Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy late birthday Trinity!!

You know I've always thought that Halloween birthday explained so much...


From Document the Silence:

In a Litany of Survival, Audre Lorde writes, “When we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” These words shape our collective organizing to break the silence surrounding women of color’s stories of violence.
I want to help break that silence (my own story, posted sometime ago, is here). But I want to write about what happens when people do break the silence--not to stop the violence, but to perpetuate it.

I've written here about how the discourse surrounding well-known cases of violence against black women is so heartbreakingly, overwhelmingly negative in the attempt to lessen the impact (and even deny the fact) of that violence. And about how the language used about the so-called "immigrant problem" shapes opinion and policies that deny immigrant women their status as women, mothers, family and community members, human beings.

There is so much more to be said. But today I wanted to focus on the negative language, the language that hurts our spirits and sustains the violence, that I hear daily, intimately.

This is my Claudia and her girlfriend.

*****picture redacted*****

Now, while I love Claudia in her own right, one of the things for which I have so much respect for her is the fact that she is openly out and unapologetic in small town Louisiana. There are, of course, the hateful whispers and slurs. But what I hear most are the faux-sympathetic-tone comments, the "if-onlies"--she is smart, beautiful, determined, funny, if only she... lived her life according to someone else's expectations. And then there are the concerned members of our church, who aren't biased or hateful or judgmental or just damned nosey--they are just worried about her eternal soul. Nevermind if they make her life hell.

Her experiences are one of the reasons I wholeheartedly disbelieve the old "sticks and stones" line. Because these words do hurt; they are spoken to crush her spirit, to shame her, to make her be someone that she is not.

This is Felicia. Everyday in October that I passed the civic center in a nearby town, I had to see a memorial, a red silhouette, on the lawn for Felicia and too many other women and children killed by relatives.

Felicia was murdered a few years ago by her estranged husband as she was attempting to move on with her life. She was vibrant, lovely, and unapologetic about the way she lived her life--a source of much talk in a small town.

Felicia was married three times. My best friend, her goddaughter, teased her about the fact that she wore white each time. She told us, she was going to wear white each time--until she got it right.

She believed her third marriage was the right fit. It turned out not to be so. Felicia and her husband were separated and she had begun dating someone else.

Her husband shot her in the parking lot of a local Wal-Mart, went home and killed himself.

For a short while, there were sympathetic outpourings, respectful silences. And then, the breaking of the silence, again negative, began. For some people, Felicia had caused her own death.

Because she, as wife (and thus property), had been with another man.

Because she was not afraid to move on from situations that made her unhappy.

Because everyone knew, **wink, wink** her reputation.

And even some people who condemned him based it on the observation that, "he knew what he was getting."

And I hated those words, imbued as they were with the attempt to justify, rationalize, excuse what happened to her.

In fact knowing, feeling, experiencing the ugliness of words, as so many women have, is one reason I support documenting the silence. Because I want the silence broken. And I want it broken by words we have learned to use to support, build up, nurture, preserve, love each other.

Because I am worn out by the alternative.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Readers of the World...

...Delurk! I heard through the grapevine that today is De-Lurk day. Though I know I haven't kept up my end of the bargain so well in the past few weeks, if anyone is still out there, say hi!!!

P.S. Isn't lurk the most horrible sounding word ever?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


My niece was one of the senior attendants on her homecoming court. After a week or so of running about frantically, her aunt was tres, tres glad the Saturday afterwards.

Anyway, here she is:

Posing outside the gym before the coronation.

With her escort.

During the homecoming parade the next day.

Game Night

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Really, This Is Not Wholly a Post to Gain Your Sympathy

But **sigh** I moved back to Louisiana just when Bobby Jindal is about to become governor. And he's like, so sold on the whole American dream idea that he believes

"In America and here in Louisiana, the only barrier to success is your willingness to work hard and play by the rules."
Mm-hmm. That sparks a number of questions for our new governor: Who defines success? Are you really relying on the old "if you don't make it you're not working hard enough" trope? Who makes the rules? Are they the same for everyone? Is this statement really your take on all the problems Louisiana faces?

And then there are the other endearing facts about Jindal. He is apparently anti-hate-crime legislation, anti-gay rights, so willing to court fundamentalists that he ignores his biology degree, unwilling to vote to override the S-CHIP veto, and on and on.
Of course, I've only been back home a few months. But after reading:
Posts from the Anybody but Jindal blog
I'm sure this governorship is going to leave me with a bad taste. Oh, and just so you know more about my part of the state:
Jindal paid particular attention to north Louisiana, a conservative region that was widely viewed as critical to Blanco's victory four years ago. In a candidate forum in Shreveport earlier this month, Jindal said that he had visited the region 77 times since declaring his candidacy.
He visited my town this past summer. I snapped this pic from the car window, all the time thinking, "A Fresh Start for whom?!!":
Somebody come rescue this square peg!
The one good thing--in trying to read more about Jindal, I have come across some good Louisiana links.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stopping Violence Against Women of Color

From Document the Silence:
Recent events in the United States have moved us to action. Violence against women is sadly, not a new phenomenon in our country or in the world, however, in the last year women of color have experienced brutal forms of violence, torture, rape and injustice which have gone unnoticed, received little to no media coverage, or a limited community response. We are responding to:

The brutal and inhumane rape, torture, and kidnapping of Megan Williams in Logan, West Virginia who was held by six assailants for a month.

Rape survivors in the Dunbar Housing Projects in West Palm Beach, Florida one of whom was forced to perform sexual acts on her own child.

A 13 year old native American girl was beaten by two white women and has since been harassed by several men yelling “white power” outside of her home.

Seven black lesbian girls attempted to stop an attacker and were latter charged with aggravated assault and are facing up to 11 year prison sentences

In a Litany of Survival, Audre Lorde writes, “When we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” These words shape our collective organizing to break the silence surrounding women of color’s stories of violence. We are asking for community groups, grass-root organizations, college campus students and groups, communities of faith, online communities, and individuals to join us in speaking out against violence against women of color. If we speak, we cannot be invisible.

Join us and stand up to violence against women!
  • Be bold, be brave, be red. Wear red on October 31, 2007. Take a picture or video of yourself and friends wearing red. Send it to: We’ll post it!
  • Take Your Red to the Streets! Know of a location where violence occurred against a woman of color? Have a public location where you feel women of color are often ignored? Make violence against women of color visible by decorating the space in red. Be sure to send us pictures and or video of your display!
  • Rally! Gather your friends, family, and community to rally. Check out the Document the Silence website for the litany we’re asking participants to read together on October 31st. Be sure to send us pictures and/or video of the event! You could even gather where you created a display!
More details here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reason Number 63589 This Blog Must Stay (Relatively) Pseudonymous

So that I can say things like this:

1. Right now, I am sleepy and my bra is so tight, it feels as if the strap is trying to fuse with my skin.

2. I am so looking forward to American Gangster. Denzel, Common, Idris Elba, and Chiwetel Ejiofor on one screen?

I'ma have to take a towel--but not for tears :-p

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Because I like to Believe You're Invested in My Life

High School Homecoming
Mid Semester Exams
Community Wide Fall Carnival
University Homecoming
Attempting to keep the peace between your recently-moved-in 18-year-old niece and your nine-year-old son (who apparently live to aggravate the hell out of each other and, thus, out of you)
One busy elle.

I'll be back soon...

with pictures, even. ;-p

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mychal Bell Back in Jail

From the AP:
Mychal Bell, 17, was unexpectedly sent back to prison on Thursday after going to juvenile court in central Louisiana's LaSalle Parish for what he expected to be a routine hearing, Carol Powell Lexing, one of his attorneys said.

Instead, state District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. decided Bell had violated probation and sentenced him to 18 months in jail on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property, Lexing said.
Now why would you expect anything routine from the
Louisiana court system? Or maybe this is routine.

In discussing this with me, my father said, "Well, baby, they had to do something to show they could keep him in jail if they wanted." And he sounded so certain, like this is something he's just so used to.

H/T My dad and Trinity (who called me at 8:30 this morning pissed off!)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Crazy Mama

So I had one of those days in which I left home around 7 AM and just returned around 8:30 PM. I hadn't seen my child all day and I was a bit anxious to set eyes upon him.

Now, his bedtime is 8:30 in hopes that he's asleep by 9. Every other night, I have to stay on him about his bedtime (and staying in bed--he'll pop up with suddenly **urgent** questions).

I figured he was awake, so I knocked on the door, too tired to go back to the car for my keys. He opened it, said hi, then went back to bed.

My niece looked at me with an eyebrow raised. "He must be tired," she said. "Well, 8:30 is his bedtime," I told her, as if it was a normal occurrence that my child apparently had been in bed before bedtime.

Then, I sat down and started thinking.

This was a bit strange.

So, I go check on him. He's sleeping in my mom's room. Stranger still.

"Hey," I said, "What's up?"

"Nothing." He sounds pretty cheerful, so I press on.

"You could sleep in my room if you like," I offered.

A polite, silent decline.

"Well, okay." And I walked off.

And thought some more.

And went back.

"Did you have a good day?" I asked.

"Mm-hmm. My nanna (his godmother) says she's proud of my behavior."

"Well, I am, too." I looked at him for a moment. "Are you sick?"

"No, ma'am."

"Then you must be really tired."

"Uh-uh. I'm not tired. Do you need something?"


"Okay." As in, Goodnight, Mama and leave me the hell alone.

So I left him the hell alone and I haven't gone back.


But why is it, when you get what you think you want, it seems really crazy?

Monday, October 08, 2007

What I'm Reading...

Kortney Ryan Ziegler (nubian) on women of color as bloggers
Our words challenge the inherently racist idea that we are incapable of engaging in intellectual discourse. As we tread on the ideological terrain that tries to position us as inferior bloggers (and intellectuals), we strengthen our resistance by merely naming oppressions that other bloggers don’t. We provoke a conscious need to remedy the ills of racism in the hopes of transforming society. We resist the standards of what should and should not be said in the virtual world, standards which to some degree reflect the oppressive conditions of our larger society.
BfP on institutional violence against girls
15 year old girl arrested, punched in the face and pepper sprayed for breaking curfew
13 year old girl arrested for writing “Okay” on Desk
10 year old girl arrested for taking scissors to school

Girl arrested for spilling cake:

And so many more incidents. Too many more incidents.

Professor Black Woman on how recent incidents of violence against PoC are not "isolated incidents" but part of a pattern. She also notes how PoC and their allies who document and protest the pattern are likened to "antebellum white Southerns who took isolated incidents out of context in order to stir up a violent fervor targeted at a named enemy."
What is telling about this accusation is not only how easy it is to do a basic search and discover the number of incidents we are talking about but also the ways that once again standing up for the basic civil and human rights of people of color is being seen as inciting hatred and violence.
Ann on the invisibility of black women in the U.S. She's illuminating the truth in the phrase "All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men," the subtitle of Hull, Scott, and Smith's But Some of Us Are Brave.
[B]lack women have never been accorded humanity, personhood, nor womanhood, in America.

We have always been everyone’s toilet to be used for the most grossest and abominable manifestations of female hatred.

This is a topic that I, as a blogger and a historian, have been so hesitant to write about in the way that Ann does--contrasting attention given to the struggles of black men for justice, equality, citizenship, personhood, to the abysmal lack of attention given to black women's struggles. The divide is at times very real to me, but from other angles, it can seem to be a false separation.

Donna Darko has questions for white bloggers:

If four white lesbians aged 19-24 were sentenced to 3 1/2-11 years in prison for defending themselves from a man who held them down, choked them, ripped hair from their scalps, spat on them, and threatened to sexually assault them, all because they were lesbians, wouldn't it be a top story on the progressive blogs for its ludicrousness?
And that's just her first question!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Teaching Woes #2

From Historianess:
Yesterday I gave a quiz in my survey class. I like quizzes; they're a good way to measure how well students are picking up basic facts and patterns, and they're a good way to see both if the students are reading, and how they are doing the reading.

One of the easier questions was "Name two Puritan colonies." Based on my notes, they had three options there: Massachusetts Bay, New Haven (I would accept Connecticut as an answer), and Providence Island. I figured some students would answer with Plymouth or Rhode Island, which would give me an opportunity to remind them that the Pilgrims were Separatists, and that Puritans considered theologically-liberal Rhode Island to be a den of iniquity.

Instead, about two-thirds of the class answered with "Jamestown" or "Virginia."

ARGH! I'm sure that somewhere in a lecture I did talk extensively about how Massachusetts was a Puritan colony and Virginia was *not* a Puritan colony.
From elle's best friend, a high school teacher:
Girl, I'll be up there, thinking I'm teaching my heart out. And they seem to be listening, they ask questions, we talk... then they take the test. And girl!!!
No, she didn't need to add anything else.

From elle herself, after recent exam results in one of my classes:
My God, are they in the same room I'm in?
Seriously, like most professors, I work really hard to give fair exams and quizzes. The vast majority of the time it goes well.

But sometimes, I get results that send my blood pressure through the roof. I don't worry inordinately about really, really low failing grades--those are typically earned by students who don't come to class and/or who admit that they didn't prepare.

Nope, it's the 50s and 60s that really bother me. It's as if there was some effort, but something just didn't quite click. A lot of questions run through my head: What didn't they understand? How could I have presented the material in a different manner that may have stuck with them? How could I have helped them make connections? Was it a "good" exam?

Of course, there are the questions that bother you deeply, the ones that are hard to face--about your ability, skills, and effectiveness as a teacher in general. For example, I can honestly say that I believe I am a "good" teacher, but there are areas in which I want and need to improve.

And that is one thing that has been difficult for me--sitting down and developing goals and plans for how to improve and continue to grow.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Weekend Note

More teaching woes to come. But for now...


Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters to depict American conservatism as a nonracial phenomenon, the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

Republican politicians… have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.

And the cynicism of the “Southern strategy” introduced by Richard Nixon, which delivered decades of political victories to Republicans, is now starting to look like a trap for the G.O.P.

[Republican] contenders have snubbed not just blacks— but Hispanics…. If this sounds like a good way to ensure defeat in future elections, that’s because it is: Hispanics are a rapidly growing force in the electorate.

And both Hispanics and Asians, another growing force in the electorate, are getting the message. Last year they voted overwhelmingly Democratic, by 69 percent and 62 percent respectively.

In other words, it looks as if the Republican Party is about to start paying a price for its history of exploiting racial antagonism. If that happens, it will be deeply ironic. But it will also be poetic justice.

-Paul Krugman, "Politics in Black and White," New York Times 24 September 2007.

H/T BfP and Shannon

Friday, October 05, 2007

Teaching Woes #1

Don't worry, I'm not second guessing my career choice... for now.

But Lord, the students! And other professors have the same experiences (which I'll cover in a post or three).

Professing Mama talks about laying the smackdown
Anyway, I was discussing the problems with their papers, which I FINALLY returned today, and they were tuning me out. I can handle a little multi-tasking in the classroom, but today was ridiculous. They were IMing each other, whispering, and doing God knows what else. Not cool.

So, as I began the Powerpoint, I laid the smackdown: "If you can't pay attention, then get up and leave RIGHT NOW."

Stunned faces look at me.
I had similar experiences over the last week in one of my classes. First, one student (in her defense I think her voice just sounds confrontational)* came in having a bad day. She was frowning and rubbing her head before class. After class started, she rolled her eyes as I lectured and snapped her cell phone closed--loudly--after sending a text message (something I usually kick students out for; I can't stand that). Rather than confront her right then, I decided to talk to her after class. This was her first time acting like that, and I had some sympathy for her headache or whatever.

And then, she turned her frustration on me. Near the end of class, while I was talking, she says--again, loudly--"Is that all we're going to do?"

To say I was shocked was an understatement. Oh, I've been challenged a couple of times before by know-it-all students. And there had been a constant buzz in my classrooms earlier in the semester about the fact that I seemed "so young." One of my students asked me if I was really the "teacher's helper." But, I'd nipped that in the bud.

So, when, Ms. I-Have-An-Attitude came at me like that, I initially said, "What?"

And she repeated her question defiantly. To be honest, my first response was a snap back: "No, that's not all we're going to do," I told her, "Apparently, we're going to send text messages and act bored as well."

At which point, she sat back and looked embarrassed. And of course, I felt guilty and launched into a spiel about how the syllabus outlines what we'll do in this class, what is expected academically and in terms of classroom conduct, and that the reason we examine source documents is not to bore or overburden them, etc.

But that's still on my mind. Despite the fact that she's come to my office twice since then to talk about her exam and to clarify something from the lecture (she'd never been before). I don't want her feeling like I dislike her/she has to kiss up to me to pass.

Then yesterday, in that same class, three students came in (not all together) rather late. That's not a problem I've had with this class-in one of my other classes, I did tell them if it was more than five minutes after class began, by my time, don't come in. Once I actually stopped a couple of students on their way in and said "See, you next time," I haven't had that problem anymore :-). But anyway, I requested these students see me after class. I asked why they were late. Two of them were like, "I overslept" and "Honestly, I don't have a reason." And I gave a don't-do-it-again-it's-rude-and-disruptive speech and they agreed.

But Mr. Student #3 had much attitude, "You must have me mixed up," he said, "I'm never late." "Well, you are today. And I would appreciate it if you aren't again." Oh, he kept mumbling all the way out of the classroom.

The thing is, I don't know if I'm magically expecting them--mostly fresh out of high school--to have transformed in a few months. I mean, I taught high school and your classroom management has to be superb. But, I put guidelines in the syllabus and discussed behavior the first few days of class. Is it really hard not to whisper loudly in a college classroom? Or to put your phone on silent (rather than on vibrate so that you can a) respond to text messages or b) tiptoe out of the classroom if a call comes that you want to take?). Or to read the textbook or preview the slides/handouts made available to you so you don't spend an hour and 20 minutes looking lost, bored, or asking "How do you spell that?" or "Will you say that name again? Or to participate in class discussions? I'm not a "No you're WRONG!!!!" cut 'em down sort of teacher.

I've had to deal with all that at some point as a TA, an instructor, and a professor.

Why are some of our kids so discourteous? So damn uninterested?

And am I expecting too much?
Ouch! Upon re-reading I realized how unfair that sounded, especially without acknowledging that, my "hearing" is probably influenced by past experience and knowledge of the experiences of other women in the academy.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wait Until I Tell Vox...

Oh. She already knows.

Some kids in my neck of the woods, UL-Monroe, decided to do their own re-enactment mocking of the Jena Six case.

So, they go to the beach.

They roll around in the mud.

And then
three students with mud smeared across their bodies stomp on a fourth student, while two of the participants are heard to say, "Jena 6." One man can also be heard saying, "Niggers put the noose on."
One of the little darlings posted the video of the event on her facebook page:

When asked about it, she couldn't even come up with an original defense:
We were just playin n the mud and it got out of hand. I promise i'm not racist. i have just as many black friends as i do white. And i love them to death.
Now, I feel pretty confident in saying that black folk are pretty tired of self-proclaimed non-racist white people loving us to death. (Because really, y'all are killing us).

And I'm so waiting for the unoriginal defenses others will mount. You know, that "They didn't intend," and "They didn't realize it could be perceived as racist" and "It was just a joke" and on and on and on.

Damn. It must be nice to continually be given the benefit of the doubt.

H/T Jasmyne Cannick. And keep checking Vox's college racism round-up. Unfortunately, she has to add to it somewhat regularly.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Louisiana does David Vitter Live In?

So Bush vetoed the SCHIP reauthorization. And in his usual cowardly manner, he skulked off to do so.

Bush is so distasteful, dishonest, and really, just so disgusting to me that I just don't spend much time talking about him. I need the supposed naivete of these children, I guess:

But guess who agreed with him?

David Vitter.

Of Louisiana.

You know, Louisiana, with one of the highest poverty rates in the South? (And that says something).

I've been shaking my head about that for a few days. I have to ask, in what Louisiana does David Vitter live? Surely it can't be the one in which 91,000 children still are uninsured (LaCHIP covers about 107,000 children)? Where, consistently, about one-fourth of children live in poverty? And another 23 percent live in families whose income is 100-200 percent of the Federal poverty level?

And the percentages of low birthweight babies and pregnant women getting late or no pre-natal care, the infant mortality rate, the shortage of primary health care providers? All higher than the national average.

Health care in general in Louisiana is in an abysmal state. But the LaCHIP program has made a difference for our children--since 1999, the number of uninsured children in Louisiana has dropped significantly.

And David Vitter has the nerve to ignore all that. Why, Mr. Vitter, why?

His official answers:
Because he wants to make sure "individuals who already have employer-sponsored health insurance [are exempted] from eligibility for SCHIP coverage." Mind you, according to Governor Blanco, "only 10.5 percent of children with LaChip live in families with access to employer sponsored health insurance."

Because he's worried about that evil of all evils, socialized medicine--he called the bill "Hillarycare." (Way to score a point and strike fear and loathing in the hearts of his supporters, huh?)

My official theory:
Despite the very real need for the SCHIP program, and the demonstrable effect it has had, in the state that he's supposed to represent, Mr. Vitter's still trying to stay in his party's good graces. He's had enough trouble without adding the burden of voting against the Disaster Decider.

Politics. I really wish they'd get back to being about people.

Monday, October 01, 2007


The 32nd edition of the Carnival Against Sexual Violence is up at abyss2hope.

The 57th edition of the History Carnival is posted at Osprey Publishing Blog.

The Carnival of Radical Action number five is at Sudy's place.

Read, read, read.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...