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Friday, May 29, 2009

Sotomayer


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 http://news.muckety.com/2009/05/24/as-new-xerox-chief-ursula-burns-will-set-more-than-one-precedent/16051)

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 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090523/ap_on_re_us/us_serial_killer_milwaukee. 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 http://www.examiner.com/x-4107-Gay--Lesbian-Issues-Examiner~y2009m5d20-Kris-Allen-wins-American-Idol--did-religion-play-a-role, 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:

(from http://www.racewire.org/archives/2009/04/right_flu_wrong_swine.html)

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...