Saturday, December 30, 2006


So, I've been thinking about this post in which I worried aloud about my son. And I'm cringing as I think about how narrowly and traditionally I've defined success. I think it's part of a problem I have--believing one thing politically and acting out in a totally contradictory way. IOW, my efforts to think outside the box leave a lot to be desired.

For example, Quinn writes some about her adventures in gender free parenting. That is also a goal of mine, but one in which I fail miserably. I had a little girls' sleepover recently. When I was planning it, I honestly thought, "Oh, we'll do some 'fun' stuff like polish their nails and give mini-facials." I'd even picked up four pots of sparkly lip gloss before I thought, "What the hell are you doing?" We ended up coloring, watching a movie, and eating lots of popcorn. But I was tempted.

Just like I am when I shop and I buy more things for my four year old goddaughter than my own son. "It's more fun to shop for girls," I whine, "All you can do for boys is buy jeans and shirts!" But now I'm thinking, what am I modeling for her? Where is all the feminist theory in practice?

There are many more examples of my being a contradictory hypocrite. Why can I talk the talk, but struggle to walk the walk? If it was just with myself, I wouldn't be so troubled. But I worry that I'm helping bring up a whole new generation in a patriarchy-conforming manner.


The end of the year has also brought some not-so-welcome endings--nubian's done. As are BfP and BlackAmazon. As a WoC, feminist*, woman, I am mourning the loss of their input. I want to say I understand, and I do on some level. But then again, I don't understand what it's like to be out there, brave and bold and constantly put on the defense. Just fierce.

Because I am non-confrontational; I disengage; I run when the fire gets too hot. I can retreat here and say, ha-ha-ha, isn't my kid the cutest? or I saw this movie! or wow, I'm so caught up in my dissertation, I can't focus on much else! You see, I have the courage of my convictions, but little courage in my words and beliefs on so many issues. So, no, I don't understand much.

But I know it must get tiring to hear how what you're doing or saying is off and wrong, that you're too sensitive, to be constantly dismissed by people who, on the surface, would appear to be allies. And I know it must get old to have someone come to your site, all demurely, and comment "with respect" then run back to her place and say that you and your regular commenters
"haven’t evidenced they have even begun to think deeply around issues of transgender as they relate to feminism and gender, in general, but who hold the erroneous belief that they have; relentlessly mischaracterize and misunderstand my and other radical feminist views; reject what I say out of hand before I can say it, most of the time and reassert all of the above instead of evidencing any interest in actually communicating"
(and that's just the beginning--or middle, maybe). I tried to think of a nice academic term for that, but I'ma have to call it what we call it around here:

Two-faced. Throwing rocks and hiding your hands. And one thing I do understand,

That shit can wear you out real fast.
*not sure that term fits exactly

Friday, December 29, 2006


We went to see it Wednesday. Whatever you've heard--good, bad, mixed--trust me:

Hearing "And I Am Telling You" ripped like that--that alone is worth the ticket price!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


My seventeen-year-old niece is feeling out of sorts--she's diabetic and so she's a little worried. My dad has gotten up from his nap to check her blood sugar on his glucometer. They are having a soft discussion--this is part of their everyday lives. She's being characteristically bossy: "Be careful, PaPa," "Make sure it doesn't really hurt me, PaPa," "No this is how you do it, PaPa." He's saying, "Child, you bout to have to do it yourself," "Quit messin' up my strips, girl!" "Hurry up!"

And she's immediately apologetic; she wants him to help her. My sixteen-year-old niece is standing behind her, holding her hand, so that she doesn't jerk it when my dad uses the lancet.

During the course of the conversation, we've discovered that she has no kind of insurance. She was covered by my brother's (her father's) health insurance until recently. Then, some one in the payroll department called him in to ask why he didn't pay child support for her--when he does for her other siblings. He revealed that she is not biologically his. And they told him that he could be in trouble for fraud because his insurance had covered her all these years since the divorce. Isn't that bullshit? And her mom, who's a nurse working 70-80 hours a week at two jobs, makes too much for her to get medicaid. We've had this child since my brother and her mom got back together (they had one child, broke up, she had another child, then they got back together, got married and had two more kids); she wasn't even one. She's most emphatically ours--and I resent BCBS taking it upon themselves to accuse him of fraud.

But anyway, she's not getting the checkups she needs. And she knows it and worries about it. That is why she got my dad out of bed--she takes comfort in his knowledge, even as they argue over the best way to check her levels and types of insulin and if he really knows how to use the glucometer.

Sharing, apparently, makes it better.

The Spirit Is Willing but...

...the flesh is weak. As an aside, best friend Louisiana thinks that quote is hilarious each time I say it--I've heard it in church for decades now, so I don't get her amusement.

Anyway, I don't know what the hell my dad has signed up for, but we now get Blender, Forbes, the NYT, and some hunting and fishing magazines. I asked him a while back, "Blender?" "I don't know," he said.

So, today there's a card in the mail. He looks at it, laughs, and reads to me, "12 issues for $12."

"Mmm," I say. He smiles again. "I could take that," he says, "But I don't suppose the good Lord wants me to." "What is it?" I ask.


"Well," I say, "God probably wants you to stay informed. Lots of people read it for the articles."

My daddy laughed in my face, y'all.


After a drizzly, dismal, cold, ear-achy Christmas, today's all bright and crisp.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Don't Have A Title

And don't feel like thinking of one. So there!

Today is my maternal grandmother's birthday. She would've been 87. Tuesday is the anniversary of her death. She's been gone 12 years. Christmas is bittersweet for my mom--some years, she only goes through the motions--you can tell her heart isn't in it. But time is making it better.

I find myself recalling the strangest things about my grandmother (Mam-maw). She called earrings, "earbobs." She had a fierce attitude. And she may have been the greatest cook in southern history. I'm not just saying that cuz she's my grandma--people came from all over the area to eat her cooking. Her house was the first stop any out of town relatives made. And while my mom and some of my older cousins and aunts are no slouches when it comes to soul food, I've never tasted anything like her cooking. She made everything from entrees to dessert from scratch. I remember her mixing German Chocolate and pound cakes by hand--she only used mixers when she got older and tired easily. I think that's a big part of the reason that so many of our non-holiday family get-togethers are still centered around food--woe to my hips and thighs.

I've finished my Christmas shopping--it has reinforced my determination to have no more children. I have one child, four godchildren (yes, I have a new one!), seven nieces and nephews, and a slew of young cousins. So I'm a sucker for a sale. With an age range of 6 months to 19 years, one of the children is bound to be able to wear it! But I've given up feeling guilty about being a shopaholic for the kids--some things just never change.

Anyway, I'm finally getting in the exhausted-thank-God-this-comes-once-a-year frame of mind.

Back on the topic of food (one of my favorites :-), let me sketch the anatomy of a rural Louisiana Christmas dinner. As I type, my mom is boiling chicken for dressing, baking a pound cake, and searching for "old meat" for her purple hull peas. I've decided to make a cheesecake from scratch, some macaroni and cheese, and a broccoli-rice casserole. The greens, ham, and hot water cornbread (none of my city friends know what that is--I'll explain one day!) will come from my cousin T and her mom and sister. My other aunt will make a roast and pecan pie. Several someones will invariably bake sweet potato pies. There's bound to be a chocolate cake, a lemon pie, and some chocolate pies. Someone will bake or fry chicken. And, I fear, that is just the beginning. We will scramble to find other, more distant relatives to feed because we make way too much (and vow every year to cut back) for our relatively small family. Then, we'll exchange gifts, play cards or dominoes, take the kids outside to try the new stuff (that will last approximately to New Year's), and talk. And laugh.

And somewhere amidst the way too full, so damned broke, and God, I'm stressed, I will think about how blessed I am. To have food to share and people to talk to and family who loves me and a million children swarming and both my parents living and a sister who's my best friend and a child who's healthy and a house to gather in and just so much!

And I'll realize that the hurried grace I said before dinner is not nearly enough.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What I've Been Doing

  1. First and foremost, being extraordinarily lazy. I realized Saturday that I didn't even put a bra on all day. TMI, but true.
  2. Going to high school basketball games in which the kids I taught in elementary school make up the teams. Reality Check!
  3. Accompanied best friend Louisiana, who's the cheerleader sponsor for my old high school, on a trip to take the cheerleaders to the mall. Since my 16 and 17 year old nieces are on the squad, I got to spend time annoying them.
  4. Reacquainting myself with Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and Ina Garten. Boy, do I have big plans for Christmas dinner--southern, sophisticated, and done in under 30 minutes. Oh, and using as many full pounds of real butter as possible.
  5. Grumbling and groaning and looking at my chapters to begin an exercise Advisor has asked me to complete.
  6. Interviewed the ESL co-ordinator for the parish and some parents with whom she works.
  7. Made plans to travel to another Texas city to visit archives that will (help) fill in the history of the union I'm studying. Dragging best friend Louisiana and my sister along, kicking and screaming. Apparently, I'm going to owe them big.
  8. Got my hair washed and set on big rollers. It's quite cute. I'm always amazed--the woman that does my hair here is usually finished in under two hours. The guy that does my hair in Texas takes at least four--we've become quite good friends because I share so much of my life with him.
  9. Being pleasantly annoyed by my parents. I can't explain that one.
  10. SHOPPING! And not even for myself **noted smugly.**

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Gotta Leave Y'all with Something Cute... I prepare to depart this place, never again to see it in the year 2006. That's the plan, at least. Anyway, witness my godson, far left, at his school's Christmas pageant. Apparently, he had to warm up to the idea.

Happy Holidays, y'all (you don't need the whole "blogging will be light" spiel, do you?)

And happy birthday, nubian.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Time...

Grading is DONE. This semester is over. We meet tomorrow to discuss, to decide who might need a little mercy (if someone has a 79, but came to class everyday and showed progress over the course of the semester, then s/he might get a B- instead of a C+), and to take our stuff to the registrar.

I am deliriously... sleepy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Louisiana Politics (or Why I'm Mad at William Jefferson)

"Here's to no longer biting our tongues!" said a brilliant woman I know. In the spirit of that declaration, I just have to write hastily about one William Jefferson.

I don't know much about the Jefferson case; anyway you look at it $90,000 frozen dollars is a bit troublesome, especially given the allegations of past issues. But I'm mad at him. Yes, for the obvious reasons--because he's black and from Louisiana and a Democrat. Trust me, black Louisianans had (and apparently have) a lot of hope and pride tied up in this guy.

But you know why I'm really mad at him?
Jefferson was born in Lake Providence, a small town in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana, where he and his eight brothers and sisters worked alongside their father, who was a sharecropper and a heavy-equipment operator for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Though neither of his parents had graduated from high school, Jefferson graduated from G.W. Griffin High School in Lake Providence and received a bachelor's degree from Southern University... He later earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1972.
The child of grade school drop-outs, sharecroppers, William Jefferson is probably a "first." Part of the first generation in his family to reap the benefits of civil rights struggles, to go to college (an Ivy, no less), to escape. Not to downplay what he means to his constituents, but can you imagine what his successes mean to his family and community?

I am a "first" myself. And I can't tell you how many people in my hometown expressed pride in me when I was working on my BA. How many elderly people came up to me in church or at the store and pressed soft, wrinkled dollar bills in my hand--a little something to take back to school with me. They used to make me stand there while they rummaged in their bosom, or reached for a safety pin that held money to the inside of their dresses, or dug slowly in faded backpockets for crumbling wallets. They were praying for me, they'd say, and they knew I'd be fine.

Or how often my hairdresser, who'd been doing my hair since I was a six-year-old getting a press and ponytail, waved away my payment and told me to "Save it for a book or something you might need." Or the number of little "scholarships"--like the one from the Parents' Civic and Social Club or the church education fund--that helped me buy books or eat off-campus or make a trip to the store. These people had a vested interest in me, much as I'm sure Jefferson's community had an interest in him.

Moreso than I, Jefferson comes from rural poverty. In 1990, for example, Lake Providence was the poorest commmunity in the nation--not just in Louisiana, which is something in and of itself, but in the whole damned country. I can't believe he's not some kind of symbol, a source of pride, proof that there is a way out of Lake Providence. His story, his legacy, means something to those people.

If he is guilty of wrongdoing, that is a lot to throw away, a lot to forsake. No one, not even firsts, can live their lives for other people; after all, people take a chance if they choose to live through you--God knows I've disappointed some. But I don't think there's anything wrong with realizing that, in the eyes of your community, you represent much more than yourself. I can't help thinking that ignoring that makes you a bit selfish.

That's why I'm mad at William Jefferson.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Protect Darfur Women from Abuse and Genocide

Just got this from our Women's Studies Department:
Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the petition: "Protect Darfur Women from Abuse and Genocide."

Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and join mein signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. We are trying to reach 100,000 signatures - please sign here:

Once you have signed, you can help even more by asking your friendsand family to sign as well.

Thank you!
Please stop by The Petition Site. And for news about the Darfur genocide and what you can do, please regularly visit Daily Darfur.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Drive

But about the drive mentioned below...

After seeing numerous instances of Rudolph grazing from the manger and Santa Claus bearing frankincense or myrrh and the reindeer being guided by a star in the east, I have to mention this piece of advice.

Please encourage your neighbors to keep their decorations consistent. Secular or religious. Religious or secular. Nativity or North Pole.

There is no such thing as a "nice combination" of both.

The Visit

So today, the kids, my sister and I drove to the halfway point between here and my hometown to pick up my mother. My brother and sister-in-law drove her there. She's off from work unexpectedly for at least a week--plant management delayed telling them so that they couldn't look into unemployment insurance (that Bo Pilgrim; he really is the consummate Christian). From what I gather, the employees with younger children are worried--they live paycheck to paycheck and were, of course, planning to buy Christmas gifts with the checks they get over the next two weeks. This, combined with the fact that the local Wal-Marts no longer have lay-a-way, is proving quite devastating to a number of hopefully-penned Christmas lists.

But I digress. My sister noted on the way up there, "You know this means we have to spend three weeks instead of two with her." "I know," I said, "But she'll be cool out here."

My mom is going through some sort of anxiety/depression/paranoia/OCD thing that she refuses to take medicine for because she doesn't want people to think she is crazy. In the meantime, she gets stuck on one issue and goes on and on and on. Tonight my damned brother gave her fuel--he had a little accident in her car and her driver side mirror got knocked off. She mentioned it approximately 20 times in the less-than-three-hours it took us to get back here. And each time Sis dug in my ribs or punched my thigh or glared at me. Sorry, damn!

And now, it's become a religious issue as she doesn't "want to question God," but she's wondering "why things keep happening." Which kind of irked me because this is so trivial. I want to say, "Mama, there are a million things you could question God about, but a side mirror?" But I do know everything is magnified and worsened in her mind so I'm keeping quiet and listening. Even as she's lying down and repeating, wishfully, "I hope I can get some sleep. I hope this doesn't ruin my trip. I hope my mind eases." We're going to talk to her again about therapy and medication. One day, we hope it works.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

So Close to Home

Back in the days when I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life (as if I do now), I spent two quarters in an MA program for counseling psychology. At this university, psychology was part of the college of education, so I had an assistantship working in the dean's office. During my time there, one student, who had a sizable fellowship, abruptly quit school. The dean decided that the remaining funds would be held until another time.

Until she met Lily.

Lily was a determined Ed.D. student who'd heard about the other student and decided that she would apply, unsolicited, for the remainder of the fellowship funds. She came into our office everyday, polite but firm, insisting that the funds would be well-invested in her, that she would graduate. She also sent a letter (that I read while filing, of course) pointing out her academic and work records and how determined she was to get this degree. Everyday, while I sat behind the desk, she sat in a chair and talked to me, waiting for a glimpse of the dean, eager to plead her case in person. "I'm going to get this," she'd tell me. "They might as well put that money to good use." We'd chat until the dean surfaced, at which time Lily would pounce upon her with enviable agility, her voice full of equal parts southern sweetness and resolve. She was a steel magnolia in action, confident, capable, proud.

She got that fellowship. And I left the college of education. Three years later, at the same ceremony in which my sister received her B.A., Lily got her Ed.D. Good, I thought, and let her slip from my mind.

Some time after that, I saw her at a restaurant. She hugged me and I teased her, "You put that money to good use." "Mm-hmm," she said, "But I don't know how good!" We were from the same parish and she was now teaching there--an experience I'd already had, so I knew exactly what she meant.

A few minutes ago, best friend Louisiana called, bringing what I thought would be a welcome respite from typing and deleting, typing and deleting. Earlier tonight, some of the parish teachers met at a local restaurant for dinner. Lily's sister, also a teacher, was there (Lily stopped teaching for the parish last year). Best friend's principal had called to tell her, not ten minutes after best friend left the dinner, Lily's sister got a call to pick up her mom and go to the hospital.

Lily had had a car accident.

Lily died, y'all. Lily. Three years older than I, determined, smart, funny, mother-to-a-small-child, wonderful Lily. Lily, who probably had short-term Christmas plans. Lily, who I know had long-term professional plans.

Lily, Lily, Lily

Co-opting the Language

A few days ago, Maya at, wrote about how the makers of Equal artificial sweetener apparently thought it cute and kitschy to reword a number of slogans and print them on packets. Most upsetting to Maya was the newly-minted phrase "Power to the Packet":
POWER TO THE PEOPLE was not just a slogan, but a rallying anthem which was appreciated and honored during the Civil Rights Movement. This statement demanded that we stand up, take power and become accountable for our community. The marketing team for Equal’ 0 calorie sweetener morphed this historic proclamation into a diluted tongue-and-cheek advertisement for their ‘Campaign of Flavor’, which ironically (or not so much) further enforced corporate financial gains by exploiting Black culture.
I understood her point because I've been thinking the same thing about the commercial for this nifty little device:

Yep, the apparently all (em)powerful NuvaRing. Have you seen this commercial in which the spokeswoman begins, "Birth control, back in the day about pregnancy protection--no objection!" I want to write the manufacturers and tell them, "No one objected to birth control? Talk about your revisionist history!" But I digress.

As NuvaRing only has to be used once a month, it frees women from the tyranny of daily birth control, prompting the makers to cast it in the same liberating tradition as the Civil Rights Movement. Yep, this commercial ends* with the spokeswoman co-opting the phrase "Let freedom ring!" while thrusting her fist defiantly into the air, NuvaRing gripped proudly. I mean, even though I've seen it a few times now, I still scan the image, expecting that proud fist to be covered in a black glove.


Which is not to say that birth control in and of itself is not liberating for some women (me included), but rather, I don't think the road to freedom for women is paved with NuvaRings.

*At least the TV version ends that way; I can't see this one for some reason.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ooh, Gwyn Gon' Get It!

Sometimes, as a black woman, there are issues you'd like to discuss, but you're a little hesitant. Cuz your mama told you about airing the extended family's dirty laundry. "Bite your lip," she said. And you do.
Initially, you can just bite down on one inside corner of the bottom one.
Then, you learn to draw the whole bottom one into your mouth and clamp down hard.
Then, you start folding them both in and compressing them until the area around your mouth turns a sickly shade.
And finally, you can't help it! Something slips out. And once it is open, you might get a little something like this:
Welcome and thank you for tuning in to the first annual Brotha Please Awards also known as the "boo, negro boo awards." I'm your host for this evening, Gwyneth Bolton, and tonight we'll be honoring three brothas who need to sit their behinds down and shut up. Now, I know that we shouldn't reward bad behavior. But we should have a way to call attention to these brothas in a way that serves to curb that kind of behavior in the future.

Read more.

I Now Know How My Parents Felt...

...trying to find my sister and me a Cabbage Patch Doll that crazy year people were fighting each other to get them. Witness the main thing my goddaughter told me she wanted for Christmas:

This godforsaken BABY ALIVE!!!! Had I known, I would've just kept mine for her. This doll is sold out everywhere. People are selling them on Amazon for $100 (twice the price) and on e-bay for that much and more, when you consider the fact they charge $20-30 for shipping it! True, my problem is compounded by the fact that I wanted a brown doll, but the white ones are scarce commodities, too (though they tend to be on back order while the African American and Latina ones are plain "Sold out, and we don't know when the hell we're getting more!")

And no, I haven't lost my mind; I'm not paying $100 for any doll.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why I Love History (or, A Brief Update)

I swear I'm like, shoulders deep in piles of documents from the National Labor Relations Board (I love FOIA!), the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen and the United Food and Commercial Workers (thanks to the Wisconsin Historical Society!). Now, if I didn't have to write up my findings, I'd be in heaven. Some interesting tidbits:
  • A 1947 letter from an AMBW leader addressed to the NLRB in which the union man verifies that all required parties have signed a document stating they were not communists.
  • A secret ballot packinghouse workers used to choose between the AMBW (AFL) and the United Packinghouse Workers (CIO).
  • A twisted and very interesting story from one of Tyson's Arkansas plants. Apparently, plant management rewarded one ex-union steward with a "cleaner," better-paying job and other perks after she agreed to be the employee agitator for union de-certification. Tyson was not supposed to get involved with the de-certification process and of course they, and the woman, denied it. The NLRB officer who wrote this opinion very politely called them liars. He noted that the woman showed remarkable zeal, giving up her vacation and personal days to work towards getting the UFCW kicked out of the plant. The reason why was clear to him despite Tyson's parade of witnesses who denied it. He also took to task a Tyson rep who denied calling himself a union buster, noting that the man probably did use the title and further, took pride in such a title because he'd been plant manager at another location that had de-certified the UFCW.

All right, I'm going back to work!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Show Him that It Is Not in Vain

Quaker Dave has a new blog called Daily Darfur. If you can't click now, it's at Please stop by. Often.

My Child's Awareness

Okay, as I was typing that last post, my son got up to tell me, "Mama, I've been noticing something. My teacher is the only third grade teacher who's not-"

I stopped him there, way unready to deal with what I knew was coming. "Well, no. Ms. D is Latina."

"That's true," he said, "but my teacher is the only one who's black!"

Wow. I didn't even realize he was thinking about things like this. "What does that mean to you?" I asked.

"I don't know. But I don't feel very good about it." When I pressed him about why he didn't feel good about it, he couldn't articulate it. Instead, he pointed out that the situation was the same in first grade, where there is one black teacher and the one "brown" teacher left "because she had a baby." And then, he said, "And all the music teachers are white! I don't feel very good about that either."

And then he kicked my mattress and went back to bed.

To say that I am stunned is an understatement. Tomorrow evening is going to bring quite the conversation.

What Do You Teach Your Child about the Police?

Especially when your child is a black boy (yes, I think that makes a difference)? That question is on my mind this week because of Sean Bell and Kathryn Johnston. My son saw me reading an article about the Bell case and asked me what happened. After I explained to him, he asked me, "But why did the police do that?" And in a fit of angst, I told him, "Because they can. They can just kill us for no reason." That is unlike anything I've ever told him before, and I am worried about it.

Over at BfP's, Luisa made this observation on a post (in which BfP asks "does it make sense to give a group of people who put on a specific outfit the power to kill, rape, violate, and otherwise cause destruction and devastation to a particular area and its occupants?"):
I was not raised to respect the police or military. and this gets me in a little trouble ever now and then… I can feel myself becoming anxious around them. I always want to say something rude but, I also fear them. It is a strange emotion. I feel queasy when cop cars pass me. They are the only people who I fear in my neighborhood because if they force me into their car late at night, my fellow humans might just let it happen and who knows where I will end up. who knows what story they’ll tell…

I know that strange mix, the loathing that comes from knowing that, when this person puts on a uniform, he (yes, he) somehow assumes a power that makes his actions unquestionable (even if those actions include demanding a minstrel show). That fear that he can do anything to me and get away with it. And I'm not just saying that; it is a very real fear for me. My experiences with the police have included:

  • My father and I being pulled over while I was an undergraduate, separated, and questioned. We were in Texas, our car had Louisiana plates, and the cops admitted they suspected drug trafficking. Similarly, I was tailed closely by a cop for a while in a small East Texas town who didn't turn on his lights, initially. He was following me so closely that I put on my signal and got into the next lane. Then he turned on his lights--said I was supposed to wait until I'd traveled at least so many feet after turning on my signal to switch lanes. The problem, again, was my Louisiana plates in a Texas town. He wanted to know where I lived currently, where I was traveling to, and why. I answered, simply because I didn't know if I was allowed not to answer and I had no intention of disappearing in East Texas.
  • Coming from a club one night, my sister and I were pulled over by two white male cops who made us get out, shined flashlights in our faces and smirked the whole time. They asked us what we were doing out so late.
  • My male cousin, a minor at the time, being taken to the police station in the middle of the night and the police refusing to let any of us come in. When we began to loudly protest, my aunt begged us not to, scared what they might do.
  • Having a friend who was pulled over for a traffic stop quizzed about my car (I passed by twice to make sure he was okay). The officer, new to my hometown, asked why that "Texas car" was in town so much. What kind of business could I have there?

And so on. It's not that I don't have respect for people trying to do their jobs; it's that I've had a wealth of experience in which that job description has magically expanded in ugly ways. Quite often, the response from black parents I know has been to teach their children to always defer to authority, to not question, to do as they are told. For example, I hear parents say, about spanking their kids, "I'm whooping his/her ass now, so the police won't do it later." And no, this is not just an excuse to engage in teh evil spanking, it is evidence of a very real belief that teaching children to obey "authority" figures may save their lives.

Yet, just as I don't want to leave my son with the image of the police that I created with my comment, I don't want to teach him to blindly obey either. I did tell him later that there are "lots of good police who protect people," but that some of them feel like they have "superpowers over people" because they have guns and clubs.

And uniforms. Lord, the power of a uniform.

In the meantime, I am thinking of this. Sean Bell was 23. Kathryn Johnson was 92. Is there ever a time, an age when we are safe?

H/T Y. Carrington and Philip Arthur Moore

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Is It Just Me...

...or is anyone else's little toolbar (with spellcheck and add pics, etc) missing from the post screen? I can't do any formatting things manually either.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Why Is This Video... threatening to so many youtube viewers:

Would to God that it was because of the offensiveness of "Tip Drill." Or if some commenters decided they find "booty dancing" troublesome. Nah, what upsets the commenters at youtube is that these women

Are fat. FAT. And apparently having fun. And doing something as sensual as dancing. And by God, they have friends. Who the hell wants to be seen with a fat girl?

The comments are rife with "nasty," "disgusting," "gross," "wrong" and observations about vomiting and gouging out one's eyes. And then there is the ultimate: "You should be ashamed of yourselves." Because we know how shame works to immobilize and silence women. And I can tell you how it works to immobilize and silence fat women, how it makes all eyes turn upon you, how it makes your skin crawl, how it makes you wish you could just disappear.

That is exactly what these commenters are wishing on these women. Oh, a few of them are careful to disguise it in that "I'm so concerned for your health..." And, lately, my ultra-concerned brothers and sisters of color have added a new twist: they are concerned for our health because we're killing the black community.* You talk about a guilt inducer. Oh. My. God.

But come on, if we're really concerned about people's health, would we be turning up our noses and insulting them? Since we believe fat is solely the product of overeating*, if we wanted to encourage people to eat more healthfully, wouldn't we be asking our government officials why, since the mid-1990s, meat and dairy have received 3x the subsidies of grains and why "fats and oils [have] collected 20x more government handouts than fruits and vegetables"? Wouldn't we be demanding that the media curb the 70% of food advertising that is controlled by convenience and "junk" foods?* Wouldn't we ask food processors why they lie and say they're adding "value" to our food when what they're typically adding is sugar and fat?

So, nah. I don't think we're all that concerned with what people eat; what we're obsessed with is how they look and the connections we make between that appearance and food.

Over at Trash Talks Back, Elaina gave me another idea for why this video is so upsetting (please go read her whole post!):
I'm relearning that fat people are expected to be losers. People think that we are fumbly or we are lazy, or that we are afraid to do outrageous and energetic things.
The women in the video defy that assumption, and apparently it's creating a sort of dissonance that is unbearable. Elaina also said something that I think is another clue into the mindset of the commenters:
People constantly wave their own fears of becoming what you are in front of your face, without a thought as to how you will feel about it. Anti-fat thought is presumed to be correct thought.
Oh, and don't think fat people don't have fat phobic thoughts. My first reaction to this video was, "I can't believe they had enough nerve to..." 'Cause we're not supposed to, you know, have nerve or willingly display our bodies--I say willingly because whether we want them to or not, our fat bodies have been co-opted for the purpose of showing people what they want to avoid. My second thought was, "Ooh, I'm so glad they did."

It's a strange position fat people occupy, taking up more space than what society has decided is your right to have while simultaneously being invisible... until someone wants to point out what not to become. And apparently that concept is so sacred that youtube commenters believe that fat women should be excluded, invisible, on a site designed for anyone to share video. But fat women aren't anyone, of course. We're those pesky "others."

Elaina had a few tips I wish I could go post in the comments at youtube:
6. You have no right to presume that our fatness means anything more than we weigh a certain amount over what's been deemed by capitalist white supremacist patriarchy as the "norm."
7. Do not assume that we are lazy or unintelligent.
8. Do not assume that we are weak.
9. Do not assume that we are obsessive-compulsive about food.
10. Do not assume that we are desperate for your friendship and/or your sympathy.
11. Do not assume that we think that we are less attractive than you are, or that we hate our bodies, or that we strive to be like you.
And please, do not assume that we don't dance* and that we don't laugh and that we're not sensual. Keep your issues and your projections to yourself.

And, no, the commenters at youtube didn't get these women down, because they also posted this:


*I don't doubt that some people genuinely have health concerns and I don't discount medical evidence that links obesity to some illnesses. But this is often the most convenient excuse for fat phobes.
*And of course overeating is nothing more than a lack of willpower which "proves" how weak fat people are.
*All from the intro to
Steve Striffler's Chicken.
*Yes, in the company of supporive friends and family, ms. elle has been known to shake her moneymaker then drop it like it's hot.

History Carnival #44 up at Barista.

There's apparently a blog called Progressive Historians.

I'm one conditioned response away from salivating at the idea.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Yesterday, Professing Mama wrote the following about one of her students:
I have received another student's email that has made me cry. This one is quite different from the first one; it came from a student in my intro course, a student who is in some ways quite typical of the MSU student body--a returning student, first-generation, "underprepared."As teachers, we say we don't play favorites, and it's true that I work very hard to treat all of my students fairly. I would be lying to say that I don't have favorites, however, and this student is my favorite student in this class. He is not a great student; he works hard for Cs. But that is what I love about him: he works hard. He frequently participates in class, he really tries to improve, and he wants to learn.That is the type of student I enjoy the most...

Another thing I love about him is that he has missed several classes the past few weeks, but he has never made any excuses... he told me that he knew he had "failed in his responsibilities" and that he knew he deserved whatever grade he received. I have never had a student own up like that.

I just received word that he is dropping the course; one of his parents died of cancer on Thanksgiving Day. Apparently the reason why he was missing so much class was because he was helping with caretaking in his parent's last few weeks. He told me he'll start over again next semester, and he thanked me "for always being so kind to me."So I'm crying again tonight. I feel so sorry not only for his loss, but also for mine.
And it made me think back to the last test date in our class, when the kids were hastily dropping their bluebooks into the correct boxes, and my fellow TA and I were sitting on the stage answering their questions or simply saying hi. She leaned over and asked me, "Don't you just love these students?"

And I realized, for all my hard talk and skepticism, I do. So many of my students are like the one Professing Mama described and my heart just goes out to them. How they add college to their list of responsibilities, I'll never know. I was a traditional student--started at 17, on full scholarship, finished in four years. Don't get me wrong, best friend Texas, who was my friend from freshman year on, and my roommate our junior and senior years, and I were perpetually broke and hungry, but we didn't have the experiences these students have. We had jobs, but they were on campus, part time. And no one ever doubted, for one moment, that we'd finish. My students now have children and car notes and electricity bills and 40 hours+ per week jobs. Some of them don't have the luxury of meeting us after class or for review sessions--they have to work or go to the daycare or do myriad other things.

And I find that I respect, admire, love them fiercely for what they're doing. I want to see them do well, see them finish. Somehow, over the course of this semester, I've invested my heart right along with my mind in these young people.

Before I started teaching, even on the elementary level, I always assumed that the "A" students would be my favorites--I'd identify with them and be so excited to challenge them. And that was true to a point. But you know who pulled my heartstrings? The ones who hug me and tell me they love me now when I go home (my first class of fifth graders are seniors this year!)? My "bad asses." Those who came in with looks on their faces that let me know off the bat we might have a long day. Those who got frustrated with the work and wanted to sulk and pout and got mad when I wouldn't let them. Those for whom and with whom I had to do the most work. Those who made me lay my head down on my desk and sigh sometimes before I tried something else.

They appreciate me, it seems, for my efforts. And I appreciate them for taking my preconceived notions and blowing them out of the water.

And I've found it much the same in my college classrooms. Some of them try so hard, work so hard, but their grades don't always reflect that. These are the ones for whom we have special reviews, extend our office hours, have long e-mail chats. It's not about feeling sorry for them; it's about respecting them as people beyond their student status.

So yes, I love my students. Do you?

Updates on the World Beyond My Narrow Confines

One thing that has bedeviled my growth as a feminist and my research as a historian is an irrational belief that I have to read every single thing, know every single detail about a subject before I can write about it. I am frightened of my own lack of expertise and it immobilizes me.

Which is one of the reasons I post haphazardly about people of color in an international context. I need to learn more, read more, know more, I think.

Such teh bullshit. Nothing but excuses delivered in my typical, wide-eyed, shoulder shrugging fashion.

There are people who are helping me learn, though. Please read Quaker Dave's two recent posts on Darfur here and here. One of his commenters noted, "Believe me, when you post things about Darfur, people listen." She wanted to know what private citizens could do and Dave pointed her to this post. Quaker Dave also blogs extensively about the war we're waging on Iraq. The poignant combination of his words and chosen images have made the abstract so very real to me.

For the situation in Oaxaca, Mexico, visit BfP's site and click on her Oaxaca link. Her work on this, and so many other topics, is amazing. She probably has her eyebrow raised at my passing the buck to her with little of my own analysis, but I rely heavily on her posts for updates.

These examples of PoC struggles and oppresson are hardly all-inclusive, but I decided a while ago that I had to stop waiting until I knew it all and start somewhere.

Ok, Let's Start One

Seems I have been scathingly labelled as a cause of "teh black child's" problems based on my So That's It post:
The gist of it is that the author has a son who so far, isn't good at anything. The mother is desperately trying to force/find something for her child to be good at. She laughs about it, then goes on to add the above little ditty at the end. Which irritates me because it spreads far beyond just this child. She hasn't written much, and I think she makes some valid points about other issues, but her attitude toward raising her son is part of why we have so many under performing black children now. This isn't really to single this woman out, which is why I haven't included a link, but seriously... black mothers are dropping the ball all over the place.

There is an overwhelming propensity for people in the black community to blame the poor performance of our children on everything but our parenting skills. Now I realize its hard for any parent to fess up and say "wow, I really screwed my kid up," but in the black community there are too many of us not taking responsibility for our kids and EVEN MORE of us who are facilitating this mentality. I read the comments and not one person said what I am going to say right now:

How the F does your child miss 21 assignments and you as a parent do not know about it? If you have a child who you think needs special attention, why aren't you as a parent making sure he gets it?

I don't have any children, so I can understand that my comments might not be as moving as those who do. But if and when I do decide to have children... especially children who are still ripe for being molded into decent members of society, I will know how my child is doing in class WELL before Thanksgiving break. How will I know? Because before classes even start I will make sure my children's teachers know I do not play when it comes to grades... I will not have any fools running around claiming I am their mother. Not while they live under my roof anyway...

how effed up is it to almost totally give up on your child before he even hits high school? Because he hasn't fit into any of the standard molds you picked for him?
I should've been secure enough not to respond, right? Yeah, right:
good grief, i should be at a point where i don't feel the need to defend myself to way wrong strangers, but, apparently that's another of my failings.

the problem is not that he missed 21 assignments--a number of them were done at home and sent to school--but that he doesn't turn them in at school or that he gets them back for corrections and doesn't return them. his teacher is at a point where she refuses to individually ask him for assignments anymore. as a former teacher, i respect that--he needs to take responsibility and turn in his work at the assigned time. he knows the drill after almost a full semester. we have played the makeup work game since the end of august now.

and to refute your erroneous belief that somehow my eyes were not opened to my son's progress until Thanksgiving break (or that these assignments have accrued over the whole semester), let me point out that this was a report for the month of november. she gives me a weekly update about his missing assignments--assignments that can, for now, only be made up at school. i reinforce to him how important it is to do the work. she makes more copies and gives it to him to complete in study hall. some of it he completes. some of it he does not, thus allowing it to build up. i have a child who simply refuses to hand in his work and none of us can figure out why, though we are trying.

since you've determined that i've dropped the ball, i suppose it won't do much good to point out that my child is not a traditional special needs child--he tests on or slightly above grade level. or that i've had four conferences with his teacher, the last of which included the principal. or that we swap e-mails several times a week. or that i've had him start seeing a psychologist because all of us believe this is a behavioral problem--he's never had problems like this before, so something has definitely triggered this. or that, if you read some of my archives, you'll find that i've been a room parent and an active PTO member--I'm always at his school for one thing or another. or that i believe there is more to life than school, which is why i've tried to find extra-curricular niches for him.i've never once implied that i've given up on my child. and i'm sorry that i'm not so perfect that i don't get frustrated.

what is it exactly, that you have identified as "my attitude about raising my son?" on the advice of his psychologist and the principal, i've given up micromanaging his life--trying to make sure he does every assignment perfectly--because they say that this is part of the reason he won't take responsibility for his work.

ah, and then there's the "when i have a child, i'll..." mm-hmm. i said all those things about what a perfect mother with a perfect child i was going to be. and then reality happened. and playing about grades? do you really think that i, an academic, don't take grades seriously? honestly? but i'm interested to hear your suggestions--i've tried various forms of incentives and punishments. the psychologist and i are wrangling with school officials about having him moved into another class. short of sitting with him several hours a day at school, keeping him on task, and handing in the work myself, i'm at a loss for ideas.

you don't have to agree with my parenting style--that's cool. but dear lord, please acknowledge that their is more to the story--that is why regular commenters, who included my best friend, responded so supportively. because they know some of the struggles we've had.

but perhaps as troubling as your comments about my parenting are your snide remarks about black women in general. why the condescension towards us frat-party attending women and/or ball-dropping mamas and/or the black women commenters you feel coddled me on my blog? how effed up is it to dismiss all blogging sisters with your nose firmly in the air?
Yes, I was an overachiever. Yes, that undoubtedly shapes my perspective. Yes, I want my son to develop skills, to be a strong student, and myriad other things. Yes, I want him to learn to take responsibilty for his actions or lack thereof. No, I am not the one implying that my child might miss his opportunity to be a decent citizen or that he's a "fool running around" or that hey, he's a hopeless underperformer because his mom dropped the ball!

What I am saying, is that it worries me that my son has failed at so many things because I don't want his self-esteem destroyed. It frustrates me (and hell yeah, pisses me off--no apologies) when it takes us 3 hours to do homework and he won't turn it in. And yes, sometimes I have to laugh so I don't cry. But I never quit trying. I have never, ever claimed to be some goddess mother--y'all know that from all my various scenarios. But I love, love, love this little boy and I want him to have a good future. In my life, that has been tied to education or some prized skill set. I can't help wanting him to have those things.

And I can't help resenting the half-informed opinions of some condescending woman who's never been in shoes quite like mine.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh Wow

Yesterday was my one year blogiversary. I can't believe it!

The Good Life

Apparently, my materialism and the Bold Look of Kohler are getting to my son.

He had the best dream last night, he says. In it, I had a mansion with a "buncha" rooms. And I had a bed that was just royal (his word, not mine. I'm thinking he must mean a canopy bed or sleigh bed or something). And the best thing?

Every single room had a pretty faucet... with water.

He said it with that emphasis, eyes all big and amazed as if he's still relishing the supreme excellence of that vision.

On that note, I'm going to bed.

There may be something good in store for me in dreamland.

White Supremacy

See, I can say that, acknowledge the ways it works, decry its existence all day long on this blog.

But for some reason, that was the hardest phrase for me to write into my dissertation. I wrote about intraethnic conflicts being characterized as if they occur solely between non-white racial/ethnic groups. What is often obscured, I said, is that they occur in a framework of white supremacy.

I debated and debated about using it. Would advisor think I had gone too far (and that is TOTALLY my projection. She has never given any indication that she underestimates the impact of white supremacy, especially on labor)? Am I sophisticated enough to make an argument to back that? Was there some other phrase I could use that wasn't so...


Eventually, cautiously, I used it. But for the life of me, I still can't explain my hesitance.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not-So-Easy Listening

This morning, while taking the kids to school, I listened to a local hip-hop station. I abandoned the other such station a couple of months ago, after the woman who hosted the morning show told guys that, "Just because she says no one time, doesn't mean she won't eventually like it," in a discussion about keeping the sex life spicy or something.

I e-mailed the show, curious as to how they'd missed the whole point of "no means no," if the host had any idea of the power of sexual coercion, and if she really believed that women were such fickle beings. One of her male colleagues e-mailed me back in a huff--the host does not condone rape, she didn't mean sex in general, but specific acts (because it's okay to try to force women into things they don't want to do once they've consented to have sex, apparently), and--my real comeuppance--out of the hundred or so responses they'd received, mine was the only one that expressed such sentiments. So there.

I e-mailed him back to apologize for my forwardness and promised to only write them if I had glowing praise for the show. Someone e-mailed me back and I promptly deleted it. I haven't listened to their morning show since.

But then, this morning, the other station was having a discussion of why guys don't like for their "girls" to have slept with a lot of men.

You can probably guess where this went.

I tuned in when the male co-host was trying to explain to his female co-host that the problem was not with women's choices to sleep with a number of guys, but with guys' reaction (always the truly important measure). No boyfriend, he maintained, wanted a girlfriend about whom another guy could opine, "I slept with her; she ain't nothing special." Since specialness is apparently all bound up in how close one is to virginity and all. And no guy could assert that such an assumption is foolish. But I digress.

The co-host was pretty aggravated, bugged by the double standard and the idea that a woman was somehow worth less because she had an active sex life. The host gave up on her and appealed to the DJ to make her see reason. So, the DJ came to the mike and the first thing he said was,

"It's about ownership."

Uh-huh, yes he did. Women, or perhaps their vaginas, are owned by men, and no man wants too many trespassers on his property. To continue, the DJ then said,

"It's like... discovery. Guys don't want to plant their flags where a lot of other flags are planted."

Ah. So now women, reduced to their vaginas, have become like a conquerable continent or planet or something. Which is pseudo-amusing to me that the DJ has to "discover" vaginas as I've always thought the location was rather established and familiar. Then the host chimed in with,

"I know. The reason man wanted to go to the moon is because no one else had been there!" And dissolved into laughter.

The co-host who managed not to succumb to all this brilliant male reason, asked "What about women... I mean I don't want a flag that's been planted a lot of places, either. What about that?"

To which the DJ responded, "The double standard is there and you should just get used to it." More laughter. Thankfully, I'd arrived back home and got out of the car on that note.

I still can't believe that happened. I want to hope that maybe people called in after I got out of the car and blasted their asses, but I know that's not likely. What is likely is that they succeeded in making it seem as if the co-host was overreacting and that the so-called status quo was somehow pre-ordained and ever existant--it could not possibly have been constructed!

All I could think of was those, "you poke it, you own it," beer commercials. And no, I have not responded to the station, though I suppose I will now, just to get the angry refutation of my reaction.

Monday, November 27, 2006

So That's It!

Have you ever seen that Mastercard commercial in which some dad is desperately searching for whatever it is his kid is good at? That's the story of my life with my kid.

He's, um, not quite the student I hoped for.

His piano teacher gently suggested he may have been too young when he started lessons at six.

The band director at his school sent me a scathing note once asking, "Does he really practice at home?" She eventually suggested he move to chorus.

His karate instructor was way put off by his lack of attention. Dropped that.

He has my "knock-knees," so my sister's plan to put the kids in a track program hasn't worked all that well.

He was a bed-wetter and also had an episode of encopresis in the summer of 2005 that had me ready to pull out my hair before I realized it wasn't purposeful.

He has yet to learn his times tables after a year.

Did I mention his last progress report?

And on and on and on.

So anyway, he just came in here and said, "Mama, look what I'm really good at?" "What?" I say, all falsely bright, but hopeful. He whipped out a paddle ball thing and showed me how he can hit the ball for an extended period without it dropping off the side of the paddle.

So, see, all my worrying was for nothing! We now know his talent!

While I'm being all ha-ha now, let me tell y'all, I have cried many nights (and days) because everything with this child has been a struggle. I worry about his future because he has repeatedly learned the lessons of failure and has very little motivation now to try anything. He's been getting failing grades because he's doing this covert act-out thing in which he does his schoolwork and refuses to turn it in. As of the Friday before Thanksgiving, he had 21 zeros--work he simply did not return to the teacher--so you can imagine his grades. The teacher sent me a note today--she found 14 of those assignments, completed, balled up in his desk. We completed a couple more tonight.


To my favorite newly minted PhD...

She kicked ass at her defense, btw.

Rest In Peace

Bebe Moore Campbell.

Seems like I'm saying that way too often lately.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


ah, spoons. take a deck of cards, a certain number of players. place spoons in the middle of the table-the number of spoons is one less than the number of players. one of the players acts as dealer (changes each hand). she looks at each card, decides if she wants to keep it, if not passes it on. the cards go around the table, face down--each player chooses one to keep. the dealer keeps passing them til someone gets four of a kind. as soon as said player has four of a kind, she grabs a spoon. other players, acting on her cue, grab for the rest. the one pour soul left out has to take a shot. once everyone has had a shot or so, it gets hard to keep your eyes both on the cards--which, ideally, are coming quickly--and the spoons in the middle of the table.

i did okay--four shots of tequila. my poor sister--we lost count--but at least 7, that she chased with either smirnoff ice or this fruity mixed drink called jungle juice, because she hates the taste of tequila. she was fine while we were at the table, but then she moved to the living room and she was through. then our asses got scared because we let her drink that much.

but, oh, was the singing, which included:
  1. two heartfelt rounds of Irreplaceable that my cousin T sang and acted out while her sister danced with a patio chair and the rest of us acted as emotional back up singers
  2. the Jim Jones song (is it Ballin?) in which his calling out the word "ballin'" during the chorus prompted us to move our hands in a simulation of taking basketball shots (you know, ballin') which amused one of cousins hugely as she was the only one of us who played basketball in high school and thought our form was hideous
  3. the Louisiana rapper Li'l Boosie's "Zoom" which is unbelievably popular here--I hadn't heard it in the Lone Star State and now it's in my head

and dancing and laughing and women scrambling their asses all over the table and occasionally on the floor was too much fun.

BTW, My sister recovered sufcciciently enough to make the after Thanksgiving sales of course. We didn't leave the houste till 6 AM, but we found some good stuff here and in the little open strips here and by lollygagging around here. The combination of stores in Pecanland makes it my favorite of all time--yes, moreso than the Galleria--because I haven't found that mix anywhere else.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...

My family is thinking of all the reasons we have to be grateful. Number one on the list: twenty-six, er, thirty-two years of basking in my wonderful presence.*

Today, my actual birthday, is somewhat anticlimactic, though, as we celebrated by reserving tables at a lovely hole-in-the-wall club Sunday (nothing like them) and by going to Shreveport to a casino last night. Tonight, my cousin says we're going to play something called spoons and take shots, something I've never done.

All excellent ways for a good, Christian girl to celebrate her birthday.

*You know, that lying about the age thing sort of just rolls off the tongue.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Janitors' Strike Resolved... Somewhat

A couple of days ago, actually... sorry for the delayed post.
HOUSTON — Houston janitors ended a monthlong strike Monday against the city's five major cleaning companies after reaching a tentative agreement that will guarantee higher wages, more work hours and medical benefits.
The settlement was hailed as a major victory for the 5,300 janitors who last year organized under the Service Employees International Union. It is the first citywide union contract since janitors formed a union last November.
"We're very happy, and our members are ecstatic," SEIU spokeswoman Lynda Tran said. "It's an incredible, incredible day and this is a major victory."
Under Monday's agreement, the SEIU janitors will get a 50.5 percent pay raise over the two-year contract. On Jan. 1, pay will increase to $6.25 an hour, a 21 percent increase over the current wage of $5.15 an hour. That will go up to $7.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2008, and $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2009.
More here and here and here.

And the Houston Indy Media is hosting "an evening of films related to their struggle for better wages, health care and dignity, and other contemporary struggles of workers" on November 29.

$6.25 an hour, honestly, doesnn't seem like much, especially given the fact that these people are allowed to work only a 20-hour week. But it is progress, a sign that successful protest is possible. As symbolic victories go, this one seems huge.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rural Credentials

Apparently, the parental units are afraid I'm losing mine. My faux pas so far:

My mom fried fish Saturday night. Bone-in fish that my dad had caught. I hate picking out the small bones; I always get one stuck in my teeth--or for a pain like no other--in my throat. So I didn't eat it. My mom rolled her eyes and said, "Mmm." And I said, "Ma, you know I don't eat caught fish." And she said, "Girl, all fish is caught." But, in my mind there is a distinction. I explained I only eat "bought" fish (as in bought and fileted from the local grocery store!). Which brought the ultra-insulting comment, "You used to eat it."

My dad is also a hunter and has killed two deer this season so far. Their deep freezer is filled to the brim with processed venison. While I know that this may be a delicacy somewhere, in my mind, deer are the beings that dash across rural roadways and ruin your car if you don't swerve in time. So I just can't eat it. I tried, last winter, whe he made venison chili. To tell you the truth, it tasted okay, but just because I knew what it was, I could only take one bite. My cousin T and I were discussing the issue, and her mother intervened, with much attitude, to tell us, "I wish y'all would quit talking about what you don't eat. When y'all were little, you ate plenty of deer and rabbits and racoons and even squirrel! So shut up because [horrible insult] you used to eat it!"

Finally, my dad has a styrofoam bucket full of minnows in the utility room. Last night, my son's little brother spent the night with us. He loved the "little fish" as he called them and we had to keep calling him out of there. Then I heard the sounds of son and nephew (who are 8 and 6, and watched the 3 year old do this) screaming, "Oooh!" I go out there and the 3 year old has dumped some of the minnows on the floor. I start yelling because I am afraid of live fish and they are flipping and flopping everywhere. "Pick 'em up, because I don't want to touch 'em," I scream. And because I am screaming and acting a fool, my son and nephew are frozen, and the toddler is yelling, "No, I'm not touching them fish!" In the midst of all this, my mom comes in, shakes her head, and picks up the minnows. "How are you from the country?" she asks me, all disappointed.

Which kind of strikes a nerve for the same reason that someone saying, "You used to eat it!" does. See, despite all my sarcasm, I really am proud of where I come from. I have all sorts of friends and classmates, who are so ashamed, who move away and pride themselves on never coming back or ask me, "Why do you go there?" or who move to the city and develop British accents. My home town is problematic in all the ways that small southern towns with evangelical populations, strictly drawn color lines, and one dominant industry are, but it is still my home. Saying, "how are you from the country" or "you used to eat it" implies, in my mind, that someone believes that I believe that I have become "too good" ( a serious insult indeed) for country life. Different in a way that implies better.

But, I don't feel like overanalyzing anymore. And, for the doubters in my family, I think it may be more convincing to point out the ways rurality is in my blood.

Like the fact that my accent is still way intact.

And that a fine layer of red dust has already settled on the car, and I'm not even concerned.

And that a friend cooked collard greens and hot water cornbread yesterday and Sis and I made pigs of ourselves.

And that I thanked the guy at the store for "sacking" my groceries.

And that the kids are outside and I don't have to check on them that often, as long as I hear their voices, because I know the neighbors are watching them, too.

That is how I'm from the country.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Brief update:

Grading hell is over (except for 4 make up exams--but who knows when they'll get theirs :-)--I am free to return to writing purgatory.

Today I attended a rally for striking janitors and, at the suggestion of one of the organizers, did a brief interview with one of the janitors who works, through a subcontractor, for Chevron. I'm going to write it up and post, after said organizer sends me pics and/or video.

I am preparing to pack and wrap up some loose ends (i.e. throw all the perishables out) before we leave tomorrow. Blogging will, of course, be light as I have no computer of my own in Louisiana, I need to finish latest chapter, and I may spend a fair amount of time celebrating my birthday. :-)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lord, Please Let It Be Bloating

So, it's finally getting cold here. I just pulled out a pair of jeans from last winter. Now, while my tops might get a bit snug if I gain weight (it goes straight to the boobs!), I usually don't have to worry about bottoms.

So, I pulled out these jeans...

When I tell y'all that I am in a Tight. Ass. Mess.

Please believe.

I mean, the kind of Tight. Ass. Mess. in which I look down and see one stomach sitting on top of the other, in which my thighs are alternately begging for mercy and whispering as they pass each other.

And thanksgiving, which happens to be my birthday this year, is coming up?

It's going to be a long winter.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I'm almost 3/4 of the way through. Professor may give us til Monday. Doesn't benefit me at all as I am leaving Saturday, so my exams still need to be done by Friday.

I don't know if I can look at another one.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When Academics Venture into the World of Advice Columns

Seeking Academia: A new take on Dear Abby:
"I like sitemeter for only one reason. well besides making sure no one near me looks at my blog, the keyword analysis. The google hits. I got the following hit from someone on Google: 'sleeping with cousin boyfriend does not like that' These poor googlers land here and get no help at all. In my attempts to 'make a difference' and 'change the world' here is my response, for that past and future googlers:"
Read justme's sage advice over there. I think she got all the bases covered on proper sleeping-with-your-cousin etiquette.

And Another Thing!

I tried to tailor NaNoWriMo to my particular needs and transform it into NaDiWriMo.

For future reference, that didn't work.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Because By This Time of the Night... grading gets really generous and I seem to be able to fly right through essays which took me much longer earlier in the day.

Ahem. So, I'm taking a break to share this story. And I want your real opinions.

Friday, we gave a test. One student came up to us 2 minutes before we handed it out and said she was just too ill to take it. Fellow TA, whom I've trained to be as suspicious as me, looked at me, looked back at the young woman and said, "Well, you're here. You can't make it another hour or so?"

Oh, no, she was deathly ill and just couldn't. So, fine. Our professor is pretty good about letting them make up the exams with a doctor's excuse and assorted other excuses. Fellow TA told her to come back Monday with an excuse.

Something's not clicking with me. I am, I will admit after years of TAing and after having taught my own class a few times, a tad skeptical. For example, we had a student who came to take an exam, answered the first few questions, and then proclaimed she was too sick to finish. Fellow TA, still early in her first semester as a TA and not having received the benefit of my full tutelage in skepticism, told her okay. I reminded her that we didn't make new exams for makeups and as the student had already seen and answered most of the exam, this could be an issue. So we re-drafted the exam and fellow TA learned a valuable lesson.

And, I am a stickler for attendance. Oh, I know some students have to miss, but once you have more than 5 or 6 absences, my eyebrow is raised.

So back to sick student. She comes in today with an excuse written on a prescription slip on which the "doctor" has written "__________ had the flu and couldn't attend class 11/6 through 11/10. Call me if you have more questions." I'm thinking, 1) This sounds nothing like any other excuse I've gotten 2) On a prescription slip? Don't most doctors have excuse forms? 3) The doctor gave her a retroactive excuse that extended back four days? 4) Hey, I recognize this student's name!

Why do I recognize this student's name? Because she missed the eight classes immediately before the test! So, I'm thinking "the flu" may be code for "I haven't read a damn thing." I couldn't help it, y'all.

I called to verify the excuse.

She's not even a patient there.

Now here's my dilemma. I've only called to verify 3 other excuses this semester. I was prejudiced against this girl because she missed so much class. If she'd had 3 or fewer absences, I would've never checked. Of course, I'm going to run all this by the professor and he gets final say but...

What's your opinion? Am I wrong for thinking she shouldn't get a makeup? Should I let the attendance fixation go? Am I unfairly biased towards kids who come to class?

I Interrupt Regularly Scheduled Posting...

...To let you all know how much I hate grading exams.

That is all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Janitors' Strike

From VeganKid, who was clever enough to realize, "Hmm... maybe people don't just want updates. Maybe they want to do something!"
You can get more information about the campaign and watch several more videos at the Houston Justice for Janitors website. You can head over to LabourStart and send an email to Chevron CEO David J. O’Reilly. November 15th is Chevron Day of Action, but feel free to call them any time and ask them to support the striking workers.
So, there. Get busy.

100 Facts about elle in 100ish days However Long It Takes (16)

Fact #16

The best way (meaning superior to the myriad other ways) to get me off track?

Cookbooks and Recipe Cards. And not internet recipes. I need ones I can hold in my hands without printing them out first. I love them in bookstores. I love the cards that come in the mail sometimes. I love the magazines in the check out line. I love getting out the ones my mom had from the 70s and 80s. I love the ones school or church organizations put out.

And I never have time to cook anymore.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

100 Facts about elle in 100ish Days However Long It Takes (15)

Fact #15
Well, my city-slicker friends just call me "country"...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The South

That's a Southern accent you've got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don't have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it.

The Midland
The Northeast
The Inland North
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

My Favorite Veteran

In the top drawer of my parents' dresser, my dad keeps souvenirs of his time in VietNam. When we were kids, we loved the money from Taiwan and the yellowed letters. We weren't so interested in the little medal in the black box. He'd tell us, time and again, to stay out of his stuff. But Daddy was a big pushover and we couldn't resist the allure of that treasure.

When I got older, I realized the medal was a Purple Heart. He'd been a Radio Telephone Operator and had gotten shot in his neck and shoulder. We used to trace the scars--not finely or precisely done, they resemble railroad tracks. They are firm lines that rise up from his skin, the result of an infection and keloids.

I moved the Purple Heart from the drawer and into my mom's china cabinet, a display that matches nothing else in there. "Why'd you do that?" he asked. "Because I don't think you should keep it buried," was my snappy answer. "Mm-hmm. Except you don't tell me what to do. I'm your father; you're not my mother," he said. But he left it alone.

My dad doesn't talk about VietNam. He used to, he says, when he was young. But then people would ask him things like, "Did you kill anybody? What is that like?" And he'd get so angry, so offended, that he thought it was better just to make the subject taboo.

So there are only three occasions on which I've been able to get a little bit of his story. I interviewed him once for a Vietnam and Watergate class I took while working on my Master's. Basically, I just let him talk. My professor, himself a VietNam vet, found the transcript riveting. My dad has a way with words that can keep you enthralled. I remember that my professor smiled and repeated my dad's words about arriving "in country." "I haven't heard that in a while," he said.

The second time was for a colleague here whose dissertation was about the war. He wanted to know more of my dad's story. Again, my dad opened up a little. "An RTO?" my colleague said, "He had a dangerous job." All I could say was, "Really?" "You have to keep his story, elle. Whenever, however he wants to tell it."

Finally, I went to DC a couple of years ago. My dad has never been to the VietNam memorial. I asked him if there were names he'd like me to shade. He thought for a while and then gave me three. One of them included an old guy that they'd looked up to. By old, my dad meant 27. So I got there, with my friend John, without paper or pencil (didn't think to bring it). In my purse, I had an envelope, that I tore open, and a golf pencil. We looked in that book, found the sections of the wall, got down on our knees and shaded the names. When I went to Louisiana a few weeks later, I presented it to my dad sheepishly. "I didn't have paper," I said. "It's okay," he said rubbing his thumbs over the shadings. "It's okay." Still, I felt badly.

When my parents moved last winter, my sister and I helped pack an old dresser while my dad supervised. There, in the top, was the money and the letters. And inside a Ziploc bag, was the envelope. "Daddy!" I said, surprised. It was his turn to look sheepish. "Aw, Ugly," he said, "I told you it was okay."

Happy Veteran's Day.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gerald Levert

RIP (1966-2006)
I love this sexy, soulful, talented man.

Because It's Okay to Use Nazi Propaganda If It Gets Us Motivated

From Quaker Dave:
"Part of a Nazi leader's speech was played over the public address system before a high school soccer game, prompting an apology by the home team's principal. Forestview [North Carolina] High School principal Robert Carpenter said neither he nor his team's coach knew about the speech before the 90-second excerpt was played during warmups Saturday, according to a letter he sent Monday to visiting Charlotte Catholic High School. The speech, by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, was in German. Carpenter said in the letter the team had adopted the slogan 'On to victory,' and a German exchange student who plays on the team had taught other students how to say the phrase in German. 'Some of our more zealous students sought to capture this slogan in German and to play it on the PA,' Carpenter wrote."
Umm. Analysis, elle, analysis.

I am deferring to Gwyneth, who noted this of the Ohio children's football game:
Either we are raising a bunch of stupid idiots that really can't grasp when they are being incredibly racist, or we are raising a bunch of brilliant sociopaths who know to hide behind "but I didn't mean to."
and this of the UT "Ghetto Party":
The sad thing is stuff like this is happening all over the country. We are regressing as a society and I wouldn't be surprised if things got worse before they got better. From students putting on black face, to making inappropriate jokes on student run-television shows and newspapers, these little "Bush Babies" have lost their minds.
I'm going to have to go with the A and B selection.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In Janitors' Own Words: Ercilia Sandoval

If you don't watch another one of these, please watch this one.

Democrats, that promise about decent health care for all? Move that up the agenda.

And, the janitors are not backing down, it seems.

Striking janitors pushed rolling trash bins, mop buckets and brooms during a rally through downtown during the evening rush hour Monday to protest what they believe are unfair terminations and harassment by the city's five largest cleaning companies.

The 450 janitors broke up into small groups and carried plastic bags containing copies of the 35 unfair labor practice charges that the Service Employees International Union has filed with the National Labor Relations Board this fall.

Wednesday: Hundreds of members of "Justice for Janitors" allied in front of Houston police headquarters tonight.
They gathered to protest the arrest of a striking janitor earlier in the day.

Two union protesters posing as luncheon guests disrupted a speech by Shell Oil Co.'s president on Wednesday.

The protesters, both with the Service Employees International Union, jumped up during John Hofmeister's speech and lectured him on the low wages janitors are paid to clean Shell's office buildings.

Solidarity: Tonight, Houston picket lines will be set up outside a dozen major office buildings in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In all, hundreds of SEIU janitors in those cities are expected to honor the picket lines of their striking Houston co-workers who work for the same national cleaning companies. Details are available from SEIU local unions in those cities.
**Next week, dozens of SEIU janitors and union leaders from around the country will travel to Houston to call on national commercial landlords there to put an end to the poverty conditions and poor treatment of Houston workers. The delegations are planning to engage in non-violent acts of civil disobedience next week in Houston and could face arrest for their actions. Details about the actions will be announced next week.
**Next Wednesday, November 15 is a nationwide Chevron Day of Action. Workers and community supporters will hold actions outside Chevron or Texaco gas stations in 20 cities -- one for every dollar that Houston janitors who clean Chevron buildings are paid each day for scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets. Despite $14 billion in profits last year, Chevron is refusing to use its power to settle the strike and direct the cleaning firms in its office buildings to provide janitors with fair wages and health insurance. More info at "The support we are getting from workers outside of Houston is giving us so much strength," said Flora Aguilar, a striking Houston janitor who is setting up picket lines in New York this week. For cleaning 60 offices in four hours every weekday night, Aguilar is paid just $5.25/hour with no health insurance or other benefits. "We are committed to struggling as long as it is necessary for us to secure a better future for our families."

Ed Bradley

RIP 1941-2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One last gloat...

Can't you imagine the American people saying this to Republicans?

Or, in the more important news, Brittney saying this to Kevin?(no sound til 22 seconds in)

I know, I know, I'm usually hard on B, but I've been looking for a way to sneak this on the blog without having to admit I backtracked. I really like this song!

Ok, I'm off to catch up on everything abandoned sice Monday.


...I guess Bush's loyalty is a thing of the (recent) past?

Who Knew?

Apparently, some of my friends/family back home aren't as apathetic as I thought. I've gotten four e-mails since 11:30 last night with this in the subject line: "WE HAVE A BLACK MAYOR!"

Why the excitement? My hometown is approximately 60% black and this is a first.

But this mayor is facing an issue that small town mayors all over the South are beginning to grapple with: the poultry processing industry in the area has attracted a number of new settlers and there is an undercurrent of tension and conflict over very limited resources. He has to also deal with old issues like poor schools, never enough money, making it with only a volunteer fire department, a mostly white police force hated by a mostly black poopulation.

I'll keep you posted.

Election Update

Yay, for Ms. Pelosi!

Aww, damn, Mr. Ford!

We get the point, Mr. Allen. You're waiting for the recount!

C'mon, Ms. McCaskill, hold on!

Can they count FASTER in Montana?

But--Who knew the Republicans would be such sore losers? One quote: "This is not a vote for a liberal, Democrat agenda. This is a vote against other issues."

But when y'all win, it's a mandate backed by Jesus, "real" Americans, and all "democracy loving people in the world."

Save that shit.

Really, I'm going to bed now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dare I Hope?

No reassuring reports from the Republican hell in which I live--pretty much what I expected.

But has an update that reads "NBC projects Democrats take control of House."

I want to go to bed now, because I'm still sick. But, 6 years ago, I went to bed on election night with Al Gore president and woke up to a disappointment like none I'd known.

So I'ma try to stick around another hour or so.

Did I mention that the only productive thing I did today was vote?

Doing Everything I Can Do...

I have voted.

Crossed my fingers.

Thrown salt over my shoulder.

Ate a teaspoon of black-eyed peas from a barbecue restaurant.

Sent all my less-politically-inclined friends (in three states) a text message that said, "I know y'all always tired when you get off work, but please stop to vote!"

Rattled off one of those, "God, if you just let..." prayers that my mom and pastor would kill me for. I should admit, those haven't worked too well in the past--I don't think I have much to bargain with when it comes to God.

And now, feeling better, but still a bit tired, I'm going to wrap my hair back up and unapologetically get back in bed.

To wait.

Update: Moksha describes the hellish wait between now and tonight.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...