Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Okay. When I was younger, I loved horror movies. That was one of the things my cousin Tesha and I had in common. My sister--not so much. Tesha's sister--my cousin Trin--a big hell to the n-o. We couldn't even watch Unsolved Mysteries or that The Twilight Zone-like show (the name escapes me now) because the music scared Trin.
As I've gotten older, horror has pretty much lost it's appeal for me. When I try to explain why, I pretend that growing older made me wiser. "When you're young," I say, "it's fun and exciting to get scared in a setting that you know is safe." I also, at different times, claim not to like all the blood and gore (I really don't) and not to like suspense (I am impatient!). And I really did notice, like everyone else, that the token person of color gets axed pretty quickly in horror films.
But here, I will divulge the real reason for my recent lack of affection for the genre.
I watched The Ring. And my reaction to that film was much like my reaction to most others--I was unperturbed.
Until seven days later.
While lying in bed, I noticed a ring on the ceiling. My ass was scared.
What did it mean? From where did it come? I wouldn't get my ass up to explore--I was not about to be that disposable token.
So I lay there, terrified, for hours.
And then I realized, my printer was on and the power button was lit... the power button that had a circle on it.
I got up and turned that thing off and got my ass back under the covers.
And, yeah, pretty much since then, I no longer like horror movies.
Monday, April 28, 2008
So my boys have been sick for the past week, and I find myself in familiar territory with this working mother guilt that I have. We don't have family that lives close in town, so when they are sick, one of us has to stay home. My husband is a firefighter and has sets of days where he doesn't have to work, which is good for me, because he can stay home with them, and I don't have to use up my paid-time-off. Of-course, I'm the one who's usually up at night with them, and I'm the one who takes over whenever I'm home, but I can't say I don't feel guilty about the times I'm not there. I want to be the one to make them feel better. When I remember the days I was sick growing up, I remember my mother being the one to nurse me back to health. She was so amazing, I still call her whenever I'm sick. She lives 3 hours away, but her voice takes me back to those days and I instantly feel just a little better. My husband does the same thing when he's sick. Only he's more like Martin was on TV....not very trusting of my methods of care and always checking with his "Mama" to see if I'm doing things right.
Anyway, that's how I want my boys to feel about me. But, I have to work. The guilt is always piled on, too. I take them to the doctor and usually the first question they ask is...."are they in daycare". When I answer yes I get this somber look and nod like I've willingly exposed my kids to a cesspool of germs and the like - how DARE I! This coming from a female doctor who has kids.....but I'm sure she can afford a nanny and doesn't have to expose her children to such a "dangerous" environment.
The mother-in-law digs in too. "That's why you need to leave them with me. How do you know them daycare people didn't give it to them on purpose. Maybe they want to take off or something. They don't love the boys." Mind you, SHE lives 3 hours away just like my mother. Then I get the "That's why the mother is supposed to stay at home with the babies. A man is supposed to work. He don't make enough for you, 'cause you live in the city. If you lived in the country, you wouln't have to work. God says that one day, everybody will have to leave the city. So you'll be here soon enough." And on, and on. In her mind, a woman should have no ambition other than rearing children. She had 10. My boys are so fine, I should have 20 of them, according to her.
And the guilt sinks a little deeper. Part of me does wish I could have taken the time out to stay at home while they were little. There's no way that would have been financially possible for us. Hell, I was working part-time from home days after each of them were born. By 3 weeks, I was going in part time. That was out of necessity, not desire. But I do have a desire to work. I do have ambition beyond motherhood, and, like so many others I'm sure, I'm trying my best to get the balance in. I fill our weekends with trips to the zoos, museums, parks, chucky-cheeses and the like for fun time. I don't really watch TV during the week so I can feed, bathe, read books, practice writing and math, take care of them when they are sick. I sacrifice my "me time" to make sure they see me as a part of their lives - I'm sure overcompensating a bit. It's never gotten to the point where I regret my choice to etch out a career for myself. I'm proud of what I've done so far, and I hope the boys will be too. But the guilt.......it never really goes away.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
But on the other hand, I think some of this popular wisdom is rooted in sexism and I have a problem with that. Around here, women on their periods do not hold anyone else's baby until that baby is six weeks old for fear of negative effects on the baby. Because I know so many people believe that, I wouldn't hold anyone's newborn on my period. But I am troubled by that because I know it stems from a belief that your period somehow makes you "unclean" or threatening. No matter how much you ask, "Do you think women obstetricians or nurses avoid work while they're menstruating?" people cling to that belief.
Another problematic tradition is the whole idea of confinement. My mom wanted us to stay in the house (as in, not go anywhere) for the traditional six weeks. I made it two. My sister is stir crazy right now. I do think, of course, that you do need time to recuperate and heal, but this idea of shutting yourself off for weeks makes it seem that birth is somehow "unnatural."* I mean, it's not staying at home solely to be with your baby--I hear over and over, "It's okay for the baby to go out; it's the mama!" Plus, my sister and I were talking earlier and we were trying to figure out, when have poor women been able to take off that much time if they work? And hell, "motherwork" with a new baby is hard on your mind and body--much moreso, I think, than going out to the local grocery store.
So I find myself walking a thin line between respect and the desire to ask people what they think is at the source of these beliefs?
My sister: "elle, Daddy and Uncle Darrell have dimples."
My older nephew stops flipping and flouncing on the bed to ponder this. Then, he rubs his index finger across his teeth. "Oh," he says, "Those fake teeth?"
Sis and I frown at each other.
My mom, quite patiently, "No, baby. Those are dentures."
Me, after moments of uproarious laughter, "I am so blogging this."
Saturday, April 26, 2008
And so she told the story of how black people were "immigrants" in their own country and spoke of migrations from the south to the North. We knew the story, she said, of hating to leave the place that we loved, had roots, knew the people and the land, but we wanted something different for our families. And so we moved north, and over and over, encountered "you're not wanted" and "you're taking our jobs." How could we have forgotten, she asked?
It's a question I wonder about, too. Ms. Elliott also talked about our responsibility, as African Americans to reach out and help uplift, to take up the cause of others who often lack "political capital," as Dr. Nestor Rodriguez described. She, of course, is not the first black woman to talk about this. The motto of late-19th, early 20th-century black club women* was often "Lifting as We Climb," and though they were troubled by elitism and internalized racism, they expressed a profound sentiment in that phrase.
During one question and answer session, a Latino student who was affiliated with the National Council of La Raza stood and asked Ms. Elliott, given the facts that Latinos were relatively small in number and that many were not involved in traditional electoral politics, upon whom did the burden fall to persuade politicians "to do the right thing" with regards to immigrants--from some other things Ms. Elliott and he said, I assumed he was referring to the DREAM Act? "Is it up to us?" he asked, discouraged because, as he said, "there are so few."
Do you know what Ms. Elliott said? That no, it was not solely up to us. It is incumbent upon us to sometimes highlight "our" issues, she said. But the burden, she said, is on the majority group to care, to be allies, to explore issues that might not seem to directly affect them, to bring the margins into the center--not to engage in "wite disdain." She was calling on people to recognize their privilege, I thought. It was up to the people who were privileged in any situation, to call out other privileged people, to make them question and reassess.
And then I came home and began to catch up . And thought Oh. My. God. I understood more than ever what Ms. Elliott was saying. Because no matter how many times certain people were called out by a certain "noisy group"of "haters" [/snark], it didn't make a damned bit of difference. The use of those "savage native" images in Amanda Marcotte's book--I vacillate between "How could you be blind to that?" to "You weren't blind, you thought somehow it was okay" to "You must be blind to that cuz why else..." And even Seal Press's apology is privilege-in-word,
Some have asked the valid question, "What were you thinking?"Must be nice not to have to think about images like that--hell, not to see, really, images like that, and Jill talks about that. **Update--so does Jeff Fecke. (I'm still reading, btw. Lots of people have covered this)**
Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author's humor. That is all. We were not thinking.
But that is not all I returned home to see. BlackAmazon is leaving. That is devastating. I know no other word to use. And--again, selfishly--I am tired of seeing my sister-friends leave. Most days, the community of radical women of color bloggers is more salient to me than my everyday world.
And while in the airport, I heard that the police who killed Sean Bell got off scot-free. I called my sister to rail a little bit and she cut me off to say, "but elle, we already knew that, remember? We said it when he was killed." So how do you express "I'm-not-surprised-but-I'm-still-hurt-FUCK!" Part of a poem by Lex:
For me, the last few days have definitely been about being reminded "what time it is."
that deep and elevated symbol
in the middle of the town square
that reminds the people
what they know
brutally clear job of waking
that thing that reminds us
what time it is.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Which, once you're an adult, can seem sort of stand-offish.
Now, I know that's hard to believe given how I post here, but one of my goals this year is to overcome my shyness. The main reason--I don't want to feel isolated in my new department as I often did in grad school and sometimes feel now.
And I know that people notice. My advisor recently met one of my new colleagues who had really nice things to say about my campus visit. Advisor quickly shot me an e-mail that said, "I urge you not to be shy about emailing her (and others you liked) in advance of your move!" Before my campus visits she noted how some candidates can talk too much at the dinners or be too quick to take potential colleagues into their confidences. But then she said, "I know I don't have to worry about that with you. You play everything close to your chest."
I think the fact that I'm sort of soft-spoken is obvious because another of my new co-workers sent me the sweetest e-mail a few days ago welcoming me to campus and encouraging me to communicate with people in the department long before I move.
But the thing is, I was reared in a sort of sit-back-and-observe manner. I'm always trying not to intrude and I'm happier in the background. I think much of it has to do with the admittedly problematic messages that were instilled in me as a child--girls should be seen and not heard, it's always better to be a listener, don't trust people easily, etc, etc.
It's not that I'm rude, but I am the sort of person who waits to be approached--you won't really catch me striking up conversations with people I don't know.
I want this time to be different, though. I want to go out, I want to learn to navigate the city, I want to feel free to stop by a colleague's house if invited. I don't want to obsess over "is this intrusive?" all the time.
I'm going to slowly start casting that aside.
The elle of 2008 will be bold and just-shy-of-talkative!!
Okay, maybe not. But I am going to take a few risks, be a little more open.
But that's so scary!!
Friday, April 18, 2008
What do you call companies who make a practice of hiring immigrants, knowing full well some are undocumented, depend on their labor, subject them to brutal, crippling work, pay them low wages, set them in opposition to other exploited workers, and aggressively combat the workers' efforts to organize for better conditions, then turn them in to ICE?
Me, myself, I'm sitting here saying, "Them motherf*ckers!" From the AP:
Nearly 300 people were arrested Wednesday in immigration and identity theft raids at Pilgrim's Pride poultry plants in five states. … "We knew in advance and cooperated fully," said Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for the Pittsburg, Texas, company. ...The raids were part of a long-term investigation, officials said. Plants were raided in Mount Pleasant, Texas, Batesville, Ark., Live Oak, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Moorefield, W.Va., authorities said.If you think anyone is pulling the wool over poultry companies' eyes, that they are unwittingly hiring undocumented immigrants, please allow me to disabuse you of that notion. Let me point you to two newspapers series: The Chicken Trail, a 2006 Los Angeles Times series (abstracts free, articles cost), and The Cruelest Cuts, a 2008 Charlotte Observer series. An excerpt:
Atkinson said the company went to ICE agents with information about identity theft at the Arkansas plant. (emphasis mine)
Of 52 current and former Latino workers at House of Raeford who spoke to the Observer about their legal status, 42 said they were in the country illegally.Also, Russell Cobb's The Chicken Hangers, much of which is part of a paper he wrote for a series of occasional papers sponsored by UT-Austin's Inter-American Policy Studies Program about poultry workers.* Cobb recounts the story of Esteban, an immigrant poultry processing worker:
Company officials say they hire mostly Latino workers but don't knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
But five current and former House of Raeford supervisors and human resource administrators, including two who were involved in hiring, said some of the company's managers know they employ undocumented workers.
"If immigration came and looked at our files, they'd take half the plant," said Caitlyn Davis, a former Greenville, S.C., plant human resources employee.
Former Greenville supervisors said the plant prefers undocumented workers because they are less likely to question working conditions for fear of losing their jobs or being deported.(emphasis mine)
[A]fter a year on the job, Julio Gordo, a manager at Peco Foods, called Esteban into his office. (To protect his identity, Julio Gordo is a pseudonym.) According to Esteban, Gordo told him that the Social Security Administration had notified Peco Foods that Esteban’s Social Security Number had repeated as a number for another worker.So, given the current employee makeup, poultry processors depend heavily upon the labor of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. In order to obtain work, these immigrants often become involved in a "fake document" black market,** risky actions that can see them deported or land in jail. Employers are well aware of the risk immigrants take. Federal prosecutors certainly believed so when they charged Tyson "of conspiring to smuggle immigrants to work at the company's poultry processing plants."***
At first, Esteban feared he would be fired by the plant and deported for document fraud — a fate not uncommon among undocumented workers. “Gordo told me he could have the cops here in five minutes if I didn’t cooperate with him,” Esteban confided to me later.
After Gordo allegedly threatened to deport Esteban, he reassured him that he could stay on at the plant if he could get a new ID and Social Security Number. Esteban knew this would be difficult; fake documents cost hundreds of dollars and were sold by only a handful of people in southern Mississippi on the black market. Furthermore, Esteban knew he would run the risk of being fired or deported if he bought a new Social Security Number, since he would be admitting his old one was false. Even with a new I.D., his seniority — including the two raises he had received for a year’s work — would be revoked. Esteban would be starting over from scratch.
Then, according to Esteban, Gordo told him he was willing to do him a “favor”: Esteban could buy a new Social Security Card from Gordo for $700. This was a favor Gordo had done for many other Mexicans in the same situation, he claimed.
Yet, despite the fact that "immigrant labor" has become a necessity to the poultry industry, immigrants have not. Poultry processors are used to high turnover--the UFCW suggests that annual turnover is well over 100%--and treat their workers as interchangeable, a disposable workforce. They themselves incur no risk. The article on Pilgrim's Pride lists a number of charges that immigrant workers will face then states succinctly, "Pilgrim's Pride faces no charges." Tyson beat the federal case by disavowing claims that they recruited and smuggled immigrant workers, blaming those actions not on company policies but on a few "rogue" employees.
And the immigrant workers who are fired, jailed, deported with little recourse will simply be replaced.
*Anita Grabowski was an author of one of those papers and has gone on to produce Mississippi Chicken. From the film's synopsis:
In the 1990s, poultry companies in
and throughout the American South began to heavily recruit Latin American immigrants, most of them undocumented, to work in the poultry plants. A decade later, there are now large immigrant communities in poultry towns all over the South, and the immigrants find themselves in an extremely vulnerable situation, where they are frequent victims of abuse by employers, police officers, landlords, neighbors and even other immigrants. Mississippi
**For more, see House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act of 2005: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. 109th Congress, 1st Session, 12 May 2005 (
***The INS accused Tyson of cultivating a culture “in which the hiring of illegal alien workers was condoned in order to meet production goals and cut costs to maximize profits.” The indictments alleged that Tyson aided and abetted these workers in obtaining fake documents.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Dilation proceeds slowly. When I get back around three, she's still about 4cm so I decide to take a nap.
8lbs, 19.5 inches
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I wrote a whole post in which I clearly stated:There's so much more.
- there are clear racialized reasons why women of color are never and will never be the sought after by big companies, named as the leader of feminist movements, asked for interviews etc
2. that white feminists bear a responsibility (that they are NOT accepting and in fact are actively rejecting) to negotiate power and create spaces (while working alongside or a step behind marginalized communities) in which power is de-centralized
3. As a result I do NOT consider myself to be a part of any fucking “feminist movement” because to me, feminism requires diversity...And even though I wrote this whole post about those three points–the only thing people heard was “She thinks she’s Freud and she wants money/power/recognition.”
No, actually, I know I’m brownfemipower and I want to end violence against women. And I wanted to do that with all the women who keep insisting to me that we are all in this together and we have common problems that we have to work against and we’re all sisters, and there is such thing as a commonality of experience between us all—as I said in my original post—I thought feminism was important because it brought women together...
But how can it have “brought us together” when my implicit goal in feminist centered media justice is to write erased communities into existence—and the result of the work of the ’sister’ down the street is the erasure of the same communities I’m working to write into existence?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Two stories that I have heard recently have me trying to write a post about children of color. In the meantime, I think it's important to get the links out here. First, Location of Mass Graves of Residential School Children Revealed for the First Time. From the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD):
We are gathered today [10 Apr 2008] to publicly disclose the location of twenty eight mass graves of children who died in Indian Residential Schools across Canada , and to announce the formation of an independent, non-governmental inquiry into the death and disappearance of children in these schools.Second, Sludge fertilizer program spurs concerns:
BALTIMORE - Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge wasH/T Kevin and Aaminah
safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients
Two weeks ago, he already weighed 7 lbs, 6 oz, quite a bit to be carrying around. She is having problems breathing (out of breath easily) and she basically does not sleep--something which I've been selfishly sorta enjoying because we sit up together many nights until 4 a.m. Just me and her, no kids, no parents, etc., and I think we both like the quiet and the chance to surf the net or watch t.v. or talk or just both read books in the same room. But hell, she's tired. Her feet and ankles are swelling and yesterday her blood pressure was elevated--pre-pregnancy, she took medicine for hypertension but the doctor stopped it during pregnancy and, for the most part, her blood pressure has been at good level.
But she's ready to have this baby--a frustration I understand because my son was five days over due and I seriously considered telling my ob/gyn, "I will scream if you send me home because I do not want to be pregnant ONE MINUTE LONGER!!" Her son came late as well, but with him there were at least signs that delivery was impending--softened cervix, lost mucus plug, etc, etc. Her worry now is since none of that has happened (no dilation, no "false" labor, nothing) how much longer might it be?
So send my sister good vibes. I'll consider it a personal favor :-p
households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes. The $112 billion estimate includes the cost of federal, state and local government programs, and lost tax revenue at all levels of government.Quickly, does the answer to these costs have anything to do with addressing systemic reasons why ao many women and their children in this country are poor? Why there is higher spending on "criminal justice" for poor people? Etc. Etc.
Nope the answers all lie (wait for it)...
in marriage strengthening programs. Wasn't that easy?
I so hope someone critiques and deconstructs this report.
Monday, April 14, 2008
While eating a late lunch at a local restaurant, I was treated to the always lovely Fox News Channel.
Developing news? McCain and Clinton call Obama's "bitter" comments "elitist" and "divisive." And I got the little e-mails from the Clinton and Obama campaigns today, too, which both contained arguments about who could best relate.
Now, when I was preparing to talk about JFK to my post-45 class, I went of on all sorts of tangents, including reading about Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, readings which included details of the schools she attended, which sent me into looking up private, exclusive prep schools and their lists of notable alumni. (Yes that sentence is reflective of how my mind works).
Which invariably included "major" politicians and their children.
The point is, in looking at these people's careers, where and how they live, where they went to school, where their children go to school, etc., etc. , I've come to the unprecedented conclusion...
that they are all a bit elitist. Next episode of "developing" news, please.
**Okay, here's my point stated much more precisely.**
I'm on the fence here. What's wrong with an influential Black man calling Obama to task? I don't agree with calling him to task for not attending the Symposium in person. Obama is walking a fine line in a country deeply affected and driven by racism whether overt or intrinsic. And I do believe Smiley's ego was deeply bruised and it is influencing some of his positions, but must every Black "personality/pundit" agree with everything Obama does. Should we all just blindly fall in line because Obama is Black and the first real shot America has at seeing a Black president?
I'm an Obama supporter, but I don't do so blindly or simply because he's Black. I get angry at the MSM (main stream media) for blindly assuming all Blacks support him or must explain why they don't, the same applies to the Black community. I have my opinions about Clinton and McCain and their records and the racial undertones that the Clintons, in particular, have pushed. But I'm not so arrogant as to believe all Black people should see it the way I do.
I don't get to listen the TJM show anymore, but I feel like Tavis' contribution to that show was invaluable. It brought current events, politics and issues that affect the Black community to an audience whose members at times can be quite apathetic towards them. Must we only have people voice opinions that the Black community at large agrees with? Can no one have alternative views? Must we consider someone a sell out because they have the audacity to challenge a man who could be our next president to see where he stands on issues that affect the Black community?
On the flip side, is Tavis' ego so strong that he can't take the heat when it's turned on him? He is a journalist/pundit who's views are widely heard. Does he expect all to blindly follow his views and his criticisms? Has he let his own feelings of being "dissed" influence his commentary? Is this a continuation of the "Is Barack Obama black enough?" issue?
P.S. psst...Hey Elle....I'm posting! :-)
Sunday, April 13, 2008
There are moments, themes from that film that stick with me. First, as An Anxious Black Woman pointed out:
there are TWO kinds of rapists lurking in the shadows (or boldfacedly emerging to terrorize the nation) of the Congo - the local soldiers and multinational corporations. So, these gang rapists - working in SOLIDARITY, I might add! - are perpetuating the violence.Corporations take untold millions of dollars of natural resources from the Congo--a fact Chris Clarke wrote about a year ago.* Competition over these resources fuels the ongoing war with the catastrophic results on which Jackson focuses.
Then, there were Jackson's chilling interviews with the rapists. On the surface, they described their violent acts in terms of physiological need, portraying rape as a "natural" outcome--what happens when men have been in the bush too long without sex. Jackson attempted to ask them if the rapes were about power and sex. The interpreter dismissed her question, telling her that these men could not understand what she was asking. But I think he was wrong. The more the soldiers talked, the more it became obvious that they very much understood the power dynamic. They raped, some said, because they were ordered to do so. They made women and children suffer because they had suffered. Repeatedly, they said, "If she refuses, then I must..." and one of the soldiers offered an explanation based on men's superiority to women. One of the most chilling statements in that film began with, "Yes, she's a human being, too, but-" Because what follows is the implication that "her" humanity is somehow less than "his."
The nature of the rapes as well--the violent attacks with sticks and razors and hot coals that destroy women's bladders/urinary tracts and their uteruses--points to the fact that soldiers understand that they are waging a total war, that the murder and rape of women and children can destroy "enemy" nations. That is not to dismiss the purported "allies" who rape as well--the UN peacekeepers and the soldiers from these women's own communities, for example.
And so the stories that emerge from the film are disturbing. The women who are isolated from their families and communities because they have been "shamed" and because they can no longer control some bodily functions. The young woman who named her daughter "Lumiere," French for "light." When Jackson tried to grasp some triumph from that name--"She is your light?" she asked the young woman--she is told solemnly "No, I was obliged to accept her." The lack of adequate medical and emotional care--the clearly overwhelmed Panzi Hospital, for example. The dedicated Officer Honorine who reveals the overwhelming nature of her work--she is the only officer for child protection and for investigating crimes of sexual violence.
And the privileged, Western feminist in me railed at the fact that, for many of these women, their only hope is to find a man who will "accept" and help them. They are largely illiterate and lack paid workforce skills. To me, it seemed, so much of their lives was determined by their encounters and relationships with men. That is an analysis, of course, that places my feelings at the center, and so it is sadly insufficient and unfair.
A few days ago, Professor Black Woman wrote that "women's bodies are part of the battleground in wars" and, in that sense at least**, the rape epidemic in the Congo was not exceptional but part of a worldwide pattern. Anxious Black Woman expounded upon that today as she remembered
those Carib, Arawak, Aztec, Mayan, Creek, Cherokee, Iroquois, Inuit, Kanaka Maoli, Warai, and Jingili women whose genitalia were routinely cut out of them and placed on sticks, spears, and hats for proud exhibition. I think of the Khoisan woman from South Africa, Saartjie Baartman, whose genitalia was also placed on proud exhibition - not on a spear, but in a scientific bell jar. I think of imperialism and racism, and how both ideologies depended upon the institution of misogyny to maintain supremacy. I think of this long, long, awfully long history of women in general - and women of color especially - who are often targeted for the most brutal forms of violence and then enveloped in silence so that we dare not dwell on the traumatic memories or, worse, on the traumatic future that is surely set for our daughters.In recounting how "disturbing" these stories are, I do not mean to discount the fact that these women survived and that spirit of survival comes through loud and clear. I remember how proud one woman was that, after surgery to repair her fistula, she was no longer wetting the bed. In that meeting that I mentioned initially, the nun who works with survivors opined that together, they could help each other, that speaking out, sharing their stories could ease the trauma, foster a sense of connectedness. Jackson filmed survivors learning trades and nurturing their children and tending their gardens.***
She also captured them singing. And laughing, a sound she remembered hearing so little of in the Congo.
Further reading (I'll add to these links):
Anxious Black Woman (to whom I owe so much)
Professor Black Woman
Katie (here, too)
Then, there is always the question of what we can do.**** Here's a non-exhaustive list:
Anxious Black Woman challenges us to call out corporate rapists. (She's provided contact information).
Support Women for Women, International.
Support Doctors without Borders.
Support the International Rescue Committee.
Here is a link to the Panzi Hospital.
From the BBC:
The Panzi Hospital (for Victims of Sexual Violence)
8th Community of Pentecostal Churches in Central Africa (CEPAC)
GENERAL REFERRAL HOSPITAL OF PANZI,
PO Box: 266
South Kivu Province,
Democratic Republic of Congo
Christian Relief Network
CRN deal regularly with the Panzi Hospital
CRN, Christian Relief Network
(+47) 22 01 07 00
*Thanks, Lauren for the link.
**In speaking of Congolese "exceptionality," I say "in that sense" because Melissa's post points me to a WaPo article that suggests that the prevalence of rape in the Congo is, indeed, exceptional.
***Lex has a wonderful post about how tending our gardens also means tending each other--knowing " how to make each other grow."
**** As a teacher, I've been trying to get my post-45 class to make links, to be not-as-clueless as I was about rape and exploitation and war. We talked about "comfort women" in World War II. And when we covered the My Lai massacre, we talked about the rape of Vietnamese women. I did not assign The Greatest Silence, as I had not seen it, but I did recommend that they watch it. A couple of them did and one young woman asked me "Why do you think it happens?" a question that I re-directed to her classmates.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Calling all bloggers, who are concerned about the Congo Rape Epidemic (some of us learning about the details of this conflict through Lisa Jackson's film, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, which aired on HBO this week), to post about the situation and offer strategies to fight this epidemic on Sunday, April 13, 2008.I watched the film. I can't say much more than that right now.
Thank God It's Friday. Lord, I need it.
Tonight is my son's first baseball game. And his coach told me on the phone last night, "They play three times Saturday."
If he thinks I'm sitting out there for three rounds of a game I don't particularly care for (sorry)...
Does that get filed under the "joys of parenthood" category?
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Quite selfishly, I am so pissed. But I think I understand her need to leave. Still, the way it's all unfolding...
Emily's comment at Hugo Schwyzer's made me think. The comment:
I don’t know the ins and outs of this one (yet), but you [Hugo] seem pretty damn quick to defend these white women against criticism from women of color every time the issue comes up.My thoughts:
Do you remember Sophia in The Color Purple? Remember how she was all proud and had that beautiful strong stride and that seemingly unshakeable confidence? Remember how she wasn't scared to fight but she declared to Miss Celie that her home, her safe place would not be a place in which she had to fight to live and speak and think?
And remember how she did such a good job tending that safe place, loving and nurturing, that it showed in the fruits of her labor (her children)? Remember how Miss Millie wanted to co-opt that loving and nurturing and caretaking, but in a way that would subjugate Sophia and for which Miss Millie would get the credit?
And you remember Sophia's outrage when she said, "Hell, naw," that mess would not be going on?! Remember how offended Miss Millie was--at Sophia's nerve in calling out that bullshit?
But, almost like magic, before Miss Millie could respond in-depth, the mayor stepped in to put Sophia "back in her place" and defend Miss Millie's
And for a while, Sophia disappeared* and we missed her, her vibrance and courage and voice?
But while Sophia was feeling tired and overwhelmed, her girl (Miss Celie) had her back.
And you know the best part of Sophia's storyline? When Miss Celie was asserting herself and declaring the validity, the importance, the reality of her life and experiences, Sophia was there to back her up,** to encourage her, to share her experience, to love her.
Sophia came back. Being knocked down for a minute only made her stronger. Despite all the bullshit, Sophia came back strong and assertive and laughing and sure of her place.
That gives me hope.
*Sophia was, for a time, silenced, and that can't happen with BFP. BFP, I say that you cannot be silenced, because do you know how many of us are influenced and encouraged by you? I hope, while you're sitting back soaking your feet and reading that book, you realize how much you are loved, loved, loved and appreciated.
**I know there are a million more links for other women who've been supported and encouraged by BFP. Hell, this is only one of many of mine.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
So, who am I? Hmmmm.....I'm not sure what defines "me" really. I can say that my perspective/upbringing is quite different from Elle's. I'm a biracial/bicultural military brat with a German mother (German national, not German-American) and Black father, a caucasian brother (BROTHER, not half brother - I hate it when people try to diminish our bond - we both came out of my mother's womb), and another brother like me. I spent most of my childhood in Italy and Germany attending American schools that were full of every variety of race/culture mix you can think of. I moved to small town central Texas as a freshman in highschool and immediately suffered a huge culture shock. People made such a big deal about the states (they called it "the world"), and, I thought, THIS was it????
I've reluctantly entered my 30s (somewhat recently, though I won't tell HOW recently). Elle and I were college roomies with exactly the same major and minor and we took the same classes. It's crazy to see how different our career choices became. She's Dr. Elle, historian extraordinaire, and I'm Kimberly, the executive-lite at a small corporation in a job that couldn't be further away from academia. Yet I'm still a "nerd" who can regurgitate odd facts, who follows politics closely, who can name most countries on a map, and who is fascinated (though not an expert) by history, sociology, and psychology.
Growing up on military bases, my racial identity and the makeup of my family was never really a big deal. We always had people do double takes when people realized my brothers and I were in-fact brothers and sister....but beyond that, we weren't too far from the norm. Mixed race kids were a pretty decent sized percentage of the kids that went to school. We weren't "different".
When I moved to Texas and started high-school, I began to feel as if I was supposed to identify myself as something. That was the first time I'd seen Black and White so separated. But even then, mixed race kids were the furthest thing from uncommon. When I went to college in Houston, was when I really saw a division. For the first time in my life, I couldn't really name any white friends. That was odd to me. And that was the first time in my life that I found myself included in the division that exists.
Out of college and into wifedom and mommyhood, I've expanded my friendship across many cultures. I may even have a Republican friend or two. But my views are quite liberal (and CORRECT of-course). I believe in Jesus, but have serious issues with organized religion that has kept me away from church for years up until recently.
I have 2 little boys who light up my life and a husband who's, well, a husband. Elle and I were very close in college and she continues to be someone I think of as a sister. I'm extremely proud of her and in awe of all she's been able to overcome and accomplish.
I'm not sure WHAT I'll be contributing, but I'm honored to be asked. So........................HI!
(forgive typos and grammaticals.....I've been jumping between this and real work!)
Since 1998 a brutal war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 4 million people have died. And there are the uncountable casualties: the many tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army.Before the last few years, I had never thought of rape as a weapon of war. I thought of it as something that invariably occurred during war, as part of a larger power struggle, but never as a systematic assault with consequences that affect so many.
The world knows nothing of these women. Their stories have never been told. They suffer and die in silence. In The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo these brave women finally speak.
I've learned a lot from BfP's posts, many of them archived in the nation/state violence category. Prof BW's analysis, I think, is embodied in her hope that this film:
covers the issues of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war in the Congo not as exceptional or part of a racialized narrative, which has been the way these issues have been presented to date, but rather as part of an increasingly astute understanding of how women’s bodies are part of the battleground in wars around the world. I am looking for this, not to erase the specificity of the violence in the Congo, which is a necessary part of any analysis, but rather to develop a language of addressing sexual violence that deals with its use as a tool of war throughout history and allows us to deal with the specific use against, and experience of, women in any given place.Historiann talks a bit about the history Prof BW mentions here.
Here is the trailer for the film:
It premieres tonight at 9 PM my time, which is 10 Eastern.
You know who did know where to start? The Angry Black Woman. Her post, "Thank You, White People" is fierce.
Of course, it didn't take long for the trolls to appear in the comments. You know the spiel: "My ancestors never owned slaves and I refuse to feel guilty for something that happened eons ago." As Delux pointed out, "who needs to be upset about what your ancestors did, when what your contemporaries are up to is quite enough to handle now?" The absolute blindness--to the privileging of whiteness, for one--is astounding.
And now, a white supremacist website has linked to ABW as she is receiving hate e-mail and threats to the safety of the space she has carved out.
Please go over and show support.
So my sister and I have heard, through the ever-busy local grapevine, that some local residents (primarily a member of our church) have "discovered" this blog and don't like my "position" on a number of issues. Apparently, my life is fodder for much discussion.
Really? Cuz you know one of the things my sister and I discuss? What we call late-in-life Christians. You know--the ones who raise "hell" for decades then, when they feel they've done it all, they "find" God (did you know He was ever lost?). I've been having considerable trouble with a couple of those since I've moved back. Last night, when I was even angrier than I am now, I sat in bed and wrote a three-page post, because, while this stuff usually rolls off my back, I am becoming increasingly weary of it. But scratch that. My position can be boiled down to a few phrases:
I am a grown-ass woman. I am not the quiet little girl who felt she needed to curry favor and please everyone years ago. If you don't like my politics, opinions, or beliefs--that's your issue. If you've made assumptions about what I believe or how I should act--that's your issue. I am 100% human, not the least bit interested in being perfect, not the least bit convinced that your way, your narrow interpretation, is the "only" way. It is not your job to send me to your concept of heaven or hell. And yes, I am very much my devout mother's daughter because her faith is one that emphasizes love, respect, and acceptance, not fear, judgment, and punishment.
And, really, though I'm honored to be on your mind, you're working my nerves.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Save the dates
for the first time ever, official excerpts from still black: a portrait of black transmen will be presented to the public at the following venues:
april 9th @ 8:30 p.m. at the university of illinois urbana-champaign’s “reel queer film festival”
april 25th @ 8 p.m. at northwestern university’s queertopia!–$5 students/$10 general
april 26th @ the center on halsted (glbtq center) in chicago
the director (me) and producer will be in attendance at all of the events, two of which are free! for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Black women, alleged by affirmative-action supporters and opponents to be "twofers," recount how they have confronted racism, sexism, and homophobia on college campuses. They explore how the personal and the political intersect in historical research and writing and in the academy. Organized by the years the contributors earned their Ph.D.'s, these essays follow the black women who entered the field of history during and after the civil rights and black power movements, endured the turbulent 1970s, and opened up the field of black women's history in the 1980s. By comparing the experiences of older and younger generations, this collection makes visible the benefits and drawbacks of the institutionalization of African American and African American women's history. Telling Histories captures the voices of these pioneers, intimately and publicly.Thanks so much to Kismet from whom I found this.
Why am I so giddy? Because I love to cook, but I cannot bake.
So to make a cake.
I know my "presentation" isn't awesome, but this cake... c'est si bon. And it's prettier in person, trust me. :-p
Oh! I feel the way I did when I finally cooked a decent pot of collard greens.
Friday, April 04, 2008
This clip always affects me.
Because I wonder what he saw that made him draw the comparisons between himself and Moses. Was he frightened? Had he made peace with the fact that he might be denied longevity?
And I wonder what he saw from that mountaintop. What was the promised land? Why was he so sure we'd make it?
And 40 years later, I am sure that the way I and so many others probably once understood the promised land--as something already existing that we just had to struggle to reach--is wrong. I don't think it already exists. I think it's up to us to shape and create.
Usually I always dream of the promised land in terms of "withouts"--you know, without racism and colorism, without sexism and the damned patriarchy, without homophobia, without ableism, without fundamentalism, without so many of the borders we draw, without the grind of poverty, without that feeling of being overwhelmed--by circumstances, sadness, life itself--without, without, without...
I can't list them all.
So, today, as I lie around, I'm going to think of the promised land "withs."
And no, I can't list all those either.
But at the base, I think, it has to be shaped...
Which might sound trite.
But if you've heard this woman and this woman talk about love, then you know it's not trite or a given at all.
So, again, I'm not sure of what exactly our created promised land could look like, but I am always inspired by Alexis who wrote this for our sisters:
“wishful thinking” or “what i’m waiting to find in our email boxes”1. you wake up each day
as new as anyone
there is no reason to assume
you would be supernaturally strong.
there is no reason to test your strength
through daily disrespect and neglect.
you don’t need to be strong.
everyone supports you.
2. if you say ouch
we believe that you are hurt.
we wait to hear how we can help
to mend your pain.
3. you have chosen to be at a school,
at a workplace, in a community
that knows that you are priceless
that would never sacrifice your spirit
that knows it needs your brilliance to be whole
4. your very skin
and everything beyond it
is a miracle that we revere
5. we mourn any violence that
has ever been enacted against you.
we will do what it takes
to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
6. when you speak
we are so glad that you
are here, of all places.
7. other women
reach out to you
when you seem afraid
and they stay
until peace comes
8. the sun
how much they love you.
9. people are interested
in what you are wearing
because it tells them
what paintings to make.
10. everyone has always told you
you can stay a child
until you are ready to move on
11. if you run across the street
naked at midnight
no one will think
you are asking
12. you do so many things
because it feels good to move.
you have nothing to prove
13. white people cannot harm you.
they do not want to.
they do not do it by accident.
14. your smile makes people
glad to be alive
15. your body is not
a symbol of anything
16. everyone respects your work
and makes sure you are safe
while doing it
17. at any moment
you might relive
the joy of being embraced
18. no one will lie to you,
scream at you
or demand anything.
19. when you change your mind,
people will remember to change theirs.
20. your children are safe
no one will use them against you.
21. the university is a place where you
are reflected and embraced.
anyone who forgets how miraculous you are
need only open their eyes.
22. the universe conspires
to lift you
23. on the news everynight
people who look like you and
the people you love
for their contribution to society.
24. the place where knowledge is
has no walls.
25. you are rewarded for the work you do
to keep it all together.
26. every song i’ve
ever heard on the radio
is in praise
27. the way you speak
is exactly right
for wherever you happen
28. there is no continent anywhere
where life counts as nothing.
29. there is no innocence that needs your guilt
to prove it.
30. there is no house
in your neighborhood
where you still hear screams
every time you go
31. no news camera waits
to amplify your pain.
32. nobody wonders
whether you will make it.
everybody believes in you
33. when you have a child
no one finds it tragic.
no map records it as an instance of blight.
34. no one hopes you will give up
on your neighborhood
so they can buy it up cheap.
35. everyone asks you your name.
no one calls you out of it.
36. someone is thinking highly of you
37. being around you
makes people want to be
their kindest, most generous selves.
38. there is no law anywhere
that depends on your silence.
39. nobody bases their privilege
on their ability to desecrate you.
40. everyone will believe anything you say
because they have been telling you the truth
41. school is a place, like every other place.
no one here is out to get you.
42. worldwide, girls who look like you
are known for having great ideas.
43. 3 in 3 women will fall in love with themselves
during their lifetime.
44. every minute in North Carolina
a woman embraces
45. you know 8 people
who will help you move
to a new place
if you need to.
46. when you speak loudly
everyone is happy
because they wondered
what you were thinking about.
47. people give you gifts
and truly expect nothing
48. no one thinks you are
49. everyone believes
that you should have all
the resources that you need,
because by being yourself
you make the world so much
50. any creases on your face
are from laughter.
51. no one, anywhere, is locked in a cage.
52. you are completely used to knowing what you want.
following your dream is as easy as walking.
53. you are more than enough.
54. everyone is waiting
to see what great thing
you’ll do next.
55. every institution wants to know
what you think, so they can find out
what they should really be doing,
or shut down.
56. strangers send you love letters
for speaking your mind.
57. you wake up
-Alexis Pauline Gumbs April 2007
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Having Read The Fine Print......: URGENT : SEARCH TASHINA GENERAL
Taken form the UBUNTU comment section
Today I'm reaching out to everyone I can thing of to tell
you all that Tashina General, a Mohawk woman from the Six Nations
Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, has gone missing.
She is five months pregnant, and she has been missing for
almost three weeks.
Tashina is the cousin of some family frineds of ours;
they are frantic. Because she is a Native woman, there is not much
press coverage of her disappearance.
There are over 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women
in Canada; the violence Native Canadian women face is connected to the
violence indigenous women are facing in Guatemala and in El Salvador
and along the US Mexico border in the Juarez region.
In your piece, you spoke about the "rapeability", to use
Andrea Smith's word, of black women. Native American and First
Nations women, too, are considered somehow especially or inherently
We all and up frozen inside our own communites, or even
limited to our own homes, or to a room in that home, and some of us at
times go without any sort of home at all, trying to keep our back pack
close to us, as it has now become our only safe space in the world. we
need to reach out to each other.
The white women who go on to date or marry those young,
privileged white men will likely rue the day they thought that somehow
their men would hurt "that other sort" of woman and not them-- the
reality is that all of us are considered "rapeable", and there is no
"other sort" of woman.
Our lack of solidarity as women is killing us.
Please keep Tashina in your prayers, and if you'd like
to know more about Tashina and the other missing women, please google
NWAC, the Native Women's Association of Canada.
Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama....I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
-Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg
And these similar images:
And briefly parse and discuss.
They're going to get the similarities and the spirit behind Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg's quotes immediately. But I want them to think about what we've discussed about the Kennedy legacy versus the Kennedy legend and re-evaluate the comparison and what it might mean to and for Senator Obama. There are some other ways I want to go with this, too, but I have to work out all my questions for next week.
Connections. Relevancy. A history teacher's dream!
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Now, there are things mama has had to put her foot down about. There's a Bob Marley shirt at Journey's that we both love, but he wanted a belt buckle to match. I'd almost bought one with Marley's image on it, 'til I realized the little greenery outlining the buckle was probably not kid appropriate. He decided one day that he wanted his nails polished black and proceeded to do so with a pen. I relied on the old, "You'll poison yourself!" standby. He wore a shirt to church one Sunday with a big ol' hundred dollar bill across the front with Ben Franklin looking menacing. He got a lecture and that shirt revoked. He wants more fitted baseball caps. Those things are almost $40 and I just can't indulge in that!
So, over the last few days, he's been walking around with a backpack on, and a towel around his neck, tucked into his shirt. I couldn't figure that one out. Finally, Coti told me, "It's supposed to be a scarf like some skateboarders wear." I still didn't get it. Then she showed me an image on TV that was similar to this:And I am thinking this is a put-your-foot-down-mama moment again. I mean, I understand his need to follow his style sense :-) but I don't want him walking around looking like an homage to the hold-up gangs of yesteryear.
What do you think? And mama and daddy readers, how far do you let your kids go in choosing their own clothing/styles/etc.?
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I have a confession to make. One that might "surprise" black people everywhere.
I cannot play basketball.
Cannot even dribble (my mom used to say, "elle, stop patting the ball!").
And this is serious.
Cause basketball playing, it "translates racially." So I am left unable to converse with my basketball-playing brothers and sisters about issues and stuff.
And there is one less way that Senator Barack Obama can court my vote.
You see, Sen. Obama is "very good" at basketball. And as it has been deemed--during a conversation among Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and Michelle Bernard-- that that is one way he can reach black voters (I guess that's what a racial translation is), I am feeling quite left out of his possible rhetoric.
Now, to get very ethnic (wherein "ethnic" is loosely synonymous to "racist") apparently no one is surprised that Sen. Obama is good at basketball. It must be coded into those pesky "black" genes.
Where does that leave a black woman who can't play?
And putting aside my selfishness for a minute, where does this ability to play basketball leave Obama? I mean, on the one hand, this basketball thing could lay to rest permanently the questions over his "blackness."
But does this, perchance, mean he's too black for "regular" voters? (wherein "regular" is loosely synonymous to "white"--the color of "regular" people--let me borrow a sentence to illustrate:
Here's a guy trying to break into the white ethnic voting crowd, so he goes and plays a sport most associated, I think, with regular folks in the big cities and small towns.That sport is bowling, and it is verifiably a sport for white people (wherein "verifiably" means verified by Howard Fineman, whose expertise is unquestionable seeing as how it's based on the fact that he's white and all).
So Sen. Obama is mysteriously failing to racially translate his basketball playing to reach black people and unable to bowl and reach white people. Then he's compounding the problem by having a non-macho, "dainty" bowling stance--I just know that's cueing red flags for some people!
Effective immediately, I am demanding that Sen. Obama move away from the issues he believes important to work on his bowling game. Nevermind any recent "controversy;" it's his less than stellar bowling that's "just killing him."
So much so that Howard Fineman felt the need to say it three times.
I'm. Just. Through.
No, wait, I had another though. It's okay for him to use basketball to translate racially, but if he engages in any "racial translation" on serious issues within black communities, he's going to be labeled as "concerned only about black people?"
Now I'm done.
Wait, on the other hand, maybe by racially translate, he meant across color lines? Meaning Obama can appeal to white voters not as a politician or even a future president, but as a "good" basketball player, an entertainer. Some people would be infinitely more comfortable (infinitely less threatened?) seeing him in that light. I'm making myself more disgusted so really, I'll stop.
From Media Matters:
FINEMAN: He definitely needs some bowling lessons... if you can't do something like that, you shouldn't do it. He should have stuck to shooting hoops --I keep waiting for this to be an early April Fool's thing.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I know.
FINEMAN: -- which he's very, very good at, by the way, and which translates racially, too, especially during the NCAA basketball tournament. Don't do something you've never tried before in front of a national television audience, OK?
MATTHEWS: You know, Michelle -- and this gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody, but the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder --
FINEMAN: That doesn't surprise anybody either.
BERNARD: Well, it certainly doesn't surprise anybody black, I can tell you that.
MATTHEWS: Is black a bowling --
FINEMAN: This is just killing him.
MATTHEWS: I don't know, I guess everybody bowls.
FINEMAN: This is just killing him.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FINEMAN: This is just killing him, Chris. Don't show this over and over again.
MATTHEWS: No, no, we're doing it again. This is a killer. Look at this killer. Because it isn't the most macho form there, I must say, but who knows?