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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quote from Cornel West

Food for thought:

"The paradox of race in America is that our common destiny is more pronounced and imperiled precisely when are divisions are deeper"--Cornell West in his book Race Matters

He also says we "talk about the 'problems' black people pose for whites rather than considering what this way of viewing black people reveals about us as a nation"--thus, we should "begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society."


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Healthcare and race and poverty

With the healthcare issue, perhaps the most important life and death issue of (in)justice in our lifetimes, at a critical juncture, I thought a couple of short quotes from 48 years ago might by apropo. I've been reading a classic from an earleir generation, Blaming the Victim by William Ryan. Hear are the quotes that jumped out at me: you judge how timely or dated they are:

"The reason whites live longer than very simple. They buy, at very high prices, that extra seven years of life from the merchants who have it for sale" (158). "The poor are less healthy for the same reason they have less of everything else: they can't afford to buy health" (159).

Kind of cuts through the b.s. and hits you upside the head like a two-by-four, no?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is the White anti-racist movement racist?

I've subscribed to a white anti-racist network web newsletter for some time now. The latest carries an intriguing, insightful discussion of racial issues within the anti-racist movement. the link is at
Jeff Hitchcock, in the article "A Blessing or a Curse?" responds to a blog entry by "Guerilla Mama"
Excerpts from Guerrilla Mama (AKA Mai'a): "the ones who are the most ’successful’ in anti racism are white. they are the authors, bloggers, consultants, workshop trainers, speakers etc." While critical race people of color provide most of the theory, whites benefit most from the antiracist "industry." "...the line in the anti racism mvmt is that it is white people’s duty and responsibility to speak to white folks about white privilege. people of color shouldnt have to do it."
"but. when white folks are getting mad props, respect, accolades, book deals, professorships, awards, etc. when white folks use the fact that they identify as white to gain a leg up on people of color in the anti racism industry/profession. then it is racism pure and simple. and if you are white and in the anti racism movement then that is what you are doing."

And excerpts from Hitchcock's response: "Her words are troubling, partly because they hold truth, and partly because they obscure." "White people benefit from the very thing we work against." Yet he defends white racist leaders, saying they all acknowledge their debt in learning from people of color (my reply--and do they point their listeners to these voices rather than making them disciples of their own?)He also mentions the "People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, an organization and anti-racist collective led by people of color which over the course of nearly 30 years has single-handedly trained a few hundred thousand people and introduced more white people to anti-racism than the collective body of white anti-racists and whiteness studies scholars combined." He admits that the mainstream attention to the antiracist movement enriches the white practitioners, but claims that in "In the smaller, more concentrated community of white anti-racist activists who wish to be part of a larger multiracial anti-racist movement, that's as much an obstacle as it is a benefit." And what's to be done about this racial injustice within the movement, I ask? My reply on Mai'a's blog is this: "In religious terms, perhaps what the antiracist movement needs is less evangelism and proseletyzing, and more confession and penance and restitution."

Interesting issues--make me squirm a little, gotta fight the defense impulse, ("How dare you question my motivation and sincerity!") and see the white privilege at work within the very movement meant to expose and expunge said privilege.

Friday, October 16, 2009

La. Justice of the Peace: no interracial marriages, but "not racist"

The story out of Louisiana: Keith Bardwell, a white justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, refused to perform the ceremony for a white woman and black man looking to marry. The story is at

Bardwell uses two old refrains: 1) his "concern for the children" of interracial unions, i.e., "I don't have a problem with it, but I'm looking out for the best interests of potential kids and the problems they'd face." Yeah, mighty big of him to take upon himself the burden of deciding whether two people would be doing right to have children. 2) His "I'm not a racist. I have racist friends." THen he adds a new twist to that one: "I even let black people use my bathroom"--everybody knows a real racist would never do that!

Check your calendar. Yep, it's 2009. Post-racial my fanny.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Race, Race Everywhere, but not a Drop to Drink...

Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Beyonce
Serena Williams, Kim Cjisters and an unkown lineswoman (is that the right term?)
Rep. Joe Wilson, President Barack Obama, Wilson's son, and former president Jimmy Carter
Michael Jordan and the sports journalist reaction to his Hall of Fame induction speech

What do all of these have in common? 1) They all involve people behaving in ways that other people don't approve of, even find offensive.
2) Until Jimmy Carter "injected race" into the Wilson episode, race was rarely if ever mentioned in any of these stories. But it enveloped, silently, every one of them.

NPR's call-in talk show "Talk of the Nation" mentioned the trouble "the three W's" (West, Williams and Wilson) were involved in, but did they use it as an opportunity to prove the racial implications? NOOOO! They invited an etiquette expert to help us learn how best to apologize when we "make a mess of things."

Of course, I'm gonna wimp out too--I'll bring up the situations, and the fact that there IS a racial angle to be explored in each, but since, besides Wilson, the above examples involve an African American being accused of offense, I'll reserve judgment. Ah, hell, I can't do that and remain true to my credo of taking race head-on, can I? Oh, OK.

West: I'll cop out by quoting the Angry Black Woman: "The line between bad boy and public asshole has now been crossed. Brother man would do best to step back on the other side." (the blog entry is entitled, "Kanye-West-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you?")

Williams: 1) It was, by accounts that I've read, an inexplicable, horrible, totally unfair and crucially harmful call. Yeah, Williams probably still would have gone down, but don't gift-wrap it for her opponent! Was race a subliminal factor in a lineswoman, who presumably has watched feet stay behind a service line until a split second after contact with the ball several thousand times before, and made the right no-call on most all of those serves (else she wouldn't have been judged competent to be where she was for the U.S. Open Semifinals), inexplicably calling a phantom foot fault on Williams, one of the few blacks (along with her sister, of course) in the upper echelons of the traditionally liily white country club sport?
2) Uh, Serena, really now, talk about shoving a blanking ball up the blanking backside of a person is going a bit far, dontcha think? Kinda hard to excuse that as "just black street talk misinterpretted by the white establishment." But hey, she paid the price in losing the match, and in the public shame she's experienced, so let her be.

Wilson: Carter is right. Of course, 99.5% of my fellow race members disagree. Like I've said before, we've got some work to do...

Jordan: Not sure on this one. I've got to check my own biases here, since as a Illinois native I was a Bulls fanatic in the 1990s, so much so that I was able to forget, once he put the red white and black on, that MJ came from the hated (by me) UNC program. I haven't seen the video, but the reports from several white journalists is that Jordan's approach left much to be desired, and revealed a sad case of a person, regarded as the best player EVER in his sport, apparently still feeling the need to build himself up by denigrating others, all this on the occasion of his "acceptance" into the hallowed halls of basketball immortality. Maybe it's a case of whites not understanding the black cultural tradition of trash talk and put-downs and manhood. Maybe. I kind of doubt it though. As painful as it is for me to admit, the guy who brought me so much vicarious joy and celebration is, apparently, a bit of an ass. Oh, well, burst my bubble...

The right to invade Caster Semenya's Body

Angry Black Woman has a provocative blog entry on the invasive, speculative media take on the sexual genitalia of So. African runner Caster Semenya. (Read "Race, Gender, and the Oppressive Public Gaze") ABW compares it to the treatment accorded Sarah Bartman (the notorious case of the exploited "Hottentot Venus" of an earlier time). She's got a point. Caster just wanted to run, she's from a poor, isolated area, and she quite probably had no idea what she was getting into as her running career progressed--that strange white people would be probing her body, literally and in the media, and treating her as an inhuman specimen to be dissected and studied for our satisfaction and curiosity (oh, it's in "fairness"--how could I have forgotten?) Come on, folks, leave the poor girl alone--she didn't choose to be born with the body she has, but it is hers, and she shouldn't be made to feel inadequate or freakish, either. As the great (at least occasionally blatently racist) philosopher Elvis Costello says, "What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here we Go Again: White athlete makes it because of Effort, Black because of talent

(Sorry, faithful reader, for the long absence of entries. Laptop miseries are my only, weak excuse)

Oh, Lord, when will sportswriters and commentators ever learn? It seems that Michael Jordan and John Stockton are both to be enshrined in the basketball hall of fame. As the greatest player of his, and perhaps any, generation, Jordan has naturally been scooping up the lion's share of publicity. So old Fran Blinebury of Yahoo! Sports decides to give Stockton his due--fair enough.

I have fond memories of John Stockton. I remember watching, I think, his first all-star game when I never saw him take a shot, content to dish well over a dozen assists, I'm sure, to the best finishers in the game. I thought that was cool. And I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that I thought it cool that a white dude could hang with the predominately African American fraternity of NBA stars. Of course, when his Jazz played my Bulls, it was sorry, Johnny--MJ and Co. are gonna shoot you down! But I digress.

Instead of writing about Stockton's ability and grace, Blinebury falls back on the old myth: that white athletes make it on determination and effort, whereas blacks make it on natural, God-given talent. Here's the link to the pathetic piece.;_ylt=AlmO81gQfqsN7NEUgHYk41w5nYcB?slug=ys-stocktonhall090809&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Yeah, the white guy is the blue collar, lunch pail guy who makes it on sheer grit. We've heard it all before, ad nauseum. Jordan was impulsive and spectacular, Stockton, relentless and single-minded.

1) You telling me Jordan wasn't relentless? That he didn't spend hours and hours in the gym and weightroom, watching film and breaking down defenses? Give me a break.

2) You telling me Stockton wasn't naturally gifted? The guy makes 5000 more assists and 700 more steals than anyone else in the game ever has, and it's all due to his effort and work ethic? Yeah, right.

The worsPt, it turns out, was not in the article, but in the headline teaser on the Yahoo! Sports front page: there it says, "John Stockton wasn't big or fast. He goes into the Hall of Fame because few in the NBA could ever match his toughness."

Stockton wasn't fast? He got those 3,265 steals by willing the ball into his hands? And how many of those nearly 16,000 assists came on fast breaks? Slow guys don't lead fast breaks. They lead slow breaks. And slow breaks don't result in very many assists.

White reporters seem to want to believe that sports come easy to blacks, and therefore any white person who makes it in black-dominated sports must not be doing it on talent, but on personal effort. It's a sick theory. It's racist. It's demeaning to both the black guy who, it is assumed, is undisciplined and "lucky" to be born the way he was, and the white guy, whose gifts are belittled. This is 2009. Sports scholars and critics have been critiquing this myth for dozens of years. Yet it still prevails. Sad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Fine Line Black Athletes Must Walk

So I came across this teaser for a story entitled "J.R. Smith Shuts Down Twitter Account Amidst Controversy." I took the bait, and clicked. You can too at,180969

I seems that the aforementioned guard for the NBA's Denver Nuggets had the occassional habit of replacing a "c" with a "k" in the words he typed on his Twitter entries ("tweets.") It would seem that members of the "Bloods" street gang are also known to do this. And so, naturally, the (white, I'm sure) reaction of many was, Oh, my God! He must be a murdering merchant of mayhem! And J.R., after, no doubt, hearing from his agent about the potential harm to his endorsement deals, pulled the plug.

I always knew those "PlaySkool" folks were up to no good...

2 More Things Re: the Gates Thing, Then I'll Shut Up

1. I was reminded how friggin' racist too much of the blogosphere is when I read the comments to an opinion piece on this whole ordeal (I tracked down the link: 90% of the reaction was how racist the columnist was for taking a position defending Gates and Obama, and how Obama had shown his true racist colors, and calling gates a "black ass," etc. I knew there would be plenty of that, but my jaw was dropping to read 8 or ten of them in a row, with no retort for column inch after column inch. And this was on Yahoo, I believe, not FOX News or some virtual rag like that. We got some work to do, people (as if you didn't already know that).

2. I forgot the second. Oh, yeah, it was this: I wonder if the inordinate amount of attention this affair got can be explained thusly: we are so damned afraid to broach the subject of race (except for with the trusted buddies whom we know will agree with us on everything we have to say) that all this crap get bottled up in us, and when the rare opportunity comes where it's deemed acceptable to comment publicly on the subject, it's like a release valve, and a bunch of hot air comes pouring out. One wise columnist (I think it was in Time magazine) recounted the other supposed turning points in our recent "national discourse" on race (I probably got them out of order): Rodney King beating, L.A. riots, O.J. arrest, O.J. trial and verdict, Clinton's Council-to solve-this-here racial problem-once-and-for-all, Katrina, Jena, a couple of high profile NYC cop incidents, Obama and Wright, and the Philadelphia "More Perfect Union" speech, etc. Each time, there is high-minded talk of how THIS will dispel the white denial, or force us to come together, or prompt us to open the avenues of communications across the racial divide, etc., etc., etc. But the "national discourse" remains disjointed, and mostly talking past one another without bothering to take the role of listener.

The earlier Obama thing actually serves as exhibit A to my point. Throughout his campaign, Obama deftly deflected any focus on race until endless loops of an angry black voice growling "God DAMN America" forced him to take on the subject head-on....for maybe 30 minutes. Having delivered a very good speech on the matter, he then avoided the subject again, like the plague, the rest of the way and, behold, he got elected! Lesson: it is good and right to avoid the subject at all costs until circumstances demand it be addressed, and then it is expedient to dirty your hands with it quickly and get it over with, then move on like everything is fixed.

Obama's "stupidly" comment is Exhibit B: fail to choose your words carefully, I you'll pay, big time. Obama, the black man who never lost his cool, who had a seemingly inhuman ability to filter everything and respond calmly, even to the most outrageous accusations and falsehoods, was caught, one time, expressing, from the gut, how he REALLY felt and what he REALLY thought about a racial incident that no doubt peeled the scab off of real incidents from a painful past and ever-possible present. And what happened? He caught hell for it: everybody was talking about this, and getting distracted from healthcare reform and all that other mundane stuff. His popularity among whites plummeted, in no time flat, off a cliff. Lesson: don't drop the filter, or you'll get nailed.

OK, I'll REALLY shut up now.

Gates' Arrest. Obama's Comment, and Public's Reaction

OK, so I know I've been kinda of MIA on this Gates arrest affair. After initially reporting on it (really just giving the story link but hey: I WAS pretty early with it!). I've been asleep at the blog, except one cheeky cheer from the sidelines just before the so-called "beer summit" met. Truth is, I was distracted by other matters, as well as confused. I mean, that thing took off in a way I would have never predicted. It was getting a fair amount of press coverage (and, I would assume, water cooler talk) before Obama weighed in, but after his "stupidly" comment, we had a REAL controversy (funny how a prestigious African American scholar at our country's most prestigious university getting arrested in his own home on a break-in call didn't qualify as REAL controversy).

Anyway, I'd be kind of hypocritical if I now spent too much time analyzing the fine points of the encounter, since I've decided that much of the attention it's been given has been overblown and unproductive. After all, is the arrest of a world-renowned scholar and FOB (Friend of Barack) REALLY representative of the plight of the black race? I mean, I know we can extrapolate from that and say, if it happens to a well-dressed, well-spoken (oops, I'm steering dangerously close to Biden's infamous "articulate" comment!), highly educated elite living in a smug intellectual community, just think how bad it is for the average African American! And that's true.

But we can also fall in the trap of making the fight for justice in a matter like this a proxy for the broader fight for racial justice in our society. I mean, Henry Louis Gates is gonna be alright. His life chances wouldn't be affected one iota even if fate would have it that he was convicted of such absurd "disorderly conduct" charges and even spent a week behind bars. He would still have his audience--it has increased his visibility and name-recognition, and that's not a bad thing. I know it sounds like I'm downplaying the righteous anger he expressed and humiliation he suffered. I shouldn't. They were real. But my point is, for the press and public to spend so much time and energy dissecting this ordeal--don't you wonder if the time and energy might be better redeemed working on behalf of victims of racial discrimination, perhaps in our local areas, whose stories never see the light of day? And working to raise public awareness of stubborn structural causes for racial disparities, and trying to dismantle those structures? And helping whites to see the racial log of white privilege in our own eyes instead of trying to pick the speck of Affirmative Action and the so-called "race card" out of others' eyes?

There. I got that off my chest. Maybe being mostly silent for a few weeks was good for a broader perspective. Better to wait until I had something "wise and profound" to say. Or maybe I was just being lazy, and asleep at the blog. Anywho...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cheers to Beers

Here's to Gates, Crowley and Obama--may they enjoy the brew, leave with a better understanding of one another, and leave us with an example of one way to try to deal with interpersonal racial conflict.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Victim of Racial Profiling

Ok, Sorry, faithful readers, that I've been lax in commenting on incidents like Obama's trip to and speech in Ghana, and the African American campers disinvited to the private club swimming pool. My bad.

Today, however, comes breaking news that preeminent African American scholar Henry Louis Gates of Harvard was arrested in his own home by police supposedly investigating a reported break-in. Here's the story I read from the Boston Globe:
(Thanks to a FaceBook friend for posting the link that drew my attention)

Simply put: some Harvard police officers got some "'splainin' to do." Another egregious case of arrest for LWB--Living While Black. Disgraceful. Sad. But NOT surprising. May this be a lasting, embarrassing blot on Harvard, and a warning to other institutions to get their sh... I mean act together.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nixon's Racist View on Abortion

I just read in Time magazine a disgusting, revealing quotation from recently released tapes of Richard Nixon (you mean we didn't already have them all? Where have they been?!)

"There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape."

Not when you have a severely deformed fetus. Not in cases of incest. Nor cases of extreme poverty. Or severe risk to the mother's health. No, what comes to tricky Dicky's mind is the horror of a white girl (let's be honest--he wasn't thinking of the more historically common occurence of black women becoming pregnant by white men) giving birth to a (half-)black baby. Probably revealing of his own psyche concerning his daughters--anything but THAT!

And, sadly, it was no doubt a common sentiment of the time, and hardly extinct in our time. Sad.

Monday, June 29, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson: Were You Ever "Comfortable in Your Own Skin"?

Sorry, faithful readers, for the gap since the last entry--I've been pre-occupied with family of origin duties.

I thought I'd weigh in on the death of the "king of pop," seeing as every other writer or commentator and their grandmother is doing so.

My first memories of Michael Jackson are this: I had a friend my age who in his preteens (perhaps because he had older sisters) was into the Osmonds (as white bread as they come) and the Jackson 5 ("bubblegum soul" I heard it called recently). I thought at the time I was much cooler than him because I, on the other hand, due to the influence of an older brother, was into the Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Looking back, my groups were much more prepackaged and inauthentic.

But Michael Jackson, bless his soul, became less authentic, in my view, as time went on. His transformation in appearance has been well-documented. While he would have had us believe it was entirely, or principally, due to an unfortunate, painful skin condition (or perhaps stemming from the Pepsi commercial fiasco), those hardly explain the racial and gender-related ambiguity that characterized his later life. His speech went from unremarkable to a babyish, womanish talk that was teased unmercifully by comedians (was he trying to imitate his idol and mentor, Diana Ross?). And the transformation of his nose, his lips and, yes, his skin tone certainly gave rise to the question: was he trying to become white?

There is a long history of products and promised "remedies" to help African Americans appear whiter: from hair straighteners like Afro Sheen (at least it was less painful than the process Malcolm X described in his autobiography!) to skin bleach products that often left users scarred and disfigured, such desires reveal the pain and disadvantage of being part of a visible, oppressed minority. It really is important , it would seem, to be "comfortable in one's own skin" to achieve happiness in life. Despite his fame, fortune, and undeniable talent and appeal, Michael Jackson never seemed to achieve it. Even his marriages and sex life were bizarre caricatures of authentic love relationships. Where his history of being abused by his father fits into this sad picture is hard to know in full.


One postmortem account called Jackson something like the first African American superstar with massive crossover appeal. I thought that inaccurate. In music, there was Nat "King" Cole (who might arguably have sold his racial heritage to achieve that appeal to whites). In sports, there were Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, and Wilt Chamberlain, to name a few.

Michael DID break down racial barriers, however. Before Thriller, MTV--the fledgling music television cable network--was refusing to play videos by almost all black artists (Rick James' "Superfreak" being one notable example). MTV's excuse was that they were a "rock" music station, not a "rhythm and blues" or "soul" station. Jackson blurred those racially determined categories, especially by collaborating with white rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen on "Beat It." He also knocked the socks off the production values of previous videos so that MTV could not ignore his work and remain viable in the marketplace.

Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson. May you serve as a warning to all, of any race, to learn to accept yourself as God made you, and demand that the world do the same. And may you, in the next life, find that self-acceptance which you so movingly sought in the song "Man in the Mirror."


Thursday, June 11, 2009

88 year old white supremacist tries to go out in a blaze of glory

So the shooter at the Holocaust museum was a well-known white supremacist from way back. James von Brunn is the nut's name who served 6 years for trying to kidnap the Federal Reserve's board members several decades ago.

I don't suppose it's sheer coincidence that the security guard killed yesterday, Stephen Johns, was black. Von Brunn is said to have decried "the browning of American" and saw Jews as a threat to the "white gene pool."

Between this and the shooter of the Kansas abortion provider, it gives the lie to the idea that crazy cranks are just harmlessly spouting angry, hateful words. Behind the words, and thoughts, too often, are hateful, hurtful, deadly actions. Sad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

black racists?

I recommend a thought-provoking blog entry by prominent black blogger "Field Negro" on the question of if only whites can be truly "racist," or if blacks can properly be labelled such, as well.
He correctly says most blacks say only whites qualify, since you gotta be in a position of power over those you're prejudiced against to rightly be called racist, while the great majority of whites label as "racist" anything they perceive to be anti-white coming out of a nonwhite's mouth.

Monsieur Field Negro rightly bypasses the rhetorical issue and gets to the heart of the matter--who holds power to make others yield to one's will. One part I took slight issue with--when the eminent blogger says "All those former colonies are now being led by black people"--neocolonialist critique and global systems theory would both claim, of course that the black "leaders" of these countries are still under the whip of white masters of the global economic and political realms.

The Small Black Starting MLB Pitcher Fraternity

Another Yahoo! editor, sports guy Tim Brown, wrote a nice piece on phenom David Price and superstar C.C. Sabathia's first head-to-head meeting;_ylt=AvF_h8_KcvY6HLZncqLLVtIRvLYF?slug=ti-sabathiaprice060509&prov=yhoo&type=lgns. David Price is paraphrased as saying he felt different from all his teammates growing up. Evan all the players on opposing teams, too. "It's tough to get started, and even tougher to stay out there" is how he puts the challenge of sticking out as the only African American.

The author makes a bit too much of the "being a model to those in the inner city" thing, in my opinion (First off, who is HE to say what their role should be? And is the assumption that every potential black major leaguer is in the inner city? None in the suburbs, the medium sized towns, or the rural South?)

The dearth of African American starting pitchers is startling, though. Earlier in my lifetime, Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins, Vida Blue, and a little later, Dwight Gooden and Dave Stewart, to name a few, were dominant, year in and year out. From the beginning of the color line break, guys like Don Newcombe and ageless Satchel Paige were impressive. But for the past 10 years or so, you can count the number of black starting pitchers on your hands. And that's out of 30 teams, 150 slots plus injury fill-ins, probably 180 to 200 in any given year. Only 5%, if that, are non-Hispanic blacks.

Interracial dating dilemmas

Arnold Chao, Yahoo! dating editor (how does one get a job like that?!) wrote a good piece on four common obstacles in interracial dating. (
First: dealing with what he charitably calls "traditionalists" that think people ought to "stick with their own kind" (my paraphrase). Chao's advice is good: we need acceptance, so gotta surround ourselves with friends who are approving, to counter the inevitable negativity.I'd say "celebrate," not "tolerate" diversity, though, as Chao puts it)
Second: dealing with media stereotypes (playing it safe so as not to offend). Recognize it for what it is--a crass commercial decision.
Third: dealing with bigoted family members. Stand up to them, firmly, and demand respect from teh get-g0, or you'll regret it, eating away at you.
Last: dealing with "gazers"--cope by not assuming they are offended, and pretend they see you and your partner as notable celebs, instead! (nice!)

One last notable observation from a table Chao doesn't comment much on--the gender difference in interracial preferences. White males are 3 times more likely to have an Asian spouse than are white females (530,000 vs. 174,000). And black males are more than 5 times as likely to have an Asian spouse than are black females (34,000 to 6,000). Finally, and less surprising to me, though just as troublesome, black males are 2 1/2 times as likely to have a white spouse as are black females (286,000 to 117,000). Color blind my gluteous maximus!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Comments on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court:

She is described as "Hispanic" and Latina." She is in fact of Puerto Rican heritage, the second largest (after Mexican American) subcategory of "Hispanic" in the U.S. Interestingly, while Mexican ancestry is often a mixture of native American and Spanish/European blood (what used to be called "mestizo"), Puerto Ricans quite commonly have some black African ancestors. My simple visual scan of Sotomayor's photographs, however, gives little hint of either American Indian or African American features. Instead, she appears to have the slightly darker complexion and very dark hair common to Spain and other Mediterranean areas of South Europe. So can someone remind me why exactly "Hispanic" is so often talked about as if it were a distinct racial group in the U.S.? Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans and Cuban Americans, as well as other "Hispanics," are held together by a common language and (although wide) geographic heritage, not by race.

Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents are walking on eggshells in talking about the nomination, fearful of making negatives headlines should they slip in their word choice, this being a nation uncomfortable talking about race/ethnicity and gender (We are "colormute" as Mica Pollock aptly put it, rather than colorblind). White House spokesman Robert Gibbs even issued a pre-emptive warning: "It is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation."

One quote getting a lot of attention is from a speech she gave in 2001: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." And one critic who, not surprisingly, chose not to heed Gibbs advice is Newt Gingrich, who said of the above quote: "New racism is no better than old racism." I just gotta roll my eyes and say, "Give me a break!" Life experience informs wisdom in decision-making. Anglo-Saxon whites who have been sheltered by privilege don't have the experience to understand the underlying causes of hardships non-Anglo-Saxon whites deal with. That's all she was saying. But the so-called "playing the race card card" is an attempt to shut down the debate entirely. I on the other hand, say lets talk about race/ethnicity (and gender) head-on, and see if we can reach some higher level of mutual understanding than we brought to the conversation.

Monday, May 25, 2009

First black female CEO of Fortune 500 Co (Ever?!)

Xerox recently made Ursula Burns their CEO. According to the Wall Street Journal, that makes here the first African American woman CEO of a company in the Fortune 500 of largest corporations in the U.S. (article at

I don't know whether to celebrate this milestone, or cry at the news that a black woman, until now, has NEVER, EVER headed a top 500 outfit. I mean, black women are, what at least 5.5% of our population. So, all things being equal, if it were equally distributed, you'd figure about 27 or 28 of the 500 would have African American women as CEOs at any given time. Guess we got a ways to go before we achieve racial equality, eh? And gender equality, too. The article reports that when Burns succeeded her mentor, Anne Mulcahy, it was also the first time, EVER, that one woman succeeded another n heading a Fortune 500 company. So, like, that happens about 100 times a year with men, and NEVER BEFORE with woman? Hmmmm.

One last thing. The article mentions that Burns grew up in public housing in New York City. Her life story would make a great book or movie, it sounds like. Cool.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Milwaukee Serial Killer

Accusations are flying in Brew-town that cops failed to aggressively pursue solving a series of murders over a couple of decades because the victims were almost all African American women, supposedly drug addicts prostituting themselves when killed. The story, by Carrie Antlfinger (AP), can be read at Cops have just recently linked the DNA of the killer, still unknown, to 6 different victims from 1986-2007, all but one of them black. The article says Darian Mims, son of victim Joyce Mims suspects racism in the department. "Even when my mom was murdered ... you know how many police or detectives came out to talk to me? None. Not one," said Mims. Also, Shannon Farrior, daughter of victim Sheila Farrior, wonders if police were affected by race. "They just figured there were a lot of black women who got killed and they didn't put a lot of effort into finding the killer," said Farrior.

Others point more toward prejudice against suspected prostitutes and drug addicts. Whatever the case, police union president John Balcerzak's claim that in 20 years of working patrol "he never saw any officer treat victims differently" is just plain b.s. You're telling me that in 20 years, dealing with dozens of victims a week, he never ran across a cop who allowed his unconscious racial bias to affect the time or effort or precision he gave to a case? Sorry, not buying it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

American Idol and the Intersections of Inequality

OK, so first off, this post isn't exactly about race (though tangentially it is)

Secondly, I'm not qualified to comment on it because it's about American Idol--specifically the finale last night and the result between the two finalists.

But I had nothing better to write about, and didn't want to lose my hordes of faithful readers by going 2 weeks without a post. So here goes.

Many of you hordes reading this will know that Kris Allen beat out Adam Lambert last night to be this year's AI winner. According to this post at, it could be that religion/ethnicity and sexual orientation/sexual identity played a role, conscious or unconscious, with voters. Seems a sensible suggestion to me. Kris is what Kelvin Lynch presumably aptly describes as "practically a poster boy for heterosexual, white-bread Christianity." In other words, the kind of guy older hetero viewers longed for their daughters to date or their sons to be more like, and that younger viewers longed to be or lusted to be with.

On the other hand, the heavily mascara-ed Lambert is what Lynch calls "an in-your-face Jewish gay man." Didn't try to hide his sexuality to make viewers more comfortable, but dared to be himself in all his glory. (Remember, Clay Aiken waited 5 years after Idol to come out, so fans in denial could suppose he was just a hetero man in touch with his tender side). As for the whole white-bread Jewish dichotomy, Jews stand apart from other ethnicities who were once considered different "races" from the Anglo-Saxon stock that dominated our nation's founding. While Italians, Swedes, Germans, Irish, Poles, and Greeks have been mainstreamed as just plain "whites" (albeit with a little pizazz), Jews, due to lower levels (although increasing all the time) of intermarriage, and the whole Saturday Sabbath/not into Jesus or the "New Testament" thing, remain "probationary whites," who still come under suspicion as conspirators to rule the world. Lord knows the crowing of a flamboyant Jewish gay as our nation's "Idol" would have caused conniptions in the hallowed halls of our nation's churches and country clubs, corporate boardrooms and legislative arenas. I guess the voters had that in mind when they spared us such a world-shattering outcome. Sigh.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NBA Players from HBCUs

Did a paper recently on the decline of Historically Black Colleges and Universities basketball (as talent was drained away by opening up of Historically White schools to blacks, and the NCAA intentionally marginalized HBCU programs). THought I'd share the list I compiled of notable NBA players from HBCUs:

Earl Lloyd (1st black signed to an NBA contract), West Va. St., in NBA 1951-60
Nathaniel Clifton, Xavier (La.), 1951-58
Dick Barnett, Tennessee St., 1960-74
Zelmo Beaty, Prairie View A & M, 1963-75
Willis Reed, Grambling, 1965-74
Bob Love, Southern, 1967-77
Earl Monroe, Winston-Salem St., 1968-80
Bob Dandridge, Norfolk St., 1970-82
Elmore Smith, Kentucky St., 1972-79
Caldwell Jones (one of many brothers in NBA), Albany St., 1974-90
Truck Robinson, Tennessee St., 1975-85
Purvis Short, Jackson St., 1979-90
Rick Mahorn, Hampton, 1981-99
Charles Oakley, Virginia Union, 1986-2004
Avery Johnson, Southern, 1989-2004
Anthony Mason, Tennessee St., 1990-2003
Bobby Phills, Southern, 1992-2000
Lindsey Hunter, Jackson St., 1994-present
Darrel Armstrong, Fayetteville St., 1995-2008
Ben Wallace, Virginia Union, 1997-present

Pretty impressive, I'd say. Number of players coming into the NBA from HBCU hit its peak in the late 1960's and early to mid=70's--BEFORE the NCAA allowed any HBCUs to play Division I ball. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

David Alan Coe, Unrepentent racist

OK, so I grew up admiring, at one point, some of the "outlaw country" performers, like Waylon and Willie. I remember wandering into a bar in Texas in the mid-80s and fidning out the guy setting up to play for about 30 people was Ray Wiley Hubbard, originator of the song "Red Neck Mothers" that my friends and I would drunkingly sing at the top of our voices as teens. I alter, learned, of course, that the rebel flag and "south's gonna rise again" mantra of much of that scene was racist to the core, whether they recognized or admitted it or not.

Saw in today's Roanoke Times that David Alan Coe is coming to town. Article made mention of some controversy over some songs he recorded in 1978 and 1982 on albums offered exclusively through Easy Rider magazine. These albums kind of flew under the mainstream press radar until the Internet gave them wider exposure about 10 years ago. Coe in interviews angrily defends himself against charges of racism, pointing to his having a black drummer "married to a white chick" and Coe's hairstyle of dreadlocks down to his waist. And claims the songs (intermixed with misogynist, x-rated songs) were just bawdy fun, recorded on a lark and never meant for wider audiences. So which is it, is there nothing to be ashamed of with the songs, or is the problem that they've been brought to the light of day?

I decided to check out the lyrics to these songs. One, called "Rails," released on the Nothing Sacred album offered through Easy Rider in 1978, has lyrics that in part go like this: (asterisks not in original)
"Now women make me think of consolation
prison makes me think of isolation
ni**ers made me vote for segregation
and cocaine makes me" [you get the idea]
and later,
"Well it's hard to work for a dollar a week
and the Ku Klux Klan is bigger
so take the sheets off of your bed
and let's go hang a ni**er"

about the ugliest, most despicable thing I've read in a long time. I mean, that makes me want to show up in Roanoke with a hundred like-minded folks and pound his head in. But then again, violence is not the answer. Still, I'd like to...

Then there is the song from the 1982 Easy Rider-offered Underground album whose title blatantly says it all: "Ni**er F*cker"
I'm ashamed to publish much of this one, but here's enough to get an idea whether this was, as Coe claims, just a lark--harmless fun that's no reflection on Coe's racial views:
"Said she'd finally found a man
Who's d**k was so much bigger
Then that scumbag motherf***er
Ran off with a ni**er
Sure is hard to figure
How any decent girl could ever f**k
A greasy ni**er
there's nothing quite as worthless
As a white girl with a ni**er"

And Coe, as far as I can tell, has never disavowed these songs, never apologized to anyone for them, never claimed to have learned how wrong it was to write, record and perform such vulgar trash. And he's still out there playing. Anybody want to get up a group to convey our displeasure when he shows up?

If the printing of the above lyrics offend my readers, I'm sorry. They deeply offend me too, though not in the same way, I'm sure, as they do African Americans, and women of all races. It was not my intent to open wounds. I felt that the full impact of the harm this man has caused and the need to make him see the need to repent and apologize and disavow his involvement with these songs could only be conveyed by revealing just how revolting, insulting, offensive and inciting to violence his views were/are.

Why not "Springbreaker Flu"?

On Cinco de Mayo, in honor of our neighbors to the South who have been villified by xenophobes lately, here is a different perspective that puts things in perspective:


Racewire Blog
Channing Kennedy
Right Flu, Wrong Swine

Let me be among the first to say that the move by some to rename ‘swine flu’ to ‘Mexican flu’ is offensive on its face and in its roots. It does everything to fuel unfounded fears, and it politicizes a serious health crisis in a thinly veiled effort to stoke hatred toward an already-vulnerable group. Worst of all, it doesn’t even blame the right people!

That’s why I’m proposing that this very serious disease be renamed ‘Spring Breaker flu,’ after the lazy, amoral, disease-ridden rich white kids who have breached our borders time and again, destroying our economy with their unsustainable leech-like lifestyles, and now, robbing us of our health. The spread of swine flu — sorry, Spring Breaker flu — can be indisputably linked to Americans returning from vacations in Mexico (1, 2, 3). And it is Americans who can afford to take vacations who deserve the blame.

“Illegal aliens Spring Breakers are bringing in a deadly new flu strain. Make no mistake about it.” — Michael Savage

“I’ve blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the US as a result of uncontrolled immigration trust-fund vacationers.” — Michelle Malkin

“What happens if there’s a rash of deaths in Mexico… and if you’re a family in Mexico and people are dying and Americans are not, why wouldn’t you flood this border blame the USA’s unjust trade and economic policies that have crippled Mexico’s ability to respond to a health crisis?” — Glenn Beck

“What better way to sneak a virus into this country than to give it to Mexicans rich white kids … then spread a rumor there there are construction jobs T-Pain concerts here, and there they come.” — Neal Boortz, on the very real possibility that swine flu is a manmade virus planted by Al Qaeda Dane Cook

Conservative Handsome media personalities have baselessly accurately blamed Mexican immigrants American vacationers for spreading the disease across the border … Several media reports on U.S. swine flu patients indicated that they had recently traveled to Mexico. — Media Matters, April 27 2009

(quotes source)

So let’s call it what it is.

Some facts, for your health: Spring Breaker flu, also called the ‘WOOO!’ flu for the celebratory sound that Spring Breakers make while giving innocent people diseases, sprang from the dystopian ‘hot zone’ of Cancun’s tourist resorts. It’s believed that the Spring Breakers first sought to plant the disease in Mexico, a country they fear out of ignorance, visiting solely to exploit it and to leave it in shambles.

Next, they brought it across the border to the United States’ high schools, colleges, and military bases — all known hotbeds of Spring Breaker ‘culture.’ Or as the rest of us know it: cell-phone photography, idiot-screaming, and a malicious disinterest of most of North America. Spring Breakers’ disregard for the law is shown by their disease’s refusal to stay within agreed-upon national borders.

The flu spreads through moisture and contact, something that Spring Breakers engage in constantly, as can be witnessed in the harrowing documentaries “The Real Cancun” and “Girls Gone Wild 8” and this one Mardi Gras VHS that my mom’s boyfriend had.

A note: Spring Breaker flu is not the same as being rich and white; the difference is that rich-white-ness doesn't spread. Prolonged exposure to rich-white-ness leaves communities proportionally less rich, and their citizens considered further from white. Being rich and white is believed to be hereditary.

So what can be done to fight back against this wave of germ WASPfare? While canceling the Real World is an admirable act, not to mention a good way to fight the Spring Breaker flu, more must be done.

Mexico must seal its border to the north, to cordon off the human cause of the outbreak. Perhaps a wall of some sort can be built. When the effects to Mexico's economy are considered levelly, there can be no other recourse than to sever all ties with a culture that has no regard for the North American way of life.

Mexico cannot lay prone while retirees and sweatshops and fun-loving college kids defile her borders again and again. Mexican people must come together, now, to fight back against the the NAFTA flu -- sorry, the Spring Breaker flu -- preferably by putting a bunch of bored scared people with guns along the border, barrel-sights trained to fire at the first sign of a novelty trucker cap or an alcoholic beverage in a container shaped like a penis.

At this point, some bleeding hearts may think I'm somehow, I don't know, exploiting a serious epidemic, as a way of pushing a political agenda that demonizes a distorted parody of a group I can't be bothered to learn anything about. You might even say that the examples I've provided do little to make my case, and demonstrate nothing but my own ignorance. Wrong on all counts, fascist! I mean, if I were some jingoist nutbar, then why would so many respected media voices, quoted at the top of this piece, agree with me?

See? And every one an upstanding, long-accepted member of our proud journalistic tradition, in which pride in one's craft puts one far above unconscionable fearmongering. A public figure with lower standards would be every bit as callow, thoughtless, malicious, anti-North American, and just plain dangerous as those sub-human trust fund babies who are to blame for our ills.

Posted at 5:55 AM, Apr 30, 2009 in immigration

We (in Mexico) who are NOT (contrary to idiot media in both countries) about to die salute you!

Posted by: Susan Starr | April 30, 2009 01:52 PM

I found this link through feministing, though I do read RaceWire from time to time and well, I just wanted to say...
This is hysterical... and, given that I don't follow right-wing talking heads that much, I appreciate the original quotes (though the doctored ones are much better)... it's stunning the depths that hatemongering and white supremacism can stoop to... or maybe it's not...

Anyways, thanks for the lighter note... just one little question - is there any difference between calling it "Spring Breaker Flu" and calling it "Swine Flu"? I thought those two types were synonyms.

Posted by: puck | April 30, 2009 01:52 PM

Heh. Wooo! Flu. Classic.
I personally favor Smithfield Flu, or Factory Farming Flu.

The last paragraph is made of pure win.

Posted by: Scathing Indifference | April 30, 2009 02:10 PM

Colorlines is published by
The Applied Research Center

Friday, May 1, 2009

Little Known Black History Facts

Picked up a great find at used bookstore today: Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America 1619-1964 by Lerone Bennett, Jr. (1964)

It contains a long "Landmarks and Milestones" timeline section. Included:

November 1526: "Negro slaves in first settlement in United States--a Spanish colony in present-day South Carolina--revolted and fled to the Indians."

Sept. 9, 1739: "Slave revolt, Stono, SC. Twenty-five whites killed before insurrection put down."

1775: After blacks fought in the American Army at Lexington, Concord, Fort Ticonderoga, and Bunker Hill, they were banned from the army July 10, a move approved by the Continental Congress October 23; on November 7 the deposed royal governor of Virginia promised freedom to male slaves who joined the British Army, whereupon Washington reversed himself and ordered recruiting officers to accept free Negroes, December 31, a reversal approved by Continental Congress on Jan. 16, 1776.

New York did not provide for emancipation of slaves until 1799, and then only gradually--not actually abolished there until July 4, 1827! New Jersey didn't bar slavery until 1804.

More to come...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Supreme Court "Reverse Discrim." Case

Keep your eyes and ears open this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral aguments starting (and ending?) on a case involving firefighters, promotions, and "basic skills tests" in New Haven, Conn. (home of Yale U., no?) Anyway, some whites are pissed because they didn't get promotions they were "entitled to" as a result of getting the best test scores. (See full story at and elsewhere) Problem is, New Haven's population is 44 % white, 36 % black, 24% Hispanic. But at the time of the 2003 test, 86% of the captains were white. The department may have messed up if they gave the impression that the test would be the sole criteria for promotion decisions. They obviously have a legitimate interest in making leadership more reflective of the community it serves. And even if the test were not inherently biased, if it's measuring skills that are taught in informal, everyday settings by more experienced, higher up firefighters, we know that since 86% of existing captains were white, they are much more likely to choose out people of their own race, with whom they feel more naturally comfortable, to spend time with mentoring in an informal, everyday way. That's the way I see it. We'll see how the case goes. One source, the Wall Street Journal ( sees this as a "last chance" for the Bush-dominated court to make a conservative statement against Affirmative Action before Supreme Court retirements bring a leftward swing to the court.

My Response to the Va Tech Diversity Mess

This was originally intended this as a guest op/ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but someone else more knowledgeable than me (John L. Jackson, Jr.) beat me to it, and did it better than I could (see at Here's mine, for what it's worth:

“This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Stanley!” That’s my initial reaction, as a grad student at Virginia Tech and supporter of diversity initiatives, to the step announced yesterday (April 15, 2009) to backtrack on the wording of diversity as a criterion to be considered for promotion and tenure at my school. The problem is in identifying the “Stanley” that’s to blame. There are plenty of candidates:

1. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for raising a big fuss by branding the policy a “requirement” and “litmus test” and infringement on “academic freedom.” Of course, that’s their job, and their name makes their ideology, individualism, clear.

2. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, for backtracking on the institution’s stated commitment to diversity as soon as the heat got turned up. Giving in to outside pressure groups like FIRE only empowers them, and disempowers the

3. Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee for apparently carelessly using the word “requirement” one time in a memo in referring to a policy which clearly was no such thing.

4. The Chronicle for Higher Education, for giving space to the complaints of a group like FIRE. What credentials does that group present, how large a constituency do they represent, that justifies opening the gate to allow their complaint to be aired uncritically to all your readers? And Robin Wilson used the term “requirement” as if that were what it was, rather than what some critics were characterizing it as.

5. We the supporters of diversity initiatives at Virginia Tech and other institutions of higher education. We weren’t vigilant enough, were complacent, too trusting that surely the “storm” that was brewing would be recognized as just a dirt devil and allowed to die without action.

No matter where we place the blame, once again damage is done to the reputation of a land grant college that is designed to serve a representative constituency of its residents whose tax support provides its lifeline, yet currently has a student body that is 4.3% African American (and the number for faculty is even lower), versus 18.4% of the state of Virginia , Aside from this most glaring statistic involving blacks, we also, like many schools, have an underrepresentation of women (especially as full professors on up), Hispanics, Native Americans, sexual minorities, the disabled, and other groups continuing to struggle against barriers intentionally constructed over many decades, and which require, in my opinion, intentional efforts to dismantle. When true diversity is achieved, we all win. What do we fear—loss of privilege?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Virginia Tech takes a Step Backward on Diversity

The spit hit the fan here in Hokie land on Tax Day, as it was announced that school president Charles Steiger and Provost Mark McNamee had given in to pressure from Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and a few like groups to change the wording of the school's diversity component in making promotion and tenure decision for faculty. FIRE framed it as a battle between, on the one hand, the individual rights and academic freedom of faculty members, versus the "requirement" and "litmus test" being imposed on them by the institution. FIRE raised some ruckus over the issue in the Collegiate Times student newspaper at Tech, as well as garnering coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And it worked. The administration caved, without consulting the vice president for diversity or other stakeholders until after the decision had been made. They claim that they have only taken the working out temporarily, until wording that makes involvement in diversity clearly optional can be agreed on. But it sends a very bad signal, for an institution where blacks and other minorities are badly underrepresented, and with a history of bad decisions that have hurt Tech's reputation in minority communities. Hope we can make our voices heard and get the reversal reversed again back to where it was, and where it belongs!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Neo-Hippie Indian Wanna-Be's Get Their Comeuppance

"So, like, man, we are totally noncomformist counterculturalists who like to party day and night, get neaked and great stuff like that, so we don't have to worry whether we trample on another race's sensitivities" Or maybe you do (read on)

Burners Torched Over Native Party
Local Native Americans go to war against insensitive Burners and win.
By David Downs

April 1, 2009

There was supposed to be a "private" Burner party last Saturday night at the Bordello in Oakland, complete with three hundred guests, twenty DJs spinning thumping techno and bass, dancers, a fashion show, micro-massages, raw food, an absinthe bar, and coconuts. Instead, the event ended in tears.

More than fifty Bay Area Native American rights activists converged on the historic East Oakland property at 9:30 p.m. to ensure the shutdown of popular Burning Man group Visionary Village's "Go Native!" party. The fired-up Hopis, Kiowas and other tribal members spent more than four hours lecturing the handful of white, college-class Burners about cultural sensitivity until some of them simply broke down crying. The emotional crescendo capped a month-long saga that started with a tone-deaf dance party flyer, led to an Internet flame war and a public excoriation of Visionary Village's young, neo-hippy leaders before real tribal elders in the East Bay demanded a cancellation of the event.

The strange saga all began in early February when Visionary Village — a loose group of artists and other young people who enjoy the annual Burning Man arts festival in Nevada — began routine publicity for a Burning Man-style "private event" at the Bordello on E. 12 Street in Oakland. The online flyer circulated on read: "GO NATIVE" in an Old West font set against a desert sun, and the dance party was advertised as a "fundraiser for the Native American Church." Native-rights activists got wind of it and publicized additional text from the web site indicating four "elemental rooms" would be themed: "Water: Island Natives (Maori); Air: Cliff Natives (Anasazi); Earth: Jungle Natives (Shipibo); Fire: Desert Natives (Pueblo)." Ravers were offered a discount off the $20 door fee "if you show up in Native costume," and the money would fund "neurofeedback research demonstrating causality between medicinal use [of peyote], improved brainwave patterns, and heightened mirror neuron activity in users." The 140-year-old Bordello property abuts Interstate 880 and an ancient Ohlone Indian site dated to the 12th century B.C., which was also promoted.

By Wednesday, March 25, Native Americans across the country were seething on the comment boards, especially — a popular web destination for alternative news and culture. American Indian Movement West member Mark Anquoe, a 39-year-old San Francisco resident, said he'd never seen such a swift reaction. The Burners touched a third rail when they invoked the Native American Church, which has had to fight for legal status from the United States for years. The costume discount, lumping distinct tribes in with each other and the promise of debauchery next to sacred Ohlone land, only added gasoline to the inferno. Commenters demanded that the event be canceled, started a petition amongst rights groups, and some began threatening Visionary Village with arson and rape. Among the most incendiary comments received by the Village: "YOU FUCKING CRACKKKERS[sic] ARE THE REAL DEVIL AS SPOKEN IN THE SCRIPTURE! SHIT LIKE THIS DOES NOT SUPRISE ME ONE BIT, ... I PRAY TO THE MOST HIGH THAT A METEOR WILL FALL OUT THE SKY AND HIT ... E. 12th Street AND ALL YOU FUCKING DEVILS WILL BE BURNING MEN ALRIGHT!!!!"

Anquoe said the sum of the Burners' actions turned them into a focal point for latent Indian rage over things as broad as the Cleveland Indians mascot and the Boy Scouts. "This is so many different levels all at once that the whole community from everywhere went up in flames all at once," he said.

The Burners quickly backpedaled online, signing a petition to distance the event from any Native themes and stating: "The decorations in the Air Room include a parachute. Our organizers are dressing as time-traveling aliens, Nickelodeon cartoon characters, and fire-dragons because that is how they identify their native identity. That is their NATIVE ATTIRE/COSTUME. ... Please stop slandering our event and misleading people."

But the bonfire was too big. Real Native Americans promised to protest the event and some DJs egged them on. On Friday, March 27, IndyBay reporter and UC Berkeley attendee Hillary Lehr proposed a meeting of both sides in Mosswood Park to work out their differences. Visionary Village leaders "Caapi" and Byron Page attended the meet with Anquoe and others. The Native Americans persuaded the Burners to come to the Intertribal Friendship House on International Boulevard in Oakland that night. There, they got blasted by Natives young and old for their party idea.

"They were brave for even coming," said Anquoe. "They saw the real tears of the people there and saw the heat of people's anger. The Village Elders demanded a cancellation. There was a ten-year-old girl sobbing in front of them."

Caapi and Page offered to cancel the event to wild applause, but the Native Americans planned on showing up Saturday night anyway. The event had been promoted for a month and they wanted the chance to talk to whoever showed up dressed in "native costume." More than twenty partygoers would arrive Saturday night, some in pattern-printed Hopi T-shirts or rustic, Andean fabrics and cuts, but all of them fled after hearing what was transpiring inside the Bordello.

Within the dark, labyrinthine walls of the 140-year-old former brothel, old Native Americans were lecturing young Burners on what it meant to be Indian. Lit by dim lamps under red glass lampshades, tribal elder Wounded Knee DeOcampo — wearing a black T-shirt that read "original landlord" — stood over performance artist "Cicada" in her sparkly, sheer scarf and layered hipster garb, lecturing her about his grandmother's forcible kidnapping and rape at white hands.

"There's a lot of pain," he said. "I don't want you to agree with me, I want you to understand!"

IndyBay reporter Lehr was nearby saying, "I've never seen anything like this. Their grievance is very real and it wasn't reconciled, it was escalated. We're starting to go down a long road now. It's not like everything's going to be okay. We're not going to sit around singing kumbaya."

At 10 p.m., activists and party planners sat cross-legged in a circle in the main room, lit by a lone spotlight and led by stern Intertribal Friendship House director Morning Star Gali. Native Americans vented and asked questions, while twentysomething Caapi — dressed in a Baja surf sweater — apologized profusely along with his crew. Byron Pope — noted for his Asian-Native American heritage and piercings, said he recently moved from his native Canada and was stunned at the response to his flyer. "I offer my sincere apologies. It's a different world here and I'm really learning that."

Caapi said his team's hearts were in the right place and they did not intend to steal Indian culture. "I think everyone here and inside of our community at large know how poorly promoted this event was in its iconography, in its text, in the affiliations and implications. I think perhaps after tonight the intent will be recognized for the good heartedness it was and the absence of anything resembling cultural appropriation."

But for every apology, the group often inserted a foot into its mouth. Some Burners said they'd been trained by shamans to build altars, others sang racist childhood songs, or noted the lack of Native Americans at Burning Man (which occurs on an Indian reservation). Others asked for Indian help with their Burning Man projects, prompting a Hopi woman to go off.

"I'm trying to articulate my feelings as best I can without completely losing it," she said. "What we do is not an artistic expression. And you don't have artistic license to take little pieces here and there and do what you want with it. That's something you people don't understand, probably never will understand.

"Name your little villages whatever you want, but don't ever associate it with Native Americans. Call it the Crystal Ranch or something. Call it the Mars Ranch. If you want to be spiritual — go be a Druid or something."

The back and forth went on until 1 a.m. and everyone was emotionally beaten, exhausted, and silent. No further reparations are planned, but the topic still smolders on places like The organizers lost thousands of dollars in party planning fees, and face the continued ire of the Natives as well as their own Burner peers.

"Elaine" on writes: "Dude, don't kiss anymore ass! [Visionary Village] did nothing wrong in the first place. This whole thing is blown completely out of context and out of control. The public apologies shouldn't have to be made. Its not like the theme camp was screaming some Michael 'Kramer' Richard shit at the tribe. Sorry this is just ridiculous."

Anquoe says the non-party was a rare example of effective conflict resolution that is unique to the Bay Area, and he commends Caapi for their actions. Those bystanders who claim overreaction should reverse the situation.

"If Indian people put together a fund-raiser advertised to benefit the Catholic Church where we did our version of a Catholic Church ceremony and there wasn't actually a fund-raiser — you know what the reaction to it would be in the white community!?" he asked. "People would take legal actions against us, it would be crazy, it would be far beyond not having a party. As it is, these kids didn't get to have their party and they had to listen to Indian people being angry and that's about right for the injury they caused the Native community."

Caapi maintains that the fund-raiser for the Native American Church was genuine, and will be providing the names and phone numbers of the event's beneficiaries as soon as he can collect them all.

It would Behoove Rep. Brown to Get a Clue

You may or may not have heard about this one yet--doesn't seem to have gotten much mainstream news coverage at this time. A Republican representative in the Texas General Assembly put her foot in her mouth and let her bi-ass show for all to see and hear in a hearing yesterday. She was trying to defend her precious Voter ID bill from the protests of Asian groups that the proposed law would suppress minority votes such as theirs, and cause a great deal of confusion.

Her argument basically is "Can't you people make it easier for us regular people by taking on a regular name like 'Bob' or 'Carol' so this name-matching problem won't get in the way of my precious voter id law?"

Of course, the joke is that someone were looking to commit vote fraud--which is what voter ID laws are supposedly intended to combat (it wouldn't be to suppress the minority and lower-income vote, of course not)--would do it through absentee ballot, where there is never any check of any kind, and which no voter id law proposal that I know of does ANYTHING to address.

Here is the story (from

Asians should simplify their names, GOP lawmaker says by John Byrne
Published: Thursday April 9, 2009

In a puzzling move which she insisted isn't about race, a Republican state lawmaker in Texas said in House testimony Wednesday that Asian Americans should change their names to ones that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Democrats jumped on the comments by state Rep. Betty Brown. Her remarks came during a Texas House Elections Committee hearing, who'd invited a Chinese American representative to testify about ballot accessibility.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown remarked.

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?” she added.

A spokesman for the Texas Republican legislator told the Houston Chronicle her comments weren't about race -- she was only attempting to "overcome problems" with identifying Asian names "for voting purposes." Brown made the comment after the Chinese American representative, Ramey Ko, said people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent had trouble voting because their legal name may differ from the English name they use on their driver's licenses.

Democrats demanded an apology. Local Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said that the Republicans were trying to suppress votes with a voter ID bill and that Brown is “adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments.”

"State Representative Betty Brown's racially insensitive remarks have no place in America, and she should immediately and unconditionally apologize for her remarks," wrote Asian-American Democrats of Texas President AJ Durrani, according to a post on the Burnt Orange Report. "Please contact State Representative Betty Brown about her unacceptable remarks and ask her to apologize immediately in a public forum."

And here's the video link:

Sad Sequel to Jena in Louisiana

Quiet, well-respected 73-year-old black man gunned down at his own house by white cop. His crime? Apparently having a son with a record suspected of dealing drugs.

Say what you want about Rev. Sharpton, but the story isn't making news, doesn't come to my attention, isn't posted here if he doesn't get involved.

Black man's killing by police shakes La. town

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writers Michael Kunzelman And Mary Foster, Associated Press Writers –
HOMER, La. – For 73 years before his killing by a white police officer, Bernard Monroe led a life in this northern Louisiana town as peaceful as they come — five kids with his wife of five decades, all raised in the same house, supported by the same job.

The black man's shooting death is attracting far more attention than he ever did, raising racial tensions between the black community and Homer's police department.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize a massive 2007 civil rights demonstration in Jena after six black teenagers were charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate, led a peaceful march Friday afternoon in Homer to protest the killing.

"No justice, no peace!" demonstrators chanted. "We shall overcome!"

About 150 demonstrators marched near the neighborhood where Monroe, a 73-year-old retired power company lineman, was gunned down by police last February outside his home during a family cookout.

The half-mile march ended without incident at a park where the longtime civil rights activist told an even larger crowd of almost 400 people that "to shoot an unarmed, innocent man ... is a disgrace."

"We didn't come to the city to start trouble. We came to the city to stop trouble," Sharpton told the crowd. "Let (police) explain why they broke the peace and took the life of this innocent man."

Some white Homer residents said they feared Sharpton's visit would deepen tensions.

Linda Volentine, whose 1971 graduating class at Homer High School was the first to be fully integrated, said the town's race relations have had "ups and downs" in recent years.

"I'm hoping Rev. Sharpton can unite us again," said Volentine, who is white. "But if it's something that is supposed to drive a wedge, it will be harmful to the community, which we don't need."

Sharpton said afterward that he wants a thorough investigation of the killing. The FBI and State Police are investigating.

"We're going to keep coming to Homer until we get justice," Sharpton said without elaborating.

Rendered mute after losing his larynx to cancer, Monroe was outside his home on mild Friday afternoon in February when events unfolded during a cookout. A barbecue cooker smoked beside a picnic table in the yard. A dozen or so family members talked and played nearby.

All seemed calm, until two Homer police officers drove up.

In a report to state authorities, Homer police said Officer Tim Cox and another officer they have refused to identify chased Monroe's son, Shaun, 38, from a suspected drug deal blocks away to his father's house.

Witnesses dispute that account, saying the younger Monroe was talking to his sister-in-law in a truck outside the house when officers arrived.

All agree Shaun Monroe, who had an arrest record for assault and battery but no current warrants, drove up the driveway and went into the house. Two white police officers followed him. Within minutes, he ran back outside, followed by an unidentified officer who Tasered him in the front yard.

Seeing the commotion, Bernard Monroe confronted the officer. Police said that he advanced on them with a pistol and that Cox, who was still inside the house, shot at him through a screen door.

Monroe fell dead. How many shots were fired isn't clear; the coroner has refused to release an autopsy report, citing the active investigation.

Police said Monroe was shot after he pointed a gun at them, though no one claims Monroe fired shots. Friends and family said he was holding a bottle of sports water. They accuse police of planting a gun he owned next to his body.

"Mr. Ben didn't have a gun," said 32-year-old neighbor Marcus Frazier, who was there that day. "I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him."

Frazier said Monroe was known to keep a gun for protection because of local drug activity.

Despite the chase and Tasering, Shaun Monroe was not arrested.

Monroe's gun is being DNA-tested by state police. The findings of their investigation will be given to District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, who would decide whether to file charges.

"We've had a good relationship, blacks and whites, but this thing has done a lot of damage," said Michael Wade, one of three blacks on the five-member town council. "To shoot down a family man that had never done any harm, had no police record, caused no trouble. Suddenly everyone is looking around wondering why it happened and if race was the reason."

Homer, a town of 3,800 about 45 miles northwest of Shreveport, is in piney woods just south of the Arkansas state line. Many people work in the oil or timber industries. In the old downtown, shops line streets near the antebellum Claiborne Parish courthouse on the town square.

The easygoing climate, blacks say, masked police harassment.

The black community has focused its anger on Police Chief Russell Mills, who is white. They say he's directed a policy of harassment toward them.

The FBI and State Police said they received no complaints about Homer police before the shooting.

Mills declined interview requests, saying he retained a lawyer and feared losing his job.

He and several Homer police officers stood alongside a road as marchers filed by Friday. In a town where many know each other, he shook the hands of several people.

Several Justice Department mediators accompanied Sharpton and the other marchers.

The Rev. Willie Young, pastor of the Baptist church where the march began, said "things begin to happen" when Sharpton lends his time to a cause.

"I want you to meet the new South," he said at the rally. "Things will never be the same. Homer will never be the same."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

UConn Women's Coach Mentions (GASP!) Race

While I was writing the previous post on men's basketball and race, I overheard a comment recorded from the day before on the Women's Final Four pregame show on TV. Unbeaten UConn's women's team coach Geno Auriemma, notorious for being controversial, didn't disappoint. I looked it up to get the words right. Here's what he said, unprompted by any question on the subject from reporters:

“I know this is going to get played out the wrong way,” said Auriemma, who was named the Associated Press women’s coach of the year for guiding Connecticut to a 37-0 record. “But I’m going to say it anyway. And I know I’m going to get criticized for this.

“White kids are always looked upon as being soft. So Stanford’s got a tremendous amount of really good players who for whatever reason, because they don’t look like Tina Charles or Maya Moore, the perception out there is going to be, well, they must be soft.

“Well, I think that’s a bunch of bull. I watched them play and nobody goes harder to the boards. Nobody takes more charges. Nobody runs the floor as hard. Those kids are as tough as any of the kids in the country. But people on the sports world like to make judgments on people by how they look. And it’s grossly unfair.”

I don't care much for Auriemma from what I've heard about him, but I commend him, too, for not dodging the subject. Sure, he had an angle he was working, a psychological game he was playing. But there's truth there, too. White women: sweet, soft, feminine, delicate, playing the finesse game. Black women: tough, physical, athletic, (maybe even mean?)

That's the stereotyped image. He was just calling it out, and debunking it. Good for him. (Not that I expect Stanford to beat them later tonight--no one has played Uconn within 10 pounts, much less beat them, this season!)

Race and (Men's College) Basketball

This notion that to even mention or think about race is bad is laughable. EVERYBODY thinks about it--NOBODY talks about it, and we cross our fingers and hope for the best. The latest colorblind nonsense comes from Dick Vitale et al. In a brave, insightful article in the Orlando Sentinel (,0,3051564.story?page=1), Jeremy Fowler takes on the subject head-on. Among the info he garnered: Two out of 20 starters on the 2009 Final Four teams are white (although both are big name: N.C.'s Tyler Hansbrough and Mich. St.'s Goran Suton). UConn and Villanova have zero whites on the roster.

Here are the p.c. "race doesn't matter" quotes:

"A lot of garbage," ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale called the notion of race playing a factor in basketball success. A coach "shouldn't be coaching" if he recruits with race in mind.

"I've never really thought about it [number of whites and blacks on the team] like that," Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. Donovan said he recruits players "who love the game" and pays no attention whatsoever to their race. It's all about a player fitting a system, Donovan said.

"We don't talk a lot in the recruiting industry about race," recruiting analyst Dave Telep said.

And the one expert whose job is to comment on it: Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport: "People don't talk about race, period — that's why they are uncomfortable with it."

Much of the article is built around an examination of programs with two or more Final Four appearances since 1997, as well as every school in the Southeastern Conference. The findings: in 12 of the 23 schools, men's basketball scholarship signees since 1997 were less than 20% white.

Number of white signees on the 11 teams with 2+ Final Four appearances over those years: Florida: 14
Duke: 14
Ohio State: 13
Kentucky: 13
Kansas: 11
UCLA: 10
Michigan State: 10
Arizona: 9
UNC: 9
Maryland: 7
UConn: 5

A partial list of the white signees of Southeastern Confererence programs since 1997:
1. Vanderbilt: 18
2. Florida: 14
3. Kentucky: 13
4. Arkansas: 11
Lowest number of white signees: Alabama: 2 and LSU: 6

Talking about the numbers is not a sin. People DO notice race. Other players do (Justin Knox, a black player from Alabama, says he has the mentality "you can come out and whoop on" predominately white teams. Chandler Parsons, a white player from Florida, admits: "You look at any school in the past that has had a white guy do well. If you're a white recruit, you look at that stuff.") Refs do. Fans do. Coaches do, despite their protests to the contrary. Recruiting analysts do; they just can't talk about it.

Once more, let me state my conviction that it is the AVOIDANCE of talking about race that is the problem. Talk about it. Be brave. Be sensitive. Be willing to laugh, to be shown you are wrong, to agree to disagree. I may not agree with Jeremy Fowler's implying that Duke and Florida have not done as well the last few years because they've recruited too many whites. But, hey, I'm glad he's expressing his opinions. I commend him for tackling the subject. As for Dick Vitale, keep living in your dream world, BAY-Y-BEEEEEEE! Ignore that elephant in the room, and maybe it will go away.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

McCain Looking out for the Interests of Long-Dead Blacks

Sen. John McCain, continuing his long regret over voting against the MLK Holiday in 1983 and equivocating over flying the Confederate flag in the South Carolina primary in 2000, is bravely stepping up in a grand effort to have first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, pardoned for his trumped up conviction on violating the Mann Act (his real crime was womanizing with white women, and then--egads!--marrying one!) The story is at

Of course, Johnson has been dead for over 60 years, so the pardon won't exactly get him out of jail or help him with potential employers.

Curious that McCain is willing to "stick his neck out" for this cause that will cost him and American taxpayers absolutely nothing, instead of fighting for better schools, job training, scholarships, compensatory rewards for discrimination suffered, etc.

The article says, "Both McCain and [U.S. Rep. Peter] King [R-NY] said a pardon, particularly one from Obama, would carry important symbolism.

"It would be indicative of the distance we've come, and also indicative of the distance we still have to go," McCain said.
Not sure what that means--that we still have more 90-some-year old convictions of 69-some-year dead blacks to overturn?

Distressing in another way is documentary filmmaker Ken Burn's take: Burns, however, sees a pardon more as "just a question of justice, which is not only blind, but color blind," adding, "And I think it absolutely does not have anything to do with the symbolism of an African-American president pardoning an African-American unjustly accused."

So the fact that Johnson was black has nothing to do with it? I don't get it. Again, I say, I am color blind. No, I don't mean I don't notice race. I mean really, literally, I'm likely to match blue and purple socks, a green shirts and brown pants, to pull over for a tow trucks yellow lights thinking it was the emergency red lights of an ambulance or cop. I see all of three colors in a rainbow if I'm lucky. Colorblindness for real is nothing to be desired. Neither is ideological colorblindness. To deny our differences, to refuse to recognize the lingering significance of race is to elevate the status quo, to set in stone the unquestioned, unexamined privileges of whiteness. Just say "No" to mindless parroting of the inane ideology of colorblindness!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Officer Powell, Part 2

This from the Dallas Morning News (

Zach Thomas: Same Dallas officer mistreated my wife
NFL linebacker says line was crossed in 2008 traffic stop; Powell's attorney sees no improper actions

11:47 PM CDT on Sunday, March 29, 2009

By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News

Maritza Thomas, the wife of NFL linebacker Zach Thomas, saw a familiar face as she watched the video of Officer Robert Powell detaining Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats as he and his family rushed to a hospital to see a dying loved one. That face was Powell's.

On July 27, 2008, while her husband was at training camp with the Cowboys in Oxnard, Calif., Maritza Thomas was pulled over by Powell for an illegal U-turn near NorthPark Center.

Maritza Thomas was issued five tickets by Powell, four of which were later dismissed. Thomas was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police cruiser, spent about three hours in the Dallas County Jail and was threatened with the possibility of spending the night behind bars.

"This in no way compares to what happened to Ryan Moats and his family," said Zach Thomas, who played for the Cowboys last season and is now a free agent. "But we wanted to tell our story, not knowing how many others have been affected by Officer Powell. We know the vast majority of the Dallas police force are good and professional people, but this guy just seems excessive."

The charges that were dropped were failure to show proof of insurance, running a red light, having an improper address on a driver's license and not having a registration sticker on the windshield. She accepted deferred adjudication for the illegal U-turn charge, and her record will be cleared next month.

In total, Maritza Thomas, who is Hispanic, was detained roughly five hours.

"This situation never should've happened," said Maritza Thomas' attorney, Brody Shanklin. "Unless extraordinary circumstances exist, no person should be arrested for a Class C citation. In this case, it was an example of Officer Powell being overzealous and exerting his authority in a manner that he never should have."

Bob Gorsky, Powell's attorney, questioned the timing of Thomas' allegations, saying she had not complained about her arrest until the Moats incident became public.

"After her arrest, she may have mentioned that her husband was a football player, but that played no role in her arrest or the disposition of the case," Gorsky said.

"I do understand that an arrest on multiple traffic charges happens often and is absolutely proper under these circumstances," Gorsky said. "Often, when there are multiple charges, an arrest made and bond posted, some of the charges from a single event are later dropped."

According to Maritza Thomas, a pharmacist with no prior criminal record, Powell would not accept the explanation of where the proper paperwork was before she was taken to jail. Her mother, Teresa Lozano, who was making her first trip to Dallas and speaks little English, was forced to ride with the tow truck driver when the car was impounded. She later posted bail for her daughter's release.

"My mom was begging for him to let her go to the apartment that was five minutes away to get the paperwork," Maritza Thomas said. "He unbuckled his holster, and she got scared."

The Thomases said Powell was dismissive, but they did not allege that he used abusive language. There is no dash-cam video available of the incident, but the police report lists the five citations and confirms that Thomas was taken to jail.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Urban League Pressures Obama

The Urban League (remember them?) is pressuring Obama to more directly address the issues (imprisonment, unemployment, affordable housing, etc.) most pressing for blacks. They issued a "State of the Black Union" yesterday and challenged Obama to do more to help African Americans. This is gonna be a tightrope walk for Obama, as it was in the campaign--to remain "black enough" for fellow blacks but not too black for the nonblack public. As far as I know, the Urban League has gotten no response from Obama. Good politics. Good ethics? Now that's another question.

Cop Prevents NFL Player from seeing Mother-in-Law before she died

Here's the story link:
Houston Texan running back Ryan Moats was stopped for rolling through a red light outside the Plano, Texas hospital where his mother-in-law was dying, and refused to relent from hassling Moats after informed of the situation, using threatening language like "I can screw you over," "shut your mouth" and threats to arrest him and take him to jail. By the time the officer, Robert Powell, was informed by other officers that Moat was telling the truth, it was too late. The dying woman's daughter, Moat's wife, was also in the car but left despite being told by Powell to get back in the car. She saw her mom before she died.

Of course, Moats is black; Powell is white. The Dallas police chief is siding with Powell after watching a videotape of the incident. The one point the article doesn't make: how much publicity would this have gotten had Moats not been a famous professional athlete? Would the police chief ever even have gotten involved? What do YOU think?

RIP John Hope Franklin

Perhaps the greatest African American historian, and the greatest historian of blacks, died yesterday. I just attended a conference on race at Duke last weekend that was in Franklin's honor, but he was unable to attend. One of my heroes. May God comfort his family, and may Franklin's life example inspire all of us to work toward justice and understanding between the races.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Name-Deaf America?

I came across this Q and A of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal in Time Magazine, 3-16-09, p. 4:
Q.: Did you make a deliberate effort to transcend race in your political career? asked by Fatima Syed, Richmond, VA
Jindal's A: The great thing about the U.S. is it doesn't matter what your last name is. We live in this diverse pluralistic country where people are accepted for who they are.

The first time I read this, I thought: Just the usual colorblind ideology prevalent in the U.S. these days. Then I noticed Jinal's emphasis on the LAST name not mattering. Ironic. The questioner's FIRST name, too (Fatimah) is "foreign," "nonChristian" sounding. Jindal, on the other hand, changed his from "Piyush" to the inoccuous, even inane-sounding "Bobby." Contrast this with our president, who went by "Barry" to fit in in childhood and adolescence, but made a conscious decision to revert to Barack in college-age, and has stuck with it since. Revealing. Being true to self vs. trying to fit in.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Ending Racism in About an Hour" of laughs

Was reading a report by Julianne Ong Hing on Color Lines about black comedian Kamau Bell ( He calls his show "The W. Kamau Bell Curve Show: Ending Racism In About An Hour." Gotta love this guy for that title alone. Then there is this: apparently he offers a deal that allows folks who bring a friend of a different race to get two tickets for the price of one. He does this for a reason: “Most comedy club audiences are white. But there’s a critical mass of brown people who need to be in the room,” Bell says, “or else there are times when it becomes court testimony.”

Among the topics of his show: the tension of needing to be on his best behavior when he is the only black in a room full of whites. "He compared it to acting like Cuba Gooding Jr. ... before multiple slights make him feel more like Samuel L. Jackson, mouth set and shoulders clenched" writes Hing.

For the people of color in the audience, the laughs came from knowing recognition. If the whites in the room felt a little uncomfortable, Bell says that is exactly his intention. 'Sometimes I don’t want it couched in a joke,' he says. 'I want the statement to bounce off their foreheads.'"

As for how Obama's election affects Bell's routine: “The show needs to be even more specific than before, because people think racism is over. I feel the need to say it more directly and more specifically now.”

See his website at I like this kind of honest, squirm-inducing approach to race. Good for breaking through those troublesome, stubborn defenses.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Resident Evil" goes "Racially Evil"

Resident Evil has been a popular video game franchise since 1996, selling over 12 million untis and producing nearly half a million dollars in sales. Now Resident Evil 5, released today, has raised some controversy among race-sensitive folks, although not apparently among most gamers. What's the problem? The game features the player as a protagonist white male shooting and machete hacking shirtless, ragged, red-eyed African zombies. Yeah, I'd say that might be a problem. THe criticsm started in 2007 when trailer previews were first released, but apparently few changes were made by the mostly Asian and white game programmers. ReporterMike Smith puts it well in this excerpt from

"Is it racist? Taken purely in isolation, the sight of a white male gunning down hordes of semi-mindless African opponents has provoked many reactions. But although only a few reviews have sneaked out so far, they largely brush off the racism allegations: it's currently scoring 87% at review aggregation site Even the BBFC, the group responsible for issuing age certifications in Britain, publicly declared the race controversy a non-issue.

Other commentators have been less charitable. One preview on slammed the game as playing "so blatantly into the old cliches of the dangerous dark continent and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s".

But most video game critics seem to have ignored the race controversy. "For my money, fun is fun, and RE5 has near infinite ammo in that department," said IGN in this review, which goes on to award it a top score. In fact, it's turning in top scores almost across the board.

Some critics have even pointed (rather accurately, I would judge)to the outbreak of a zombie-like, walking-dead-like infection in poor rural Africa to the AIDS epidemic raging through that continent.

One more note: the protogonist's sidekick is a resident of the area, but is female, lightskinned, straight-haired, and much of the focus is on her booty, not her beauty.

Finally, I looked for a facebook protest group to join. A keyword search of "resident evil racist" brought up a group called "Resident Evil is NOT Racist!" with 617 members and many other smaller groups defending the game. The first one I found protesting it, "Resident Evil 5 is the most racist game ever," is a closed group, apparently because an open group was or would have been overrun with militant defenders of the game, and the closed group has only 9 members. I ended up joining a group called "CAPCOMd is Racist" at

CAPCOM is the game's publisher.