Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another thought on Anti-Intellectualism

And speaking of anti-intellectualism (another tangent!), I want to use this post to express (in a wholly non-thorough manner) how pissed I am that some African Americans have wholeheartedly embraced this bull.* The last few times I attended church back home, I got so tired of pastors sneering, "A college degree/PhD won't get you into heaven."

I didn't think that it would.

The implication of course, is that college-educated people assume they are "better" than others. Certainly, some do. But I remember (and not just because I'm a history teacher!) when many black people and organizations believed that education was one way to uplift the individual and the community.** I spent a lot of time with my dad's mother and she didn't comb my hair often,*** but when she did, she'd press me between her knees and to keep me distracted, she'd talk. She'd tell me how smart I was and how proud she was of me. She'd ask me about where I was going to college--not that I had any idea in elementary school, but to put it in my mind that I was going.

So this idea that being smart or educated = selfishness, condescension, and bad, bad, bad is mind-boggling.
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*mrs. o reminded me of what seems to be the neverending taunt thrown toward us--that we are "acting" or "trying to be" or "sounding" white, but that deserves a post of its own. This post is just the beginning.

**There has been classism associated with the concept--DuBois's talented tenth, black club women's belief that they were "their own best argument" and the "masses" of black women should be reformed in the club women's image.

***she'd had nine boys and three girls, and my Aunt Jo wasn't going for too much of that hair-combing mess, so my grandmother was not adept at combing hair--much like her granddaughter.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Proper Etiquette

***Update: See Angry Black Woman here and related NYT editorial here.***

I didn't spend the whole of the presidential debate getting drunk. (So, there, matttbastard* :-) I had some really good conversations with my blogging buddies. One began when bfp asked
I wonder how many white folks are put off by obama interrupting mccain all the time.
I responded with something along the lines of, "Probably a lot. It's a serious breach of racial etiquette." Then Shannon asked me if I'd ever written a blog post about racial etiquette, because she'd like to read more. So this post is a little bit about that and a lot a bit about tangential topics.

Racial etiquette is on my mind because I recently taught about Southern "redemption" in both my classes. For the inevitable question about how white supremacy was maintained and reinforced, I talk about violence, lack of access to legal redress for African Americans, the politically solid South that kept African Americans disfranchised and powerless, the wages of whiteness, etc. etc.

And I also talk about how people learned African Americans were inferior through body and verbal language, the racial etiquette to which I referred. The examples are well-known--white southerners treating black southerners as if they were not individuals with distinctive names (boy, auntie, uncle, my niggers, etc.). On the other hand, black southerners used labels like Miss/Mrs. and Mr. even when they were much older than the whites to whom they spoke. Also, the use of titles by African Americans like "Boss" and "Cap'n" indicated their own servile stature.

Then there was the body language--stepping off the sidewalk for white women. African Americans were not to meet the eyes or shake the hand of white southerners--to do so would indicate some sort of equality. Of course, these habits would be used against us later, to imply that we were shifty or liars. Head bowing and shuffling were not about bad posture or laziness, but about not seeming too proud. Then there were the demands for always happy behavior, to ease white southerners' minds--no, their negroes were not surly or unhappy about their position! And again this fed a stereotype (black people sing and dance and smile about everything according to popular culture) and reinforced a standard (think about how afraid of an angry black man and so obsessed with "angry black women" we are). If you look at contemporary white southerners' views about slavery, most of them would argue how happy their darkies were in their "natural" state. It was only when people indulged in "foolish" abolition and equality talk that black people were riled up.

Black southerners were expected to mask their true feelings, their intelligence, their ambitions behind obsequious smiles and nodding. Neither were they to have any outward manifestations of said intelligence and ambition--southern history is full of examples of African Americans who were cheated, beaten, run out of town, or lynched for owning a car, or a nice house, or being educated, or having fought in wars to "defend democracy" and expecting democracy at home.

So, yes, Obama's interruptions of McCain were a breach of racial etiquette. You think there are no standards of racial etiquette anymore? Think about that poll that I linked to days ago--one of the questions asked of white people was if they thought African Americans were friendly. Think about how worried people are about whether Michelle Obama comes across as approachable. Think about how people of color in general are cautioned to be all delicate and polite in our approaches to issues that concern us. Think about the disparities in the way African Americans are punished--from schools to the legal system--for breaking the rules.

Think about Lynn Westmoreland's use of uppity. Maybe we can expect that of Westmoreland, but it's not just him or Republicans or racist white southerners.

(Here's one of those tangents). I've been mostly away from blogs and blogging for a few weeks, but after the debates, I did some reading. I've read, in some unexpected places, that, in the view of some, Obama broke some other rules of racial etiquette. He was "arrogant." He flaunted his intelligence (which, apparently, alienates people. Who knew a smart black person did that?!). He did not bow and scrape and did not always use Mister Senator.

I definitely chalk a lot of those observations up to a general air of anti-illectualism.

But not all of it.

Of course, part of me is taking it personally--I like feeling that the next president will be smart and more than capable. And, after 635 years in school, I have interests and thoughts and vocabulary that reflect my education. I'd like to believe that is evident on occasion. I would also like to believe that it is not perceived as an assault on other people's intelligence, an assault made even more problematic because I am black and should know how to play down my intelligence and play up my folksiness.

"Uppity" is posited as an insult with clear connotations, and it should be. But, I want to tell some people, don't focus on the word so much that you don't realize there are ways of implying uppity without ever once saying it.

Okay, I'll save the other tangent for tomorrow. My answer to BfP's question remains yes. Of the issues I have with Barack Obama, his intelligence, language, education, and demeanor are not among those. I'd like to hear what other people think and also hear about examples of racial etiquette (my list is not exhaustive, but I didn't want this post to become installment number 89566 of my-life-in-the-South).
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*matttbastard has covered a lot of this territory and as soon as I wake up again, I'll link properly.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Intersectional, Reproductive Justice Feminist Response to LaBruzzo’s Sterilization Plan . . .


For those of you that weren't aware, a Louisiana Representative, John LaBruzzo, recently made the announcement that he'd like to help the state of Louisana's economic situation by paying poor women (i.e. women on welfare or recieving some type of economic help from the state) to be sterilized. The following is a response to his 'plan' by the Women's Health & Justice Initiative and the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic.



An Intersectional, Reproductive Justice Feminist Response to LaBruzzo’s Sterilization Plan . . .



The Women’s Health & Justice Initiative[1] and the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic[2] condemn Representative John LaBruzzo’s recent legislative plans to pay poor women to get sterilized and reward rich, educated people to have children. The sterilization policy currently being advocated by Representative LaBruzzo is a blatant form of reproductive violence and population control policies of blame and disenfranchisement, rooted in this country’s long and continual history of eugenics. The legislation and criminalization of black and poor women’s bodies, sexuality, fertility, and motherhood are being used as regulatory tools for economic and ideological justification for eugenics. If Mr. LaBruzzo is really concerned about ending poverty and reducing social burdens on the state, he would not be advocating punitive social polices that restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, but instead would be focusing his attention on ending corporate welfare and holding the corporate giants of Wall Street accountable for the disastrous state of the country’s economy. Stigmatizing and blaming the bodies and reproductive capabilities of black and poor women, and other marginalized communities, as the cause of poverty, mask Representative LaBruzzo’s unwillingness to fully examine the complex structural causes of poverty and inequality in our society. Reproductive violence and sterilization abuse at the hands of elected officials should be challenged and condemned. Women receiving public assistance and housing subsidies have RIGHT to have or not have children, as well as the RIGHT to parent the children they do have and control their birthing options[3] without punitive racial discrimination and economic exploitation policies designed to denied their RIGHT to exist and achieve full protection of their human rights. All women, regardless of their race, sexuality, ability, household size, economic, housing, and citizenship status, have the right to live whole healthy lives free of control, violence, regulation, and coercive social policies designed to exploit their economic vulnerability for sterilization and contraception abuse.



Social justice organizations, activists, organizers, and advocates are encouraged to use the following as talking points challenging Representative John LaBruzzo’s eugenic agenda.





Eugenics, Reproductive Violence, Population Control, and Sterilization Abuse



The sterilization policy currently being advocated by Representative John LaBruzzo is a blatant form of reproductive violence and population control policies of blame and disenfranchisement, rooted in this country’s long and continual history of eugenics.

These reproductive modification tactics of Representative LaBruzzo are reminiscent, if not the same, of eugenics policies of the early twentieth century to forcibly sterilize thousands of people thought to be socially undesirable to procreate, particularly immigrants, the poor, people of color, people incarcerated, people with disabilities, and those with mental illnesses.

Eugenicists, like LaBruzzo, opposed social programs designed to improve the living conditions of the poor, arguing that adequate medical care, better working conditions, and minimum wages all harmed society because those measures enabled people with inferior heredity to live longer and produce more children[4]. These sentiments are directly related to LaBruzzo’s statements that “mainstream strategies for attacking poverty, such as education reform and family planning program have failed to solve the problem,” yet he wants to create incentives for college-educated, higher income people to have more children.

The measures Representative LaBruzzo are currently proposing is an example of controlled consent. There’s nothing voluntary about using monetary incentives to exploit women’s economic vulnerability.

The reproductive autonomy of women of color and poor women should not be compromised to support Representative LaBruzzo’s eugenic policy to sterilize, blame, disenfranchise, and restrict the rights of women to control and care for their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality.

Mandating sterilization as a condition or punishment for receiving public assistance and housing subsidies is racist, sexist, and politically idiotic!

It is disturbing that reproductive modification policies and practices that disempower women because of their family size and economic status can receive such widespread support. It truly shows that eugenics lies at the heart of LaBruzzo’s plans.

This is a direct reflection of the reproductive violence and sterilization abuse that women of color and poor women continue to face at the hands of the state.



Criminalization of Black Women’s Sexuality, Fertility, & Motherhood



Policies that promote the control and criminalization of black motherhood have no place in our society.

As a result of punitive welfare reforms instituted during the Clinton Administration in the mid 1990s, the attacks and criminalization of women of color and poor women’s reproduction and sexuality has continued unabated despite the fact that TANF/FITAP assistance has been steadily decreasing over the past decade in Louisiana.

Mr. LaBruzzo is reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes by using the bodies of poor black women and other vulnerable communities as a scapegoat to bolster his political career to win the hearts and minds of a conservative base that continues to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

Mr. LaBruzzo and his conservative base advocate abstinence-only sex education in schools that don’t work. Their refusal to support resources needed for comprehensive preventative reproductive health services, including abortion and safe birth control methods, makes it clear that they have no concern for poor women’s economic health and well-being. Rather, their interest is in the control and criminalization of poor women’s reproduction and motherhood.



Economic Myths - Falsehoods LaBruzzo’s idea is based on



What he’s basically proposing is an economic stimulus plan attacking poor black women. So, if you’re a woman, poor, and black, get in line- you’re about to be sterilized!

The aggressive promotion of sterilization as a condition and punishment for receiving public assistance, and the use of coercive social policies that threaten women’s health and well-being like those currently being advocated by LaBruzzo have nothing to do with eradicating poverty in our society.

According to LaBruzzo, the solution to ending poverty in our society is to control and regulate the fertility and sexuality of black women – not the creation of comprehensive programs to improve health care access, our education system, housing affordability, and employment opportunities in the state. His plan pathologizes the reproductive capabilities of Black and poor women by proposing legislation to exploit the economic vulnerability of those who are socially stereotyped as burdens on the state.

Even if sterilization is voluntary, POVERTY IS NOT! Poverty, economic insecurity, and lack of sustainable livelihood can cause a woman to consider this aggressive sterilization incentive a viable option.

LaBruzzo talks about poverty as though it were an infectious disease—a though poor people will eventually make everyone poor—rather than a condition people are condemned to by Louisiana’s lack of investment in education, employment, affordable housing, and quality health care programs, services, and resources.

LaBruzzo uses a myth of scarcity to argue that if economic resources are shared with everyone, no one will have enough. The reality is that if the lion’s share of our economic resources stopped being used for unnecessary military spending and corporate welfare, such as the Wall Street bailout, then all our communities would have access to the resources and opportunities they need to survive and thrive!

Despite the reality of who’s on welfare and the total number of families receiving FITAP benefits in Louisiana, welfare assistance is socially and politically associated with Black mothers who are, unfortunately, already negatively stereotyped in mainstream media as “lazy,” “irresponsible,” “overly fertile,” and “welfare queens.” Because of these stereotypes, LaBruzzo has been able to gain support for his aggressive eugenic sterilization initiative using monetary incentives.

The exploitation and regulation of Black women’s bodies and our reproductive capabilities to solve the social problems of poverty and the financial instability of the county’s economy through legislation designed to sterilize poor and working class women of color is a barbaric attempt on the part of Representative John LaBruzzo to increase his popularly among conservatives, and to create a distraction from the real problems associated with the country’s current economic crisis.



Economic Realities – What really creates the conditions LaBruzzo is “concerned” about





When we let the numbers of people who are on welfare speak for themselves, it becomes clear that this is not about welfare at all – it’s about politicians like LaBruzzo who are committed to controlling the reproduction of communities of color and poor people by attacking the bodies and reproductive decisions of Black and poor women.

We are basically witnessing a two front war against poor and working class black communities right now. On one hand, we have the Bush administration fighting to push an economic corporate welfare bailout plan to save Wall Street, and on the other, we have an elected official blaming the bodies and reproductive decisions of poor black women for the social conditions caused by corporate greed.

Advocating for the sterilization of poor black women, and publicly demonizing their motherhood under the cloak of reducing the number of people on welfare, masks the complex causes of poverty and inequality that permeate our society. If Mr. LaBruzzo is really serious about addressing the problems plaguing our communities right now, he would be focusing his attention on creating legislation to end corporate greed, end the War in Iraq, holding corporations accountable for the toxins that they continue to put into the environment, funding our failing education system, providing people the health care they need now, and supporting affordable housing initiatives in the city.

The current punitive welfare policies Representative LaBruzzo is considering will render women of color, poor women, and women with disabilities vulnerable to sterilization and contraceptive abuse because of racial and class assumptions that their fertility is out of control. In reality, the average number of children women on welfare have in the state of Louisiana is two – but the image of the over-breeding “welfare queen” is fixed in the minds of many Americans, including Representative LaBruzzo.



Over the past decade, the number of women receiving welfare assistance in the state of Louisiana has been decreasing. In the past three years, we have seen a 74.24 percent drop in women receiving welfare. According to the Louisiana Department of Social Services, families receiving assistance through the Louisiana Families Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) was down from 5764 recipients in July 2005 to 1485 as of July 2008.

This is a sexist, racist, and elitist attempt to distract the public from those who are really creating social burdens on society – the corporate welfare giants of Wall Street, the war in Iraq, the over production of unnecessary commodities that negatively impact our environment, and the wasteful spending of public resources on programs--such as abstinence only sex education in schools-- that don’t work!

The low-income women of color LaBruzzo feels so comfortable scapegoating for Louisiana’s economic conditions are those who support Louisiana’s economy by doing its low-wage work. When LaBruzzo goes to his office, these women clean it; when he goes to a restaurant, they wash the dishes; and when he stays at a hotel, they turn down his sheets. Rather than this mean-spirited attack, he should call for an increase in the minimum wage that would make it feasible for poor women to survive economically.



What We Need - Strategies & Social Programs for Moving Forward



Instead of mandating punitive measures to modify and pathologize poor women’s reproductive decisions, we need legislation to increase women’s access to high quality, non-coercive, voluntary reproductive health services and information including access to safe birth control, comprehensive sexual health education, and abortion services that are unbiased, age-appropriate and culturally competent.

The misguided priorities of legislator’s like Mr. LaBruzzo to create monetary incentives for poor women to become sterilized fails to acknowledge how our state should be funding initiatives that support preventative health care programs and social services that work to strengthen and build the health of our communities, not blame them for reflecting the social problems of this country.

All women, regardless of their race, sexuality, ability, household size, economic, housing, and citizen status, have the right to live whole healthy lives free of control, violence, regulation, and coercive social policies designed to exploit their economic vulnerability for sterilization and contraception abuse at the hands of elected officials.

All women, regardless of their race, sexuality, ability, household size, economic, housing, and citizen status, have the right to live whole healthy lives free of control, violence, regulation, and coercive social policies designed to exploit their economic vulnerability for sterilization and contraception abuse at the hands of elected officials.

We need legislators who are committed to supporting responsible, accessible, and affordable public services and resources such as safe and quality health care, schools, childcare resources, non-punitive reproductive health services, affordable housing, family treatment programs, mental health services, and non-discriminatory employment opportunities.



[1] The New Orleans Women’s Health & Justice Initiative is a multi-dimensional community-based organizing project centered on (1) improving low income and uninsured women of color access to quality, affordable, and safe health care services; and (2) organizing women for sexual health and reproductive justice through community-based strategies to equip those most disenfranchised by the medical industry with the means to control and care for their own bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. WHJI is a local affiliate of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence – a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing.



[2] The New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic (NOWHC) is a grassroots community-based non-profit women’s health clinic – operated by a radical, women of color-led, feminist health collective. The mission of the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic is to equip marginalized and underserved women with the means to control and care for their own bodies, sexuality, reproduction, health through a holistic, community-centered well women approach to health care which integrates sexual health and reproductive justice. NOWHC is a local affiliate of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.



[3] SisterSong Reproductive Health Collective statement on Understanding Reproductive Justice, 2006. Reproductive Justice refers to an intersectional strategy and praxis organizing for the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, environment, and economic well-being and health of women and girls base on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.



[4] Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body, (New York: Vintage Books, 1997).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

explaining loving michigan

Most people who know me, know I carry an almost unhealthy love for my home state of Michigan. I say unhealthy because there's not much, really, to love about Michigan. It's packed with religious fundamentalists on one side of the state, corrupt union officials on the other side and libertarian radicals in the north. The KKK still has a presence here, the Minute Men movement (of the 'we hate mexkins and illegals' type) started here, and if you're queer, about the only place where you won't get your ass beat up or prayed over on a regular basis is Ann Arbor.

And then just yesterday, I saw the following video:



The video's sponsors, Freedom's Defense Fund, is an org that (among other things) is working to prevent Washington D.C. from getting the right to representation in the Senate. Why? Because the thought of Senators Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton terrifies them. Why? Because obviously two black Senators would bring about a welfare state, outlaw guns, and over regulate everything. In short, Senator Jackson and Sharpton would bring about the Apocalypse. Thus, is it necessary to deny thousands of U.S. citizens representation.

These are the people I live next to and send my kids to school with. Fortunately, right now, I live in an area of the state where there is a nice strong mix of union folks, libertarian radicals, psuedo-liberals and people of color. Although you'd think that was reason enough to send me screaming into the abyss, oddly enough, it's because of this mix that I've learned to love Michigan, to appreciate everything about Michigan from the decaying factories with no workers to the strange white folks that refuse to fly the U.S. flag next to their precious confederate flags because it'd be just too much of an injustice.

I didn't feel this way for a long time. Like most people, I grew up dreaming of getting the fuck OUT of Michigan rather than imagining how Michigan could change the world. I grew up on the religious side of the state--a place was built on the principles of separatism (Hardline Evangelical Christians in the form of Christian Reformed left the Netherlands to find a new world where they didn't have to listen to or accommodate moderates in their religion) and that made a big difference to my Michigan experience. Unless you went to church with the rest of the crowd, you were basically an outcast. And because there was no such thing as a person who did not go to church, there wasn't even much of an underground of outsiders that found each other and hung out together (although every once in a while it did happen).

I now live on the other side of the state. A place where separatism came in the form of racial animosity. White flight killed many of our bigger cities (Saginaw, Detroit, Flint, Dearborn), and both black and white kids can go all the way through high school and literally never see a white or black kid. When I taught at the local University, I can remember being astounded at the number of students (both black and white) that wanted to 'study' people outside of their own racial group for papers. I sat in my office while another grad student talked to a student that wanted to write a paper like this, and the student (who was black) said he wanted to write a paper about his white roommates because they were "weird." He couldn't explain what made a white person "weird" or why he wanted to study that "weirdness," but with the all out audacity of a freshman student, he asked, "wasn't that what this paper is for, to find out why they're so weird?"

But I think that student pointed to the beauty of Michigan. For all it's majorly huge problems--Michigan is a site of unbridled potential.

On the East side of Michigan, we are bound together in a way I think only other factory type towns could understand. The shitty economy is a great leveler, the magnificent bringer together of downfallen and downtrodden. Whether you're poor and white or poor and black, you go to the local community college or the cheap public university that you can commute to and still keep your restaurant job at home. And when you are with people who don't look like you for the first time, all poor, all going to shitty schools after graduating from shitty schools, conversations that need to happen, are *required* to happen if we ever want to confront racism in the U.S.--they *happen*.

If a rural Christian white male who signed up for the military at 17 with his parents permission can find a way to laugh and joke with an urban black somewhat religious female who would never join the military in a thousand years about what it was like to grow up in rural Michigan, if that urban black female can find a way to get said white kid to clap along to her rap about the crappy food at the cafeteria, what could two people, two communities do that aren't so far apart from each other?

Unfortunately, the economy is also the thing that can easily be used to manipulate those conversations for the worse. Living poor, struggling pay check to pay check, losing your house, seeing your kids go hungry, it causes resentment, anger, both of which can very easily be channeled into hate and violence.

And that right there is the *problem* with Michigan. For all its potential, for all the hope it offers in daily interactions, for all the laughing and joking and clapping, there is still the unanswered problem of lack of progressive/radical voices in Michigan. While the level of progressive/radical leftist discourse is very small and you must know where to look in order to find it, there is a well established overwhelmingly strong network of racist foundations, churches, newspapers, communities and radio stations that unabashedly 'guide' the conversations about race into the usual territory: Mexkins are stealing our jobs, blacks are lazy suckers of public money, 'we' are not like either of them (even if we *are* poor and beat up), and what makes 'us' unlike the Mexkins and blacks is 'our' legality and our hardworking ethics (not our racism).

But it doesn't have to be this way. And in many places just like the East Side of Michigan, it's not. During the recent Potsville raids, it was the largely white community that organized against the raids and created support networks for abandoned children and family members. And during the raids in Mississippi, it was much reported that black workers clapped and cheered with white workers as Latin@ workers were led away after arrests. But it was black women workers that embraced and hugged Latin@ women workers that were hadn't been paid because of the raids.

In spite of the hate rhetoric, the politically driven fear mongering, the well funded dividing techniques--there was still the human to human understanding between at least some of those workers. A human understanding that led to empathy, love and solidarity. A love that led a whole community of rural white folks to organize for and around "the illegals" even as more 'natural' self-proclaimed "anti-racists" allies refused to even write blog posts about immigration.

What could happen to race relations in the U.S. if just once, leftist type folks realized the same thing that everybody on the right has realized for decades: that it's places like Michigan and Louisiana and Iowa that hold the answer. That it's 'rural' hicks and 'urban' welfare suckers that are leaders in anti-racist movements?

What would happen if those leaders got a little respect, support, and funding?

Would anything change?
Would we have a different U.S.?

I love Michigan because in spite of it's problems, it shows me on a daily basis everything that is both right and wrong with the world. What needs to be fixed as well as how to fix it.

Tickets for Obama


If we started listening to the products of Flint, those who were born, raised, and make livings in Flint--how would things change? Would there be huge lines of people talking about how the anti-racist classes they're waiting to take offer them much needed hope?

Would we trust each other rather than the politicians of the world?
via VL

The Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional aka the EZLN announced via communiqué the First Global Festival of Dignified Rage.

Communiqué from the of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command, of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
Sixth Commission—Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN

Mexico

September 15 and 16 of 2008

To the adherents of the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign:

To the adherents of the Zezta Interazional:

To the People of Mexico:

To the Peoples of the World:

Compañeras and Compañeros:

Brother and Sisters:

Once again we send you our words.

This is what we see, what we are looking at.

This is what has come to our ears, to our brown heart.

I.

Above they intend to repeat history.

They want to impose on us once again their calendar of death, their geography of destruction.

When they are not trying to strip us of our roots, they are destroying them.

They steal our work, our strength.

They leave our world, our land, our water, and our treasures without people, without life.

The cities pursue and expel us.

The countryside both kills us and dies on us.

Lies become governments and dispossession is the weapon of their armies and police.
We are the illegal, the undocumented, the undesired of the world.

We are pursued.

Women, young people, children, the elderly die in death and die in life.

And there above they preach to us resignation, defeat, surrender, and abandonment.

Here below we are being left with nothing.

Except rage.

And dignity.

There is no ear for our pain, that is not like what we are.

We are no one.

We are alone, alone with our dignity and our rage.

Rage and dignity are our bridges, our languages.

We must listen to each other then, learn to know each other.

So that our courage and rage grows and becomes hope.

So that our dignity takes root again and births another world.

We have seen and heard.

Our voice is small to be the echo of that word, our gaze small for so much dignified rage.

The process of seeing each other, looking at each other, speaking to each other, listening to each other, is still lacking.

We are others, the other.

If this world does not have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no tool other than our rage, no material other than our dignity.

We still must encounter each other more, know each other better.

What is missing is yet to come…


II.

Now, three years after the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle, the EZLN has undertaken a collective reflection, nourished by the broad horizon that our compañeros of the Other Campaign in Mexico and in the Zezta Internazional across the world have given to us.

It is not little that we have seen and heard, sometimes directly, sometimes through the words and the gaze of others.

The rage that we felt and the dignity that we found was so great that we think now that we are smaller then we thought before.

In Mexico and on the five continents we have found what we intuited when we began our sixth step: there is another world, there is another path.

If the catastrophe that is coming can be avoided and humanity is to have another opportunity, it will because these others, below and to the left, not only resist, but are already drawing the profile of something else.

Something different than what is occurring above.

In the impossible geometry of political power, the fundamentalists are distributed evenly: the right becomes ultra-right and the institutional left becomes the impossible cultured right. Those who make up the progressive media complain that the fanatics of the mainstream press censure them, twist their words and slander their cause, but they at the same time censure, twist the words, slander, and silence any movement that hasn’t bowed down to the dictates of their ringleaders. And without shame they condemn and acquit to the rhythm of a senseless media rating. Fanatics on all sides fight over lies dressed as truths and crimes are measured by the media time that they occupy. But this is nothing other than a pale reflection of what is happening in politics.

Weariness of the cynicism and incompetence of the traditional political classes has been converted into rage. Sometimes this rage is oriented toward hoping for change in the same paths and places as always, and it is there immobilized by disillusionment or trampled by an arbitrary force. The unsettled and brutal north goes back to its old ways. When it is not sponsoring electoral fraud (like in Mexico), it is promoting, encouraging, and financing state coups (as attempted now in Bolivia and Venezuela). War continues to be its primary and favored form of international diplomacy. Iraq and Afghanistan burn, but, to the despair of those above, are not consumed.

The impositions of hegemony and homogeneity on a global scale find in nations, in regions, and in small locales, their witches’ apprentices that try for that impossible historic return to a past where fanaticism was law and dogma, science. Meanwhile, the governing political classes have found in the world of bright lights an adequate disguise to hide their full participation in organized crime.

Sickened by so much greed, the planet begins to pay the unpayable bill of its destruction. But “natural” disasters are also class issues and their devastation is felt most by those who have nothing and are no one. Faced with this, the stupidity of Power has no limits: millions and millions of dollars are dedicated to manufacturing new weapons and installing more military bases. The Power of capital does not worry about training teachers, doctors, engineers, but rather soldiers. It doesn’t prepare constructors, but rather destructors.

And those who opposed this are the pursued, incarcerated, murdered.

In Mexico, farmers who have defended their land are in prison (San Salvador Atenco); in Italy those who opposed the installation of military bases are pursued and treated as terrorists; in the France of “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” humans are only free, equal, and brothers if their papers say so; in Greece being young is a vice that must be eradicated; again in Mexico, but now in that city of the same name, young people are criminalized and murdered and nothing is done because it is not on the agenda that those above dictate. Meanwhile, a legitimate referendum is converted into a shameful way for and assassin-governor to wash his hands of a situation. In the Spain of the modern European Union, publications are closed and a language, Euskera, is criminalized—they think that by killing the word they can kill those who speak it; in that Asia that is so close, the peasant demands are answered with armored injustices; in that arrogant American Union, born in the blood of migrants, the “other colors” that work there are pursued and killed; in the long wound that is Latin America, the brown blood that sustains it is despised and humiliated; in the rebellious Caribbean, a people, the Cuban people, are forced to live under an imperial embargo that is nothing other than a punishment without crime.

And in all of the corners of the world’s geography, and in all of the days of its calendars, those that work, those that make things run, are plundered, despised, exploited, and repressed.

But sometimes, many times, as many times as a smile sets it off again, rage looks for its own paths, new paths, other paths. And the “no” that these multiple rages raise now not only resists, but begins to propose, to become.

Since our appearance in public, now almost 15 years ago, it has been our goal to be a bridge on which the many rebellions in the world can walk back and forth.

Sometimes we have achieved this, sometimes we haven’t.

Now we see and we feel not only the rebellious resistance that, as sister and comrade, stays at our side and encourages our steps.

Now there is something that before wasn’t there, or that we weren’t able to see before.

There is a creative rage.

A rage that paints all of the colors of the paths of below and to the left on the five continents….

III.

FOR THESE REASONS, AND AS PART OF THE ACTS COMMEMMORATING THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE ZAPATISTA ARMY FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION, THE 15 YEARS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR AGAINST OBLIVION, THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOOD GOVERNMENT COUNCILS, AND THE THIRD YEAR OF THE OTHER CAMPAIGN AND THE ZEZTA INTERNAZIONAL, THE MEN, WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND ELDERLY OF THE EZLN CONVOKE ALL OF THE REBELLIOUS OF MEXICO AND THE WORLD TO THE:

FIRST GLOBAL FESTIVAL OF DIGNIFIED RAGE

WITH THE THEME OF:

ANOTHER WORLD, ANOTHER PATH: BELOW AND TO THE LEFT

TO BE CELEBRATED ON THE FOLLOWING PLACES AND DATES

THE OTHER MEXICO CITY, FEDERAL DISTRICT, December 26, 27, 28, and 29, 2008. IN LIENZO CHARRO OF THE ASSOCIATION LOS CHARROS REYES DE IZTAPALAPA, Frente Popular Francisco Villa Independiente-UNOPII, Avenue Guelatao # 50, Colonia Álvaro Obregón, Delegación Iztapalapa, close to the metro station Guelatao, where an exposition will be presented. AND IN THE HEADQUARTERS OF UNÍOS, Dr. Carmona y Valle street #32, colonia Doctores, close to the metro station Cuauhtemoc, where other activities will be held.

THE CITY OF SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of January 2009 in CIDECI, located on the Camino Real de San Juan Chamula s/n, Colonia Nueva Maravilla.

SOME OF THE SUBTHEMES OF THE FESTIVAL WILL BE:

AN OTHER COUNTRYSIDE AN OTHER POLITICS
AN OTHER CITY AN OTHER SOCIAL MOVEMENT
AN OTHER COMMUNICATION AN OTHER HISTORY
AN OTHER ART AND AN OTHER CULTURE AN OTHER SEXUALITY

THE FESTIVAL “ANOTHER WORLD, ANOTHER PATH: BELOW AND TO THE LEFT” WILL HAVE THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:

1. In Mexico City, a national and international exposition will be installed where every struggle, every experience, every rage, will have a space where it can set up and show its struggle and its courage. This way we can all see, hear, and know each other.

2. In zapatista territory, dignity and rage will become art and culture, music and song, because rebellion also dances. And with words, pain will become hope.

3. In San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, the word will go back and forth in order to give birth to new words and give strength and reason to rage.

4. The national and international groups, collectives, and organizations that participate in the festival will be only those who are invited to do so. To this end, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN has initiated consultations with political and social organizations, as well as with groups and collectives of anarchists, libertarians, alternative communication workers, human rights defenders, sexworkers, intellectuals, social activists, ex political prisoners, all adherents of the Sixth Declaration; and with groups, collectives, and organizations of other countries, all part of the Zezta Internazional. The criteria for invitations and participations will be made after these consultations.

5. For the roundtables, the EZLN will invite social organizers, thinkers, and leaders of anticapitalist projects from Mexico and around the world. The list of invitees will be released later.

6. More details about what we are thinking the festival of dignified rage could be will be made known at earliest convenience (that is, when we have an approximate idea of the problem we have gotten ourselves into).

That’s all for now.

LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ATENCO!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command, of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, September of 2008.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All Up in My Space!

I need some pants. Some for work, some for play, just some damned pants.

I've been in a quandary for the last year though, every since Lane Bryant rolled out their new "Right Fit" sizing. They were all excited, too, with tape measures tossed stylishly around the associates' necks and color- and shape-coded signs. They had my cynical ass all bubbly. Right Fit doesn't come in the sizes I'm used to, so I walked up to an associate and asked how could I find a pair of these "revolutionary," bubbly-elle-making, change-my-life-forever pants in a size that fit? How did the new sizes correspond with the old?

I thought she'd just tell me.

She didn't.

Therein lay the catch.

Apparently, Right Fit is so damned new and unlike-anything-in-the-history-of-fashion that I can't just try to find the size that corresponds.

I have to be measured. In the store. By another person.

That is too much for me. I'll admit that I haven't thrown off the well-instilled practices of not discussing my size (I tell y'all I'm fat but I don't tell you what size I wear, now do I?) and treating my measurements as if they were the combination to a safe at Ft. Knox or something. After a lifetime of that, I've made a lot of progress but I am NOT about to go in a store, fling my arms open, and say, "Measure me, baby!" I imagine a lot of women are hesitant to do so. And it doesn't matter whether we should or shouldn't be, that's just how it is.

Then there's the fact that I don't like people putting their arms around me, especially strangers. Yeah, we can brush cheeks, exchange pecks, give a quick squeeze to acknowledge each other, but a full out, prolonged hug--not my favorite thing. I'm not a touchy sort of person--again, I know a lot of it's related to body image issues. I remember a long time ago, seeing a weight loss commercial in which the mom was in agony over how she had failed as a mom--the proof? Her (very young) child couldn't get her/his arms around mom!! I have never forgotten that and though I thought it was ridiculous, that lingers in the back of my head when people try to hug me. Sad, but true.

So yeah, pants. I need them. I can find the cute specialty ones, but most of the denim and increasingly the career pants are Right Fit. I know there are other stores, but the stuff at Catherine's is not my style and the pants at Avenue always look as if they go with something specific. I'm going to look more the website to see if they'll reveal the secret that is Right Fit sizing.

I am very hesitant to buy clothes online, so that option is (mostly) out.

If not, I just don't know!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

In Which I Grow Tired of Polls...

...especially ones that employ euphemisms for racism. "Deep-seated racial misgivings?"

C'mon, now!

Anyway, is anyone surprised that "Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama?"

And here's some logic for you:
Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.
That last sentence is priceless--I'd like to ask the AP-Yahoo! people if they've ever heard of the "one of the good ones" reasoning. White people who "see blacks in a negative light" can vote for Obama, in part, because they conceive of him as an exception to the rest of us "negatively lit" ones.

Shockingly, the poll found "[l]ots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too," but they astutely dismiss those prejudices as the reason Republicans don't vote for Obama:
Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.
Missing the big picture pollsters!

Mayhap some Republicans would never vote for any Democrat because they represent a party in which Obama could be chosen as the presidential candidate? I mean the Republican party is one of the last bastions of... well, did you see their convention?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Even Under Harsh Bathroom Lights...

...my kid and I are too cute.

Thanks, Dave, for caring so much.

Peace.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I've Found the Solution

...to the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Call your best friend and talk for almost an hour about a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing.


Laugh a lot.


Get the validation you shouldn't need, but, ah, well.


Get over yourself. I want to be the perfect teacher already. I'm enjoying my "small" African American history class, but the students in my large survey--which is primarily lecture interspersed with brief discussions (usually analyzing various audio and visual clips)--just aren't engaging like I want them to for the most part. Some days they ask the best questions; some days they look like zombies.


Initially, I worried about it on my own, not wanting to get ideas from my colleagues because I am so determined to appear like I have it all down pat. But I talked to a couple of people in my department and found 1) other people are trying to figure out how to best teach and reach students in the large classes 2) I'm not the only young(er) woman to have to pull a white male student aside and say, "The way you are addressing me before class is not appropriate and it will stop now" and 3) I am not the only new professor ever to have to write lectures for classes further on in the semester--honestly, I made it up to the Depression during the summer and I did teach post-45 in the spring so I can cull from and expand upon some of those (I'm good for the social movements of the 50s and 60s and the early Cold War, for example), but I still need a stronger WWI lecture, a good WWII lecture, and I want to write some killer ones on society and culture in the 80s and 90s.


I know this is not news for most folk, but it's hard for me to reach out for help and advice--always conscious of being "one of the only-" and so I don't want to admit weakness. But that shit was killing me and I'm so glad I did. Turns out, there's a slight chance that people aren't expecting me to be perfect!


And the last part of the solution--go to sleep, so the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day can become a memory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I just know that Elle loves this song...



Because I do. And I like to imagine she and I dancing like Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy to it.

(and yeah, Elle is Molly and I'm...sigh. Ally. :->)

Friday, September 12, 2008

tired doesn't even begin to describe it

I left home at 10:03 this morning. I walked in my house about ten minutes ago. The throb in my ankles is like nothing else.

I see a lot of good comments on the freedom week post. Promise I'll look at 'em in depth tomorrow.

Things Seen 7

Part of the flyer for "Freedom Week" at my son's school:


Firstly (what an ugly word!), I don't think they're teaching the kids anything about what freedom means, beyond U.S.A. = Freedom. Of course I want my child to be able to analyze and deconstruct that with his eyes closed. And I'm frightened to think about how patriotism will be defined.

Secondly, I'm bothered because despite my largely-wordless-but-obvious sarcasm, my son wants to participate. That's how most kids are--they want to do what other kids around them are going to do. That's why people who brush off objections to school prayer and recitation of the pledge are clueless (or don't give a damn)--it doesn't matter if you say kids don't have to participate, they don't want to stand out like that. My saying, "Patriotism and freedom are not about wrapping yourself in some colors," has absolutely no effect now.

Finally, "Freedom Week" is the week after Spetember 11. How many more ways can a legitimate tragedy be milked of all meaning to 1) make a political statement and 2) demand false displays of nationalism?

I know there are some things I have to accept, living in the South (and as I told my Texas students, you joined the Confederacy, you are at least partially southern :-), but damn, this is ridiculous.
________________________________________
P.S. What does it mean, to "support the flag?" That was strange to me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ok, There Are a Few Stupid Questions

The other day at Feministe (and on her site), Renee wrote about white people who touch our hair (or ask to do so) and why that is... ahem, problematic. To paraphrase (what I believe is) the heart of the post,
Today white people still feel that they have the right to our bodies. [I]t is an assault, and an affront to our bodily integrity.
One of the first comments I saw was
I grew up in the Caribbean and being the only white child in my school I often had requests form black children to touch my hair… I never thought they were being racist, I still don’t think they were being racist, only curious.
Lovely turnaround, I thought. Then on Renee's site, I saw
... I do want to lend some support for touching hair and sharing information as a way of expanding people's minds who are honestly curious and just don't know better.
and
I think maybe you are attributing to presumption which might be pure primate curiosity.
Can I just say, quickly, that neither your intent nor your curiosity are what matters here? Or, can I highlight what Jessica said
I think that here, the act of "touching," especially without permission, is a claiming and colonizing act meant to put the person being touched in a subordinate position to the one who is acting/touching.
A person who considers another to be an equal would say, "I like your hair."
Then I thought, silly elle, it doesn't matter what you or Jessica or Renee say.

It doesn't matter if I point out that some people who believe this is simply curiosity can, on the other hand, (rightly) see why it is sexist that people feel they have the right to touch women's breasts, or bottoms, or pregnant bellies.

Because this conversation has been had.

The first thing I remembered when I saw reactions to Renee's post was people arguing with nubian over whether or not the white woman who asked her if she (nubian) got hotter because her skin was darker had made a racist observation.

Even after nubian said
i stand there in amazement after listening to this woman “other” me into some kind of sub-human anamoly
See the point is not Renee's or nubian's perceptions or feelings. The point is I intended no harm!! I'm curious!! I really wanna know dammit!! And then, the huffy, "Well if I can't ask questions how do I learn???!?!?!" (Hmmm... gotta ask Holly if that fits into "The Lean On You When I’m Not Strong" maneuver).

In any case, I'm soooooo over your intent. /snark
_________________________________
ETA link to Holly's post. Duh!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tu, solo tu...

The other day somebody asked me, "What is it that inspires you to blog?"

Usually, when people ask me questions like that, I have no idea what to say. It's all so complicated and simple at the same time, and honestly, I don't know as if I truly believe at this point that anybody really cares why I blog.

But this time, it took me just a moment to think about it, and then the answer came flowing out, like a race horse, confident and sure, and full speed ahead. I was not used to answering such an exposed answer the way I did, and I tried all the old tricks to make my mouth stop talking, but that race horse was going for the win--there was not stopping her.

An oddly enough, as I write these words, I am not grimacing in horror as I usually do when retelling stories of my loose tongue. For once in my life, I am smiling, eager, to share.

***

I love to turn you on...

***

I've struggled my entire life with sleeping too much. As a child, getting me out of bed could take as much as an hour, and after school, I would come straight home and fall asleep, many times until the next morning.

I was taken to doctors and yelled at and talked to about my "problem." Nobody could figure out what the hell was wrong with me--and eventually, my 'problem' was written off as laziness. And in a migrant family that valued hard work as a way to prove loyalty and assimilation into U.S. culture, that 'laziness' was not a good thing, not by far. It was something to be ashamed of--something that literally proved a fatal character flaw. I couldn't be a real Mexican and be lazy. It just wasn't possible. So what the hell was I, if I wasn't a Mexican?

The thing is, in all these discussions, in all the yelling and screaming and berating, in all the trips to the doctor, not one person asked me "what else is going on with your life?"

I don't think that I would have told them. Even back then, I knew something was wrong with more than my body--my mind didn't work the way other people's brains seemed to work, my heart didn't feel the same thing others did.

While other girls giggled over the roundness hidden underneath the front of a male models jeans, I was fighting the desire to point out that I didn't really much *care* what was hidden under those jeans. I was more interested in the way lace peeked out of women's shirts, the way soft round dents formed in women's upper thighs when they sat down. Trouble was, I grew up in super religious, super small town Mid West--and there was not even a *word* for what I was thinking about, except maybe "freak."

And that was just the tip of the "things I knew better than to talk about" iceberg. There was the daily bullying that didn't stop until I was in high school, daily abuse by a trusted person in my life, immobilizing insecurity, and next to no support structures for just about anything I did or wanted to participate in.

There was also the fact that for some reason, I slipped into really dark moods where the only way to for me to survive was to crawl into a dark cave and not come out for days, or even weeks at a time. I started skipping classes more and more often--not to go out partying or smoke some weed--but to sit in the quiet of a distant bathroom students never used. To hear the silence and take deep breaths, and finally finally think.

But nobody knew that about me, because fuck if I was going to share my secrets. I knew better.

And although I could go on about the reasons why I knew better, for now, I'll just leave it at that.

***

In the middle of a bath...
In the middle of a bath I call your name...

***

So all of those things--cultural belief in hard work saving the day, bullying, abuse, dark cave days/weeks--added to constant exhaustion and body aches all came together to form the private bfp, the bfp that was never shown in public, the bfp that was kept a secret, the bfp that even dear friends didn't really know to much about, although my best friend suspected existed.

And while I was younger, that was ok. It was not easy to keep the public and the private bfp separated, but I was strong and tough, and full of the hard stubborness of youth.

Then I had my first child. And my second one came right after that. And the aging, depleted, always exhausted body broke down. What had always been a shaky memory turned into what seemed like early onset of Alzheimer's. Recall of simple words was near impossible and friends and family soon began to finish sentences for me because I just couldn't remember the word I wanted to say.

Chronic exhaustion turned into debilitating fatigue. And yet, for some reason, I couldn't sleep more than one or two hours without waking up. And eventually when I woke up, my mind began to race so much, I couldn't fall back asleep for hours at a time.

My body ached so badly, I began to think before I got out of my chair--did I really need to get up yet? Could I wait to get up? What would be the best way to get up? Where could I sit back down again? How long would I have to be up before I could sit down again?

Sometimes, the only thing that could get me out of a chair was me setting goals: two minutes, two minutes to make it up the stairs and back down again. Just two minutes, and then you can rest again.

As hard as I tried, I could no longer keep the personal bfp separate from the public bfp. Eventually, the private bfp was so sore, so unable to think clearly, so exhausted, the public bfp went out less and less. At times, the only thing that made it so that the public bfp could even get out of the house was big time sugar consumption or guilt.

Because yes, through this all, I felt guilty. I never asked for help. I went to plenty of doctors, but never once mentioned my little problem with exhaustion and feeling tired. There were many many reasons for this--but the two biggest were that 1. It's my fault I feel this way, I'm fat, I never exercise consistently, all they're going to tell me is that I need to lose weight and I already know that so why bother going? and 2. I don't really have a problem anyway, outside of being lazy. I was just too lazy to exercise, I had no ability to commit to anything, I had no self-control, I was lazy lazy lazy. And who tells a doctor, "I'm suffering from being extremely lazy and I don't really know what to do about it,"?

And so I felt guilty, always always guilty--I put too much of a burden on other people, my chronic laziness took advantage of people who loved me, I didn't do my part, and thus, I didn't really deserve much to exist, right?

***

In the middle of a cloud...
In the middle of a cloud I call your name...

***

W* got a really great job recently--and his job, along with my new job, allows me for the very first time in my life to 1. move out of the lower working economic class and 2. feel fairly confident that even if my health insurance doesn't cover something, we can afford to pay the cost to make it better.

Things are not sunshine and roses economically at this point. We've had to pay three months worth of rent three pay checks in a row, which means money is still a bit tight. And just yesterday W*'s car broke down, requiring hundreds of dollars worth of work.

But even while we are still struggling, the struggle isn't quite a stifling. For the first time in years, I'm not terrified of the winter season--we can actually afford to keep the heat on a normal temperature.

And I've been able to go to a doctor. And not just go to a doctor, but leave bad doctors and shop around for good ones--ones that are willing to partner with me in caring for my health rather than dominate me or get through me because it's a long day.

The ability to go to a decent doctor couldn't have come at a better time. My life has been closing in on me, sometimes nearly killing me with it's closeness. Desperation ripped away at my always nervous mind--was I really condemned to lie on a couch the rest of my fucking life?

As test results started to come in, three major things popped up. ADD, hypothyroidism and clinical depression.

But the only reason these diagnoses were made was because for the first time in my life, on my second visit to my new doctor, I shared some of my dark secrets with her. And then on the next visit to her, I shared a bit more--and then I shared a bit more, until all the fears and problems and secrets I'd ever had were lying on the floor in front of my fabulous doctor, who fortunately, was up to the task of sorting everything out.

It was desperation that made me do it. Another dear friend of mine who happens to be a doctor got a panic stricken email and then a near hysterical phone call from me because I wasn't sure I could trust this doctor, but I knew knew knew that I was at the breaking point. I couldn't stay alive and continue living the way I was. I knew it, and so for me, the inability to trust my doctor was literally a matter of life and figurative death.

My friend talked me through my panic, and after about a week of deep breathing, I finally called my doctor and set up more appointments.

It was on the third appointment when she looked me straight in the face and said simply, "I'm so sorry that happened to you," that the flood of secrets came tumbling out. It was sitting in the car after that appointment that the flood of tears let loose.

***

My love will turn you on...

***

I'm not really ready yet to talk about the steps I've taken/am taking to help myself. Suffice to say, I went through an incredibly debilitating period of mourning--I've lost almost six years of my life to ill health. I almost lost my life to it. How much did I miss? What did I miss? What will I never get back again, with my kids, with my ever patiently impatient W*? It's a devastating thing, to realize that the thing that nearly killed you, the thing that took away nearly a quarter of your life, didn't have to happen.

But as I opened the windows from my period of mourning, a realization began to unfold in front of me.

I just faced down death and came out alive. And I came out alive because of me. Because there was something good, and honest, and true and necessary and vital and strong and brave about me.

Even in my most closed off, achy, bone weary exhausted moments--that something, that good, honest, true, necessary, vital, strong and brave thing in me knew I was worth protecting. I was worth fighting for, I was worth living for--I was worth it.

And what kind of bad ass tuff mami was I, that I fought tooth and nail for 34 years, even after I had my ass knocked to the floor sometimes on an hourly basis, to stand back up again, and give it just one more go?

***

I love to turn you on...

***

I look at that bad ass tuff mami as existing separately from me in many ways. She is a different woman, a woman that, oddly enough, needs a damn rest. She's spent 34 years fighting, and believe me, exhaustion is a perpetual battle that takes place on every pore, in every muscle fiber, in every cell of your body. That woman is tired, needs a rest, needs to put her fists down, and get a two day long full body massage.

The thing that excites me is, for the first time, I am strong enough to do this for her.

For the first time, I have the *energy* to love this woman in an open and honest way--to rub her back, soak her fists, kiss her hips and her thighs, massage her belly until finally, finally, she relaxes and laughs with pleasure at the feeling of warm well oiled hands moving tingling energy up and down her core. For the first time, she and I can think about each other--and smile. She always knew I was in there somewhere, she just had to keep me safe until I was strong enough to come out. I always knew she was strong enough to keep me safe--that I could count on her.

She and I have a history together, and it's a good one. One, that like Sixo and Paul D, I know completes me in a way no other can.

And like Sethe, that woman and I, we stare at the truth and for the first time, dare to believe.

We are our best thing. We are.

I am.

Me? Me?

Yes.

Me.

***

So what is it that inspires me to blog?

That woman that I was--the fighter, the tuff mami, the survivor that is too busy surviving to take a mind blowing women's studies class. The woman whose brain is so intelligent, so insightful, but is too tired to show it because she worked all day and then got beat up when she got home. The Mexicana who really is a Mexicana but aches too much to take on an entire community and so holds her truth close to her keeping it safe until she is stronger. The woman who knows something is wrong but was actively denied the language to name what it is that is wrong. The woman who keeps fighting anyway, even though she can't see, hear, feel or smell her oponent.

Some how that fighter, that tuff mami, always finds a way to what she needs--and maybe, just maybe, one night after all the kids are asleep and she has just a moment before she falls asleep, she'll read my blog and realize that she's not alone. That she's not the only one who knows she's smart, sexy, intelligent beyond all reason, strong, loving and worth it. I know it too, and so do more women than she realizes (and that's just a few of them!).

Every woman has the right to know she's not alone, that she's not crazy, that her 'problem' is really what makes her the necessary and desirable human being that she is. Every Mexicana, every Chicana has the right to know that she's not lazy, and nobody but her gets to decide who she is.

Every beat up, achy, exhausted, cave dwelling, closeted queer, sad mami has the right to know--somewhere out there, in the middle of the night, someone is thinking of her, and smiling with pure pleasure.

~en lucha~


copyright
brownfemipower 2008




Intro from BFP

YAY! I finally am on a blog again! Hello everybody, this is bfp from La Chola or brownfemipower.com. I'm currently blogging here at Elle's lovely place because she is a total amazing PhD Historian and I loves her---but also because my own blog is having serious problems (namly, I can't log in!!). So I haven't been able to see anybody's comments, write any posts, change any settings, nothing, on my own blog--which REALLY REALLY SUCKS.

Fortunatly, Elle has very generously and kindly offered my poor fingers a place to write until I can figure out what is going on with my own blog--If I haven't said I love her dearly, I will say it again, I LOVE HER DEARLY and thank you SO much Elle!

In case you don't know me--I'm a Chicana, a radical woman of color, a writer, a mami, a queer, and a midwest living small town love/hating, dancing activist that spends way to much time messing around with media justice activism.

I looke forward to talking/meeting you all,
bfp

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ms. Sandwoman...

I'm in bed.

I'm actually sleepy.

What will happen if I actually drift off before midnight? Will my body rebel at having more than five hours of sleep at a time?

I'm sure as hell bout to find out!

In Honor of Community Organizing

H/T Kevin and Sylvia.

When I first heard, via tweets from mattt, Donna, and Kevin, how the Republicans snarkily maligned community organizing to attack one prominent former community organizer, I was floored.

As a historian of African Americans in the American South, my respect for community organizers is measureless. These were the people that got tired of the status quo and shook things up, who kicked Jim Crow’s ass mercilessly after he had beaten them down for decades. For the organizers who came from the communities seeking change, there was not even the little bit of escape that organizers from outside the communities had—there would be no going home (or back north) to rest your weary body or regroup. Your home might have been firebombed or riddled with bullets or you might have been evicted from it.

And yet, because they were “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” they persevered.

So here is some suggested reading about the power and effect of community organizing:




Aldon Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change



Charles Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

And here are two community organizers, women I love, historical figures whom I highly revere.

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer:

She grew tired of a life dictated by sharecropping and white supremacy and decided to make a change. She tried to register to vote and took some members of her community with her. After being arrested and evicted, she kept on. She worked to register voters. She was arrested again and beaten. She helped organize Freedom Summer. She, along with other delegates of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, appeared at the Democratic National Convention to show the other Democratic Mississippi delegation as a farce--it only represented white Mississippians. After the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, she didn't stop working for her community. From Wikipedia:

She continued to work on other projects, including grassroots-level Head Start programs, the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign.
I don't think that's anything to make fun of.

And here is Mrs. Septima Poinsette Clark:

I know her most for her work with adults, teaching them to read and about citizenship education, through the Highlander Folk School. From the AT&T South Carolina African-American History calendar:
Long before sit-in demonstrations and bus boycotts, Mrs. Septima Poinsette Clark waged a personal war against racism. in the early 1920s, she was involved in efforts to allow blacks to teach in public schools in Charleston. But after she was named vice president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, she was barred from teaching in South Carolina public schools. She was firm in her resolve and never wavered in her support of the NAACP. Mrs. Clark spent all of her life to insure a better lifestyle for all people. She worked with the YWCA, the Tuberculosis Association, and the Charleston Health Department.

She provided valuable training to the residents of the Carolina sea islands. She also established schools for illiterate adults. Septima Clark's national prominence came as a result of their work to establish citizenship schools throughout the 11 states of the Deep South. When legislation called for Americans to be able to read and interpret portions of the Constitution in order to register to vote, Mrs. Clark devoted her time to teaching these skills to thousands of southern blacks. Based on her experiences at the Highlander Folk School near Chattanooga, Tennessee, the citizenship schools were formed to teach blacks to read, write and understand the basic structure of the government.
So this idea that community organizers are somehow not valid, that community organizing is not important, honorable work? Lots of people are calling bullshit on that today. Kevin has a list of them.

Things Seen Six

We went to Hollywood Video on Saturday--my son proclaimed it family movie night. We don't even have a DVD player--he broke the one that was on the TV in my bedroom over a year ago and I'm not much of a TV/movie-at-home fan.* There are very few movies that I want to see more than once, so I don't by DVDs at all. I have a Netflix account for documentaries and the like to show clips to my class.

Netflix is actually one of the reasons I agreed to go--I've had a couple of episodes of "The West"** in queue for weeks and, while the site says "available now," the Netflix gods keep sending stuff further down the queue. This week, I'm lecturing on the Gilded Age, including westward expansion and the wholesale screw-over of Native Americans, and hoped Hollywood Video might have something. They didn't.

All that to say, as my son and I walked around the new releases wall, I saw "The Other Boleyn Girl." I knew Alex liked it and the store recommended it. In fact, here is the recommendation:



Yes, after that, I immediately wanted to grab it... or a WWE video.
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*He reasoned that we could gather 'round the laptop screen. I guess I'll have to buy a DVD player eventually, sigh. And new TVs--the one that used to be in my living room is a 27-inch one my sister and I bought at a pawn shop in 1996. In our last apartment, we just said fuck it and had no living room TV. I pulled out the old trusty for the move, but I don't even have the cable box hooked to it yet.

**I'm sorry, as drama-rama as it is, I love
Ken Burns's "The Civil War" series, and while I don't adore "The West," it serves the purpose.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Uppity?

Obama's "uppity" but it's okay that Palin demands deference? From Political Punch:
Rick Davis, campaign manager for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., just told Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace that McCain running mate Gov. Sarah Palin won't subject herself to any tough questions from reporters "until the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference."
Did she miss that whole trying-to-make-our-political-leaders-as-distinguishable-as-possible-from-British-royalty that American politicians did in the 1780s?

Guess she thinks they were busy hammering out the pledge?
H/T Mustang Bobby
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(ETA an actual quote. I clicked publish accidentally)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Stuck on the Idea

My PC is about to die. The CD/DVD drive is no longer working. IE regularly freezes up (though I mostly use Firefox). I've had it for around five years. I might just need to de-virus it, but it's doing all the stuff it did before it crashed last time.

So I am preparing myself; I was going to just pay to have it checked out, but I'm thinking, maybe it's time for a new one.

Here's the thing though. I have this spiffy new laptop that I just got in May. I also have a work laptop that they're setting up for me. I have a computer in my office.

Practically speaking, do I need a desktop?

It's in my mind, I know. I don't think of laptops as "real" computers. Even here at home, I will type on the laptop, but I have to go to the "big" computer for printing or using spreadsheets or whatever.

Of course, while I'm not exactly technology phobic, my expertise extends to, "Kim, what is..." and "Kim, how does..."

What I'm asking is, would a desktop be a wasteful expense?

And please don't ask me for specifications about the laptops. All I can tell you is that they have memory (no, I don't know how much), Windows Vista, and Microsoft Office. Asking a question that requires an answer that ends in "bytes" will be treated as an insult. :-P

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Homework

My son has to draw a map of his bedroom using symbols. He's trying to think of more things to use. Conversation:

"Ma, what do you call that thing the soldiers stay in?"

"Barracks? Are you drawing your bed?"

"My window."

"You're using barracks for your window?"

"Not barracks, Mama. The other thing they stay in."

**Puzzled mother look.**

He puts his hand in my face and wiggles his fingers. Just as I'm recovering from the, "Oh, no you didn't put your hand in my face!" he says, "Five! The thing with five sides! The shape, Mama!"

I've frustrated him.

"Pentagon?" I say, contritely.

"Yes, Mama."

Then he shook his head!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!!

Alex! This birthday has been a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time coming.

Love you!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Damn!

Jeremy's going to kill me. I'm having some work done on the template for another blog, gave unclear instructions to the people doing it, and the template here got changed.

I do this shit all the time!!! Grrrr!

Here's hoping we can get the butterfly back.

Hmmm...

Some rambling thoughts...

No, I don't think it's anyone's business that Bristol Palin is pregnant. As a formerly pregnant teenager who made a different choice, I don't think she should be shamed.

Still, I can't help noticing how markedly diferent the rhetoric/coverage surrounding her pregnancy is when compared to young women of color--particularly the reactions from conservatives and evangelicals. To sum it up:
"When the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, minority teenage mother growing up in some (presumably Democratic) urban area, that pregnancy becomes fodder for lectures from conservatives about bad parenting, the perils of welfare spending and so on. But when the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, white teenager from some small town in a Republican state, that pregnancy is...a celebration of the wonders of God's magnificence--and choosing life!" ― Thomas Schaller
Via Prof Tracey. (I'm assuming that works in the same way that it's "endearing" that Palin is a mother of five but a poor woman would be treated scornfully for the same?)

At the back of my mind, since I read about this, I've been thinking what if Malia or Sasha Obama was older and pregnant? Can you imagine the tropes that would be trotted out? The "See, I told you sos?" The condemnation--not only of the Obamas, but of African Americans in general--from the very people who are closing ranks around Bristol Palin? I do not think it is an invasion of the Palin privacy to say, yes, those people are hypocrites.

What it comes down to, again, is reproductive freeedom. You see, not only does Bristol Palin have the right, in a legal sense, to choose to continue this pregnancy, she also has a "cultural right" to be a mother. What do I mean? She's a white woman, part of a group whose role as mother is encouraged and rewarded. Not so for women of color who are questioned as mothers, as I noted a year-and-a-half ago when talking about children who were ripped away from their mothers because of ICE raids:
A discourse has developed in this country to support stealing our children away from us that attacks us as immoral, "illegal," or uneducated. I see this raid on a historical continuum with black children sold away from their mothers and Native children forced into "Indian schools" so they could be "properly" Christianized and Americanized. In fact, Americanizers of the late 19th/early 20th century spent inordinate amounts of time threatening to take immigrant children from their parents, telling immigrant mothers how their methods of child-rearing were substandard to those of more WASP-y Americans, probably as much time as 20th century welfare critics spent convincing themselves that poor black women did not really love or want their children--they only had them to get more out of the system--and as much time as 21st century anti-immigration proponents spend convincing themselves that Latinas don't really love or want their children--they just want anchor babies.

At the same time all these theories hurt our children, they hurt us, too. They justify the exploitation of our labor--it's okay if we work long hours in dangerous jobs; our children don't really need us. They justify the exploitation of our bodies--after all we're manipulative women not above using them for material gain. They justify the continual denial of the most basic rights to us.
Bristol Palin's future mothering is not as worrisome to us as that of the girls whom we are taught to think of as typical teen mothers.

To be fair, some conservatives have at least admitted the problem, in their eyes, isn't wholly teenage pregnancy, but unwed motherhood. I guess marriage to (typically) another teenager magically eradicates all the potential problems associated with the pregnancy itself not to mention the poverty that often comes afterward. So perhaps the Palin's carefully tacked on "and will marry the baby's father" changes how news of Bristol's pregnancy is being received, as well. (I swear, I want to tell some people, we can add and subtract; we're still going to know if people had sex/got pregnant before marriage).

Btw, I'm sorry, Sarah Palin can't have it both ways. Her daughter's pregnancy can't simultaneously be "no reflection on her" and proof that she (Sarah Palin) "walks the talk." It is Bristol Palin who's "walking the talk."
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...