Friday, January 29, 2010


A seemingly impenetrable wall of papers and meetings stands between me and my beloved Friday evenings. I have a headache :-(

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One More Note on Chris Matthews and the Myth of Colorblindness

Via Maegan:
The scrubbing away of color is not what sets the US free from racism. Ending inequality based on race is.
You should read the whole thing.

I Fully Recognize that Women Are Neither Men's Nor Our Children's Property...

But this still makes me laugh because recent discussions have revealed that my son is against the thought-of-mama-dating:

Though, I think Doritos might owe Ronnie Jordan a little change or credit or something:

"I ain't got no candies for you... no cookies for you..."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

You Probably Should Discard Some of Your Previously Held Notions about Black People

Dear Friends,

Please don't ever "forget" I'm black, even for an hour. That is not a compliment. Colorblindness =/= progressive; Colorblindness = "You a damn lie"



Howard Zinn dies at 87

I hope to be able to write something coherent tomorrow :-(


Please Know Something about That of Which You Speak

Thinking of getting that inked on my forehead so people stop saying stupid sh*t--to me, at least.

Of course, that won't stop me from reading stupidity, things like, oh, say, this article by Paul Shirley. Shirley feels the need to tell us why he won't donate to Haiti relief efforts, and infuses his story with meaningful personal insights like:
I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.

And historically clueless rhetoric flavored with a touch of social darwinism and a smidge of eugenics* such as:
Dear Haitians –

First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.

As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?


The Rest of the World
Oh, Mr. Shirley, might I, in my boldness, point you to two brief observations? First from Kai:
It’s not just a natural disaster, it’s a disaster of the modern neo-colonial social order. Earthquakes need to happen, but this doesn’t need to happen. It’s a devastating unfolding of institutionalized racism. Not only rhetorical or interpersonal or representational aspects, but perhaps more importantly the vital economic, infrastructural, and human consequences of several centuries of the very gunships-n-slaves imperialism which generated the modern concept of race.

Then, from Summer:
Haiti was born of a slave rebellion. They didn't seek or wait for permission. No one wrote a speech declaring their freedom. They claimed it for themselves. They were their own saviors. Their own, I suppose, personal Jesus. (All those white men they killed, must have been a deal with the devil.) And so, Haiti couldn't survive or be successful. Haiti concerned Thomas Jefferson--and rightfully so. Can't have those kinds of examples floating around the Caribbean circa early 19th century. What kind of message would that send to other enslaved people on this side of the Middle Passage? Haiti fought the law and won. That couldn't have been good for business. So the powers meddled with the land until the seeds sprouted nothing but "flimsy" stalks, ushering in the refrain "Haiti is the most impoverished..." Straight dissonance to my ears. They treat it like a bastard child. Father France, Mother Africa, or something like that.

A flourishing Haiti is white supremacy's greatest fear. Haiti cannot survive. If Haiti endures, if it succeeds, then the slaves win, right? Haiti's continued endurance would prove that everything they've ever taught us is false. If we only understand Haiti as a perpetually impoverished nation, and have no comprehension of Haiti as symbol of black resistance and survival then what have we learned? We will have learned that Haiti is poor because its citizens are lazy, culturally backwards, wary of outsiders, lawless, lascivious. What we should know is that even in these dark days of desperation, Haiti has survived, despite even the most powerful acts of a most angry God and world powers that imagine themselves in His likeness.

They don't like the message, so they don't want Haiti to survive--but it will.

Haiti will survive, Paul Shirley, without your donation and in spite of your condescension and ignorance.
*Is that (the oh-so-new blend of social darwinism and eugenics) the flavor of the month or something???

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ready for the Restaurant...

Y'all know, after I'm tenured and make my way all the way to full professor, I'm catering or becoming a restaurateur :-)

Anyway, I think I'll start sharing some of the constant experimenting I do here. And when I break down and buy another digital camera, I'll have pretty, shiny pics.

What we had last night:

BBQ pork sandwiches
Corn on the cob

I highly recommend all these. I didn't use poppy seeds in the coleslaw, though. And I just boiled the corn with a little vinegar, sugar, butter, and salt. I rubbed the roast Sunday, then came home between my morning class and evening class yesterday to put it in the oven. We had a way late dinner.

And of course, all my kid ate was corn on the cob. That's why I slacked up on my cooking for a while, but forget him! ;-p

Monday, January 25, 2010

See What I'm Up Against?

Okay, you probably all know the stories of the Texas Education Board's attempts to change the state's social studies curriculum to "downplay the contributions of civil rights leaders, minimiz[e] an 'emphasis on multiculturalism,' and try to 'exonerate' Joe McCarthy." (Follow the links in that article for more details). The Texas Freedom Network has accused the board--comprised of 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats--of "blatant politicization of social studies curriculum."

Well, here comes a new highlight of their efforts:

What do the authors of the children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common?

Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.

In its haste to sort out the state's social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children's author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

The Texas students subjected to years of what I call "only-white-men-and-war-battles-are-important" history are the ones I get in my surveys, fresh out of high school. A good portion of them will already question my ability, authority, teaching style, etc, because I am a woman of color. Combine that hostility with the fact that I teach the survey from a social and cultural history perspective and emphasize "shifting the lens"--viewing an event or era or concept from diverse perspectives--and you get a situation that makes me dread-until-I-am-sick walking into a classroom sometimes.

And this does not just affect elle, the historian. It affects elle, the mama, as well. Last week, I wrote on facebook and twitter about experiences my son was having in social studies classes. As one of a few black kids in fifth grade, he notices the other students look at him when black people come up during class (last week it was Harriet Tubman and Cinque of the Amistad). I'd point out that that is partially a result of teaching a history in which black people randomly pop up rather than being understood as an integral part of the story of this country. Of course, that is a reflection of a much larger scale erasure and othering--my son exists not as an individual, but as representative of a group in which one can easily stand in for another.

My son, big admirer of President Barack Obama, was also upset by the fact that his teacher talked negatively about "Obama Healthcare," telling the children that it was going to cost a trillion dollars and that even their grandchildren's children would still be paying for it. I already had an encounter with her when she sent out a short, snippity note about how our school district wouldn't be showing Obama's speech to school children a few months ago (ours was the only district here that didn't--probably speaks volumes).

From my position in the Lone Star State, I have to ask, that fear that conservatives had--that Obama was trying to indoctrinate their children--is that called irony or hypocrisy?

Because I'm really worried about what they're teaching--and not teaching--my son.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who Dat?

Geaux Saints!

Now that I've talked to everyone in my immediate family and screamed the roof off, I'm ready to focus on the Super Bowl. ;-p

Turns Out, My Shrill, Humorless Feminist Voice IS Needed

Just saw this on the teevee:

Flirty Girl Fitness

And look, now you, too, can learn to pole and chair dance while keeping the booty beat, from the comfort of your own home! What? You don't have the pole installed in your garage like I???

My sorta raison d'etre (feminist critique of popular culture) has just been affirmed.

This Week in "Stuff elle can't f*cking believe!"

Item 1: Mark Krikorian posits that Haiti's suffering is the result of not having been colonized long enough. Haitians didn't have long enough to absorb civ-uhl-eye-zayshen from the French.
My guess is that Haiti's so screwed up because it wasn't colonized long enough. The ancestors of today's Haitians, like elsewhere in the Caribbean, experienced the dislocation of de-tribalization, which disrupted the natural ties of family and clan and ethnicity. They also suffered the brutality of sugar-plantation slavery, which was so deadly that the majority of slaves at the time of independence were African-born, because their predecessors hadn't lived long enough to reproduce.

But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn't stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers.

You notice this line: "the majority of slaves at the time of independence were African-born"--yep, no civilization at all.

Item 2: "South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer(R)Compares His State's Poor Children to 'Stray Animals'" and advises against feeding them, lest they reproduce:
My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.

And y'all thought negative eugenics was a thing of the past!

h/t Nezua

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Susan B. Anthony Bench

Sunday, I spoke at a Unitarian Universalist service in honor of the King Holiday. After the service, some members of the church took me and the fam to lunch. One of the women in the group--I'll call her Pam--identified as a second-wave feminist and she sat next to me because she wanted to talk more about my ideas on race and class.

Because I had mentioned where I'm from, she told me how she used to love going to Louisiana--particularly New Orleans--until Louisianans rejected the ERA. "I haven't been back since!" she said. "I suppose that's wrong." The other women and I shook our heads. "You have every right to protest," one of them assured her.

And then she wanted to talk about something else I'd said. I had mentioned during the Q & A after my paper that when I was younger, I quite often knew something was "wrong," but didn't have the words to describe institutionalized racism and sexism. Over lunch, Pam told me she knew exactly what I meant.

She didn't have the words to describe how she felt after a childhood of seeing her widowed mother work so hard only to be passed over for raises and promotions because she wasn't a traditional "head-of-household."

She didn't have the words to describe how she felt when, while working in the office of a Texas senator, she saw him laugh at a female constituent who had come to talk to him.

"Do you know what she wanted?" he asked incredulously, laughing the whole while.

"What?" Pam said.

"Support for an Equal Rights Amendment."

She was mystified, she told me. "I asked him why was that so funny. And he waved me off and said 'You women have it better now!'."

And she didn't have the words to explain how she'd felt after one particular shopping trip. Her husband had been overseas on some military endeavor and she'd gone to a furniture store. There, she'd seen a little wooden bench that she'd loved--but it cost $250. She was going to have to buy it on credit. She approached the store manager and asked for the credit application.

And he told her that she could not make a contract without her husband's approval.

"Here I was, running the house, taking care of everything--I had charge accounts at the drugstore and other places, but he was telling me it was against the law for me to get a bench on my own?"

"Give me the papers," she told him. "I'll take them home for my husband to sign."

She forged his signature of course. And just to make sure I understood the significance, she spelled it out like this: "I had to break the law to buy a bench."*

She calls it her Susan B. Anthony bench, because shortly thereafter, she became involved in the feminist movement. That is what gave her the words to name the oppression and discrimination she'd seen.

She hasn't told her children what happened. Before she dies (and we talked a bit about death and social change, too), she's going to write out the story, so that after her death, the bench and the story can be passed to her daughter who can then pass it to her daughter.

"So they don't forget," she said. "I don't want them to forget, even though they don't remember."
*I have to admit that I thought by the 1960s, laws like that were a thing of the past.

Mama Moment...

If you know me, you know my short term memory is shot. Well, I am feeling all loving mami right now because I realized, my son has started trying to help me out on his own. For the last few months, my bedroom, books, backpack, etc, have been dotted with post-its to remind me of stuff he hears me say or where he puts my things. Things I have stumbled across lately:

On my backpack

What it said

On the bedroom mirror

What it said

Sweetest of all is that he sometimes slips in while I'm still sleep in the mornings and leaves notes on my bathroom mirror to remind me of my to-do list for the day.

This motherhood thing is okay sometimes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Dear World,

As has become my habit, I want to make an announcement without adding much commentary or history. After seeing this burning question on CNN's front page:

Is it ethical to vacation in Haiti now?

and seeing this article which positions Haiti as little more than a piece of territory over which the French and Americans can posture and prove who is more "powerful"

and reading another article about a recent spate of adoptions of Haitian "orphans" with little time given to find any extended family members, I would just like to remind you/us:

Haiti/Haitians do(es) not exist to facilitate opportunities to make you feel good about yourself.

If I were my former self, I suppose I could make some point about further marginalizing people by centering yourself and your desires or the historical precedent for abrogating the relationship between children of color and their families members for money, ego, and superiority complexes like racism and ethnocentrism. I might even reiterate Angela Davis's story of how armed guards are protecting tourists in Haiti from the pesky Haitians. But that ain't even me right now.

I have a feeling you're not listening anyway.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy King Day...

OK, OK, remember the dream. But while you're at it, remember the righteous anger, the willingness to go to southern jails, the reasons why we can't wait (isn't it funny how we still tell people who are marginalized to wait for change--as if our comfort is more important than their lives?), the critique of race and whiteness, the burgeoning analysis of class divisions, and the way he understood love:

To be great, you need "a soul generated by love."

Driving out hate? "Only love can do that."

"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."

Just remember SOMETHING else beyond a speech that has been co-opted by advocates of the "new racism": the colorblind clique.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help Haiti

My thoughts are with the people of Haiti this morning, but I know that's not nearly enough. Maegan has listed more concrete ways that we can help. All of the information below is taken from the post at VivirLatino that Maegan will be updating throughout the day:
To donate to specific relief efforts in Haiti:
Mercy Corps
Save the Children
International Red Cross
World Vision
International Medical Corps

The State Dept has set up hotline for Americans to inquire after family in Haiti: 888-407-4747

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean is asking people on Twitter to donate to his organization Yele Haiti:

@wyclef: Haiti is in need of immediate AID please text Yele to 510 510 and donate $5 toward earthquake relief.

You can also find updated information and general ways to help during disasters at ReliefWeb and USAID.

For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999″ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.

In the words of @dopegirlfresh, if you cannot donate money, check in with the local branches of many of these orgs to see if you can donate time. I am also looking for info on local NYC orgs who have a history of really good work porque I know that some peeps don’t trust the big orgs (and sometimes with good reason).

Updated : Just got an email from MADRE :

MADRE has activated an emergency response through our partner organization, Zamni Lasante Clinic. The doctors, nurses and community health workers there are working to get bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.

The most urgent needs right now are bandages, broad-spectrum antibiotics and other medical supplies, as well as water tablets to prevent cholera outbreaks. The need for food, shelter and other types of relief are growing by the hour.

Happy Founders' Day, Sorors!

For all the lovely ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, 97 years strong today, in honor of the 22 pioneers who had that initial vision.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Hey, Census Bureau? You Forgot to include "Cullud!"

So, the census form for 2010 gives us the option to check "Negro" for race.

That image is from the linked article.

I can't decide whether the folk at the Census Bureau decided, "Hey, we have a black president; let's remind people how far we've come!" or "Grumble, grumble, let's remind them of their place in the not-so-long-ago past."

Because--and I can't speak for everyone--"Negro" certainly invokes thoughts of a much different era.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Limits of Choice

Tessa Savicki, of Springfield, MA, maintains that she was illegally (without her permission) given a tubal ligation after delivering her ninth child. A reporter from the Boston Herald interviewed her, and over and over Savicki's words cut to what is the heart of the issue: "That’s my choice," she said, "This is my body."

But a few days later, the Herald prints another story about Savicki with the headline, "Public backlash stuns sterilized mother of nine." Apparently, she has gotten hateful Facebook comments and texts and people telling her she should be ashamed of herself.

I want to tell her, Ms. Savicki, don't be stunned, not when the Herald felt the need to include this in the first article:
Savicki has nine children from several men, is unemployed and relies on public assistance for two of the four children who live with her. She receives supplemental security income, or SSI, for a disability, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she said. Her mother has custody of three of her children. Two of her children are no longer minors.

Why, you might think, is that included? Why is this not about the doctors and nurses who allegedly sterilized this woman without consent?

Well, that part is about the doctors and nurses--the reporter wanted to give you a chance to "understand" what their motivation may have been. I mean, after reading that, anyone can see why the medical personnel acted as they did, a fact confirmed by the public backlash. It's a really old story by now and it boils down to this:

Poor, single women should not be having children, much less nine children. Their choices are not respected/respectable. They cost "us." Their children cost "us." Someone else knows what's better for them and the ever-burdened taxpayers.

In fact, the second page of the initial article is Savicki being placed on the defense, because, as a poor single woman, she has done something wrong in having children:
Savicki acknowledged that some may feel little sympathy for her situation, but cautioned against public judgment because she is a poor, unmarried mother of 9.

“I would never have the right to tell anyone else ‘because you have this many kids that’s enough,’ ” she said. “That’s no one’s right to say that. It’s my choice. No one has the right to say you’ve had enough.

“I take care of my kids. I love my kids. I was not ready to make that kind of decision,” she said of the permanent sterilization.

Savicki said her life has stabilized in the last decade after a rocky start. She had her first child at 13 and dropped out of high school in the ninth grade.

Savicki said she’s been in a relationship with her fiance, Angel Flores Tirado, 36, since she was 25. She lives with him and the couple’s three children. Tirado helps support the family with his full-time job as a personal care assistant. Savicki said she’s had eight of her nine children while in committed relationships and hoped for one more child with Tirado.

“It’s not like I’m jumping from guy to guy to guy to get pregnant,” she said. “I’m trying to make a healthy home for my children.”

This is our world, where a woman who may have been sterilized against her will has to offer arguments as to why this should not have happened to her.

So what if it's an illegal, invasive violation? So many will see this particular violation as the right thing, the best choice.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Farrakhan v. Gregoire

When I was teaching the Construction of Race class, one subject we touched upon, much too briefly, was the prison industrial complex. I shared some fact sheets with my students and two things that stood out were the following:
Felony disfranchisement laws have resulted in the disfranchisement of 1.4 million African-American men, or 13 percent of the African-American adult male population, a rate that is seven times the national average.*


Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime. In states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40% of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.**
Because of the markedly un-colorblind way our legal system works, felony disfranchisement disproportionately affects people of color, especially African Americans. The systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans has a long history, of course--this just seems to be a newer technique.

In Washington State, in 1996, a group of people who had lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws, challenged the state’s felon disenfranchisement provision:
...on the ground that, due to racial discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system, the automatic disenfranchisement of felons results in the denial of the right to vote on account of race, in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1973.
Initially, the plaintiffs lost, but they appealed. Yesterday, in a 2-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them.

I am not a master of legalese and am reading a lot of stuff, very slowly. I understand that this ruling would affect those currently incarcerated and could extend beyond Washington to any area covered by the 9th Circuit.

As some one who is wary of systematic disenfranchisement, I'm wondering what this all could mean...

FYI, this looks interesting: Ochs, Holona. "Color Blind Policy in Black and White: The Disparate Impact of Disenfranchisement" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Renaissance Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, May 27, 2004.

*Fellner, Jamie and Mauer, Marc, "Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States" (Washington, DC: Human Rights Watch & The Sentencing Project, 1998).

**The Sentencing Project, "Felony Disfranchisement Laws in the United States," Dated September 2008.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...