14 December 2015

LA Times and a new micro-aggressive racism

It takes a lot to make me use the time I'd like to spend writing about things that matter to me, and,  as an American media outlet, other than sports news, I don't use you for much. But today, you have done something that gets under my skin in ways you probably didn't imagine. Your micro-aggressive racism is infuriating...

Los Angeles Times: Why in Gods name would you decide to have a discussion about SI's Sportsperson of the Year that compared Serena Williams with American Pharoah, the horse that won the Triple Crown? If it was a joke, it was in particularly poor taste. If it's not a joke, it's far far worse...

...let's assume it's a joke first. Wow, is that joke in poor taste. As you know, SI used to just be the Sportsman of the Year, and for years never even considered women for the award. Times change, history marches on, and there becomes a call to change the title of the award so that women can be eligible and thus recipients of the award. This happens, and women are eligible for the award. Removing gender from the equation, nobody had a better season, in any sport they did, than Serena Williams. When the world is disappointed you lose in the semifinals of the fourth Grand Slam after winning the other 3 (years where Tiger Woods did similar things in golf there was never a discussion- Sportsman of the Year). No other athlete was as dominant in any sport. Period. A joke, or satire, or irony- they all need some mode of a signifier to let the listener/reader know it's a joke- otherwise you can say something really offensive if it's read the wrong way. it's the reason a lot of you all put "lol" after something. rarely are you actually laughing out loud, but you need the reader to know there was humorous intent. Nothing in the question seemed to indicate it was a joke, ie, there were no clear signifiers. If it was a joke, I'll just roll with "it's in real bad taste" and move on...my fear is this isn't a joke...

...if you think American Pharoah should have won Sportsperson of the year...you probably have a little racist in you, and you've clearly chosen on what side of the anti-blackness conversation. My first point would simply be this...let's envision a scenario where Ronda Rousey breaks Holly Holm's wing in the fight, and finishes undefeated. She probably beats out Serena. Anyone think there's a conversation about whether or not Ronda Rousey should be the Sportsperson of the Year over a horse? Are you kidding me? The very question is insulting. Let's start with the simple one. American Pharoah is a person, but is instead, a horse. This may seem to be semantic in this discussion, but it's actually quite important. It seems that this, by definition, should remove all non humans from the equation. And opening the door when Serena wins but not if other people win doesn't just call into question their judgement, but it also changes Serena's value in that interpretation- it's saying that this horse has more of a reason to be the sportsperson of the year than this person. if American Pharoah ran against me for Sportsperson of the Year, I should win, with only my dominant performance playing at Harvard this summer, as I do meet the most crucial aspect of Sportsperson- I'm a person. It means you can bring Serena down by comparing her to a horse (oh, did i not talk about how messed up that is??), which simultaneously strips Serena of her personhood and artificially giving personhood to American Pharoah, which when looked at in that light, is pretty messed up. And, all of this negates the season Serena had: no human on the planet had a better season than Serena did, when you weigh the pressure and the competition and success all into account. Her paper quals should have resolved this. But they didn't...

So I ask that the Los Angeles Times retract the comparison between Serena Williams and a Horse for a SportPERSON of the year. Please stop with the micro-aggressive racism


12 December 2015

The Trump Debate misses the boat...

Well, I did it. I decided I'd write about Donald Trump (kind of).  From the multiple memes that make him out to be Hitler (and didn't anyone ever tell people the Hitler comparisons are always frowned upon, you can be an unapologetic racist and overall douche-bag and still fall short of Hitler on the shitty person scale) to the comments he's made about Mexicans and Muslims, there's a wealth of ammunition to work on if i chose to. But this would feel like pushing a blind kid down a flight of stairs would feel: hilarious and easy yet leaving a depressingly incomplete feeling. I always feel like if I'm going to go at someone, I should do by best impression of Big Game Hunter and make sure I go after the right group. And Trump's not my concern.

It's Americans. 

Look, nobody wants to admit it, but the way Democracy functions is this- ideas that are not accepted by the people fall by the wayside. Sometimes it takes the government some time to catch up to the people, but when the government does something the people don't like, they stand up and object: Rahm Emanuel in Chicago is in the process of finding this out. And, usually, the way things work politically in a Democracy will be: an issue comes up to the people, the people bring the issue to the government and thru the governmental process brings some form of resolution to the initial problem claim. This means that people speak and politicians respond to those words. What this means is, in spite of Donald Trump saying things you find ridiculously offensive, there are many people who are not only not offended, but their opinions align with those of Trump or are more conservative. And what I'm saying is it's not Trump leading the Lemmings to the edge. It's the Lemmings all coming together and ranting about how Lemmingville isn't Great like it used to be, and so someone sees this and tells the Lemmings of Lemmingville exactly what they want to hear, that he can make Lemmingville Great Again. He is a response to them, not the other way around. This is more onerous than one might imagine...

The Public Religion Research Institute reports from a survey indicating that 56% of those polled indicated they felt that Islam was "not compatible with American values." This should be a point of great concern, as the religion of Islam is no less "compatible" with American values as Christianity, but the concern should be the large number. Liberals will tell you, if asked, that the number above is driven by the conservative wing of American politics. This is something you could say in a world where they didn't have a mandate- where more than 50% of the voters vocalize an opinion- you don't get to 50% with just conservatives, and they got to 56% because 43% of democrats also believe that Islam is incompatible with American values. When I see 56% of the public thinks something is true, I assume its more than that, as we sometimes will tell someone what we think they want to hear, as opposed to the truth, especially if the truth makes us look worse than we would otherwise.

We want to distance ourselves from the implications of our words and thoughts as a country, and that's not really possible, because definitionally, Democracy will function as a filter for concepts: ideas the people find repugnant and/or abhorrent don't (generally) become cornerstones of of our political conversation. The Will of The People will filter out these kinds of claims. But by the same accord, if there's a voice of the people that's not being represented, someone will fill that void, so that section of the population gets represented. 

This is the base of my fear. 

This means the reason Ted Cruz can speak about dropping nuclear weapons on "The Middle East" to make the "sand glow" with radioactivity, the reason The Donald can speak about an outright ban on Muslims entering the United States and to make Bill Gates shut down the internet to stop ISIS from using it as a tool, and the logic that lets Antonin Scalia speak about Blacks needing to go to "less advanced, slower track" schools are all tied to one thing. There is a large enough portion of the population that believes these things to be true that candidates, politicians, Supreme Court Justices, teachers, lawyers, janitors, physicians, and warehouse workers all believe they can say these things without reservation. That's how these things can become part of the National Dialogue. "Nuking the Middle East" denies that there are people who are in the ME that didn't do anything, and that really unless our nuclear weaponry is better than I think, that probably does some pretty major damage to Israel. The idea of the need to ban Muslims makes the fear of BROWN PEOPLE way worse, because most people aren't willing to note possible distinctions (so Hindu, Sikh and Muslim will look the same to someone not looking for distinctions- and happens to be about 40% of the world population). So the attacks happen, and people choose the "wrong" targets (i put "wrong" in quotes to indicate anyone is the "wrong" target but they have selected the incorrect person for their own purposes and/or goals). 

It also seems problematic in a world where we have troops in areas where Americans and Muslims are fighting hand in hand. In the instance where that Muslim happens to be an American as well, that tension must be borderline unbearable- knowing your country doesn't really have your back despite you giving up your back for its protection. In the instance where the Muslim isn't American, it could undermine a trust that is imperative for the safety of our troops abroad. It's also the language that fuels the insurgency against America- the only thing we could do that would be more inflammatory against the insurgency but simultaneously increasing recruitment would be to actually put in ground troops, which is part of the discussion from the Hawkish wing of the government. 

So we can pretend that Donald Trump is Hitler, that Ted Cruz is The Devil with an Ivy League education, or that Scalia is a pasta eating motherphucker that's still mad that the black boy he had a crush on took his girlfriend, but none of these things change the fact that the reason each feels the freedom to say it is because, when it's said and done, they know there's more support for their ideas than anyone wants to admit. Which is why they aren't the problem.

The American population is.  

11 December 2015

Rest in Power, my friend....

Rest in Power, Tuna.

This is a story I've wanted to tell him on a variety of occasions, and sometimes debate being debate means we greet each other positively in passing, offer cordial salutations and go on our merry way. It's one of the things about The Game that kills me- there are so many quality people in debate, but The Game asks so much of its participants that sometimes we don't treat ourselves (wellness) or each other (douchiness) the way we should. I want to place the blame for my silence squarely on my shoulders. I feel similar, right now, to the way I felt when Vince Binder was killed- I still remember him sitting at a table at the El Cortez, me walking off and saying, "I'll see you later," with full intention of seeing them again, and when I didn't get a chance to, I felt the blame fall on me. 

For that, Tuna, I'm sorry. You should have gotten to smell the flowers I have for you, which means I should have given them to you earlier. 

University of Central Oklahoma, November 1995. I'm debating for Missouri Southern, for Marlow and Ken D. I've just transferred to UCO to debate, as the bug was back, and following a fortune cookie that told my prospective partner "You need to make concrete decisions in your life. Don't Debate."- which in retrospect could have just as easily ended my debate career, but I digress. I'm debating in the midwest in CEDA in the mid 90's, which, in comparison to other regions in the country, was more difficult, faster (which sucked for me because, despite speaking quickly in normal conversation, not a skill of mine in debates) and more "technically proficient" than other regions in general, but much much stronger than that of the West Coast. I have also been forced to switch from a speech i'd been doing my entire life to a speech I'd literally NEVER done upon my arrival. This means I had the normal growing pains one has when they're learning something new (read: i dropped stuff in almost every debate). So I'm doing a new speech in a harder region that requires more proficiency and they can capitalize on mistakes better. Not sure how much you know, but that's a recipe to lose a lot of debates...so...we're in a debate at UCO against the University of Vermont (a guy named Jethro and his sister (i think) Annalei)- they're a pretty good team, ended up being in the semis at CEDA Nats that year. We're affirming, they run a World Government CP and in the 2AC, i make a monumental error (an omission of an argument that all the other arguments I made in the debate become irrelevant if I don't make- i guess my partner could have helped, but we were both pretty baked in these debates so there's that) and it costs us the debate, and in the process we take a pretty hellacious beating. My partner is a nice guy, so he just leaves and sits alone and sulks as opposed to yelling at me for messing up again, and I'm sitting alone in this room after my coach just mocks me incessantly about the mistake I made, and tells me he's gonna remind me of it forever (and if he reads this, i fully expect a call about forgetting to make the perm). So I'm not feeling my best. Actually, it's at this time that I'm considering an Exit Strategy- not from this room or this tournament, but from Debate in general, which means I could leave Joplin and take my Black Ass back to California...and an old man with a long beard walks in...i've never met the man. He asks me how i'm doing. I tell him alright, and that's where the conversation changes...
...He tells me he's Alfred "Tuna" Snider, the coach at Vermont (then it occurs to me this is the man that Bear Bryant told me about). I tell him who I am, and he asks what's going on again. I'm not really open in general, and especially with people I've never met, so most days (i mean really probably every day before and 99% since) I would tell him nothing, grab my stuff and bounce. But for some reason, I told him what was going on- how I was doing a new speech at a new school in a new region and things sucked, how debate wasn't really fun anymore, and how i could just go back to California, forget debate existed and get my degree like normal people. Losing sucks and if all we were going to do was lose debates, then I should just go back to Cali...then Tuna gave me the conversation that most of us have gotten: the value of the game. 

He asked me if I liked debate, to which I said yes. He asked if debate had value other than wins and losses, and he asked me for a couple of examples. I obliged. He then asked me why it mattered if i won if i knew it had value absent the wins and i still liked debate...he reminded me that wins come but that debate is fun because it's hard, and that sometimes just because you lose doesn't mean you're losing...and then he told me to have a good day, to remember this was a 3-1 debate and that love for what you do matters more than how you're doing...and like that, he was gone, walking off with a guy that ended up being Gordie Miller. 

I'm sure he doesn't even remember this conversation, as I imagine it was one of one of the thousands of conversations he's had with people. I'm sure that wasn't the first time he ever told someone the love of debate matters, and I'm sure it wasn't the last. And I'm sure I'm not the only one he's talked off the debate ledge. But I just wanted to say thank you, as i can't imagine what my life would be like if i walked away from debate in 1995, but one thing for sure: I'd not be married to my wife...who I met in debate in 2001...but I also wouldn't have gotten to "pay it forward" and remind kids, almost constantly, what you reminded me: that debate is more than wins and losses, that it's about Love. We spend a lot of time in heart-felt competition, and that Love has to be the key.

I wish I'd have told him this when I saw him last, in New Orleans. We should have had a beer and listened to some jazz on Frenchman. I should have told him this story then.  But isn't that how it always is? It shouldn't be, and it doesn't have to be. 

All we have to do is speak up. 

10 December 2015

Abigail Fisher and the Power of White Women's Tears Against Affirmative Action

The strength of White Woman's Tears are Supernatural. They're about to burn away over 50 years of federal policy.

I kind of wanted to stay away from this topic- it's one I have a fair amount of passion about (not usually a reason to avoid discussion) and one i have a wealth of knowledge about. That being said, that combination usually makes me avoid conversations like the plague, as I know someone is going to say something simultaneously uninformed and inflammatory: these conversations are things I generally choose not to engage in. But every once in awhile, someone gets under my skin in such a way as to make me hit the blog and get my rant on. Gonna try something different for me: I'm going to write a letter to Ms. Fisher.

Ms. Fisher (mind if I call you Abigail):

Please control your toxic tears, they're dissolving federal policy.

You didn't get into the University of Texas, your dream school. It's devastating to have goals and to fall short of achieving those goals. I'm sure (almost) everyone has been there at one point in time in their lives. I know I have, on a multitude of occasions. It's one of the ways we grow as people: we're handed adversity and we need to figure out ways to best move on from those things. It's something my parents taught me, as I'm sure your parents probably taught you. And I know you did "move on" as you ended matriculating at Louisiana State University. And now, you seek to bring down Affirmative Action, blaming it as the reason you were not admitted...well let's look at that...

2008, when you applied to UT, was  a particularly brutal year. Texas has a program that guarantees admission to Texas residents who graduate in the top 10% of their graduating class, and in 2008, the year in question, this group claimed 92% of the spots for admission to UT. This does indicate that if your grades were in the top 10% of your graduating class, this would have been a guaranteed admission to your Dream School. If you don't make it in the top ten percent, the admissions process is quite brutal, a place where it can't be expected that your 3.59/1180 would hold as much water as you imagined. They evaluate a variety of things, of which one is race, to create a Personal Achievement Index that they then weigh with your Academic Index which is the measuring stick to admit you. 47 people were admitted with lower PAI/AI scores than you, and that sucks. But 42 of them were white as well, which seems to call into question the base of the suit. At this point, it looks like you're trying to gut the cause of Affirmative Action in the United States because, and i need to see if i got this right: 

five students of color, who had lower scores on this system, got lower scores than you. i hope you don't mind if i say this, as a guy who is petty and hate-filled: this was some petty, hate-filled shit. there are a couple of reasons....

first, this seems to focus on the five minorities rather than the 42 white people who also got lower scores than you did and were admitted. do you know about the history of the whites who were admitted ahead of you, as there were like 8x more of them than minorities. what did they have that you didn't have? it wasn't their skin color. did they score higher on the index? did they come from single family homes? was their socioeconomic status one which allowed them access to points you weren't able to access? my guess is you don't know because you never asked. it's not referenced in your suit at all. and the five black and latino kids who did "take your spot"- would it interest you to know that 168 black and brown students with HIGHER PAI/AI scores than you were NOT admitted to the University of Texas, and that any of those kids taking any of those five spots (or the 42 with white kids in them) would ALSO have meant you wouldn't have been admitted, and you'd have less grounding than you do now. 

second, UT offered you the same option they offer all their in-state kids, the ability to transfer to Texas after a year at another Texas state school and complete the year with a 3.2 GPA. This seems like a solid middle ground- involves staying in state, you can save money that way, and when it's all said and done, you get to move on to Austin, which is clearly where you wanted to be the whole time, and where you re-located after matriculating at LSU. and you chose not to do this as well. 

what you did is attack affirmative action, which i find hilarious in its short sightedness. man, i really hope you didn't get a degree in History, as it speaks volumes of the worth of said degree. it's short sighted because women are the largest beneficiaries of Civil Rights legislation and affirmative action policies. There are literally six million women in occupational classifications they would not be in today if it were not for affirmative action, with implications in the homes of (mostly) white families. And these statistics aren't from some biased source, they're from the Department of Labor. The implications of this has been that white women are more aligned economically with white men than Black and Latino women. Studies also show that women are more successful companies that do business with the federal government, and are subject to affirmative action laws, female employment raising 15.2% with federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. Hell, the only reason we even GOT a Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed was the inclusion of white women in the fold. 

i'd make a variety of arguments about the importance of AA to me, but i'm sure these would only fall on your deaf ears. 

so in closing, I'm sorry you didn't get into the school of your choice. I'm sure you cried over it. But your toxic tears shouldn't dissolve policy that, in all actuality, you should want to protect more than I do, as it's way more likely to benefit you than it will me. 


09 December 2015

A majority of minorities in America changes nothing...here's why....

There's been a big discussion about how America is changing into a country of more non-whites than whites, a majority minority, as some have coined it. And white people are losing their minds, worried about the Day of Redemption: that day when minorities pay back in kind all the abuse hoisted upon them by white people.

Relax. Redemption Day is coming, but this isn't it.

America has a long way to go with regard to inclusion. And we need to figure it out, because by 2042, the United States have more non-whites than white people, and by the year 2050, non-white voters will outnumber white voters. That's closer than you think (for example, it's less time from now than the advent of the personal computer) and we're ill prepared for these imminent days. What should we look for in the days where non white voting power trumps white voting power? My claim, we have nothing to worry about- there won't be a time in this country where non-white voting power trumps (no pun intended) white voting power. It won't happen. Sorry to dis-allusion you...

...but that makes no sense, you say. in a world where non-whites outnumber whites, theres no way this wouldn't tilt the playing field in the direction of non-whites. that's incorrect, on a variety of levels, some of which i will attempt to explain...let's start at the beginning:

1) history disproves- a) minority people voting doesn't necessarily mean minority representation-there are cities all over America as we speak in which the voting population is predominately people of color and it has not lead to the changes this hypothesis would lead you to believe. there are a myriad of examples to prove this, but the easiest example is that of Ferguson, Missouri- a city with a minority population of almost 75% has an almost white police force and city council
b) states will act to limit minority votes- this goes back as far as poll taxes and tests to voter identification laws and felon disenfranchisement to more onerous issues like the ones at play in Alabama as we speak. 31 states have voter identification laws, and most states block attempts made to make voting easier (last minute voting, automatic registration, better absentee balloting, etc),  mechanisms that have empirically increased voter turnout in non- white voting districts. these are but two of the many historically disproven claims that could be made here...but i think whiteness is stronger than this, and has the ability to succeed regardless of their abilities to replicate history. it's dependent on this simple claim:

2) whiteness isn't static and rigid, it's elastic and fluid. if you can't manipulate the vote in your favor, then change the rules. Change the rules of what Whiteness is, who can represent Whiteness and how they go about doing that is key. Whiteness has always been flexible about letting non whites in the door to hang out in the lobby, this allows it to make determinations on who to inevitably admit and who to deny. At one point, white was Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. No Catholics. No Jewish people. When John F. Kennedy ran for President of the US in 1960, the idea of putting a Catholic in office was definitively frowned upon. Catholics are, without question, considered beneficiaries of whiteness. The attempts to access Asians and South Asians (and the lighter the skin the more successful you can be at this- ask light skinned blacks vs. dark skinned blacks for a reference point) into the narrative of whiteness (what do you think The Model Minority myth is derived from, the ground horn of a winged unicorn?) and the stories of success interwoven into the American Success narrative will allow access to whiteness. And for those of you who think Asians and South Asians are too tied to their heritage to forgo their history for access to whiteness need only to look to the explosion of inter-racial marriage between A/SA people and whites, something pretty rare only really a generation ago, as well as A/SA people in areas without a significant support system tend to see stronger modes of assimilation. And I used A/SA an an example, but the same can be said for sets of Latinos, as well as blacks.  once again- skin color matters- easier to have whiteness access when you're lighter- my education and background give me a comfortable whiteness vocabulary, but my being accepted into whiteness might take a subversive act against my people on my part to prove my worth. it's more just to indicate that whereas some people think of whiteness as an advancing army: wave after wave of overwhelming force, i envision it more structured anarchy: there are clearly a set of rules the people in charge know and enforce at their discretion, but those rules are flexible to the benefit of the rule maker.

So sleep well. Your power is still safe.

13 August 2015

Progressivism, Race and "Allies"...or...A Black Man's Answers to Progressive Claims regarding Seattle

Last Saturday, there was a well attended rally in Seattle, where Senator Bernie Sanders, a democrat from Vermont, was planning on speaking. At the rally, members of the movement #blacklivesmatter took the stage, in an attempt to get recognition that the lives of African Americans, in this system, are evaluated to mean less than non black lives. 

To say it was received poorly would be an understatement. 

People in the audience were yelling at the women making their pleas to the audience. At one point, someone in the audience yells for the police to "tase" her. Let's just look at that for a second. This is a person at a Bernie Sanders rally, someone who would, most likely, identify liberal and would consider themselves an ally of the cause. They would have, if you'd had asked them on the ride over, that black lives mattered. But here, in the heat of the moment, when there's someone on the stage, literally in tears talking about how she wants her life to matter, this person suggest that the police USE VIOLENCE to remove someone from the stage to talk about Social Security.

The action has caused a rift between those in the #BLM camp and those in the #feelthebern camp. Bernie's camp feels that #blm was unfair to them (you're not attacking other candidates), that they're hurting #BLM's cause (by hurting an ally), and that they were OK with the message, but the method was problematic (they should have done something different). The #BLM camp feels that #feelthebern put their feelings above the lives of black people, and when called out for racist actions, because has hate-filled and vitriolic as any right wing conservative. If you want to hear both sides of this debate, I'm sure someone on a Bernie Sanders site will do that. But here, all you'll get are answers to progressive claims...know that I agree with the claims #BLM is making and will be referencing some of that here...

...question one..why you picking on our guy? First of all, you're being melodramatic: at Netroots Nation, #BLM interrupted Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders. At that function, they were told that everyone would have to answer to them without putting forward a platform to address #BLM concerns. The day after NRN, O'Malley puts forth a racial justice plan addressing the concerns of #BLM. The day after Seattle, Sanders 1) hires a #BLM person to work on the campaign, and 2) puts forth a formalized position on the issues brought to the table by #blm. Despite the fact that whites don't really like it when black people protest despite being for protests in general, one thing has been held as true: At every single point of transformative change in this country, disruption has been key. Independently of all this, here's a reason: if Bernie Sanders is the "most progressive" candidate out there, as all of his camp would say, then it's imperative to get THAT PERSON to understand the necessity of your positions. If he truly is the person who is most likely to address these concerns, then he needs to know they are concerns, and that they need to be addressed. In a world where they had not previously been, there's no reason to assume, save something different happening, that no meaningful change would occur. 

This is the something different happening. 

Also, and I can't speak for everyone on this one, or really anything I say, but I feel I might be more on the ledge on this one than other things:

I'm. Not. Feeling. An. Ally. 

I don't want an ally. An ally, by definition, has the ability to remove themselves from a given situation if it becomes problematic, and an ally can quickly become an enemy if the circumstances align in just the right (or wrong) way- for those who are a bit of history fans will remember that the USSR was on OUR side during World War II and then...the alliance broke down... and they ended up as adversaries for really the next half century. I gave this slipshod history lesson to give a historical example, but I think the conceptualization of an alliance is it's only good when it's good for both parties, and when one party loses the benefit of the alliance, they withdraw. Alliances allow progressive whites to feel good about themselves, to assuage themselves from the guilt that drives them to do what deem as the right thing. But in terms of alliances with oppressed/marginalized peoples, the LAST thing they need is an ally that won't be there when it gets rough. It's really easy to be a friend in good times: so easy that I don't even measure if we could be a friend until there is some adversity to deal with- that there is some forced choice between me and something that would probably make your life easier- when you choose the easier action, you've said all I need to hear. We've stood at the cross-road together, and I now know I can NOT rely on you. But the shitty thing is: that's your RIGHT as an ally- when the alliance is no longer net beneficial, you dissolve the alliance. 

An accomplice is someone that is there, in the trenches with you: getting dirty with you- and understanding the implications of that dirt. An accomplice is defined someone who helps commit a crime, a co-conspirator. If you were to ask me what the crime is in the analogy, I'd say the crime was "Fighting White Supremacy". An accomplice is someone that didn't run in 1962 when someone called them a "nigger-lover", they embraced that and said, "no, I love Black people." An ally might just say nothing at all, and when the dogs and water hoses are brought out, they just quietly slide away; hey what happened to Karen, she was here all the time and now we never see her..."- Karen went home and looks back on those days fondly as part of her past. An accomplice is there with you, the whole time. There aren't many accomplices, as most people conflate this with an ally- so allies and the marginalized both convince that your allies are actually accomplices, and because we don't look for accomplices and instead for allies and then hope, it means we don't find out that someone doesn't have your back until you need them to have your back. I need accomplices- i don't need allies. You don't have to be an ally or an enemy, you could be neutral or you could be nothing- both are way better than a fake ally.

Now the second question people are asking with regard to this is actually a nuanced version of two separate questions- aren't you hurting your cause- with two lines of reasoning: 1) hurting an ally and 2) tactics hurting your cause. 

The first question of hurting an ally is hysterically problematic: the idea that, because two groups are both viewed as progressive that #blm should just tow the line of whatever the most progressive candidate says makes the assumption that #blm should, literally, have no agency, and that since Bernie is "the best we got" then we should get behind him. This presupposes that candidates can't get better by responding to their possible electorate- by answering the call of the voting public to give the people the change they ask for and need. It also presupposes that #BLM shouldn't get to use the tactic that movements have been using for centuries to mobilize action, one that has been historically proven to work in this country, and has been proven to work ON THIS TOPIC as this was done weeks earlier and the response (that time as well as this) was a formulated strategy to answer the specific concerns of the movement making the disturbance (#BLM). I know it's going to sound weird to white progressives with regard to this: but #BLM is making an argument that the system nullifies value in the lives of African Americans and that that's way more important than an "alliance" with someone who doesn't have your interest at heart. And the way you know that they don't have my interest at heart? The "tase" her comments during her disruption is pretty telling...also see all the stuff above about allies- i don't want an ally so there's no disadvantage to hurting an alliance i don't want to be a part of. 

The second question revolves around "hurting the cause" and this also kind of breaks down to: won't people be turned off by your actions? People may not like the tactics chosen by #BLM. They may wonder what people will think of their actions, and that if people don't like what happened then it'll make it harder...this makes a bunch of presuppositions that I'm straight up not feeling: 1) assumes that there can be conditions placed on my humanity: that my humanity is tied to respectability politics. I call shenanigans on that. I get to be a human, despite what the world wants me to see or that American society wants me to feel. Telling me I should have used other tactics (despite the concession nobody wants to make: that it worked) makes the assumption that the abilities I should have access to protect myself should be at your disposal, to affirm or negate at your leisure, to my benefit or detriment. It means I lose the choice on how I interact with conflict- and it's definitionally paternalistic- assumes I can't make my own decisions. It means you get to determine the legitimacy of my claim based on the respectability of the claim I make, which means you get to dictate how I act and interact which essentially shuts my role out of my own fight against my own exploitation. It also means I may never get out- if it's in their interest to keep me in a world where I can never access my humanity (because someone took it from me) that could lead to a bunch of bad stuff: can't really do truly evil to people you think of as people: stripping someone of humanity allows you to not think of them as people...2) this makes the assumption that i should care about the White Gaze- which I ALSO call shenanigans on. I don't really care what people think about the action- what I care about is the result. Sometimes, movements have to move faster than the country, especially to rectify past actions. African Americans are being killed at soul crushing rates. 

True progressives are down for the cause even when the chips are down. They're the ones in the trenches even if it looks like you won't win the war. True progressives are accomplices. 

Unfortunately, most progressives you know proudly call themselves allies. 

19 June 2015

I've had all I can stands...

...i can't stands no more....

I really wish I had the impetus to write when all is well. I mean my life clearly isn't shit in a bucket, because I seem only to write in this when I'm at a loss for words in other formats. In all honesty, i keep most of this stuff to myself, feeling that burdening all the baggage that life drops off on me expected and unexpected simultaneously, feeling the burden of all this would be too overwhelming for one person to be able to handle it all. The part I forget sometimes is this: if the weight I carry is too burdensome for me to give to others, how am I to be expected to reasonably deal with that weight myself? How can I carry the weight i'm unwilling to share with my friends and loved ones, even though they want to help me carry that weight? Hence...the blog...it's only frustrating because I love writing and I'm STILL salty at my honors English 2 teacher in HS making me believe that my voice had to be filtered through their lens for me to write- she made me believe my voice wasn't worth being heard, which I should actually thank her for: it's her voice I hear that's driving me to be 1000x the teacher that piece of shit ever was- but that's one of those tangents she always felt were useless but we're critical in my line of thinking- and I didn't do it in essays, my grammar and writing Black Fascists of parents made sure of that. But I digress...

...I went out and listened to some Jazz/Blues with some of my friends last night, but at some time Daddy got old and went home. Got back to the hotel, and the day was on point. Meetings over and they didn't kill me, the kids I was coaching were out which sucked but the dinner with the Filet and Chicken Fried Lobster made everything a little better- top it off with live blues and I'm about where I could ask to be- last thing I see on TV is a shooting at a church...I decide to look it up in the AM...I'm glad I did- would have gotten no sleep if I had. By now you know the details, but summarized- guy goes to church, sits for an hour, and afterward kills 9, wounds 3 and tells the rest to tell what he did.

When I read that, my first thought was "well here comes the playbook"- except there are issues this time: the normal answer of "X wasn't racist" ain't gonna fly, he SAID so when he talked about rape and taking over of society. The back up plan ALSO doesn't work, to just go all-in on the action being racist. But the statements bring pause to that as well. So you can't say it's not racist? What's a racist to  do?

This is when the resourceful racist goes into the playbook: mental illness. The fallback of white privilege to explain abhorrent behavior by whites you don't want applied to all white people. Let's not get it twisted: I believe that mental illness exists. And it's a fucking massive problem. But the idea that EVERY white person that's involved in a school shooting, church shooting, child molestation master, they're ALL mentally ill. Maybe it's just the skeptic in me, but it seems really unlikely. Couple the fact that the last time I can remember a black dude getting access to the mental health claim was the DC Sniper, and he was given that BEFORE he ended up being black (to really everyone's surprise), and it begins to look like he'll be white, the playbook was laid out early, and can't really be rolled back without looking like racist d-bags (well more like but...semantics). The selective application of the mentally ill label and the paper bag test (darker than the bag no access) with which selection is used only serves to sever any possibility of mental illness being the actual issue, as opposed to the thing you say so you don't have to ask hard questions...

...it's even more frustrating when you see people towing the party line- despite the evidence to the contrary. I was told that Roof MUST be mentally ill because he did it and you'd HAVE to be mentally ill to be able to do those kinds of things. This allows one to assume racist actions aren't normal or typical, but instead an anomaly, something that is the exception to the rule. This allows people to put a cloak over the racism, to say that it's not a societal claim, it's merely the result of one racist person who we remove, and thus the racism is gone. This ain't the way things happen.

POTUS even seems to miss the boat with regard to this. He comes on today and says we need to have a conversation about guns. Once again, don't get it twisted: guns ARE a problem and we do need to have a REAL conversation about guns. That being said: that's NOT the conversation we need to have.  And to pretend that the guns conversation should happen IN REPLACEMENT of the conversion that needs to happen. which has much less to do with HOW the people were killed, but WHY someone would go to a church, sit for an hour, and then kill 9 and injure 3 while telling survivors to tell his story. The degree of depravity is alarming to some but not surprising to me: I've been seeing outlandish shit my whole life: being at the house of a friend, who happened to have servants, who happened to be black, to watch them be called nigger by my friends parents, and their claim when I asked them was "you're different than them"- the degree of dismissiveness applied to black and brown people would be mind numbing to all of those not black and brown to whom this treatment is not just standard but expected.

Makes me think that Carl T. Rowan may be right: The Race War may be coming...but hopefully not for a few hours because i need some sleep...

09 March 2015

Noblesse Oblige, or don't be an asshat...

In America, if you want to reap the as many benefits from the society as possible it helps to be male, white, straight and rich. If that's the section of society you inhabit, this conversation is for you. It's the privilege you were bestowed with. But here's the thing- you're not the only one that happens to have it. In some space, we all possess some form of privilege. However, we are, as a society, almost engrained to not recognize it when it stares us in the face. There are a variety of reasons why, and I'm going to make an attempt to handle some of them, as it's been heavy on the mind recently...

...we live in a society where we're taught to recognize the plight of others- we realize that there are disadvantages to being poor, black, a woman, etc. However, what we're almost trained to not do is to do the obvious....in physics, Newton's Third Law is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction- for every positive there has to be a corresponding negative. But, by that same logic (as well as mathematical principle), for every negative action, there has to have an equal and positive reaction. This only makes sense. If there are two people in an interaction, and it's a zero sum game, then if someone is hurt, then someone else has to benefit. The difference, in this instance, is that the reaction (the positive benefit gained at the expense of the oppressed individual) is never stated, and in most instances, isn't even recognized...only a small example of this...

...we all know of the almost countless deadly experiences that African Americans have with the police. In just the last 2 years, we've had Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, Charley Keunang, etc- all instances where the police felt the need to use deadly force to resolve problems. In many instances, the police has defaulted to the excuse of needing to use force to defend themselves- the police were being attacked and they needed to use force. We'll talk about why cops feel the need to use force against the people above in just a second, but first, a base of comparison....I was reading a story online about a woman from Pennsylvania, who, while texting while driving (which is illegal, really, everywhere at this time) as well as being intoxicated while driving (which is CLEARLY illegal), drove her car through an antique store, pinning a customer against the wall (which means yes- she was drunk enough to run into a building, and it was early enough for there to be people in the store when it happened). When the cops tried to arrest her, she gave one a swift boot to the testicles. When i read this story, and at the end I found out that she had been arrested, I knew one thing about this woman to be true: she was white. I only know that because I'm allowed to juxtapose it against the story of Charley Keunang, a homeless man who, despite already being tased and there being four officers on the scene, it was apparently necessary to use deadly force, as he was shot and killed...on video.

[Ranting Aside: I can't tell you how frustrating it is to read, after the police have killed a (almost always black) person, when the legitimacy of the murder is called into question, it becomes part of the racist playbook to roll out the claim that the person who was killed was no angel. Michael Brown- accused of stealing Swishers and then that was used as the pretense for being stopped- later proven that Darren Wilson had NO IDEA of the "possible theft" which means it's only function was to muddy the waters, Eric Garner apparently was selling loose cigarettes "loosies" when he was confronted by the police, Charley Keunang was apparently wanted by the US Marshals (for using a false name when he committed a crime, for which he spent 14 years in prison for). Now I can spot that all of these are actionable offenses (petty as hell, but actionable nonetheless). Here's what none of these actions should have resulted in:

An. Unofficial. Death. Penalty. Aside done.]

And as I write this, the stories of Calvon Reed, who somehow dies in police custody, and Anthony Robinson come across my news feed...Robinson was killed in Madison, WI, by police in an instance where an officer was assaulted by the police but the man was unarmed [remember, above we talk about the drunk woman who assaulted a cop and miraculously lived to tell about it]. Now do I think it's a good idea to get into a physical altercation with the police? Absolutely not. But. It. Happens. All. The. Time. with whites as well as blacks. The only real difference is that if you're black when it happens, you'll probably get killed- and historically it's true- more unarmed blacks killed by cops that all other races...combined. I guess you could just chalk this up to the concept of anti-blackness...

...which brings me back around to my original rant- about privilege. We're all taught of the plight of the oppressed in this country- don't get me wrong, not as honestly or as intensely as we should, but that's for another day- but we're only taught to frame it insofar as the disadvantages the marginalized have. But, as a culture and a people, are never taught to look at the other side of that same coin- the societal playing out of Newton's Third Law of Motion- an equal and positive reaction to every action...This would mean that for every action of oppressive actions with regard to privilege (someone who doesn't have it), there has to be someone that HAS the privilege.

I'm not even gonna front: when they were passing out privilege at the beginning, my family loaded up for me, which had made my life experience, all things considered, not that bad. Because of my families class privilege, I got to go to some of the best schools, in some of the best areas, and even the public schools i chose to go to were good schools in good areas, which was possible because my parents made some cheddar (that being said: most families that made the money my parents did would (probably) have lived up on the hill, where the people with money lived and where cops had an actual interest in protecting your shit- the evidence is pretty damning- blacks who make $100,000 a year live in the same neighborhoods that whites that make $30,000 a year). My parents had the kind of jobs that allowed them to come to school and challenge the fact that i was put in classes vastly inferior to the school I'd just transferred from (was taking Algebra 2, placed in Business Math, that kind of stuff). I was granted the kind of education that allowed me to get the kind of job I have now and I have the kind of money now that affords me to do things that most people that look like me don't have access to. That being said, despite all of that: 

My blackness trumps the other forms of privilege I have in most real instances. The fact that I know the law means very little when I get pulled over on a country road in Western Kentucky. My innocence didn't stop the Ogden Police from arresting and detaining me for 13 hours to find a guy who was, by their own description, 6'1" 210 pounds and light skinned black [for those that know me, you see why this is odd, for those that don't, the person described looks more like Ben Affleck than me]. My income will allow for me to get a lawyer that's not gonna fuck me (and my academic privilege means I have like 50 lawyers whose numbers I carried around when we were way more nefarious than they are now), but none of that matters if they decide to put a bullet in my head for being an "uppity nigger" and "not knowing my place"- the reason these words are in quotes are because THEY'VE BEEN SAID TO ME BY COPS BEFORE. Needless to say (because I'm here to write this), I instead of what I would call "Being myself" went into what we black people call "survival mode"- where the only goal is for the interaction to end and for you to walk away in one piece, unharmed. All that these other privileges mean to me, at the end of the crossroads, means that all my friends would be hurt and outspoken and that some of my lawyer friends might take up suit so my widow could live, but that would all not overcome the fact that i was dead- killed because, well, let's not pretend like there would need to be a reason. They'd find a picture of me on some laptop with me mean-mugging the camera while flipping someone off in a vile t-shirt, would find someone to say that i smoked some weed once and then i'd just be some druggie the cops killed, probably because I reached for a cops gun [man there are a lot of black guys reaching for cops guns in physical conflicts these days- like Chappelle's "sprinkle some crack on them" kind of madness....

...i go on this rant about privilege and the recognition of my privilege to say that saying you have privilege is not an insult. Let me repeat that:

Saying. You. Have. Privilege. Is. Not. An. Insult.

Saying you have privilege does not say that the things in your life you've accomplished have not been struggles. This is not to say that all you have is not from your hard work. It IS to say that, despite all of those things, there are people that, despite their best intentions, didn't have access to some of the things you did have access to, and so their path to the same location was harder, and that you should acknowledge that. I teach at a private high school, one attended by a lot of wealthy kids, some of whom have never even thought about some of these things. They're great kids, and in all honesty, almost all of them get it, when explained. And they get it at a way higher rate than a lot of the adults I explain the same concepts to (one of the kids when I told them that said it's probably like learning a language, which is way easier when you're young than when you're old). Them getting it makes me feel a little better about our future every day. But in the process of explaining, I use the SAT/ACT as an example- usually one or two kids in the class are having some struggles with it. And we start explaining that when there are struggles they can take an SAT prep course and take practice tests from SAT books you buy and you have the kind of parents that might give up a weekend trip to stay home and help you on the analogies section, etc. I explain that each step of this is a step of privilege they have. But then I ask them to take it back further: How did you know you weren't doing well on the SAT? Did you take it already or have you taken practice tests? Now imagine a world where your high school counselor never mentions college or the SAT at all? What if your classes have the kinds of teachers that will quit mid-class, or that will hit a student?

But in the process of recognizing you have privilege, you have an obligation upon that. As much as I hate the French (sorry Bedard, you're family so you don't count), they have a term that seems applicable: noblesse oblige- people of higher social standings have an obligation to those of lower rank or status. In a biblical sense, the concept of "there but by the grace of God go I" would indicate that we have an obligation to those that fill marginalized spaces. We have an obligation to help those who didn't have our luck/fortune/family lines/etc. for things to have worked out better for them. Every once in awhile, when I start looking not at the homeless, but through the homeless, I just have to be reminded to the homeless family I met on the streets on night, and the plight of that family is one that I could imagine happening to many of my family and friends today: his wife got sick, lost her job (and her insurance), he added her to his but her pre-condition (cancer) meant that she wasn't covered, and they spent their savings and lost their home trying, in vain, to save his wife and their mother. and now they live in a car because he can't make enough to get a deposit for a 2 bedroom (for himself and 3 kids) making the money from the job he had to take to be with his wife...

In our society, there are many ways he could not be in the plight he's in, but they all involve having some degree of wealth that doesn't exist in most people of colors homes and backgrounds. This is a family that had a home that they borrowed against (which is what you're told to do, across the board, if you're in financial troubles). But if both are working when you're paying one mortgage, it's going to be hard hard hard to pay two mortgages with only one salary (which is how most people go bankrupt in medical emergencies/situations). If your parents have money, you can ask them. If you went to school with the right kind of people, you can ask them. If you have the right kind of collateral, you can go to a bank and ask them. But all of these things, ALL of them, are things you'd be less likely to have if you're black. Your parents, if you're old enough to own a home, are likely on the back end of their lives, and chances are they need your help to really survive and thrive, which means you probably can't ask them. They're not likely to own a home, as during their time, they were for all practical purposes shut out of the housing markets (FDA loans not applicable for blacks, no access to the GI Bill for blacks). In all honesty, they're likely to be dead. If you went to the right school and have the right friends, you can ask them. A friend of mine who is a Harvard grad decided to be a hege fund manager, because he had "a bunch of rich friends from my house that want me to invest their money."

Yeah. That shit happens. 

Maybe you can go to a bank and ask them, but I don't think I need to produce results to indicate to you that loans are much, much harder to get when you have more melanin in that skin. And it would require collateral that isn't the home I live in: now even most of the really well to do blacks I know (and this is true for all but the richest people i know) will have another major item for collateral beyond their home. Most people have none. The ones that do, for 95% it's their home/land. The other 5% it's something else- usually on top of land. Almost nobody has what they need to do this, which means that's not really an option. So where does that lead him? On the streets, living out of his car with his kids. They told me this over dinner that I bought him when he asked for some change, and then he brought his kids. This is an experience that grounded me, changed the way I think about the homeless, gave empathy and a face to a problem in our society that without it won't ever really solve the problem of homelessness (or in this instance- health care- under the ACA, he previous condition doesn't leave her uncovered, and maybe i never meet them). But this is an example how the interblending of privilege, or lack of those privileges, lead to a situation that should never happen. 

Some call it noblesse oblige. I call it not being an asshat.