28 December 2013

Ranting about race and privliege

All things considered, America is a pretty cool place to live. It has a lot of really good things going for it, and most of those good things are tied to the idea of upward mobility: the idea that anyone can succeed in society if they're smart enough and work hard enough. We're a country that has, for centuries, believes that how much someone achieves is tied to their ability and work ethic. And all things considered, it's a pretty tidy narrative. Problem is: it's not true. And this is at the core of most conversations on power (perceived or real): privilege benefits those in power at the expense of those not in power, and only when helping those not in power becomes a political neutral or an external positive for those in power will real change happen (ex: Civil Rights Act of 1954- the most benefitted group from this are white women, and it's by a staggering statistic- close to 4-1- for those not in the know, the inclusion of these women is what ended the nearly 2 month filibuster and allowed for it's passage). It is only with the recognition of privilege will we actually have any access to the change and recognition society needs. 

The American concept is"all men are created equal". And so if you, to follow the advice of Horatio Alger, if all men are created equal, is to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" to advance yourself. This advances two separate, but equally powerful claims: 1) that those who are successful have HAD to pull themselves up at one time- which may not be true, and 2) that in order to pull oneself up by the bootstraps, that presupposes that one has BOOTS, much less a STRAP on those boots. Not everybody has equality- which is an interesting word, but not really the correct word. That word is equity- the idea that everyone has what then need, as opposed to equality, which presupposes that everyone be provided with the same access points to success, as opposed to being given the same TOOL for success. An example of this would happen in The Classroom would be if i had everyone take off both their shoes in a pile and just handed them back 2 at a time, grabbing any two I see- the kids would complain (for having two different shoes). This would be equal, each kid gets two shoes, but not equitable because no kids (outside smooth luck) are lucky enough to get two of their own shoes. Meritocracy is defined by Webster's dictionary as: a system where the talented are chosen and moved ahead based on achievement. But this kind of begs the question- who determines what "standards" will be used to enforce laws? Who determines what "talent" is, what "achievement" means- which is just more ground for arbitrary distinctions set forth to exclude those you feel don't "achieve" like you want or to be as "talented" as you'd like.

This discussion isn't a true one until the role that privilege plays in day-to-day experiences is exposed. But that can't be done if we truly believe in merit based standards. Let me try to put an end to this discussion now: all standards are: structured preferences- preferences that some party or parties deemed as important and they decided to use those preferences as the measuring sticks. When you look at them as preferences rather than infusing arbitrary implications to them do you realize that meritocracy is, and it always has been, a rouse. A well executed rouse to lead people to believe that if you work hard then you'll be successful: The American Dream as some would call it.

Wait: did he just say the American Dream is fraudulent? Is he saying that people can't just work hard and have it work out?

Kind of.

This isn't to say that it's not possible for you to start with nothing and build your way to the top. I mean it's been done by tens of hundreds of people in the United States. It's why there are soooo many stories of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. What I'm saying is that, depending on who you are, who your parents are (socioeconomically and racially) and many many things well beyond your control will play integral roles in the way things work out for you.

On paper, I look a lot different than people would imagine me being. I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, am an english, speech and journalism teacher at a private catholic school, i'm the director of the school speech and debate team. Graduated near the top of my class in high school and in college (magna cum laude). My education and socioeconomic location should indicate that i have a fair amount of privilege. And. I. Do. i'm not fronting and saying that i have no privilege, but i am saying that a lot of the privilege i do have is internal: you might not know about it when you approach me. Because on the outside, i'm Black. This puts me in kind of a catch-22: black people who don't know me but judge me based on the way i talk and/or the way i dress assume "i act white" (which is offensive in ways i can't even explain: who the fuck gives you license to determine my blackness based on the way i talk- and who the fuck gives you the right to assign that talking intelligently is talking white- it's that same logic that says reading is white- and i'm sure slaves that lost their lives trying to learn to read are turning over in collective graves thinking about that- but i digress). My body is Black. And I love that. But to say that people treat me like an educated man or a socioeconomically sufficient man would be dishonest- they treat me like a Black man. I was reminded of that just last weekend.

I went to Oakland to hang out with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile, as he teaches at a school in Taipei- something I want to describe as China so badly get under his skin it kills me, but once again, I digress. I went to hang out, and after doing so, I wanted to get some Nation's (local 24 hour burger spot) and on my way there, I realize I'm being followed by a police officer. He pulls me over, ask me the standard alcohol questions and I answer that I haven't drank (yet) and that I was on my way to Nation's (I neglected to mention: I'm less than 100 yards from my house and 2 blocks from Nations). I'm asked to take the motor dexterity tests for DUI. I explain that I'm TERRIBLE at these tests and that I'm likely to fail one or more, and if I could just blow in the breathalyzer then I would be allowed to continue my experience. He did not let me do this, and despite being told about dexterity issues, they found out my balance is excellent when standing, but not as much walking heel to toe, or that holding a leg at a 45 degree angle while counting is easy, unless you REALLY try to hold the leg at 45 degrees (i'm a scientist by nature, my desire for precision has caused me problems in many many facets of life, i see no reason why an exchange with police would be no different). After I pass 2/3 of the tests, before he gives me the breath test, he asks for consent to SEARCH MY CAR, to which i decline (not as much to be difficult than under general reflex). we then WAIT for 20 MINUTES while another cop comes, after which case they gave me a breath test, to which i test .00- stunning to all involved, except me. The cop then explains to me that there have been a lot of drunk drivers, and it's the Holiday weekend, so they have vamped up services (read: trying to bust people). Although I was gonna go to my house (which was literally up the street, i decided to get some Nations and go on home...I get there, get my food, and then leave the Nations parking lot, am driving toward the freeway (so at this point I'm a block from Nations and 3 blocks from my house), and i look behind me- flashing lights. I pull over, and I'm asked for drivers license and registration and proof of insurance (again) and realize (before he does) that this is the 2nd cop that pulled up (the cop we waited for by my house- the cop who HAD the breath machine) that was pulling me over. I comment "didn't we just do this?" and he asks how many drinks I've had- i tell him none, and he asks me to step out of the car and asks me to do a series of dexterity tests, to which i tell him that I'm likely to fail one and if there's a way....hey wait, this sounds familiar...so we went through the ENTIRE PROCESS STEP BY STEP AGAIN, even including the 20 minute wait (let's be honest, it was only 14 minutes, but 20 makes it sound more methodical) for backup to then give me the breathalzyer again (to which I, once again, tested a .00). The absurdity of this was recognized by the 2nd cop (original cop 1) upon his arrival when he says "we just pulled him over" to which the cop retorts: "he never told me that." Which was a lie. They then let me go, but my food is cold and I've been pulled over twice in a 3 block span in my own home town while i tried to get a burger and fries. And that makes this the 70th (yes- that's 70) time i've been pulled over (remarkably only 4 tickets and all were straight bullshit). 

i write all of this to let people know a couple of things: 1) racism ain't going anywhere- and the fact that there's a black president (that some people are unhappy with) has actually, i feel, increased animosity towards African Americans (for some reason, Blacks carry the weights of all Blacks on bad act or intents, whereas whites are allowed to have individual acts of bad actions- another benefit of privilege that nobody talks about- the impression of white as the standard and all others being held to that standard-which if you remember is simply a structured preference). People that used to say shameful things (in closed audiences) about Joey, the black man in their neighborhood they "always was up to no good" can now say increasingly hateful things about the President IN OPEN SPACES- so everyone gets to hear it said, which makes it more acceptable.  

If you think language doesn't work this way, think about how taboo the conversation of domestic violence is in society. now think about the last time you, or someone you know, described a sleeveless tank top a "wife beater." When it happened, did you speak up- did you tell someone how FUCKING OFFENSIVE that was? Did you try to get them to understand how normalizing that term makes it easier to normalize abuse of women? I'd bet that most of you reading this did NOT speak up, and that many of you laugh at the term when you hear it. 

I consider myself a pretty decent person (stop laughing fool!!)- and yet when i heard this for the first time- I felt a lot of guilt. At first I wanted to say I didn't do that. But that was a lie. Then I wanted to think that she was wrong: not just in the information, but telling me, i mean telling ME this. Who does she think she is?!? THIS IS WHERE I STOP AND REVERSE ROLES. I put myself in her position. I change the issue from a gender issue to a race issue. And there it is: i can see MYSELF in the same position she is, making a very similar plea about language, and I can see that the things I'm thinking are the SAME THINGS PEOPLE SAY TO ME- and that realization is key: that ability to recognize emotions being experienced is the true starting point to change- as change requires not just empathy, but sympathy- which is an actual concern for other people. Everybody knows what it's like to feel love (except psychopaths- but that's another blog for another day) so the idea of being in love with someone and not being able to show it is something that all people feel. So the idea that someone who loves someone else should NOT get to express that love through marriage is something that, as a country, has drawn traction- which is what i think the impetus for the overarching societal shift in gay marriage (from about 75% against less than 20 years ago to 18 states allowing it including South Carolina and Utah, not exactly bastions of liberalism). You may not love someone of the same sex, but you have loved and lost, and know it sucks to lose someone and it's hard to find someone right. Also if the numbers of 10% are true, then chances you have a gay uncle, cousin, sister, nephew, father or mother in the family tree- and hearing the stories of oppression coming from family members will also foster change. The empathy gap between gays and heterosexuals has gone from the size of The Grand Canyon (I remember the beginning of the AIDS epidemic where there was open discussion of things like general quarantine) to the size of a small creek- one might just jump on their mountain bike or with a good running start, just plain jump it. Note: I recognize there are people that still believe homosexuality is a sin and that some of them are vocal: don't worry, I'll get there. But the fact that that parallel can be drawn is part in parcel why I think the needle has changed on homosexuality in general and on gay marriage in particular. The empathy gap between themselves and the oppressed/marginalized group is small, and they can see themselves in the people being oppressed. 

But what about that old bastard from Duck Dynasty? He said some pretty hateful shit about gay people? Doesn't that prove people are less tolerant than you're saying? In a word- no. That proves that some old hate-filled man hates gay people- doesn't change the national meter on gay people. The fact that soooooo many people came to bat for the LGBT community as this happened proves my point that Gayness is more socially acceptable. I will note there was also a discussion on race, where he said essentially that because he knew happy blacks before the civil rights movement working in the fields that blacks must have been happier than they are now. So I don't get this wrong, let me quote it:

"I never with my eyes saw any mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived all was farmers. The blacks worked in the farm. I hoed cotton with em...They're singing and happy...Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

what the fuck? This statement went essentially un-discussed in the media. Was Old Man Phil offensive to gays? Yes. Was this "Jim Crow" comment made offensive? Yes. The idea that blacks in the field sharecropping were happier because they were singing is pretty ignorant: What were they supposed to do? The LEGAL SYSTEM is rigged against them, causing a fuss just gets you put into a rigged system- not sure if they understand that the smile and the shuffle are acts of defiance. 

The way this Duck Dynasty thing worked out makes perfect sense to me based on this discussion. Duckman says homophobic and racist shit. Media and liberals up in arms about homophobic shit. Conservatives rally around right to say homophobic shit. Network waffles and lets him back on despite saying homophobic shit. Discussion of race never gets brought up. I act like I'm surprised- I'm not. Just wake up...

09 August 2013

Between two worlds, felt uncomfortable in both...

First, A little music...

I fall in a weird middle ground. On the one hand, I have spent, for the most part, my whole life, living a specific way. I was taught to value education to the highest, and to make sure to always put by best foot forward. I was also taught the way I should, as a Black Man, should interact with really anyone- that's to assume that everyone is watching every interaction, and will use anything they see me do as an excuse to hold all Blacks down. I, like all other Blacks, had to carry the burden of Our People, so we could, each in our own individual way, help fight the underlying belief of white supremacy that Blacks are just inferior to whites: not as smart, not as disciplined, not as "civilized" (a word my moms cringed when she said). This meant that I went through my life assuming that White People were The Enemy. And I lived in Northwest Minnesota, which meant my interaction with other Blacks, family excluded, was non-existent. And so I lived, relatively quietly. As odd as it sounds, race never seemed to matter in Minnesota- I lived so far north that there were just not many people, and those that lived in the area were so spread out, i never really even saw our neighbors, so they may have said racist shit all the time, but like Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction, "I wouldn't know" because I was nowhere around them most of the time. I went to a school where for years, my biggest class size was 5, and I was a pretty bright kid, so I never noticed anything in school either- also, in general, kids are way more awesome about difference than adults- kids have to be taught to hate difference...and this is how I lived until I moved to California...

...it was in California I learned what difference really meant. I'd been at the school for a few weeks, and one of the first things i figured out was that kids in the schools were relatively segregated, the Mexican kids hung out together, the Black kids hung out together, and the White kids all hung out together. This was weird for me, as I'd never even SEEN large groups of ANY of these kinds of kids (i saw lots of Black kids at family reunions and Thanksgiving, but where I lived meant I never just saw a lot of PEOPLE ever doing anything). So not knowing where to go, but being relatively astute to the Politics of the situation, I walk over to the Black kids. One of them says to me "What's up? What's your name?" I tell the kid, and all the kids over there, "I'm Doug. I just moved from Minnesota." The next thing I hear blows my mind and begins the over-arching theme of my existence as a Californian:

"You talk like a white Boy."

They then proceeded to tell me EVERYTHING that was wrong with me: I read too much. I sound white. I work to hard at school. I act white. I'm too smart. The irony of this was that White kids could never seem to get past the fact that I was Black, and it meant I was never accepted in that world either. So I'm in an odd Catch-22: Black kids think I'm too white, and white kids think I'm Black (which by definition, was TOO Black).

I had never had any idea that these things were problematic. I was always taught those were GOOD virtues to have. Reading made you smarter, and it was really really fun. Working hard at school was how you did well in school, and EVERYONE wanted to do well in school, right? Too smart? I didn't even know it was POSSIBLE to be too smart. What does sounding "White" even mean? This was my first introduction to "The Black Check."

I spent the next few years being told by different people I wasn't "black enough." Black girls I wanted to date would call me "an Oreo" to my face. Black boys would openly mock me, the way I talked, the fact that I played Soccer and was on the Debate Team, the classes I was taking (you don't like Black people because you don't take any classes with us- as if I made my class choices- was on a College Prep track and took what they told me to take), you name it: if the Black kids didn't do it and I did, it was proof I didn't want to be Black. This was odd to me for a pretty simple reason: I AM Black. And I LOVE being Black. But even if I HATED being Black- I still would be. It's not a choice. I'd still BE Black, even if I didn't want to be. But that works both ways: you don't get to TELL ME how Black I am. I look in the mirror every. fucking. day. I know I'm Black. I have not figured out why some people believe they can tell you how Black you are, because you do things other Blacks don't do. There are 40 million African Americans in the US, which seems to me to indicate there are 40 million ways to be black.

But at the beginning of this I did mention I fall in a weird middle ground, and I should probably explain that. Anyone that knows me would be sure of a couple of things: 1) i'm a pretty smart guy, and 2) i'm definitively Black. There are A TON of smart black people. But apparently, this is a surprise for many. In the same way I didn't understand WHY Black kids seemed to think that me being me was acting like a white kid, I couldn't get the white kids to understand that there was not much difference between these kids and myself. But pretty much throughout my younger days, I was trapped in between worlds: trying to show Black kids and white kids I had more in common with each of them than either was giving me credit for.

Black kids felt I was too white for them, that I didn't have anything in common with them- they don't think about the idea that, when we're all off campus and in town, that I get harassed and sweated by racist ass cops just as much as anyone else (if you know someone else that has been pulled over 60+ times, been pulled over in 22 states- including Hawaii just last night on some racist ass shit or  been pulled over 3 times on the same street on the same day by the same cop 400 feet from your house, please let me know). People in society that aren't us not only don't make the distinction you make, they don't even see the distinction you make. As I described earlier how I was brought up, my parents were pretty open in telling me that the reason for doing this was not to ensure safety, but to instead tip the scales in my favor against getting fucked with for no reason. I was doing the things I was doing so white people couldn't just do what they felt and use the projection of racism against all Blacks to justify it (the fact that Black parents today have to have that same fucking conversation with parents is mind-numbing and simultaneously depressing as hell).

At the same time, white kids felt I was Black, and thus, TOO Black. Don't get me wrong, I got to be A LOT of white kids "Black friend." Remember all those racist MF's that say "I'm not racist: I have a Black friend?" I was that Black friend- and they lied to you: they were racist. as. fuck. My parents being educated and me talking like I talk meant that White kids felt comfortable bringing me to their homes. And the parents would talk to me on the phone when I called to speak to their kids. So how do I know that these people are uncomfortable around Black people? Because when I arrive at my friends house, I get to see the look on their parents faces: it's the same look I saw on a High School directors face when he met me after recruiting me based on grades, scores, debate results and speaking to him on the phone. It's the same look I saw on homeowner's faces last week when I went house hunting for my wife and I. It's a look of confusion at first, a brain in high process mode and then the final realization that the person they had visualized, the face they had in their mind, was a white face. And people in general, can't hide emotions like surprise, disappointment and fear. I can remember times when I arrived at houses and had parents (what I hope they thought was subtle but in retrospect was probably just pretty much for me to see) start moving valuables out of the rooms I'm going to be in. I had about a half dozen parents call my parents to tell me I had stolen things, only to have me tell them where they hid it when I showed up. There was always a half-hearted apology that happened afterwards, but let's not kid ourselves, that didn't make shit any better.

I talk like I talk- a fan of The Queen's English sometimes, and sometimes I don't. I love reading, writing and debate. I watch documentaries about, really, whatever I can watch them on. I wear crazy socks.

And I'm Black. Deal with it.

08 August 2013

privilege...a couple of words...

What I have figured out is I have way more desire to rant about things than time to actually transcribe them into some cogent medium. And sometimes, my rants are just that: rants. Me venting about some thing that bothers me and hoping that putting it here means I don't have to cuss out a random woman in a McDonald's or a Safeway for saying something racist/sexist/classist/just phucking stupid. But sometimes, these vents have resemble something like an argument- I can only hope this is one of those....

1) White Privilege and it's prevalence in all that we do. I teach a class on Argumentation, and one of the discussions we always have in class is one of Affirmative Action- the idea that, based on previous exclusion, that underrepresented peoples should get preference over others, assuming most other factors as equal. I also work at a Catholic School, where ideas of social justice aren't just words said on campus, but is actually part of the mission statement of the school- indicating that we not only should recognize instances of social injustice, but that we have an affirmative obligation to make attempts to rectify these injustices. This seems like the perfect set of people to be for the idea of Affirmative Action- yet, every semester, approximately 2/3 of the class is against this. The main reason: "I didn't do anything, so I shouldn't be punished"- in reference to today's students not being the ones who excluded these underrepresented peoples from education, or jobs or whatever they happen to be trying to achieve. This is the sentence that I use to explain White Privilege.

Of course YOU didn't exclude anyone- it would be stupid to say that you did, as you weren't even born. But to say you, currently, don't BENEFIT from that, is a specious and actually, just ludicrous claim. Let's come up with a couple of ways it may matter to you.

a) Your parents were allowed to go to college where they wanted to go, thus being able to choose to get a top tier education and all the things in society that generally line up with that (higher paying job, better housing, better education for your kids, healthier food options, lower rates of crime, etc). These are things that your parents/grandparents didn't have to compete in the same marketplace as those who were EXCLUDED from playing in that market. This gives you a vast array of options that just my parents just didn't have.

b) You get presumption in initial interactions. I have a relatively unique perspective about this. When I need to do something, I almost always call the people I need to interact with before I actually interact with them. I did this a ton when trying to find a place to live. I would call, tell them about my wife and I (both teachers, both with long term, steady local employment and we make enough to rent any place we looked at because we're not stupid). I would speak to people on the phone, and the degree of excitement I could hear in their voices was confidence building. I then agree to meet with them to look at the apartment/house. (Note this happened at EVERY house I went to look at). I usually arrive early (the responsible thing to do) and when the person arrives they look at me with a confused look on their face. I introduce myself and it HITS them. I'M the person they talked to on the phone. I've felt handshakes go limp. I've seen people who NEVER looked me in the eyes. I've had people tell me they rented houses after showing them to me and then REPOST THE SAME HOUSE THE NEXT DAY. Can I prove these interactions would have been different had I been white? No, I can't. But I can tell you, having been black for my whole life, when racism happens in front of me, I'm pretty good about noticing it.

c) Louis CK says it pretty well....

22 July 2013

Things that make me angry...part one

I've been wanting to write about race for a few days now and spent so much time worried about "form" that i was not getting "content" on paper...i have more to write but this gets it started...things that have been making me angry recently...

1) The Zero Sum discussion of Trayvon Martin and issues of "black-on-black" violence. If I hear another person tell me that I'm choosing to focus on the Trayvon issue, while turning a blind eye on the "prevalent black on black crime. This presupposes a bunch of things that annoy me. 1) That black people don't know there's a crime problem where black men are getting killed. We know that. We've been LIVING it for quite some time. And we DO mourn those deaths. Just because YOU ALL see those deaths as "Standard Operating Procedure" and don't see the need to discuss these stories in the media, and when they are publicized, they're seen as not "news" as it happens all the time. You don't get to criticize me for not caring and then dismissing the stories when they do happen. 2) Presupposes that my mind isn't complicated enough for complex thought: why can't i recognize that blacks boys being killed at a close to the rate of death for troops in war AND recognize that Trayvon Martin didn't deserve to die and his killer doesn't deserve to be free?  3) that black-on-black crime is some sociological determination unique to the African-American experience. There's lots of black-on-black crime because there's a lot, and i mean A LOT of INTRA-racial crime in the United States, in fact most of the crime is intra-racial. And by the numbers, whites commit more crime than blacks- this means we should be hearing about ALL KINDS of white-on-white crime. But yet, we never do. "My complexion is my protection" some might say of this. So, please, for the love of all that's holy, STFU about this black-on-black crime. If you're looking for a new word, try this one: CRIME. 

2) Crime Evaluators by Race. I've been told my whole life, as many African Americans have been told as well, that you represent MORE than yourself in your interactions with people. I've been reminded in no uncertain terms that the things I do (and subsequently, DON'T do) will reflect not just on me, but that everyone who meets other black people will use what I did to aid in their opinion of blacks in general. In short, I carry the burden of black people in all of my words and deeds. This is a SHITTY PROPOSITION for a kid, or really for anyone. This is all rooted in the idea that the default mechanism on black people was a negative one, and that anything any black ever did would be ascribed to you, and personified onto you, as if you were the actual perpetrator. When Ma Dukes told me that, I didn't really understand and/or believe her. But as I grew older, I began to see the truth in these claims. Being pulled over by cops for "Looking Suspicious" with no quantification or qualification of the claim- leaving it to me to figure out why (odd that I might look suspicious in MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD but I digress). This is the weight all black people, but black men in particular have to endure. I'm a relatively small, short statured black man, and really even the frailest of people would find me the antithesis of intimidating if they were to see me in a grocery store or in line at the bank. But for some reason, when I'm outside, walking the streets of insert-really-any-town-in-America, I somehow become more intimidating, so much so that women feel the need to lock their car doors as I walk by (really, come fucking on: my desire to PULL YOU OUT OF A VEHICLE TO ASSAULT YOU is actually non-existent, and the degree of arrogance to think that's even a remote possibility is mind-numbing) and to cross the street when they see me (and then cross back once i pass- as if I don't see that- maybe she just crossed the street and forgot why she did- i guess it's possible? no wait, that's probably as likely as being stung by a jellyfish in a koi pond). But I guess I'm supposed to take all this into consideration when I interact with people. That's a lot to have to consider, and a lot of ground to have to give up- why should I have to give you the benefit of the doubt for your assumptions about me? Why should I have to alter my existence because you can't get comfortable in your own skin when I'm around? Seems like we just found out last week: Because you can use those assumptions against me, and to respond with deadly force if you feel the need, and the legal system will give you no recourse. 

By contrast, Whites get the benefit of the doubt. When James Holmes walks into a theatre and shoots up the place, or when Harris and Klebold go into Columbine High School with guns blazing, or when Jeffrey Dahmer kept the remains of some of his kill victims in the freezer for consumption at a later date, nobody ever even THINKS about applying those examples of depravity to the society as a whole. They assume that the cases of white crime are anomalies, mere blips on the radar screen, with no overall tie to each other, By contrast, every negative action black people do is attributed to me upon sight, and then it becomes my affirmative burden to DISPROVE their claims, to disarm their negative interpretations of me before they can project in a way that causes me harm. The ability of whites to dismiss their negative actions and the ability to categorize the collective actions of blacks makes it easier to 1) make blacks the TARGET of more police actions- if every black you see is possible of doing any negative action you can project on them, and whites are evaluated as innocent until proven guilty, then OF COURSE you'll have more blacks in the criminal justice system- also probably explains why white arrests outnumber black arrest by a 2:1 ratio, but more blacks are serving sentences than whites. I guess if LOTS and LOTS of whites are being falsely arrested but ALL blacks that are arrested are guilty and that's why they go to jail, that would justify those numbers. But when you say that sentence aloud, it becomes how obviously inane that statement is. 

3) Colorblind isn't actually colorblind: When you say you want a colorblind society, that hurts me, for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm black/don't let your privilege shine too bright.... Your choice to evaluate or not evaluate that is largely irrelevant to my experience and/or choice to not evaluate that. I have no choice but to be black, and the IDEA that because you want society to be colorblind will ACTUALLY make it colorblind is folly. All you succeed doing in this attempt is to ERASE my color in your attempt to be blind, and requisite experiences i've lived through because of these things, 2) i like being black, and those experiences are integral to who i am. you don't get to just tell me that, to make your lives easier, that my lived experiences shouldn't be evaluated. These things are hard to deal with, but learning about these experiences would make a crisper connection between people. In a colorblind society, the things that make me different and unique are my experiences, but the LIVED experience is so similar that the more you talk to people, the more you find out you're more similar than different. It's THESE moments that allow for people to create empathy, or a connection and ability to recognize someone else's experiences as your own. It's the driving force behind the cultural shift toward the acceptance of homosexuality- as people began to know more people in their families, immediate friend sets, etc, it became harder and harder to deny rights to people that have specific faces you can conjure up. When we don't have these conversations of race, we can't have conversations that give us access to each other and to make those connections from "arguments" to "people"- and it's really hard to deny rights to people- but 3/5 of a person? Much much easier. 

More on empathy and privilege later...

26 June 2013

Are they really RIGHTS if they can be taken away?

I haven't done a lot of writing: it's been a pretty busy year. My team is big. My classes are work. Making kids better writers is like making sausage: it's not pretty, it's slow and nobody really wants or needs to see it done. And, I got married, to the most wonderful, caring, and honestly, slightly insane woman in the world (her "insanity" is tied entirely to her decision to marry me). So as much as I'd like to write, it's pretty far down on the totem pole. But then, every once in awhile, something comes up that makes me want to get back on the mic: Civil Rights. 

The premise of the country is that everyone is equal. Well, that all men are created equal. Or, that all white men are created equal. Or is it that all white, land-owning men are created equal? We can see that, although the country believes itself to be founded on equality and justice, it seems to be not particularly inclined to protect either (the true merit of The State is how it reacts when equality and justice come into conflict, but that's for another day and another post). In the last 48 hours, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled on two major civil rights decisions: Fisher v. University of Texas, a decision on Affirmative Action.  and Shelby County v. Holder, a decision regarding the implementation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered by many as the legislative  Crown Jewel of the Civil Rights Movement. In both cases, The Court decided to take the path of least resistance, which will lead to an inevitable rollback of the rights protected in both cases, pushing back progress in the area decades in 20 pages or less. 

Fisher v. University of Texas. SCOTUS sends the case back to the lower courts. Says in order for them to view the case, the lower courts need to determine if race needs to be a factor in admissions process. UT has a Top Ten Percent admissions process, which guarantees the top 10% of students in any Texas HS are automatically admitted, and the rest of the spots utilize race as a factor in admissions. The Court did NOT vacate the use of diversity as a compelling interest, which is at the heart of Affirmative Action (note: Scalia and Thomas indicate that if it were asked, they WOULD have voted to vacate Affirmative Action- indicating that the court didn't vacate because they weren't ASKED to- not a confidence builder for the Michigan AA case in the pipes for 2014). However, by kicking this back to the lower court, they are allowing the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals revisit the case. Not exactly the bastion of progress.

Shelby County v. Holder. The Court gives the Legislative Branch The Finger. The US has a history of not allowing full access to the polls. Much of this history has been racially driven. The VRA of 1965 was passed to give teeth to 15th Amendment, which gives all the right to vote regardless of race. Section 4 of the VRA sets a map of of places that have had a history of voting shadiness, and mandates these locales have to go through additional steps to make changes to voting procedures. These changes must go through a "pre-clearance" which is Section 5 of the VRA. The fear was that the pre-clearance would be removed, essentially removing any teeth from the Act. Instead, in an astute political move, they did not touch Section 5, which requires that violators go through a pre-clearance, but instead made the MAP unconstitutional, kicking it back to The Legislature to figure out a new way to figure out who pre-clearance should be applied to.  Pre-clearance WORKS. This is without question- numbers in these areas are higher and even the opponents of the idea say it works. But without THE MAP, then pre-clearance is impossible. It's particularly frustrating- to provide an analogy. There is a sickness- voter denial. Pre-clearance is the medicine. It WORKS. The map is the distribution method. It's not as effective as it could be, but IT'S SOLVING THE PROBLEM. In no world is it logical to stop medicating because your distribution method (which works) isn't as good as you'd like it to be. This also leaves a MAJOR issue in the hands of the US Congress: a group that can't pass a Farm Bill, an Immigration Bill and took 3 months to pass a policy that increased penalties on guys who abuse women (Violence Against Women Act). This was a MAJOR task in the 60's, when race was inescapable, as opposed to now- guaranteeing inaction more than an inept Congress does.

I feel sick. And my fear is that when i write tomorrow, I'll be writing about how the culmination of these decisions makes this look like America 50 years ago...

24 June 2013

Back in the saddle again...drive across America...

Well, I told myself I would get started writing again, and since I'm going on a road trip, I figured this would be a good time to start. Off to bed...