Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sometimes I Get Afraid

The fears comes
Creeping, slithering, crawling
It comes when I sleep
A concrete wall surrounding the moat that prevents my rest
Not fear for me, not fear for mine
Fear for US
Pink scars cover old wounds, but the pain lingers
Good hair, paper bags and pretty eyes
How easily we despise
Beautifully brown, blue-black, beige
I fear. I tremble. I dread.
What lurks within


Monday, February 21, 2011

Random Aside

I read this story and I can't say that it's wrong. But I'm not quitting yet.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Dangerous Choices

My family was big on leadership.

I can't remember how many times I had to sit through a speech about "leaders" and "followers" from my mother and father after I or my brother had screwed up. They were convinced that most of the mischief we engaged in was the result of us caving to peer pressure. Some of that was true, but some of it was just the fact that I had the Devil whispering in my ear hard when I was a kid... But I digress.

One of the key principles of leadership was the willingness to deal with the consequences of your choices. My mom always taught me that it was always easier to live with your choices, good or bad, than with those made by someone else for you. Over the years, I've found that piece of knowledge to be incredibly valuable.

I have thought a lot about the lessons of my mother and father recently while discussing the sexual assault of a CBS reporter while covering the Egyptian revolution.

Sexual assault holds a strange position in American culture. Despite the efforts of feminists and intelligent men, people still insist on believing that if victims would act differently they wouldn't be raped. In addition, we all get more excited or agitated about rapes by certain types of people (non-white men) against other types of people (white women) then any other types of rape. That's what makes the Egypt situation such a volatile issue.

I have heard from a few people that CBS was dead wrong for allowing this woman to go over to Egypt when they knew of the potential dangers she could face because of that country's complicated issues with sexual harassment and violence. Those folks believe that women should be barred from certain activities simply because those activities just aren't safe for them.

In addition, there are other people who are using what happened to advance their own views about violent and lawless Muslims hell bent on attacking everything that is sacred to Americans ("Sacred" being represented by a white woman of course) but I won't unpack that issue. Instead, I want to discuss the safety issue.

In my world, any adult who can perform a job competently should be allowed to do that job. Period. Whether it's a male day care worker, or female foreign correspondent, gender should not determine whether someone is allowed to do a job if they have the necessary skills and acumen to perform the work.

From my seat, much of the angst about this woman's ordeal stems from the idea that only if she had done something differently, she wouldn't have been raped. It subtly shifts the blame for the incident from the perpetrators to the victim and her employer. Then, using that blame shift, people are trying to create new rules that would only reinforce the glass ceiling women of all races, but particularly of minority races, still face in corporate America.

Who gets to decide which jobs are safe for women? How will they make the decision? What if the only way to advance in a chosen field is to take jobs that involve danger? Are women then confined to the lowest rungs of their profession? Have the people who advocate protecting women even thought about these questions, and the dozens more that are out there?

I think not.

Instead, they are using a current event to advance a longstanding agenda. And it's sad. It's really sad. This woman's assault is not an opportunity to push some sort of traditional gender role agenda. Hell, she's already lost much of the anonymity that sexual assault victims tend to be provided. Her rape was a terrible ordeal that will leave lasting scars, but so was the beating of Anderson Cooper and the murder of Daniel Pearl. Yet, nobody is telling me their jobs are too dangerous for them.

Nobody is attempting to take away their choices. 


Monday, February 14, 2011

When Free Speech Isn't Free

It's been a while since we talked, but I read something the other day that has stayed with me.

It was this story  in the New York Times about an issue at a California college about the actions of the resident Muslim Students Association, and the response to those actions by the powers that be. The student association interrupted the speech of a visiting Israeli dignitary and had to be escorted from the building by security because the refused to be quiet. However, instead of the issue simply being a school matter, the locak District Attorney's Office decided to press charges against the students for their actions. The story was an interesting look at the freedoms stifled at so-called "liberal" colleges, and how different people can have totally different justifications and reactions to the same events. Good read.

But, near the end of the article there is a quote from the District Attorney's Office where a spokeswoman is attempting to justify the D.A.'s decision to proceed with charging Muslim students for their outbursts at a public speech. The woman says:

"It seems that the basic question is what if we substituted different groups — what if this were the Klu Klux Klan who conspired to silence a speech by Martin Luther King.”

Now, long time readers won't be surprised this pissed me off. You all know that I am guaranteed to get pissed when someone recklessly compares their struggle to the struggle of black folks in any way. Yes, I understand it's an easily understood reference point, but that doesn't make it right. It's tedious to constantly hear every marginally oppressed group use Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks as their rallying cry. Tedious, and infuriating.

But, in this case it's the comparison that really angers me, it's the faulty logic and historical knowledge that annoys me. I'm not sure what American History classes this spokeswoman took, but even the most rudimentary should have taught her that there is no need to speak in hypotheticals when discussing the Klan conspiring to silence a speech by Dr. King.

That's an actual factual.

As soon as Dr. King became the figurehead of the Civil Rights movement, every white supremacist group in America, from the KKK to their uppity masters the White Citizens Council to a slew racist government figures, was attempting to silence him and his rhetoric. Bombs were set off at his house, bricks were thrown through his windows and threats were sent to his mailbox. There is no need to "suppose" what the public and media reaction would be to attempts to silence King, all that is needed is a look at the historical record. And the record shows that the response was: silence.

That's right, silence. There were no serious attempts to protect King, instead he was dependent upon the goodwill of friends and the grace of God. Not only did the public officials and citizens not attempt to protect King's right to speak without intimidation, they actively sanctioned said intimidation as the best means to "keep the peace."

For this spokeswoman to pretend that everyone understands that conspiring to silence a speaker is wrong and that goverment protection of free speech is common is just plain ludicrous. For her to pretend that if Dr. King was speaking everyone would understand that the government should protect him his dishonest. Moreover, this woman is justifying her attempts to silence free speech by saying it's in the interest of protecting someone else's free speech. That's a dangerous argument at best.

Slowly, but surely, people in this country are rewriting its past, and using that newly created past to justify their actions in the present. It's a creeping thing, but it doesn't stop. It just keeps coming and coming. We owe it to our children to stand in its path as often as possible.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Slave Sounds Better

Black people have a complicated relationship with slavery.

Some of us cringe when it's mentioned. Others can't get enough of talking about the horrors of that peculiar institution. Some folks pretend that neither they nor their ancestors had any connection to that horrid period in time, and they casually despise those black folks who claim connection with men and women who were once considered beasts.

Unfortunately, as part of our complicated relationship, some of us can't seem to avoid comparing things to slavery. Whether it be football players to field hands, or congressmen to cotten pickers, it doesn't take much for certain black folks to whip out a slavery comparison. Apparently, some folks believe that the only way to truly impress upon people the seriousness of a situation is to compare it to the worst tragedy in American history.

Honestly, it pisses me off. I'm not worried that it makes it harder to discuss "real" problems, or get attention to "real" injustice. I believe that even though lots of folks try to justify their indifference to matters of race by using the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" defense that is bogus. People aren't disinterested because people have made too many false claims of discrimination or racism, they are disinterested because they simply don't want to pay attention. It might be because they don't want to examine their own lives, or because they really don't care that much about what ails black folks. Whatever the reason, I don't think it has anything to do with how often claims of racism are made.

No, why the practice pisses me off is because slavery is slowly undergoing a Martin Luther King-style transformation in popular lore. That transformation allows people to brush aside the terrible truth about the crimes of that era in favor of a neutered storyline that reads a lot like a bad day at summer camp. Torture, rape and inhuman conditions are slowly being edited out of the history in favor of generic words like bad, mean and uncomfortable.

See, comparisons to slavery, even those made in jest and in private, should have some appreciation for just how horrible it was to be a slave. Otherwise, those comparisons are rooted in the worst type of hyperbole, the type that ruins the power of an event. The list of things that are compared to the Holocaust is small even though genocide for political and religious reasons is a fairly common occurrence in the world's history. Holocaust survivors and their descendants are careful about letting that terrible tragedy be demeaned with ridiculous comparisions because they understand that's the first step to re-writing history. Once you re-write history, it's much more difficult for people to see when it's repeating itself.

Black folks would be wise to learn that lesson.


Raving Black Lunatic