Thursday, March 18, 2010

So, How is an Un-Enrolled Native-American/Black/French/Irish/Italian Creole Girl Supposed to Fill Out the Census?

I am absolutely dreading filling out the census forms for my family. Being from a port city, my identity is a mix of so many cultures, that it becomes difficult to try and explain on forms what I "am". I usually identify as a Native American/Black/French/Irish because those are the only groups that I actually have cultural ties to, even though we recently learned that my maternal ancestors also include some Germans, too.

My daughter comes from an Italian/Creole family on her father's side. What in heaven's name am I supposed to say that she is? Am I the only one who is completely stressed out about this?

If you really want to find out how screwed up this census form really is, try being a Louisiana Creole or Cajun! Nobody seems to give a damn about our identity. I wonder what my blatino first cousins are going to put, since they identify as Bolivian/Louisiana Creoles. This form is an absolute mess!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Please Don't Say You're Sorry

At this point, I think I'm kind of a professional at this cancer survival thing. I've been doing it for so long that it can be hard to remember how it felt to live without it. I'm really proud of myself for doing all that has been necessary for me to survive this long. I have no problem saying that I have accomplished more with my body than almost anyone I know (except some of my amazing sisters and brothers in the disability community).

Becoming committed to surviving cancer was not an easy feat. Dealing with other people's reaction to my cancer was one of the things that made it an especially difficult process. When the people around you are treating you like you're already on death's door, it can be hard to see past the fatalism. If I had a dime for every person that said "I'm so sorry" or "Poor baby!" when they found out I had cancer, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

Oh, I know they meant well. It's just that I think that's those are among the absolute worse reactions one can have, but I don't think most people realize this. Feeling sorry for someone isn't doing them any favors and, personally, I don't think cancer is anything to feel sorry about. I think that's the wrong thing to focus on.

Fortunately, cancer isn't an automatic death sentence any more. For many folks, it can simply be something they have to live with, like diabetes or astigmatism or asthma. Feeling sorry is a waste of resources that could be used to gather your resolve to face a new reality. Really, that's all having cancer is--a new reality for the individual survivor and their loved ones.

Friday, March 12, 2010

To the Black Christians on Facebook Complaining About Mexicans

Wow! This is unbelievably bigoted. The signs you see all along the highway aren't "American". They are English. Spanish is far more American than the English language will ever be. Mexico is a part of America. America is a lot bigger than just the United States. In fact, the United States is just a small part of the Americas. People were speaking Spanish here for hundreds of years before English became popular.

Of course, most of us black folks never stop and think about why it is we're supposed to fight with other brown folks for jobs that don't even pay enough for people to really take care of their families well. Instead of complaining about the crappy jobs that most Latinos wind up having to take (often getting even lower wages than blacks receive), why aren't y'all complaining about the folks who are taking the GOOD jobs--the ones that are still dominated by white people? This is sad!

I seem to recall you writing on here about being a Christian, so I have a question for you. In the Bible, Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed, so who do you think that he'd be preaching against and who do you think he'd be defending if he were on Earth today? Is someone who speaks Spanish any less your brother or sister in Christ because they don't speak the same language as you do? Do you really think God cares which language anyone speaks?

I hate seeing my people buy into this English-only nonsense. It's the same bigoted crap that was used on our ancestors. If it wasn't for English-only propaganda, maybe fewer black people in this country would be so separated from their REAL history instead of falling for the idea that European history is our history. The ol' divide and conquer strategy is still working, I guess.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Vanessa Williams Calls out the latest 'White Savior' Movie

Today on Facebook, Monchel Deshawn posted a link to a video segment of The View where Vanessa Williams speaks out about why The Blind Side isn't original and contributes to stereotypes about black people.

Vanessa Williams Bashes 'The Blind Side' on 'The View' (VIDEO) - Inside TV

Of course, there are folks like Barbara Walters who want us all to pretend as if we live in some sort of alternate universe where the media doesn't have a long-standing historical role in maintaining and propagating racist stereotypes, a world where history plays no role in what we see today. Is it any surprise that this is a view that benefits the (white) people like Barbara who express it? Notice how she felt the need to cut Williams off and then get indignant when Williams tried to go back to making her point.

People like Barbara Walters (and several of the people on the site hosting the video) don't want to stop and consider why these kinds of stories get attention and others don't. How many movies can you name where the rich black family helped the poor homeless white kid or the nice black teacher comes to the assistance of white kids who are in failing schools? Yet, I can name bunches of movies that are nothing more than variations of this White Savior meme.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

When Duty Calls

I really need to print this out and put it on the wall above my computer. That way I'd remember why I don't even visit some websites and blogs any more. When I see certain kinds of ignorant and bigoted comments, I get the urge to respond and then some other ignoramus says something stupid and I'll want to correct them, too...and I'm sure you can see where that road goes.

Whistleblowers Expose Housing Discrimination Against Asians and Muslims

The Stonebridge apartment complex in Euless, Texas has made the news because it's been exposed that they've been refusing to rent to Asians and Muslims.

This video brought tears to my eyes for several reasons. Firstly, because of the injustice that Asian and/or Muslim applicants were subjected to. Secondly, because these two Texan women empathized with those that our society has labeled "foreign" and "scary". Let's face it. Texas isn't exactly known for cultivating a belief in the value in religious and ethnic diversity, which makes it even more amazing that they had the courage to stand up against whiteness and white privilege and religious privilege.

When one of the whistle-blowers was talking about how what was done to these applicants wasn't fair, I suddenly thought about a scripture that I was taught as a child. My mother, who is a staunch Christian, taught it to me when I asked her about what would happen on the day of judgment to those who didn't identify as Christians, but still lived as good people while they were alive. Some churches teach that anyone who doesn't proclaim themselves to be Christians were doomed to an eternity in the fiery pits of hell, no matter what good deeds they did in life. My mom always taught me that those people were just wrong and this is the passage she shared with me to back up her claim:
for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:13-16
There is a similar scripture in the Qu'ran, that I was recently reminded of by my dear friend at KameelahWrites.

Yes [on the contrary], whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.
al-baqarah 122 (Sahih International translation of the Qu'ran)

The classic (al-jalalayn) interpretation of this verse is:
Nay, but, others will also enter Paradise, namely, whoever submits his purpose to God, that is, adheres to His commands (wajh, ‘face’ [sc. ‘purpose’], is here mentioned because it is the most noble part of the body, so that [when it has submitted] there is all the more reason for the other parts [to follow]), being virtuous, affirming God’s Oneness, his reward is with his Lord, the reward of his deeds being Paradise, and no fear shall befall them, neither shall they grieve, in the Hereafter.
I am convinced that these verses are true and I believe that they apply to the two women in this story. People like them remind me that kindness and justice are qualities that anyone can practice, no matter what religion they belong to.

Jazz Makes me Feel the Presence of God

Whenever I feel like I'm in need of a spiritual experience, this is what I listen to. I swear, listening to Kermit Ruffins gives me more shivers than an all-day revival at a Pentecostal church. If you can't feel the presence of our ancestors while listening to this song, then you might as well bury yourself now, because you're already dead.

"Ohhh, Lil Liza! Lil Liza Jane! Ohhh Lil Liza! Lil Liza Jane!"

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hurray for Safe Sex at the Winter Olympics

The broadsheet at Salon has an article about the sexier aspects of the Winter Olympics that a lot of folks might not be aware of. Another Olympics, another 100,000 condoms talks about how many condoms were distributed to athletes
"Canada’s National Post reported last week that the supply of 100,000 free condoms distributed to about 7,000 athletes and officials had been dangerously depleted. That’s right: 14 free condoms per person? Not enough! Either there were some serious water balloon fights, or the athletes in Vancouver were champions in the sack as well as on the ice. An emergency shipment of another 25,000 johnnies sped its way to Vancouver, courtesy of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research. Rocketing down icy slopes must be pretty good for the libido."
Some people might be a bit shocked by this, but I'm just glad that the Canadian government made sure that these were available to those who obviously needed them. I wish other program organizers would take similar steps whenever they are hosting a large festival. Athletes aren't the only people who like to party hard when they go out of town.

I used to work as a pharmacy technician at a drugstore many years ago. The busiest time of the year was the first week following The Bayou Classic weekend. New Orleans is home to seven universities and several colleges and the Bayou Classic was an even bigger deal to many of them than Carnival. Every year, people (mostly college students) would turn up at the pharmacy in the days following that weekend with prescriptions for the STD (sexually transmittable diseases) that they had acquired.

It was unbelievable to me the first time I saw it for myself. The number of customers who came in needing medications for several STDs that they'd acquired in one weekend was scary. Some of the workers at the pharmacy had a name for folks like that; they called them "cocktail lovers". It was very sad to see, because so much of it was avoidable. Of course, you can't force people to use condoms, but this article shows that, if they are made available, many people will use them.

Video : All Diamonds Are Blood Diamonds DVD

This documentary challenges the notion that there is a difference from so-called "conflict diamonds" or "blood diamonds" and those that claim to be from more ethical sources. It chronicles the history of the diamond trade in Africa and delves into the diamond cartel's latest propaganda. It's definitely worth watching.

Video : All Diamonds Are Blood Diamonds DVD

Monday, March 01, 2010

The USA uses "My Cousin Vinny" & "CSI: Las Vegas" as foundations for Afghan Judicial Procedures

The Washington Post has a story about the United States' latest imperialist actions (under the guise of justice and democray, of course) in Afghanistan. Are we really supposed to believe that this shit is really the best they can do? Really?
"The sessions also include providing officers with copies of the Afghan constitution and penal code, fingerprint kits and digital cameras -- and having them watch videos of American TV crime shows such as 'CSI: Las Vegas' and courtroom movies such as 'My Cousin Vinny'".
-In Afghanistan, U.S. seeks to fix a tattered system of justice '"
There's no reason to believe that there aren't law enforcement tools accessible for and to both cultures. We've been dealing with/having relationships with Muslim cultures for many, many decades. Just like we're bringing in "My Cousin Vinny", we could be bringing in Islamic jurisprudence experts from the more developed Muslim-majority nations. The majority of the people in Afghanistan reside in rural parts of the country, the Western cultural influence has been minuscule.

In reality, the United States has failed to find ways to teach fundamentals of law enforcement & court procedure that do not lead to indefinite detentions et cetera. We are still promoting indefinite detentions in Afghanistan and the people there know this. When our military is still actively "disappearing" people, it shows what a farce this system they are trying to create really is.

This is why the taliban and other similar forces are still more accepted than the American and American-backed forces. Afghanistan has a history of repelling outsiders that goes back thousands of years. Hello? There's a reason why this country has been known as the Graveyard of Empires for thousands of years.The people of Afghanistan have always shown that they will not stand for or accept imperialist forces dictating law in their country, an attitude that continues to this very day.

The fact that the American military has been able to create a program like this is no proof that the people of Afghanistan will accept the system we're attempting to create. Imagine if the shoes were on the other foot? American judicial experts would likely laugh but gladly take a paycheck if someone came over here from Afghanistan and called themselves teaching us elementary level jurisprudence. Now what do you think their counterparts in Afghanistan are doing? These people have a justice system that predates ours by THOUSANDS OF YEARS. It is much more suited for the conditions and lifestyle of the average Afghanistan than our brutal, unjust, and unequal "criminal justice" system.

I think it would be more appropriate to approach this from more culturally relevant sources. "My Cousin Vinny" may accurately reflect American/Western procedures and values, but in a place where the dominant culture is non-Western, non-American there are a lot of reasons to believe that it won't be accepted as legitimate. Since this is a mostly Muslim nation, it would be more appropriate to reference cultures with similar values (e.g. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt). If we were REALLY interested in democratizing Afghanistan--which we clearly are not--then we'd be following the lead of Muslim majority countries where this is already taking place.