Saturday, April 29, 2006


Yesterday, my sister-in-law left me a breathless voicemail: "Elle, call as soon as you get this."

Oh, how I hate those types of messages. Unless someone died, just tell me what you want when you leave a message so I can already have my answer or response half-formed when I call you back! So, I reluctantly called her back.

"There's been an INS raid at your plant," she told me. "I knew you'd want to know ASAP."

"My plant" is the poultry processing facility around which my dissertation revolves. My first reaction was pure historian--"Get all the details you can. Go buy all the papers for me tomorrow." She was getting her information second hand from my brother, a "line leader" at the plant. I hung up and thought about e-mailing my advisor or my group to tell them.

Then, I began to think that maybe I was being a little too analytical, a little too excited about a situation that was more than likely causing people untold fear and distress. I called my sister-in-law back.
"What exactly is going on?" I asked.

From her reply, I gathered there hadn't actually been a raid, but the threat of one that had been circulating since Monday. Something happened Friday--I have yet to know what--that made the danger seem imminent. What followed amazed the community and the plant. People from off the street walked past the plant's guard gate, into the facility, up to the lines and grabbed their family and friends. My brother reported that people began taking off all their protective gear--the aprons, jackets, gloves, whatever--throwing it down, and exiting the plant. In the end, not enough people remained to run the lines. The employees there stood around, shocked, waiting for word from the management about what to do next. I do not know what happened to the people who walked out, to the day's production, to anything, as I haven't talked to my brother since yesterday.

But here is why I entitled my post Politics. The Latino/a presence in the area has been increasing phenomenally for quite some time now. Way back when I still lived there and was teaching middle school, the school boards were ill-equipped to handle the new students. They simply placed them in age appropriate classrooms and instructed us to do our best. For our whole parish, there was one woman, ONE, who came around to each of the schools to meet with the Spanish-speaking parents and address the needs of their children. She and I had gone to the same school at the same time for our MAs, so we knew each other. She was overwhelmed and the parish was so poor (and the citizenry so determined that "we" were not going to be like other places and cater to "them") that there was no talk of hiring more people in her position, bilingual teachers, or anyone else--even though we all realized that this was not a temporary situation. Six years later, not much has changed and I honestly don't know how well ESL children are learning there.

Yet, despite the fact that this is not new, that we all know the Spanish-speaking families who come to the area are largely coming for the poultry processing work, never have I heard of the threat of a raid. In fact, the plant has been hiring Latino/a workers in ever-increasing numbers. When I interviewed the head of personnel 3 years ago, he estimated that 95% of the line workers were black and 3-4% were Latino/a, but--since industry turnover can approach 100% per year--apparently that 3-4% has grown into a much larger percentage, enough to effectively shut the plant down on Friday. The plant management has been blissfully exploiting this group of employees (as it did/does its other line workers) with little worry or interference. Then suddenly, the INS expresses interest in the plant.

Interest that just happens to come in the present political climate.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let's Talk About...

As I drove up to the school to pick up my son today, the supervising teacher approached my car and leaned in the window. In her hand, she clutched the kid's Spiderman notebook. There was something she wanted me to see, a written conversation between my son and his best friend Anthony (of I'm in Love with a Stripper fame). Below is the conversation, written as spelled:

Anthony: Do you want to hold Nocole
The Kid: Yes. Do you want nocole to come to your crib at 1:00 to sex her
Anthony: Yes. Would you have sex?
The Kid: Yes. Do you wnat to have babyies with Nocole
Anthony: Yes.
The Kid: Do you want to marry nicole (finally on the spelling!!) kiss on the lips
Anthony: Yes

My first comment? "Are you trying to get put out of this school?" You see, neither Anthony nor my kid go to the school they're zoned to. Instead, they're in a magnet program at a much nicer school. I didn't say much on the drive home or the subsequent trip to the grocery store. His dad called and I told him. I'm not sure exactly what he said, but he looked appropriately contrite.

So tonight I got my turn. And in true Baptist fashion, I turned on the scare tactics. First, I asked him what was sex. His definition? Kissing, hugging, and sleeping together. "That is not all sex is," I told him (but didn't go into any details), "and if you have it before you know what it is or before you're ready, you could end up with a baby. Are you ready for a baby? Hell, no! You ain't got a job! You barely have a roof over your head. You could also get a disease. Do you understand that you could get something that will kill you? You'll be DEAD!" His eyes got really big. His mouth drew up tight. He nodded obediently.

Oh, of course I know this wasn't the best way to handle this. But my kid is 7. S-E-V-E-N!! And my parents scared me pretty effectively--now in my 30s, I still have sex phobias. And my sister was a big help. She was watching The Passion of the Christ in the background, the scenes where He's being nailed to the cross and pulled up. So with tears in her eyes, she told the kid, "Look at this man dying for you and you down there at that school showing out. You laughing at him just like those soldiers are. I am so disappointed." Yeah, we piled it on thick. So thickly that we had to hide our own smirks (especially when sis managed to work Jesus into it).

Seriously, I did rag on him about the references to Nicole. "She's somebody," I kept saying, "And you don't write about her like she's just entertainment for you and Anthony. Would you like it if your dad had written about me like that? Do you want your uncle writing about Aunt like that? Do you want your grandpas writing about your grannnies like that? You were very disrespectful to Nicole. Whenever you are ready to have sex, it'll be between you and the person. Not you, your friends, and the person. You don't talk about girls like that!"

He seemed to at least understand that part. Or maybe I just scared the hell out of him.

This is really a learning experience.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Because This Is Not A Game of Bridge

Between (or I guess, "among") Nubian's place, Alas, A Blog, and Ginmar's A View from Abroad (April 21st and 26th), there has arisen (sorry to use that so soon after Easter:-) a multi-faceted conversation that, from what I can discern, began with Ginmar's proclamation that gender trumps race (in matters of oppression). Some strong arguments and heated comments all around--which is why I provide links; I don't think this should be missed. To be honest, I don't agree with Ginmar. If we're going to talk in the most simplistic terms, I probably lean towards race "trumping" gender, at least in this society. However, even that is unfair and incomplete.


In the early stages of my dissertation, I assumed that "being black" was the most salient part of the identities of the black women poultry workers I study and that "being black" was the most influential factor in their work experience--both the conditions in which they worked and how they responded to that work. My advisor's carefully worded response: "This may be true in some cases, but in a work of this magnitude, you need to look at black women's position at 'the nexus of an interlocking system of oppression': race, class, and gender."

She's right. Any less-thorough or one-sided analysis leaves much unexplained and misunderstood. I just wanted to share her insight, as, apparently, I am not the only scholar who needs to be looking a bit deeper.

BTW, for a historical point of view, (off the top of my head), I'd recommend Dolores Janiewski or Sharon Harley.

I'm So Excited...

Though you hear more about my non-academic life than anything else, I really am an unaplogetic history nerd. Thus, when I saw Cliopatria's History Blogroll, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. So much to read. So little time (Especially if I plan to finish school. Ever.). And dear God, there's actually a History Carnival!! I just can't take it!

But, if you need something else to get excited about, (for some reason, history just doesn't do it for everyone--go figure), check out the discussion BfP started today. Ahem!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Maybe THIS Is Why the Dissertation Seems a Bit Challenging...

You Should Be a Romance Novelist
You see the world as it should be, and this goes double for all matters of the heart.You can find the romance in any situation, and you would make a talented romance story writer...And while you may be a traditional romantic, you're just as likely to be drawn to quirky or dark love stories.As long as it deals with infatuation, heartbreak, and soulmates - you could write it.

Of course, like lots of people (at least, I hope lots of people), I did start with writing romances and have a million partials. That was (thankfully, trust me) short-lived.

I also have some cute short stories that I'm thinking of starting a new blog to share...

Here's the link, cuz I don't know what the hell I did with the HTML above:

Monday, April 24, 2006

Because I Promised to Be (Mostly) Honest... least on this blog. This weekend, Nubian hosted Blog Against Heteronormativity Day. She defines heteronormativity as
institutions, policies and beliefs that reinforce the rigid categories of male and female. these categories, supposedly, determine our sex, sexuality, sexual desire, gender identity, and gender roles. therefore, there are expected behaviors for males (such as the patriarch of the nuclear family for example), as are there expected behaviors for females (the submissive wife to the patriarch, among other things).
The goal of blogging against heteronormativity is not, as one commenter at her site implied, to cast married, heterosexuals as evil, but
to disrupt those pesky normative ideas that are based on the categories of male and female; to use the internet to question the oppressive institution of heteronormativity because: not all of us identify as male/female...; not all of us are biological heterosexuals...; not all of us are married, and not all of us want to be; not all of us believe that female/male coupling is the norm--some of us don't even believe in the terms "male" and "female"; not all of us believe that what makes a man is his penis, and what makes a woman is her vagina.
I wanted to participate as more than a reader. I wanted to say, to write something. But I didn't. The reason that I gave myself was fear--fear of not knowing enough, of making a fool of myself, of offending someone--all those fears that have held me back for most of my life.

But, I had to acknowledge a different, more honest reason, too. I still privilege heterosexuality. Despite my best intentions and efforts. Oh, not as ignorantly as I did when I was a teenager--when I blithely announced that I "understood" straight and gay, but bisexuality just didn't make sense. And not as overtly as I did in college--when I actually stared the first time I saw a gay couple kiss. It's hard to admit I was that girl who thought she had a right to comment or be amazed or demand explanation.

Now my privileging of heterosexuality is much more subtle. Like when I wonder if something is wrong with me or if I am somehow lacking because I am not married. Or when I was stunned and a bit uncomfortable when I found out one of my favorite bloggers has an open marriage. What did she get married for, I wondered. That's not what marriage is about! I was appalled at myself, but still, I thought it. For one moment, I honestly, selfishly believed that she should do something to counter my judgment, to assuage my discomfort. And that, I think, is part of what heteronormativity is about, the relegation of some people, who won't meekly bundle themselves into the "rigid categories of male and female"/masculine and feminine, to the status of "other," and the insistence that this worrisome "other" defend, explain, comfort, justify.

So, I've probably just made a fool of myself and offended someone. Two things I fear.

But not as much as I fear continuing to lie to myself.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Elle, ABD... This Is Your Life

Copied this from Dorcasina:

20 years ago I . . .
1. was a miserable sixth grader
2. won a regional writing contest

10 years ago I . . .
1. graduated college
2. met my kid’s father
3. started (and subsequently quit) an MA program in counseling psych

5 years ago I . . .
1. started work on my doctorate
2. celebrated when T received her bachelor’s
3. left Louisiana again

3 years ago I . . .
1. pondered where to send my kid to kindergarten
2. received my first significant fellowship
3. started preparing for my comprehensive exams

1 year ago I . . .
1. got serious about my dissertation
2. set a graduation deadline
3. got really nice highlights :-p

So far this year I . . .
1. have written some pretty strong chapters
2. was scared out of my wits by my father’s horrible reaction to dialysis
3. cut my bangs in a fit of restlessness

Yesterday I . . .
1. bought a really big Coach bag for $112
2. sat on my bed and talked to some of the women who are dearest to me in the world
3. did more "talking to" than "fussing at" my son

Today I . . .
1. will go to church
2. will wave goodbye to T and her best friend
3. will argue with my son over what he wants to eat for dinner

Tomorrow I will . . .
1. sleep in—school is out for a day!
2. seriously consider rearranging my desk
3. get to work on my bibliography—I have four sets of endnotes and no comprehensive bibliography (yuck)

In the next year I will . . .
1. hopefully defend my dissertation
2. make my parents proud
3. get a job!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Presented Without Comment...

...because I'm so damn tired of this sentiment. Found this at, authored by a ricland. Tried to find the original blog or whatever but failed. Maybe I'll comment later.
These guys were kids from good homes, athletes with access to plenty of quality women, and, because they were at Duke, young men of above average intelligence and education. In other words, they fit no known profile for rapists we know of. Conversely, the victim is an unwed mother, a student of the worst schools in the Nation, and a common stripper that is, a woman who peddles virtual sex.

Pageant Results... (Long Overdue)

I never told y'all did I? Excerpt from the relevant post:

The most exciting thing has been my goddaughter's unexpected run in her pre-school pageant. J decided last minute and we've raised $500 today alone. T's son is running for "king," too, so we've sold two sets of plate lunches, hotdogs, raffle tickets, etc. As conceited as we are, we're determined that they both win--I even bought Belle a blue dress to match T's son's baby blue suit. Pageant is tomorrow.

Belle acted a fool, as usual--check out the face. Here's a better shot of T's son:
So, we the kids emerged victorious!

Thank God It's Friday!

My cousin T and her best friend visited this week. Tonight, the sister, the cousin, the best friend and I are leaving town to spend a day in San Marcos. My first trip--my local shopping excursions usually include Dillard's, Lane Bryant, Avenue, Children's Place, then home to rest my weary feet and aching head--but I hear it's an outlet heaven.

Starting last night, the other 3 sensible women began balancing their checkbooks and saying, "I have X amount to spend. DO NOT LET ME GO OVER."

Limits? Boundaries? Budgets? I scoff at the very ideas. I like to be free to express myself and shopping and the related clothes and shoes are definitely self-expression. How can I be expected to curtail that? I don't want to stunt my growth in any area!

But, just in case I get a little too expressive, I'm only taking one debit card, one checkbook, and no credit cards. That way, I get to be me while still keeping a roof over my head and a decent mode of transportation.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Some Uninformed Thoughts

OK, during my recent round of travels, I've noted many stories I'd like to blog about. Immigration. Cynthia McKinney. Test Scores. Christianity. Problem is, I've been so oblivious to the world at large, I figured I didn't know enough to write a cogent, factual post. In keeping an online journal, I've developed the habit of typing and emoting first, then wincing and regretting later. Still, I'm going to chance it to weigh in on one issue--the so-called "Duke" case.

Oh. My. God.

I've made a round of conservative sites I read regularly (don't ask why). The result is that I've been absolutely floored by the rampant hatred and hypocrisy directed at the young woman. Hypocrisy because these sites claimed that the dreaded liberals and feminists support this woman with little evidence--but then, they jumped in and defended the men (allegedly) involved before many details were known about the case. After all, these are "good" white men at a "good" Christian school who unfortunately crossed paths with that sluttiest of seductresses--a black woman. And the woman? Well, her story doesn't make sense, she was (and here are just a few terms I've read) smashed, drunk, high, incoherent, already bruised from her impairment, etc.

And I wonder, even if all the descriptions are true, why does it mean she couldn't have been raped.

Then come the references to her character. Because of her job, I've repeatedly read the words ho and prostitute. LaShawn Barber implies that she is in a class of "nasty women" who should realize there are consequences to your actions. Apparently, consequences rightfully include being raped if your action is something as deplorable as exotic dancing. And, my God, not only does she take her clothes off--she stole a car once!

Which obviously means she couldn't have been raped.

Then, in the spirit of righteous conservatism, they bring up how the evil among us dared to believe there may have been issues related to race in this whole incident. In the world of the colorblind, after all, we wouldn't notice that she is black and they are white. But, if liberals are the only ones noticing race, why is it so hard to believe these guys may have done this and so easy to discount her story? Surely, they won't claim this air of angry disbelief is all about cold, hard facts.

I don't know what happened that night. I'm not well-versed on the case. But I am thoroughly appalled by these widespread notions of "she asked for it" or "she deserved it" threaded throughout the coverage of this story. And I am saddened by the fact that such opinions are shared by many blacks and many women, regardless of political stance.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Test Scores

I just followed a link to a report entitled States Omit Minorities' School Scores. I know I promise to get back to a lot of things, but really, I'm going to read up and get back to this.

How the Whole School Thing is Going...

The good news. An excerpt from advisor's e-mail about last chapter:
I read your chapter draft today and think it is very solid. I hope you won’t be disappointed when I say I don’t have a lot of suggestions for changes. I made editing suggestions and reactions to your questions, but nothing major.
Trust me, you'd have to know my advisor to understand the deep, relieved breath I let out after I got this.

The not so good news. An excerpt from the letter I got in response to my latest national fellowship application:
We regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a fellowship. However, it is a pleasure to inform you that your application was sufficiently meritorious to receive special recognition.
This is more of a wounded pride thing--my first rejection of this sort. But, I submitted the application at 11:20 on the night it was due by midnight and I found two glaring errors immediately afterwards. SO this is really more than I deserve.

The really worrisome, how the hell am I going to finish, news. My school put me on a waiting list for a Teaching Assistantship. First time ever, but I don't blame them. I accepted a TAship the last two years in a row, then left them stranded because I got fellowships that mandated that I not hold outside jobs. At this point, however, in what should be my last year, I may not be able to pay the steep out of state tuition and pay living expenses, etc.

Okay, now that I've wailed, I'm off to look for solutions.


I was out of town for Easter, of course. But I'm back and so glad to be here! Anyway, some people de-lurked while I was gone. I'm happy for that. Plus, I heard from an old friend at Too Conservative. I'll be over shortly, TC, I promise!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Do you ever wonder what you're going to have to past down to your kids? I do--a lot. And since I'm a materialistic being, my lack of "things" bothers me. But this post is not about my legacy to the kid. No, this is a bitterly angry diatribe about a legacy a relative of mine is shaping.

In my rural neck of the woods, we know our cousins down to fifth and sixth and so forth. And we're usually pretty tight right up through fourth cousins (Those would be my great aunts and uncles' great-grandkids. For example, J is the great-granddaughter of my grandmother's sister and we're virtually inseparable). This story is about just such a relative, who's not so close to me by blood as she is by love and strong family ties. I'll call her Anne.

Now, Anne is an interesting woman. Loud and funny and loving. She's a great homemaker--cooks up to-die-for food in a spotless house. She's the mother of five, grandmother of five, and is intricately involved in her children's lives. She regularly babysits all her grandkids and provides daycare for her youngest. Anne is also a crack addict. She never moved away from her mom's home--couldn't afford to. She hasn't held a regular job in years. And all this shapes her legacy to her children. It was a legacy that her mother so worried about that, on the night before she had the surgical procedure that led to her death, she begged Anne's second oldest son to take care of the family, to keep them together.

And that is just what he did. In his early 20s, he forfeited the rights to a life of his own, promising to provide for his mother's family until the youngest graduated high school. Along the way, he started drinking heavily, lost the woman he truly loved, and many opportunities to leave. But he paid the bills. He kept the house. He loves his siblings and his niece and nephews. But he resents what he had to do because his mother couldn't.

As do his three younger siblings. They love their mother, but their mouths tighten when you mention her. They barely restrain themselves from negative comments. Rearing them has been a family effort--we've all bought clothes, school supplies, class rings, caps and gowns. But we couldn't buy them what they wanted most--a decent legacy from their mother. The ability to not feel shame, to not look ashamed.

For most of this time, I've felt sorry for Anne. Because she has potential. Because she loves her family in her own way. Because she does what she can. Because she's getting thinner each time I see her. But the sympathy is leaving me. Anne is now shaping the legacy of her grandchildren, and it is perhaps even more disturbing than that she created for her kids.

That youngest grandchild? The one she keeps all the time because he and his mom still stay with her? He has tuberculosis. And he got it from Anne. And Anne got it from God knows where, but I have no doubt it is somehow related to her addiction. So now, in a fit of anger, we're all asking ourselves, when does it stop? How will life be for this baby, just over a year old, who's lying in NICU? For his mom who feels guilt for exposing her child to his grandmother? For the youngest son, who graduates next month and is scheduled to go off into the Army on May 22 (will the Army even take him if he has TB)? For that second oldest son who was already rejoicing that the youngest had "made it," that he himself had kept his promise to his grandmother, that freedom was on the horizon? And even for Anne, whom, despite the anger, we still love? Can she change or reshape her legacy?

Is it too late?

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Initially, I dreamed of having this really popular blog to which intelligent people flocked because I wrote deeply analytical/explanatory/wise posts that made sense of the world and of the disertation process. I expressed that dream when I got back Friday night to my sister who said (quite grumpily as she'd had both boys for days), "You don't keep your ass at home long enough to write anything."

Including the dissertation. But thanks anyway to all the brilliant people who stop by. I'm going to do better. Really.

On another dreamy note (Best Friend TX, Rageyone, and Best Friend LA might particularly enjoy this one), my cousin (whom people call Little Elle because she's a lot like me--only better!) was initiated into the illustrious world of Delta Sigma Theta. Best Friend LA and I attended (Best Friend LA cried). Little Elle cried, too, said it was like a legacy, a dream come true.

But enough of dreams. I have to get writing before I leave again. This Thursday. Poor car!

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Promise...

...after an announcement. I'm out of town again from tomorrow through Friday. It's a mostly pleasure trip, but you know how Elle loves a new library.

On to the promise. At church yesterday, the pastor was denouncing The DaVinci Code and various other attempts to"discredit" Jesus's divinity/"God"-ness. When I read that book, (and yes, I will admit I read it), I was amazed by all the references to the sacred feminine. Now, I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but the sermon, one of the premises of the book and similar arguments, the extremist takeover of Christianity, and my recent experiences at church in general have gotten me to thinking--can you balance feminism and Christianity? Can I? Which is a scary thought, because when I wondered that aloud to my sister, she asked, "What if you can't? Do you give one up?" So maybe I shouldn't be saying can I. but how do I?

I want to post about that. If I have time, I'll do so tonight. If not, I'll see you all this weekend.

Off to Curves! (ugh)


The Third Radical Women of Color Carnival is posted over at Nubian's.

Check it out.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Live Blogging...

...the game. What the hell is happening to my Tigers?! Quinn, you jinxed my home state!

Saturday Zoo Blogging

Ah, nothing quite like class field trips. I accompanied my son and 100 other 2nd graders this past Thursday. All I had was the camera phone so... We began with the Koala, which was much larger than I thought. The kids loved the way he moved from limb to limb.

I had a group of three boys. They begged and pleaded for me to go into the reptile house. The first hideous beast? The American alligator. I think it was albino. I must admit, it was a gorgeous thing. I almost had to let my phobia of croco-alligators go--I'm so sure that's how I'm going to meet my demise!!

Then, being a good Delta, I made a pilgrimage to the elephants. One of the boys said they smelled bad. The nerve!

The zoo's newest addition is a Baby Giraffe named Sienna. This isn't a picture of her, but we did get to see an employee bottle feeding her knobby-kneed gloriousness.

And finally, submitted without comment, Girl Astride Tortoise...

Sorry for the lack of symmetry; I've never posted more than one picture per post.

Overheard... The Burgeoning Male Gaze

On a recent trip...

The Kid (to my nephew): You know that song, I'm in Love with a Stripper?

Sister and I eye each other speculatively.

Nephew: Yep.

The Kid: Anthony (a 2nd grade classmate!!) says a stripper is a woman who takes her clothes off and you give her money.

Nephew: Ugh! Aunt Elle, the Kid is talking about women taking their clothes off.

Elle: Why are you talking about women taking their clothes off? Don't talk about women taking their clothes off!


Nephew (whispers to the Kid): What about boys?

The Kid: Now, that's just nasty!

Sister: Why is it nasty for men to take their clothes off but not women?

The Kid: I don't know! Who wants to see that?

Elle: Some people like to see men take their clothes off.

The Kid (irate and challenging): Who? Who, Mama?

Elle: Who the hell let you hear that song anyway? And why does Anthony know what a stripper is?

Sister: Elle, why are you arguing?

Should've been, Elle why are you avoiding the important questions?
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...