Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rick Perry, who can barely speak it himself, wants USA to be "English-Only"

So, the Republican wannabe President Rick Perry announced that he wants the USA to make English our official language. English-only laws will NEVER work in Louisiana. We have LOTS of people (who were born and raised in the USA) who speak French as their first language. French and Spanish are much more American than English. Both French and Spanish were in use before the English-speakers decided to colonize these lands. These English-only pushers are mostly lazy jerks who are too stupid to see the value of being multilingual and keeping this nation multilingual as it has always been. I mean, if it bothers you THAT much that other folks in this country don't speak a language that you can understand, then the intelligent response would be to learn some new languages. If you think that's too much work for you to be expected to do, then you've also provided a pretty good reason why other Americans shouldn't be expected to learn English.

Too many people in this country are like dinosaurs. Their mentality is so rigid that it's going to cause their own extinction. Today's children are much more accepting of differences than the older generations tend to be. I think the world will be the better for it.

I'm multilingual. I speak English, Arabic, pretty basic French and Spanish, too. I could catch on to French rather easily, because even the English-speakers use so much of it down here in Louisiana. I took a few French and Spanish classes in high school and around 4 semesters of Arabic in college. I periodically practice with Rosetta Stone to keep from forgetting the basics. It has enriched my life as an American in more ways than I can list.

My own American-born-and-raised teenage daughter speaks English, some German, a good bit of Japanese and Chinese, and can understand basic Arabic and French. She taught herself the Asian languages and now she's teaching herself German. She also took 2 years of Latin in high school. She's going to be prepared to compete in a global market in ways that monolingual folks just can't. If a company can hire an American who can speak several languages or an American who can only speak English and refuses to learn anything else, why in the world would they choose the monolingual applicant? You English-only advocates will only manage to shoot yourselves in the foot, but who am I to stop ya'?! If you're proud of your ignorance, go right ahead and flaunt it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jack Kevorkian and Carol Loving: Self-Promoting Partners in Crime

Stephen Drake, who maintains the Not Dead Yet commentary blog wrote about Time Magazine's sloppy and inaccurate obituary for Dr. Jack Kevorkian (the serial killer of people with disabilities) in their "Person of the Year" issue. After reading Drake's post, I went to post a comment on the magazine's web edition of the obituary.

I read it and took a look at the comments that had already been left by others. One of them stood out. It was from Carol Loving (I know, the irony is just too much for me to address).

What I find bewildering about this article is the lack of factual knowledge about the doctor and his method of assisting the dying. I guess that is a sign of the times.
Dr. Kevorkian is the man of the century, the 20th century.
The most honest and dignified account of his service to mankind has been incorperated into a play, created in 2009, at Western Michigan University, in collaberation with Tectonic Theater Project.
The play is GOOD DEATH: A Community Conversation. In August of this year, the play received stellar reviews in Edinbugh, Scotland. It has the power to inspire all who see the performance.
We will see euthanasia follow the good works of Dr. Kevorkian !

Carol Loving, Author
My Son, My Sorrow: The Tragic Tale of Dr. Kevorkian's Youngest Patient
I almost have choked upon reading this! This woman had a son, Nick Loving, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. When her son became depressed about his limitations and became suicidal, she wrote to Jack Kevorkian asking him to help her kill her son. Now, she has a book all about how wonderful Kevorkian's work was. On her website, where she advertises her availability for interviews, she also mentions that she's currently in the process of "working on a novel based on the right to die". Well, isn't that just wonderful! Anyway, I decided to reply to her comment on the Time Magazine page. I know how comments that are critical of ableism tend to get deleted on websites, so I decided to post it here, too. Everything below this sentence is what I said to her. I added a link to the sentence where I made an accusation, so that the reader can see that I wasn't just making this up.

By the way, I think it's pretty sickening how you go around on the internet advertising your book (about how you helped Jack Kevorkian kill your son) and looking for someone to offer you a film deal for it. The title of your book says it all. It wasn't YOUR sorrow. You're still here. You're not the one who experienced Lou Gehrig's disease. You didn't even bother to help your son see it through to the end. Instead, you helped Kevorkian speed up the end and now you can go on with your life without the stress of being his caretaker.

I am eternally grateful that my husband and my parents didn't have your attitude when I was diagnosed with an incurable bone cancer in my chest. Instead of giving in to my feelings of hopelessness, they insisted that the life I still had was valuable and worth living. It took a little while, but I began to see the truth in what they were saying. Not long after that, the doctors told me that a new form of radiation technology had been developed and that I was the perfect candidate for it. To orthopedic oncologist's surprise, the combination of radiation and surgery was enough to stop the progression of my cancer and here I am eight years later.

I feel such anguish for those people with disabilities who didn't have loved ones that cared enough to help them hold on. Science advances so quickly now that new treatments are always being developed and if you keep living just a little while longer, there's a very good chance that your quality of life can be improved.

I've seen my daughter graduate from elementary school, then middle school, and now she's 2 years from graduating high school and starting college. I would have missed so much joy, if my family had allowed me to give in to the depression that I felt after receiving the cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, no one considered my life to be "their sorrow". They considered it a blessing, because it allowed us to learn just how valuable a commitment to love and hope can be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For the Gazillionth Time, Why the Rich Should Pay More Taxes

Today, I ran across someone online arguing that giving people unemployment checks makes them dependent on the government and that we shouldn't make the ultra-rich pay more in taxes, because it's wrong to target people based on income. This is pretty basic, but it's obvious that it needs to be spelled out for some folks.

My family lives in a private neighborhood with a fancy paved brick entrance. My daughter babysits and tutors a couple of kids. They live on our street, so she can walk to their house and bring them over here or stay at their house and carry out her job teaching them to read. Our city contracts out the garbage collection services that we pay the city to provide. The garbage collection company sends its workers down this street and their trucks break up our nice brick paved entrance to our nice private neighborhood. Both businesses (my daughter's and the garbage collection company) use this street. They don't use them to the same degree or with the same frequency or effect.

When the entrance gets so messed up that that it must be fixed, who should be held responsible for the damage? Should my daughter be held responsible for the damage? If her tennis shoes happened to kick a loose brick fragment, you might be able to make the argument that she's also responsible for the condition that it's in. However, would it be ethical to make her pay as much as the garbage company should pay for the repairs? I think that would be ridiculous. It's obvious that her feet aren't heavy enough to have the same effect as a huge garbage truck driving over the entrance.

Fortunately, the folks on this street can afford to repair the damage to our paved entrance without having to bother with making the city pay for the problem that their contracted business caused. However, what about the wear and tear that these heavy trucks put on public streets? When those streets need to be fixed, the city will have to pay for it. It will get the money to pay for it through taxes. Should the guy who has no car and has a one-man business that he runs out of his house be forced to pay as much in taxes as the guy who owns all of these garbage trucks that go rumbling through every street in our city? Making the garbage truck owner pay more in taxes isn't targeting him because of his income. He's being made to pay more, because he is using a lot more of the city's resources.

The owner of the corner store near my old apartment buys the ingredients for his po'boys from Sam's Wholesale Club (I've seen him in there doing it). He's going to use the streets to get his goods from his supplier and back to his store. He uses his car. It's, maybe, a 15 minute drive. However, Sam's uses trains and 18-wheeler trucks criss-crossing the country and the state to get their goods from the supplier to their multiple stores. Is it unfair to make Walmart/Sam's pay more in taxes than the guy who sells sandwiches? I don't think so. It's ridiculous to treat all Americans as if they use America's resources equally. Walmart/Sam's and the garbage collection company use put more wear and tear on the streets of my city, than the small-business owner with an at-home office or a single family-owned corner store.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Glamour Magazine Pretends Like it Cares About Women's Self-Esteem

So, Glamour magazine decided to place a photo of a "plus-sized" model, named Lizzie Miller, in their September issue. It has garnered a lot of attention, because women that size (12-14) are almost never seen in the modeling world or featured in a style or fashion magazine. Even the Today show brought the model and the editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine on to their show to gush over how amazing it is that they put this one photo in their issue.

I'm glad that the interviewer pointed out the fact that the magazine didn't put her on their cover and didn't feature her in a photo spread. They just stuck this one photo on page 194.

Earlier today, I saw some comments made about this article from the perspective of a former model. She brought attention to the problematic way that people are talking about how Lizzie Miller is a real sized woman and that she looks like real American women do. Being svelte doesn't mean she isn't a real woman.

I had some of the same feelings about this. I'm a size 4-6. My 16 year-old daughter is a 2. I was around a 2-4 before I became pregnant with her. Neither of us have ever dieted. It's just how we are made. We are real women, too. We have also been short-changed by/in this culture that says that one particular body type should be what we all aspire to.

Lots of people feel like it's perfectly acceptable to make comments about our bodies, as long as they think they are making compliments. I absolutely despise the men who think that, because we're thin, we'll find their comments about "fat" women amusing and feel flattered not to be considered a part of that category. People make all sorts of anorexia nervosa jokes to my daughter, as if that's a subject that people should feel free to joke about. I mean, if she did have anorexia, I think that those comments might even exacerbate the condition.

It's bad enough for my daughter, who then feels like she's under pressure to prove to them that she does eat as much as others and even a bit more, because she's an athlete and she has to replenish her body regularly to stay at peak performance.

The thing she hates the most is when moms will tell their daughters that they should find out my daughter's secret to how she stays so thin. I had a hard time believing that this had actually occurred multiple times, until I heard the other girls in their circle talking about the mother's comment, too. I can't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to know that your own mother thinks your friend is better looking than you. It certainly doesn't help the girl's friendship.

Being multi-ethnic/multi-racial means that in many ways she is positioned on the margins of different communities. This adds an extra layer to the pressure, because in her black circle of friends, she's often told that she needs to "put some more meat on her bones" and she gets teased by guys and girls who tell her she has no butt. The message is that she would be sexier if she gained some weight. In her white circle of friends, she's surrounded by girls who are dieting or simply dissatisfied with how much they weigh. It's absolute madness!

Meanwhile, I'm trying to teach her to love herself just the way she is. Sometimes, it feels like the message that I'm trying to get across to her is completely drowned out by all of the viewpoints coming from society. I don't want to see "plus-sized" models in magazines. I want the entire magazines to go away. Occasionally putting a few average-sized women in their issues doesn't change the fact that they are still contributing to the sexualization of children and the objectification of women and girls.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Theism isn't what makes me different from Christopher Hitchins

An acquaintance of mine sent me a link to an article in Vanity Fair that was written by the renowned atheist, Christopher Hitchins. The person told me that he found the article interesting and he thought that I would, too.

It was rather sad, to me, actually. I had almost the opposite experience from the one described in the article. Right now, I'm in another bout of serious health problems. I've been sick since October. First, it was an upper respiratory infection. Then came the gastroenteritis, followed by a throat infection. Then I developed a yeast infection and now they've found cysts on my ovaries. It has not been an easy couple of months. Yet, I am happier than I ever was before I became disabled. Learning to live with what many would see as "indignities" has given me insights that I could not have learned any other way.

Proton therapy is rough, but it's actually a lot gentler than traditional radiation (By the way, I think it's also offered in Massachusetts and most certainly in several other centers around the world). When I was in radiation, I remember looking at my back in the mirror and seeing just what fried skin looks like. I remember The German peeling and snipping ragged strips of half-sloughed skin off of my back, so that the edges wouldn't keep "catching" on my shirt and ripping away the skin that was still attached.

I remember not being able to swallow without pain, when even the prospect of having to eat made me want to cry--and sometimes I did. I remember when life was lived in segments measured by doses of narcotics. From two hours after I took two Percocet, it was a pain-filled countdown until I could take my next dose.

To some extent, this is still the case. I love food. I do not love eating food. Eating food carries the risk that I will spend hours in the bathroom, as my body attempts to expel more than I've even managed to take in during a given meal. I still live between doses of pain meds, though I'm now only using Lortab and I've managed to cut my daily intake down to half of what it was at the beginning of 2011.

Yet, I'm happier than I was before this crazy journey began. I spent most of my relatively non-disabled years (i.e. the pre-cancer period from birth until my early 20's) periodically attempting suicide and settling for dissatisfying relationships of one kind or another. I was a victim of childhood sexual assault and the child of a single parent and, as you know, stuck in a religious cult of the worst variety.

It was a very lonely life. I never felt like I fit in anywhere. There was no one to confide in. The penalties for stepping outside of the strictly-regulated life that was demanded by the cult were severe and permanent. Being true to myself wasn't even a consideration. There was no "myself", really. It was all "we". Even in prayer, I wasn't an individual. I was taught, "In Jesus name, we pray. Amen." We. Hah! And, I never felt "good enough". I just couldn't figure out how to please everyone who I thought was entitled to control my life.

But cancer changed that. One of the quickest things I learned was, just like the outer layer of the skin on my back, I could live without a lot of stuff I once thought essential. Cancer was freedom. I no longer felt obligated to keep certain people in my life. Once I learned that I was nearing the end of this life, I felt absolutely no guilt about not returning phone calls, not entertaining or indulging self-centered users, not going to church 3 times a week. I decided to devote myself to creating lasting memories for the people that I was going to leave behind, the people who I really cared about.

Maybe, having a mission helped to save me from the darkness that Hitchins seems to feel. I decided that I didn't want to have been born, lived, and died without ever having figured out who I was, what I really believed, and what I wanted my daughter to know about me. I was going to make this dying process one filled with love and laughter and closeness.

I was able to give my daughter real advice, instead of the bourgeois sanctimoniousness that so many parents instill in their children. I only had a little while, so we had to get down to business. I couldn't wait until she was 20 years old to start having frank discussions with her about sexuality and spirituality.

I found complete sexual liberation. If I was going to try something, then there was no sense in putting it off. I had someone who loved me and wanted to spend the rest of my life with me, no matter how long or short that life would be. So, why not?! He has never made a single demand of me. He's never even asked me to try anything outside of what I'd felt comfortable initiating. If ever there was someone that I could feel secure with, as I reveled in my sexuality, it was him. That's not something I wanted to waste. We spent all sorts of snatched moments, between doctors visits and treatments and bad days, making each other gloriously satisfied.

It's not all rainbows and butterflies, of course. My limitations still frustrate me. I'm not dead yet, but I still have this sword of Damocles hanging above my head at all times. However, it doesn't make me feel diminished in the way that Hitchins describes. I suspect that is also the result of something I did differently from him. I went out and found true community with those like me.

Hitchins seems to be trying to preserve what he had before. I've chosen to adapt to where I am now. Before his cancer, Hitchins had a community of like-minded folks. He was a leader in the atheist community. However, that community is not very welcoming for people with disabilities. It has a long, long history of ablism and I'm not just talking about the kind of ablism that involves shelves placed too high for wheel-chair accessibility or television directors using cancer as the default way of eliminating characters they no long have any use for. Don't get me wrong. That stuff is annoying. However, this community that Hitchins claimed was in possession of the solution(s) to nearly all of the world's most significant problems regularly engages in an entirely different category of ablism. I'm talking about the type that advocates the "culling" of people with disabilities, asserts that our lives are inferior and proclaims that we should not be allowed to decide what sort of meaning(s) our life holds.

The atheist community (i.e. those who define themselves as atheist) isn't the only one that engages in ablism, but it is a lot worse than many others. There are some who are trying to change that, but it hasn't resulted in any significant changes in the egregious ablism that is so common in that community. Those with life-threatening disabilities have specific issues that are even distinct from those experienced by people whose conditions are not as threatening. That makes it even more unlikely that Hitchins was going to find his community very helpful at this point in his life.

Pre-cancer, I was involved in a lot of anti-racist work. I still believe that racism should be fought. However, when I did become seriously disabled, I found that the anti-racist movement did not offer all that I needed at that point in my life. My anti-racist friends were sympathetic and caring, but I eventually had to accept that our lives were on diverging paths. I simply couldn't make being anti-racist the identity that my life revolved around.

Thanks to the internets, it wasn't long before I discovered the fact that there is an entire community just for folks like me. Before that time, I never even considered the idea that, just as there is a black community and a feminist community and a Christian community, there is also a disabled community.

Not only did it exist--it was also wonderful! It didn't just accept me. It nurtured me. Instead of being work, it was being a family. It spoke to my soul or whatever you want to call that most intimate part of one's being. Without any need for explanations, it embraced me. It seemed tailored just to what I needed and just who I was.

However, if you're not a part of the disabled community, you might not understand what it is. It consists of people whose bodies set them apart, in one way or another, from what societies have decided should be considered normal. To some extent, it also includes those who are partnered with, have children or parents who fit that description. There's more to it than that, though. From that group, the disabled community is comprised of those who assert that difference is good and vital to the world, not something that we should seek to eliminate or "cure". In the disabled community, every life has value because life has value.

I can not, in one post, describe the richness and depth of this community any more than I could, in one post, describe what it means to be a part of the black community or the American community. It is this community that taught me self-love to a degree that I never experienced before. It is this community that showed me, better than any other, why diversity is important and all of the many reasons why it's so important. It is this community that helped me to understand that tolerance shouldn't be the goal for society. What we need is acceptance. That understanding led me to a place where I could plant my feet and make my stand in this world. I could do it, regardless of whether I was able to stand at all. In my bed, in the hospital, leaning over the toilet seat, on my worst days, I am still a valued and powerful part of this community.

Hitchins doesn't seem much interested in the disabled community, even though he could certainly be an atheist and be a part of it. After all, I am more than just a person with disabilities. Since he began treatment, he has had less time to devote to his preaching work on behalf of atheism. This poignant article discusses what the prospect of losing his voice or his ability to write would mean to him. It saddens me to read it. I want to reach out to him and say,

"You are more than your abilities! You are wonderful, because you are, you exist! Your life has value because, despite odds almost too grand to even measure, you came into this world! You are a flame that, together with mine and many others, brightens this vast and mysterious universe! Isn't that enough?!"

But, maybe for him, it isn't. That, more than a belief or disbelief in a god, is what sets us apart.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

In Defense of Mic Check Direct Actions

Azizi on Pancocojams wrote a blog post about a recent trend she's noticed since the 99% movement has gained steam. She's speaking out against the way that she's seen people using the "mic check" in direct action protests.
"The human microphone system, the call & response method of repeating statements, isn't being used for its original purpose of helping people in large groups without access to microphones hear what is being said. Instead, it's being used to disrupt communication from someone the group doesn't agree with, and it's being used to garner publicity for the protesting group's cause or causes....My bottom line is that if "mic check" is supposed to be a means of enhancing communication, I'd count that protest use of mic check a failure, since it's usually difficult to understand what the protesters are shouting. But beyond that, I don't like the use of "mic check" to disrupt other's speeches or other people's public appearances (even the speeches or public appearances of persons I vehemently disagree with like Glen Beck). I think that "mic checking" people is contrary to the right of free speech. Besides, it's just rude."
I guess I should first address the issue of free speech. The right to free speech doesn't mean you have the right to be heard. If someone talks over you while you're making a point, it's not an example of someone taking away your rights. It's just them exercising the same right at the same time. Maybe rudeness matters to some people. I can dig that. I was born and raised in Louisiana, so I have had all of the laws of courtesy drilled into my head from an early age. Still, there are times when rudeness just doesn't matter to me.

I had to be rushed to the emergency room at a hospital earlier this week, because I was really sick and couldn't keep my medicine down. When I got there, they had to immediately set up an IV-bag and start administering a bunch of drugs, just to try to get me stabilized. I don't remember a single one of them asking me if I'd like something to drink or offering me a glass of tea. Of course, they could also point out that I didn't exactly ask for their permission before I proceeded to use their bathroom.

My point is that there are times when rudeness isn't a highly-prioritized consideration. If we focused on avoiding rudeness, at all costs, then the world is not going to be a very desirable place to reside. There isn't a single social justice movement in the world that can't rightfully be considered "rude" according to the views of many folks who witnessed them take place. I'm sure it mattered to them, but those who were fighting for rights had more important considerations. For those who are protesting, that someone might be rude to Beck and his acolytes matters very little in the grand scheme of things, especially when one considers how little they care about the rudeness of their own behavior.

The other part of her argument has to do with the efficacy of this particular form of direct action. To address that, I think it would help if we clarified things a bit. If we're going to be honest about the origin of the human mic check, it certainly can't be attributed to helping people in large groups understand what's being said. It's origin in this country can be found in the African American church over a century ago.

It was a means of participation between the congregation and the speaker. It can be heard in the gospel music that birthed the Jazz Age. This call and response was typical in early jazz music. Back then it was derided as cacophony and tribal and certainly not "real music". The jazz musicians and aficionados were considered the trashy troublemakers upsetting the natural order of things.

Still, they continued their call and response music for each other, not for their critics. I think that's important to recognize. It was never meant to attract those who didn't see the value of jazz styling. Nevertheless, it had value. It changed America, despite the critics. This call and response music became known as the first truly American form of music. To be honest, it changed the world in many ways. It became the protest music of its day. It was the voice and sounds of those who were alienated from the "natural order of things". It was the music of the youth. It expressed their values, even when it meant that they would be seen as socially unacceptable.

After a while, the call and response aspects of jazz fell out of use. It is even used less in the African-American church(es) where it was first found. It was replaced with less participatory music. Now, it's seeing a resurgence. It is being reborn in a new period of protest by the societal underclasses. Some use it one way. Some use it other ways.

If we're going to be purists, then the only acceptable use of this style of communication is within the confines of the Black churches of the south. But why should we be purists? The essence really hasn't changed. Those who use it for the large crowds at rallies and those who use it for direct action at bookstores are still using it for the same thing it was always used for. It is still essentially a means of communication and participation for and by those who have something to say. Some will find it attractive. Others will be repulsed by it. However, the response(s) by outsiders does not determine the legitimacy of its role in any of these settings.

I'm really skeptical about this idea that protesters need to win over the non-believers. I don't think that's even possible. If someone cares about justice, then they will be attracted to just causes. If someone cares more for the retention of the status quo, then they aren't going to join these protesters no matter how politely they go about expressing themselves.

Some folks thought that the counter sit-ins were pointless and even unnecessarily provocative. Others felt differently and they participated in it. They didn't go in there expecting to change minds. They went in and sat at those counters to show where they stood on this issue of "separate but equal" societies. In the end, it was a combination of strategies that effected the changes we benefit from today. We needed Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

People in the media tried to get MLK to speak critically of Malcolm X, but he pretty much refused to do it. It wasn't HIS way, but he knew that they all had to choose their own path. He never told Malcolm to change his ways and adopt his strategy.

Today, I don't really identify as one of the 99%. I choose to cast my lot with the "Un-Percent" folks (Check out a brilliant indigenous American activist named "Ian Ki'laas Caplette" on Facebook, if you want to know more about it). So, I'm going to fight for social justice in the way that my heart leads me. Not everyone is going to see much point in how I protest, but that doesn't determine its legitimacy. Likewise, not everyone is going to feel moved by mic check protesting. However, judging from its increased popularity, it's obvious that some do.

Mic check protests are direct acts of people standing up and making their stance known. It's not a promotional act. If so, they'd be turning out glossy books with smiling white guys on the front of them, like Beck and Hannity and O'Reilly produce. In fact, it's the antithesis of that. It is the protesters way of saying, "No! Contrary to what Beck and his cronies are telling you, things are not okay. We can not continue to pretend that there's plenty of time to sit around and allow predatory capitalism and unchecked consumerism flourish in our world."

So, even if nobody else listens, even if they say protesters are going about it all wrong, the one thing they won't be able to say is that nobody tried to warn them. They won't be able to deny that we spoke out. And even if the world refuses to change, I and those who used their preferred method of protest can go into oblivion with peace of mind, knowing that we did try.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Smart Protesters Come Prepared for Riots

Today, I saw a quote that read "When you want to know who wants to incite a riot, it's helpful to observe who comes dressed for one".

I know the person who wrote it was trying to be clever and thought they were making a good point. However, it's just this attitude that contributes to the way that some protesters are labeled trouble-makers even before they've done anything. I've been watching lots of videos showing how police in several cities have come in and attacked protesters participating in what has been labeled the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. It's horrendous. They have been snatching people out of crowds and beating and arresting them. They have sprayed pepper spray into the eyes of people who were doing nothing more than standing on the sidewalk and speaking their piece.

I have a lot more to say about that. However, since I am in my third week of an upper-respiratory virus and quite low on energy, I'm going to save that for later and stick to saying what I think about the above quote. It's also my advice for folks participating in protests like these for the first time.

Know this: everyone who goes to protests should come dressed for one. Any seasoned political activist should know that. It's just not smart to show up to these things in baggy clothes (they make it easier for the police to grab you), sandals (if the folks near you start running, you don't want to have your bare feet stomped), easily identifiable clothing (nondescript gear allows you to blend in and avoid being singled out by the police).

This isn't a game, people. This is revolution and it isn't a pretty process. The other folks are coming prepared for a riot. You'd be a fool not to do the same. Whether you like it or not, there will be riots and attacks. Even if they aren't initiated by the protesters, the police have lots of shiny objects that they rarely get to use so freely. Do you think they will pass up perfect opportunities like this?

Walking around looking like it's just a great big unity-fest won't prevent riots and only makes you a better target. They always go for the low-hanging fruit first. That is all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Hair is Better than Yours, So Don't Criticize Me

I just read an article on Black Girl with Long Hair called "Some People Would Rather Look a 'Hot Mess' Than Go Natural?" from a woman of color who wears her hair natural (without any processed perms or curls). She tells about how she recently got on a bus and had to endure really ugly comments about her tresses from two other women who were seated near her.

Now, since I wear my hair in an afro, when I read that I was feeling indignant for the sister. All of us who live in the USA and wear their hair just as it grows out of our head have experienced this. It's so common that I've lost count of how many times it's happened to me and my daughter. It hurts, but it comes with the territory. It's one of those things that you will have to endure, if you want to be true to how you want to look.

Often, when women with natural hair get together, we talk about it. We comfort and encourage each other. We praise the hair styles that each of us come up with to accentuate our kind of beauty. Doing this really helps. My daughter is a self-confident young lady now and she has lived her whole life as a natural-haired girl, so she has more clever responses than I do when someone says something negative about her coiffure.

However, there's a nasty little secret that some women with natural hair won't admit. When a lot of us get together and talk about how some sister with processed hair made ugly quips about us, it often goes much further than that. I'll tell ya', the conversations almost always turns from praising our beauty to comparing us to them and attempting to reaffirm our decisions by putting down the way that some sisters with processed hair look. And as this article and the majority of the comments shows, it gets really, really nasty.

This time, the writer went on to criticize weaves and women with alopecia and women who dye their hair in vibrant colors. On and on it went, all about how inferior those women are and how their hair proves that we are superior to them. And the folks weren't just talking about our hairstyles being superior to all others. Several of them (and I'm not just referring to a few isolated comments) waxed on about how these hair choices showed that those women don't have the same courage as we have, that they are jealous of us, that they lack confidence. You may have to see it to believe it, but it's all there.

I think that the writer and most people who commented are overlooking the real problem. The problem isn’t how the writer’s hair looked or how the other girls looked. The problem is WOMEN JUDGING EACH OTHER. Until we see that this is a serious problem, there will always be women with perms snickering at women with natural hair and there will be women with natural hair making snide comments about someone’s weave. Criticizing their choices or their hair just as they criticized yours is a bit hypocritical. I think that instead of having a few laughs or rolling our eyes about bad weaves and alopecia–it should be noted that it’s not always the result of anything that the person did to their hair–we should try to figure out what is making BOTH groups think that it’s okay to do this. I don't even have the energy to delve into the classism that's also involved in this.

This makes me so sad for both those with natural hair and those with processed manes and disappointed with us all. The “hot mess” is that both groups do it and then turn around and get mad when it’s done to them. On days like this, it’s just so apparent that sisterhood between black women is truly dead…and maybe people prefer it that way. *sigh*

Why They Say That Being LGBQIA is a Choice

I was on a website today and there was an article about how Herman Cain (one of the Republican wannabe Presidential nominees) is standing firm with his belief that being gay is a choice and is something that can "wash off". Someone on the thread said that they couldn't understand why this rhetoric works. He pointed out that these are the same folks who claim to revere the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and these are documents that protect, defend, and celebrate the freedom to make choices. His question was: Therefore, even if being gay is a choice, shouldn't these folks also be supportive of people choosing to be gay?

Well, I'll tell you why I think that the "It's a choice" rally cry works. It's because they are just as against choice as they are against nature. When women say, "Yes, everyone should be entitled to make choices about their own body", these same clowns explain what comes after "It's a choice!". At that point, they make it quite clear that you must only choose what THEY think constitutes an acceptable option.

I don't think that the "ick" factor even has much to do with it. You know why? Because the majority of people who engage in behaviors that these fundamentalists go around calling "gay s*x", aren't gay at all. LGBQIA people aren't having nearly as much non-vanilla sex as hetero people are. Oh yeah, I know there are a few hetero folks out there who still only do it with their married spouse, missionary style, with the lights off, and their nightclothes still on. But most folks? Not even!

I grew up in a fundamentalist right-wing cult that is among the strictest of the strict and let me tell ya' something? What were most people kicked out of the church for? Sexual sins! It was folks who were simply doing the stuff that homo sapiens enjoy doing. The not-so-secret truth was, you didn't get kicked out for doing the buttsekks and other non-vanilla activities. You got kicked out for letting people find out that you were doing it. It was the appearance of disobedience that gets you in trouble with the clergy.

These fundamentalists are all about appearances. They'll do all the same stuff as everyone else, but they will persecute the hell out of us just to try to appear to be holier or more righteous and pure of heart than the rest of humanity.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Woman is NOT the Nigger of the World

Today, Latoya Peterson over at Racialicious posted a picture of a young, smiling white woman at the recent Slutwalk NYC event holding up a sign that quoted one of John Lennon's songs. It read, "Woman is the Nigger of the World".

Wow! That picture is...alarming. There are some people whose words tend to crop up in certain environments. A few days ago, some friends and I were laughing about how almost every event that occurs at a stadium in an HBCU starts with "Lift Every Voice". And we spent the next half hour or so listing songs by people of color that could also be perfect for use as a "Black National Anthem".

Lennon seems to be one of those folks that white activists seem to almost instinctively turn to for inspiration. It's cliché to use some of his quotes, but I'm practically a professional at the (over)use of cliché. Unfortunately, the problem with looking to Lennon to find inspiration is that it's really easy to wind up with a situation like the one in that Slutwalk NYC photo.

I can't feel a bit sympathetic toward that hateful person who carried the sign. However, I can see how easy it is for that to happen. White young adults grow up witnessing white self-proclaimed activists waxing nostalgically whenever Lennon is mentioned. He is someone that hipsters can glorify when they want to feel as if they're on the side of the oppressed.

He's one of them. He not someone they'll perceive as threatening or scary. He's a capitalist who sacrificed nothing while holding himself up as some kind of role model. He's a rich white man who went out and got himself an Asian wife and then proceeded to use his relationship with her as a buffer between him and anyone who would challenge his racism. "Woman is the Nigger of the World" is an excellent example of this. Even though he was the one who sang this song, he repeatedly made sure to note that he and Ono wrote the song together.

I just love the way the white interviewer describes criticism of Lennon's racism as "hassling" and how Lennon proudly ignores the people of color who pointed out why this song is disgustingly bigoted. What a class act!

Unfortunately (for people from marginalized communities), it is fairly safe to say that there are no whites among this group who are willing to have honest conversations with white young adults about why pushing Lennon on movements or actions that are supposed to be inclusive is aggressive and oppressive. When they hear and see so very many folks who call themselves "progressive" or "revolutionary-minded" or "feminist" glorifying this particular white man who did nothing for anyone other than himself, is it any wonder that they also follow in his footsteps by oppressing people of color?

If she had created a sign with one of his other quotes, we can be certain that none of the white people around her would have even given her a disapproving look. After all, even the use of this quote on a sign didn't motivate a single white white person in that crowd of hundreds to insist that she stop waving it around and taking pictures with it. Because white people keep acting like Lennon was some kind of friend to the disenfranchised, people of color wind up having to see stuff like this on a regular basis when they try to work with activist groups that are predominantly white.

I keep waiting to see if there will be any white people who claim to be allies of people of color who are willing to say that enough is enough and that whites need to stop pushing Lennon and his words on those who he aggressively oppressed and marginalized. So far, the best we get is the occasional white person who will say that some of Lennon's words are easy to misunderstand.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wall Street Mocks Protesters By Drinking Champagne

I swear, I thought this was a satirical video made by The Onion or some such source. That this is real, that they were actually doing this, makes me furious. They might as well have taken out some fiddles and started strumming them, too. Do they really not see that their house is on fire? These folks must want to go down with it, like on the Titanic. There are some people you can't even save from themselves.

My family contains a lot of small business owners, including my father. He taught me that when you're the boss and you have to make an unpopular decision that's going to affect all of your employees, you should maintain a low profile afterward. You know, because you don't want to make the workers so mad that they all quit or feel like maybe they should just steal or sabotage the company in some other way.

I always thought that it was kind of screwed up advice. I felt like it was just dodging workers who had good reason to be pissed off. When I look at it now, it still seems a bit unethical, but at least it makes good BUSINESS sense. I mean, if your goal is just to make money, then getting away with as much as you can is rational.

I looked at this video and all I can think is: This is WHY our economy got so screwed up by them. They may be rich, but they don't even have basic business sense. They are building a house of cards and then jumping up and down all around it. What we see now in the protests was bound to occur, given the sneering arrogance these people don't even try to disguise.

Please, if this disturbs you as much as it does me, then pass this video around. Show it to everyone you know who's struggling to make ends meet right now. Show it to older folks who have been down-sized or are now afraid to leave a really terrible job for fear of becoming permanently unemployed. Show it to your kids, so that they know why solidarity between workers in all fields is vital to thwart the racketeers who have created this kleptocracy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How The Poor Manage to Survive Month to Month has an excellent website that shows just what kind of decisions that poor people are required to take in order to survive month to month. It uses a game format. You can make decisions about how to find and qualify for a job and then you have to allocate the money you earn in a month so that it lasts for the entire 30 days. Click on the above link to give it a try. If you manage to get through the month despite poverty, in the game or in real life, I'd love to hear what strategies you use(d).

I wasn't totally shocked that I made it through the end of the month, too. The sad thing is that I knew how to do it, because I've lived it and watched those around me do it. Choosing the right combination of foods is hard as hell, though. My mom insisted that we eat whole wheat bread when we were kids. She said that white bread had no nutritional value. It was more expensive than the white bread, though. So, she saved in other parts of the food budget. She bought unsweetened cereal and a bag of sugar (which could be obtained for almost $0.50 since we live in La.). We sweetened our own cereal. She believed that we should all get some kind of after-school snack, so she'd buy the cheap generic sandwich cookies and each of us four kids were allowed to get four--just four--every afternoon until they ran out.

We lived in a city (New Orleans) that had great public transportation, so even when our raggedy cars broke down, she could still get to work and/or go make groceries. Since it is La. and almost every type of fruit and vegetable can be grown here, because of the fertile soil, she was able to start a food garden and grow gigantic eggplants and greens and tomatoes and bell peppers. She didn't have to invest in soil or fertilizers or pesticides or else I doubt that it would have been feasible. It was also very easy to find other folks who grew stuff and we could trade with them for the stuff that we had too much of (first world kids like us felt like we could only eat so much eggplant without starting a riot at the dinner table).

I don't know how in the hell people who are poor and living in "food deserts" or those without yards to cultivate can possibly survive. I honestly don't know. I have a hunch, though, that a lot of the so-called "inner city crime" is probably connected to the fact that there are folks who simply can not bear to sit and watch their children go hungry. I'm not going to pretend that I'm so ethical that I might not resort to crime if I had to look in my beloved daughter's face and tell her that I didn't have the money for food this week.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Code and 9/11

"The Unwritten Codes Muslims Live By" is so much like what I was taught growing up as a woman of color in the southern region of the USA. Police brutality and openly-racist bigotry was an undeniable reality. Sure, we had the legal right to do certain things, but everyone around me knew that certain things were just better avoided if you valued your life. My brothers, my mother, my grandmothers and grandfathers have all experienced discrimination beyond the regular "small things" that people of color are often told they should just overlook. Today, Muslim-Americans of all ethnic backgrounds experience the same kinds of injustices right along with us.

My daughter was barely school-aged when 9/11 happened. She does not even remember a world where it wasn't a factor. I remember, though. I used to be able to ride airplanes without being groped. I remember when I used to be able to receive my subscriptions to magazines written in Arabic without them arriving unsealed and obviously perused. I remember when being in a group of people speaking Arabic didn't elicit openly-hostile looks and comments from on-lookers.

I wonder if VanGoghGirl would be very different from the person she is now, if 9/11 hadn't occurred. I know that living in an environment like this with the family that she has must affect her worldview, but the effects of 9/11 have been so extensive that I don't even know which of her views can be said to be truly unrelated to them. You can't separate the experiences you have as a girl or woman from those you have as a person of color or as a person from a mixed-religious family.

I'm always hearing that "9/11 changed everythingTM". I think it's more accurate to say that 9/11 infected everything.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Re-Electing Obama in 2012 Matters to Me

Right now, Chris Clark has a very insightful post on Faultline, entitled "Why I'm not voting for Obama in 2012". He starts off by talking about the candidates he voted for in prior years, starting with Jimmy Carter. Even though he has disagreed with many of the Democratic nominees, he still voted for many of them. At times, he engaged in strategic voting reasoning that it was at least the "lesser of two evils", but sometimes he reasoned differently.
I haven’t always voted for the lesser of evils. I mean, I did vote for Mondale in ‘84, Dukakis in ‘88, and Kerry in 2004. But when it’s been prudent to do so — for instance, when my adopted state of California was not in play — I voted my conscience, or or at least I did as closely as I could. I voted for Nader in 1992, ‘96 and even 2000. I might have voted differently in 2000 if I hadn’t been living in a state where Gore got a 12-point lead. I don’t know.
He also points out that Nader isn't the reason why Gore wasn't elected. I agree with him there. However, I think our views branch into different directions when he posits that even "1972 Nixon" would be a better Democratic candidate for the 2012 Presidential race than Obama.
It’s a worse choice every single time. Every single time the difference is clear, and every single time both candidates are more loathsome than their counterparts four years previous. How many people reading this wouldn’t vote for 1972 Nixon in a heartbeat as the Democratic candidate in 2012?
Well, as far as I'm concerned, Nader isn't even worthy of consideration given his unabashed racism. Personally, I wouldn't vote for "1972 Nixon" if he was the candidate today, because I feel sick to my stomach when I think about this nation's historical racial imbalance with regards to positions of power.

The reality is that no one who is electable will represent my views, so my only options are to stay home on voting day, vote for someone who hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected or vote for someone who will carry out policies that I disagree with. I don't see how voting for someone who can not be elected is anything other than a waste of time, so it seems that the only real decision I can make is to stay home or vote for someone I disagree with.

For most of my adult life, I've felt that it was better to stay home than to help put someone into an office knowing that they would engage in activities that I oppose. I'm still not certain that this isn't the most ethical stance to take. However, I started to reconsider my position when I started reading about and contemplating the consequences of neutrality. Even if I stay home, I think I bear a certain amount of responsibility for what the person in office is able to get away with.

So, I wonder if it might be worth voting for someone that I disagree with if I think that they are at least capable of making rational decisions and might be open to listening to what people like me have to say about the direction we want this country to take. History has shown that there is absolutely no reason to believe that voting for white, cis*, non-disabled men will result in revolutionary change. I think that the further we get from that model, the more likely we are to see changes in political policies that will prove to be positive for the communities that I identify with. The only way to find out is by having more people of color, more people with disabilities, more queer-identified people put in office. We've seen what white, cis*, non-disabled men have to offer and I don't see how people like me have anything to gain by continuing down that road.

Obama's term in office has certainly encouraged that view. It has changed the lives of those around me in ways that I didn't even anticipate. It has activated people I know who had never before expressed an interest in politics. I have seen it motivate young black professionals to run for office in Louisiana. I watched as Michelle Obama almost single-handedly changed the way that young black and brown girls in the USA viewed physical education class. Her presence at the side of the President has made it infinitely easier to tell our daughters that brown skin IS beautiful. These are things that electing a 1972 Nixon would not accomplish.

Barack's identity as a mixed-race/mixed-ethnicity person of color gave my child something that every white child in America has been able to take for granted their entire lives: the ability to see someone who looks like her in the White House. The exhilaration and triumph that Irish-Catholic Americans felt when they got to see photos of the Kennedy family eating together, playing together, working together, and just being there now gets to be experienced by families like mine. It changed the way the entire nation eventually felt about the idea of having more Irish-American Presidents.

I suppose if an individual already had what most people of color didn't experience until Obama became President, his re-election might not be a very thrilling prospect. Maybe there isn't much for them to personally feel excited about. I can definitely understand that. However, having witnessed unprecedented positive changes rippling through every facet of my communities, I see many reasons why it would be beneficial for Obama to be re-elected.

I think it also needs to be understood that the first person of color to occupy a role in our society is never a true radical. A truly radical person of color would never have been elected President. Even the self-identified liberals and progressives wouldn't have allowed it. Sadly, it seems that the traits that made Obama electable in the eyes of white America are now the very same ones that many progressives and liberals are unhappy with. I wish that I could explain to some of my loved ones who are white that Obama's role is not to enact the kind of revolutionary policies needed to fix this society. His role is to make it possible for that revolutionary to be accepted by white America. It isn't Paul Robeson that changed the way white American sports-lovers viewed black athletes. It took Jackie Robinson to do that. Robeson was too revolutionary for most of white America to accept, but Robinson was malleable enough to endure the kind of abuse that America requires people of color to tolerate in order to achieve new levels of (begrudging) acceptance. Being anything other than a complete milquetoast and even white liberals and progressives will label a person of color "too angry", "uppity", or a "loose cannon".

In my eyes, Obama is doing exactly what people like me need him to do. We need him to be "Jackie Robinson", so that a "Paul Robeson" can eventually change the problems created over the past few centuries by those who shared more than just superficial traits in common with Nixon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cutting Out the Cursive

Today, I read an article written by a mother who is concerned about the fact that some schools have decided to stop teaching cursive handwriting and replace it with keyboarding lessons. I don't think it's a big deal, but judging from this article and the majority of the responses that it received, lots of folks disagree with me.

There was an interesting point left by a commenter who wrote from the perspective of a left-handed person. I am also a lefty. I don't think most right-handed people understand how cursive writing is designed for them and not us. It is absolutely impossible for a left-handed writer to use the proper form and shape the letters properly in cursive. It's one of the reasons why, in my father's days as a schoolboy, children who were left-handed were often forced to write with their right-hand. Is the nostalgia that some feel about cursive writing really worth continuing this kind of abuse? I'd say no.

My mother-in-law has beautiful handwriting. I mean, she's the person that everyone comes to when they want a sign or poster created for an event. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, so I've never been able to match her handwriting skills--I'm not even going to dwell on how ridiculous it is to expect students with mobility issues and other disabilities to attempt to excel in it. Anyway, I once asked her how she learned to write so beautifully and she told me about how she went to Catholic school as a child and the nuns would rap them across the fingers with a wooden ruler whenever they were caught writing with their pencil at the wrong angle. I was shocked!

It seems a little silly to say that a practice that's becoming increasingly outdated (i.e. changing your name when you marry) might be a good reason to hold on to another practice that's already almost completely outdated (i.e. writing in cursive). At one time, it was thought unnecessary to teach girls how to read. After all, teaching them to read would take away from what was considered really important to adults back then: learning how to make jam and darn their husband's socks, grind corn into meal that's just the right size for making griddlecakes, and make sure that every floorboard was properly scrubbed by hand at the end of the day.

At some point, technological advances made it possible for people to get through their day just fine without needing those particular skills. The same thing is happening now. Most teachers realize that cursive writing isn't really practical knowledge and doesn't matter as much as content in today's world. If an English teacher has to read and correct 30 term papers, they need those papers to be typed so that the class can move on to the next assignment in a timely manner.

Students today need to know a lot more than students did a long time ago. Nobody is going to graduate with honors and get into a good university by having great handwriting skills. I don't think that learning how to write in cursive is useless, because I don't think that any knowledge is useless. It's just not practical. If students want to learn it, then I think it's fine for schools to offer it as an elective, just as it's perfectly okay for schools to offer painting classes and embroidery classes as electives. However, we'd be doing them a grave injustice if we sacrificed those lessons that they need, but aren't receiving, just so that we can feel like the world hasn't changed to the point where much of what we learned is irrelevant.

Let's Have an Intelligent Discussion About Grammar Policing on the Internet

Ironically, I have yet to see a genuine expert in the English language engaging in the policing commonly carried out by those often referred to as "grammar nazis" (see: the definition at ) on the internet. If a person takes even a few courses in linguistics, they can't avoid the fact that without the violation of supposed "rules of grammar" man can not create poetry. It is the violation of grammatical "rules" that transforms words into art.

Of course, every generation has its share of folks who would dismiss any form of art that is not easily understood within a narrow framework. Dadaism, impressionism, and surrealism (along with many others) all faced the same kind of criticism. Poohbahs derided them all, in the beginning. Then, when the "right sort of people" began to praise it and join in, the poohbahs inevitably jumped on the bandwagon and tried to pass themselves off as expert advocates of it.

This isn't something that one only witnesses in the world of graphic arts. It's just as common in the literary world. How many people here would say that a limerick lacks artistic value? How many would claim that a haiku can't be beautiful or worth pondering? When they are the most creative, neither haikus nor limericks are easy to understand at first glance. That is what makes them art!

I always feel sad when I meet people who can only find beauty in that which is familiar to them. Some of the most exquisite joys I've ever experienced came when I let go of my preconceived notions and embraced something outside of the ordinary and the mundane.

I recently read some articles about how many schools have decided to forgo the teaching of cursive handwriting. It's pretty apparent that there won't be much use for it in the future. In a world that is increasingly digital and tends to value speed more than format, it isn't hard to understand why text-speak has become so common that even reluctant folks (e.g. me) are gradually coming to grips with the fact that complaining about it won't make it go away.

I've never been an early adopter, but I'm still too young and sexy to allow myself to go the way of the dodo bird just because I refused to figure out how to roll with the punches. LOL

Friday, August 05, 2011

Just to Avoid Being Held Responsible

I'm still seeing arguments about the news story that I mentioned in my last post. Sadly, a significant number of them are making the same preposterous classist and ablist assertions that bothered me yesterday.

The area where I'm from is known as Cancer Alley. For over twenty years, this area has had outrageously high rates of incidence for cancer, including very rare types that most doctors go their entire careers without ever encountering. It's a heavy industrial area that produces enough air pollution that it strips the finish off of cars in the area.

Should people who have developed cancer due to the carelessness of others just suck it up and move on? And the idea that in this life you have to work hard is utter nonsense. I live a much better life than the average person who gets cancer down here in Cancer Alley. Does that mean I worked harder those who don't have what I have?

What about personal responsibility? Why are so many people afraid of it? To me, that is a much bigger issue than the idea that there are people in the world who want things handed to them. Those folks mainly ruin and waste their own lives through sloth. However, people that run around behaving carelessly and believing that they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions pose a threat to those around them, too.

Because of people who are essentially self-centered and self-absorbed, other folks wind up with a lower quality of life, a diminished ability to earn a living, and sometimes we even die. And our willingness to work hard couldn't prevent us from being affected by people who spend their time being impressed with themselves.

My hubby was working for a delivery company 60+ hours a week and going to school full-time in the honors program, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He worked hard to care for a disabled wife, our child, and to pay for school. One day, he was delivering a package and the homeowner decided to let his dog out of the house when he went to get the box. The dog promptly attacked my hubby and when he went down, he hit his head on the side of his delivery truck and then on the ground. He was knocked unconscious and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of hitting his head.

As soon as he was out of the hospital, he tried to continue working, even though he was still healing from his wounds. We desperately needed his income. We weren't on any government programs; we had no welfare check or food stamps or childcare vouchers. We were just a working class family, barely eking out a living and trying to improve our circumstances through education.

Those who love to claim that folks who sue others are just looking for a way to get out of working hard can feel free to explain how we were being lazy or sue-happy when we were forced to deal with the fact that my husband now has significant loss of ability to remember things and a spine with crushed vertebrae. He had to quit school and he couldn't keep his position at work because it required a level of functioning that even the company agreed he no longer had, as a result of the attack.

It's really easy to defame individuals with disabilities when you can only see yourself in the eyes of the person(s) who caused the damage. However, is it really so hard to give the damaged person the same benefit of the doubt that these folks provide to those who caused it?

This is an issue of social justice. If someone ruined that doctor's hands, do you really think that he'd just give up the career that he's worked hard for and the earning potential that he had and just move on with his life? That's just laughable to think about! He'd sue the pants off of the individual who damaged him. And his social status makes him nearly immune to the kind of criticism leveled at poorer people who seek justice.

Anyone who thinks that there is some pervasive phenomenon where folks are using lawsuits to get rich without working obviously have no first-hand experience with the subject they're talking about. It took nearly FIVE YEARS just to get the dog owner's insurance company to pay for my husband's medical bills.

When their lawyers were trying to make claims about how much his injury cost him in earning potential, their calculations didn't include what he would have been making as an engineer. They didn't even include how much he made in over-time each week--that alone constituted more than a third of our income at the time of the attack.

If he and I didn't have well-to-do relatives who could dole out money to us each month, we would have become homeless. Does that sound like fun to y'all? Do y'all really think that this was an easy way to live? If so, you are seriously deluded.

Taking responsibility for your actions is what ethical/moral people do. Making others pay for your carelessness is cruel and contributes to the degradation of society. If you hurt someone, then you shouldn't even force them to go through the suing process. Unfortunately, suing is often the only recourse that exists because there are increasingly large segments of society (folks with the attitude that some are exhibiting here) who will do anything--that includes blaming the victim--to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Responsibility is not the same as Blame

I saw this post today that was written by a fellow person with disabilities. It pissed me off to no end. It's about a woman, named Halina Jane Gillet, who now lives with Erb's Palsy, because of the actions of the doctor who delivered her. Unfortunately, this blog post reveals a certain lack of empathy that is rather disappointing to see. She writes,
For such a case to even be possible, proceedings must begin before the child reaches 21. Now 25, Halina’s case began 5 years ago, with just enough time to scrape into the time constraints.

Now, I’m not saying that Halina’s life hasn’t been hard, and that what happened to her could’ve been prevented, but I do think that sometimes things in life ‘just happen’ and maybe her life was meant to be this way. And I don’t think taking down a well respected Professor will make her injury go away. Sure, it’ll make things easier financially for her, if she is successful, but I don’t think that what she is doing is right.
It doesn't matter why she decided to do it now. Perhaps, she's just starting to see how much her disability will affect her earning ability or quality of life for the next half of a century.

If a mechanic caused damage to you car, you'd hold him liable for the results of his shoddy work, wouldn't you? If a seamstress didn't properly sew the stitches on your pants and they fell off of you while you're on speaking on stage, would you just say that it was all "meant to be" and let it go at that while pictures of you in your bare panties floated around the internet for the rest of your life?

It's very sad to see people with disabilities so critical of one another instead of supporting our sister. How much damage should a doctor be able to cause without being held responsible? He screwed up. Holding him responsible is not being mean or greedy or unreasonable.

How "well-respected" he is is irrelevant. Well-respected people are just as capable of inflicting harm as anyone else. Is his life somehow more important than hers? What if someone damaged HIS arm? That would certainly impact HIS ability to carry out the duties associated with his career. This isn't looking for someone to blame and it's awful to hear someone make this kind of claim.

There's a world of difference between blame and responsibility. Even if no one ever blamed him, his actions are still the reason why she is disabled today. You're free to take a "meant to be" attitude when it comes to YOUR body, but it's pretty awful to tell someone else what they should be willing to put up with.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

My Queer Positions

I found a link on the Facebook page of a much-beloved social justice activist named Kay Olsen.
On it, there was a quote:
Some will read “queer” as synonymous with “gay and lesbian” or “LGBT.” This reading falls short. While those who would fit within the constructions of “L”, “G”, “B”, or “T” could fall within the discursive limits of queer, queer is not a stable area to inhabit. Queer is not merely another identity that can be tacked onto a list of neat social categories, nor the quantitative sum of our identities. Rather, it is the qualitative position of opposition to presentations of stability—an identity that problematizes the manageable limits of identity. Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized, and oppressed. Queer is the abnormal, the strange, the dangerous. Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.
It was taken from a manifesto called "Toward the Queerest Insurrection"

Perhaps, this will help people understand why I am not jumping for joy each time I hear that gay marriage has been legalized somewhere. Fighting for "marriage equality" is fighting to be included in an elitist institution. "Marriage equality" is not a social justice issue. "Marriage equality" postulates that elites within gay and lesbian communities deserve to be able to participate in and contribute to the marginalization of those whose relationships the government has deemed unworthy of the benefits accorded to married people (e.g. couples that include trans* folks, people with disabilities, polyandrous/polygynous househoulds).

Friday, July 08, 2011

Janet Mock is a Woman Because She Knows She's a Woman

About two weeks ago, Afrobella got an exclusive interview with Janet Mock (The Afrobella Inverview--Janet Mock). She's the woman of color who recently had a feature in Marie Claire magazine called "I Was Born a Boy". The interview was wonderful. My hair type is a lot different from Ms. Mock, so many of her beauty tips don't apply to me, but her graceful and determined attitude absolutely inspired me just as it did when I read the article in Marie Claire.

I read through the comments on Afrobella and they were, for the most part, really respectful. However, my mood soured a bit when I read what one commenter wrote.
"I think this story is nice and Janet is very beautiful! Her hair is amazing! However, as a woman of God I must ask the question…When a person decides to change their gender,isn’t that saying God was wrong when HE created you? Do not get me wrong I’m not saying she’s the devil oh her soul is doomed…etc..etc. I just want to know what people think."
It really bothered me for several reasons. I didn't like the fact that she posed this question to other cis* commenters, instead of directing it to the person she was talking about. Secondly, I am not sure what God she's referring to, but I do know that that term "woman of God" is used almost exclusively by people in Christendom. I've read the Bible and see nothing that legitimizes her claim that she has to question anyone's gender or relationship with their Creator. Lastly, the "I'm not saying she's the devil.." part irked my nerves. Why even bring that up if that's NOT what you're implying?

Of course, I responded. Being a person of faith, I wanted to express my view so that anyone who read through it wouldn't be led to believe that the views of the commenter represented the thoughts of everyone who also consider themselves people of faith. I'm blogging my comment, because it's something that I'd like others who don't visit Afrobella to understand.

God made our bodies. He did not make our gender. Gender is a social construct, like race. Some Black women have café au lait-colored skin and others have dark mocha-colored skin and some have skin the color of bittersweet chocolate. Yet all are Black. Likewise, some women are trans and some women are cis. It's no denial of God to recognize that not all women look the same nor do all men look the same.

It's not the body parts that make a person a man or a woman. If it was, then what do we call someone without a uterus or without breasts? Would not having these parts mean you're not a woman? What if you have MORE parts than what most people expect a woman to be born with? I have three nipples. Yeah, that's right. I said THREE. Now, here's where it gets even more complicated: Due to cancer, I had chest surgery. It left me with one complete breast and about half of one on the other side.

Well, what does that make me? The answer is: It doesn't make me anything. I am a woman regardless of what my body looks like. My body needn't conform to how some people think that a woman should appear. No matter what anyone else has to say about my body (e.g. "That looks disgusting!"; "How did you get those fat keloid scars across your chest?"; "If I had to go through all of that, I'd kill myself!"), I am a woman and God loves me for who I am, not because of what gender I consider myself or because of what my body looks/looked like at some point in my life.

The same is true of Ms. Mock. She's a woman, because she knows she's a woman. During the period of slavery in America, the womanhood of people of color was denied, because of how we looked. We weren't white and, in the eyes of the ruling majority, that meant we didn't have what it takes to be considered real women. They didn't even consider us people! They even used the Bible as justification for this view.

But WE always knew what and who we were. It took a long time for this society to accept what we already knew. Eventually it became apparent that their self-serving interpretation of the Bible was bogus. If history is any clue, we are now in a period where people who identify as trans* are taking the same steps that people of color had to take to in order to be acknowledged for what and who we were.

I'm saddened that some of our sisters are still forced to fight for their right to call themselves women. I know one thing for sure, in the Bible, Jesus was ALWAYS on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed. I don't think I could call myself a follower of Jesus or a woman of God if I didn't take the same stance and stand in support alongside our sisters who are trans.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Geert Wilder's Hate Speech in Tennessee Mega-Church

Today, LoonWatch posted an exposé of the infamous Islamophobe/xenophobe Geert Wilder as he uses a church to preach against the Declaration of Independence's guarantees of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I am so-oo-oo very thankful for the last two minutes of that video. Otherwise, I think that hearing such hate-speech and incitement to kill would have made it very difficult to enjoy my day. Instead, I was left with hope. The power of peaceful resistance will always be stronger than the forces of hatred. Fighting AGAINST something will never be more sustainable than working FOR something. The struggle for social justice for all people has never been more powerful, which is why all of the haters are doubling down their efforts. It's Custer's Last Stand all over again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Attack of Chrissy Polis

My stomach is staging a revolt. I'm in a foul mood and reading about the beating of Chrissy Polis, a trans-gender woman who was beaten in the dining area of a McDonald's Restaurant in Maryland, certainly didn't improve it. The thing that pisses me off about that is the fact that I just happened to hear about this while reading about something else. It wasn't in the news at all.

I hate what happened to her. Those two deserve to face jail time for what they did. In fact, I really feel like jail isn't enough, because nothing compares to the harm that they inflicted on Ms. Polis.

At the same time, I don't think that everyone watching had a responsibility to come between her and these two criminals. A couple of years ago, I lost a relative who was shot down in cold blood while attempting to help a woman who was being beaten. There are valid reasons why many people will not come between people fighting, especially in a violent, trigger-happy country where so many folks are armed with guns.

The McDonald's workers are not security officers nor should they be expected to act as if they are. These folks are mostly minimum wage workers without paid leave or health insurance. If they get beat down, who'll care for them? Who's going to feed their families? McDonald's should provide professional security to deal with these kinds of situations. Instead, they just leave it to a bunch of low-wage earners with no job security and no training on how to deal with this kind of situation.

I think that the guy who taped it should be fired, because he was not being paid to make amateur videos while on the clock. He's an asshole for gleefully posting this horrible incident. I don't know how I'd deal with knowing that so many people saw me being viciously violated. I do hope that the video can at least be used by Chrissy to prove what happened to her, because the criminal justice system is notorious for ignoring and minimizing crimes reported by transgender women.

The one who advised the criminals to flee the scene should be fired, because he was aiding and abetting their actions. Actually, I think that he deserves to have a lot more happen to him than just being fired. I wish him nothing more or less than the karma he has earned.

However, I'm not sure that I believe the rest of the workers who didn't jump in did something unethical. Assuming that everyone who witnessed it could have jumped in is really problematic. The fact that you work at McDonald's doesn't mean that you are necessarily in a position to stop a crime that's being perpetrated in front of you.

It would be admirable if someone did step in and help. I'm pretty sure that I would have, if I could. The woman in white who did her best to get those attackers off of Chrissy did what I think I could have done on a day that my disabilities weren't affecting me a lot. Of course, even with my disabilities, I can better afford to do that (i.e. step in) then these workers could. Pitting marginalized people (minimum wage workers) against other marginalized people (trans-gender women) allows privileged people to avoid responsibility for the plight of both groups.

If owners of a restaurant can get away with paying their workers less than a living wage, should they also be allowed to force them to serve as an unpaid security force, too? The owners had a responsibility to protect their customers. Chrissy deserved to be safe in that establishment. The owners had a responsibility to make sure that people who come there don't get beaten to death. And that's what could have happened, by the way. Epilepsy still kills lots of people. Being kicked in the head is enough to kill anyone. Being kicked in the head when you already have a history of epilepsy is very likely to kill you. That seems exactly like what these two attackers were attempting to do and I hope the criminal justice system will treat them as attempted-murderers. Most of all, I hope that Chrissy Polis will never have to go through this again.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Les Couleurs de Vie

I might be biased--okay, I know I'm biased--but I think my family happens to be more than a little bit attractive, as families go. We're multi-ethnic and we come in all shades. Among my cousins and siblings, there are some who are as brown as dark chocolate and others with no more than a bit of peach tint to their skin. My oldest brother is very fair and golden. His hair was reddish when he was born, but has darkened into a medium-to-dark brown now that he's an adult. He has always had freckles on his face and he gets even more if he spends any time outside without sunscreen. My younger brother and I are the exact same color as a caramel candy. My youngest brother is the color of honey, golden brown.

For several reasons, the lightness/darkness of my family tends to alternate each generation. My mother and her siblings were mostly pale to light brown in color. Their children mostly range from light brown to dark brown. This latest generation is really, really pale for the most part. My oldest brother, who was the lightest of all my mother's children, has three sons and two of them are milk chocolate. The rest of the kids café au lait to what would be generous to describe as barely peach. The youngest of my nieces and nephews has blond hair and blue eyes, like his mother. That kid is going to burn to a crisp if they don't teach him to wear sun-block!

I remember being a child and drawing lots of pictures. There were lots of projects in elementary school where the teacher would have us take out our crayons and draw our families at dinner, during the holidays, playing outside, et cetera. It would have been nice to be able to color my family so that it actually looked like my family and not just some random group of people standing next to each other.

If you were using the basic pack of markers, mixing them together (in an attempt to create a color close to what I needed) just turned into muddy-looking blotches. Crayons were a little bit better when it comes to blending colors, but not by much. The waxy base made it possible to do some color mixing on a piece of paper, but nothing consistent enough to form a definite shade. It seemed that they really weren't designed to be layered or combined. That meant everyone in my family had to be depicted as dark brown or black or not colored at all.

As this article points out, Crayola did offer a variety of flesh-colored crayons in its 64 count pack. However, those crayons were really thin and little kids generally don't have the dexterity to use them without accidentally snapping them in half, so our first few elementary school teachers wouldn't let us bring them to class. I remember being really excited when the teacher's list of school supplies said that we'd be using the box of 64 crayons. I organized and re-organized the crayons in a million different ways. They were great! You could depict all sorts of things with those added shades and colors. They made it a lot easier to portray objects and people exactly how you wanted them to look. It took away the frustration and limitations that went along with trying to depict an overwhelmingly diverse world, mostly filled with non-white people, using only 8 dull colors.

My daughter, VanGoghGirl, is multi-ethnic/multi-racial. When she was young and we were having a conversation about skin color, she said that I was brown, but she was "brownge". I asked her what "brownge" was and she said "It's kinda brown and kind of orangey, too". I thought that explanation was adorable and very accurate. She knew that we do look alike in many ways, but her skin is different from mine. She loved her own tone and wanted to find the perfect way to describe herself.

Unfortunately, there was no "brownge" crayon or marker for her to use. Now Crayola has come out with a new product line. They are calling it their "Multicultural Colors". They come in packs with eight different flesh-toned colors. These markers would have been great for my "brownge" little girl. It's sad that there are folks who think that this product is just to appease "liberals". It denigrates the needs of the majority of children and asserts that loving the body that the Creator gave them is essentially worthless and laughable.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Mothers with More than one "Baby Daddy" are Ruining Their Kid's Lives?

Times magazine has an article about a study that examined the phenomenon of women having children with more than one man. It's interesting, but it does bother me how it focuses on women as if they are more to blame than men. After all, these women aren't impregnating themselves. Besides, this domino effect doesn't just apply to women. There are plenty of men out there with children from more than one mother.

When my own bio-dad left the four of us kids and divorced our mom, she stayed single for eight years. Then she married a man whose wife had left him with their eight kids. Their marriage provided the twelve children with more stability than either family had prior to that. The two of them never had children together, but if they did, it would have been totally okay with me. These were adults who were serious about the "'til death do us part" promise in their first marriages, but both wound up with mates who didn't feel the same way.

Twelve children from prior relationships that didn't work out might look pretty bad on paper, but I think it should be remembered that this was all the result of decisions made by two people (the spouses who left). If my mom and step-dad did make kids with each other, it would have qualified as a "domino dad" family. However, that domino-dad effect wouldn't represent a loss of family stability. It would have been a sign of more family stability, because it means that children who were growing up without one of their parents now had a chance to live in an environment with two parents who loved them.

The same has been true for me and The German. He's not our daughter's biological father, but he's been her father from since she was a toddler. She has her bio-dad's last name, but she usually prefers not to tell people that she isn't The German's biological daughter. And The German never did call her his step-anything. From the time that I allowed him to meet her, he stepped in and did all of the things that a father is supposed to do. Even if he and I had just remained friends, he was determined that she wouldn't be a child without a stable father figure in her life.

Sometimes, I think that how he treated VanGoghGirl was what made me fall in love with him. My parents and my brothers were fiercely protective of me and her. Instead of criticizing them or going against what they thought was best, The German joined right in with them. He always followed whatever rules my family set for him.

I remember when he was remodeling my parent's house and it was time for him to work on the upstairs jack and jill bathroom that was between my room and my brothers' room. It was his first time coming up the stairs at our house. He'd never even tried to come upstairs when I wasn't home. He wouldn't even go upstairs to my brothers' room. When they wanted him to play video games with him, they had to bring everything downstairs and play in the den because he didn't even want to give the appearance that he'd dare try to bend the rules. He's the first guy that everyone in my very large extended family approved of.

VanGoghGirl has always expressed her wish that me and The German would have a child together, so that she could grow up with a sibling instead of being an only child. She'd love for us to have a "domino-dad" family. So, there are lots of ways of looking at this study. Having a "domino-dad" family isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'm also curious about how many different fathers did most of the "domino-dad" families have. If the average "domino-dad" family only involves two fathers, then we really aren't talking about a situation where mothers have "different men cycle in and out". Instead of a cycle, it would be more like a single step.