Thursday, May 29, 2008

"the penalty for being poor and a child and hungry in africa is to be raped"

Title from BlackAmazon.

Yesterday, via Hysperia, I learned that Human Rights Watch criticized the UN Security Council for doing "little to effectively prevent and address [sexual] violence" against women and girls in war torn areas. HRW urged the UN to correct this "historic failure." Marianne Mollmann, who is named as HRW's advocacy director for women’s rights said, "the council’s response has too often been: ‘Not our problem.’”

Not their problem? I remembered hearing, when I watched The Greatest Silence, how UN peacekeepers engaged in the rape and sexual assault of some of the world's most vulnerable women and girls. And yesterday, shortly after I read Hysperia's post, I read this one at Feministe and this one at What about Our Daughters? that linked to an article entitled Peacekeepers 'abusing children."

I think it's the word 'Peacekeeper' that ought to be in quotes.

When I teach my students about the founding of the UN, I talk about its role in trying to ensure international peace and protecting human rights. And yet representatives of the UN are, as this report by Save the Children states quite bluntly, subjecting children "to every kind of child sexual abuse and exploitation imaginable." As the name of the report implies, when the people who are supposed to render aid and comfort are hurting and humiliating these children, they quite often have no one to turn to.

It is not an anomaly, of course. I know that authors have written much about state/military/police violence against people.* But given the role of the UN--the fact that HRW thinks the Security Council has the authority to take a leading role in addressing and ending sexual violence in areas in conflict, for example--it is quite disturbing.

As is the fact that much of the abuse is never disclosed:
Save the Children says the most shocking aspect of child sex abuse is that most of it goes unreported and unpunished, with children too scared to speak out.
Disturbing, yes.

But I am neither shocked nor surprised.
_________________________________________

* In the blogosphere, BfP, Nadia, and Yolanda Carrington come immediately to mind. And as I am settling into reading Killing the Black Body more thoroughly, I see a lot of connect.

Open Secrets

**I'm putting this at the top again as the reactions from Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box and my best friends really make me realize how much I want people's input/reasoning on this. I think silence can be outright dangerous in certain situations. And, as ABW's post reminds me (to paraphrase Audre Lord), silence will not protect us.**

A few days ago, I noticed this story on Shakesville about another father who held his daughter captive and repeatedly raped her over a period of 11 years. That in itself is incomprehensible; there seems not to be an adjective to describe the horrible fact that she was abandoned by her other family members:

[Eleuterio] Soria's trial revealed that he began abusing his daughter in 1992, when she was 12 years old. The following year she became pregnant by her father, prompting her mother to leave their home in La Matanza, a working class Buenos Aires district.

The family's five other siblings eventually left as well, abandoning the daughter to Soria.

Some commenters there expressed outrage about the family's (in)actions. But I couldn't help thinking that, while I hope this actual physical abandonment is the exception, it's quite common that people abandon the survivors of sexual abuse--not by leaving, but with their silence.

There’s this feeling that I have that I can’t shake. It is this sense of guilt that I abandoned two of my younger cousins to a life of pain and humiliation. Their father, my father’s brother, molested me. Eventually, I told. But my cousins still lived with him. I have always felt that, once I reached adulthood, I should’ve done more to save them. It was and is an open secret in my family and this community that this man is a pedophile. Yet, despite my own pain, I followed the lead of the adults in my family, and stayed silent.

Why do we do that? In part, because we don’t value the lives of our girls and women. And unbelievably, we worry more about the "damage" that would be done to rapists—their lives and reputations. We can excuse abusers who are in other ways “good people.” We don’t want to ruin their lives because of “a mistake.” And remember the judge who banned terms like "rape" and "sexual assault" because the usage of them might be prejudicial to the defendant?

What I also see is the unwillingness to become involved in “other people’s business,” especially in cases of intrafamily sexual abuse. At one time, I would have argued that people don’t like to think or talk about incest, but that’s not quite right, because we do talk about it. In hushed whispers and behind closed doors. Last night, my best friend, Mrs. O, and I sat at my computer and fought back tears as we talked about our abuse, the abuse of our sisters and girlfriends, the abuse of women and girls in our community. And since we know, I know other people do, as well. All these "secrets" that are not secrets, "unspeakables" that are spoken about quite often.

Yet, we are often publicly silent. I think it is a cultural silence—the response of people who live in what some would call a “rape culture.” In such a culture, incest is an unpleasant thing but is accepted, in a sense, as something that invariably happens. The best we can do is hope to protect our children from it.

Just as our silence shields rapists from the consequences of their actions, it also eases the discomfort and pain of everyone except the victim. We have sympathy for family members who don't want to rend their families apart or who can't stand the idea of confrontation or who don't, often for good reason, trust the police, the courts, or other authorities. Talking about sexual abuse and assault is painful for people who know it has occured because they often feel they are caught in a dilemma. And so, we don't talk out loud about it, trying desperately to render it invisible. In a more general sense, Melissa writes a lot about how our media refuses to call rape what it is. Euphemisms are presumed to be much more palatable to our sensitive ears and eyes.

I think, after a while, as a survivor, your goal becomes protecting others’ feelings as well. It as if your own pain is relegated to some small, deep part of you as you try to shield everyone else. For example, I have made peace with the fact that my mother simply could not handle hearing about my abuse. Could not deal with it, refused to do so, in part, because of her own past traumas. And rather than demanding that my family address this open secret, I simply do not attend gatherings of the family on my dad’s side. It would be awkward, and wrongly or not, I identify myself as the cause of that awkwardness and choose not to cast a pall over their celebrations.

And I try to make invisible the abuse by silencing myself, as well. I can tell that my cousin, the older of the two (they are both grown now), wants to talk to me, ask me about "it." But I just can't.

I talked to Mrs. O again today about this subject, this post, and how I was struggling to write it. She was quiet for a minute and then she asked me did I remember when we read The Green Mile? When I nodded, she asked me did I remember John Coffey explaining how Wild Bill was able to kill two little girls--why didn't one of them scream or run away to tell? John Coffey's line was something like, "He killed them with their love." Neither sister would scream for fear of endangering her sister's life.

Mrs. O believes that is one reason some family members refuse to tell sometimes. They fear negative consequences for the survivor. Not just in a retaliatory sense, but in how the survivor will be perceived once the fact of sexual abuse is made public. In a culture obsessed with women's "purity" and "innocence," female survivors of abuse are often portrayed as somehow "damaged" or "soiled." And then there is the prurience. I told of my abuse when I was 13-years-old. Three of my eighth-grade classmates cornered me to ask if I "had just been touched" or if I'd had to "you know." I have no doubt they heard those questions from much older gossipers.

I think that prurience plays a role in the constant quest to blame the victim, to explain away the abuser's behavior. Many people have written about the need some people have to find something the victim was doing that demonstrates s/he "was asking for it" or "consented." In the context of this post, what stands out to me most right now is a post Cara did at The Curvature about an article about Natascha Kampusch, a girl held captive for eight years, headlined "Victim 'had sex with her captor willingly'." According to police, "She admitted that she had had sex with him and that she had done that voluntarily." One of my first thoughts, when I was able to think again, was about the language choice--we usually say people "tell" the truth; they "admit" guilt.

I don't pretend to have all the answers for why people remain silent. I can't even explain why I've remained silent. But it's something I'm trying to work through.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

HELP!!

It might not be smart to post stuff like this but I really need help. A few months ago, I pulled my Equifax/CSC credit report and there was a collection account on there with an Asset Acceptance LLC. I didn't know anything about the account. I called Asset Acceptance and I wasn't in their system. So, I disputed it and eventually, it dropped off. I didn't worry a lot because it was a one time occurrence. I did wonder if it was someone else's account, but I let it go.

Fast forward to Saturday. I pull my credit report because we're getting ready to apply for apartments. There are seven (7) SEVEN accounts that don't belong to me, all past due, two of them credit cards with balances of more than $5300 and more than $10000 respectively. I'm able to call two of the creditors, First Premier Bank and Capital One, right then. They can't find me by SSN or my very distinctive name. Of course, all they can tell me to do is call the credit bureau. I dispute all the stuff online through CSC, then I call Equifax to get a human being to see if they can help me because there is very obviously a problem.

They give me an automated number for CSC. So I decide not to fume too much (even though my impatience makes the wait til Tuesday excruciating).

This morning I begin calling at the ungodly hour of 10 AM (y'all know I'm a night owl!). I have an old CSC number that used to connect me to a human but it keeps disconnecting me. I call the Equifax CARE number and tell them I need to talk with a person at CSC. I make the Equifax guy hold the line while I call the CSC number he gave me. A woman answered and I said (with my country ass), "OK, I'ma call you right back." So I disconnect with the Equifax guy and call the CSC woman back. She gives me another number, again a human, so that's cool. She gives me another number, and still I'm fine. The guy at the third number of course tells me to dispute.

Now, I did that. But I kept pointing out, this is seven (7) SEVEN accounts. This isn't just a coincidence. He asks me, "Well, ma'am, when was the last time you checked your credit report?" I tell him until March, I'd had a credit monitoring program. So, once a month for the last few years. All of these seven (7) SEVEN accounts have popped up in the last couple of months. "Sir, don't you think this is strange?" I ask.

So he looks at some stuff and tells me that he doesn't see where my account could've been combined with someone else's, but since some of the stuff is old (one of the accounts was opened in 11/1995 and has been delinquent since 2002), maybe I should put a fraud alert.

I agree to do that, but y'all, how can it be fraud when no one has my SSN? It's not like these accounts are listed under my name and SSN. These creditors have no record of me. And isn't this just going to keep happening? And two of the accounts had "Consumer disputes; Reinvestigation in process at the bottom," so shit, they were probably erroneously on someone else's report a month ago.

Should I write the FTC? Does Equifax have to help me since this is their affiliate? Is it possible that other people's stuff can be on your credit file?

I really, really need to be pointed in the right direction.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Alive and Kicking...

But I have lots of plans for the holiday weekend, so I'm super busy!

In other news, my dilemma resolved itself--I won't be teaching this summer. I have mixed feelings. I'll enjoy the break but I had plans for the extra money (two conferences I wanted to attend plus I gotta start moving at some point!).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Dilemma

So summer school registration is way down. One of my classes was canceled (only one student) and the other only has six (it was capped at 20).

Not surprisingly, I love the small class. Already. But, when enrollment in a summer school class is below 16, we're paid on a scale. With six students, I'll earn around $800. Here's the problem. I drive probably 70 miles round trip per day. That's a tank of gas per week, which is approximately $60. Factor in tax and the chunk of money Louisiana Teacher's Retirement will take and I don't know if it's worth it financially.

Really, it's not a dilemma because today by five is the last day to add and I didn't warn my students. If I back out now, they wouldn't have time to add another class in the place of this one.

But grrrr.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Because Summer School Starts Tomorrow...

...Ugh! I just finished grading last week. Anyway, here are some pics of my newest nephew Deuce and the rest of the fam while I prep.
Cuddling with Coti
And again
Sitting with Quanta and Belle
auntie elle and he are both sleepy
Ready to go... as soon as the straps are adjusted, AGAIN!
Quality time with big brother
Favorite pasttime
Chilling with Mama
Sleepy again
Mama, posing

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quick!

Someone get Senators Clinton and Obama into a "The U.S. in the Antebellum Era" or "The U.S. in the Civil Rights Era" class!

Because when I hear that they both think it should be "left to the states" to decide the "issue" of marriage, I can't help having flashbacks of how well states' rights positions worked to secure and protect the rights of other marginalized/viciously discriminated against people.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I Love My Babies

My goddaughter Belle graduated from kindergarten last night. Her silly godmother left the memory card for the digital camera at home, so I have to wait on pictures from others.

Anywhoo, as she is officially out of school, being a graduate and all, she spent the night with me last night. I just told her again how proud I was of her. She said, "You thought I was gon' cry when I had to say my part?" And I told her no, I knew she could do it.

I was a bit worried though--she usually does refuse to say whatever she's supposed to at these events. But she was all bold and happy last night. And so damned cute that I wanted to just kiss her to death (not that I'm biased).

So I got a bit maudlin as I was talking to her, "Belle, I can't believe you're almost six. I remember when you were a baby. After a while, you won't even be thinking about your godmama cuz you'll be grown."

She looked at me all askance. "I'm just goin to first grade," she reassured me.

"No," I said, on a tangent, "After a while you'll be grown and I'll be calling you trying to check on you and you'll be telling your friends, 'Ugh, my godmama gets on my nerves!' "

She laughed at the dramatic faces I was making then came and put her chin on my shoulder.

"I'm gon' still spend the night with you even when I'm twenty-one or twenty-three or something," she said.

Awwww!!!

"We do have safe places for processing and detention during times of a hurricane"

Via Noemi at Hermana, Resist

From the Rio Grande Guardian:
If a hurricane hits the Rio Grande Valley this season, residents evacuated via school buses will be prescreened for citizenship by Customs and Border Patrol.
[snip]
Anyone who is not a citizen or is not a legal resident will be held in specially designed areas in the Valley that are “made to withstand hurricanes,” said Dan Doty, a Border Patrol spokesperson for the Valley sector.
And am I the only one saying, "Yeah, right" to this?
We would not put someone's life in jeopardy, but at the same time we would do our job, we would take them into custody, and we do have safe places for processing and detention during times of a hurricane.
In fact these people are so good at their jobs that
Agents are very good at picking up on things that would lead them to believe somebody isn't a U.S. citizen or does not have legal residence.
So loaded.

Apparently these people have no memories of Hurricane Katrina, of the devastating effects of governmental delays and the arrogance to believe they know, without a doubt, what can "withstand a hurricane." Just because a building remains standing doesn't mean it's fit for people to inhabit for days, especially if they will be cut off from communication and supplies.

Is being a citizen really more important than being a human? Really?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Trying to Understand the Division

**What I was trying to say, much more eloquently**

Kim sent me a link to this article that I believe is a must-read. By Marie Cocco, it's entitled Misogyny I Won't Miss:

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.
Erica Barnett's Women In Politics: The Same as It Ever Was is even more detailed about sexist tactics and attacks used against Senator Clinton:
This kind of shit ought to be behind us: Hillary Clinton is a bitch. A big ol' bitchy bitch. And a cunt. A "big fucking whore." Fortunately, you can "call a woman anything." She's "Nurse Ratched." She'll castrate you if she gets a chance. She would like that. She's a "She-Devil." She's a madam, and her daughter's a whore.
I am linking these pieces both because I find them significant and so on point in their own right and because I think it's ridiculous to claim that anyone can miss the misogyny directed at Sen. Clinton, in particular (and the idea of powerful, politically involved women in general), during this campaign, even if s/he won't acknowledge it. I received an e-mail that really, quite politely took me to task about this post in which I discussed my perceptions of (what has turned out to be) the battle for the Democratic nomination in terms of race and racism. The e-mail began with the question of whether or not I believed sexism had played a role in this campaign in the way that I argued race had and it (d)evolved into a sort of kinder, gentler, elle-you're-letting-race-trump-gender scolding. And, I thought, no, no, no--not this again.

I am not blind to the misogyny from various sources--the media, Obama supporters, blogs, Republicans--that has been horribly evident during Senator Clinton's campaign. I do not think it is less significant or has any less impact than the racism Obama has had to endure. I know I'm not the only person who sees the effects of both. So when I say that I have been put off and disheartened by the campaign, let me explain quite simply why.

I have seen the writings and exclamations of the most ardent supporters on both (Democrats') sides. I have seen them accuse each other of pretty near apocalyptic offenses. And I wanted to write a partially-irritated post about how I don't get it. But I think my intended tone may have made light of some people's very real concerns and what they perceive as righteous anger. So, in all seriousness, I have to say, the viciousness, the hatred, I don't get it.

I realize that my cluelessness may be a result of my studied indifference towards the race once it began to get so ugly. But it is also a result of who I am—southern, black, woman, historian. I am the daughter of people who remember when their parents couldn’t vote. I am the granddaughter of a woman who so cherished finally getting the franchise that she voted up until the end of her life. That may seem insignificant, but at some point, diabetes led to my grandmother having her legs amputated. The recreational center that was her polling place did not have access for disabled voters and one of my last memories of her is that she insisted that she be driven to the center and that people lift her wheelchair through the door.

I live in a region where “W, the President” bumper stickers usually exist side by side with confederate flag stickers and majority white/white-only “Christian” school stickers. I have studied about the Southern strategy and still see it in force here—you wouldn’t believe (well, you might) the code words and innuendos used to appeal to Republicans. When I lived in Texas, I remember an incident where a black woman ran for some office as a Republican. Her slogan? “She’s one of us.”

My impression of the Republican Party and what it’s all about is shaped by those things. That’s part of the reason why I don’t believe the world will end if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. And I don’t believe the world will end if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

I don’t think an Obama candidacy equals the end of racism in this country. Neither do I think it will usher in the Most. Sexist. Administration. Ever. Similarly, I don’t think a H. Clinton candidacy means the days of entrenched misogyny are over. Neither do I think it will mean “gender has trumped race.”

So when I read that if Sen. Obama is denied the nomination, African Americans may just not vote anymore, I think, surely, given our history, that is not true. And when I read that if Sen. Clinton is denied the denomination, millions of working class whites and (white) feminists will flock to the Republicans, I think, surely, that is not true. In the end, even if I feel a grave injustice has been done by the Democratic Party in choosing, I won’t not vote. And I will not vote for the Republican Party that is so repugnant to me. The more I think about it, I might defy my past practices and vote for a third party candidate. Or, I might decide that, whoever was my preference, either Democratic candidate is better, in my opinion, than John McCain. But please trust, I will exercise my right to vote. I don’t think staying home is the answer. And I don’t think that feminists and working class people voting for a party known for its anti-feminist, race-baiting, let’s-treat-corporations-like-they’re-people-and-treat-working-class-people-like-they’re-shit stance is the answer, either.

The saddest thing? Before this primary season, I think many of us thought of both of them as good, accomplished, typically-on-the-right-side-of-an-issue Democrats. Why has that been lost?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on the Stemilt Cherry Pickers

Background here.

I just received this via e-mail:
Help Stemilt Cherry workers get food, housing and justice.

Late Friday we told you about the situation in Shafter CA, where more than one hundred cherry pickers were evicted after talking to news media about their working and living conditions. Today we want to ask you for financial help so we can continue to aid these farm workers and fight the company responsible for this travesty, Stemilt Growers Company--which boasts of being the largest shipper of fresh-market sweet cherries in the world.
If you can and have the desire, please donate.

Instilling Fear in Poultry Processing Workers

It's one of the most effective tools poultry processors have used over the past 6 decades or so to keep workers "docile," willing to accept less, afraid to ask for more. One such scenario is playing out with the Pilgrim's Pride Plant in El Dorado, Arkansas right now. It seems a textbook case. How it's unfolding from my perspective:

Step One: While suffering from the closure of seven sites, realize that the silver lining in this cloud might be newfound leverage to use over historically vulnerable black employees and newly vulnerable Latin@ employees who are afraid of losing their jobs.

Step Two: Further intimidate your immigrant employees, who's labor you rely upon heavily, by turning many of them into ICE.

Step Three: Go to your employees, tell them that their jobs are in danger because their work is substandard and that the plant might close... unless, of course, they improve immediately. Use phrases like,"There isn't much time" and "We have to see significant and immediate changes,"* to heighten anxiety and the sense of urgency. In simple terms, you tell them work harder, produce more, and you might keep your jobs--this, in an industry in which work speed is already inhumane.**

Step Four: Plan to have "discussions" with the United Food and Commercial Workers local, a local for which many employees express distrust and the sense that the union is on the side of the company.

Step Five: Hold a meeting at which you have employees sign a blank piece of paper that is to serve as a loyalty oath of some kind. Have supervisors walk around collecting the papers, while talking about faxing them to corporate headquarters. Leave employees to wonder what the ramifications are if their names are not on that paper. (Recently, employees of the plant told me that their supervisors asked them if they were dedicated to their jobs. If they were, they could indicate that by signing a blank piece of paper. Some employees refused, uncomfortable with placing their signature on a page with nothing else.)

Step Six: Cut an hour of the work day, an ominous sign.

Step Seven: And now that other plants have been closed, employees have been arrested, and hours have been cut, have the union present the first set of results of the "discussions" to your worried workforce (Keep in mind that the Union and the plant only recently negotiated a new agreement):
  1. Elimination of paid rest periods. Employees currently have two 10-minute and one 45-minute break, for which they are paid. They are being asked to agree to two 30-minute non-paid rest periods.
  2. Holiday Pay. Employees currently are paid double-time if they work on a holiday. They are being asked to accept time-and-a-half instead.
  3. Insurance Costs. Currently, Employee insurance contribution is 20 percent of total cost. On 1 January 2009, that would go up to 25 percent.
And of course, once they refused to accept these terms, they were warned over and over that the alternative was no job at all. I talked to my mom about it and she's sick of the worry and fear. Tonight she told me she wished, "if they're going to close it, they'd just close it, or stop talking about it!" ***
__________________________________________
*There was a much more detailed article in the Houston Chronicle but it's no longer available. I even searched the archives. I'd saved a copy to MS Word, but dang, I wish it still existed.
**Plus, the onus is upon the employees--if the plant closes it becomes primarily "their fault" for not working harder, instead of the result of all the other factors (feed and fuel costs) that Pilgrim's Pride cites.
***I recognize that times are difficult right now, but you have to understand my skepticism as someone who's watched family members work in this plant for over two decades and has heard the threat of closure over and over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Really?

Coti and Deuce

My friend Coti works as a correctional officer. She has some... interesting co-workers. She called me the other night, mid-shift, to tell me about one guy and to let me hear him talk.

This particular co-worker decided to take it upon himself to explain to her how this country's major problems are caused by "homosexuals taking over the world." He tried to cite biblical evidence and opined at length about how being gay is wrong and immoral.

Now, Coti is a lesbian, a self-identified "stud," so I was pissed that the co-worker would even approach her with that bullshit.* But she is rather soft-spoken, so she listened to his lecture with an admirable level of patience.

She is also wickedly sarcastic. And so, when he was done, she had him reiterate his definition of immoral that was supposedly rooted in biblical text.

Then she asked him, "Aren't you living with a married woman?"

After a momentary loss of words, he tried to explain why his situation, of course, was justifiable.

But I never cease to be amazed at people's nerve, hypocrisy, and interpretive skills.
___________________________________
*Which is not to say, as I re-read this, that I wouldn't have been pissed had he approached anyone else with this, but that it seemed to me to be a sort of attack upon her.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mama's Day!!

To all the mommies, grandmommies, and taking-care-of-kids-like-you're-mommies!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One hundred plus farm workers evicted following news coverage

Via Prof BW.

From the United Farm Workers site:

Yesterday more than 100 migrant farm workers were living in an orchard. Tonight they have no place to go.
Why, you ask? These Washington state cherry pickers came to Shafter, California after being told by company representatives to come to Califronia for a job in the cherries. Consequently workers and their families traveled from Washington State to work at the Kyle Mathison Orchards. Kyle Mathison is part of the Wenatchee, Washington based Stemilt Growers Company--which, according to its web site, is the largest shipper of fresh-market sweet cherries in the world.
When these farm workers reached California, things were not as expected. A number of the workers were hired, but other workers were told to just wait and see if jobs were available.
[snip]
While in Washington, some of the workers were informed that housing would be available to them when they got to California. However, when they got here there was no housing. They had no choice but to sleep in the fields. Some stayed in tents, others in cars and still others slept on cardboard or simply the dirt.
[snip]
When workers went public about being left out in the cold, things only got worse. Last night Bakersfield area television stations showed the workers' bleak situation. Today, Stemilt company representatives' called the sheriffs to have the 100 plus workers and their property evicted from the orchard.
There is a message template at the UFW site.

I Know I'm Cynical But...

...when I heard Michelle Duggar was pregnant with her 18th, I thought, "Mmm, if that was a woman of color pregnant for the 15th time, I think the media coverage would be a little different." So I asked my mom and my sister for their input and we are sitting around thinking what might be different.

I don't think there'd be a website for her on the Discovery Channel site.

I don't think people would want to hear about her "excitement and anticipation." I think we'd hear more words like "overburdened taxpayers" and "expenses" and "irresponsible."

From my sister: They wouldn't receive any widespread financial or physical help with maintaining home and family.

From my mother: They'd be saying she needed her tubes tied or a hysterectomy.

My sister brought up the difference in the public reception of the (white) McCaughey septuplets and the (black) Thompson sextuplets.

My mom thinks it unfair to the older children, especially the girls.

While my mom was talking, she shared something her mother-in-law had told her long ago. My grandmother told her to be careful of tubal ligations and hysterectomies. According to my mom, her words were something like, "All these tube tyings and hysterectomies they making black women have aren't really needed. They trying to stop us from having babies, but letting white women have as many as they want."

And I am floored. Because my grandmother, a long time ago, understood and articulated why reproductive rights aren't just about not having babies or choosing when you do have them, but enjoying the right to have them at all.

OK, I Have to Start Thinking about It

One of the other things that former Arkansas State Representative Joyce Elliott said that resonated with me was that we need to stop putting down politics and our political system. Paraphrasing Dale Bumpers, she noted that while the system was flawed, it's all we have right now. She encouraged us to work towards change from the inside.

I am guilty of simultaneously expressing scorn for the infighting within the Democratic party and symbolically washing my hands of it, as if I'm far above the mudslinging that has gone on.

In truth, it has worn me out. But I need to start thinking about it.

Like my parents, I am a die-hard Democratic voter. In fact, whenever I've voted for multiple elected positions and the only candidate for some position or other has been a Republican, I did not vote. There is a part of me that has never allowed me to vote for a Republican, for what that party stands for in its current manifestation.

And I'm not the type of person who can vote to prove a point in the sense of voting for a third party candidate to express my disgust with the "big" parties. To me, that feels like throwing my vote away. I know it's wrong. I know we need more than two viable parties, but given our system, that's just how I feel. Besides, when I vote for a Democrat, I'm not just choosing the lesser of two evils. I truly do wish for change, for politicians that care about average people and not just corporations and/or the super-wealthy.

That said, I do not think the Democratic Party is a worry free haven for me. For one thing, I realize that I'm much further left than many Democrats. One reason I have not been all engrossed by the presidential brouhaha is I am not just head-over-heels about either of the Democratic candidates. Both Senators Obama and Clinton are a little too centrist for me.

I have been horrified by how divisive this thing has gotten. And one thing that has been enlightening, but kind of heartbreaking for me is seeing the growing rift in feminism.
(How could I have forgotten to link Crenshaw and Ensler's "Feminist Ultimatums?" The rest of this post is definitely about how I'm viewing either/or feminists). As Shark-Fu noted:
Senator Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination has not produced a split in feminism. It just flushed away a lot of that tolerance bullshit and exposed a rift that’s been there since way back in the day.
[snip]
It is layered with issues of class, race, orientation and identity that all play a role in our goals and tactics. The reason it may seem new is because we haven’t had a happening that demanded an unavoidable examination of our values and our goals in some time.
A few weeks ago, I e-mailed some friends about a WaPo article in which a white feminist opined that black women who supported Barack Obama had "forgotten sexism." My response, of course, was my usual "Is she for real?" I wanted to explain that for some of us, sexism and racism can't be neatly separated, that I, for one, don't have a schedule that reads, "M-W-F, focus on 'the race'; T-Th, do your 'feminist' stuff; S-Su, other stuff--every third weekend off." Unnecessarily snarky I know, but, damn, see if you don't get tired of people trying to compartmentalize and dissect who you are.

But even worse than the demands to compartmentalize or prioritize, is the absolute disappearing of black women by some white feminists as they argue against an Obama candidacy. A little while ago, on Taylor Marsh's blog, I read a comment in which a woman wondered what the Democratic Party would do when Democratic women left the party if Obama was the nominee. Now, if I'm understanding correctly, 90% of black Democrats who've been voting support Obama. I'd hazard a guess that a significant portion of that 90% are women. And yet, we don't count as Democratic women?

And on the Reclusive Leftist, after a post in which Dr. Violet Socks explains why she will not vote for Obama, comments include:
36. What’s happening here is that the women of America— the regular voters — are putting their foot down.
Black women are not part of the women of America?
68.. It’s about whether or not we are OK with the Democratic party basically saying they don’t have to do look out for us. Women aren’t important the way blacks are.
You can be a woman or black, but not both?
If Obama is the nominee, Cynthia McKinney would be the ideal alternative choice. How can anyone label us racist if we vote for her?
A black woman becomes the vehicle by which you get to express your disapproval and earn your I'm-not-a-racist card?

Then there's the wider dismissal of black voters in general or, in a similar vein, as Pam Spaulding says, the casting of the black vote as "
a "problem" because it skews to Obama
." The beginning of it was not Sen. Clinton's observations of support for her among white people,"the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that," though that bothers me a whole lot. The feeling that I get from that is, so what that Obama has overwhelming black support? Our votes don't matter. So many comments on blogs reiterate this meme--the only support Obama gets is from black people and academics so it doesn't count. I'm too tired to get deeply into that, but I'm black and an academic, so my general feeling is, glad to know I pretty much don't matter to the party I always support.

And then there is that which remains largely unexamined by Sen. Clinton's supporters. I see lots of dissection of the "not good" reasons people vote for Obama: "Academics vote for Obama cuz he's elitist. Young people vote for him cuz he has rock star appeal. Black people vote for him cuz he's black." But for Sen. Clinton to stand flat-footed (as my grandmother would say) and claim, "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening," as if that statement is unproblematic... I respect Melissa's analysis:
What I am keenly interested in is Clinton's having either intentionally or unintentionally equated "hard-working Americans" with "white Americans." Because, you know, on one hand, it's a cynical and ugly dog whistle to racists who equate brown-skinned people with laziness—and, on the other hand, it sounds exactly like a cynical and ugly dog whistle to racists who equate brown-skinned people with laziness. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't intend to imply that non-white Americans aren't hard-working, the effect is the same
I want some Hillary supporters to dissect some of the "not good" reasons people vote for her. You know, just begin a sentence with, "Some white people vote for Clinton cuz..." or "I'll vote for McCain if Obama is the nominee because..." and use your imagination.

There is something troubling about some white* feminists who support Hillary Clinton claiming the Democratic Party is acting as if the black vote is "too" important, a sort of not-so-soft whisper of, "Don't forget who really matters," both in terms of votes and the existence of the party, an invocation of power and privilege.

Because they envision this contest as one in which someone is going to be "thrown under the bus," I think they're making it pretty clear who that had better be.

_________________________________
Got some links from here and here.
*This is a little simplistic, since I don't think the rift occurs wholly along racial lines.

Friday, May 09, 2008

This Doesn't Feel Like Friday...

Ok, finals are done.

I'm almost done grading (if you don't count the one paper a student sent me via e-mail, today, three weeks late, with no explanation).

I bought a new laptop.

My replacement cell is on its way (finally).

My son and I had a pretty good day and my dad took him to tonight's baseball game (Hallelujah!).

And it's Friday and I'm alone!! Y'all know how I feel about a Friday evening, baby!

But...

I have a headache.

The lasagna that I cooked last night and warmed for lunch today has sent my GERD/indigestion/acid reflux/whatever into overdrive.

When I say that my son's father has aggravated me beyond the limits of my sanity (hence the headache), please believe me. I mean, to the point that he had to talk to me through his fiancee a few minutes ago, because hearing his voice one more time today would've have probably catapulted me into a miasma of actions-and-words-to-be-regretted-later. She sounded all calm and understanding which made me feel even worse about feeling like I could choke his ass. I like to be the together one, Ms. Cool-Calm-and-Collected!!!

Did I ever tell y'all about this episode of Little Bear that's almost my favorite one? (My favorite ones are the ones where he imagines he's gone to the moon and when he makes soup because while watching those, I realized he was the Little Bear that I'd had books about when I was a kid. Digression over).

In it, Little Bear is having a horrible day. I mean grumbly, mumbly, ball-your-fists-close-your-eyes-and-scream sort of horrible. And Mama Bear finally cuddles him and tells him (in more prosaic words) that the best antidote for a horrible, grumbly, mumbly day is a new one. So he goes to bed, the implication being that tomorrow will be better.

So, I am taking the Smirnoff Ice that has gotten deliciously slushy in the freezer.

And I am grabbing a torrid romance novel, academic bookpile be damned.

And I am going to work on a new day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

“On the surface it certainly does not look good..."

Speaking of my best friend, she just called to ask me if I had seen this video of the somewhat euphemestically titled "video of police apprehension" in which 3 suspects in a shooting are pulled from their car by five to six times as many* police and... well, you can imagine what happens next.

From Philly.com:
A police chase ended violently last night when cops pulled over a car in Hunting Park on North Second Street near Lippincott, after a shooting had been reported nearby. Fox29, hovering in a helicopter overhead, caught the confrontation on tape; it shows police officers stomping, kicking and beating the men from the car.
[snip]
Police took all three suspects to Temple University Hospital for treatment of their injuries. The nature and extent of their injuries is unknown at this time because the three suspects remain in custody and family members said they’ve been unable to see them.
I'ma have to agree with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey who said, “On the surface it certainly does not look good, regarding the amount of force that was used."
______________________________
*I counted that many at the end. It looks like somewhere between 10-15 may have participated in the actual "apprehension."

For My Girl...

One Sunday, when I was four, I noticed a girl in church that I knew from school. We smiled at each other all during service, but my shy self wouldn't approach her. The next day, in our half-day kindergarten class, I saw her again, but didn't say anything. Finally, at recess, we were both on the side of the playground. We looked at each other.

Without saying a word, we grabbed hands and skipped out onto the playground. Now, she probably went off to conquer the monkey bars or jungle gym while I opted to stay close to the ground.

But those differences have worked for us for almost 29 years.

Happy Birthday, V/Mrs. O, my BFFFFFFFFF! I love, love. love you.

I Need Budgets (#26)

For money, yes. But I'm about to believe I'm a lost cause.

But mostly, for time. Kiki Be has me thinking...

I always feel harried and rushed and tired.

But I'm this super procrastinator who's best friend is a daytime nap.

So the questions for the ages are: What the hell do I do that makes me so tired? Why am I soooooooo sleepy? For real (and this is, admittedly, an anomaly), I slept for like 4.5 hours today.

And I'm ready to go back to bed now. I need to make more productive use of my time!

How am I ever going to be a mama, revise a manuscript, teach, be active in my community, etc., when 93.66% of the time, I'm longing for a nap?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

On Double Standards and Women Paying for Men's Actions

My sister's divorce was not a pleasant one.* Not that I think many of them are. But she expected hers to be a lot less acrimonious. They'd been living apart for some time--she'd lived with me in Texas for three years and he'd had a number of girlfriends, one of the reasons for their split. And yet, when she decided she wanted to be with someone else, all hell broke loose.

As an aside, here's another bit of the folk knowledge I spoke about a few days ago. Practically since I've been old enough to date, I've been told repeatedly that guys "can't take what they dish out." The meaning was based on the experiences of women who, after being repeatedly cheated on by men, decided to "step out," as my mom would say, and have an affair of their own or leave their relationships.

The reactions of their significant others were usually violent. The men's pride had been damaged and the women had challenged the double standard that excused men's cheating and excoriated women for their's. Thus, though people may have murmured at the violence, the larger noise was that, well, it was sort of understandable because she brought it on herself. I promise you that I am not exaggerating when I say that I can't count the number of times that I've heard, from other women, "Girl, she asked for that ass-whooping."

I learned pretty quickly that women's bodies around here were to be treated much like any other property: men "bought" them at the price of commitment, men had the right to do with that property pretty much anything they wanted, and if anyone else "trespassed" upon that property, he could be dealt with violently.

Still, I am horrified by this case that Marcella posted about:
Testimony starts today in the trial of an Arlington woman accused of causing the death of her lover at the hands of her husband by falsely claiming she was being raped.

In a case that has drawn national attention, Tracy Roberson, 37, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for her role in the 2006 shooting death of Devin LaSalle. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. She is also eligible for probation.

Her husband, Darrell Roberson, fired the fatal shots but is not facing any charges after a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict him.

Tarrant County prosecutor Sean Colston said Mrs. Roberson's false rape claim led to Mr. Lasalle's death. "The actions of Tracy Roberson were absolutely reckless. Tracy Roberson got Devin LaSalle killed," he said Tuesday.

Defense attorney Jill Davis admitted her client was having an affair and yelled rape because she feared her husband would kill her too.

"He immediately jumps out of his SUV and starts firing. He's aiming to shoot anyone because he's angry and he's jealous," she said. "She could have been hit. Darrell didn't care who got hit."

For those who would argue that the husband was "protecting" his wife, remember that he'd pulled the gun before anyone told him anything. As Marcella said, "With a gun pointed at her, Mrs. Roberson made her statement under extreme duress and not in cold blood."

The defense attorney is right. He was angry and jealous. And the grand jury was willing to give him a pass because those feelings are understandable for a man when he feels his property has been violated.

But Mrs. Roberson has to pay. Because her actions were reckless. That action, according to the prosecutor and the grand jury, was the false rape claim.

The indictment claims she knew, or should have known, that her rape claim could have deadly consequences.
I don't buy that. This woman lied to protect her self from an angry, jealous man with a gun. We know what her real reckless action was, even if the indictment doesn't state it.

Having an affair. Letting someone else touch what her husband "owned."

In my sister's case, when we moved back to Louisiana, her divorce had been filed but was not final. And so, when she started dating someone else, her estranged husband reacted badly. Lots of threats. Some physical altercations. Lots of "my son better not be around him." It all culminated in November 2007, when my sister was sitting in her car at a local store. Her fiance was in the store getting her a pickle and when he came back to the car, her ex approached them and began trying to open the doors. He got my sister's open and hit her. And Sis, being sis, got out and knocked him in the head with her boot before her fiance made it around the car to her side to pull the ex off. The cops were across the street. In the end, they all received simple battery charges.

My sister is righteously angry for at least two reasons.

1) After a lifetime of never being in trouble, she caught a charge behind someone hitting her first.

2) Can you believe one of the stories circulating around town implied that my sister was wrong for having moved on with her life and having the nerve to "flaunt" her new relationship in the face of a man who had been a habitual cheater?

I can only talk about my small, rural community in North Louisiana--I do not mean to stereotype anyone else's, one reason that it's taking me forever to write this post. Here, men's cheating is excused as "normal," as something that "they all do," so that the offense becomes not that they do it but how they do it. There's a certain way to cheat that maintains the facade of public respect towards the wife/significant other. I can't help thinking of music that displays this mentality. Some of Jay-Z's lyrics in 03 Bonnie and Clyde **:
The problem is, you dudes treat the one that you lovin
with the same respect that you treat the one that you humpin
Now they 'bout nothin - if ever you mad about somethin
It won't be that; oh no it won't be that
I don't be at, places where we comfy at
With no be-atch; oh no you won't see that
So basically, men try not to be seen with "the one that they humpin" in public. In return, this "other woman" is supposed to know "her place." And the wife/significant other is supposed to take solace in that.

Today, I've been thinking that it is not only men's crimes of anger and jealousy for which women have to pay. I read on Shakesville that Deborah Jean Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam had committed suicide (both conveniently for her former clientele and suspiciously). One of the commenters posted this:
In June 2007, one of Palfrey's former escorts, University of Maryland professor Brandy Britton, committed suicide after being arrested. At the time, Palfrey said of Britton:

"This is a woman who was divorced, who was trying to raise two, ah, high-school children, college-age children," Palfrey said. "Great job title, the great position, all the respect in the world, but she wasn't making enough money. So she decided to do a little moonlighting."

Palfrey added, "And she was publicly outed, is a good way to put it, she was absolutely humiliated. Ah, she couldn't take the humiliation. Her whole life was destroyed. And she, she just, ah, ultimately committed suicide."
Why were her reputation and name not worth protecting as vigorously as so many little black books? Why was she "disgraced?" Hell, in Louisiana people rallied around David Vitter's hypocritical ass. They spoke of forgiveness and "private matters." Yet, Brandy Britton was outed very publicly, while so many men will walk away potentially, their secrets preserved at the cost of Britton's and Palfry's lives.
______________________________
*My sister's story is shared with her permission.
**I think I'm going to start compiling a list of popular songs that explicitly support this sentiment.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...