Thursday, July 31, 2008

CNN and the Framing of Luis Ramirez's Murder

H/T my cousin Trin and Sylvia for her thoughts tweeted via twitter. Emphasis mine, throughout this post.

25-year-old Luis Ramirez, a young man from Guanajuato, Mexico, was killed July 14 by a group of white teens in Shenandoah, PA. CNN has a write up of the events and the aftermath. I do not mean any disrespect towards Mr. Ramirez or his family, but I want to shift focus for a moment.

I cannot believe how the article at CNN.com, by Emanuella Grinberg, is written.

I just refreshed the page to see if someone had checked the rampant bias/idiocy/unbelievableness. No. the second line of the article reads:
Blows had struck the 25-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant with such force that they left a clotted, bruised impression of Jesus Christ on the skin of his chest from the religious medal he wore.
Way to be passive, Ms. Grinberg. Blows didn't just strike of their own accord. Someone, some people, beat this young man.

And he was just that, a young man, a human being. Why does his citizenship status matter?

The story highlights at the top of the page included:
4 teens, all good students and athletes, charged with hate crime
That the accused were athletic and smart does not any way mitigate the severity of these charges or their actions or the fact that Luis Ramirez is dead.

Ramirez's status as an undocumented immigrant is brought up again a couple of paragraphs later. And then there is this gem, presented without comment from Ms. Grinberg
Defense attorneys for two of the teens say Ramirez responded to the name-calling with his own insults, which escalated the confrontation into a fight that got out of hand.
The man had the gall to respond and thus caused his own death?

Then we have the typical, "This had nothing to do with race," argument.
Residents question whether the attack was racially motivated or just an alcohol-fueled confrontation among kids.
Mm-hmm. They question despite the fact that the smart athletic teens told the girl, whom Ramirez was accompanying:
Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here.
Despite the fact that these same angels used racial slurs.

Despite the fact that a witness heard them yell:
You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him.
Despite the fact that some residents acknowledge that
[V]iolence has been brewing between the races for some time.
I'm not sure what, exactly, would erase any questions.

Further evidence that the attack wasn't racially motivated? These kids grew up in a historically diverse area!
While Schuylkill County is 96 percent white, Shenandoah has taken pride in its ethnic diversity. European immigrants came to work anthracite mines in the late 19th century. Pizza joints, German bakeries and Polish grocers on Main Street serve as reminders of that time.
Wherein diversity means... gradations of whiteness, I guess?


The article then lays out exactly how the attorneys plan to continue their victim-blaming and tarnishing of Luis Ramirez's name.
Frederick Fanelli, who represents [Brandon] Piekarsky [one of the accused]... told CNN he plans to investigate whether Ramirez has a criminal background. He also questions why the engaged father of three was walking on the street with the girl, and the nature of their relationship. Ramirez's fiancee says he was walking her younger sister home.

A lawyer for [Colin] Walsh said he is equally skeptical about the ethnic intimidation charge. "They called each other names. The victim was calling them obscenities, vulgar names, and they said things back to him that would hurt him," Roger Laguna said. "It just means it was a foul-mouthed argument, not ethnic intimidation."
Yes, because 1) If he was a criminal, why then the attack is somehow justifiable and 2) in any interracial argument, people must logically hurl racial epithets at each other.

Angelic-ness arises again shortly thereafter:
"You would be proud to have any of these kids in your classroom, and any of them as your children," said Fanelli, Piekarsky's lawyer. "To this point in their lives, they have done everything right."

Besides his academic achievement, Piekarsky worked part-time at Sears and made the varsity football team as a sophomore. He is a National Honors student.

His mother postponed her wedding to a Shenandoah police officer because of the incident.

[snip]

Donchak was the team's quarterback last year and graduated in May. He planned to attend Bloomsburg University in the fall. He is out on bail.
Postponed marriage, postponed college. That damned illegal immigrant went out and got himself killed and disrupted everyone's perfect lives! There's even a link to Colin Walsh's father talking about his family's nightmare. I don't doubt that this is devastating for the Walsh family, but if we shift focus to Mr. Ramirez's loved ones...

I don't meant to be unnecessarily flippant. I am too angry about this. Shame on MS. Grinberg and CNN for not questioning the erroneous assumption that
white children, who live in the same racially coded and stratified society as children of color, do not construct notions of race and hierarchy, cannot knowingly use symbols and language of racism
Shame on them for not challenging the idea that Luis Ramirez's life was somehow worth less, that he deserved less than humane treatment, because of his immigration status.

Fast Food Moratorium

I’m no great fan of fast food. My personal tastes lie elsewhere. I’ve done the obligatory reading of Fast Food Nation. I think it’s repulsive that so many food ads target kids. I also know the hell that McDonald’s Chicken McNugget and subsequent “further processed” items have wrought for poultry processing workers—think I’m kidding? Read Steve Striffler’s Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food.

But something about this is not quite reassuring:
City officials are putting South Los Angeles on a diet. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in an impoverished swath of the city with a proliferation of such eateries and above-average rates of obesity.
Maybe it’s the reporters “cute” use of the word diet, when we all know how well those don’t work.

My real complaint is that banning fast food restaurants seems just to skim the surface of this issue. How will the city bring more healthful alternatives to poor communities? More importantly, how will people in South L.A. afford it? Closing fast food restaurants does nothing to address the underlying issue of poverty. Residents will still have limited resources for buying food, as one man attests:
South Los Angeles resident Curtis English acknowledged that fast food is loaded with calories and cholesterol. But since he's unemployed and does not have a car, it serves as a cheap, convenient staple for him.

On Monday, he ate breakfast and lunch -- a sausage burrito and double cheeseburger, respectively -- at a McDonald's a few blocks from home for just $2.39.
Emphasis mine. With less money to spend on food, people typically by cheaper foods. Inexpensive foods are packed with fat and sugar, the cheapest additives, Striffler argues, to give them taste.

Relatedly, how will declaring a moratorium on fast food restaurants help people who can’t afford to eat out anywhere? Within this group, if we focus on the subset who receive food stamps—and I say subset because many, many people who qualify for food stamps don't receive any--and get most of their foods from local stores, a moratorium will not bring more grocery stores with better fresh food offerings to the area. Lack of access to such stores is a problem in South L.A.:
South Los Angeles lacks grocery stores, fresh produce markets and full-service restaurants with wait staff and food prepared to order.
South Los Angeles only has four major grocery stores, as compared to 13 in West Los Angeles
The emphasis on fast food obscures at least one other detail, as well. Fast food restaurants, defined “as those that do not offer table service and provide a limited menu of pre-prepared or quickly heated food in disposable wrapping,” aren’t exactly unique in their less-than-healthful alternatives. The menus at so-called “casual dining” and upscale restaurants can be daunting.

In our e-mail discussion of the article, Liss noted that the moratorium brings up employment issues. Fast food restaurants offer entry-level jobs to unskilled workers. I do not claim they are pleasant or particularly fulfilling jobs, but that they are often needed. My co-blogger, mrs. o, helped her mother care for a family of five by working at McDonald’s. And for a few people, it offers some upward mobility through management jobs.

Finally, this sentence aggravated me:
The moratorium, which can be extended up to a year, only affects standalone restaurants, not eateries located in malls or strip shopping centers.
I’m assuming that it’s not poor people who are spending lots of money shopping; I wonder why the city exempts malls. It gives me a whole, “Let’s regulate the poor,” feeling.

Or, more specifically, “Let’s regulate the brown and black poor.” Speaking in terms of substances that are legal, we have constructed the process of taking things into our body as highly personal, a matter of free choice. The limitations that the government places on our alcohol consumption or where we smoke, for example, are primarily to protect the safety and well-being of other people. Americans, as the myth goes, are individualists who would not take much more governmental interference with such intimate choices.

Yet, the symbol of that rugged American individual who gets to choose and to benefit from free will has, by default, been white and male. I think it is no coincidence that officials in South L.A., which is overwhelmingly Latin@ and black, decided to enact this moratorium. I think one very valid question is would it be suggested or implemented in poor area composed of primarily white residents? In a country that has typically held the choices and bodies of white men in highest regard? A healthy dose of skepticism is absolutely required when the government claims to act in the best interest of the health and welfare of people of color.

In the same vein, we need to examine other motivations behind the ban. As South L.A. is an impoverished area, many of the residents are probably eligible for Medicaid and Medicare programs. According to one 2005 article, these two programs paid for half of all health-care costs attributed to obesity (quite the blanket category and one of which I am particularly wary given my own experiences with doctors who fault patients' weight for a wide range of problems).* Is this moratorium, then, about a nanny state protecting people from themselves, as the link Petulant posted earlier suggests, or is it like other governmental limitations protecting the (economic) well-being of others?

Either way it is framed is problematic. Either people who are black and brown, poor and fat, cannot be entrusted to care for themselves--a framing that ignores the very real lack of choice mentioned earlier and other obstacles to quality health and health care. Or, their fat, black and brown bodies represent a threat to taxpayers' wallets--and "taxpayers," when we talk about funding of social programs like Medicaid and Medicare, are constructed as white and non-poor.
_______________________________________
*Eric A. Finkelstein, Christopher J. Ruhm, Katherine M. Kosa, “Economic Causes and Consequences of Obesity,” Annual Review of Public Health, 26, (April 2005): 239-257. Can't find this article for free online, but Dr. Michelle Mello mentions the statistic here.

Julie Tagged Me...

For a sort of Alphabet Meme. My answers are below.

Warning-Punctuation is random at best!

A. Attached or Single? Single

B. Best Friend? my co-bloggers, my sister, Trin

C. Cake or Pie? Currently in love with my own red velvet cake. The second time was even better--I use more cocoa powder than that recipe calls for, though.

D. Day of Choice? Friday

E. Essential Item? lip gloss or chapstick

F. Favorite Color? brown

G. Gummy Bears or Worms? worms

H. Home town? Smalltown, LA

I. Favorite Indulgence? chocolate and coca-cola which I need to give up as I suffer from recurrent kidney/uti infections

J. January or July? I hate being extremely cold or hot, so I'm going to go with October :-p

K. Kids? One is a-plenty, thanks

L. Life isn't complete without? family, friends, books, and the internet

M. Marriage date? around the 33rd of Neveruary. Seriously, no plans or aspirations in that area, though my mom assures me that will change.

N. Number of Brothers and Sisters? 1 older brother, 1 younger sister

O. Oranges or Apples? Oranges.

P. Phobias? Snakes (Ophidiophobia). It's ridiculous how afraid I am of them. Can't move, crying afraid if I see one slithering somewhere. Oh my god, slither just sounds slithery.

Q. Quotes? "I'm really proud that if one of y'all goes to jail, all of y'all are going. That's how it should be." My dad, speaking of me, my sis, mrs. o, my cousins trin, tesha, and janna, and our friend, kendra. Yes, it is that serious. More standard? Franklin D. Roosevelt, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

R. Reasons to Smile? my son, my nieces, nephews, godchildren and kin-children. they are something

S. Season of Choice? Autumn

T. Tag 5 People - KikiBe, Quinn, Alex, Ragey, Kim and mrs. o. (Ok, I cheated)

U. Unknown Fact About Me? Um, it shall remain unknown!.

V. Vegetable? Potato.

W. Worst Habit? Probably unnecessary worrying - or shopping! (Julie's answer fits me perfectly)

X. X-Ray or Ultrasound? X-Ray. I've found them to seem, at least, less invasive

Z. Zodiac Sign? Sagittarius

Z. Which Zoo Animal is your Favorite? Stop asking silly questions! There are SNAKES at the zoo!! And it's hot. (But if I had to go, elephants (of course :-) and giraffes.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Can't Figure Out Why...


...my auntie calls me her "Happy Baby." That girl is crazy.

Puzzled (but cheerful),

Nehma


If These *&%$#@ Teeth Don't Hurry Up!


I'm going to eat my fist whole.

Signed,

Deuce

That Is Not Back-in-the-Day

Yesterday, my son paused a movie mid-viewing and called for me to "come see." He was watching The Sandlot, and one of the boys had on a Converse All-Stars t-shirt.

"And all the kids are wearing Chucks, Mama," he yelled at me when I'd gone back into the kitchen. He loves Chuck Taylors, btw.

"Really? It must be set back in the day?"*

Pause (to look at the Info screen, I realized later), then, "Yes, ma'am. Back in 1993."

I froze, muttered to myself, "1993 is not back in the day."

But he continued, "Did people like Chucks even way back then, too, Mama?"

This is one of those moments in a mother's life when you have to decide, do you argue the point to make yourself seem young (which your child is not going to believe anyway) or do you concede graciously?

I went with concession: "Yes, baby, even back then."

But, y'all, is 1993 really back in the day?
___________________________________________________
*The movie is set in 1962.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bathroom Break

Out of all the things no one told me before I entered the hallowed halls of the mommy-hood, the most significant omission was about the bathroom.

How it would become sacred space.

Since I've been a mother, I've noticed that there is no such thing as bathroom privacy. I will be sitting, unsuspectingly, and my son will burst in with questions. Then my nephew will have to wash his hands or tell me something or just be in there with me. Other kin-children will stick their heads in to voice their requests.

When I am in the tub, they wander in to use the bathroom--though there is a half-bath here, also. Every question, every concern becomes urgent when mama is in the bathroom. They need to know now!

Conversely, the bathroom with locked door has become a business and social space. Where do I take important calls? Where did I proofread my last conference paper?

Yep, you guessed it.

My sister and I sequester ourselves there to talk and catch up. The other day, I was in the tub and she sat on the toilet to tell me what had been going on in her life. The bathroom has become her refuge, as well. With a new baby, a sorta-jealous seven-year-old, and a talkative fiance, she literally escapes to the bathroom for a break--though her fiance, like many significant others, will follow her in there sometimes, too.

She's an avid reader who now gets most of her reading done in the bathroom. I've been known to finish a novel or two in there myself.

As we sat there, one boy or the other began to knock on the door.

"Go away!" she yelled, but stood up to go see what they wanted.

I stopped her, said something to the effect of "We should ban them when we're in here."

"Girl, please," she said, "I remember getting in the tub with mama."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Business as Usual

I live in a rural, southern town that was dominated by a black-white racial binary for most of its 100+ years existence. There were a few black business owners when I was young--barbers and stylists, mostly. And there were some middle class blacks who'd made money in the timber industry, as educators, and in other fields, who owned and rented houses or made their way on the police jury and school board, and were considered the "prominent" black citizens.

But most of the storeowners were white. I grew up patronizing establishments whose owners were known to be racist, people who used racial slurs freely, who routinely disparaged people of color, who were rumored to belong to the Klan, who eyed you coldly as you walked around their stores. Some would hire African-Americans in the stores--young boys as bag boys and a few black girls and women as cashiers.

Other fields were similary white--banking and medicine (CNAs, cafeteria workers, and janitors were black, of course), in particular.

The saddest part is that many of us learned to accept it and to think, in a sense, that white ownership and dominance in certain occupations was the way it had to be. Three examples stick out to me right now.

1. When each bank hired one black teller and stuck to that quota until they merged a few years ago, that was just the way it was.

2. The owners of the only store that stays open after 10 p.m. are southeast Asian. While the relationship between the owners and primarily-black customers seems mutually antagonistic, I have seen black customers treat them in a way I've never seen white store owners treated--yelling at the store owners and making threats, for example. I've heard black customers disdainfully call them "A-rabs" and "Julios."

3. The bank has finally hired it's first Latino teller, and he has had to deal with backlash from black and white customers who question his hiring or who initially didn't want to be helped by him.

But, I keep thinking, it's a different day. Slowly, as surely as time progresses, things will here, too.

Not very quickly, however. The teller that I mentioned just passed his citizenship test and his co-workers at the bank held a celebration for him. The local dentist stopped in and offered his enthusiastic approval.

"I wish they'd all do that," he said. And if that isn't stomach-turning enough, turns out that, some time ago, he invited the bank president to a meeting of the local business club.

He wanted to present the case for why the ATMs should be English-only.

He is the only practicing dentist in a town with a majority black population and a growing Latin@ population.

It just makes me sad that two or three decades from now, some resident of my town will still be able to begin a story with, "I grew up patronizing establishments whose owners were known to be racist..."*
____________________________________________
*I know this is not distinctive to my town or the South; it just bothers me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Half-Assed "Solutions" for Being Black in America

I don't know, guys, after watching parts and pieces of CNN's Black in America: What's Wrong With The Black Woman and Family last night, I was worried.

I mean, I'm single, educated, and a mother. I felt practically doomed.

But! CNN has the solution for the problem I didn't even know I was: marriage. Yep.

See, marrying would mean that I wouldn't be a single mom anymore. And, it would magically mean no more poverty for single moms! Never mind that

1) Many single moms (like me) have arrangements that work for us and our children. I am single because I'm not married, but I'm not raising my child alone.
2) We refuse to adequately address pay equity and the devaluation of women's work which contribute to the impoverishment of women and children.
3) We've stigmatized and rendered thoroughly inadequate any system of social provision.
4) Marrying a guy who does not work or who works in low-wage labor won't solve much of anything.
5) What about single moms who don't want to marry? Is that not a valid option when you're poor?
6) What about single moms who don't want a heterosexual marriage because they're lesbian or bisexual?

Marrying would also solve my over-educated-but-lonely dilemma. This time, I'd have to cast my net wider, consider interracial marriage. Actually, lots of black women already suggest that, especially on some blogs, but that's not a panacea, either. I am especially troubled by the emphasis on white men--not because of any problem I have with white men and black women dating and marrying, but because the focus of some women seems not to be questioning, challenging, erasing white men's privilege but securing for themselves and their children the benefits of it.

I swear on one blog I read a story, the moral of which was, see, marrying a white man can get your biracial children into private schools, etc, when other children of color can't. And I thought to myself, "Alice, how do we get out of this hole?" Much like marriage in general, marrying a non-black man won't fix everything, either.

I just felt like the special could've done more--if it was over a year in the making, especially--than re-hash what always gets hashed. There are many black women who have significantly different experiences and lives from those portrayed.

I'm much too afraid to watch the one on black men. I'm sure I'd want to crawl under something and die afterwards.

For an analysis from a different angle that doesn't have ME, ME, ME at the center, see Renee's post.

Excessive Force

**H/T mrs. o and my cousin, Trin**

I will say, flat out, that I don't know how tasers work, how well they subdue people, how long the effect lasts. Still I think tasing someone nine times, the first six times in a three minute span, might be excessive.

Especially when the man tased died shortly thereafter. From the CNN article:

A police officer shocked a handcuffed Baron "Scooter" Pikes nine times with a Taser after arresting him on a cocaine charge.
...
Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish [Louisiana] coroner, told CNN the 21-year-old sawmill worker was jolted so many times by the 50,000-volt Taser that he might have been dead before the last two shocks were delivered.
I'm not sure what, exactly, Mr. Pikes could have done two merit two more blasts after he was probably dead. The arresting officer, Scott Nugent, maintains that Pikes fought him, but the coroner says that Pikes was already handcuffed when he tased. Nugent's supervisor and attorney offer the following explanations/excuses:
He done what he thought he was trained to do to bring that subject into custody. At some point, something happened with his body that caused him to go into cardiac arrest or whatever.
Yes, something mysteriously happened that caused Pikes's heart to fail, something that had nothing to do with the fact that the seventh shot, in particular, was directed at his chest.

Excuse number two:
His partner had just come back to the police department from triple bypass surgery and could not assist Officer Nugent.
Why in the world was Nugent's partner back out on patrol, then?

Further problematizing Nugent's claim that he was just doing his job is this:
In the year since Winnfield police received Tasers, officers have used them 14 times, according to police records -- with 12 of the instances involving black suspects. Ten of the 14 incidents involved Nugent
Emphasis mine.

Despite the fact that 12 out of 14 incidents involved black suspects, a police lieutenant interviewed for the story was quick to claim, "race 'isn't an issue at all'."

The Pikes family attorney noted that the family wants justice. That family has been troubled by injustice in Louisiana for sometime now. Baron Pikes was the first cousin of Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six defendants.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Water

My cousin and mrs. o felt sorry for me. They sent me links. Of course, I'm supposed to be leaving to run errands at 10:45 (it's 10:32) and I just found out I need a new power steering pump--just as I got paid from my summer job. I swear, every time I think I'm getting extra money...

Seriously, my cousin Trin sent me a link about a black community in Ohio called Coal Run. Coal Run residents were just awarded $11 million by a federal jury because they'd been discriminated against by city and county authorities.

Why?

Because
local authorities denied them public water service for decades out of racial discrimination.

Coal Run residents either paid to have wells dug, hauled water for cisterns or collected rain water so they could drink, cook and bathe.
$11 million doesn't seem much for the denial of water*, as that is a violation of international human rights policy. From the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights:
The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related disease and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements.

The right to water clearly falls within the category of guarantees essential for securing an adequate standard of living, particularly since it is one of the most fundamental conditions for survival.
Remember, the denial of access to water is a technique that has been used to sustain the often horrible conditions in which vulnerable groups of people live. And the people of Coal Run did not get public water service until 2003. Water lines were first laid in the area in 1956.
________________________________________
*On re-reading, I realize how callous this sounds, as if this situation is something that can ever be "made up for," especially with money.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brain Freeze

Yep, I pretty much got nothing.

I am working on my lectures. I'll still feel unprepared at first, though. I hate that about me!

Send me some ideas or something people.

In the meantime, QuakerDave has a link to an online petition supporting the firing of Michael Savage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oh, Yes, It's Definitely Monday

Saturday is typically laundry day here and on this past Saturday, we found out our dryer had died. While we wait for the repairman, laundry must be done.

So...

Today, Mama and I are going to the laundromat. It's every bit of 98 degrees here and feels over a hundred.

The laundromat is not air-conditioned and the constant run of the washers and dryers makes it infinitely hotter.

Not a pleasant Monday at all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Someone Is Three Months Old Today...

Happy sorta-birthday, Deuce. I wish y'all could hear mrs. o sitting here singing "Hey, Baby; I'm Tired, Baby" to him over and over. It's an original composition and, much like her best friend, singing is not her primary talent.

Sorry for the not-best-quality pics. I broke my digital camera and my cell phone cameras always get blurry. Anyway, you can still see the cuteness on these four.








Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Power of the Uniform

According to this HoodNews video (embedded below the fold), 21-year-old Shalonica Patton (sp?), while riding a bus, flipped off an officer of the Long Beach Police Department. Apparently, as her sister suggests, his manhood was offended (I'd argue that his concept of what/who you become because of that uniform, was offended). He pulled the bus over, allegedly "football-tackled" Patton and dragged her from the bus.



The police allegedly slammed Patton's face into the concrete, breaking four bones in her face. One officer held her down with his knee in her back, despite her repeated cries of "I can't breathe... I can't fucking breathe!"

Guess what? Shelonica Patton was held on charges of assaulting an officer.

What I noticed about the video (aside from the cops jerking a young woman off a public bus and injuring her for a damned finger sign) was how police brutality has led us to be always ready to assume the defense. Her mother stated over and over that her daughter was "good" and wasn't a "criminal." She'd never been in any trouble. She theorized that the police officers' actions were a manifestation of the
problem" LBPD has with young, black lesbians.

Claudie Jones, the reporter, argued that incidents like are why we should always be armed with video equipment, so that we can have indisputable evidence--as if because it is a given that police will brutalize marginalized people and communities.

What do you say when we are still at the point where we assume the defensive, have to proclaim our status as "good" and "like everyone else," otherwise mistreating us is okay?

What do you say when our words, our broken bones, our bruises, our lifeless bodies are not enough "evidence?"

Because Belittling Women Is So Much Fun!

I'm the resident celebrity news specialist around these parts, so of course I've been watching the news about last Thursday's episode of BET's 106 & Park. What has surprised me is the fact that so many other bloggers are calling it a fight.

Rocsi and Terrence did not fight. He belittled and mocked her, called her intelligence into question, and made jokes about her hygiene and her appearance. See for yourself.



Rocsi tried to keep calm, tried to laugh off his hatefulness (as so many of us have learned to do), but Terrence kept on until she finally left the stage. I had elle watch it with me and we were both wondering why no one intervened.

Now, this blogger claims it was all a publicity stunt. Even if that was the case, I still question, who thought this was okay or professional? What is acceptable about constantly ridiculing a woman?

I wasn't surprised when Terrence (and some bloggers) fell back on the "she's too sensitive" BS. Not surprised, but I was still angry.

Rocky Road II

Judge Robbie James denied the D'Arbonne Woods Charter School petition. Basically, the crux of the problem seems to be that, under Cleveland v. Union Parish,
any new school that is opened must reflect the racial makeup of the other schools within the school district. The racial makeup of Union Parish public schools is approximately 50 percent white and 50 percent black. (source)
DWCS received 225 applications. Eight were from students considered minorities.

Further, out of 27 faculty applications, only one was from a non-white teacher.
I don't think the denial of the petition is cause to celebrate. I'm glad that it seems Judge James saw through these almost-transparent efforts.

But that we're still addressing these issues over a half-century after Brown? And knowing that the DWCS board is probably going to appeal?

No cause for celebration at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fighting Violence against Black Women

Via Nora at The SAFER Blog:
The following letter was forwarded to me by a fellow student, and I then asked the author if I could share it on our blog. Thanks to Kendra Tappin, Stanford University, for asking others to join her in taking a stand to combat sexual violence against black women.
The text of the letter:

Dear Friends,

On Wednesday, June 25 a 20-year-old black woman was raped and robbed in her apartment in Philadelphia. A man forced himself into her apartment and once he was inside he called up two of his friends. After four hours the three men left. The victim was left to walk a mile alone to the closest police station where she reported the crime. The woman’s next-door neighbor has said that she saw the initial intrusion and heard the screaming but that she went to bed and did nothing. Other neighbors reported that they also heard the woman’s screams but that they did nothing.

Twenty-four hours before this incident a 48 year-old woman was raped just a few blocks away. She was lying in her bed when an unknown man intruded into her home. He raped her and he stabbed her in her neck. Police say that they do not believe the two crimes are related or that any of the same men are involved.

I have been silent on this issue, but this morning I woke to a note from a friend who reminded me of the powerful ways in which our silence condemns us.

I am writing you this letter because I know we must do the telling even if we feel afraid, anxious or alone. I am writing this letter to urge you to take up this issue as though you or your family member were the victim, and because I am troubled.

I am troubled because there seems to be an epidemic of violence, sexual violence, against black women. I am troubled because this country’s history is replete with instances of violence against black women, denigration of black women, sexual violation of black women and then turning a blind eye those crimes. Presently I am reminded of:


• The acquittal of R. Kelley

• Megan Williams, a 20 year old black woman in West Virginia who was kidnapped and gang raped by 6 other people, three of whom were women, forced to eat animal feces and insulted with racial slurs.

• A 35 year old black woman in Miami, Florida living in the Dunbar Village Housing Projects who was gang raped by up to 10 men. For three hours the men beat and raped her. They also forced her to perform oral sex on her 12 year-old son whom they also beat and doused with household chemicals. Several months after the crime 4 teenagers, aged14-18, were arrested and charged in relation to the crime.

• The New Jersey 4, black lesbians ages 19, 20, 20 and 24 who were sentenced to prison terms ranging between 3 to 11 years because they defended themselves against a physical and sexual assault from a man who held them down, choked them, spat on them, pulled out their hair from their scalps all because these women are lesbians.

• A conversation with a friend who was distressed because she had heard signs of domestic violence in her neighbor’s apartment but did not know what to do. She was anxious about calling the a hotline because she didn’t think they would offer real alternatives, and she was anxious about calling the police because she thought they’re presence would exacerbate the situation.

• My interaction with a visibly pregnant woman in East Palo Alto with whom l sat and spoke on the street corner after seeing her walking and sobbing, hearing her engaged in a public shouting match with her boyfriend, and noticing black and blue bruises on her arms.

I am troubled by these cases because they reflect, I think, what seems to be an epidemic of violence against black women, little action on the part of our communities and the police/judicial system to protect them, and few strategies for how we might respond.

I am troubled because of the rate at which crimes of sexual and physical violence against black women seem to be occurring. Thinking about it I wonder:

• Why are these crimes happening?

• Is it that black women are being sexually assaulted with more frequency or is it that more cases are being reported?

• Why is it that crimes of sexual violence against black women, particularly as they are happening in such high instances, do not spark movements in our communities like the one to free the Jena 6? See for instance see the case of the New Jersey 4.

• Do these cases just serve as flash and puff for the media but nothing else?

• Is it that black women are quite simply expendable?

• What are we to do?

• For instance, I am for abolishing the prison industry, but how do we hold our communities and these men accountable in the interim when we do not as yet have the means set in place to do so?

I am deeply frustrated, traumatized and pained by the continued disregard for black women’s lives. But a sister-friend has reminded me that it is imperative that we transform our rage and frustration into a vision for action and that it is the power of all of us together that makes us brave.

I am asking you all to be courageous.

I am asking you to read Audre Lorde’s essay “Need,”* a trenchant call to end violence against black women, and her poem ”A Litany for Survival,” a reminder that our silence will not save us. I have attached both pieces. Audre Lorde wrote “Need” in 1979 when 12 black women in Boston were killed in the space of 4 months, but the police and the media ignored the killings claiming that these women were mostly prostitutes. Audre Lorde’s essay and poem are tools for our liberation and creation of a space for community action and healing to protect black women. Her powerful essay provides creative ways that we can respond to gendered violence.

Please read these pieces and share them with at least one other person.

Please sit and talk with people in your community to strategize and brainstorm ways that you could respond to sexual violence or any other kind of violence in our communities.

Please create ways to end gendered and sexual violence against women.

With love, love and more love,

Kendra

Kendra Tappin, Stanford University

_______________________________________
*I remember, as I struggle with the same issues, Lex recommended this piece to me as well. And I highly recommend it to you.

From the mouth's of babes

I have a 5 year old and a 1 year old. Two boys. When I was pregnant with the baby, my oldest became pretty curious about how the baby would come out and of-course where it came from. I explained as much as I could to my then 3 year old in easy terms. He thought God put the baby in my belly, and [in his own thinking] was even convinced the baby would come out through my mouth. I remember teasing him on time and saying the baby would come out of my bellybutton and he looked at me like I was the dumbest person on the planet and said "No! You will go to the doctor and throw up the baby and the doctor will catch it!" Now, at 5, he's a little more sophisticated in his knowledge.

We've visited the Health Museum here and they had a display of the human body. You could walk through the brain and the ears, etc. They had a little movie for kids that showed how babies grow in the womb. So he now knows that babies come from eggs in the mother's belly.

So.......He's in the country at his Big Mama's house this week (my mother-in-law). One of my sister-in-laws drove the boys up there with her two older boys. When they got there, my son says to her,"Auntie O, you're my daddy's sister, so you're my auntie." She said yes. He said "K1 and K2 are your sons, so they are my cousins." She said yes. Then he looked at a new picture hanging on Big Mama's wall over the TV of all 10 (yes 10!) of her grown children (hubby is the youngest) taken last year. He counted everyone and said, "Daddy has 10 brothers and sisters." She said yes (yes I know it's 9, but why get technical). So he says, "Big Mama must have had a REALLY big egg!"


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Busy Weekend

Between birthday party preparations and getting ready to go the 30th Annual Sickle Cell Softball Tournament (I've missed like, twice, in 15 years, and once was to give birth :-), I won't be around much this weekend.

But BFP got me on youtube this morning and as I've spent an hour-and-a-half watching it while cajoling my two-month-old nephew, I wanted to share something.

Silly, but I forgot how much I liked this song:



Maybe I just like Angie Martinez, period, because hers is the only verse I can rap from Ladies' Night, too.

And I used to love this by Missy. Made me feel grown.


Anyway, since blogger allows you to schedule postings and since one of the main reasons I wanted the ability to tuck things behind a fold was so I could occasionally post the short stories that my romance-reading-self sometimes pens, I might put up a couple.

If I get my nerve up.

Have a good weekend.

Happy Birthday


Happy Birthday to my son.

He's ten today.

When I tell you a decade can fly...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Instilling Fear in Poultry Processing Workers, Part 2

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how large poultry processors systematically instill fear in their workers. Step Seven, according to my observations, was this:
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.
Well, employees rejected the options.

You wouldn't believe the backlash. (continued after fold)

First, on the day of the vote, one employee emblazoned these words on his apron: Vote No! Don't Let Pilgrim's Pride Take Your Money.

He was fired. Now, the Supreme Court is worried about people infringing on employers' free speech (primarily the right to speak out against unions), but this man was fired.

Then came the recriminations voiced in the local paper. In the Eldorado News-Times's July 4 issue, there is an article entitled "Hanging in the Balance"* that begins:
The future of Pilgrim’s Pride in El Dorado continues to hang in the balance, and a vote by members of a local labor union this week added even more uncertainty to the continued operation of the facility and the economic forecast of El Dorado and South Arkansas.

Members of the union soundly rejected concessions that were offered by the company in an effort to improve quality and productivity at the El Dorado poultry processing plant and stave off full closure of the facility.

The union reportedly cast a 5-1 vote on Wednesday, and company officials and community leaders met the action with a resounding expression of disappointment.
I knew it'd be downhill from there. Plant workers, who are trying to protect their interests are about to cause the downfall of the whole city.
The closing of Pilgrim’s Pride would devastate an already sluggish local economy with a loss of more than 1,600 jobs and hundreds of contracts for growers in Union and surrounding counties and northern Louisiana.
(snip)
Dumas said he believes the vote will prompt “some serious downsizing” of Pilgrim’s El Dorado facility, and he offered a bleak outlook on the results of a very likely shutdown.
Then there are the not-so-veiled threats.
Ray Atkinson, director of corporate affairs for Pilgrim’s Pride, said all of the community’s efforts will be taken into consideration in future evaluations of the performance of the El Dorado facility and decisions about its future in Union County.

Unfortunately, so will the local union’s vote, which Atkinson called a “setback.”
Emphasis mine. And yes, the "objective" reporter did use the word unfortunately.

Then there are the statements that employees took as slights.
“I was hopeful that the company and union officials had explained to union members how important this was, not only for them, but for the community,” [Mayor Mike] Dumas said.
Because they are incapable of deciding what is important for them, their families, and communities. And
"[M]any of those (Pilgrim’s Pride) workers are unskilled, so there’s nowhere to go."
This is just the argument town booster's put forth to attract industries to the South, the promise of cheap, docile, unorganized labor with few options. I guess I just never expected to see an acknowledgement of that in the local paper.
__________________________________________
*Subscription required

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

They Learn It, Too

I'm a fat girl. Pretty much always have been. I don't spend as much time consciously thinking about it as I once did. The way I am usually affected these days is much more assiduous. I have accepted, for example, that I am sort of invisible. I've seen people that I know from high school and college, people that I've met in other places for more than a moment, and while I remember them, they look right past me. They remember Kim. They remember Mrs. O. But it is if they've never seen me before, and in a very real sense, I suppose they haven't. (continued under the fold)

This is only one example, of course. Suffice it to say, I have grown accustomed to not being seen. Except, when I suddenly become hypervisible. In a restaurant or any place where I might eat. In a grocery store where people not-so-subtly look at the contents of my basket. On buses and vans where I am judged to "take up too much of the seat."

While I might not talk much about my weight, the one thing that I do complain about at length is my stomach. It's not only that I have a fat tummy; I have a somewhat large lipoma on the right side that pushes out a little bit against my clothing so it is sometimes visible. When I'm unclothed, I look at it and think that it distorts my stomach. My doctor told me it was harmless a few years ago, so I didn't worry about it. A couple of years later, he was surprised I still had it. I repeated what he told me. He then said, "I didn't mean for you to walk around with it forever."

My mom tells me every once in a while to have it, and the one under my arm (that I've had for over half my life), removed. When I was in grad school, trying to write, I wondered when I'd have time to take a few weeks to recover. Plus, I don't like going to the doctor's office.

So, I just routinely complain and move on. I notice that I try consciously not to complain in front of the girls in my circle of family and friends. They are aged from six to 17 and the complaints they make are enough to make you cry. In their words, they are too fat, their butts are too flat or too big, their hair is nappy, they are "black" (meaning dark-skinned), and so on. So, while I try to encourage all the children academically, I will admit I especially try to get the girls not to think about themselves in terms of "what's wrong."

But I had this moment a few nights ago when my nephew came to me and said,"Guess what the Kid did when we went swimming today?" "What?" I asked, expecting that he got in a section that was too deep or held someone under water or breached some other example of pool etiquette.

Turns out he went swimming with his shirt on. So I called him in to ask why. And he mumbled to me that he didn't like his stomach because it sticks out a little bit.

Nine-years-old and he doesn't like his stomach. And I know he learned it, in part, from me.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Rocky Road

Rocky Branch, Louisiana, is officially part of the parish seat of Farmerville. But the area very much has its own history. Black residents of Union Parish know it as a sundown town. My parents have always cautioned me that if I had to travel to or from Monroe after dark, take I-20 through Ruston. Do not, they drilled into me, take the "shortcut" through Rocky Branch.

Today, I asked my dad if he knew specific examples of why Rocky Branch was considered a sundown town. "No," he said, "My parents taught me the same thing. So when I thought I would be there after dark, I took my pistol."

***

Thirty-one miles northwest of Rocky Branch lies another Union Parish town named Bernice. The black students who comprised part of the class of 1970 at Bernice High School (BHS, also in Union Parish) call themselves the "lost class." I heard the story the first time at Mrs. O's mother's wake. Many of her classmates shared stories of their time together. Invariably, they alluded to the "lost class" story. Sometimes, they laughed about it. Other times, they sounded bitterly hurt. (continued under the fold)


The lost class story centers, in a literal sense, around a picture. Each senior class at BHS has a collage class portrait in the hallway of the building that houses the administrative office. BHS integrated, finally, during the 1969/1970 school year. One Friday, the black children at the segregated Westside High were told that they would not return there. Monday morning, they reported to BHS. The white senior class had already taken its portraits. The school refused to re-do it. Thus the first integrated class at BHS is represented by an all-white portrait.

Union Parish had resisted integration quite successfully. In 1960 the school board resolved that it would refute any efforts at "race mixing," reassuring white parents that it stood for complete segregation.* Parish residents sent a letter to Governor Jimmie Davis, urging him to "use every power at your command, including the Legislature, interposition, or any other means to retain segregation."** Both The Gazette, Farmerville's newspaper, and the Bernice News-Journal posted an essay, above their headers, about the "Tragedy of New Orleans" school desegregation.


As late as 1969, judges included Union Parish in the following description:
Fifteen years after Brown, school boards in the Western District of Louisiana are still unwilling to face up to the prerequisites to effective desegregation. These prerequisites are the transitionary short steps which must be taken now and the planning for the long steps that must be taken to effect lock-stock-and-barrel desegregation. More than two years after Jefferson this Court is still not able to get the message through to these school boards that the standard for determining the effectiveness of a desegregation plan is an objective one: Does it work?
The answer, in Union Parish, was no.

Union Parish had a "freedom of choice plan" which allowed students to choose which school to attend. During the 1968-69 school year, only .4% of black children in the parish attended formerly "white" schools. In May of 1969, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit noted:
We do not abdicate our judicial role to statistics. But when figures speak we must listen. It is abundantly clear that freedom of choice, as presently constituted and operating in the Western District school districts before us, does not offer the 'real prospect' contemplated by Green, and 'cannot be accepted as a sufficient step to 'effectuate a transition' to a unitary system.'
(snip)
We are urged by appellants to order on a plenary basis for all these school districts that the district court must reject freedom of choice as an acceptable ingredient of any desegregation plan. Unquestionably as now constituted, administered and operating in these districts freedom of choice is not effectual.
And so Union Parish, among others, finally learned what all deliberate speed would be.

***

But the issue of school desegregation was not decided in 1969 for Union Parish. By 2004, BHS was overwhelmingly black. And Rocky Branch Elementary, a K-8 school, had 2 Latin@ students. The rest of the 160+ students were white.

Segregated schools were not the only problems faced in Union Parish. The school district is quite poor--I often tell the story of how, when I taught there in the late 90s/early 00s, we were still using purple, ditto copies. There was never enough of anything--the playground had no equipment. Our textbooks were outdated. We were underpaid. Saving money was always priority.

But how do you save what there is so little of?

And so, the school board proposed another solution. Union Parish, in terms of land area, is the second largest parish in Louisiana. Transporting students to so many locations was expensive. But full consolidation meant that many students would spend hours a day on a bus. The compromise was to close three schools. Rocky Branch Elementary was one of the three.

Our first reaction was, "Please. They are not going to let their kids go to school with ours."

And many Rocky Branch parents didn't. They relied on the old standby in this area, the private Cedar Creek School. Some sent their kids across parish lines to Ouachita Christian, the legality of which is questionable. They swelled the enrollment at Union Christian Academy.***

But most significantly, they began to press for a charter school, D'Arbonne Woods. Insistently.

Initially, they were turned down as Union Parish residents spoke out about "Rocky Branch and its history as it relates to race." The Union Parish School Board refused to sponsor them as did the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

The D'Arbonne Woods board kept pressing. So much so that the UPSB's new superintendent briefly considered re-opening Rocky Branch Elementary. The tide began to turn for the charter school board. In 2007, the Louisiana legislature issued resolutions supporting the creation of the charter school. Finally, last December, BESE approved their request with contingencies.

And one of those contingencies is the reason I began this post with the two stories I did. On July 11, D'Arbonne Woods Charter School must demonstrate to a federal court that they comply "with the same federal desegregation order by which most districts in Louisiana still operate under." The board has been careful to portray the school as a public charter school open to anyone. The board's executive director, Corie Williams, claims that
We have gone above and beyond in our efforts toward minority recruitment. We have a board level minority committee that is charged with that very thing, to make sure that we are doing more than everyone else in actively recruiting minorities.
I have no doubt that they've done what will look good on paper. But as my sister asked when we were discussing this, given the not-so-distant history of Rocky Branch, who among us will be willing to let our children go?

I should note two things here. First, I have mixed feelings about charter schools, especially in economically poor areas. I've already noted that funding for public education in Union Parish is atrocious. ****Update below**** Union Parish could lose approximately $453,000 to D'Arbonne Woods. They would want to use the Parish's bus system and would occupy, for this first year, the property owned by the school board. Also, D'Arbonne Woods has a stated mission of serving at-risk students, a group which includes children with special needs. But Louisiana charter schools haven't been too successful at meeting these children's needs.

Second, Union Parish is a struggling school district. Louisiana gives schools a ranking from one to five stars. Six out of seven Union Parish schools earned one star for the 2006-07 school year. Test scores are overwhelmingly below state average. Intervention and alternatives are definitely needed.

But I would note that the people of Rocky Branch had no problem being part of Union Parish School District as long as their children were allowed to remain in their 99% white school.

There is a petition circulating in the parish, the text of which is below.
The Honorable Judge Robbie James

As residents of Union Parish, we, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the adverse affect D'Arbonne Woods Charter School will have on Union Parish public schools and the future of our children and communities.

Given that the school would be free from many laws and regulations governing public schools and has a not-so-clear admission policy, and the known history of Rocky Branch's racial disparity in education--Eric Cleveland v. Union Parish School Board--we strongly feel D'Arbonne Woods Charter School, located in Rocky Branch, would undo all efforts put forth by BESE to guarantee racial balance in our schools and academic equality for all students.

We furthermore feel those precious dollars taken from existing schools to support D'Arbonne Woods Charter School would cause additional financial hemorrhaging to those already suffering schools and communities.

We believe a quality education is every child's inheritance, but that it does not have to come at such a large cost to children and communities.

We are encouraged you will rule on what is just, true and fair for a secure future for our children and their future.

Repsectfully,

Union Parish Residents, Parents, Educators, Students, and Community Leaders
I'll keep you updated.
__________________________
*“Board Reaffirms Stand on Segregation,” The Gazette, 15 December 1960.
** “Local Citizens Back Governor in Segregation Fight,” The Gazette, 10 November 1960.
***Buses for Cedar Creek and UCA come to our town, too. They pick up children in the parking lot of this church, as Mrs. O noted, that has segregated gym nights.
****Update**** That is, if local school boards are required to fund a portion of Type II charter schools.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Note on "Independence" Day

First, I'll just point you (as so many do today) to Frederick Douglass's speech, "What, to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?" ("abolition's rhetorical masterpiece") and this article that situates it in place and time.

Then, I'll just include these three lines from a paper that I wrote long ago, that sort of sum up my answer to Douglass's question.
For a time, in the fervor of revolution, African Americans thought the benefits of liberty and the rights of full citizenship might be extended to them... Instead, their very existence became a troubling testimony to the unfulfilled “truths” of the Declaration of Independence.... The American Revolution did have meaning for African Americans; it stood as an example of hypocrisy and ephemeral hope.

Ironing out the bugs

If you read me through a feed reader, you might have noticed that I re-did this post on the death penalty as the punishment for the rape of a child several times. I did struggle over it for a while, but that isn't the only reason.

I was trying to get half of it tucked behind the fold and I was doing something wrong.

But then, this morning, I noticed that part of that post was tucked behind the fold--only it was a paragraph from the middle. So you could read the whole thing on the front page (or think you were) with one much-needed, sense-making paragraph missing.

So I re-did it (and reposted your comments, Kim and Kismet). And this is mostly a test post.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Death Penalty as Punishment for the Rape of Children

Melissa's post reminded me of a topic that I've been meaning to post about. Until about a week ago, the rape of a child in Louisiana was a offense punishable by the death penalty. Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court

struck down a Louisiana law that allows capital punishment for people convicted of raping children under 12. It spares the only people in the U.S. under sentence of death for that crime — two Louisiana men convicted of raping girls 5 and 8.

The ruling also invalidates laws on the books in five other states that allowed executions for child rape that does not result in the death of the victim.

The Supreme Court offered the ruling "despite the 'years of long anguish' for victims." And while I don't dispute the reasoning or evidence behind that phrase, I do find it and similar sentiments problematic.

Since the case originated in Louisiana, it was big news here. The local paper that I read most often carried the news on the front page. It quoted District Attorney Jerry Jones as saying,
The rape of a child is the most heinous crime I can think of. In first-degree murder, it's over. The victim does not continue to suffer. The victims of child rape are destined to a life of misery and suffering.
And immediately, I was piqued by that.

Rape, no matter who the victim is, is a heinous crime. The most terrifying feeling that I have ever had in my life, EVER, is being held down and unable to stop or control what was happening to my own body. I cannot even adequately describe that feeling. And I would be lying if I said I didn't have particular contempt for people who rape children.

But I think the notion that victims of child rape are "destined" to be miserable relies not solely on the survivors' own experiences, but our own biases. Like our obsessions with "purity" and "innocence." Like the idea that rape somehow stigmatizes the victim. Like the belief that virginity is a "gift" to be bestowed upon someone, the mark of a "moral" woman.

I am not at all saying that being the victim of a rape doesn't cause anguish, misery and suffering. I am agreeing with what Melissa said in comments, that
rape is something with which a survivor has to live for the rest of her or his life, which is a true thing, but a lot of people are incapable of saying that without implying the rape is a stain on the soul or the survivor is somehow irreparably broken, damaged goods.

Because it's something we carry doesn't necessarily mean it's a burden; that it has changed us shouldn't mean it marks us differently than the other things that change a person in a lifetime.
(Emphasis mine)


Memories

One of my nieces is flat ironing the other's hair.

The smell reminds me of getting my hair pressed on Saturday nights long ago.

Other things are familiar.

I hear oil sizzling in her hair.

She just said ouch.

I wish she'd hurry up and finish.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"the last documented mass lynching"

The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are gathering new evidence in a sixty-two-year-old lynching case.* From the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee site:
On July 25, 1946, four young African Americans—George & Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger & Dorothy Malcom—were shot hundreds of times by 12 to 15 unmasked white men in broad daylight at the Moore's Ford bridge spanning the Apalachee River, 60 miles east of Atlanta, Georgia. These killings, for which no one was ever prosecuted, enraged President Harry Truman and led to historic changes, but were quickly forgotten in Oconee and Walton Counties where they occurred. No one was ever brought to justice for the crime.


One of the women was pregnant. The murderers cut the fetus from her womb.

The immediate spark for the lynching was the accusation that one of the men had stabbed a white man:
In mid-July, 1946, Roger Malcolm** and a white farmer, Barney Hester, got into an argument. Hester suffered stab wounds and was taken to a hospital. Malcolm was arrested and taken to the jail in Monroe, the county seat of Walton County. The Black community immediately feared for Malcolm’s life. The Hester family ranked among the most powerful and it was unlikely that such an act of defiance would not be met with a harsh response.

The next day, segregationist Gov. Eugene Talmadge*** running for his third tern as Georgia’s top elected official campaigned in Monroe and delivered a racist tirade, pledging that under his watch, the social status quo of white supremacy would be maintained. He met with the injured man’s brother, George Hester, and is reported to have offered immunity to anyone “taking care of the Negro.”

On July 25, Loy Harrison, the landowner for whom Roger Malcolm and George Dorsey worked, came to the jail and paid the $600 to bail Malcolm out.
Harrison said he was taking them home. Instead, he took them to the Moore's Ford Bridge where they were murdered.

Many of the articles I read note how people, particularly Robert Howard, tried to keep the case in the public eye (including an annual march on the bridge)--or, at least, on law enforcement's radar--but no one would come forward. At least, not until Clinton Adams recounted what he'd seen that day at the bridge as a scared ten-year-old hiding in the bushes.

And now, finally, a GBI spokesperson says, "The FBI and GBI had gotten some information that we couldn't ignore with respect to this case."
In a written statement, the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said they collected several items on a property in rural Walton County, Georgia, that were taken in for further investigation.
I hope the results will lead to some measure of justice for the Malcoms and Dorseys and their families.
________________________________
*The case seems to have been reopened around 2000.
**I've seen the name spelled Malcom and Malcolm. I think the first is correct, but I didn't correct the sources I quoted.
***I read about Talmadge in Michelle Brattain's The Politics of Whiteness. To say he was a slimy character would be an understatement.

Seven Songs Meme

Joan Kelly tagged me! Here are the rules:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.
Hmmm...

Believe it or not, I don't listen to music a lot. I don't really buy CDs, the kids messed up the antenna inside my car, so no radio, not a big music channel watcher. Usually, someone tells me to watch something on you tube, and that's how I find out. So, I'm pretty much a R&B/pop type of listener. I'm sitting here now asking my sister, "What have I been listening to this summer?"

I have been comparing these two:



Rihanna Take a Bow



Madonna Take a Bow

I can't stop singing this; lots of times I like to think about someone helping me slay my giants.



Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers Giants

This was my write-the-damned-dissertation song. It's still my get-work-done-song and, occasionally, the answertone on my cell.
My advisor heard it and laughed for a minute. I listen to it at least once a day.



Queen and David Bowie Under Pressure

I like No Air by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown.

And Love in This Club by Usher has grown on me.

And Alex has me listening to Because of You by Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. I know it's been out but I'd never heard this version.

That's it! And I struggled for an hour and half to write this.



Thank You!

I am seriously catching feelings for Jeremy Young right now!

I love, love, LOVE the new layout. Initially, I favored this template, but pink and green flowers on a blog helmed by three members of Delta Sigma Theta seemed somehow not quite right! :-)

No, seriously, there were some issues, and since the butterfly was my other favorite, voila!

You know when you sit down to do some serious work and you clean your house thoroughly first so no clutter can bother you and the good smells soothe you?

I'm feeling like that.

And how I felt when I was drinking milk and eating warm brownies out of the pan last night.

I'm just thinking and feeling in exclamation points right now!

Thank you again, Jeremy!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Louisiana, Lord, Louisiana

Y'all, I live in Louisiana. When I tell you we have enough to worry about, please believe me.*

This, my xenophobic, history-forgetting, make-me-wanna-pull-my-hair-out fellow Louisianans, is not one of those things.
School officials in Terrebonne Parish are considering a policy that would require all commencement speeches to be in English.

The proposal comes after Hue and Cindy Vo, cousins who were co-valedictorians at Ellender High School, delivered part of their commencement addresses last month in Vietnamese.

Why are school officials "considering" this policy? As one board member so eloquently put it, "I don’t like them addressing in a foreign language. They should be in English.”

You know, at my old high school this year, we had our first Latino valedictorian. He gave his speech in English and Spanish. And...

The world did not fall apart!

Let me just mention that Terrebonne Parish is in Acadiana. You know, the Louisiana area partly settled by people who were driven out of Canada by the British because of their French heritage and culture, which included speaking French.

Words (but not italics, apparently) fail me.
___________________________________________

*And those links could go on and on and on.


The U.S. Healthcare System, Embodied

To be poor, ill, and without insurance in the United States is an absolutely horrible place to be. You can fall out and die on the floor of a hospital and no one will give a damn.

There is video.

I emphasize poverty, illness, and lack of insurance because I believe these three factors give many healthcare "professionals" license to mistreat anyone. But I don't believe it is coincidence that this woman and Edith Rodriguez are women of color. To quote the title of this article, the American health care system is failing women of color.

I Feel Like Fred Sanford

M's seventh song of the moment was Stormy Weather, sung by Ms. Lena Horne. Of course, because I am a master of following links to pass time, I started to read about Ms. Horne.

I believe that I would fall out flat on my face if I ever met her. Just be in total, embarrassing awe. Every time I used to see her, I always thought she was so beautiful and so classy. And when she talks--I love that as much as her singing.

Anyway, I realized that yesterday was her 91st birthday. So this post is just a happy belated birthday wish to my talented, elegant, lovely Soror.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...