Saturday, December 30, 2006


So, I've been thinking about this post in which I worried aloud about my son. And I'm cringing as I think about how narrowly and traditionally I've defined success. I think it's part of a problem I have--believing one thing politically and acting out in a totally contradictory way. IOW, my efforts to think outside the box leave a lot to be desired.

For example, Quinn writes some about her adventures in gender free parenting. That is also a goal of mine, but one in which I fail miserably. I had a little girls' sleepover recently. When I was planning it, I honestly thought, "Oh, we'll do some 'fun' stuff like polish their nails and give mini-facials." I'd even picked up four pots of sparkly lip gloss before I thought, "What the hell are you doing?" We ended up coloring, watching a movie, and eating lots of popcorn. But I was tempted.

Just like I am when I shop and I buy more things for my four year old goddaughter than my own son. "It's more fun to shop for girls," I whine, "All you can do for boys is buy jeans and shirts!" But now I'm thinking, what am I modeling for her? Where is all the feminist theory in practice?

There are many more examples of my being a contradictory hypocrite. Why can I talk the talk, but struggle to walk the walk? If it was just with myself, I wouldn't be so troubled. But I worry that I'm helping bring up a whole new generation in a patriarchy-conforming manner.


The end of the year has also brought some not-so-welcome endings--nubian's done. As are BfP and BlackAmazon. As a WoC, feminist*, woman, I am mourning the loss of their input. I want to say I understand, and I do on some level. But then again, I don't understand what it's like to be out there, brave and bold and constantly put on the defense. Just fierce.

Because I am non-confrontational; I disengage; I run when the fire gets too hot. I can retreat here and say, ha-ha-ha, isn't my kid the cutest? or I saw this movie! or wow, I'm so caught up in my dissertation, I can't focus on much else! You see, I have the courage of my convictions, but little courage in my words and beliefs on so many issues. So, no, I don't understand much.

But I know it must get tiring to hear how what you're doing or saying is off and wrong, that you're too sensitive, to be constantly dismissed by people who, on the surface, would appear to be allies. And I know it must get old to have someone come to your site, all demurely, and comment "with respect" then run back to her place and say that you and your regular commenters
"haven’t evidenced they have even begun to think deeply around issues of transgender as they relate to feminism and gender, in general, but who hold the erroneous belief that they have; relentlessly mischaracterize and misunderstand my and other radical feminist views; reject what I say out of hand before I can say it, most of the time and reassert all of the above instead of evidencing any interest in actually communicating"
(and that's just the beginning--or middle, maybe). I tried to think of a nice academic term for that, but I'ma have to call it what we call it around here:

Two-faced. Throwing rocks and hiding your hands. And one thing I do understand,

That shit can wear you out real fast.
*not sure that term fits exactly

Friday, December 29, 2006


We went to see it Wednesday. Whatever you've heard--good, bad, mixed--trust me:

Hearing "And I Am Telling You" ripped like that--that alone is worth the ticket price!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


My seventeen-year-old niece is feeling out of sorts--she's diabetic and so she's a little worried. My dad has gotten up from his nap to check her blood sugar on his glucometer. They are having a soft discussion--this is part of their everyday lives. She's being characteristically bossy: "Be careful, PaPa," "Make sure it doesn't really hurt me, PaPa," "No this is how you do it, PaPa." He's saying, "Child, you bout to have to do it yourself," "Quit messin' up my strips, girl!" "Hurry up!"

And she's immediately apologetic; she wants him to help her. My sixteen-year-old niece is standing behind her, holding her hand, so that she doesn't jerk it when my dad uses the lancet.

During the course of the conversation, we've discovered that she has no kind of insurance. She was covered by my brother's (her father's) health insurance until recently. Then, some one in the payroll department called him in to ask why he didn't pay child support for her--when he does for her other siblings. He revealed that she is not biologically his. And they told him that he could be in trouble for fraud because his insurance had covered her all these years since the divorce. Isn't that bullshit? And her mom, who's a nurse working 70-80 hours a week at two jobs, makes too much for her to get medicaid. We've had this child since my brother and her mom got back together (they had one child, broke up, she had another child, then they got back together, got married and had two more kids); she wasn't even one. She's most emphatically ours--and I resent BCBS taking it upon themselves to accuse him of fraud.

But anyway, she's not getting the checkups she needs. And she knows it and worries about it. That is why she got my dad out of bed--she takes comfort in his knowledge, even as they argue over the best way to check her levels and types of insulin and if he really knows how to use the glucometer.

Sharing, apparently, makes it better.

The Spirit Is Willing but...

...the flesh is weak. As an aside, best friend Louisiana thinks that quote is hilarious each time I say it--I've heard it in church for decades now, so I don't get her amusement.

Anyway, I don't know what the hell my dad has signed up for, but we now get Blender, Forbes, the NYT, and some hunting and fishing magazines. I asked him a while back, "Blender?" "I don't know," he said.

So, today there's a card in the mail. He looks at it, laughs, and reads to me, "12 issues for $12."

"Mmm," I say. He smiles again. "I could take that," he says, "But I don't suppose the good Lord wants me to." "What is it?" I ask.


"Well," I say, "God probably wants you to stay informed. Lots of people read it for the articles."

My daddy laughed in my face, y'all.


After a drizzly, dismal, cold, ear-achy Christmas, today's all bright and crisp.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Don't Have A Title

And don't feel like thinking of one. So there!

Today is my maternal grandmother's birthday. She would've been 87. Tuesday is the anniversary of her death. She's been gone 12 years. Christmas is bittersweet for my mom--some years, she only goes through the motions--you can tell her heart isn't in it. But time is making it better.

I find myself recalling the strangest things about my grandmother (Mam-maw). She called earrings, "earbobs." She had a fierce attitude. And she may have been the greatest cook in southern history. I'm not just saying that cuz she's my grandma--people came from all over the area to eat her cooking. Her house was the first stop any out of town relatives made. And while my mom and some of my older cousins and aunts are no slouches when it comes to soul food, I've never tasted anything like her cooking. She made everything from entrees to dessert from scratch. I remember her mixing German Chocolate and pound cakes by hand--she only used mixers when she got older and tired easily. I think that's a big part of the reason that so many of our non-holiday family get-togethers are still centered around food--woe to my hips and thighs.

I've finished my Christmas shopping--it has reinforced my determination to have no more children. I have one child, four godchildren (yes, I have a new one!), seven nieces and nephews, and a slew of young cousins. So I'm a sucker for a sale. With an age range of 6 months to 19 years, one of the children is bound to be able to wear it! But I've given up feeling guilty about being a shopaholic for the kids--some things just never change.

Anyway, I'm finally getting in the exhausted-thank-God-this-comes-once-a-year frame of mind.

Back on the topic of food (one of my favorites :-), let me sketch the anatomy of a rural Louisiana Christmas dinner. As I type, my mom is boiling chicken for dressing, baking a pound cake, and searching for "old meat" for her purple hull peas. I've decided to make a cheesecake from scratch, some macaroni and cheese, and a broccoli-rice casserole. The greens, ham, and hot water cornbread (none of my city friends know what that is--I'll explain one day!) will come from my cousin T and her mom and sister. My other aunt will make a roast and pecan pie. Several someones will invariably bake sweet potato pies. There's bound to be a chocolate cake, a lemon pie, and some chocolate pies. Someone will bake or fry chicken. And, I fear, that is just the beginning. We will scramble to find other, more distant relatives to feed because we make way too much (and vow every year to cut back) for our relatively small family. Then, we'll exchange gifts, play cards or dominoes, take the kids outside to try the new stuff (that will last approximately to New Year's), and talk. And laugh.

And somewhere amidst the way too full, so damned broke, and God, I'm stressed, I will think about how blessed I am. To have food to share and people to talk to and family who loves me and a million children swarming and both my parents living and a sister who's my best friend and a child who's healthy and a house to gather in and just so much!

And I'll realize that the hurried grace I said before dinner is not nearly enough.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What I've Been Doing

  1. First and foremost, being extraordinarily lazy. I realized Saturday that I didn't even put a bra on all day. TMI, but true.
  2. Going to high school basketball games in which the kids I taught in elementary school make up the teams. Reality Check!
  3. Accompanied best friend Louisiana, who's the cheerleader sponsor for my old high school, on a trip to take the cheerleaders to the mall. Since my 16 and 17 year old nieces are on the squad, I got to spend time annoying them.
  4. Reacquainting myself with Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and Ina Garten. Boy, do I have big plans for Christmas dinner--southern, sophisticated, and done in under 30 minutes. Oh, and using as many full pounds of real butter as possible.
  5. Grumbling and groaning and looking at my chapters to begin an exercise Advisor has asked me to complete.
  6. Interviewed the ESL co-ordinator for the parish and some parents with whom she works.
  7. Made plans to travel to another Texas city to visit archives that will (help) fill in the history of the union I'm studying. Dragging best friend Louisiana and my sister along, kicking and screaming. Apparently, I'm going to owe them big.
  8. Got my hair washed and set on big rollers. It's quite cute. I'm always amazed--the woman that does my hair here is usually finished in under two hours. The guy that does my hair in Texas takes at least four--we've become quite good friends because I share so much of my life with him.
  9. Being pleasantly annoyed by my parents. I can't explain that one.
  10. SHOPPING! And not even for myself **noted smugly.**

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Gotta Leave Y'all with Something Cute... I prepare to depart this place, never again to see it in the year 2006. That's the plan, at least. Anyway, witness my godson, far left, at his school's Christmas pageant. Apparently, he had to warm up to the idea.

Happy Holidays, y'all (you don't need the whole "blogging will be light" spiel, do you?)

And happy birthday, nubian.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Time...

Grading is DONE. This semester is over. We meet tomorrow to discuss, to decide who might need a little mercy (if someone has a 79, but came to class everyday and showed progress over the course of the semester, then s/he might get a B- instead of a C+), and to take our stuff to the registrar.

I am deliriously... sleepy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Louisiana Politics (or Why I'm Mad at William Jefferson)

"Here's to no longer biting our tongues!" said a brilliant woman I know. In the spirit of that declaration, I just have to write hastily about one William Jefferson.

I don't know much about the Jefferson case; anyway you look at it $90,000 frozen dollars is a bit troublesome, especially given the allegations of past issues. But I'm mad at him. Yes, for the obvious reasons--because he's black and from Louisiana and a Democrat. Trust me, black Louisianans had (and apparently have) a lot of hope and pride tied up in this guy.

But you know why I'm really mad at him?
Jefferson was born in Lake Providence, a small town in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana, where he and his eight brothers and sisters worked alongside their father, who was a sharecropper and a heavy-equipment operator for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Though neither of his parents had graduated from high school, Jefferson graduated from G.W. Griffin High School in Lake Providence and received a bachelor's degree from Southern University... He later earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1972.
The child of grade school drop-outs, sharecroppers, William Jefferson is probably a "first." Part of the first generation in his family to reap the benefits of civil rights struggles, to go to college (an Ivy, no less), to escape. Not to downplay what he means to his constituents, but can you imagine what his successes mean to his family and community?

I am a "first" myself. And I can't tell you how many people in my hometown expressed pride in me when I was working on my BA. How many elderly people came up to me in church or at the store and pressed soft, wrinkled dollar bills in my hand--a little something to take back to school with me. They used to make me stand there while they rummaged in their bosom, or reached for a safety pin that held money to the inside of their dresses, or dug slowly in faded backpockets for crumbling wallets. They were praying for me, they'd say, and they knew I'd be fine.

Or how often my hairdresser, who'd been doing my hair since I was a six-year-old getting a press and ponytail, waved away my payment and told me to "Save it for a book or something you might need." Or the number of little "scholarships"--like the one from the Parents' Civic and Social Club or the church education fund--that helped me buy books or eat off-campus or make a trip to the store. These people had a vested interest in me, much as I'm sure Jefferson's community had an interest in him.

Moreso than I, Jefferson comes from rural poverty. In 1990, for example, Lake Providence was the poorest commmunity in the nation--not just in Louisiana, which is something in and of itself, but in the whole damned country. I can't believe he's not some kind of symbol, a source of pride, proof that there is a way out of Lake Providence. His story, his legacy, means something to those people.

If he is guilty of wrongdoing, that is a lot to throw away, a lot to forsake. No one, not even firsts, can live their lives for other people; after all, people take a chance if they choose to live through you--God knows I've disappointed some. But I don't think there's anything wrong with realizing that, in the eyes of your community, you represent much more than yourself. I can't help thinking that ignoring that makes you a bit selfish.

That's why I'm mad at William Jefferson.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Protect Darfur Women from Abuse and Genocide

Just got this from our Women's Studies Department:
Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the petition: "Protect Darfur Women from Abuse and Genocide."

Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and join mein signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. We are trying to reach 100,000 signatures - please sign here:

Once you have signed, you can help even more by asking your friendsand family to sign as well.

Thank you!
Please stop by The Petition Site. And for news about the Darfur genocide and what you can do, please regularly visit Daily Darfur.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Drive

But about the drive mentioned below...

After seeing numerous instances of Rudolph grazing from the manger and Santa Claus bearing frankincense or myrrh and the reindeer being guided by a star in the east, I have to mention this piece of advice.

Please encourage your neighbors to keep their decorations consistent. Secular or religious. Religious or secular. Nativity or North Pole.

There is no such thing as a "nice combination" of both.

The Visit

So today, the kids, my sister and I drove to the halfway point between here and my hometown to pick up my mother. My brother and sister-in-law drove her there. She's off from work unexpectedly for at least a week--plant management delayed telling them so that they couldn't look into unemployment insurance (that Bo Pilgrim; he really is the consummate Christian). From what I gather, the employees with younger children are worried--they live paycheck to paycheck and were, of course, planning to buy Christmas gifts with the checks they get over the next two weeks. This, combined with the fact that the local Wal-Marts no longer have lay-a-way, is proving quite devastating to a number of hopefully-penned Christmas lists.

But I digress. My sister noted on the way up there, "You know this means we have to spend three weeks instead of two with her." "I know," I said, "But she'll be cool out here."

My mom is going through some sort of anxiety/depression/paranoia/OCD thing that she refuses to take medicine for because she doesn't want people to think she is crazy. In the meantime, she gets stuck on one issue and goes on and on and on. Tonight my damned brother gave her fuel--he had a little accident in her car and her driver side mirror got knocked off. She mentioned it approximately 20 times in the less-than-three-hours it took us to get back here. And each time Sis dug in my ribs or punched my thigh or glared at me. Sorry, damn!

And now, it's become a religious issue as she doesn't "want to question God," but she's wondering "why things keep happening." Which kind of irked me because this is so trivial. I want to say, "Mama, there are a million things you could question God about, but a side mirror?" But I do know everything is magnified and worsened in her mind so I'm keeping quiet and listening. Even as she's lying down and repeating, wishfully, "I hope I can get some sleep. I hope this doesn't ruin my trip. I hope my mind eases." We're going to talk to her again about therapy and medication. One day, we hope it works.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

So Close to Home

Back in the days when I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (as if I do now), I spent two quarters in an MA program for counseling psychology. At this university, psychology was part of the college of education, so I had an assistantship working in the dean's office. During my time there, one student, who had a sizable fellowship, abruptly quit school. The dean decided that the remaining funds would be held until another time.

Until she met Lily.

Lily was a determined Ed.D. student who'd heard about the other student and decided that she would apply, unsolicited, for the remainder of the fellowship funds. She came into our office everyday, polite but firm, insisting that the funds would be well-invested in her, that she would graduate. She also sent a letter (that I read while filing, of course) pointing out her academic and work records and how determined she was to get this degree. Everyday, while I sat behind the desk, she sat in a chair and talked to me, waiting for a glimpse of the dean, eager to plead her case in person. "I'm going to get this," she'd tell me. "They might as well put that money to good use." We'd chat until the dean surfaced, at which time Lily would pounce upon her with enviable agility, her voice full of equal parts southern sweetness and resolve. She was a steel magnolia in action, confident, capable, proud.

She got that fellowship. And I left the college of education. Three years later, at the same ceremony in which my sister received her B.A., Lily got her Ed.D. Good, I thought, and let her slip from my mind.

Some time after that, I saw her at a restaurant. She hugged me and I teased her, "You put that money to good use." "Mm-hmm," she said, "But I don't know how good!" We were from the same parish and she was now teaching there--an experience I'd already had, so I knew exactly what she meant.

A few minutes ago, best friend Louisiana called, bringing what I thought would be a welcome respite from typing and deleting, typing and deleting. Earlier tonight, some of the parish teachers met at a local restaurant for dinner. Lily's sister, also a teacher, was there (Lily stopped teaching for the parish last year). Best friend's principal had called to tell her, not ten minutes after best friend left the dinner, Lily's sister got a call to pick up her mom and go to the hospital.

Lily had had a car accident.

Lily died, y'all. Lily. Three years older than I, determined, smart, funny, mother-to-a-small-child, wonderful Lily. Lily, who probably had short-term Christmas plans. Lily, who I know had long-term professional plans.

Lily, Lily, Lily

Co-opting the Language

A few days ago, Maya at, wrote about how the makers of Equal artificial sweetener apparently thought it cute and kitschy to reword a number of slogans and print them on packets. Most upsetting to Maya was the newly-minted phrase "Power to the Packet":
POWER TO THE PEOPLE was not just a slogan, but a rallying anthem which was appreciated and honored during the Civil Rights Movement. This statement demanded that we stand up, take power and become accountable for our community. The marketing team for Equal’ 0 calorie sweetener morphed this historic proclamation into a diluted tongue-and-cheek advertisement for their ‘Campaign of Flavor’, which ironically (or not so much) further enforced corporate financial gains by exploiting Black culture.
I understood her point because I've been thinking the same thing about the commercial for this nifty little device:

Yep, the apparently all (em)powerful NuvaRing. Have you seen this commercial in which the spokeswoman begins, "Birth control, back in the day about pregnancy protection--no objection!" I want to write the manufacturers and tell them, "No one objected to birth control? Talk about your revisionist history!" But I digress.

As NuvaRing only has to be used once a month, it frees women from the tyranny of daily birth control, prompting the makers to cast it in the same liberating tradition as the Civil Rights Movement. Yep, this commercial ends* with the spokeswoman co-opting the phrase "Let freedom ring!" while thrusting her fist defiantly into the air, NuvaRing gripped proudly. I mean, even though I've seen it a few times now, I still scan the image, expecting that proud fist to be covered in a black glove.


Which is not to say that birth control in and of itself is not liberating for some women (me included), but rather, I don't think the road to freedom for women is paved with NuvaRings.

*At least the TV version ends that way; I can't see this one for some reason.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ooh, Gwyn Gon' Get It!

Sometimes, as a black woman, there are issues you'd like to discuss, but you're a little hesitant. Cuz your mama told you about airing the extended family's dirty laundry. "Bite your lip," she said. And you do.
Initially, you can just bite down on one inside corner of the bottom one.
Then, you learn to draw the whole bottom one into your mouth and clamp down hard.
Then, you start folding them both in and compressing them until the area around your mouth turns a sickly shade.
And finally, you can't help it! Something slips out. And once it is open, you might get a little something like this:
Welcome and thank you for tuning in to the first annual Brotha Please Awards also known as the "boo, negro boo awards." I'm your host for this evening, Gwyneth Bolton, and tonight we'll be honoring three brothas who need to sit their behinds down and shut up. Now, I know that we shouldn't reward bad behavior. But we should have a way to call attention to these brothas in a way that serves to curb that kind of behavior in the future.

Read more.

I Now Know How My Parents Felt...

...trying to find my sister and me a Cabbage Patch Doll that crazy year people were fighting each other to get them. Witness the main thing my goddaughter told me she wanted for Christmas:

This godforsaken BABY ALIVE!!!! Had I known, I would've just kept mine for her. This doll is sold out everywhere. People are selling them on Amazon for $100 (twice the price) and on e-bay for that much and more, when you consider the fact they charge $20-30 for shipping it! True, my problem is compounded by the fact that I wanted a brown doll, but the white ones are scarce commodities, too (though they tend to be on back order while the African American and Latina ones are plain "Sold out, and we don't know when the hell we're getting more!")

And no, I haven't lost my mind; I'm not paying $100 for any doll.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why I Love History (or, A Brief Update)

I swear I'm like, shoulders deep in piles of documents from the National Labor Relations Board (I love FOIA!), the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen and the United Food and Commercial Workers (thanks to the Wisconsin Historical Society!). Now, if I didn't have to write up my findings, I'd be in heaven. Some interesting tidbits:
  • A 1947 letter from an AMBW leader addressed to the NLRB in which the union man verifies that all required parties have signed a document stating they were not communists.
  • A secret ballot packinghouse workers used to choose between the AMBW (AFL) and the United Packinghouse Workers (CIO).
  • A twisted and very interesting story from one of Tyson's Arkansas plants. Apparently, plant management rewarded one ex-union steward with a "cleaner," better-paying job and other perks after she agreed to be the employee agitator for union de-certification. Tyson was not supposed to get involved with the de-certification process and of course they, and the woman, denied it. The NLRB officer who wrote this opinion very politely called them liars. He noted that the woman showed remarkable zeal, giving up her vacation and personal days to work towards getting the UFCW kicked out of the plant. The reason why was clear to him despite Tyson's parade of witnesses who denied it. He also took to task a Tyson rep who denied calling himself a union buster, noting that the man probably did use the title and further, took pride in such a title because he'd been plant manager at another location that had de-certified the UFCW.

All right, I'm going back to work!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Show Him that It Is Not in Vain

Quaker Dave has a new blog called Daily Darfur. If you can't click now, it's at Please stop by. Often.

My Child's Awareness

Okay, as I was typing that last post, my son got up to tell me, "Mama, I've been noticing something. My teacher is the only third grade teacher who's not-"

I stopped him there, way unready to deal with what I knew was coming. "Well, no. Ms. D is Latina."

"That's true," he said, "but my teacher is the only one who's black!"

Wow. I didn't even realize he was thinking about things like this. "What does that mean to you?" I asked.

"I don't know. But I don't feel very good about it." When I pressed him about why he didn't feel good about it, he couldn't articulate it. Instead, he pointed out that the situation was the same in first grade, where there is one black teacher and the one "brown" teacher left "because she had a baby." And then, he said, "And all the music teachers are white! I don't feel very good about that either."

And then he kicked my mattress and went back to bed.

To say that I am stunned is an understatement. Tomorrow evening is going to bring quite the conversation.

What Do You Teach Your Child about the Police?

Especially when your child is a black boy (yes, I think that makes a difference)? That question is on my mind this week because of Sean Bell and Kathryn Johnston. My son saw me reading an article about the Bell case and asked me what happened. After I explained to him, he asked me, "But why did the police do that?" And in a fit of angst, I told him, "Because they can. They can just kill us for no reason." That is unlike anything I've ever told him before, and I am worried about it.

Over at BfP's, Luisa made this observation on a post (in which BfP asks "does it make sense to give a group of people who put on a specific outfit the power to kill, rape, violate, and otherwise cause destruction and devastation to a particular area and its occupants?"):
I was not raised to respect the police or military. and this gets me in a little trouble ever now and then… I can feel myself becoming anxious around them. I always want to say something rude but, I also fear them. It is a strange emotion. I feel queasy when cop cars pass me. They are the only people who I fear in my neighborhood because if they force me into their car late at night, my fellow humans might just let it happen and who knows where I will end up. who knows what story they’ll tell…

I know that strange mix, the loathing that comes from knowing that, when this person puts on a uniform, he (yes, he) somehow assumes a power that makes his actions unquestionable (even if those actions include demanding a minstrel show). That fear that he can do anything to me and get away with it. And I'm not just saying that; it is a very real fear for me. My experiences with the police have included:

  • My father and I being pulled over while I was an undergraduate, separated, and questioned. We were in Texas, our car had Louisiana plates, and the cops admitted they suspected drug trafficking. Similarly, I was tailed closely by a cop for a while in a small East Texas town who didn't turn on his lights, initially. He was following me so closely that I put on my signal and got into the next lane. Then he turned on his lights--said I was supposed to wait until I'd traveled at least so many feet after turning on my signal to switch lanes. The problem, again, was my Louisiana plates in a Texas town. He wanted to know where I lived currently, where I was traveling to, and why. I answered, simply because I didn't know if I was allowed not to answer and I had no intention of disappearing in East Texas.
  • Coming from a club one night, my sister and I were pulled over by two white male cops who made us get out, shined flashlights in our faces and smirked the whole time. They asked us what we were doing out so late.
  • My male cousin, a minor at the time, being taken to the police station in the middle of the night and the police refusing to let any of us come in. When we began to loudly protest, my aunt begged us not to, scared what they might do.
  • Having a friend who was pulled over for a traffic stop quizzed about my car (I passed by twice to make sure he was okay). The officer, new to my hometown, asked why that "Texas car" was in town so much. What kind of business could I have there?

And so on. It's not that I don't have respect for people trying to do their jobs; it's that I've had a wealth of experience in which that job description has magically expanded in ugly ways. Quite often, the response from black parents I know has been to teach their children to always defer to authority, to not question, to do as they are told. For example, I hear parents say, about spanking their kids, "I'm whooping his/her ass now, so the police won't do it later." And no, this is not just an excuse to engage in teh evil spanking, it is evidence of a very real belief that teaching children to obey "authority" figures may save their lives.

Yet, just as I don't want to leave my son with the image of the police that I created with my comment, I don't want to teach him to blindly obey either. I did tell him later that there are "lots of good police who protect people," but that some of them feel like they have "superpowers over people" because they have guns and clubs.

And uniforms. Lord, the power of a uniform.

In the meantime, I am thinking of this. Sean Bell was 23. Kathryn Johnson was 92. Is there ever a time, an age when we are safe?

H/T Y. Carrington and Philip Arthur Moore

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Is It Just Me...

...or is anyone else's little toolbar (with spellcheck and add pics, etc) missing from the post screen? I can't do any formatting things manually either.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Why Is This Video... threatening to so many youtube viewers:

Would to God that it was because of the offensiveness of "Tip Drill." Or if some commenters decided they find "booty dancing" troublesome. Nah, what upsets the commenters at youtube is that these women

Are fat. FAT. And apparently having fun. And doing something as sensual as dancing. And by God, they have friends. Who the hell wants to be seen with a fat girl?

The comments are rife with "nasty," "disgusting," "gross," "wrong" and observations about vomiting and gouging out one's eyes. And then there is the ultimate: "You should be ashamed of yourselves." Because we know how shame works to immobilize and silence women. And I can tell you how it works to immobilize and silence fat women, how it makes all eyes turn upon you, how it makes your skin crawl, how it makes you wish you could just disappear.

That is exactly what these commenters are wishing on these women. Oh, a few of them are careful to disguise it in that "I'm so concerned for your health..." And, lately, my ultra-concerned brothers and sisters of color have added a new twist: they are concerned for our health because we're killing the black community.* You talk about a guilt inducer. Oh. My. God.

But come on, if we're really concerned about people's health, would we be turning up our noses and insulting them? Since we believe fat is solely the product of overeating*, if we wanted to encourage people to eat more healthfully, wouldn't we be asking our government officials why, since the mid-1990s, meat and dairy have received 3x the subsidies of grains and why "fats and oils [have] collected 20x more government handouts than fruits and vegetables"? Wouldn't we be demanding that the media curb the 70% of food advertising that is controlled by convenience and "junk" foods?* Wouldn't we ask food processors why they lie and say they're adding "value" to our food when what they're typically adding is sugar and fat?

So, nah. I don't think we're all that concerned with what people eat; what we're obsessed with is how they look and the connections we make between that appearance and food.

Over at Trash Talks Back, Elaina gave me another idea for why this video is so upsetting (please go read her whole post!):
I'm relearning that fat people are expected to be losers. People think that we are fumbly or we are lazy, or that we are afraid to do outrageous and energetic things.
The women in the video defy that assumption, and apparently it's creating a sort of dissonance that is unbearable. Elaina also said something that I think is another clue into the mindset of the commenters:
People constantly wave their own fears of becoming what you are in front of your face, without a thought as to how you will feel about it. Anti-fat thought is presumed to be correct thought.
Oh, and don't think fat people don't have fat phobic thoughts. My first reaction to this video was, "I can't believe they had enough nerve to..." 'Cause we're not supposed to, you know, have nerve or willingly display our bodies--I say willingly because whether we want them to or not, our fat bodies have been co-opted for the purpose of showing people what they want to avoid. My second thought was, "Ooh, I'm so glad they did."

It's a strange position fat people occupy, taking up more space than what society has decided is your right to have while simultaneously being invisible... until someone wants to point out what not to become. And apparently that concept is so sacred that youtube commenters believe that fat women should be excluded, invisible, on a site designed for anyone to share video. But fat women aren't anyone, of course. We're those pesky "others."

Elaina had a few tips I wish I could go post in the comments at youtube:
6. You have no right to presume that our fatness means anything more than we weigh a certain amount over what's been deemed by capitalist white supremacist patriarchy as the "norm."
7. Do not assume that we are lazy or unintelligent.
8. Do not assume that we are weak.
9. Do not assume that we are obsessive-compulsive about food.
10. Do not assume that we are desperate for your friendship and/or your sympathy.
11. Do not assume that we think that we are less attractive than you are, or that we hate our bodies, or that we strive to be like you.
And please, do not assume that we don't dance* and that we don't laugh and that we're not sensual. Keep your issues and your projections to yourself.

And, no, the commenters at youtube didn't get these women down, because they also posted this:


*I don't doubt that some people genuinely have health concerns and I don't discount medical evidence that links obesity to some illnesses. But this is often the most convenient excuse for fat phobes.
*And of course overeating is nothing more than a lack of willpower which "proves" how weak fat people are.
*All from the intro to
Steve Striffler's Chicken.
*Yes, in the company of supporive friends and family, ms. elle has been known to shake her moneymaker then drop it like it's hot.

History Carnival #44 up at Barista.

There's apparently a blog called Progressive Historians.

I'm one conditioned response away from salivating at the idea.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...