
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/070307B.shtml

2. "Racial demons rear heads," Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/yvh7t5

3. See reference #1.

4. See reference #1.

5. "'Jena Six' defendant convicted," Town Talk, June 29, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/ysxtgg

Other resources:

NPR: Searching for Justice in Jena 6 Case (streaming audio)
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11756302

Democracy Now! - The case of the Jena Six ...
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/10/1413220

Too Sense: Free The Jena Six Now
http://halfricanrevolution.blogspot.com/2007/07/free-jena-six-now.html

While Seated: Jena Six
http://www.whileseated.org/photo/003244.shtml

Nooses, attacks and jail for black students in Jena Louisiana
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/6/28/144445/384

Justice In Jena, by Jordan Flaherty
http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12783&sectionID=30

The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor (and other related entries)
http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/blog/

'Stealth racism' stalks deep South
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/6685441.stm

The side of MLK people don't like to talk about

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV
By Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen, AlterNet
Posted on April 4, 2007, Printed on April 4, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/50151/

It's become a TV ritual: Every year on April 4, as Americans commemorate Martin Luther King's death, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about these reviews of King's life is that several years -- his last years -- are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.

Why?

It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" -- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 -- and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington -- engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be -- until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" -- appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

How familiar that sounds today, nearly 40 years after King's efforts on behalf of the poor people's mobilization were cut short by an assassin's bullet.

In 2007, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and most in Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. They fund foreign wars with "alacrity and generosity," while being miserly in dispensing funds for education and healthcare and environmental cleanup.

And those priorities are largely unquestioned by mainstream media. No surprise that they tell us so little about the last years of Martin Luther King's life.

Norman Solomon is the author of the new book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." Jeff Cohen is the author of "Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media."

More things in thread on TS message board.

History of Black/White Relations

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reality is unpleasant- some quotes

It is part of the moral tragedy with which we are dealing that words like "democracy," "freedom," "rights," "justice," which have so often inspired heroism and have led men to give their lives for things which make life worthwhile, can also become a trap, the means of destroying the very things men desire to uphold. Sir Norman Angell (1874 - 1967), 1956.

No one is more dangerous than one who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity. by definition is unassailable: James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) Notes of a native son, 1955

When faced with a choice between confronting an unpleasant reality and defending a set of comforting and socially accepted beliefs, most people choose the later course. W. Lance Bennett.

I am a privileged white girl

Something I wrote back in April, after reading an amazing book:

I've had many mini-ephiphanies over the past couple of months for me on the subject of race relations. I was introduced to author and anti-racism activist Tim Wise through a member of the TS message board, and friend, Bruce. I recently read Wise's book, "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son", and was completely blown away. It was not an easy book to read, not in the slightest. Reading his story, and having experienced the same sorts of opposition to my viewpoints, it felt good to know that I'm not the lone white person in the world who is starting to get a better understanding of racism in the United States .

Probably the biggest lesson I had to learn is that I don't know shit. Sure, I had discovered a new awareness of the blatant racism that is still so prevalent in this country. I found I had done nothing more than scratch the surface, not even drawing blood. It wasn't even about racism, really. I was-am- learning about the realities of white privilege. This is not an easy thing for anyone to come to terms with, but what I worked out when I think about my own past and path, is that 99%, if not 100%, of the reason I am where I am today, is because I'm a privileged white person.

I didn't have the best of upbringings. Abused as a child, whole family broken apart, ending up a ward of the state, in foster care. Sure, it was hard, emotionally. Wouldn't wish what happened to me on anyone, and I'm real lucky I have come out of it not having turned into a freaking loon. I've always had an open mind though, and open to pretty much whatever comes my way. I took to therapy well. I was in a shelter for all of three months, before moving in with my foster parents.

Three months. My time in the shelter was quite, well, privileged. A lot of security measures were bent for me. I was still able to attend the same high school, and take the public bus to school each day. They were not worried about me running away. When we needed to attend the Boys and Girls Club for summer camp, I became a volunteer counselor instead of just an attendee. I would like to think that this is because I displayed a more level head than the other kids in the shelter, and was the oldest (17) child there, but now I'm not so sure that was the only reason.

Three months. Then I moved into a foster home, where the family was licensed just for me. Just. For. Me. I was all ready spending weekends with them before I officially moved too. The whole situation was very lax. Even the final inspection was a breeze, just a formality really. I know without a doubt now that it's because of my skin color. I mean, come on! 17 year old white girl. Doesn't smoke, doesn't drink (then, not now!), doesn't use drugs. Doesn't run away from places, always followed the rules. Moving into a foster home where there are two PhD holders, and two children heading off to major Universities. In my new view, and the beauty of hindsight, I know without a doubt, things would have been a whole lot worse if I had been a person of color.

Now, you might think I have some "white guilt" thing happening now. Really, it's not a matter of feeling guilt. It is what it is. The key here is the awareness of the dynamics of the situation. Obviously, I can't do anything about my skin color. It would be pretty stupid to feel guilty about my skin color. After all it's not like I had a choice in the assembly line. I do feel a sort of shame towards my fellow white folk, when I see the ignorance that still reigns in this country. Ignorance that, quite frankly, I think is purposeful. They want to remain ignorant, in order to not have to face the problem at hand. Ignorance is bliss, indeed.

Tim Wise led me to a whole new set of people who speak on the subject. Speak loudly, I might add. This is one of the amazing things about the internet, and blogging. In a sense, it breaks down barriers. Other than Wise, three other blogs that have made my blogroll so I can track them are The Angry Black Woman (LOVE her tag line!), The Field Negro, and The Free Slave.

Even more than Tim Wise, even more than any white person, these people have the right to tell it as it is, and they do. Free Slave all ready gave me good thoughts about whether I should vote for Barack Obama because he's black. There is another entry he did recently that really made me think and consider everything about who I am (GOD I love thinking!!):

Who are you?

What are you?

What is your primary identity?

What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with?

Or do you identify with none at all?

Who am I? Well, that's easy. Danielle Regina Piwinski Cutler. What am I, my primary identity? I go back and forth on that. Is my primary identity more woman, than white? I really don't know. As for an ethnic identity, I know I am Polish. 100%. However, do I identify with my ethnicity? No. I practice nothing that pertains to the Polish heritage. I couldn't even tell you a Polish holiday, or a Polish ritual. I know next to nothing about my heritage, other than I know that I am 4th generation Polish-American. My great-grandparents were the first immigrants who came over from Poland . Other than knowing a few words in Polish, and having a weakness for Perrogies and Kabasa, telling people I'm Polish is nothing more than a word in terms of meaning.

Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?

I don't. This is the very first time I really ever thought about it for any significant amount of time. And by significant, I do not mean just in this entry, tonight. This has been mulling around for a few months now, and what I'm learning is that as someone who has no clue about her own heritage, I have no right to assume I know anything about the heritage or the struggles of others.

But I want to learn. I want to understand. What studying race relations in the US and white privilege has done for me, is made me more sensitive to things I do not understand. Leveled the arrogance I had simply by being white. Arrogance I didn't even know was there.

Perhaps by learning more about the history of things, and how they connect to the present, we can all be more sensitive to these issues. Whether we understand them or not.

About that "N" word



And when should you say it?

International Blog Against Racism Week

Yeah, I feel like the last to know- and I'm a day late! This is the second year for IBARW, and I'm going to start off my posting with a list of excellent resources to learn more. (Click the subject line for more information.)

I'm also going to re-post some things I've blogged about in the past about racism, along with a few personal views on the topic. Things I've come to understand about my place based on my skin color. Some things I obviously can't change, but raising my awareness, as well as the awareness of those who might listen and read. It is one of the most important things I think I can do to contribute to society.

Anyway, take some time if you can. Now, what I read:

The Angry Black Woman
Black Agenda Report
The Field Negro
The Free Slave
Tim Wise
Too Sense
Why Am I Not Surprised?

All of these places also have some excellent link lists, should you wish to go further.

So, let's get started!