Sunday, November 30, 2008

working on my blogroll... blogrolling seems to be permanently out of commission.

My goal is to enter one section per day.

That's my goal. Ahem.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Three Years???!!!

Not to voice an oft-repeated cliche (is that redundant?--isn't "oft repeating" what makes something a cliche?), but I have no idea where the time has gone.

elle, abd/elle, phd is three years old today. It began as an attempt to catalogue my journey through grad school as a single mother and someone affected by and writing about oppression of women, people of color, and the poor. I have grown so much in three years--I think I've learned as much from other bloggers as I did from some grad classes.

One of the biggest benefits for me personally and academically has been the encouragement of critical analyses by radical WoC--particularly things that I wouldn't have necessarily thought fell within the scope of my narrowly defined conception of race, class, and gender, and the expansion of my work and my mind to examine other systems of oppression like heterosexism and ablism.

In many ways, I'm still learning, still struggling, still saying shit that makes me bite my lip and shake my head later (I want to erase so much of my archives as I re-read :-). I've become so discouraged with my ignorance that I've had to take time off to reassure myself this space is mine to make mistakes and show knowledge gaps and be flat-out wrong sometimes. I am always encouraged by a quote that BFP left for me once, from Maya Angelou--"You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." And I can comfort myself that this is true.

I finally feel as if so many things fit, in terms of my beliefs and politics and this blog gives me room to pursue my love of writing and my examination of self and the world at large.

I tried, so much as an adolescent and a young woman to keep a diary. And while this journal is not as unvarnished as a private one would be, it is still intensely personal, still full of my thoughts and dreams and fears and frustrations.

And I'm so proud that I've stuck with it.

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alice and Rebecca, Embracing the Complications

My blog is down again, and so I am here, at the lovely Ms. Elle's place, doing some ranting until I can move back into my place! ~~BFP

First a little background. The following posts are important to read so that you understand where I'm coming from:

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up: A question of Power

Walker on Michelle O. Or, the stupid job of First Lady
How my mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart

Ok. You with me? For those of you without the patience to sit and sort through the above links: here is the short version of a long story. Alice Walker and her daughter, Rebecca Walker do not get along. In fact, from what I can tell, they are estranged. Rebecca Walker details her end of the relationship here. As far as I know, Alice Walker has not spoken specifically on her relationship with Rebecca, but as anybody who has read her work knows, Alice has talked about being a mother, many times in highly complicated and negative ways, just as Rebecca has talked about being a daughter to a feminist mother in highly complicated and negative ways.

Ok, having laid the framework for this discussion down, I want to bring in the third player. The one who said:

It’s hard not to read a major Oedipal* subtext to Rebecca Walker’s work. It ain’t hard to link the distancing from feminism in her writing to her struggles with her mother, Alice. This dynamic was obvious in a recent column for The Root about Michelle Obama.


Of course this hasn’t hurt Walker’s career, since the powers that be are always delighted to give an anti-feminist woman, better yet an anti-feminist black woman, plenty of airtime. It’s too bad, though, because there are interesting things to say about Michelle Obama. I think Michelle Obama is the bomb and I loved it that she was quoted immediately after the election saying she’d be working to raise awareness of the struggles of working moms. And damn is it something fine to see a gorgeous, regal black woman as First Lady of the United States of America.

Before I go on, I want to point out--what the woman who wrote this said about the Walker relationship is not new. If you look back through the course of Rebecca's online time, you find that she's gotten a *lot* of this response to her writing: "I know you don't like your mother, but that's no reason to talk bad about feminists." Or, "Rebecca is everything that's wrong with the third wave of feminism--they're all a bunch of petulant children who hate that they're not as good as their mothers." Or, "it's great that Rebecca can make a name off of bashing the only reason anybody even knows her." etc etc etc etc.

So, seeing as the previous passage is simply another chord in a previously played song, I don't want to focus specifically on the blogger in question.

Rather instead, I want to focus on a few more general things. General things like, 1. Why is it so easy to dismiss a woman of color who says she's been hurt by feminism? 2. Why is it that a woman of color says she's been hurt by feminism and suddenly it doesn't matter *what* she writes about, the only thing people can associate with her is her 'angry' 'bitter' 'resentful' 'jealous' and 'ranting' against feminism? and 3. Why is it that it's so fucking easy to take two really complicated and painful interactions with motherhood written by women of color and strip the complicated and painful down to 'bitter' and 'jealous'?

Why is it so easy to dismiss a woman of color who says she's been hurt by feminism?

Rebecca Walker is not the first woman of color to say that she's not only ambivalent about feminism, but that feminism has hurt her, deeply and powerfully, in ways that many women simply can't or refuse to understand. She's pointing to reasons that are much different than the reasons I'd point to--but she's saying the same thing that I've said and that historically, MANY women of color have said. And she's being treated in the same way most, if not all of us have been treated. Completely ignored, infantilized, cast aside, ridiculed and outright rejected.

Having been on the receiving end of this treatment, it's hard not to notice how many *white* women are treated when they voice similar problems with feminism as a whole. They get whole books written to them in their 'language' in an attempt to reach out to them. They get linked on their mother's blogs, even though they say exactly the same thing women of color say:

Then there’s Erica Jong, well-known novelist and advocate of what Shalit describes as “the concept of a random, guilt-free sexual encounter between strangers.” Jong’s now-grown daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, tried that lifestyle and found it utterly unsatisfying. The sad thing is, she tells Shalit, “You’re not allowed to admit that [promiscuity] just doesn’t work.” Though devoted to her mother, Molly is “embarrassed” by Erica’s writings and says to Shalit, “I was sold a bad bill of goods.” Well, their kids ought to know.

Is this anything different than what Rebecca Walker has said? What's up with that difference in how white women and women of color are treated for expressing the same thing? What does it mean? What does the difference stem from? Is there something wrong with feminism that white daughters are embraced and recognized as valuable enough to keep reaching out to, but colored daughters are written off? Does it speak to the values of feminism?

2. Why is it that a woman of color says she's been hurt by feminism and suddenly it doesn't matter *what* she writes about, the only thing people can associate with her is her 'angry' 'bitter' 'resentful' 'jealous' 'ranting' against feminism?

Count the number of times Rebecca Walker mentions her mother in that essay about Michelle Obama. The answer? Zero. She instead talks about the passionate discussion that her and other women had about a passionate woman and how she still had thoughts about that discussion. When I read her post, I felt excited and vaguely jealous because I wanted to be a part of that discussion.

But for some reason, when other people read that post (or, frankly, anything written by Rebecca), all they can see is some "Oedipal complex" playing itself out in some sort of vain obnoxious way.

Is it reflective of feminism that a woman who voices objection to it becomes known for those objections rather than her complicated, interesting, passionate debates that have almost nothing to do with her fight with feminism? Is it reflective of feminism that with few exceptions the woman who becomes entrenched in feminist history as existing almost exclusively as a reactionary force of violence and hate against 'real feminists' is a woman of color?

What does it say about feminism that this pattern keeps repeating itself?


Why is it that it's so fucking easy to take two really complicated and painful interactions with motherhood written by women of color and strip the complicated and painful down to 'bitter' and 'jealous'?

I'm going to be forthright here in how I understand both Rebecca and Alice's relationship with motherhood/daughterhood. I get both of them. I am a daughter who would never ever in a million years make the same decisions my own mother did, because I disagree with them that forcefully. I am also a mother who has made decisions that I know hurt my baby girl because they were the only decision I *could* make and stay alive. I am so beyond grateful to Alice Walker for writing Meridian, and pointing out the conflict of my life: what do you do when you figure out you never wanted to be a damn mother to begin with?

I am also so beyond grateful to Rebecca Walker for writing the other conflict of my life: what do you do when you figure out you never wanted to be a mother, but now that you are, you would rather cut off your own hand than hurt your child the way you were hurt?

What do you do with the love you have for your mother, the anger you have, that seems to simultaneously show itself in your relationship with your own child?

What Alice and Rebecca Walker talk about is not easy. It's not fun, it's, more often than not, completely painfully devastating--almost exclusively because there are no easy answers. Both of them are right. A woman has a right to not be tied down or defined by marriage or child rearing. A child has a right to be raised (and a right to *expect* to be raised) by a mother, not a friend or hired help. And yet, somehow, the painful brutal conflict that Alice and Rebecca discuss is so very easily reduced to "Oedipal conflict."

Why is that?

Is it a reflection of feminism that two women of color who are complicated, nuanced, painfully truthful, and committed to 'the personal is political' can be so easily reduced to squabbling children?

Is it a reflection of feminism that opportunities to self reflect and critically examine what feminism has done, what it's achieved, what it's screwed up, what it still needs to figure out, are considered male identified hate attacks rather than opportunities to become bigger, stronger, more beneficial to more women?

Is it a reflection of feminism that "feminism" as a whole seems to hold itself accountable to pretty much--well--nobody?

That it's simply another trick that people get to use however they see fit to achieve whatever they want?

Because I think that's what so many find so offensive about Rebecca's writing--that she's asking exactly what so many other women, and specifically women of color have asked for-- accountability. Feminism as a whole is demanding things that many women haven't asked for, and is insisting that it is doing it in their names. But when those women demand accountability, when those women say, not in my name, or what were you thinking, or you hurt me--then, suddenly the fun game is up. Then suddenly, the hard work of *movement making* is sitting and staring feminism as a whole in the face. And feminism as a whole refuses to admit--it isn't really sure what the hell to do.

There are many reasons for this, I think--but the biggest one is then women would have to sit down and admit, really admit--feminism is in the process of failing. Failing itself, failing women, failing girls-- but who wants to deal with that when there are more fun things to do like get Hillary into office and write books?

And if we can reduce Rebecca Walker to a whiny petulant brat, keep Alice Walker on a throne instead of in a painful dialogue, feminism can achieve that super fun dream.

But as somebody who will never again call herself a feminist and now approaches most, if not all of "feminism" with caution and trepidation--I have to say--You'd think that the lives of women would mean more to a movement that claims to care about women.

Wouldn't you?
Shouldn't you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday To Someone Special

I have been best friends with Elle for the last 29 years of my life. In that time span, she has been my rock through every storm I have ever dealt with in my life. As she celebrates another great year on this earth, I wish her all the best this world has to offer because no one deserves it better!

Best Birthday Present Ever!

auntie elle & DEUCE!!!

My family made it here yesterday! We met in Houston and had a late lunch with Kim before driving back here. My mother and sister are cooking a soul food dinner for us and I'm going make myself a cake.

Happy birthday, me!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Fat Hatred, Emotional Blackmail, and a God-Complex Meet...

... you get this result as evidenced by the story below, taken from an issue of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, dated 23 July 1960. Without further comment:

Man, Wife Lose Weight in Order to Adopt Baby Girl

LOS ANGELES (AP) Months of rigid dieting paid off Friday for an overweight man and wife when they gained permission to adopt a 1-year-old girl they have raised from birth:

After shedding 159 pounds between them, they vowed to keep on dieting “until we get down to a decent size.”

“I’m too happy to say anything,” said Mrs. Bernice Sherman, 37, as she blinked back tears after a closed hearing in which Superior Judge Ben Koenig approved the adoption.

“It was a long struggle,” concluded her husband, Frank, 39, “but it paid off,”

Three months ago, Koenig ordered the Shermans… to show they could lose more weight before he would allow them to keep the child.

They weighed 320 and 250 pounds then and had been watching calories since last November 27, when they weighed 369 and 281. After hearing Koenig’s ruling they stepped up their dieting.

At Friday’s court session, Sherman, a truck driver, weighed 277 and his wife 214. Between them they had lost 79 pounds since April alone.

“We make no further objections to this adoption,” announced Walter A. Heath, director of the adoption bureau, His agency had opposed their petition to adopt little Janet when they came before him April 8.

The Shermans were told then because of their excess weight they “might not live to be good parents.” But a doctor examined them and said they both were healthy, and “they could outlive us all.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gearing up for the Holidays

Deuce, with Alex, in Coti's hat

Two days before he turns seven months old and one week until I see him!! I am so ready for my Deucie-Deucie-Fat-and-Juicy (and yes, I call him that in my head, for real).

Anyway, the time between now and January 2 will pass in a busy blur (hopefully, a pleasant, busy blur) for me with Thanksgiving, finals, graduation, archive visit, Christmas, and New Year's intoxication all looming. I'm currently getting ready for my mom, sister, brother and sister-in-law and kids for Thanksgiving. Hectic, but okay.

Anyway, are you celebrating Thanksgiving? If so, how? And, (the important question :-) what are you cooking??

Friday, November 14, 2008

Please Help Duanna Johnson's Family

Duanna Johnson's family needs assistance in paying for her funeral expenses. Background from Memphis Flyer via Lisa
Memphis police identified the body of transgender woman Duanna Johnson lying in the street near Hollywood and Staten Avenue early this morning.
Police believe Johnson was shot some time before midnight on Sunday. No suspects are in custody at this time.

Johnson was the victim of a Memphis police brutality case this summer when a video of former officer Bridges McRae beating her in a jail holding area was released to the media.
The video led to the eventual firing of McRae and Officer James Swain. It also led to the formation of a Stop Police Brutality Memphis, a coalition of human rights activists who lobbied the city council for more sensitivity training for Memphis Police officers.

A statement from the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center: "Duanna bravely confronted the Memphis Police Department officers who brutalized her while she was in police custody. At great personal cost, Duanna was the public face of our community's campaign against racism, homophobia, and transphobia. There was no justice for Duanna Johnson in life. The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center calls for justice in the investigation and prosecution of Duanna's murder."
For more on Johnson's beating, read the Flyer story. --Bianca Phillips
Jack has details on how to donate through the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. I've been seeing that the amount needed is around $1200. If we all could just donate a little bit, that shouldn't be too hard to raise. Please help!

The African American Perspective at the Unapologetic Mexican

Intro stolen from matttbastard:

This week, The Unapologetic Mexican has a series of guest posts featuring various African-American responses to the election of Barack Obama, The African American Perspective, which runs through November 16th.

Posts so far have included:

Moya Bailey After the Morning After, After the Night Before
Black Amazon Can’t Think After Yet
Jose Vilson The Forever After
matttbastard Barack Obama: [Re]defining Possibilities

Today is my turn to wax sorta-poetic: Assessing the Secret of Joy

Carmen will also post today (here it is:
Is Barack Obama the needed bridge between blacks and Latinos?), Kevin tomorrow, and Lex on Sunday.

**ETA: I'd like to thank Nez and his "cocky assistant," M, :-p for the opportunity.

Anatomy of a Lazy Friday Morning

I'm being totally shameful this morning. I woke up for the second time around 8:45 and have been in bed most of the time since.

I have developed a hunger headache, but I don't want to cook, don't want cereal because my refrigerator gets the milk too cold for my poor teeth, don't want a cold sandwich. Apparently, I just want to whine and have a headache.

I had an appointment for highlights at 11, but as my stylist warned me that it wold take two hours at least, I rescheduled. Don't feel like spending Friday like that, but now I'm going to have to wash my own hair.

I want to do more work today (spent last night examining microfilmed newspapers from 1960) and am trying to arrange it so I don't have to do much more than sit up to write and read. The laptop is on a tiny table right here beside the bed. And the books:

It occurs to me that it might seem sad that the other side of my bed is covered with books. I'm almost motivated to do something about it... almost. Any rectification will have to wait until after the nap I'm about to take.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Co-Blogger Kim Does NOT Know the Rules

Dear Kimi,

On today, your birthday, the year in which you, mrs. o, and I* all turn 28 for the seventh time, you are expected to announce your birthday upon the blog so that it may be treated as the great day of reverence that it is. You must allow people to come adulate and bask in the greatness that is you.

Happy Birthday, sweetie.

*in an amazing!!!! coincidence, I think our temporary co-blogger, BFP is the same age, as well. This is the best 1974 1980 blog in the whole world!!!

Growing Apart

My son has a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. The one part that he reads over and over, that just astounds him, is a section in which MLK realizes his childhood friendship with a white boy will not be allowed to continue.

Perhaps, because he wants to talk about that over and over and OVER, the other night, I dreamed of an event that I had not allowed myself to think about in ages.

When I was young, I had girl friends who were white.

As with any of my friends, I had sincere affection for some, a friendly rivalry with others.

My relationship with one girl, Melissa, was characterized by both of those. We were both officers in FHA, first and second clarinet in band, vying to be at the top of our class.

And we really, really liked each other.

But Melissa and I grew apart, as black and white children in the South used to do. Not so rigid a distinction as it was decades ago, but still with the implicit understanding that our adult paths probably would not cross much, that we'd have lives that were separated, in part, along color lines.

And it is a separation that I have abided by. Oh, I've made white friends in the interim, people who share my academic or political interests or who are my co-workers or who share the absolute drudgery of some PTA duties with me. But they are not people who grew up with me in a tiny, rural area where much of the world was still viewed in black and white terms.

I say that I abide by it because when I see my old friends, there is a wall that all the smiles and innocuous questions and plans for class reunions cannot surmount. It is a wall that I uphold based on (unfair?) assumptions. "We'll have nothing in common," I think. There will be mutual disappointment in the way we "turned out."

Sometimes, I am tempted to reach out to them, to ask them how they survive the pressure of being women from (and often, still in) a rural, conservative world. To ask them what memories do they have of our time in school together, of our long-ago shared interests, of people, places, and events. But I cannot. I don't know them the way that I once did. Our shared past has been lost to the present separation for which we were long prepared. The divisions along lines of race and politics are simultaneously very much real and very much constructed inside of us.

And it is not a division that happens suddenly. I brought up Melissa because she was at the center of the dream I mentioned. When we were 17, we traveled to San Antonio for a national FHA meeting. Melissa had a nightmare one night in the room we shared with our advisor; I will never forget her screams.

She'd told me some time before that her mother had been sexually assaulted by a man that had broken into their home. Her mother had not cried out, because he'd threatened her children.

I knew, as a girl, what her nightmare was about, the awful feeling of having someone creep upon you while you're sleeping, the absolute terror of realizing that a place you thought was safe was not, the horror of sexual assault.

The man alleged to have raped her mother was black, and I'd heard another story as well: that Melissa's mother and the man had long had a clandestine relationship, that her mother said she was raped as a protective move after she and the man were discovered together by her husband.

I knew, even then, that women are often accused of lying about rape, that incidents of sexual assault are routinely dismissed on the basis of "she was aking for it" or "she'd had sex with him before, so why is it an issue?"

But (and I've written about this before here and can't find the damned post), I spent a lifetime hearing from my grandmothers and other black women how dangerous white women were to black men, how black men were lynched for consensual relationships, how white women blew through our communities and did whatever the hell they wanted with little regard for the effects.

And so I felt lost. I was not mature enough to understand that, what mattered, at that moment, was Melissa's perceptions, the ones that shaped her fears and escaped her as screams in the middle of a warm spring night. Instead, I lay in bed as our advisor comforted her, wanting to say something, not knowing what to say, to do, to think.

Feeling separated from her, from all the facets of who I am.

We never talked about that night. And, after we went to college, we did not talk about much of anything. We saw each other once, still too young to have forgotten our friendship, began to talk excitedly, simultaneously... then stopped.

The few times I've seen her since then have been appropriately stiff and polite. Small smiles, a quick press of fingers, a question about kids or jobs or the temperature that require only a sweet murmur as a response.

I wonder if she, too, has excised the memories of two girls debating which was the best clarinet reed, complaining about ill-fitting band uniforms, loving English class, pondering the future of R.E.M.

If she has, are they forever buried?

Or do they linger, come to her sometimes in the middle of the night when she least expects or wants them, separated from her by time and place and mores, yet still very much a part of her?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On This Day.....

28 years ago, my mom brought home a baby girl. At that time, I was her only child and I was six years old. I looked at what my mom called a bundle of joy and asked my mom if she could take her bundle of joy back to the hospital. Thank God my mom was an intelligent woman who informed with much laughter, that I would grow to love the bundle of joy just as she did. Of course, she was right. Happy Birthday little sister. I Love You and yes I know-that's childish:)

Speshul Nooz

If I haven't said it before, green tea is absolutely the nectar of the gods.

Since I'm on my second serving of the night, I see myself heading for a daybreak bedtime.

But, my god, it's worth it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Technical Help

I need to update my blogroll. La Mala has moved. Sudy and BFP have renamed their blogs to reflect new paths/foci. And via incoming links, I've discovered some pretty cool people.

Blogrolling has been down for more than three weeks now, so I need to find another service like that. Suggestions for a good one that a technically challenged blogger could use?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Best

Deuce, 8 days shy of 7 months old. That's Alex holding him. Lucky her.

I am so ready to see this baby. I know that I'm going to irritate the hell out of him.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back to Food

No surprise for me :-p

I have family coming for a week at Thanksgiving and am planning meals that freeze well. I am also dusting off my "only when it gets cool" recipes.

Two things I plan to make are taco soup and chicken pot pie. Why I have chicken pot pie as a cool recipe, I don't know, but there you have it.

Anyway, give me ideas! What are some of your cool weather dishes? They don't have to all be freezable. I have a couple more I'm making, but I'm stumped for seven days!

Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday to my Daddy, 61-years-young today.

Here is his absolute favorite song.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Things My Heart Can't Take Too Much More Of

I'm late to this. Aisha Ibrahim Dhuhulow, a 13-year-old Somali girl was stoned to death for adultery.

From what I gather, her father tried to report that she was raped by three men. Instead of apprehending the rapists, the militia held her for adultery.

She was sentenced to death and stoned in a public execution.

And as if it isn't enough to imply she asked for death by committing the offense of being raped, I also found this quote that maintains she literally asked for it:
Our sister Aisha asked the Islamic Sharia court in Kismayo to be charged and punished for the crime she committed," local Islamist leader Sheikh Hayakallah told the crowd.

"She admitted in front of the court to engaging in adulterous sexual intercourse," he added.

"She was asked several times to review her confession but she stressed that she wanted Sharia law and the deserved punishment to apply."
And when her family tried to intercede at her execution because of her screams:
[G]uards opened fire, killing a child, the witnesses said.

The Gays vs. African Americans Meme Benefits No One

ETA: In the comments of Renee's post about the issue, I found this link to Shannika putting it down as to why "The Facts Belie the Scapegoating of Black People for Proposition 8"

Kismet, La Macha, Pam Spaulding, Kevin and many others have brought my attention to the fact that African Americans are being "blamed" for the passage of the anti-gay marriage propositions on election day. There is a sentiment, from some (and Dan Savage is not alone if the comments on myriad blogs are to be believed), that African Americans betrayed gays (and forgive this simple explanation as if those don't ever intersect) who overwhelmingly supported Obama.

As Kevin notes, it is hurtful and troubling that an estimated 70% of African Americans who voted in California supported Prop 8. And, like Kevin, I also point to this quote by La Macha:
Black and Latin@ communities have some big time issues with queer hate.
The huge role of the black church in some black communities--institutions that I believe are largely socially conservative and patriarchal--assures the perpetuation and validation of homophobia.* So, too, does the emphasis on a certain "type" of black manhood, an idolization of "hypermasculinity" that defines black gay men as somehow lacking, less than men. These are but two factors that render black gays, to borrow a quote from Pam, "marginalized within a marginalized community."

But here's the other half of La Macha's quote:
I also think gay organizations have to confront their very real racism within their organizing strategies.
Pam and La Macha both point out that there has not been enough outreach from gay organizations to communities of color. I think we are often written off, as Dark Rose noted at Pam's, as "hopelessly unenlightened" or, in the words of La Macha, "just conservative." From one of Pam's commenters came this anecdote:
One of the groups fighting [Florida's Prop 2] made it very clear that they were going to do no outreach whatsoever to the black community.
And from La Macha's second post:
Gloria Nieto had a sense of those demographic forces, too. When Nieto, a lead organizer for the No on Proposition 8 campaign in San Jose, wanted to distribute campaign signs in Spanish and Vietnamese this fall, she had to get them made herself because the statewide campaign only had signs in English.
I agree with Kevin when he says it's a two way street--and not in the "You owe me because I did A B or C" sense. As Kevin says:
[I]t doesn’t work that way. You vote for, you give aid to, you advocate for other people and causes because it is the right thing to do. If you’re doing it because you expect something in return, your doing it for the wrong reasons. No one wins in this situation because nothing has changed. No fundamental shifting of paradigms has occured. It’s simply, “I’ll throw you a bone if you throw me one back.” And the falling on the convenient (always marginalized, conveniently enough) scapegoat is just plain tired.
This is not the way to build connections and support. And, as many of these bloggers have noted, the simplistic equation of gay = white and the resultant Gays vs. African Americans denies the existence and experiences of black gay people.

Work has to be done, by us, within our communities, too. The last year has brought home to me the privilege and complicity I've shown in ignoring or discounting homophobia. When I was trying to take Alex and Coti's side when so much of our small town and black Baptist church were vehemently against them, I was amazed by the rumors and questions that flew. Was I gay? I must be gay! I must be secretly sleeping with one of them! The pastor of my church announced after a sermon that there was a special place in hell for people who were leading young people astray--though I'm sure I wasn't the only focus of that attack, I know I was a target. I complained aloud one day about being "tired of this shit" and Alex looked right at me said, "You're only going through a little bit of what we've gone through for years."

And then there was the time when Alex, Coti's brother, V (who is gay), and I went to the drive through at Wendy's. I recognized our order-taker as one of my students and said so. V looked at him in response and the guy went off. "Why are you looking at me?" he kept asking. "Don't be all up in my face like that, punk." I pulled up and told V to get out and got talk to the manager. That shook me so badly and V was like, "Oh, I'm used to it. Forget him." But I made him go in and the manager pretty much stated that he didn't believe that because the guy wouldn't act that way.

But the last straw for me, with my town and "my" church? When my sister told me that she had been horrified because the pastor stood and used the word "fags" and "freaks" during service. I vowed that I would not go back. This church that bears my great-great grandfather's name on the cornerstone as a founding deacon. This church where I was baptized at four, went to Sunday School for years, worked in the kitchen, socialized with the youth department, sang in the choir.

It was suddenly no longer "mine." I suppose it hadn't been in a long time, but I'd just reached a point in my life where my brain couldn't support the cognitive dissonance required for me to be one person "in the world" and another "in the church." And still, it was hard to let go.

I've seen black gays and lesbians met with overt hatred--vicious name calling, physical violence, gay men being characterized as all "sneaky," "promiscuous," and "down low" and thus the cause of the truly alarming incidence of HIV/AIDS in black communities. I've seen the less overt resentment and ignorance--my experience in particular is that the personhood and sexuality of lesbians are erased--they are not gay women, they are male impersonators. I've had people tell me Alex didn't really like girls because Coti (who identifies as a stud) is "so much like a boy" and that black women are gay only because of a shortage of men. And I've repeatedly heard that lesbians can be cured by the mythical powers of the almighty penis, literally fucked straight.

But there have been good moments within my intimate community, too. I had my kid watch the Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes "think before you say that's so gay" commercials sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and we talked about them. A couple of days ago, he told me his friend Jacob said that it was "gay" that my son was on the jump rope team at their school. My son said he asked Jacob, "What does that mean? Gay is not bad." And then he parrotted the commercials and told Jacob to think before he says stuff.** Now, whether this is how the conversation actually unfolded, I don't know, but he remembers and he got the point of the commercials.

When I was younger, my paternal great uncle M.C. was one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I wasn't even ten when he died. When I was a little bit older, I was watching a talk show with my mom's mom and, while I don't remember the exact topic, I remember the discussion centered around gays. My grandmother said hesitantly, "You know your uncle M.C. was... like that?" I remember being shocked and shaking my head. And she reached over and patted my hand--my grandmother was not a physically affectionate person, that's why I remember that--and she said, "That's okay. There ain't nothing wrong with it at all." My 60+ year-old, southern grandmother told me that, in awkward language, but with a lovely sentiment.

She knew, having been an unwed mother, what it was like to be talked about and ostracized. I have never forgotten that moment. That and my mom's constant affirmations of people's dignity and right to live their own lives and her reminders, rooted in her Christianity, "to love everyone" and "not mistreat anyone," had more effect on who I am than all the negativity I heard in my church and in the street.

Not everyone had a grandmother like mine or has a mama like mine, though, and that's why I think the work of coalition-building is so vital. When people like Pam and Dark Rose and Alex and Coti and V are disappeared, marginalized, treated as if they don't exist by two of their communities, it's easier for the dehumanization to continue.
*Is every black church like this? Of course not, but that has been my experience.

**My son is growing up and making me so simultaneously proud and frustrated that I see myself morphing into one of those, "My kid is the greatest, most complex person in the world!" parents and I'm not even fighting it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

WTF Is Wrong with Us?

I am a sad mix of heartsick and angry about Prop 8 in California and the Florida and Arizona constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and the Arkansas ban on "unmarried couples" adopting.

What the fuck is wrong with us? Have Americans learned nothing about how hateful and wrong it is to deprive people of rights because we label them as "different" or "inferior" or a "threat to our way of life?"

Three things that make me want to alternately scream and laugh at the hypocrisy?

1) A southern state pretending that it is "concerned" about the well-being of children who are in foster care--children who are disproportionately poor and of color. These same children's right to exist is routinely attacked in the South via criticisms of poor mothers of color and their child bearing and rearing, stingy systems of social provision, and subpar educational institutions.

Look at this gem from the Arkansas Adoption Resource website that says a lot about perceptions of children waiting to be adopted:
Over the past few decades, the number of healthy, Caucasian infants, who are relinquished to DHS/DCFS for adoption has decreased sharply. DHS/DCFS is not taking applications for normal, healthy newborns. DHS/DCFS continues to accept applications to adopt a healthy, African American child from birth to two years.
Emphasis mine. Here's my translation, "We know black kids aren't the most desirable--but, hey, since we're out of NORMAL newborns, take one of 'em." And, Lord, I'm sure "normal" is also posited as the opposite of "children with disabilities"

And now, suddenly, Arkansas is claiming its all concerned about the children!* (A tactic used in California, as well)

2) The Arkansas Adoption Resource website also says
For a child, there is nothing more important than having a parent to protect, love, and care for them.
Unless that parent is gay and/or living with a partner to whom s/he is not married, apparently.

Also, how do social conservatives rank "the evils?" Can't imagine how they keep it straight--in all my years of Sunday School, I never got the list that ranked and ordered offenses. I see on the website that you can be a (presumably straight?) single parent and foster/adopt a child (maybe the ban affects that too?). Apparently, being a gay, partnered parent trumps being a single parent in the race to "who will be first to be doomed to hell's fires" or something.

Seriously, I don't understand this. Can you adopt if you're single and gay? What happens if you're single (gay or straight), adopt, then move in with someone--does your child become unadopted?

3) The assertion that gay marriage opponents are protecting traditional marriage. Can someone define traditional marriage? Because I think a lot of people mean that glorified, 1950s creation that was relatively new in that it weakened the traditional role of the extended family, placed the burden of meeting all the members' needs on the nuclear family--and particularly on women who were expected to subordinate their own needs and ambitions to that of their families in a way that men NEVER were.

You know, the good old days when women didn't define themselves but were instead defined by their relations to the people who were more important than they--husbands and children? Those were good times, when Miltown and Valium and alcohol and shock therapy allowed women to float through the wonder of it all!

How will gays marrying damage marriage? If you're a marriage proponent, isn't it a good thing when two people decide that they love each other enough to want to commit to spending their lives together?

Bigots, in making the case for why some people don't deserve the same rights as them, routinely attack and interrupt family units. The history I've taught this semester is full of examples. Enslaved parents who had their children sold away from them. The Chinese Exclusion Act which made it impossible for many Chinese men who came here to work to bring over their families. Indigeneous people whose nomadic family life and communal living were affected by the Dawes Act. Mexican and Mexican Americans who were "repatriated" to Mexico despite the ties and communities they'd built across the Southwest. Interracial couples who were denied the right to marry for so long.

The fact that we are still doing this shit leads me back to the title of this post.
*Of course, that assumption is based on our beliefs that our children start out as the same little narrow-minded, fragile, I'm-clinging-to-this-point-of-view-or-I'll-die pieces of work that we are. I talk to my kid about a lot of things, try to teach him that the world is an interesting place composed of diverse peoples and he hasn't exploded or melted into a corrupt pool of confusion. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I am a historian of African Americans who has just seen history made.

I should say something to mark the occasion.

But I just can't right now.

My Vote Story

Inspired by...

I voted a couple of Saturdays ago in the small town closest to my apartment complex. We were out and about and since my niece and I had never taken our voter's registration cards out of the car, I announced, "We're gonna go vote."

Now, considering the fact that it's a small Texas town, I was overly self-conscious pulling up in the parking lot amidst all the cars with the McCain/Palin stickers, but I saw a (very) few Obama/Biden ones as well.

My niece, who is new to voting, gasped when we'd walked about five steps. "What?" I asked, thinking she'd spied something shockingly anti-Obama. She pointed at my son. "He can't wear that!" "That" was this Obama t-shirt.

As a new voter, she's tried to school herself on all the polling place rules.

"Take it off," she told him.

"Turn it on the wrong side," I said at the same time.

He thought it was so funny to be out in public with just his undershirt on. I made him zip up his jacket, though. He looked a hot ass mess.

There was a not too long wait, enough time for my niece to have me explain the basics to her and to look over the sheet that told us what we'd be voting on.

She asked what the voting apparatus would look like. I told her, "I've had a touch screen and a little dial thing and, back in the day, little switch things."

The man behind us interrupted me to tell her, "As long as there aren't butterfly ballots, you'll be fine."

"As close as this election is going to be, surely to God they won't have that," I said.

"It's definitely going to be close," he agreed and turned back to his friend.

The whole time, my son was fidgeting, waiting "our turn." When we finally made it into the room, the people working took our voter's registration cards. One of them looked at my niece's, then raised his eyebrows.

Oh, shit, I thought.

"Ma'am," he began, "Are you a first time voter?"

"Yes sir," she said.

His expression softened into a smile. "Congratulations," he said, then turned to his co-workers. "Hey! First time voter here." They began to bang their tables and tell her congratulations, prompting people in line to clap and smile. The woman in front of us pointed to her daughter.

"Her, too. She's three weeks past 18."

More applause.

My son and I soon stepped to the machine. I let him touch the screen for Obama. I stared at it for a full minute, I know, making sure it registered. I cautiously went through the rest of the ballot, letting him push a few more options. At the end, I scanned that summary page over and over, making sure all was correct.

Then, I registered my vote.

As we walked out, my niece turned to my smiling kid and teased, "Are you happy now? You got a chance to vote for Obama."

"Don't hate on his enthusiasm," I told her.

Another voter who'd exited right behind us smiled at our exchange.

"Congratulations on getting an early start, little man," she told my son.

If possible, his grin got bigger.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Sad Note

I have been trying so hard, the last few days, not to dwell on this election. I'm so nervous that a permanent fist seems to have clenched in my stomach.

Then I heard Sen. Obama's grandmother had died today, one day before the election, and that just broke my heart into a million pieces.

I hope she rests in peace and my heart is with the Obama family.

Belated Halloween Treats

As usual, I don't have a picture of my own kid in Halloween regalia (yet) as he spent the night with a friend. Here's some scrumptiousness that I do have, though.

My two-year-old goddaughter Alani:

mrs. o sent this pic of her baby boy with the caption, "This is the cutest pumpkin in the world":

Kim's baby as the Flash. Look at those cheeks:

Kim's older son as Wolverine:

And Coti sent me this not-so-good pic of Deuce with the applicable name "Little Devil." Bad pic, but I haven't had him on here since he was four months old and now he's six-and-a-half months! I promise to get pics when they come at Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ooh, That Irps My Ass!

That's what my Aunt Mary, Trin's mom, says when shit irks her. Not irk--irp.

My own dear mother has anemia and when asked will tell people, "Yes, I'm anemia."

That irps my ass.

I've noticed that when my sister and I buy things online and people ask us where we got item a, we both say, "I bought it offline."

What are some of your grammatic/linguistic peccadilloes--things you know aren't quite right, but you just can't give up?

All about Me!

This is what happens when you try to go to bed at a decent hour.

But since I'm up, I thought I'd complete the meme Renee and Kristy tagged me for.

The Rules:
6 Random Things About Me:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself. (See below)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (See further below...)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

The Things:

1. I am horribly afraid of getting lost. I've lived in two of the largest cities in the country and have seen very few of their attractions except on field trips with my son and under the guidance of Kim or my sister. I want to take my family to do something out here when they come for Thanksgiving, but already, I'm going, "What if I get lost? What if we can't find parking? What if we get separated?" in my head.

2. I'm having moments now in which I think, "I really like my job." That might sound "duh," but keep in mind I've spent the last few years of my life waiting to live: "As soon as my kid goes to school... As soon as I pass comps... As soon as I write the dissertation... As soon as I get a job." There's still a lot of "As soon as I write the book... As soon as I get tenure..." but I'm feeling a bit more content.

3. Still working on the kind of mama I want to be and my kid is more than half grown. I snap a lot when I'm tired or aggravated or have said "Clean that pissy ass bathroom and you better start standing closer to the toilet!" a zillion times. And I will invoke the, "Because I said so!" answer, despite knowing better.

4. My feet are a total "oooooh" zone (in a good way ;-). I can hardly stand to get pedicures sometimes.

5. I am selfish (and I'll admit, scarred) enough to have said, "If I ever have another long term relationship, I don't want to be in love, but I want my significant other to be in love with me." Yes, because the all beneficent elle is smug enough to think she won't take another's love and devotion for granted or treat them like shit just because she knows they are so into her.

I chastise myself about that, but if I ever get my energy and interest levels up enough to be interested in romance again, I still want it to be more of a muted affection/mutual respect sort of thing. I've had enough drama and heartache.

6. The one man mrs. o and I have agreed to share:

To which our Soror Rashida would quip, "He ain't big enough to share!"

I know he has a lot of problems with the legal system, but see number 5. I ain't trying to fall in love.

Tags later. I'm about to try to drift off while thinking on a good weekend question.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...