Monday, September 6, 2010

Take Two: Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtianti

In my far-too-long hiatus from the blog, I've only consistently received a comment here and there on my post about Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtianti, the Iranian mother who was found guilty of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. The comments that I did receive ranged from insinuating that I was, simply put, an ignorant American girl who had no concept of anything dealing with the Islamic laws to being in support of the revolution that Iran and other Islamic nations are undergoing -- but from a distance.

I'm not "crying" for true justice as some American-citizen girl with no concept of the world. I am, however, advocating that the few people who stumble upon my opinions be awakened to the horrors of the inhumane nature that some people possess as a citizen of the world. As a matter of fact, this fight is hardly about the constantly purported dangers of Islam - but much rather the dangers of a religiously fundamental (or, even based) political body governing the behaviors, thoughts, actions, and opinions of a set of the people.

Is it just that any person be stoned for any crime at all? If you answered yes, then I'd question the depth and completeness of your humanity. And I'd also ask for what crime is death by stoning not cruel and unusual? This woman was originally sentenced to death by stoning for committing the crime of adultery; and for those who are confused on the definition of adultery, it is simply extra-marital sex. The originally referenced post is not about whether or not adultery is morally wrong. Instead, it is about the cruel and unusual nature of the sentence death by stoning.

Ansar739 3 days ago in reply to livication
Please stop crying... why you people cant see the bombardment of USA on innocccent people in the name of terrorism?? is't that cruel?? Please stop crying and stop saying anything against islam. Islam is the only religion in the universe and if she is guilty then this is the right punishment.

Indeed, many religious individuals see their beliefs to be the only set of accurate beliefs, and indeed - I absolutely disagree with this assessment with every ounce of my ability to do so, and have always held the view that if only one religion was accurate, then there would not be more than one religion. This, no doubt, is one of several roots of my own atheism; the practice of religious fundamentalism is quite dangerous. My opinions on extremism and religious supremacy are not Islam-specific - they also are applied to various other religious divisions. While I may not update my blog very often any more, I have been updating my twitter and on that note, I have several tweets(/facebook posts) that are specific to the current anti-Islamic and Islamaphobic sentiment currently being expressed by some across America. And the updates are along the same note: the marriage of politics and religion is most dangerous and impractical to the evolving nature of society and to true freedom. I have vehemently expressed my disappointment and total disagreement on book burnings and the Jim Crow-esque positions on "Ground Zero Mosque".

Lastly, what makes death by stoning even more cruel and unusual is the same sentiment I apply to the death penalty across America, as unintentionally expressed by the above referenced commenter: the "if" factor. When I was in my last year of college, I met a death row exoneree that was brought to the university for a lecture. He was on death row for 18 years; 18 years of his life were spent behind bars when he had never had any conflict with the law, for a crime that he did not commit. The truth of the matter is that there are biases from within the system, and there are mistakes made. And the above commenter stated that "if" she is guilty, then this is proper punishment. I suppose the logic would follow that, if she isn't guilty...then, oh well.

This isn't about my being American and looking down at Islamic nations, because I acknowledged the lack of separation of church-and-state in my previous post regarding this situation. Yet, as a human being, this is about the right of another human being. This is a human issue.

With all the secrecy of the situation, I'd like to just point out that her sentence is suspended and the situation has not come to a complete resolve. Last I read, her son has requested actual proof of the "on hold" status of Sakineh's sentence, and the government has yet to substantiate it in writing.

Be Righteous.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Yes, my life is still very chaotic (as always). And yes, I am working on updates for the blog. If I have any readers left..stick around! You won't regret it. I'll be updating very soon.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obscure Dreams

Yesterday, my really wonderful nomadic earthy traveler friend sent me a text message. She has recently finished volunteering for Americorps and has been all over in such a short period of time. My friend, my sister.

Her message was quite random, but perfectly timed. It read: do you have an obscure dream that you hope to accomplish?

I thought about it; I know that at one point in my life, I had a list of all these perceived absurdities that I had to accomplish, because I'm afraid that I'll have an untimely death and an unfulfilled life. Growing up, it took so long to actually grasp the reality of human mortality. Most kids live as though they're invincible; like nothing can harm us because we are kids and if anything happens, Superman will come flying down to the rescue! I wasn't that kid, and I feel like I grew in reverse. When I was young, I was self-conscious and reflective, a dreamer with little action. It took longer than I'd have liked for me to realize this is all we have. And by the time I had, I had misplaced a lot of my delightful, obscure dreams.

I've been reflecting since I got the message. Reflecting about some of the dreams I've never let go. And about the ones that got lost in the wind. And about my good friend. I like to do my own little sashay to the boom-boom-clap-ting in my head, and for that people find me extreme. Between my friend and I, though, she is the most pure and fantastic form of extremism when it comes to chasing dreams. Our first year of college, she jumped a train and I photographed it. She decided she wanted to be a volunteer firefighter. Also an EMT. Also pose nude for artists to paint. I had surgery my third year of college, and she drove hours to see me get better. On another occasion, and since I transferred to a college at the beach, she decided that she wanted to jump in the ocean nude. It was March.

I'll be working on my list of dreams, but I think the most quiet obscure dream I've had for sometime is to invoke the bits of her fearless spirit that are buried some where deep down.

I'm curious to hear the obscure dreams of others. Let's accomplish them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wow! A LOT Has Been Going On!

So much has been going on in the last couple of days and it's been quite remarkable. I think I'm finally settled in the new place (and finally have internet access so I'm back in the bloggin' business!), and I've been running around crazily for weeks!

A few great things though! I suppose the first of really important things happening was the decision by the CA court that Prop 8 is unconstitutional! That's a big deal, and after I read through the ruling, I was (1) ecstatic that there are rational individuals in positions to make important decisions (I'd given up hope for sometime) and (2) disturbed that it even required a hearing -- especially with the pro-prop-8ers and their poor case. I mean, seriously? Reading through the lengthy court document made me disappointed in humanity -- especially when religious institutions throw the "they can be gay in private but not in public -- for the sake for the kids!" argument into our contemporary 2010, freedom-of (and freedom from) religion American society. What a headache it is to know that people still exist with so much irrational hatred (and think that it's totally okay and justifiable!).

The "Ground Zero Mosque" (and I the only one offended by the actual name?) has been approved. And good on them. All Muslims aren't "terrorists". It really amazes me that people are so worked up about this mosque. I saw protesters on the news the other day holding signs that said something to the effect of "building a mosque at ground zero is like building a Hitler statue at Auschwitz". Seriously? Is it? That's a little ridiculous and you can't systemically oppress another religious group's practice of their faith because of your own supremacist views. Period. Oh, and I'm a nontheist. So, yeah.

Then there's that whole immigration thing in Arizona. Still and still. I don't have a comment prepared.

I suppose that's all I have for now! Cheers, and have a happy weekend!

Be Righteous.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the Privileged

A few days ago I transitioned from my old-new-home back down to my new-home-in-my-old-city. I lugged boxes around in 100-degree weather like the wonder woman I tend to be, and when I got down for a break, I reviewed a message from a concerned male acquaintance asking how he as a recipient of privilege (as a male) could move beyond that privilege to aide in change and revolution.

Instantly, with much sincerity and love, I applauded his efforts at acknowledging himself as a recipient of privilege on the basis of his maleness - and in comparison with Black females alone. It has been my experience that getting men of color to acknowledge privilege is a difficult task. The thing that is important to remember is that we are not only one thing; we do not only have to be one thing. The problem that a lot of people have with Black women and feminism/womanism/women's rights is that these ideas are centred around the oppression faced as women, versus the oppression on fronts of our color. Unfortunately for women of color, racial and gender-based oppression can come both separately and together. Also, while men of color (among other classifications) are discriminated against as a result of their color, they are often give special bias as a result of their maleness - hence, "privilege." My answer to moving beyond privilege is that acknowledging it is the best way to start. I mean, if you know you're in a privileged class in our shitty socially constructed hierarchy, then the best thing you can do initially is to acknowledge the privilege and educate other members of your group who don't identify as privileged understand what privilege is and the role that it plays in our society - both historically and in a contemporary context.

The next question, though, was this: if he (and others) know and can acknowledge that there is a disparity in the treatment of men and women, white people and persons of color, the rich and the poor -- what is their incentive for evening out the playing field?

This question always reminds me of those using-religion-to-justify-morality statements; surely someone who is able to acknowledge and fully understand how they have benefited by privilege, in a society that allows the construction of social and systemic inequality on the basis of any characteristic they do not control, should feel for the disadvantaged on want to change it just on that basis, right? Surely there should be no incentive for doing the right thing beyond their own conscience and consciousness, right? I don't know the answer. I don't know that there is an incentive beyond feeling for the those who are disadvantaged and oppressed in a modern and allegedly intellectually advanced era.

Be Righteous.

Also, for more posts on privilege, click here to a post I wrote a while back. It has links to some good work done on acknowledging male privilege in the Black community.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

...Speaking of Whoopi

Admittedly, I have to sometimes take breaks from technology and the news in order to keep myself from going crazy. I have an intense (sometimes read: serious) personality a lot of times, and that doesn't make me unhappy. I care about issues to the point of exhaust; and it's because I also act on these issues. I get so mentally involved in issues, and for that reason, a joke - that is parody and not satire - at the interest in any of the issues and injustices that I am so involved in protesting is more damaging, in my opinion, than the humor that may be in it.

At any rate, in an effort to work on my zen and create an ambiance, I'm goofing off on facebook for a bit yesterday - just after reacting to Whoopi Goldberg's "he-has-black-friends-so-he-isnt-racist" defense - and noticed that good friend of mine made an inappropriate joke in reference to the situation. And the joke made it to facebook, twitter, and eventually a variation of it made the blog. Ready?

C'mon Whoopi, sure Mel Gibson isn't racist; you don't have to worry about being raped by a pack of niggers; you look like a man.

Well, okay. I realize that the comment was meant to be taken lightly but my problem with these comments is this: of the many issues with sexual abuse and domestic violence, major issues that many victims deal with are feelings of guilt (like they may have perpetuated the assault) and feelings of low self-worth which could stem from a number of things, including physical appearance. Moreover, the comment speaks to standards of beauty and maintains the myth that rape is about sexual attraction and desire.

I would not be true to my character if I didn't say anything, even to my good friend and mentor (smile). I'm not into blog-wars as I don't have enough readers for that anyway, so I don't want people to get me wrong and believe that that's the point of any of this.

While the joke was at the expense of Whoopi, the words of the joke say something to people who believe that people who "look like a man" (or unattractive people, or people who have been told they are physically worthless and have internalized that abuse) cannot or have not been abused. It appears to support a myth of people who are ill-informed and do not know better - even if it is a joke. Having worked on the side of victims, this is a trend that is seriously furthered by law enforcement, nurses, and anybody who isn't fully aware and sympathetic to the dynamics of rape. Period. (Ironically, this theme is illustrated to perfection in "The Color Purple")

And while I understand that there has to be a silver lining, and there has to be some sort of light in this sick, sad, dark world of ours, I'm not entirely certain that any joke sending that sort of message (about the rape of a woman who "looks like a man", not the pack of niggers) is the something that I can take lightly. This isn't about an individual, but those comments and attitudes have to die. Seriously.

Would it be Whoopi Goldberg-esque of me to point out that this person doesn't hate women, ugly people, or rape victims, but that it was a stupid comment? Shrug. This isn't to defend Whoopi's disillusionment, but one has to wonder how to defend the character of a person who makes stupid comments. I'm not taking it personally, again this isn't about a person, but an idea. A whole set of ideas that need to end.

Be righteous.

It was also kind of a jackass thing to add a faux apology in small print, too..#justsayin.

Way to Go, Whoopi.

I'd like to take the time right now to discuss two separate, but loosely connected issues. As a matter of fact, I will takcle the initial issue in this post and then discuss the separate issue in a post after this one. Ready? Okay!

Whoopi Goldberg. I suppose I should note, for every person incapable of picking up on the subtlety in my sardonic wit, that there is nothing serious in the title of this post.

In 1993, Whoopi Goldberg defended Ted Danson's performing in Blackface. While I don't necessarily remember this event specifically (or caring; I was a kid and this was just before I was tainted by the horrors of the real world), I do remember my catching wind of it when I was a bit more mature and saying "hmm, maybe I shouldn't be supporting someone who thinks that this is okay; whether it's intended to be offensive doesn't really take away from the fact kinda is."

In 2009, I remember officially decided no longer to support Whoopi, as much as I love her (and as beautiful as I think she is - agree or not, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I've always thought she was physically intriguing. Fuck conventionalism). This was because she decided to discuss on The View how Roman Polanski's sexual encounter with a 13 year old kid, who was also under the influence notthatitmatters, was not rape-rape. I remember being outraged and saying aloud, several times, shame on you, Whoopi. Shame on you.

In 2010, I am even more disgusted with Whoopi, after acting as a free-standing character witness for Mel Gibson after his infamous bigoted, misogynistic tirade days ago. Per Whoopi:

"I know Mel, and I know he's not a racist...I have had a long friendship with Mel. You can say he's being a bonehead, but I can't sit and say that he's a racist having spent time with him in my house with my kids. I don't like what he's done, make no mistake."

Well, that's just great Whoopi. I made this point the other day when I was in a heated discussion with a perfect stranger about making anti-gay, anti-black-anti-woman, bigoted comments; how can you expect these issues to be taken seriously if you attempt to defend a person's (alleged, previous) character? Even the most horrible of people have to maintain a social life. How many times have we heard racists say, "I'm not a racist, I have Black friends!" What about homophobes saying, "I don't hate gay people, I know plenty of them!" Or even the friends and family members of domestic violence abusers saying, "my baby would never do anything like that!"

Exactly. Shame on you, Whoopi.

I can't say that I expected more, but she should stop refrain from commenting on issues regarding her famous friends. She's beginning to sound like a whoopie cushion. Hey, I get one corny joke per day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Small Victories: Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani will not be executed by stoning for adultery. She's an Iranian mother of two and was set to face stoning - any day now - after her 2006 conviction of adultery. Yes, folks, adultery. What a relief; all the petitions and global awareness raised by people and organizations to stand against death by stoning. Phew, what a relief! Right?

Wrong! Why is this wrong? Because Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani still faces the death penalty for adultery. And while anything that isn't stoning is a lot more a humane way to go, especially in terms of execution for wrongdoing...the death penalty? For adultery? Really?

I'm not saying that "adultery", in all of its usual heavily religious contexts, is not wrong. That isn't what I'm saying, but my opinion on adultery is not what's important. The two things that strike me as the major issues are: the obvious issue that has been a main stressor internationally is the cruel and unusual nature of stoning. and the other is the fact the law is based on the indoctrition of a specific religious text as a means to make people submit to this system.

For those of you who do not know at stoning consists of (as if the above image is not graphic enough) picture this: a person is buried in sand. If it is a man, they are buried to their waist; if a woman, she is buried to her chest area. And members of the crowd, the societal jury of your peers, pummel stones at you until you are bludgeoned to death. Literally, this is a stoning. This is a cruel and unusual punishment for any crime. Keep in mind, though, that I (and my few readers) are reading from an American perspective where "cruel and unusual" means that the punishment exceeds the severity of the crime. I'm not certain that cruel and unusual exists in Iran (and that is an honest statement; not my normal, everyday sarcasm and wit). However, I can think of few things that would make me think 'hmmm, you should be stoned for that. The fact that this form of punishment is allowed any where makes me sick to my stomach and confirms frustration with the lack of progress humanity has made. Nothing warrants that form of punishment.

The major issue for me, though, is the fact Iran, which is a country that bases it's legal code on sharia - the laws of god as interpreted by Islam - is a really troubling piece of this equation that is being overlooked. When will people learn that the marriage of politics and religion is one of the ultimate stains on any culture's progress? Thank goodness we're in America, where there is separation of church and state, right? Right?(that was my normal, everyday sarcasm.)

In a drive-by discussion on this situation with a friend of mine the other day, and explaining my issues with the situation, less my opinion on adultery, he hit me with the "moral behavior is not religious" bullet, even though he is a religious subscriber himself. But you know, I agree with that and that's the point that I attempt to hit believers with: moral behavior is not religious. However, don't ever say that if you've also decided that you don't "agree" with same sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, or understand that this issue is an issue where there is an intentional relationship between the Iranian judicial system and the religion of the overwhelming majority. And don't hit me with that "proud to be an American" shit when adultery is punishable by criminal law in some US states as well. And while this is not even necessarily as much about the death penalty as it is the imbalance in "crime" and punishment, I'll just say that we also execute people in the US. Your ideas sound progressive enough aloud; the US has separation of church and state on paper. But still, in a lot of social aspects, we do not. #justsayin

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani's life is ending because she committed adultery with two men while being married. And this is a human being. She is a mother of two. Set to be killed for having two extra marital affairs while her husband was alive; and your thoughts on whether or not adultery is right are meaningless because religious law has already overruled Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani's right to live and her children's right to have a mother. And I truly hope that the advocates against her being stoned, including myself, will continue speaking out about the fact that she is being executed any day now. P l e a s e, do your part and increase awareness at the very least.

Be Righteous.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Revolutionary but Gangsta Grillz (not much of) a review!

I wanted to take some time to do a full review the new mixtape by Dead Prez, entitled "Revolutonary but Gangsta Grillz", but I'm having a difficult time finding enough direction to spit it out. However, I do have three favorite songs that I just love. The general opinion I've heard from people who aren't too far into it is that it isn't typical of Dead Prez because they're trying to blend and fit in with what's trendy. That's not what they are about, but I don't think that I see it as a loss to their original style or message; instead, I think that they're trying to reach the new "hip-pop" generation by putting this out there and I'm not gonna lie, I love that I was able to sit my 12 year old cousin down and say "listen to this song, it's about natural-hair girls!" It's really worth a listen. The mixtape is downloadable for free-99 on a their website! No excuse to let this one pass you by!

The track listing is as follows:

1. "Intro" – 0:33
2. "Far From Over" – 3:36
* Samples from "Over" by Drake
3. "Soul Power" – 3:00
4. "Exhibit M" – 1:45
5. "The Game Is A Battlefield" – 3:21
6. "Malcolm, Garvey, Huey" feat. Divine – 4:39
* Samples from "Beamer, Benz Or Bentley" by Lloyd Banks
* Includes a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
7. "The Beauty Witin" – 3:06
* Samples from "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B.
* Released on Mother's Day, May 9, 2010 as dedication to the natural beauty of black women
8. "KRS-One Speaks" – 0:18
9. "The Movement" – 1:59
10. "Gotta Luv It" – 2:05
11. "Never Turn My Back" – 3:39
12. "Don't Waste It" – 2:52
* Samples from "Wasted" by Gucci Mane[2]
13. "Lil Ghetto Boy$" – 3:02
* Samples from "Lil' Ghetto Boys" by Dr. Dre
14. "Overdose" – 3:13
15. "Fear Not The Revolution" – 2:37
16. "Let The People Be Heard" feat. Estelle – 3:29
17. "RBG 'Til I Die" feat. Zayd Malik - 3:57
18. "Hood News/Struggle Like Us" – 1:52
* Samples from "Swagga Like Us" by T.I. and Jay-Z
19. "The G In Me" feat. Mikeflo - 3:51

And now for my favorite songs, complete with a little blurb on why I enjoy 'em:

I love that the mixtape opened with this song because Drake (from whom the beat of this song is taken) is the newest cancer - every where you turn, you see Jimmy from DeGrassi rapping with Lil Wayne and Young Money and you can't help but wonder 'isn't he Canadian? Where'd his "rap voice" come from?

This song is my absolute favorite! I actually heard this song a few months ago, and apparently, Dead Prez released it on Mother's Day. I love it; everything about this song is perfect to me and I think it's important that there is music and pop(-ish) music that acknowledges the natural beauty of Black characteristics. This is a beautiful and important thing because historically, we were taught to hate ourselves (ask Malcolm...) and while I don't care who's natural and who isn't, it's important for young girls and women to hear that it's okay to be yourself - you're beautiful.

Malcolm, Garvey, Huey. I love this song. I mean, as it is, the "Beamer, Benz and Bentley" song is kind of a "banger", and I love this much better than the original. Besides that, the mixtape has speeches from the aforementioned leaders (and MLK), and it even has a snippet from "A Love Supreme"!

Anyway, again, check it out. It's FREE, and I really enjoyed it!

Be Righteous.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?

I posted a snippet of this speech in a previous post written about Juneteenth and Black independence. On Independence Day in 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered the speech "What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July", which discussed the hypocrisy of the country celebrating liberation from one nation while enslaving human beings in their own.

I often quote this speech because it truly illustrates so many themes, including the application of certain moral standards where they affect the interest of the person or party making the judgments; while this speech is my main reason for not supporting American Independence Day, these themes can be applied to our government in many other ways today. The contemporary political climate for many Americans is a systemically oppressive and socially enslaving reality. This has to change. We have to change.

Below is the speech in its entirety. I know that it may be lengthy, but my "Independence Day" ritual is to read and reflect upon it. The speech does speak about the "Christian god", but understand that this idea was/still is the socially expected norm during that time. I'm not that anti-American; America as a nation, gained its independence from the British on July 4, 1776. However, the truth of the matter is that there were many people, even beyond slaves, that were looked down upon and treated unfairly. Many people may ask why the majority of Blacks in America even identify with the enslaved if they are unable to trace their roots directly back to slavery. I'll say this: even if you were not enslaved (or if you do not know whether or not your ancestors were), we are bound by more than our skin color; as a result of slavery, and eventually the development of segregation and Jim Crow, we are still at a systematic disadvantage as a result of how we have traditionally been viewed as a result of our skin color. Other disadvantaged groups where these ideas apply include, but are not limited to: the LGBTQ community, women, mentally ill, and non-Christians.

Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions. Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin.

Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!"

To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

My subject, then, fellow citizens, is "American Slavery." I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing here, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July.

Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity, which is outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery -- the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate - I will not excuse." I will use the severest language I can command, and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slave-holder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some of my audience say it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother Abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more and denounce less, would you persuade more and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slave-holders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of these same crimes will subject a white man to like punishment.

What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments, forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read and write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then I will argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are plowing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver, and gold; that while we are reading, writing, and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants, and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; that we are engaged in all the enterprises common to other men -- digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave -- we are called upon to prove that we are men?

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to understand? How should I look today in the presence of Americans, dividing and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom, speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively? To do so would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What! Am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood and stained with pollution is wrong? No - I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman cannot be divine. Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may - I cannot. The time for such argument is past.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Frederick Douglass - July 4, 1852

Please enjoy your family time, and if you are drinking - do so safely!

Be Righteous.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mel Gibson's Rant: More Than The N-Word

Apparently, Mel Gibson has been recorded on tape going off on the mother of his infant saying the following:

"You're an embarrassment to me. You look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault."

"How dare you act like such a bitch when I have been so fucking nice."

"I am going to come and burn the fucking house down...but you will blow me first."

Amazing. The blog world has majorly been focusing on the fact that he used the n-word, which is also amazing to me. He went on a tirade and threw the ugliest racially offensive in the mix. I understand the outrage of his usage of the n-word. As a matter of fact, I've oftened joked(?)/wondered if white people say the n-word if they're mad enough. The rant was sickening. Yet, the entire tirade in and of itself is absolutely repulsive.

The hope or insinuation that any person is raped is disgusting; and silently or very loudly and angrily expressing that the fulfillment of another person being raped would be their own fault is plain despicable. And then, threatening violence (in burning the house down) but saying that your significant other will perform oral sex on you before you do such a thing makes you a perpetrator of rape; I'm quite sure that if she was forced into such a situation, she would be able to press rape charges because the act was performed under coercion and threats.

Further, look at this snippet of the initial quote:
..if you get raped by a pack of niggers..
So naturally, as if any part of this is acceptable at all, the grouping of "rape" and the n-word grouped together says much more than is written: it speaks to a historical depiction of Black males in American society. The black beast rapist is an image that was created by white society to maintain both slavery, and then segregation, and it was used to define the racial and gender social structure in America. This is not to say that some Black men do not rape; yet, when I see the association of Black men with (interracial) rape, I immediately get imagery of lynchings in the South and the desparities in convictions and punishment where interracial alleged sex crimes occur.

Black women aren't the only ones with image issues; Black men have been depicted in several different ways, including brutes, rapists, Nats and Toms, as America developed and socially evolved. Unfortunately, just as some Black women feel the need to behave a certain way, feeding into the jezebel stereotype, Black men are feeling their way in terms of the development of social masculinity. Mel Gibson's comments illustrates an uncaring and expectation that Black men are nothing more than predators.

...and you probably thought that Matt and Trey's depiction of Mel was exaggerated!

Be Righteous.

EDIT: also, Mel's usage of the word "pack" as in "pack of niggers" equates Black males to animals. I kinda hinted at that, but did not spell it out, and it's important to the overall context of the post.
EDIT: 7/10/10 below is the actual audio.

Bamboozled! Chris Brown and aficionados

You know, I was really fighting the feeling; I was not interested in supplementing the blog world and mainstream media's recent explosion of reporting on Chris Brown and the BET awards. As a matter of fact, I was certain that my computer, itself, would literally explode because the internet must be exhausted with the everyone having an opinion on Chris's "breakdown" at the award show. I refused to have anything to do with the BET Awards early on; I was on twitter and threatened to unfollow the bulk of my friends for tweeting about the awards. And I got sucked in -- it began with my flipping back and forth and somehow, forth stopped on the awards on a network that I am sure the Black community should not be in support of. Back in the day, Black Embarrasmentntertainment Television actually had some positive aspects to it and one day, poof! No more. It's sole output has been degrading and exploitative and for that reason, I try my best to avoid anything related to the network. Personally, this upsets me because I believe in supporting Black business because we cannot expect the success of our own if we lack faith and support; yet, it directly conflicts with my own personal beliefs about the worth and strengths of the Black community to do so in this particular instance. But, alas, I was sucked in. I'll admit to you this: I'm disappointed in myself for giving in.

It was nothing more than I expected it to be: a bad car accident that you just could not look away from. Right up to Chris Brown's tribute to Michael Jackson. Sure, the award show had its high points, relative to the rest of the show. But, oh..Chris Brown.

If, by chance, you've been living under a rock without access to the television or internet, here's what happened in my home (and during Chris Brown's performance):
I'm stretched out across the couch, glued to the tube. I have my blackberry in hand and when Chris Brown began dancing, I was messaging my best friend about what a skilled dancer he is. I was not surprised that BET permitted him to perform since he was disallowed at many events last year. I got a little bored with the transition of his performing, looked down at all of the tweets and it sounded like my audio was screwed up on the tv. Confused, I look up, to see Chris Brown doubled over, "crying".

Now, I'm sure that my readers (and even non-readers) can guess my reaction: staged, phony, publicity stunt to win his way back into the hearts and minds of those who had decided not to support him. Now, I'll tell you this: the rational individuals who have chosen not to support the brother any more are probably the ones who did not support his music initially because I know several teenage girls that have rallied behind him immediately after his assault on Rihanna, his court trial and conviction, his internet "apologies", his colorist and degrading comments toward blogger Sandra Rose, the creation of #teambreezy on twitter (which, further invited the public into the ugly battle between he and Rihanna, causing a similar twitter trend on her behalf), the ranting on twitter about certain stores not marketing his music, and most recently the UK taking a stand and not allowing him into the country to tour. And from the very beginning, there was the victim blaming: "she gave him an STD", "she hit him first", "you're a hater", et al. And you know what? He was convicted, he served his sentence, and my issue with Chris Brown is not solely an issue with Chris Brown.

Having direct experiences with victims and perpetrators of relationship violence and also having done the bulk of my research on issues of sexual/relationship violence within the Black community, there are issues with domestic violence. One major issue that does not get as much attention as it should is the social consequences as they relate to the abuser. In fact, I'm sure that some of you may have released a mental gasp at my referring to Chris as an "abuser"; I've had grown women and men ask me to not refer to him as such because, in their own rationale, "abuse" dictates something long term and ongoing. This is silly because I'll tell you this - domestic violence agencies and reserachers refer to the perpetrator of violence, whether it happened once or several times, as abusers.

This is a prime example of a major problem. Why is Chris Brown - the celebrity that you do not know - an exception to what is common and logical in examining relationship violence? Chris Brown does not know me personally, and as such, he does not owe me a personal apology. He does not owe his fans a personal apology, because they have been excusing his behavior from the beginning of his socially perceived fall from grace. I also am not aware of whether or not he is continuing counseling. Chris Brown as a person and individual is not the entire problem with Chris Brown.

As a celebrity, he has been placed on a pedastol and, as a result, demands that his fans continually support him - despite acknowledging his wrong doing. The fans and the celebrity feed into one another; you fans, you've told Chris Brown who and what he should be and, like a minstrel show, he has given you everything that you've craved and applauded, both before and after his assault on Rihanna. This is about maintaining an image. Yet, what are the reasons that his behavior has been excused besides the above hater-isms?
Besides hearing "he didn't hit you/she asked for it", a major reason that, within the Black community, relationship violence is so far underreported and overlooked is because of a perceived necessity for racial solidarity above all else. This is also a major reason that women's rights within the Black community is taken as a sour flavor - because we shouldn't be focused on the disparities of hurt and injustice that come from within because we are a family. As a matter of fact, the day after the award show, I turned the radio off because I heard someone on the radio saying, "we can't just let one of our own..."; seriously. The next day, 106 and Park dedicated the show to Chris Brown, saying he's back. The blogworld has referred to his performance as a redemption song. For crying out loud, the kid won an award that very night. Just like that...all is forgiven in social media's world.

It is unreasonable that as a community of people, we turn our backs and leave a celebrity or non-celebrity perpetrator of relationship violence to fend for him/herself. Yet to continually support their career without blinking an eye and acknowledging, as fans, that their behavior is completely unacceptable in any form of society, is also not a reasonable answer. This isn't about anyone giving their lives to whatever-higher-power you may or may not believe to be true. Instead of spending so much time defending, rationalizing, and supporting their actions, though, we should be encouraging them toward a healthy lifestyle as examples to our young children. If you want the Black community to remain unified, why not move it along in a healthy and reasonable light?

What I don't want is for people to say "he/she is one of our own and therefore, we cannot do ______". That's silly to me. Chris Brown (and others) is a human being that fans and supportors of his entertainment have made into an image, and if you choose to support him (or others), do so at the best interest of the community and not in the best interest of the image that you want for him. The entire Chris Brown-Rihanna situation was higher profile than other relationship violence because of their celebridom and as such, was the perfect opportunity to engage in dialogue, as a community, about relationship violence and unhealthy behaviors. Yet instead, every main social networking outlet that I find young Black people on (mediatakeout, twitter, facebook) are filled with children and adolescents ignoring the abuse and excusing relationship abuse.

The fact of the matter is this: women are physically and sexually abused by their partners every single day. And many cases do not even make it to court because, as a result of "real life" apologists and defenders of abuse, women stay in these relationships. The same can be said for women abusing men (though there is not as much research to prove), and homosexual relationships. I've encountered people who think twice at celebrity relationship violence but are black and white about "real life" violence, and there are also the same types of people, besides the victim, that defend the actions of the abuser and blame the abused. The violence will not stop if the community is unwilling to, not only acknowledge wrongdoing and abusive relationships of celebrities as such but also, apply our standards of thinking in a universal manner and teach young children and adults what is acceptable and what is not.

I'll admit that I feel repetitive in that this post is nearly identical to my other Chris Brown-Rihanna/relationship violence post. I am not of the opinion that abusive relationships are private matters; if we are unwilling to speak out, then we can never expect any improvement. Teach the youth - including Chris Brown and other celebrities - that violent relationships are never acceptable, instead of creating images of what they should be based on your salivating as fans or supporters.

Be Righteous. And watch Bamboozled..those themes don't just apply to racial identity and entertainment.

The Root of the Problem

I submitted this post a few days ago to another blog; in the event that it is posted, I'll be sure to attach a link!

Initially, I wanted to be outraged at "The Health Care Bill Should Tax Weaves Like It Taxes Tanning", an blurb written by Cord Jefferson of The Root. Here's why: 2010 is the year of scrutiny for Black women. We've been under a perpetual magnifying glass; the blog world and mainstream media have been studying Black women, like a new species that has gone from the wild to domestic life in recent years. We have become a major topic of discussion for makeshift anthropologists who are interested in our lifestyles, mating practices, relationships and income. Not to discredit the social sciences, but news reporters and blog writers are not sociologists and the much focused on question of "why are you successful Black women single" has been given so much attention in 2010 alone that is has become disgusting.

The aforementioned post at The Root was not that, though. As a matter of fact, I found myself nodding in agreement instead of shaking with outrage at the author's rationale. In short, Cord Jefferson proposes, in a tone that mixes logic with a bit of parody, that since the health care bill has recently added a tax to tanning because of its medically unhealthy consequences (otherwise known as cancer), it should follow that fake hair is also taxed for the same reasons. This may sound a little offputting at first; after all, the use fake hair does not cause cancer or other medical repurcussions...does it? Well, I don't have the answer to that, but I will say that the article uses weaves as an example to identify more than it's really saying: the chemicals and other things that Black women use in our hair are unhealthy for us. This isn't simply an attack on relaxers, which is also why I'm not convinced that it is solely an attack on Black women more than it is an attempt to identify that our self-image needs adjusting. There are photos all over the web of women and girls that have had allergic reactions to relaxers, hair color, texturizers, and other chemicals that we plaster ourselves with to adjust the way that the world sees us, and to boost the way that we see ourselves. Some allergic reactions are so severe that they do, in fact, require medical attention and while the dermatological effects may not be as expensive or long term as cancer treatments, they are parallel experiences. White women, too, suffer from body image issues which is one reason for unhealthy behaviors that may just cause cancer. Equally, Black women participate in other unhealthy behaviors that, similarly to white women's issues, have been recycled and evolved over time. That is not to say that we do not suffer a longer, more severe systematic form of psychological oppression simply based on our perception of beauty; rather, it is hitting on just that.

Jefferson pulls examples from Tyra to Beyonce, and even posts a recent picture that hit the web of Naomi Campbell's major hair loss. Even so, the most important thing brought out in this post is the following sentence:

Perhaps some of the money saved could even go toward things like social welfare programs designed to help young black girls stop fetishizing straight blonde hair in the first place.

This is the bottom line of it all: image. While the author did not go in great depth about the historical contexts and the evolution of how Black women view themselves, consciously or subconsciously, I gathered that this was a light hearted attempt for a man to speak out about Black women's body image issues and, in my opinion, it did what it was supposed to do. Disgusted, irritated, confused or, like myself, satisfied with the article, it was meant to create a dialogue amongst ourselves. Black men might just be paying attention to our behaviors, and that makes me wonder if we are giving as much thought to our rituals as some other people may be. As a self-identifying Black feminist/womanist/women's rights activist, there are so many battles that Black women face in our macro- and micro-societies; it's just as important to channel some sort of energy within ourselves to reflect and understand the traditions that we recycle and identify whether or not the real root of the problem is worth defending.

Be Righteous.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Suicide Prevention Song

I found this video to be just a little graphic, but I enjoyed the song. Certain issues are avoided in discussing within the Black community, and I feel like suicide is a very important issue that tends to be overlooked. Hope that this helps someone; even if you aren't going through a tough time, share it with someone who may be. Note: I do not own any rights to this video.
Be Righteous

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vagina Dentata (nom nom nom)

In fairness, I'll warn you that this post is a bit graphic and sensitive. There may be triggers or even a major level of discomfort provided in this post. It isn't exactly pretty, and I'd warn you to proceed with caution.

When I was in college (just a couple years ago), my best guy friend was a film major. Some people may express that I haven't seen many films (but I haaaave), but I do love flicks. One night, my good friend and I were hanging out and we ordered a pizza and decided to watch a movie called "Teeth" - an indy horror flick crossed with a little black comedy. While he spent much of the film utterly terrified, I just loved it. Roll tape!

Scared yet? This poor young girl was involved in some church cult group and her boyfriend, also a member of the abstinence only squad, took her to a cave in whatever bum cluck town they were in and tried to rape her. And her vagina bit his penis off. And throughout the movie, various males attempt taking advantage of her and suffer the same fate, and the poor girl - a virgin at that - cannot figure out what's wrong with her. Hey, we were all a little confused our first times, right?

A little later in real life, there were talks of developing a condom that would simulate vagina dentata to a less than lethal extent, but the idea floated and then disappeared. Until 2010: the year of Rape-aXe - a female condom type device that is inserted in the vagina and bites grasps on the rapists penis in a painful, but again non-lethal, way.

I know what you're thinking: with all the pro-woman propaganda I share on my blog and in real life, I'm bound to be pro-anything-to-take-the-dicks-off-of-men, right? Well, surprise surprise! I find this device and its concept to be problematic; yes, seriously! Blind-sided you, eh?

While I understand all those cute little preventative techniques they teach young college girls that's supposed to prevent them from being raped, we know that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes. If women (and men, even) felt it necessary to protect themselves around the people that they are familiar with, there would be a lot fewer acquaintance rapes. And, on that same note, if women (because there is only a female version of this device available) are preparing themselves to be nervous and on pins and needles at every turn awaiting a blitz by a total stranger, the chances of that happening are slim which makes the necessity for the device illogical in that regard.

As I understand from the illustrations, the device is identified as a "condom" but it works a bit more solidly, like, say, a diaphragm. So this condom-diaphragm hybrid sits in a lady's vagina as she awaits a sexual act against her. Does anybody not see anything wrong with the fear factor? And beyond that, who tested this? What if it doesn't work correctly and hurts the woman, or doesn't work against the perpetrator?

This part could get graphic; consider the previous statement your warning!
So, a woman is being raped by a man. He goes in and out, but in the "out" action, this device chomps down on his man parts, right? This is painful. Is this just painful enough to stun the perpetrator into whatthefuckjusthappenedIgottagetouttahere? Or is it more like holyshitthathurtandIcan'tMOVE? If it's the latter, how is a potential victim to call the police or get to a safe place with a rapist laying on top of her?

Also, I'm very worried about the potential misuse and abuse of the device; what's to say that there is not a woman who is attempting to teach her cheating boyfriend a lesson? Yes, I'm sure it would be assault. I'm also sure, though, that it creates another dynamic to victimization of sorts. I'm not saying that majority of women would do something like this; I'm not attempting to turn my back on rape victims or the act. I am saying, though, that there are quite a few screwed up individuals in the world, unfortunately, and I could see immature-but-sexually active girls and women majorly misusing the device.

While I could drone on and on about my qualms with this device, the most important of them all is this: the problem with rape isn't women, it's R A P E. The condom is another way to scare women into feeling perpetually vulnerable and it isn't solving the problem of rape, but rather compounding, complicating, and completely avoiding it. I understand the good intentions behind this advice, but instead of working on illogically calculated preventative tactics to "avoiding" rape, why not focus on educating young girls and boys about appropriate sexual behavior and why any forms of forced sexual acts are wrong? I know that there are women (and children!) who do everything "right" and still wind up in situations where they are abused or assaulted. And you know why that is? It's because they only have control over their own behavior. By introducing a device that supposedly shifts the focus to the victim, it disallows for sympathy in a situation where their control was temporarily taken from them. A single person can only control themselves; the actions that another person forces upon them - no matter what the circumstance - was not a choice made by them, but by the other person. Thsi device is attempting to put the "power" in the victims hands, but it discounts the psychological and emotional aspects of rape/sexual assault and only focuses on the physical. I'm of the opinion that with all the guilt and shame that comes after being victimized, a victim might be effected negatively by the thought that they may have hurt another individual and are at fault in some way or another.

Just think about it.

Be Righteous.

Hey, kiddies! School's Out - Time to Dumpster Dive!

I probably would not have caught wind of this post if not for my good friend's utter amusement at conservative talk radio. Check out his blog!

Good old Rush Limbaugh. Good old Rush Limbaugh and his anti-poverty (or, better stated - anti-impoverished) warped sense of being. Good old elitist Rush Limbaugh who grew up in a family filled with lawyers (and money), who has no experience relying on school lunches or even the slightest concept of what it is like to be impoverished. I wonder if he has ever met a poor person in his life? Yes, good old Rush.

We know he has a problem with social groups that are not like him: upper-mid to wealthy, well-fed, white, conservative, Parkinson-free, men. You see, folks, in 1993, Rush Limbaugh did a little commentary about homeless people and an organization called Project Dignity, a homeless advocacy group that serves the homeless population in several ways - including teaching them the safest way to pick food from a dumpster. Limbaugh has an issue with this because, instead of seeing it as a reality and necessity for the impoverished, he thinks that it perpetuates and maintains homelessness. And boy did he show his true colors then:

Here we are, only 17 years later, and he's extended his reach to cover the impoverished children who rely on reduced lunches. With talks of increasing food stamp benefits for the unemployed through the summer - because their children rely on free or reduced lunches - Rush Limbaugh got his panties in a bunch and expects that these children dumpster dive for survival. Because who gives a what-what about poor, hungry children not eating? Why should he care when there are soooooooooo many ways to eat?

It just kills me that the conservative right-wingers can begin to say that liberal progressives are the problem with America when it's clear that we are focused on advancing social programs for the advancement of populations that are traditionally (and currently, obviously) not given equal treatment or assistance in moving forward and succeeding. It angers me to hear the complete disregard for the youth of the poor; and it's upsetting that people like Rush Limbaugh aren't affected by seeing their fellow Americans in the slums of the country, hurting and starving.

It isn't hard to believe that this guy, one of a few quacks, argued against sending aid to Haiti after the earthquakes; I wouldn't mind seeing him become completely irrelevant. Just disappear already!

On another note, if the benefits aren't enough for children to eat, or you know children that are in need of meals, there are several organizations that give free meals to children over the summer. I'm not sure who may be out there reading, but my hope is that if you know (or don't know personally) a person in need, you'll be inspired to help.

Be Righteous.

For the full recent commentary on "dumpster diving" sans Ed Schultz, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Personal Strides

You see that awkward IwannasmilebutIdon'tknowwhethertheyarelaughingwithmeoratme grin there? When I was in the sixth grade, I was doing a break-the-ice activity in my homeroom class. We tossed around a ball with all these random questions on it, and when I caught the ball, the question that I was forced to read aloud and answer was "which cartoon character are you most like?" Hesitant and reluctant to answer, I decided upon Lisa Simpson: brainy, socially awkward, the less cool of the (older) siblings, always soul-searching. Yeah, that's me.

And yes, this is another personal, albeit short-sweet-and-to-the-point, post about my personality. My confessions. And so, I confess: I've a bit of a serious personality wrapped in dry, sarcastic humor.

My brother is a funny guy; he's a quick thinker and he was handed down that trait from my father who, himself, always has some pretty darn amusing jokes. I wasn't so lucky, and though I'm a likeable and personable (and reserved all the same), I have a far more serious and intense outlook on things sometimes. I can be funny, occasionally; after a few drinks, I'm a riot. When I'm out with my best friends, I can be hysterical. But 89% of the time, while I'm pleasant and usually very positive, I'm a very focused and direct individual.

And that's a difficult characteristic to turn off. I know people who would probably paint me more as The Grinch than Lisa Simpson, and I tend to be a chronic apologizer because I don't want people to think of me that way. I smile, I laugh, I'm happy, I'm chock-full of sardonic wit! Yet, I do get overwhelmed and sucked into my own personal attributes of being an activist and hoping to touch and change the world in one way or another. I sometimes have a difficult time decompressing.

Of course I realize that people have full ownership of the way that they view me, and of course I realize that I should make no apologies for being myself, but lately I've been thinking that I'm not offering a full and fair representation of myself online. Weeks ago, a friend of mine says to me (via twitter) something along the lines of "hey, it's okay to smile!" And I do. I've smiled while cursing people out.

In speaking to another good friend tonight, I'd finally cracked a few jokes; which, usually, goes rather unsuccessfully when I'm trying hard enough. And he says to me, "you gotta clown to deal with the madness."

Now, this isn't to say I'll try being less heavy with my posts, thoughts, and ways...but for the sake of my own mental health and happiness, it'd probably do me some good to get fired up a little less. My blood pressure can't take all that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Juneteenth, 2010.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
-- Frederick Douglass

I guess it goes without explanation my feelings for the [white] Independence Day. Okay, I enjoy grilling out and spending time in the hot sun with my family in the South. I don't really believe in the majority of consumerist bullshit holidays, but they do tend to be the only times of the year that I am able to put my feet up and spend time with my family. Don't look at me like that, I know I'm not the only one.

I do, however, enjoy the symbolism in Black American made-up holidays because of our own history in the US. I think culture is important; and I think that being a person of color in the US and not acknowledging the historical climate of people of color during the major "American cultural" holidays is silly. Sure; we are American by right - we were born here, most of us know this land better than Africa and the Caribbean, and our foremothers likely engaged in forced sex and nursed white babies. This is by no means an anti-white rant; I'm just acknowledging the truth of the time. This is our history.

At any rate, many people do not know of Juneteenth probably because it isn't taught in the public school systems, and I think it's important so here's my little Juneteenth blurb.

President Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in September of 1862, to go in effect January 1, 1863. However, troops had to be send to good ol' Texas after the slaves remained slaves for over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation to enforce their liberation. That's right, folks - the masters continued to benefit and did not tell their property 250,000 slaves that they were free.

Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) is when Black slaves in America were officially liberated from the bonds of physical slavery, though the mental, philosophical and emotional slavery still runs rampant. And while I'm sure that Juneteenth will not be in the textbooks in Texas (as if it was already, right?), there are a number of websites that offer history and local, national, and international Juneteenth celebrations:

Juneteenth World Wide Celebration
Juneteenth: Texas State Library
Juneteenth San Antonio history
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign

Be Righteous.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Disparities: Missing White Woman Syndrome

The point of this post is illustrated between 1:58 and 3:33; it's the best I could do!

My studies are all in the realm of social science. I've recently discovered contemporaries with similar mindsets as myself in some regard, but in other regards social science seems less than important as it is specifically (in my studies) constructed by the history of a very diverse bunch known as America on the whole. My goal in life since I was two years old was to save people; no, not in a spooky religious sort of way, but in a way that is long-lasting and more affecting of the people: I want (and have) hands on experience working with people to improve the condition of their lives. And while I very much realize that all people are in need of assistance and "saving", I feel for women and persons of color (as a woman and person of color). As such, many of the things that I have studied and worked to change deal specifically with the imbalance in our (American) social reality as it relates to women, people of color (largely Black people), and women of color.

The media and society have a mutual give-and-take relationship when it comes to the definition of reality on the whole; an individual's own reality and definitions do matter but are sometimes not representative as what is presented by society. The old chicken and egg argument dominates: does the media maintain a true reflection of the people (though society has been around as long as the media), or does society influence more what the media should be portraying as society's needs?

My college courses (at my predominately white university, for the record), often discussed a phenomenon known as Missing White Woman Syndrome(MWWS): the apparent racial bias in the media's (over-)reporting of young, attractive, "conventional", upper-middle class white girls/women over impoverished-to-middle class girls/women of color. I often ponder on this; there is a serious pattern of local and national panic when white women are abducted (or, even victimized in one way or another) versus when women of color are victimized at all. So much so, in fact, that there are websites available that post pictures and information for women of color because of the expressed imbalance. Remember: there's "justice", but there's also, very often, "just-us".

MWWS has only recently received the acknowledgment of its unfortunate reality. LaToyia Figueroa was a young pregnant woman of color that was reported missing in 2005 after not showing up for work. She was murdered south of entire month after she disappeared. Her case was overshadowed by Natalee Holloway's disappearance and reported little by the mainstream media.

Last night, I'm sitting at work and I began thumbing through the most recent People Magazine. As I've made apparent, I have an interest in sex crimes and, what many police divisions describe to be "special victims". As such, I am always very caught up in the killings of young women and, admittedly, I've been very caught up in the details of Natalee Holloway's disappearance from the day she went missing. I mean, she was(/is?) the same age as me and the fact that they've yet to discover her whereabouts is terrifying and must be absolutely tragic for her parents. And when the suspect in her disappearance and alleged death popped up on the national media's radar weeks ago, I thought ', he killed this poor girl on five years to the day of Natalee's disappearance because she was asking him about whether or not he actually murdered her?' Odd way to prove your innocence. There was a difference though: he confessed to killing Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez and is taking his punishment. Now, though he has made off the record contradicting statements about killing Natalee and/or selling her into sex slavery (which is very possible considering he has a serious gambling and drug addiction - that caused his lawyer-father to stop supporting him), he was never even charged or tried for Natalee's murder because of such little evidence. It is devastating, and very unfortunate but these things happen in real life. Everything is not always Law and Order, and many missing persons and/or murders go unresolved.

Equally unfortunate to me, though, was People Mag's cover:

I feel for Natalee Holloway and her family. I also feel for Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez, who is hardly pictured to the right of Natalee Holloway. Joran van der Sloot confessed to brutally murdering her. He is being tried for this crime. He is not currently being tried for the murder of Natalee Holloway. So why is Natalee Holloway the feature of this cover?

We could argue that it is American-centric, which I also have a problem with given that the crime and alleged crime still occurred elsewhere. I don't intend to disrespect Natalee Holloway, but it seems as though the young, beautiful, upper-middle class white woman - the feature - is of greater value than the young dead Latina who is the most recent victim of van der Sloot's crimes.

I have no problem that the article mentioned Natalee Holloway; I understand wanting to draw parallels and hoping to bring van der Sloot to justice for the disappearance of Natalee. Truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was personally affected by Natalee's vanishing into thin air. Yet, I'm disappointed; if the media feeds into the subconscious of society, what is it telling us about the value of young women of color who are missing or murdered?

Be Righteous.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini

The sun has left and forgotten me
It's dark, I cannot see
Why does this rain pour down
I?m gonna drown
In a sea
Of deep confusion

Somebody told me, I don?t know who
Whenever you are sad and blue
And you?re feelin? all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you will find

You gotta hold on, hold on through the night
Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it?s dark
And not a bit of sparkling
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love

Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you?ll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something?s coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead

And so I hold on to his advice
When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you

Tupac Shakur

I had a talk about Womanism last night, and the intersection of race and gender that every Black woman has to deal with. I don't have an agenda against men or Black men; I don't, however, feel as though not speaking the truth or an opinion that is generally overlooked to maintain any person's (man/woman/entertainer/whatever) legacy is cool. I don't think Black men (/any men) are the scourge of society. I love men. No, really, I looooove men.

I don't hate Tupac Shakur. I think he has a lasting legacy that speaks to multiple sides in him; from Tupac the poet to Tupac "Thug Life" Shakur. I awakened this morning and among "Happy Birthday Tupac" tweets were tweets about Tupac's real, genuine love for Black women as evidenced by his lyrics:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up

Now, I love this song because it is uplifting and I can appreciate the struggles being acknowledged. I love some of Tupac's music and can appreciate the aspects of his life and personality; in some regards, he was poetic. I realize that music is entertainment and entertainment is not real life, which is why I decided to offer a counter opinion in stating that Tupac was also convicted of rape and has demeaned women to a certain point; regardless of if you want to distinguish the difference between "women" and "bitches":

I did point out in my conversations about the brotha that, true enough, he has inspired many people. Many of the people my age when I was coming up were caught up in the "Thug Life" message, though. A lot of people are able to point out the positive messages in his music as well but I pointed out that praising a man as a hero and ignoring his wrongdoing is sending a poor message to young men and women coming up.

A person that I was engaged with completely doubted the fact that the victim was sexually assaulted because of a retraction of statement, though, after he was convicted of a crime is, to me, a form of victim blaming/precipitation in that a young woman (who still contends in articles and online to this day that she was raped) is being disbelieved because of a man's own celebrity. I wasn't there, but let's look from a socio-cultural and legal/historical standpoint:

Yes, "convicted" of does not always mean guilty, especially in terms of Black men and the American justice (or "just-us") system. However, rape/sexual assault has a low conviction rate because of the he-say/she-say nature of a trial. Fact. Also fact is this: Black man on white woman sexual assault (or alleged sexual assault) is typically punished far more than rape that allegedly occurs within the same race. Fact. More factually, though, is the historical idea that crimes WITHIN the Black comunity the Black community alone have been isolated by the American justice system, forcing them to become Black issues - which is one of the reasons that sexual assault is reported far less from within the Black community.

I'm not saying that there has never been a woman that has alleged that a rape happened that did not occur. I am, however, saying that the dynamics from within the Black community tend to speak to our history from inside America and regardless of conviction or not, rape allegations should be taken seriously. Imagine being raised to believe that you have to protect your brotha and look out for the best of the community, by any means necessary. Do you turn your brotha in for sexually assaulting you? Do you deal with the harassment of his friends, family or fans for a lie? Do you listen to and allow your name to become everybody's description of a whore to get back at someone in criminal court (which translates to jail-time, not money)? Why would you lie?

Regardless, my point in acknowledging his convictions - not a supposed opinion of him - is this: how do you explain to your sister, daughter, little cousin, or niece that he held this incredibly deep love for his sistas, as evidenced by his music, but is caught up in illegal activities, has been locked up, and yes - has been convicted of sexual abuse? And that he should be praised and celebrated?

Unfortunately, the things that we see are not all of man. I have no interest in demonizing Tupac Shakur as a man because his music is left behind and has some positive messages in it for the community. I do, however, want to bring an issue of conflicting persona to everyone's attentions. People can be profound. People are human, and that does not excuse any wrongdoing whatsoever. People, however, should be interested in explaining the complexities and roundness of the people that they choose to "praise" instead of ignoring the bad for the sake of what you perceived their character to be?

EDIT: I'd like to point that one of my major beliefs is separating "entertainment" from reality. While I note that one feeds the other in terms of the ideas perpetuated as "truths", entertainment is valid but does not take away from the reality of any situation. For instance, I do realize that I've quoted Biggie in a post, and that doesn't take away from his upbringings and the realities - even when he continuously rapped about the selling of drugs and has also said disrespectful things about and regarding women. My point is this: ignoring the human side of an individual where they have publicly illustrated their own wrongdoing to sustain a positive image and/or legacy of them is wrong. For the sake of our youth, just tell the entire truth.