Friday, February 26, 2010

No one can Tapdance Hard Enough. No one.

Today I was on FaceBook and New Orleanian artist that I've known for over 15 years posted an article about how a well-known Native-New Orleanian rapper, named Juvenile, was arrested for possession of marijuana on yesterday. My friend the artist commented that he hoped they freed Juvenile soon. Minutes later, this cat starts talking some crazy ish about how he doesn't understand "this black community bullshit" that says we should free criminals and how it's the same thing that won't allow us to criticize Obama: since they are both black we are supposed to defend them.

He went on to blab, "Fuck them. Fuck Juvy. Fuck Mystikal" and basically fuck all lawbreakers. The last name was in reference to a local rapper who was recently released from prison after serving several years for raping a woman. He claimed that black people are happy that Mystikal is out and look for ways to justify the crime that he committed. Then he went on to make a people of color variation of the classic concern troll line, "Won't someone think of the children?!" His argument was that we can't expect for our children not to go to jail unless we lock up all of the black people that the government decides to call "criminals".

Now, I'm no fan of Juvenile's music. I honestly have no interest in becoming one, either. Still, this guy's bullshit really irked me. I mean, my eye was really about to start twitching after reading this tripe. I'm not friends with this cat, so I wasn't about to ask for his permission to quote him. That's why I've only provided a summation of his words instead of actual quotes. However, I can post what I wrote to him.
Wow! I don't even know where to begin with your comment! Do you not understand the difference between raping someone and adults voluntarily ingesting a substance? One infringes on the bodily autonomy of someone else. The other does not. The line between what substances are legal and which ones are not isn't based on some objective standard, so what do you think it's based on? Do you understand the history of drug prohibitions in this country? See, if we should just obey every law that this government sees fit to pass, then your ass would probably be a slave instead of walking around without a harness on your back.

And who said "we" aren't supposed to criticize Obama? That's a straw man argument. Plenty of black people criticize him and have been doing so since he stepped into politics. Maybe you and the folks you run with were happy that Mystikal got out of jail for raping a woman, but none of the black folks that I associate with seemed happy about it.

This "thing about the black community" that you don't get is the realization that anything can be criminalized and in a society where anything can be criminalized, anyone can be labeled a criminal. That includes you. Of course, black bourgeois values can lead some of us to believe that if we just tap dance hard enough, there's no possibility that we could also end up unintentionally involved in this country's "criminal justice" system. Believe that if you need to, but don't be surprised if this strategy doesn't work for you any more than it has for others who also bought into it.
I grew up with this guy's mentality. I was fed the same lines. As long as you followed the proper social conventions and didn't consort with that "other" class of blacks, you'd never have any problems--so they said. In New Orleans' heavily-stratified culture(s), there was a real sense of superiority among some communities of people of color. We know where and what it stems from, but there are still a lot of folks who'd like to see it maintained. In other words, the brown paper bag mentality is still in effect. After all, New Orleans is the place where it originated.

California's "Curse-Free Week"? Are you $*#&^%# Serious, People?!

Apparently, the state of California has experienced such an economic turn around that its politicians now have the time to pursue more important matters, like changing the vocabulary used by Americans. Thanks to Kevin (creator of A Slant Truth), I learned that the genius assembly-persons have passed a resolution that would declare the first week of March as "Cuss-Free Week" all across the Golden State.

I love the article that Kevin linked to, especially because of this quote from the Democratic Assemblyman, Anthony Portantino: "I've always wondered why we behave differently when grandma is watching than when we're on our own". When I read that I laughed and laughed because I thought about how naive this guy is being. My grandmother was the first person I've ever met who used the word "twat". Not only did she use it, she used it quite liberally. Whenever my brothers and I were wiggling around too much or getting too rambunctious, she'd tell us all to "Sit your twats down!" or "Keep your twats still!" I had no idea what the term meant or that many people considered it a vulgarity until I used it at an inopportune time involving a (right-wing, conservative, evangelical Christian) social gathering my parents were attending. Ahh, the joys of parenting!

Honestly, this was never an issue for me and my daughter. Down here in Louisiana, people are very strict about what's considered good manners and civilized/ladylike behavior. It can really work against you to violate these social mores, so I taught my daughter that she should never allow any adults to hear her using curse words when she was outside of our home. It's not that I disapproved of cursing. I just didn't want her to have to deal with all of the hassle that would go along with it, such as the scolding from adults, the classist assumptions people would make about her intelligence and educational achievements, the punitive treatment from teachers and other school officials.

I also taught her that it was perfectly okay with me if she used curse words with her girlfriends, but that she might want to consider easing up on the use of some of those words if boys happened to be around. Even if she and her girlfriends knew what each other meant when or if they affectionately called each other "bitch" or "cunty", boys will sometimes see this and try to excuse their own use of these words by pointing out the times they've heard a girl using them. I taught her that it was a weak tactic, because the meanings of words often depends on who's using them, but that didn't mean that she had to make it one that was easy for them to use with her.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. She has never had a problem with altering her speech based on who was around. At the same time, she always speaks quite freely when she's among her peers. Her friends also know that they don't have to hide the fact that they curse from me. In fact, they love to amuse themselves by teaching me the curse words that kids use today.

I find that I'm a lot closer to these kids than they tend to be with their parents. I think the fact that they don't have to censor themselves to adhere to some completely subjective standard makes it a lot easier for them to just open up and talk to me things that their parents might be quite shocked to learn. I remember being a teenager and it was hard enough just talking about mundane stuff with my parents; the idea of discussing controversial subjects was never even seriously entertained because, before I opened my mouth, I had to consider what they would think of me if I said certain things that, while true, were definitely profane in their eyes.

Today, my daughter and I regularly talk about subjects that I wouldn't never have brought up with my parents. We cackle until the wee hours of the morning sometimes as we talk about conversations and events that have taken place while she was at school. I don't think anyone could prove that our relationship would or could have been better than it is now, if I had forbidden her from using curse words. Even if I disapproved of her using curse words, it would still be worth accepting just in case it might eliminate one possible conversation barrier between us. I'd urge any parents, especially those of teenagers, to give some thought to whether the use of curse words is something they really need to be concerned about.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The SeaWorld is a Symptom

I'm not exactly what some might call an "animal rights activist". Okay, I'm not at all an animal rights activist. What I do believe in is probably better described as "animal welfare activism". That's why I was especially interested when I read in the news that, a couple of days ago, there was an incident involving a killer whale who was a performer at the SeaWorld in California.

The whale, named Tilikum, reached up from his tank and grabbed one of his trainers who was standing next to it. Dawn Brancheau was dragged around the tank and violently shaken back and forth by the whale until she was dead. Since then, various people have spoken out about how we shouldn't consider this typical behavior for killer whales, creatures that were already frequently misunderstood by the general public.

On Facebook, an acquaintance of mine asked,
People what have we learned from yesterday's Sea World attack and the Siegfried and Roy incident? Wild animals are just that - wild! Leave them alone, stick 'em back in their natural habitats and admire them from a distance or get ya ass whupped! (Getting down off of my SoapBox)
I think that he has a real point. Before this, there was the Siegfried and Roy incident and the shocking death of Steve Irwin. However, neither of these lead to any widespread changes in the way that people treat animals. That's one of the problems with humankind: We never learn from other people's mistakes. I think it's a kind of arrogance that makes us think that we can or already have completely conquered nature. Heck, I'm not even sure we should consider ourselves the dominant species. Bacteria seem to be much better at survival and have a much longer history of adapting to change and adversity than we do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Suburban-Capitalist Islam

My beloved sister Aminah has a post on her blog that links to another blog by a Muslim named Yursil. Yursil wrote a post about what he calls "Suburban-Capitalist Islam". I won't pretend to speak for him, but I saw it as a sort of list of the ways that classism manifests itself in Muslims who live in the USA (and perhaps other Western societies, too). I have a few things to say about his post, but first I wanted to write about a remark written by one of his commenters. Something RCHOUDH said stood out to me.
"If only suburban capitalist Muslims and their masajids could offer some help and guidance (and I don’t just mean financial but also social/spiritual guidance) to those less well off and who are also trying to raise their children by Deen but don’t know how to really go about doing it, especially if they are immigrants to the West and are unaware of the ways to deal with the specific issues and concerns they face living there."
I have noticed this and often thought the same thing. I know a brother who is not as well-off financially as he used to be when he was a Christian. When he converted to Islam, he had to quit his job because he refused to work in any place that would not allow him to stop and say his five daily prayers. He found other work, but nothing that allowed him to provide for himself (and his small children and wife) as well as his former job did.

Recently, it came time for his oldest daughter to start school. He wanted to send her to an Islamic school, so that she could receive an education that featured the religious values that he felt all Muslim children need. Unfortunately, the closest Islamic school is in the suburbs and it's quite expensive. This means that almost all of the urban, less affluent Muslims in the city are forced to go to public schools that are among the worst in the nation. In other words, they simply do not have access to the same sources of 'ilm (religious knowledge) that Suburban-Capitalist Muslims have. It's a shame, really, because school is the place where most children spend the majority of their time away from home and I would think it is the best place for teaching Islamic values before the worst parts of Western culture can take hold.

Feministing Fail

How not to have a conversation about international adoptions:

Adoptees of Color Speak Out Against International Adoption of Haitian Children

This comment was a real gem:

One friend of mine ( 'asian' by your standards) is also decended from a Revolutionary War vet. Yep, the family has been American since the moment there was a USA.

But maybe you think they should have 'stayed with their kind' 200+ years ago.

Of course, I replied.
Plenty of us who are the descendants of Native Americans actually DO wish that the people who came and killed off our people and stole, I mean "adopted", their children truly do wish that these colonizing "well-intentioned" imperialists would have stayed with their own kind. History has shown us what happens when Europeans and European-Americans swoop in and take children who are people of color away from their culture. They benefit at the expense of POC.
The wheel barrel full of fail that is the comment section on Feministing exemplifies why I make it a point not to visit that site at all. This time, I broke my own policy and looked at it after seeing a link to it on another site that was also talking about the Haitian children who were abducted by the "Christian" missionaries.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Case with Deaf Cancer Patient Also Involves "Right to Know vs. Right to Decide" Issue

Thanks to Cara Kulwicki, I just heard about another example of how the medical establishment in the United States screws over people with disabilities.
"I’ve heard a lot of heartbreaking and enraging stories in my lifetime, but this still manages to rank pretty highly up there. Health care providers never gave a woman with cancer and her husband, both of whom were deaf, a repeatedly requested interpreter. And thus, they weren’t told for three months that she was dying."
I think I agree with everything in this article, except for one point that might seem trivial to others, but really isn't--at least not to many of us who have experience with incurable cancers. In Cara's post she said,
"Outside of a few strict exceptions (i.e. a patient is unresponsive or unconscious and in need of immediate care), everyone deserves and needs the right to make informed decisions about their course of medical treatment, and to fully understand their condition."
I'm not sure if she is saying that everyone (outside of those she excepted) needs THE RIGHT to fully understand their condition or if she means that everyone needs to fully understand their condition.

The issues surrounding just how much information a patient needs and/or should be given is one that we discuss in my incurable/terminal cancer support group on a fairly regular basis. Some patients really don't WANT to know when/if they become terminal. Some people find it counter-productive--and, quite frankly, terrifying--to be told this and prefer to simply live each day to the fullest, no matter what may happen in the future.

Once I found out my own cancer was incurable, I made it clear to all of the doctors associated with my care that I did NOT want to be told if they came to the conclusion that I was terminal. I let them know that, if they felt like they just had to tell someone, they could let my partner know--but only if they could do so in a way that I wouldn't accidentally overhear. It can be incredibly heart-wrenching to hear that you have X number of days/months to live when, at best, this is just a guesstimation.

I think the most important thing to get out of this case with the Nelson family is that patients with disabilities need to be able to decide just how much information they want to know about their care and, in order for them to do that, they need to have access to the same level of communication that non-disabled people can have with their doctors. However, this does not mean that patients should be (or feel) forced to hear a doctor say they should just accept death because their cancer can't be cured--which is essentially what a terminal diagnosis means.

Having been there and having known others who were pronounced terminally ill but have gone on to recover*, I can say for a certainty that not everyone with incurable cancer wants to hear that their doctors have concluded that they can't survive past a certain period of time. We are living evidence of why doctors shouldn't ever make a unilateral decision about whether a person should give up the hope that they may actually survive cancer.

Cancer Facts:

  • There is no type of cancer from which someone has not been cured!
  • There is no type of cancer for which there are no treatments!
  • Cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases!

*In March, 1978, Richard A. Bloch was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and told that he had three months to live. He chose to fight for his life and was declared cancer-free two years later. For the remaining twenty-six years of his life, Dick and his wife, Annette, devoted themselves to helping the next person with cancer have the best chance of beating it. Dick passed away in July, 2004 of heart failure. The R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation continues the mission under Annette’s leadership.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Official Hood Pass Declaration

I hereby revoke any hood passes that all rich, white people reading this may believe they have in their possession. Effective immediately, any attempts to use it will be met with swift and decisive action that may or may not include being dropped from my circle of trusted friends and acquaintances, having your antics exposed anywhere I see you posting (or mentioned) on the Internet, and/or personally tearing you a "new one" on behalf of people of color everywhere. So it has been written, so shall it be done.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Saints Super Bowl Party with the Family

The last few weeks have left me feeling breathless. First the Saints made it into the playoffs, then they became the NFC Champions. Now, they are the winners of Super Bowl XLIV. This is the first time the Saints even made it to the Super Bowl. After waiting all these decades, Saints fans were on pins and needles as we watched them playing the Indianapolis Colts (the team that most people favored).

We invited my sister-in-law and her boyfriend over to our house to watch the game with us. We also have an exchange student from China who is staying with us for a week and we talked her into watching the game with us, too. The German bought us all temporary tattoos to wear during the game. We also got our student a Saints shirt so that she could experience the Who Dat fever with us. Here's a few photos from that night.

The German popped open a bottle of champagne and we all went wild when the game ended and the Saints won.

We bought a bottle of sparkling apple pomegranate juice for the girls to drink when we toasted the Saints victory.