Monday, November 23, 2009

Cumpleanos y Mas

Happy Birthday to me!

Reactions have been mixed. My friend Coti and my dad act as if they are in awe:

Coti: "Damn, girl, you almost 40?

Daddy: "You 35?!?!?!" (He's reflecting on what it means that he has a 35-year-old child. Yes, Pops, you're a senior citizen. :-)

I've received numerous birthday wishes, including a rousing version of "Feliz Cumpleanos." You have to be grateful for Dora's alleviation of young Americans' un-sophisticated monolingualism. You also have to be grateful to have wonderful friends and family and gentle reminders from FB.

I have my 3-year-old goddaughter. This is a talking, squealing, bossy little mama. She finally noticed my dad's leg. Unlike some of the smaller kids in the family who have been hesitant to approach him or even been fearful (which I hate for him), she had to conduct a minute inspection:

"Paw-Paw, you broke your leg off?"

"Nah, baby they cut off."

"You did that? You cut your leg?"

"No, the doctor?"

"With a knife? Why they do that?"

So, he debated explaining it, then went with, "It was bad."

Then, she said, "Paw-Paw, let me see," at which point, a careful examination complete with soft murmurs and sympathetic pats to his leg ensued.

It took forever to get her settled and Ms.Thing was back up before 8 AM. To say I am not used to that is an understatement.

Surprisingly, I have no plans for today. Went with friends and family for a birthday dinner Saturday. Having a party this weekend. Forgot to plan to do something on my actual birthday! I might spend it grading. That would be a wonderful gift to myself--to go back to work with a clean slate :-p

I will take down the twist-set C-Payne did on my hair so I can be wavy and cute as I bleed red ink all over essay exams.

I think it will be okay. :-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's the Matter with Louisiana?

Been thinking about starting a new blog called "Dispatches from the South" or something so I can just post ridiculous and non-ridiculous shit I stumble across everyday.

Then I realized, I barely write here!!! Might as well post my observations here. So, continuing my critique of Louisianans who make me want to pull my eyelashes out, I present the following two items:

Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License in Louisiana


Sharon Hodges, 61,... was charged with simple battery and disturbing the peace with racial slurs Thursday.

Okay, I ain't gone lie...

My first thought when I saw the first article was, "I have to tell Kim!" but then, I wondered if that put her in the, "Hi, I'm elle and this is my best friend, Kim, worldwide spokesperson for all biracial people" position.

So, I decided that it would be fun to just half-heartedly pick apart this racist Justice of the Peace's (he should not bear any title with the word "Justice" in it, IMHO) (il)logic:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Keith Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday.

He is talking using terms like, "mixing the races."

He apparently believes that somewhere, there is a "pure" race. He is prefacing his sentence with, "I'm not a racist..." He seems totally unaware or unaccepting of the notion of race as a political, social, and economic construct. Yes, Mr. Bardwell, you are a racist. He then says,
"I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Really, is he using the "I have a (fill-in-the-blank) friend!" argument? And is there anything more telling than, "They use my bathroom?" He compares his racial "tolerance" to the Jim Crow Era and has decided he his suitably progressive? Progressive enough that he's wiling to allow black people in his house and take the risk of getting our cooties!
[I]t is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long...


[Bardwell] came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

I don't know divorce statistics, I really don't. But I don't think the rate of staying-togetherness is impressive for many marriages these days, regardless of the racial background of the partners. If the rate of divorce is higher for interracial couples, I can't imagine why, given the welcoming and supportive social climate evidenced by people like Bardwell.

Also, this theory that people do not "accept" biracial children? First, let me state that I understand CLEARLY the difference between conceiving children in a consensual, loving relationship and conceiving them in a sexually exploitative system like slavery. But I have to point out that biracial children have a long history of being part of "black" families, because of the realities of the lives of enslaved women. Not "accepted," as if the effort to love them is always complicated and must be consciously undertaken.* It's as if Bardwell has been enjoying some of that "tragic mulatto" literature on the side.**

There is nothing that makes biracial children inherently prone to "suffering." Of course, I cannot personally speak to the experiences of biracial children and I know there are issues living in this society as a biracial person. But much of that is the byproduct of living in a highly racialized country, where we've understood race, for so long, as a binary, and are obsessed with making people fit one category or another. Louisiana is a perfect example; it wasn't that long ago that the state proved it's dedication to the one-drop rule.

Then, finally,
If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

No, you don't. if you're marrying some people and not marrying others, you are not treating everyone equally.

And, if I'm not mistaken, this is an elected position in Louisiana.

As to that second article,
A West Monroe police affidavit said Hodges claimed a woman cut in front of her at Walmart's return desk, and the woman's daughter lunged at her.


The woman's daughter admitted to lunging at Hodges after she used a racial epithet.
I would ask, in whose mind does it make sense that the reaction to cutting line is slinging racial slurs, but I think this says it all:
[W]itnesses heard Hodges yell a racial epithet at the woman and say, "You will respect your elders, especially since I'm white."

*I am not trying to dismiss the fact that there was undoubtedly resentment and struggles as enslaved women and men dealt with slaveowners' sexual violence.

** Since he depends on his perspective as a Louisianan, let me throw in mine. Lately, when I go home, every time I enter a store, I see white grandparents or godparents or aunts and uncles (and I partly assume the relationships and partly know for sure, because people ask them, "Who is this you got with you?") with biracial children all the time. Why do I even note it? Because that was NOT something I saw growing up there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I, John Brown, Am Now Quite Sure...

Today marks 150 years since the failed raid on Harper's Ferry. In the aftermath, John Brown predicted, "that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood."

The historical portrayal of him for so long was dismissive and ableist-- he had to have been wild and "crazy"-- what white man would risk all that for black people? It pissed me off badly. I adored John Brown when I heard of him in my history classes. In fact, while working on my M.A., I took on the haters in a paper entitled "John Brown: Crazy like a Fox." If I had known then what I know now, it might have actually been a good paper. :-)

Thinking of how he has been "written" reminds me of several things:

1) The people who dismiss slavery as the most significant factor leading to Civil War (again, the idea that this nation would've torn itself up over an issue that had black people at the heart of it? Impossible!)

2) Tim Wise's observation that so many people, when made aware of his anti-racist work, ask, "What happened to you?!" Hard to imagine that people would actually work to disinvest in whiteness--which shows how much we need to re-think the ideas that whiteness and related privilege are largely invisible*

3) H. Rap Brown's (Jamil Abdullah al-Amin) assertion that "violence is as American as cherry pie." It's been a primary tool of this nation-state; why are we surprised that citizens of any political position engage in it? And relatedly...

4) ...The absolute dissonance that allowed southern sympathizers to write about the Klan, for the longest time, as an honorable organization, that still allows my students to be taken aback by my use of "terrorism" when I describe Redemption, but permits the vilification of John Brown.

5) Another John Brown quote:
I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of colored people, oppressed by the slave system, just as much as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful. That is the idea that has moved me, and that alone
which often makes me wonder how his position on class** also contributed to the portrayal of him.
* And people are doing this work. Beyond the writings I've seen, a few weeks ago, I saw one of Jane Elliott's older films in which she asked an audience full of white people how many of them would like to be treated like PoC in this country. Not a single hand was raised.

** Respect for the poor and "weak" is derided now--imagine how it must've been 150 years ago.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Oh, Look, Fellow Louisianans!

We finally found something in which we can be number one:

"Louisiana's rate of women murdered by men is marked number one in the country."*

Shortly after that line, the article (from a Shreveport television station) reports: "This news hits us at a time when a local shelter for battered women is struggling to stay afloat."

Some other areas in which we are "notably" ranked (just a select few):

We have the "highest number of deaths of infants per 1,000 births and total infant mortality."

In overall child well-being, we are the second lowest.

We have the second highest rate of child poverty. We are number 49 in the nation, behind only Mississippi. Considering the facts that 1)we were "just" number 48 a few years ago and 2) "analysts see harder times ahead thanks to the still-lurching economy," Mississippi might oughta be worried--we're coming for your position, baby!

But, you know, at least we ain't supporting no crazy shit like shelters and centers for survivors of "domestic" violence**, education and better healthcare!

That would be the real drain on the citizens of Louisiana.

I mean, even if it's unclear what Louisianans are for, we do know what they're against. Trying to maintain political, economic, and racial hierarchies is much more important than the fate of Louisiana's children.

We all understand the un-avoidability of "collateral damage," right?

*This deserves a much more serious post of its own.

**That page lists centers, advocates, and support networks in
26 Louisiana parishes. Louisiana has 64 parishes.

I'm Loving My 9-Year-Old Nephew with the Intensity of a Thousand Suns

I know I talk a lot about Deuce--the new-baby-ness hasn't worn off in 18 months, apparently.

But his older brother, the kid whom I co-parented for a while, the kid who knows me like the back of his hand, is also incredibly close to my heart.

He does things like call me from Louisiana when shows he knows I like are on TV.

One day, in a buffet-style restaurant, he presented me with a caramel sundae he'd made, just because he's seen me order them before. It was the best one ever.

He calls me every Saturday that my alma mater plays to tell me game time. He just called to tell me, "We're winning now!"

I don't know many kids who are as detail-oriented and observant as he. It's like his mind is a catalogue, and he's carefully tucking away things he notices about what people like, what makes them happy.

And I know some of you think you have pretty cool little relatives...

But, I swear I have the best one.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Saturday Cuteness

So, my son, his best friend (our neighbor), and I just got home. While in the car, I noticed a Bed, Bath, & Beyond Coupon on the seat and said, "Oh, good. I need a grill!"

My sour little kid said, "Why? We don't have enough friends to grill for."

To which I said, "Ummm... I have friends. You might not be invited out, but I am."

His reply was, "But y'all go to happy hours. I can't go, unless..."

"Unless what?"

"We do like the cartoons, and I get on top and [the neighbor kid] is on bottom under a trenchcoat so we look tall."

So, I saw the best friend look at him in the mirror. Then, the best friend said, "Dude that would NOT work."

I thought he was going to say because my son's face would still look young or it would be so obvious what was going on.

Instead, he said, "How you gone explain Mexican legs with a black person on top?"

They fell out laughing, then my son tried to think up explanations. "I could say I'm biracial."

And the best friend nixed that one, "You wouldn't be half-and-half like that!"

More laughter.

"They did it on Scooby-Doo all the time!"

"They were all the same color!"

"No, it'd be Scooby on the bottom."

"They only fooled ghosts and monsters."

"Ghosts and monsters could see!"

"You need to think before you talk, dude. Scooby-Doo is ridiculous and so are you."

At that point, they were laughing so hard they couldn't sit up. I was wondering what was so funny, but smiling.

I cannot figure out what makes these kids tick! :-p

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Left in Limbo

When 19-year-old Tegan Leach fell pregnant, she and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Sergie Brennan, decided they did not want to carry the pregnancy to term. She chose to have an abortion. For making that choice, she now faces seven years in prison, and her boyfriend, three.

Tegan Leach lives in Cairns, Queensland in Australia, where having an abortion is a crime. From this article, it appears that a woman can be administered RU-486, if it is determined that the woman’s health is at risk. The article doesn’t mention any other exceptions. So, Leach and Brennan procured a “Chinese version” of RU-486 from Ukraine and induced a miscarriage at home. Police later found the packets that had contained the drugs while searching their home for other reasons.

At the heart of this story is Tegan Leach and I don’t want to divert our attention from that. But I am struck by how her case reveals the systematic way that anti-abortion laws and advocates work to circumscribe the choices of all women, by creating an atmosphere of terror. Women and doctors fear prosecution, ostracism, and vigilante attacks. Since Leach’s case came to light:

Their home has been firebombed.
Her boyfriend’s car has been vandalized.
They have had to go into hiding.
Doctors have stopped prescribing RU-486 (and many of them were hesitant to do so before her case, given the ambiguity surrounding whether or not it should be administered).
Queensland hospitals recently suspended drug-induced abortions after the Leach case and insurance companies in the state said that they would withdraw cover from doctors who aided medical abortions. Their decision forced dozens of women over the border into New South Wales for terminations. After doctors there, too, refused to perform abortions for fear of being prosecuted, a number of women were left in limbo…

Always, women are “left in limbo,” waiting for others to decide what our level of autonomy over our own bodies should be.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

MediaMakers Whom I Love...

Did you know Lex is doing Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind podcasts now? Well, she is, in the-most-gorgeous-voice-in-the-world.

Kortney Ryan Ziegler's groundbreaking film, Still Black, is now available for purchase for individual viewing.

Kameelah is chronicling her Ramadan experiences; the words and images are stunning.

As you've probably noticed, I've been inblognito for a while, so tell me some exciting things you think I should see/hear...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Watching a Documentary...

...about Reconstruction and am mildly placated by one historian's linking of the era with the later civil rights struggle; he argues that "We see the legacy of Reconstruction. It took generations for [the promise of Reconstruction] to play out, but it never died."

Mmmm... That whole federal-abandonment-and-southern-rewriting-of-history thing still rankles though. Sometimes, there's a reason (or four million of them) that "Lost Causes" are lost.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yet Another Note on Tyler Perry...

... because a friend posted this link on my fb page.

What I said to another friend on twitter:
I'm very, very bothered by the messages he puts out, particularly b/c so much of his audience is black women. it's how i feel about some blk churches. we go show our loyalty, spend our precious time and give our hard earned $ to hear everything that's wrong with us.

When I think about it, for Perry and some churches, it's an almost-perfect set-up. If you disagree with the messages, it's because you're deeply entrenched in sin, your views are tainted by "worldly" philosophies like feminism (rather than "rooted in the Bible"), or you're just angry because the pastor has "stepped on your toes."

Never is the problem the sexism/misogyny/homophobia/internalized racism* so apparent in the message. Nor, in the case of Perry, as my friend noted, is it the "minstrel show (held up as 'real') and... transvestitism played for laughs."

Previously-published reasons Tyler Perry makes me roll my eyes sometimes.
*I've heard some sermons that leave me wondering, "Wow, how did he seamlessly combine the Bible and the Moynihan Report like that?"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Small Is My Hometown?

Here is our section of the phone book: 6 pages back & front and includes info for two towns and one village.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


*As you've probably noticed, particularly on Facebook, my "more healthful eating" plan has been shot since I've been in Louisiana. I'm getting back on the bandwagon next week. :-)*

Sunday is my family church's Homecoming. It's a huge event and we'll cook a big dinner for extended family and anyone who might drop by afterward. This is one day on which my mom takes lead; I'll be like the sous chef :-)

Anyway, Mama is cooking dressing, greens, cornbread, potato salad, fried chicken, sweet potato pies and pound cake. I'm going to make chicken and dumplings and I usually make mac and cheese, but I want to make something different. I also need to make a dessert. I'm determined to make something besides red velvet cake, peach dumplings, or strawberry shortcake (my standards) or cheesecake (which I make occasionally but I don't feel like that much effort, especially when they still sometimes get those fine little cracks in the top).

I thought maybe something with egg noodles... only because I'm looking at a pack now. The only thing I've found online that remotely interests me is another play on mac and cheeses, so it doesn't have to be that though. Go ahead; leave me ideas (or e-mail them). It doesn't have to be traditional southern food--I like to throw something new on 'em every once in a while.

Monday, August 10, 2009


So, one of the things I was researching was welfare cuts in 1960 Louisiana... y'all know I got some quotes for that ass!!

But, the rhetoric surrounding welfare has not changed much since then.

I Don't Think that Word Means What You Think It Means...

Yesterday, my son asked me, "Mama, what would you say if I told you I was going Gothic?"

Me: "I'd ask you what does Gothic mean."

The Kid: "It's when you dress all in black and sit under trees and read big books. I mean, bigger than the Harry Potter books! And you frown so nobody bothers you."

Me: "Well, as long as you know what's required..."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Is This What They Call Middle-Aged?

Packing for my archive visit and double-checking to make sure I have:
-My three prescriptions
-My vitamins
-A book
-Benadryl (tablets and cream)
-Panty girdle (not good, I know, but my mom and my grandmother spent years drumming into us the absolute necessity)
-Three similarly colored outfits to cut down on pairs of shoes needed, and ensure interchangeability in the event of an accident
-Comfortable underwear

Realizing fifteen years ago, I would've been making sure I had:
-Cute panties (you know, in case someone saw them :-)
-Six outfits and twelve pairs of shoes for a two-day stay (because you need to be able to change your mind)
-Lip gloss--lots and lots of lip gloss

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How Addicted Am I to Social Media?

Twitter is down and I'm contemplating finding all my Twitter friends and making them my Facebook friends because I miss the conversations!!!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Important Announcement

So, last night I was talking to my cousin, Janna, my goddaughter's, Belle's, mother. Belle (seven-years-old!!!) interrupted our conversation with an important announcement.

Belle: Guess what?

Me: What?

Belle: T.I. is cheating on you with Tiny!

(I'm assuming she's caught some of Tiny and Toya)

Me: (dramatic gasp/sigh) I know. We gone have to find us somebody else.

Silence. Then,

Belle: You go ahead. I'm keeping T.I.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Where Is Aniysah?

From Document the Silence:
On March 3rd, 2009 six year old Aniysah was taken from her mother’s arms and thrown into a legal shuffle of unaccountability, instability and discrimination. There were no records verifying that she would be taken to a safe living environment or that she was enrolled in school. Questions about her health and well-being went unanswered. That was 150 days ago. To date, Aniysah remains lost in the legal system. A system where black and brown children go missing everyday. A system where black mothers like Aniysah’s are often left to fend for themselves in a brutal, dogged battle just to make sure their children are safe.

It’s time to hold the legal system accountable. Document the Silence asks that you join them in the “Where’s Aniysah?” campaign by posting information about this case on your blogs, online social networks and throughout your community. You can find out more about this campaign to stand against injustices against our children in the legal system by visiting the Document the Silence website .

Where’s Aniysah? What you can do!

* Show up! – Are you going to be in the NYcity area August 24th? Come to Aniysah’s court date and show the judge and the law guardian you care! Even if you can’t make it, invite your friends who can! The deets:The next court date is August 24th, 2009 at 11AM and the address is :IDV PartCourtroom E-123, Annex BuildingJustice Fernando M. CamachoQueens County IDV Court,Queens County Supreme CourtCriminal Term 125-01 Queens BlvdKew Gardens, New York 11415

* Spread the word!- send this website out to everyone you know. tell them why this is important. post to your facebook account. forward on your many list serves. post Aniysah’s mom youtube clip on your facebook page. write a blog about her story. email everyone you know and don’t know.

* Speak up! – do you know of other children of color who have been lost in the legal shuffle? Let’s document the silence of court sanctioned kidnapping that is happening to black and brown women and children across the country! email us at and we will add your story to the website.

H/T Lex, format copied from VivirLatino

Saturday, August 01, 2009

He's a Cute Kid and a Good Kid...

Presented with little comment (because I'm more interested in yours) about the nature of media coverage (and, of course, a much broader problem). You only have to watch the first three minutes or so of the first video if you're in a time crunch :-)


Also, when I heard about Jill and Kevin's wedding entrance, I know I can't be the only person who thought, had they been people of a different... complexion, that probably would've been perceived more like the joke in the first 1:15 of this video:

(i.e. "ghetto")

H/T Professor Rachel and MB via facebook and twitter

Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Observations

Now that Tiny and Kandi are trying out reality TV, when will LaTocha and Tamika Scott get their chance?

I watched "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" last night and thought it illustrated how precarious our economic situation is--the so-called difference between being "rich" and being "wealthy." I haven't watched any of the other "Housewives" shows, so I wonder if any of them have Sheree's problem of looming foreclosure or if the kind of rumor that circles NeNe's husband, Gregg (that he's broke/about to be broke), are spread about the other husbands.

mrs. o and my sister don't have Bravo as part of their cable packages and were hatin' on me last night. :-p

I'm having an allergy attack that causes mad itching, then mad scratching, and then hives and redness that make me look like I frolicked through a glade of poison ivy or something.

Summer school's almost over!!!!

My darling Kimberly got sucked in by HGTV's promises that yes, you can DIY!!! and has been painting for about 22 years now. :-) A short excerpt of a recent FB chat:

Kim: Do you watch HGTV?

elle: ummm... no.

Kim: DON'T! It's the debil.

elle: LMAO!! That's how Lowe's and them get you!

Speaking of which, one of my grad students offered a pretty good critique of Lowe's, Home Depot, et. al., advertising which purports to turn stereotypes on their head (by insisting women don't need a "handyman" or portraying women as the real decision makers behind home improvements). She thinks they support those stereotypes by either 1) positioning themselves as the exception or 2) expecting people to find it humorous that the companies have "switched" the gender roles.

I think this is a fine example of splitting hairs: "I didn't call you jungle momkey, the noun; I only used it as an ADJECTIVE to describe your behavior and writing!" For some reason, it reminds me of people I've met who claim "the n-word" can be used to described people of any color who possess certain "immoral" or "less-than-industrious" qualities. How do you say "You're missing the point" to people like that?

And, btw, can someone point Mr. "Yes-I-Used-Jungle Monkey Pejoratively* but I'm not a Racist" to a racism 101 course... or a bingo card... or J. Smooth?

I'm still thinking a lot about Michael Jackson.

As of today, I haven't seen my kid in three weeks. Longest time ever!

I had a phone conversation with Deuce last night. Well... in the sense that he understands a "question voice" and pause means it's his turn to babble.

Okay. Must slather myself with Benadryl Cream and pray no one comes by the office!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Do They Do It? Pt 3

I also watched lots of news channels and was struck by:

Almost any coverage of the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings who are primarily known, according to many media sources, "for adopting special needs children."

Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell expressing mock sympathy and yelling, "What's going to happen to the kids now?" and being surprised when the family said the children would be kept together.

The ableist and underlying assumptions that 1) It is remarkable than people adopt special needs children and 2) the remaining family would perceive the children as burdens and not want to keep them.

Suffering for the Common Good

Gathering clips about eugenics for a fall class. Ran across this little tidbit:
Dr. Osborn could not even admit the claims of birth control advocates to a humanitarian consideration for the sufferings of women in childbirth. On this subject he said, in part: "The attempt to relieve womankind of what may be termed the prehistoric and historic burden of the female of the species naturally enlists the sympathy both of the individualists of our time, who are ready to support any measure to give women greater freedom of profession and of action, as well as of the sentimentalists, who do not realize that women's share in the hard struggle for the existence of the race is a very essential element in the advance of womankind."

Science News Letter, August 27, 1932
That Damned Eve Screwed All of Us!!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Do They Do It? Pt 2

You might want to watch it for yourself to see if our impressions are similar. Most of the relevant stuff is in Part 3.

Anyway, the first episode of Meet the Browns I saw was "Meet the Ex" in which Will's old friend, a woman named Lynn, makes a pass at his wife, Sasha. Much homophobia/biphobia ensued--Sasha was suddenly scared of Lynn and didn't want to be near her. Lynn describes her feelings as, "I love men... women... everybody!" In other words, she's a slut. She's so low she'll come on to her best friend's wife.

Her bisexuality is explained as experimentation--no real attachment or attraction she just wants to "experience as much as I can," "live life to the fullest," "take a walk on the wild side," etc. Sasha is so repulsed and threatened, she is no longer even willing to go out to dinner with Lynn, and doesn't want Will to go, either. When Will speaks highly of Lynn the next night, Sasha must quickly point out that Lynn is not worthy of praise because she is bisexual--the exact words, "Lynn's not who you think she is." All of Lynn's work as a well-traveled, smart philanthropist was negated by her bisexuality.

Even after they confront Lynn, she still urges them to stop being uptight and "spice things up." She's also revealed to be immature--she says she just wants to have some fun like they did in college, at which point Will reminds her, "We're not in college." "Not everyone," Sasha tells her, "shares your lifestyle." Lynn admits that she doesn't like rules and the couple bid her a very definite goodbye.

So, Lynn as bisexual is promiscuous, mostly experimenting, a potential homewrecker, a rule breaker, trying to lure people into her lifestyle.

Yep, I think he covered all the bases. And this gets national coverage.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How Do They Do It? Pt 1

This post got so long, I'm going to have to put it up in parts!

One of the things I was determined to do during my brain break was engage in a little escapism, via the television. Now, I have a problem watching TV or movies outside the theater--I lose the thread of what's going on, I can't concentrate, I have an overwhelming urge to get up and do something else (I'm the same way about telephone conversations).*

Anyway, back on track--me--escapism--TV. Honestly, there's not a lot on. I found myself simultaneously craving the MJ coverage and being further saddened by it. Anyway, I thought there might be some comic relief in Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns on TBS.

Full disclosure--I didn't come to the series unbiased. I have my issues with Tyler Perry--most recently, I was so profoundly angry about the Sanaa Lathan character in The Family that Preys.

Which brings me to my first "How do they do it (and get away with it)?" question. The absolute aversion to educated, succesful black women in The Family that Preys and in T.D. Jakes's Not Easily Broken was breathtaking. I mean, I wondered who in the world had paged Sapphire!

To show how absolutely revolting Andrea (Sanaa Lathan's character) was, Perry went into overdrive. She was mean, selfish, derisive of her husband, and, the ultimate sin--a white man's whore!!! She cheated on her black husband with a white man and bore the white man's child. I don't think he could've made her any lower.

The real issue seemed to be that she had some sort of perceived power over her husband because she had a better job and more money**--but apparently, that would have been too easy to say. Andrea was totally out of her place as a woman and her world was corrupted by that.

Same thing with Clarice (Taraji Henson's character)in Not Easily Broken. There's actually a Dave (Morris Chestnut's character, Clarice's husband) monologue during which we find out that what's wrong with the world is that men have lost their place as protectors and providers, a position usurped by women who don't realize they need men. Clarice browbeats and scorns her husband; her mother is constantly there to affirm that Dave is not good enough for her daughter and they almost push him into the arms of a white woman, a mother--a role Clarice has resisted (evidence of her selfishness). It is not until Clarice's mom is revealed as a bitter meddler, Clarice meekly asks for her husband to come back, and Clarice changes her mind and becomes pregnant, that all is made right within the Dave and Clarice universe.

There was also the recurring theme in both films of irrevocably damaged black women--the women who are so hurt by one black man they can never again "appreciate" another one. Andrea was traumatized by the abandonment of her father, Clarice's mom had been abandoned by her husband. Because they didn't just get over it, their lives were ruined.

I've seen clips from Madea Goes to Jail, and Perry's insistence that women get over it was evident--one incarcerated woman was beginning to tell how she had been hurt by her stapfather and Madea interrupts to tell her, basically, that it didn't matter. Now, I think they were in a therapy session, the woman was trying to process something she had found traumatic, and she is told to get over it. So, there is this disconnect--being told to "get over it" but having the means by which one might "get over it" (therapy, talking, sharing, processing) dismissed.

I can't speak to anyone's church experience but my own, but this is part of the reason I had to distance myself from my attended-my-whole-life church. The Eve-and-Jezebel sermons, as my sister calls them, got wearying. It began to feel like an attack--pews filled with black women being told all that is wrong with us, with most of it rooted firmly in our efforts to survive and thrive. We transgressed by forgetting what our (subordinate) place should be. I don't know how Perry, Jakes, or my pastor get away with maligning so much of their audiences, ignoring criticism, and forging on in the same way--I guess because it works? I watched two episodes of Meet the Browns, didn't I?

Nothing about this critique is new, I know. I'm just working through these ideas as I try to explain, honestly, how I went into viewing "Meet the Browns" with some bias, while simultaneously admitting I have found the "Brown" character funny. Tomorrow, I really will get to the series, I promise.
*As a side note, at my doctor's office, I had to do this depression checklist and one of the things listed was the inability to pay attention to television, to concentrate, etc. And I burst out crying right then because I felt like, "Oh my God, it's not just me." It's been hard to read a book, write as much as I should, etc, for the longest time! After I explained that my tears were actually ones of relief, my doctor asked me about any past diagnoses of ADD, too, but she and I will have to explore that more.

**At the end of the movie, when that power thing is flipped and Andrea is living in a run-down apartment and having to accept money from her ex-husband, that is acceptable. She deserved it, after all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

DC Vigil for Lei Tyree Johnson

Via Kismet:
Ignore domestic violence as someone else's issue #youdothis.
Agitate and Conversate on the damage being done in your communities #idothis

Come out, come out, please! And RT/Repost this widely:

Because my writing has had to take precedent over other projects over the summer I haven’t been posting here as much as I would like. However I just received an email that bears posting:

On July 1, 2009, Lei Tyree Johnson with a male friend was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, who also attempted to suffocate her 12-year old son. A vigil honoring Johnson and the cause of Domestic Violence will be held on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 from 7pm-9pm at UDC-Denard Plaza. The event is co-sponsored by the Beta Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta (Johnson crossed at Beta Iota in 2000) and the UDC Pan Hell. If you are in the DC/MD/VA area PLEASE come out and help take a stand against domestic violence.

Attire: Members of Fraternities and Sororities wear paraphernalia

Bring a white candle & a friend.

For further information please contact

Those on twitter PLEASE tweet this. Those on facebook please share this. Those who are simply blog readers, please share this however you can. In times like these I fear this will become even more common than it (unfortunately) already is.
Kismet linked here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


...a much needed brain break. With the 4th and summer school coming up in the next week, I probably won't be back for a week or so.

See you later!

Monday, June 29, 2009

She's Right: Why Not?

This year, I AM GOING (not going to say planning or trying to go) to the AMC.

Why not help send me and some other lovely ladies? Via Noemi:

AMC. We need to get there.We have fundraised, asked for grants, compromised, felt energized, asked for days off, gotten free airline tickets, borrowed time, overcharged credit cards and emailed/talked/made plans with friends and strangers across the lines.And still call us shameless, we ask for more. Y porque no?

please consider donating to these fine, chingona mujeres

Maegan “la Mala” Ortiz, raising chingona mujeres. Sending single mami love

Elle, southern sistorian, who I shall meet one day even if we live closer than other folks. Oh we shall share a beer very very soon

blackamazon Sydette otherwise known as the bad ass who I love

Fabiola, fabmexicana who guest blogs here, leaving pedacitos de su corazon.
Otra mami soltera de

Noemi Martinez
spiller of dreams-single mami

ms. cripchick
a powerchair-roaring queer radical woman of color
cripchick's weblog

Many of us will be taking part in the Women’s Media EquitySummit on July 16th.At the AMC, we’ll be involved in several different caucuses, meetings and generally raisinga ruckus wherever you may find us. And OUR KIDS WILL BE CAUSING ALL SORTS OF MAYHEM AT THE KIDS TRACK AND IN GENERAL. It will be a sight to see. Things will happen. We will write/blog about it.

On Brisenia Flores

When I was working on my dissertation, I had to read quite a bit of “immigration” literature for my last chapter. One of the books I remember most was John Higham’s Strangers in the Land, because so many others referenced his assertion that throughout U.S. history, nativism and xenophobia have ebbed and flowed.

I remember that, because as I’ve said before, I think we are caught in a peak period and it seems we have been for well over a decade now.

But having the historical perspective to see it as part of a pattern, to know that it might recede some day, does not make it any less painful to live through, especially as we bear witness to the beating deaths of Luis Ramirez and Jose Sucuzhañay, the disrespect shown to the memory and family of Ana Fernandez,

And the murder of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores.

I heard about Brisenia Flores a few weeks ago, from the Sanctuary, VivirLatino, and via Twitter. She and her father were murdered, and her mother was shot, in their home, in the middle of the night, by people "associated" with the Minuteman Project.

I have been unable to get the words together to write about this child, because of all the thoughts racing through my mind:

Racists still come to our homes and murder us in the middle of the night.

This reinforces for people of color how tenuous the safety of our children is.

We live in a white supremacist patriarchy that claims to value a certain family structure while violently disrupting that structure in families of color.

How long are people going to deny the violence that permeates so much right-wing extremism? What do we expect from people fed on a constant diet of "us vs. them" and "retain-our-privilege-at-all-cost?" Why aren’t more of us repulsed that it’s cloaked in the language of love for “God and country?”

Beyond all the symbolic things, a nine-year-old child and her father were killed because of hatred. Even then, we can’t talk about that without feeling the need to air the murderers’ opinion that Raul Flores, Jr., Brisenia’s father, sold drugs.*

As if the Minutemen need justification to act violently against a Latin@ family and community. As Maegan notes:
The goal [of Shawna Forde and Gunny Bush] wasn’t to observe, document and report as Jim Gilchrist, the leader of the Minuteman Project, has said in trying to distance himself from his associates charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of aggravated assault. The goal was to use violence against a family viewed as expendable to help further their cause of using violence against those viewed as expendable.

*I have not read anything that backs the truth of that claim, and yet the NYT juxtaposes it with the local Sheriff’s observation that “there is ample drug activity between here and the border.” Now, he doesn’t say that Raul Flores, Jr., is connected to it, but that quote is somehow relevant when talking about the murder of a Latino man who lived near the border.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Didn't Know "Rest In Peace" Came with a Citizenship Requirement!

ETA: A new note at the bottom

Do you ever just sit back and wonder who and what we are becoming?

When the DC metrorail crash occurred earlier this week, nine people lost their lives. When the list of the names of the dead was released, it contained the name of Ana Fernandez, a mother of six.

While the family has been "grateful for the genuine expressions of sympathy," they did not expect another effect.

Ana Fernandez's image and name have prompted hateful, harrassing calls from people demanding to know her immigration status.

My personal response was, "Does it matter?"

Have we really sunk so low that we comb through the details of tragedies, looking for things that make us feel "suspicious?"

Have brown skin and a Spanish surname become enough to arouse that suspicion and make us act in heartless, disturbingly inhuman ways? (That question is rhetorical, of course).

Ana Fernandez's family is having to balance their grief with this sudden demand to explain:
Ana's sister said the accusations aren't true.

"Right now, the whole family is in pain. She was here legally, and all her children are legal. They were born here."

They're also having to defend themselves against the stereotypes of lazy immigrants who come here to "live off" others. Fernandez's sister said:
"We all work, OK? And we're going to get through this."

And from one of her children:
"She was always working -- working two jobs. She did whatever she had to to take care of us," said Evelyn Fernandez, her oldest daughter, who is enrolled in a GED program. "She was a strong woman. She never needed anyone to help her."

For the record, I'd like to repeat that Fernandez's family reports that she did have legal status and all her children were born here.*

For the record, large numbers of people with Spanish surnames and brown skin have been in the United States for 160 years now** and in places that would become part of the United States for generations before--at some point, New Spain extended from one coast to another across the southern portion of what is now the United States.

Given that, inferring anything "suspicious" from the appearance and name of Ana Fernandez is not only desperate, it doesn't necessarily make sense.

Except, I guess, in a place fully ensconced and invested in its latest wave of nativism.

H/T Maegan
*I've gone back and forth about writing that, because what I'm trying to say is that the accusations are unfounded, but what I worry it sounds like is, "Because they've met this arbitrary citizenship standard, they have a right to grieve and be treated with respect." Her family should be allowed to grieve in peace and she should be treated with dignity in her death whatever her/their immigration status is.

**I dated that from the Mexican Cession, forgetting to reference the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, that had the effect of bringing significant parts of New Spain (including Florida) into the U.S., as well.

On the Death of Michael Jackson

The first video I showed my son then. The title seems appropos to how I'm feeling.

(A cleaned-up version of a comment I made here)

As a feminist, as a rape survivor, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, as someone who once adored the "King of Pop," how do I process Michael Jackson's death?

I grew up in a little southern, rural town where racism was alive and well. Seeing a black person as glamorous and famous as Michael Jackson meant the world to me. Seeing that his popularity crossed color lines--I mean, I remember distinctly thinking, "White girls scream and pass out over him?" They'd have been ostracized in my town.

It's not that I idolized him as some sort of post-racial icon--I don't believe in that shit, not for this country, in our lifetimes--but that here was a symbol that, my God, it wasn't so bad for us everywhere.

Then there were the other, simpler things. I loved his music. I had a crush on him. I thought he was cool without being "hard."

When the allegations came, I was angry at him, because I believed them. I knew what it was like not to be believed as a survivor, and I didn't want to do that to those children.

And I was angry at me, because I believed them.

Thanks to exposes and the nonstop media fascination, I had given Michael my own, hardly professional diagnosis. I thought he was profoundly hurt and always searching for his childhood, trying to live it vicariously through children. I thought he didn't know how to set appropriate boundaries--he really thought of himself as children's "friend." I thought somewhere along the way, he may have crossed the line in a hurtful, heinous way.

So, yes, I was mad at him.

And felt sorry for him.

And cared about him.

And identified with those children and worried about them.

In short, I was confused, felt guilty for caring for him.

I still am confused. But I know news of his death shook me, saddened me unbelievably. I don't know how to deal with it. I can't pretend that I didn't care, that part of me didn't still care a whole lot about an imperfect, sad man who may have done some unforgivable things.

Sometimes, I realize that I'm human, that how I feel won't always be logical or rational or even, to some, defensible.

But I'm not getting on the defense on this one.

I sincerely hope Michael is happy and at peace now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where Is Jada Justice?

Update: Police believe they may have found her body

Update II: mzbitca confirmed for me that her body had been found. Rest in Peace, Jada.

Jada is two years, ten months old and has been missing since June 16 from the Gary, IN, area. Jada is "an African-American child about 2 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 35 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a light brown complexion."

In the last couple of days, (as noted by some critiques) Jada's case has begun getting more national attention. Her mother was on Nancy Grace's show Tuesday night. And cnn and msnbc sites had articles as of the 23rd, I believe.

Local news outlets have been covering the case.

If you have any information, call 1-800-CALL-FBI

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other...

Remember the Loud and Clear post? Consider this an addendum.

Yesterday, the Nixon Library made "more than 150 hours of tape and 30,000 pages of documents" public, much of it online.

One of the things revealed is that, while Nixon didn't make a public statement about Roe v. Wade, he had mixed feelings about the decision. He worried, like so many concerned trolls citizens, that the ability to fuck without one of the biggest "penalties"* would turn women into loose, sex-crazed sluts, thereby unraveling the fabric of the United States:
Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.”

But he did recognize that sometimes, women might need abortions (emphasis mine):
“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

Because apparently, a white woman having consensual sex with and becoming pregnant by a black man is equivalent to/"just as tragic as" being raped and becoming pregnant. I put it in these terms, not because black women didn't/don't have children with white men, but because this is the combination that has always been seen as "tragic." White southern men, for example, spent many of the early years of the "New South" warning about such relationships and trying to ensure, violently, that they didn't occur.

The newly released recordings also document Nixon's anti-Semitism (as recordings before have done):
The tapes also include a phone call from February 1973 between Nixon and the evangelist Billy Graham, during which Mr. Graham complained that Jewish-American leaders were opposing efforts to promote evangelical Christianity, like Campus Crusade. The two men agreed that the Jewish leaders risked setting off anti-Semitic sentiment.

“What I really think is deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism, and all this is going to do is stir it up,” Nixon said.

At another point he said: “It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.

It's funny how Republican leaders for the last 50 years or so have been accusing racial/ethnic/religious minorities of "stirring things up" and provoking the attacks on themselves by demanding to be seen, heard, counted. It's the height of privilege-- and evidence of a sad lack of empathy--to view someone's struggle for rights as an inconvenience to your own life and the source of your righteous indignation.

And as to the part I emphasized, note that he is speaking, what, one generation after the Holocaust? I don't even have flippant analysis for that--he was just an asshole.
* Meaning forced pregnancy and childbirth

Monday, June 22, 2009

Really, Justice Thomas, You Don't Have to Go that Far to Prove a Point

Whatever that point is:

Clarence Thomas casts lone vote against Voting Rights Act

In your haste to show all of us unambitious, whining, dependent black folk up, do you even know what the point is anymore?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Demand MS Reunite Mother & Baby Daughter!

Via BfP, this Request for Action from the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA):
Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to her baby girl in November of 2008 at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS. She speaks very little Spanish and no English, as her native language is Chatino, an Indigenous language from Oaxaca, Mexico that is spoken by some 50,000 people.

The hospital provided her with an “interpreter” who is from Puerto Rico and does not speak Chatino, the language of the mother. Because of the language barrier and the misunderstanding by the hospital’s interpreter who only spoke Spanish and English, a social worker was called in.

The hospital’s social worker reported “evidence” of abuse and neglect based on the following:

* The “baby was born to an illegal [sic] immigrant;”
* The “mother had not purchased a crib, clothes, food or formula.” (Most Latina mothers breast feed their babies).
* “She does not speak English which puts baby in danger.”

Ms. Baltazar Cruz’s baby was snatched from her after birth at the hospital and given to an affluent attorney couple from the posh Ocean Springs who cannot have children.

The authorities made no effort to locate an interpreter in her native tongue. MIRA located an interpreter who is fluent in Chatino in Los Angeles CA and has interviewed the mother extensively with the interpreters help. The mother has been accused of being poor and not being able to provide for this child. No one has asked the mother to provide evidence of support. She owns a home in Mexico and a store which provides both secure shelter and financial support, not counting the nurturing of a loving family of two other siblings, a grandmother, aunts, uncles and other extended family.

Meanwhile, there is word in the Gulf Coast community that the “parents to be,” have already had a baby shower celebrating the “blessed arrival” of this STOLEN child!


If you believe this is unjust and outrageous and goes against all moral and religious beliefs and values, please call or write to the presiding Judge and the MS Department of Human Services to STOP this ILLEGAL ADOPTION! Stealing US born babies from immigrant parents is a growing epidemic in the United States. Many Latino parents have lost their children this way!

Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567

Children’s Justice Act Program
MS Dept. of Human Services
750 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
Call (601)359-4499 and ask for Barbara Proctor

For more information please call MIRA at: (601) 968-5182

MIRA Organizing Coordinator
Victoria Cintra at (228) 234-1697 or Organizer Socorro Leos at(228) 731-0831
This made me so angry and reminded me about this article I'd seen some time ago--different circumstances, same disregard for/devaluing of immigrant women's mothering.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life, the Update

Thank you to everyone, here, on facebook, and via e-mail, who expressed concern, offered prayers, kind words, good vibes, etc. I have had a tumultuous two weeks, but everything else fades compared to concern for my dad.

Last Thursday, he had the lower portion of his left leg amputated. This time, the wound is healing just fine. They moved him today to a rehab that his doctors promise us is the best in the area. And of course, while I have all the "What can we do to facilitate his physical and emotional healing/get him through this?" sorts of questions, my sister had the practical ones. "Is the place clean? What's their health record like? Are the caretakers kind? What should we do about having a ramp built at home?" I'm smiling as I think of it.

Everything else is coming along. The car probably only needs a radiator. The conference is over and I didn't suck. My grad class dropped to six, but is back at seven, so it might hold. The baby shower turned out nicely. I finished my survey syllabus (wasn't stressing initially cuz I teach it every semester, but condensing fifteen weeks to five? Gulp!). I still have some worries, but am feeling a bit better.

I wish I could hug all of you back and cook dinner for you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Know What?

Today is a seesaw. Some good things accomplished, but not everything. More stressful news--but job-related and nothing serious.

I think I will take a nap, then get up and cook. A whole lot of stuff for my huge extended family. And I think I will take advantage of being in Louisiana and go to the local drive-thru liquor store and order an extra large margarita-strawberry daiquiri mix with lots of salt on top.

Because on days like this, I feel my attitude being horrendous the more I focus on the "serious" stuff. And then I feel bad for my horrendous attitude. And in the end, I am at home and this is the most vacation I'm going to get this summer.

Thank You, Wanda Sykes

...for getting to the heart of why articles like this:

bug the hell out of me.

I won't pretend that I remember all the details of the article--I read it while waiting in the dentist's office. That was a nightmare because I have a jacked mouth and I can't clearly recall much about that day. :-)

I do know the article had a "This group thinks this of her; that group thinks that. Who is she really???" sort of vibe.

Wanda Sykes gets at the heart of the "Who is she really???" question.

H/T Anxious Black Woman

Catch My Breath

Daddy and Deuce 9 June 2009

This is not a good week. I am behind on my interview schedule. I am trying to wrap up the presentation-that-shouldn't-be-a-paper for next week's conference. I am coordinating a baby shower.

And mostly, I am being really, really quiet about my dad. He's been in the hospital for a few weeks now. He complained of a sore foot for a while. The local clinic took his word that it was his gout and prescribed a pain medicine. The people at the dialysis clinic took one look at it, discovered a badly infected sore, and sent him to a hospital. The people at the hospital were bothered by the look and smell of it and sent him to a VA hospital.

They tried antibiotics, then amputated two of his toes and some of the padding on the bottom of his foot.

He is a diabetic, with kidney failure, and congestive heart failure and he still smokes. His circulation is much lower than poor. The site of the amputation is not healing because of inadequate circulation. Today he told us, "They're going to have to amputate it." I thought he meant his foot, which was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

A few more minutes into the conversation, I realized he meant his leg from below the knee down. I stood at the sink in his room, washing my hands, and telling myself, "He is trying to be calm. Don't you dare start crying. Don't you dare."

I am already feeling the guilt of having made a wholly inappropriate and probably hurtful comment. The doctors had been asking him, since the discovery of the sore, had he stepped on something. He said no, because to his knowledge, he hadn't. A few days after he was hospitalized, my nephew discovered a nail in his shoe. I told him in a teasing way, "Daddy, I done cussed you out! You know you have to be careful with your feet."

It was a little flippant remark on my part. A couple of days later, when we were on the phone, he said something to the effect of, "I can't keep beating myself up, but I was supposed to have a mirror and check my feet."

He didn't need my little inconsiderate comment, because he's been "cussing" himself out, feeling guilty and sad. And I've been thinking, "Why did I say that?"

There's also the fact that my dad is usually this stoic person--when he's been in the hospital before, we've been distraught and worried about getting to see him and he always says things like, "You have a life, a job, kids, etc, don't worry about me," as if that's possible.

But this time, he's been very open about being lonely, a hundred miles away from home (and more than 400 away from me). He was ready for me to come home. Sometimes when I call, he'll sound so tired and I'll say something like, "Daddy, I don't want to wear you out." And a couple of times he's said, "I'm okay. Just talk to Daddy for a few minutes," and I know he's bored and lonely and worried. I talked to my dad for 40 minutes on the phone last week; I don't know if that's ever happened.

I can see the sadness and I wonder if he's thinking about his mortality--he's already older than his father and two of his brothers were when they died. He's worried about walking again and having to go to a nursing home if we can't get the house right.

And I'm worried, worried, worried, too. I have to leave Sunday because my son is going to summer school for math and I have that conference. Honestly, I'd say fuck summer school because he's going to fifth grade anyway, but he has struggled with math since pre-K and he only met three of four standards in math this year, even though he passed it for the year with a B. Multi-step word problems give him fits. He can't miss more than three days or he will be considered a non-completer. The three days I decided he could miss were June 9-11, so I could have some time at home.

Then, he's in summer school until July 2 and I start teaching summer school July 6. When will I have a moment to travel again? My car has 154,000 miles on it, but I can't afford to just up and by two plane tickets to a small rural airport with short notice. There's also the fact that the drive, at least 8.5 hours, by myself, is a bit much for me these days. But how can I not be here for my father's major surgery?

And the conference, my God, I'm cobbling that together bit by bit, but can I be unprofessional for a moment and say that, right now, it seems like the most inconvenient thing in the world to me? My heart is not there. I feel guilty about that as well, because they're paying me a significant sum for a day's work (ok, more than a day, when you count prep, but you know what I mean).

Then there's summer school, which I feel mostly prepared for. But the fall! Two new preps! I've only begun to fight!

I know I'm all over the place, but I needed to vent. I don't know whether I'm coming or going, I swear. I'm just resolved not to cry because if I start, I will not stop until I have a headache that further complicates things.

Even as I type this, I'm trying to put it together in my head. Today is just Wednesday. I can stop dreading this conference, flesh out the admittedly good outline I've already done (the presentation is only 20 minutes and I'm supposed to encourage the participants to engage. Then, the 30-minute workshop I lead afterward will be on how to use related primary source documents). I can do two interviews tomorrow rather than one. I can get someone else to assemble favor bags for the shower. I have lots of help, and we've already done 90% of the work.

But right now, I don't want to be calm. I want to say all the shit that is plaguing me.

Please think of my dad.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Things Heard 2

A few nights ago, my son and I were having a debate while having dinner. He considers himself quite the dancer and gives credit to people like Chris Brown and Omarion. When he told me that, I said, "They're all just copying Michael Jackson."

I thought it would be an off-handed, everyone-knows-that sort of comment.

My child laughed. How good could Michael Jackson be? This new crop of dancers had their own styles! Michael Jackson could not possibly be better than a whole bunch of young dancers whose names he rattled off.

This despite the fact that he himself salivates over the Thriller video.

"Wait," I said, with more than a little attitude, "until we get home!"

When we made it home, I sat him in front of youtube and played four or five MJ videos. He eventually admitted the supremacy of Michael Jackson, but then re-watched a couple of videos.

"What is it?" I asked, because he was all frowned up and staring at the screen.

"He looked a lot better when he looked like us!"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Enjoy Feeling Uncomfortable?

That's the question Deron Bauman asks about the feeling created by this video, which I saw on ClusterFlock.

I'm still looking for evidence that this is satire. Has to be, right? Lyrics after the fold, but I just had to highlight a few.

A mildly amusing moment: A young white man who attends Dartmouth raps, "It's not the hand you were given, but how you lay down your cards."

WTF moment 1: Rapping, "Don't matter if your (sic) gay, straight, Christian or Muslim," after having said, "Thank you Miss Cali for reminding us of marriage," and after issuing the warning that "Terrorists were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Now they're in our neighborhoods, planning out doomsday."

WTF moment 2: Rapping, "Everyone can succeed, Because our soldiers bleed"

Just a little musical interlude for your Saturday afternoon.

H/T Laurie, whom you should really, really follow on Twitter

Serious C:

“Yo this ones for all the young conservatives.

I rep the Northeast and I’m still a young con,

Let your voice release, you don't have to be obamatrons.

I debate any poser who don't shoot straight,

Government spending needs to deflate,

Your ideas are lightweight,

Ya careers in checkmate

I frustrate. I increase the pulse rate

I hate when,

government dictatin, makin, statements, bout how to be a merchant,

How to run a restaurant, how to lay the pavement

Bailout a business, but can't protect an infant

Deficiencies are blatant, young con treatment

I stand one man, outnumbered at my college

Thank you Miss Cali for reminding us of marriage

Can't support abortion, and call yourself a Christian

I support life, you're a puzzled politician

Terrorists were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay,

Now they're in our neighborhoods, planning out doomsday

No such thing as utopia,

no government can control ya, baby ya,

Reap the benefits hard work, self reliant

Listen to Stiltz, my dude’s a lyrical giant

Yo Stiltz... make it two time... please”


“I'm 6'9 head and shoulder above the rest

Liberals playin checkers, I'm playin chess

My conservative view is drill baby drill

You can say you hate me but

I'm praying for you still

My dislike for thee most def is not hyperbole

Taxes are the subject and I will spit them verbally

I'm just livin life a conservative philosophy

Sorry Hilary not a right wing conspiracy

We need more women with intellectual integrity

I'm talkin Megyn Kelly not Nancy Pelosi

My main motto is you best work hard

It's not the hand you were given, but how you lay down your cards

I don't speak lies but I spit the facts

28% the new capital gains tax

Porkulus bill lacks a few stats

The more money we spend, the more mine is worth Jack

The Bible says we're a people under God,

Usin radar for radical Jihad

AIG was hooked up by Chris Dodd

A classy gift ain't an Ipod

The standards of my crew ain’t republicans dude

I'm reppin Jesus Christ and conservative views

Study history and true conservative moves

Every single time they refuse to lose

I’m starting to see a modern day Jimmy Carter

When really nothin but a Reagan era starter”

Serious C:

“Yo, We americans son

Hit ya with some knowledge

The movement has begun

Everyone can succeed

Because our soldiers bleed, for us

I said it in the verse,

now I'll say it in the chorus”


“We young conservatives son

Hard work is our motto

The movement has begun

EVERYONE can succeed cause our soldiers bleed, daily

My views are rock solid, no chance you can break me”

Serious C:

“Phase me, make me, into something that ain’t me

Serious c... can’t nobody shake me

great like the Gatsby, poppin posers like acne

Don't matter if your gay, straight, Christian or Muslim

There's one thing we all hate, called socialism.

It's loathsome, and America ain’t the outcome,

Raise taxes on the people,

And you’re gonna feel symptoms, problems

I gotta message for a young con:

superman that socialism,

waterboard that terrorism”


I fulfill the role that's inherently mine

Teaching politics through my rap and my rhyme

I'm signing off this track with a question in mind

How will this country get its precious change in time?

Three things taught me conservative love:

Jesus, Ronald Reagan, plus Atlas Shrugged

Saving our nation from inflation devastation

On my hands and my knees praying for salvation”

Serious C:

“Yo, We americans son

Hit ya with some knowledge

The movement has begun

Everyone can succeed

Because our soldiers bleed, for us

I said it in the verse,

now I'll say it in the chorus”


“We young conservatives son

Hard work is our motto

The movement has begun

EVERYONE can succeed cause our soldiers bleed, daily

My views are rock solid, no chance you can break me”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why Your Community Ain't Like Mine

Subtitle: And How You Make Sure I Know That I'm Not Welcome. A recent look around the blogosphere and mental cataloguing of episodes of epic fail prompted me to think about community, and lack of community, and "exclusion" right now. These are some of my (incomplete, choppy, certainly not perfectly worded) reflections.

Part One: Realize that parents are people. Realize that parents are the same people you knew before… Realize that parents can be activists, but they are also parents. -Noemi

when you have a child
no one finds it tragic.
no map records it as an instance of blight. -Alexis Pauline Gumbs

They would chop me up into little fragments and tag each piece with a label... Who, me confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me. -Gloria Anzaldúa

I’m teaching a class this summer in black women’s history. The other night, I previewed a film about Mrs. Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Commonly described as “unflinching” and “uncompromising, she was active in anti-lynching and civil rights agitation. She was also a suffragist. One of her friends was Susan B. Anthony. The relationship between the two women hit a rocky patch in the 1890s, when Wells married and began to have children.

Wells-Barnett noticed that Anthony’s attitude toward her changed. In the film, Paula Giddings, one of Wells-Barnett’s biographers, noted that Anthony began to “bite out” Wells-Barnett’s married name.

Eventually, Wells-Barnett felt it necessary to call Anthony out about it:
Finally, I said to her, “Miss Anthony, don’t you believe in women getting married?” She said, “Oh, yes, but not women like you who had a special call for special work. I too might have married but it would have meant dropping the work to which I had set my hand. She said, “I know of no one better fitted to do the work you had in hand than yourself. Since you have gotten married, agitation seems practically to have ceased. Besides, you have a divided duty. You are here trying to help in the formation of [the Afro-American] League and your eleven month old baby needs your attention at home. You are distracted over the thought that maybe he is not being looked after as he would if you were there, and that makes for divided duty.”*

Anthony was questioning Wells-Barnett’s dedication, her supposed prioritization. She had her own perception of what Wells-Barnett’s activism should’ve looked like and resented the change. What she didn’t understand, according to Wells-Barnett, was that “I had been unable… to get the support which was necessary to carry on my work [and] had become discouraged in the effort to carry on alone.”

I thought about this question Noemi asked wrt community-building:
[E]ver think why parents stop being involved in community events and meetings?

What does it mean when what you believed to be community abandons you?

I also thought about Kevin. He has, to put it lightly, been disturbed by the attacks on First Lady Michelle Obama by feminists who question her “feminist creds” and deride her dedication to family. “This shit goes way back, Kev,” I wanted to say after watching that documentary.

What I had said to him when he noted all the “Stepford Wife” comparisons, was “WoC are never supposed to prioritize our children and families.” Defined as laborers, our work is always presumed to better serve someone else's needs or goals. That other women think they can tell us how to be feminists is no surprise.

But my answer had it shortcomings. It’s not so much a matter of priorities. One thing I’ve learned by studying early black feminists is that some of those divisions are false—their activism was shaped to improve the lives of women, their families, and their communities. There was not necessarily a sense of "divided duty." Activism is not always easily divisible into neat categories. That's why those black clubwomen believed "a race can rise no higher than its women." That's why Anna Julia Cooper wrote
Only the BLACK WOMAN can say "when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me."

Susan Anthony's distress and the more spiteful critiques of Michelle Obama fail to take into account this interconnectedness. But these critiques prompt me to think also of Little Light's words, about how threatening our love and our attempts to define our lives and our activism for ourselves can be perceived:
It is time for us to acknowledge that our love is an act of war.

It seems distasteful to say. It feels wrong. Our love, our lives, our nurtured gardens and families, we say, these are not weapons. These are not acts of violence. To us, they are not.

Nonetheless, there are those who insist breathlessly, endlessly, that they are...

The very act of not getting to define everything for the rest of us is the end, for them.

Part Two: To build a community, parents and children should be welcome and not feel they can’t attend a meeting/event because of their baby(ies). ... [D]on’t you want the next generation to care about the same things you care about? When will this happen? -Noemi

[F]eminists have a choice in deciding what community they belong to. And they are implicitly choosing to stay away from and otherwise distance themselves from communities that make them uncomfortable or worried for any reason. This has consequences for the communities that they refuse to work with. Most importantly, it has consequences because WOMEN belong to those communities that they refuse to work with. -BfP

If feminism is supposed to work to improve the lives of all women, if it about forging connections and building communities for women, period, then I don’t understand this either. Oh, not so much the OP, though I think it does make some false divisions.

But the comments. At the very least, feminists should respect other women’s choices to have or not have children. But outside and within some feminist communities, childfree women are under excessive pressure to conform to what is considered normative. Those who choose not to have children are regarded as suspect, strange, threatening. Their choices are dismissed as temporary or mean. Those who don’t have children, but for reasons other than choosing not to, are pitied, regarded as incomplete and barren--which has to be one of the coldest words I’ve ever heard used to describe a human being.

As the mother of one child I get only a tiny bit of that, and it is wearying. I am routinely asked, “You really don’t want any more? What if you get married? What if a, b, or c happens?” Often, the implication is that I am selfish, both for not wanting to invest the enormous amount of time and effort required to parent a baby and because my son will be “alone” or “lonely.”

You know what my response to that is not? Attacking other women. I don’t think I have had some magical experience that childfree women are sorely lacking and will forever be deprived because of. I can honestly say that many days, I only survive motherhood. I don’t master it, I don’t excel at it.

But how do you nurture and create community when things like this stand? When women are called “moos,” “breeders,” and “placenta-brains” and their children “widdle pweshuses” and “broods?”^^ When you cast your community as one in which women who have children and women who are childfree are diametrically (perhaps, diabolically) opposed and that mothers (gasp) are taking over the movement and leaving slack that others have to catch up? When it becomes clear that some of us are not welcome into your community? When your remarks indicate that you are, in fact, chillingly “independent of community?” I borrowed that phrase from BfP and the moment she said it, my mind began clicking.

All kinds of feminists can nod when I write about the lie that is the capitalistic ideal of “rugged individualism.” They can see the cruelty and efforts at social control when I talk about the attacks on poor mothers that begin and end with “Why are you having kids and who do you expect to take care of them?” They can see the patriarchy at work in the divide and conquer strategy that is the “mommy wars.”

But they can’t see the damaging individualism inherent in their feminism. Of course, I don’t mean in choosing not to have children—familial and community obligations are commonly fulfilled by all of us, not just mothers. I mean the sentiment revealed in expressing aversion and revulsion towards women who do have children. As Noemi asks,
why is motherhood and heavens forbid, single parenthood a step back in the eyes of activists and feminists? If the choice to terminate a pregnancy is radical, why isn’t the choice in being a mother radical?
I mean feeling that it's okay to demean and dehumanize whole groups of people because they made a choice you would not or because of their age, and repudiating any suggestion that said groups can be an important part of your community.

They can’t see the analogy between conservatives saying, “Who do you expect to take care of them?” and some feminists “roll[ing] their eyes when someone brings up childcare.” They can’t see the divide and conquer so apparent in “women with children v. childfree women.”

If feminism is about meeting “our” needs and some of “us” are mothers, why is it seen as a hostile takeover if I ask about childcare? If I express concern about keeping a roof over our heads or clothes on my child’s back? If I write about how my feminist consciousness is often raised by my experiences as a mother? If that is what your feminist community is about, then to quote Noemi again, “This is not community. This is not a welcomed community.”

Part Three: What new skills and influences will single parents give their children if the community doesn’t think it’s important for them to be involved? -Noemi

you have chosen to be...
in a community
that knows that you are priceless
that would never sacrifice your spirit
that knows it needs your brilliance to be whole -Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I struggled for a few days trying to find the words to say what I wanted to say about my community of WoC, why I feel it as community, why I think other women feel it as community. Should I use the words mutuality, reciprocity? Should I use the word vulnerable--because in the loving and trusting, in refusing to hold ourselves "independent of community," we do make ourselves vulnerable, but we also make ourselves strong. "Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be," wrote Audre Lorde, "not in order to be used, but in order to be creative."

I don't know the exact words for an accurate description. I do know that I don't feel that I have to compartmentalize. I don't have to spend a lot of time developing a defense of why this or that is a "feminist issue" with clearly, neatly defined parameters. I don't feel that there are parts of who I am that I cannot discuss or bring into the community.

I do not feel the false divisions. Why?

Because if I had to choose one word to describe Alexis Pauline Gumbs, it'd be love and I am humbled by how it infuses her words and actions.

Because cripchick expresses pride in our kids as they journey to become revolutionaries. Also, I'm convinced the sun shines out of her.

Because Fabi, Noemi, Lex, Mai’a, and Maegan and others write about revolutionary motherhood.

Because I find myself wanting to take that machete out of BA’s hands and go off on people who make her feel “gunshy" and I know Donna does, too.

Because women cheer when Baby BFP speaks.

Because Sylvia virtually cheered me through that PhD and I smile each time I think about writing her name-comma-Esq.

Because Lisa writes letters to her Veronica.

Because BfP invites us to take our own journeys and come together to share the discoveries.

Because Adele always hears me. Always.

Because Kameelah writes of creating community with her students, centering their art and the way they see the world, and she invites us in.

Because Anjali answers my questions about caring for our communities on macro and micro levels.

Because BA agonizes when she wonders what La Mapu learned about the importance of WoC voices when she witnessed an event in which those voices were, once again ignored.

These are just a few reasons, a few examples of the sense of accountability, to each other, to our children, to our work on- and off-line (and thank you, Aaminah, for helping me to understand that). Maybe this isn't unique to my community. But as WoC, a community that finds us and our work and our involvement "priceless" is not common. What WoC do commonly discover in feminist communities are
real experiences of having hard work devalued – many members of a supposed community literally saying, your work is worthless, you’re haters, critique sliding off like teflon.

But back to that accountability, that rejection of "independent of community." I finally found words that reflect some of what I feel. And me being me, of course I found them in a book. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins writes,
[T]he conceptualization of self that has been part of Black women's self-definition is distinctive. Self is not defined as the increased autonomy gained by separating oneself from others. [S]elf is found in the context of family and community--as Paule Marshall describes it, "the ability to recognize one's continuity with the larger community." By being accountable to others, African American women develop more fully human, less objectified selves. Rather than defining self in opposition to others, the connectedness among individuals provides Black women deeper, more meaningful self-definitions.

Part Four: We are sistas with brown skin we knew that from jump. … [N]o one could understand what it was like… to wonder if this silence this ignoring this "forgetfulness" is planned or just the final realization that while talking about you is sufficient, privilege and entitlement means you can be ignored pretty fully and suffer no consequences, because someone is always eager to take your place -BlackAmazon

[I]f feminists can’t even be called on to point to the work that other feminists are doing... well, then there’s no fucking feminist movement. -BfP

I mentioned the example of BA and La Mapu last so that I could roughly segue into this. I’ll begin by saying that inclusion is rarely worth a damn--it is used as a substitute for "bona fide substantive change."** It’s arrogant to think it’s up to you to “include” us in feminism. We’ve been there, part of the foundation, existing as "the bodies on which feminist theories are created."

And you know what? People who think they have the power to include also often exclude.

Yes, in a specific sense, I’m talking about the Brooklyn listening party. I hurt for Mala, especially when I read this:
Pero it’s not real enough for people who said they would come to a listening party to support something that means alot to me and other hermanas that I love. It’s not real enough for them to visualize my carrying a stroller with a 30 poundish toddler up and down subway stairs, walking miles not for exercise pero so that I don’t have to buy subway fare and can afford milk, walking to change a bag of pennies, thinking of pawning some earrings. It’s real enough for me to go talk to young people about identity, media, gender and race, pero it’s not real enough for people to think it’s important to support what we do beyond a cursory pat on the head for a job well done little spic girl who we can’t even be bothered to name. I have been invited to two national conferences this summer, pero there is no money to get me there and of course the orgs who want my face, my race and my gender can’t be bothered to actually spend money. They will find another woman of color, mami of color, Latino blogger to take my place, one who they deem more worthy because they can pay their own way or because they play the game well, etc etc.

I hurt for BA and La Mapu and Ms. Poroto and all of us.

And, yes, I was angry, too, about the listening party, about the general reception of the SPEAK! CD, about how it is reflective of how the voices and efforts of WoC are regarded.

From the moment BA wrote this

with people this time being extended the olive branch and courtesy of the voices of my sisters and the hospitality of my BEST FRIEND

have not tried to help contact or even SPEAK one iota

and did not have the COMMON FUCKING DECENCY to return contact on PERSONAL INVITATIONS.

I wondered, how is it made, this decision about which feminists are important enough to support? Why do I read about this book, and that appearance, and this podcast, and yay, yay, yay when it comes to white feminists…

But everything is eerily silent when it comes to the work of WoC?

The vows of support,

the “oh, yes, ‘your issues’ are important!”, ***

the “I totally recognize how very necessary your voice and your experiences are to feminism,” it all melts away, words belied by (in)action.

Not just this time.

I am left thinking of the name of Donna’s blog and the quote from which it is derived:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

I am left wondering, like Noemi, why are we a luxury?

Expendable and interchangeable--important enough to be invited, too insignificant for anyone to develop a real idea or plan for how we are to get there.

Flighty and abstract, with all that focus on love. Or, as Nadia says,
our solutions are disregarded as being…
-too imaginative, not practical
-amatuer, short sighted
-not real organizing / change-making / “movement building”


Part 5: For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. -Audre Lorde

[T]hose tools [of patriarchy] are used by women... against each other. -Audre Lorde

Things I fully expect to happen in the aftermath of this post and this one and so many others: WoC themselves will continue to be ignored, while their words and theories are appropriated, depoliticized, made more "palatable."

There will still be attempts to define how our work, our activism, our "priorities" should look--and justifications for why our failure to adhere means we can't be part of certain of communities.

People will continue to scream "get off your ass and do it yourself, stop bitching, stop complaining, stop crying racism, stop stop stop, pull yourselves up by your boot straps and just DO IT!" while simultaneously ignoring that we have been "just doing it" forever with no need for outside motivation and admonishment.

I will from time to time, get angry, feel isolated, say, "Fuck this! What is wrong with you?!"

Then I will sigh, and take comfort in the fact that "there’s us.

it’s the best thing about being us."

I will take comfort in the fact that we know

our words are not a luxury

our love is not a luxury

we are not a luxury. We know that... and quite often, that is enough.

*Toni Morrison read this part of her memoirs in the film, but you can find it and the quote I mention a few lines later, here.

^^ETA: Clicking links led me to this critique by mzbitzca

**PHC, Black Feminist Thought, 6.

*** Wherein "our issues" are always about our victimization, never about our activism and agency--that's objectification, too.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...