Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brown & Black Folks' Burden: a conversation at The Kitchen Table

I hate this image. I hate what it signifies... what it represents.
No... it's not hate I feel... it's fear. And sadness.
This morning, I read another important blog post entitled "Bearing the Burdens," which is a commentary on two male white supremacists recent plot to assassinate Senator Barack Obama. The blog post is by Kitchen Table writer, Dr. Yolanda Pierce.

Please read the original blog post to which I responded here.

I thought it useful to share my blog comment with you (I will update the post by adding a link that defines/further explains the concept of U.S. neo-imperialism -- if I can find out):

Dr. Pierce,
Thank you so much, again (and over and over), for providing new perspectives on issues that pervade mainstream media discourse.

You have given me many new things to think about -- racist-xenophobic "he's a terrorist that pals around with terrorists" accusations vs. present day and historical U.S. American terrorism carried out through white supremacists.

White U.S. Americans really have inherited a history -- particular to them as white people -- that has left so much blood on their hands -- not because they themselves committed the mass murders, the mass lynchings, the mass rapes -- but because they are the beneficiaries of that brutality -- brutality that is absolutely central to the power and privileges that they unknowingly access everyday as white people -- brutality that is absolutely fundamental to the United States government's supremacy in the world today.

And your questions -- your questions are so powerful -- they really resonate with me: why must black people and people of color in general bear the burden of "responsibility for positive change and growth" in the U.S. Why do so many black people and people of color have to die in order to resist oppression... in order to liberate themselves -- or in the process of seeking liberation (cuz we don't always get it, right).

Great questions. Thank you for giving them to me.

The perspectives you share here have influenced the way I also see the U.S. government's military activity in the present and the privilege and power of being a U.S. American.

The U.S. is, indeed, the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. And as you well know -- as the Kitchen Table blog testifies to over and over again -- not all people living in the U.S. wield the same brand of power and privilege as a U.S. American/permanent resident of the U.S. -- most of us are involuntarily and voluntarily complicit in the oppression of so called "Third World" people/people living in low income countries.

The U.S. government -- in Afghanistan and Iraq -- continues to engage in what I view as the legalized, government terrorist killing of civilians to achieve neo-imperialistic aims (such as the establishment of economic power/dominance in a region). In Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. gov't wages a war of "liberation" on brown bodies -- many of them innocent of "terrorist" crimes. And those violently resisting or non-violently enduring the U.S.'s neo-imperialistic war -- they too bear "so much responsibility" -- too much responsibility -- "for positive change and growth in" their own countries.

I believe your important and insightful questions also apply to the suffering and deprivation of resources that brown and black people experience and endure so that most U.S. Americans (and all people living in so called "First World"/high-income countries) can access the privileges of running water, electricity, gas powered cars, cell phones, IPODS etc., -- "why must" their "bodies... always have to serve as pedagogical sites; why are we always tools of liberation and resistance? Why is the fight for human freedom disproportionately borne by those who have been most denied that full humanity?"

Your next statement also applies to worldwide power imbalances as well: We "live in a country in which white Americans" and U.S. Americans of color "have disproportionately benefited from the uncompensated labor of black" and brown people in countries populated by severely poor people around the world -- including countries like Afghanistan and Iraq [I am aware that these countries include a significant middle class but it is important that these regions also include a large number of extremely poor people -- poor in a way that *most* (thought not all) U.S. Americans will never know/experience].

[UPDATE: In this way... all U.S. Americans/permanent residents living in the U.S. -- particularly middle and upper class people and most especially the millionaires and billionaires who comprise the U.S.'s (and the worlds) wealthiest 10% -- we all have blood on our hands... the blood of brown and black people oppressed, suffering and assassinated by the U.S. government's neo-imperialist/globalization driven wars and economic imperialism in overseas regions carried out through the corporate exploitation of overseas laborers so we U.S. Americans/permanent U.S. residents can comfort ourselves with countless luxuries (that we do not realize are luxuries!).

Most of us take these luxuries for granted -- the luxury of turning on a faucet, for example, that will provide us with water to wash our hands or shower (perhaps with organic designer soap that 100s of 1000s of people living in the U.S. and millions of poor people living in other countries could never afford), or the luxury of flipping a switch to brighten a room. Or the luxury of sending text messages through a cell phone (or sending emails through a Blackberry or sidekick) .

Cell phones use a mineral called colton, which is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mining of the colton that makes our cell phones work yields profits that fund a still raging 3 year civil war in the Congo. In "Guns, Money and Cell Phones" Kristi Essick says that "more than 20 international mineral trading companies import [colton and other] from the Congo via Rwanda."

Your cell phone and mine has blood on it.

Yet, I am unwilling to give mine up even though I don't need it -- not really.

And I feel guilty about that, which is the least I could do considering unknown numbers of people were murdered, so I could enjoy the privilege of having a cell phone. Feeling guilty for the privileges and power one access at the expense of other people is not necessarily a bad thing.

Guilt is useful if we use it to admit complicity in oppression -- both voluntarily and involuntary -- and take responsibility for what we know we do and what we don't know we do to oppress other people. Guilt is useful if we reject defensiveness and denial [common, unproductive reactions in people who are told they are complicit in race, gender, class (etc.,) oppression] and instead use the new knowledge to grow our consciousness of anti-oppression issues and reduce our participation in oppression in the ways that we choose to. If you are a U.S. American/permanent U.S. resident -- it isn't possible to completely eliminate one's participation in the oppression of poor people around the world. For example, if you live in the U.S. it would be difficult to avoid eating food that was cooked using electricity, or sitting at a table in a fast food restaurant that wasn't wiped down with a rag dipped in running water.

We can, however, give up some things -- like our cell phones, our we can bike/take public transportation even some of the time instead of driving. We can choose to eat less meat products and more vegetarian products (being able to choose what we want to eat is another largely unrecognized privilege -- millions of people can't choose the foods they eat because they must eat what's available to them. Many Haitians, for example, eat rice today, rice tomorrow, and rice the day after that... rice is their only meal -- really). We can decide that a diamond ring engagement is not that important after all -- not when the slave labor and murder of people living in Africa was used in the process of getting that diamond on someone's finger (and no -- I don't believe the diamond industry can guarentee that the diamonds they sell are not bloody no matter what popular media institutions -- led by the rich friends of rich people who run the diamond industry -- want me to believe).

More importantly, we can seek change on the level of policy making/government and in corporate U.S. America. For example, we can organize a group of people -- no matter how small -- to demand that the Senator in our state use her/his power to demand that Congress/the president force corporations to stop using the labor of children overseas and start paying overseas workers a decent wage (so children wouldn't have to work to supplement their parents' meager wages). We can demand that corporations stop using violence and encouraging the use of government violence to discourage overseas workers from organizing unions. ]

Again, thank you for this blog post.

Monday, October 27, 2008

McCain: NOPE!

I just had to share:)

Thanks to one of the most fabulous, super intelligent, and witty blogs ever -- Aunt Jemima's Revenge -- for permitting me to appropriate the image.

white woman cries "black man wolf" -- Ashley Todd & the racist victimization/demonization of black men

Very recently, Ashley Todd, a 20 year old white woman, falsely accused a black man of carving a "B" into her face -- the "B" is for "Barack Obama" -- and raping her because she had a McCain sticker on the bumper of her car.

"When men rape women of other races and ethnicities, it is more often a white perpetrator raping a woman of color..."

But these facts are not the beginning and end of the story linked to and implied by Ashley Todd's false, racist-sexist accusations against a fictitious black man -- and in a sense, all U.S. American black men.

I will update/complete this blog post in the next few days.

For now, read excellent analysis/blog commentary on the Todd incident here.

Todd did not miss a beat in invoking racist characterizations of white women as victims, black men and black people as victimizers -- she got it all in there -- the racist characterization of black communities as "bad neighborhoods" and the racist-sexist stereotype of the black male rapist -- a racist-sexist stereotype that acquired ubiquitous (or nationwide) power -- not coincidentally --  in the aftermath of slavery's abolition and survives into the present day. 

The racist-sexist stereotype of black men as rapists, drug dealers, drug users and all around model criminals encourages and justifies individual acts of racism -- such as a white woman grabbing her purse when a black man passes her on the street -- or enters an elevator :) Racist-sexist stereotypes of black men, black women, Latinos and Latinas also encourages and justifies the high number of police cars overseeing black and Latino/a neighborhoods -- no matter what the dominant income status of the community (I don't mean to imply that class status should make exempt a person of color from being targeted for racism. It is important, however, that a black and Latino/a person's economic status does not diminish their experience of racism in this instance). The fact that 73% of all drug users are white, and most drug dealers are white, and that white people are 4 times more likely to be physically assaulted by another white person than they are a person of color, and that white men & white boys are responsible for committing most violent crimes in the U.S.  -- the fact that most acts of sexual and gender violence against white women and girls are committed by white men and white boys  that they know *does not* change the fact that most white women and white girls fear sexual/gender violence from black men and teenaged black males. 

Most rapes, in fact, are committed by people (typically men) who belong to the same racial group as the rape victim/survivor. The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center observes that "when men rape women of other races and ethnicities, it is more often a white perpetrator raping a woman of color...."

(If you're a white woman reading this blog entry -- before you ask me for "proof" of white women's racist fantasies about black men -- ask yourself -- and give an honest answer -- who do you imagine will rape you or rob you? What is the race and gender of the person the person that you fear will rape you or rob you?) 

None of these facts changes the racist behavior of the vast majority of law enforcement officials, the racist, over-representation of blacks as the agents of violence in the media, or many white people's  (individual) racist belief that blacks are pre-disposed to criminality. 

Cops don't step up their patrolling of suburbs -- the assumed bastions of peace and tranquility -- because no girl or boy has every been beaten by their alcoholic/drug abusing parents in the suburbs, or beaten by a classmate, or sexually molested in the suburbs, or raped by a gang of white boys in the suburbs... that's never happened -- because the suburbs are safe.

Of course domestic, sexual and physical violence happens in the suburbs -- most suburban violence occurs inside the home not in the street where police can see it (if they were even there to see it in the first place) or a neighbor could witness it to alert the media. Social workers don't visit the homes of solidly middle and upper class parents -- they don't remove the children from upper and middle class homes. However, the homes of poor and working-class people -- mostly black and Latino/a homes but many poor & working-class white homes as well -- these homes, these parents, these children are subject to intense state scrutiny, which is why most of the children in foster care are black, the 2nd largest number are Latino and a minority of of foster children are white -- the vast majority of all of them removed from poor and working-class homes. Again, I'm not saying that poor and working-class children should not be removed from abusive/violent homes -- I am saying that state supervision should be equitable. What the state does to/for poor and working-class youth it should also do to/for middle and upper class youth. Right now, what exists is a foster care system that engages in blatantly classist and racist practices -- another example of institutionalized classism and racism -- that is tolerated by middle and upper class people -- because middle and upper class people believe both consciously and unconsciously that poor and working-class people deserve that kind of treatment -- because "they" are not as well-behaved, hard working and moral as middle and upper class people.

I digress.

Police don't patrol 4 year colleges and universities -- institutions -- communities -- that enroll predominantly white middle class students who frequently drink underage, and drink excessively -- a drinking rate that are linked to the highest instances of acquaintance rape. College aged white men drink more than any other racial/age group. College aged women are, in fact, more susceptible to sexual violence than any other age group. In fact, white men drink and drug more frequently than white women and women and men of color. And lets not forget college aged students' drug use -- no police officer is present to observe the bong hits of a white middle class college student. 

(For more statistic-based information on the relationship between racism, sexism, prison and drug laws go here.)

There is no increase in the arrests of white men and women who use drugs and deal drugs. There is no increase in police shootings of white men (I am not saying there should be) but unarmed black and Latino men are gunned down time and time again because police officers -- most of them white -- believe that these men had guns when, in fact, they did not. Tim Wise raised the same point in 2001 when he cited a "Washington University in St. Louis found that the mere presence of dark skin increases the probability that an object... will be misperceived as a weapon." 

Not once, in U.S. history -- recent or past -- has a police officer been convicted and sent to prison for murdering an innocent black man, black women, Latino and Latina -- not once.

So, the conscious or unconscious racist belief that black and Latino men are dangerous -- excessively dangerous -- addicted to danger and violence even -- that racist belief makes police officers of all races -- but significantly, mostly white police officers -- far more likely to use excessive force on black man or Latino -- and black women, Latinos, and especially since 9/11, Arab-Americans, Arab immigrants and men and women perceived to be of Arab descent. Police officers are far more likely to beat members of the aforementioned groups to death and/or murder them because of racist stereotypes.

That is real. 

And the experience of inequality and violence in the context of law enforcement is a major, defining difference between those who have white skin privilege and those who do not have white skin privilege.

(Here are some video recorded words from the Wise on white privilege and the historical creation of whiteness. He also discusses how a white person can "challenge whiteness" or resist at least some of the unearned benefits they receive because they are white, and thus, resist complicity in the racist oppression of people of color as a white ally in the struggle against racism.)

White men and women are not arrested, imprisoned or beaten as frequently as black men, black women, Latinos and Latinas and murdered by police as frequently** as black men and Latinos because the stereotype of a violent criminal/drug user/drug dealer does not fit their image -- straight, white Protestant men are model citizens -- model "Americans" -- and middle & upper class heterosexual Protestant white women are the symbol of all that is feminine, pure, moral and safe -- unless, of course, that straight Protestant middle or upper class white woman finds feminism -- then she's a man-hating "bitch" or has more power than most white heterosexual men then she's a dyke like Hillary Clinton.

So, Ashley Todd's false rape accusation and false accusation of physical assault should not be dismissed as the raving of a "mad" woman (Todd says that she carved her own face and accused a black man of that crime and a rape crime because she suffers from a mental illness), or an "isolated incident" -- because there is a long history of white women accusing black men of rape and physical assault in the U.S. -- and a long history of white people believing these false accusations, which led far too many whites to terrorize entire black communities in the form of genocide -- that is, all out vigilante/illegal murders of black children, women and men, lynchings, organized rape campaigns and racial profiling in response to these false accusations -- and white people could torture, murder and rape black men, women, and children with impunity -- without concern of legal consequences. Until the 1960s, almost all white judges refused to convict and imprison white men arrested for lynching and raping (etc.,) black men, women and children.

**Re: racist police murders -- I use the term "frequently" because I do not know of any instances since the 1980s where a white man or white woman was wrongfully murdered by police officers -- if you know of any instances where this occurred, please share them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Please visit the website below and donate $5-10 online to assist Haiti's poorest people still reeling from the recent flood.

Your donation will help bring water and solar energy, for example, to Haiti's most severely impoverished people -- people who are also among the poorest in the world.

Peace, Love and Revolution!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

President Obama's face will be on food stamps!

If I had a buck for every time republican/conservative commentators bemoaned Obama &/or the Obama campaign's "playing of the race card"...

Nope. No racism here! Just good ol' fashion humor! "Good ol' boy" humor:)

The Press Enterprise reports that Republican Woman's Group president, Diane Fedele, published a newsletter "depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken, prompting outrage in political circles... The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated [a 200 member group] says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps — instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of “Obama Bucks” — a phony $10 bill featuring Obama’s face on a donkey’s body, labeled “United States Food Stamps.”

What's awesome is that some? many? of the Republican women's group members criticized the image as racist, which prompted Fedele to issue an apology.

Fedele's apology included a statement that she "doesn't think in racist terms" because, at one point, she supported Alan Keyes, an African American Republican who ran for president (!!!)

Uh huh. 

But that's ok! Because she has a gay friend. 

Clearly, Palin isn't homophobic or heterosexist. 

For that matter, neither is the political party to which she belongs because they too have gay family members and friends -- there are gay Republicans in office! I mean, they haven't forced the Log Cabin Republicans to relinquish their GOP membership cards. There will be *no* Republican movement to force the federal and state government to recognize the full citizenship rights of gays or lesbians, bisexuals, and certainly never, transgenders -- not this year (or next year) anyway.

But that's alright -- cuz they all have gay friends (or at least have a Republican friend who has a gay friend, which is pretty much the same thing).


Please note: With regard to Fedele, the "Obama buck" woman -- having supported a black man's political campaign *once* or 20,000 times, having *a* black friend or 2 or 500 black friends, *does not* mean a person isn't racist against black people.

Fedele also had the nerve to say she *didn't know* that the watermelon, fried chicken, kool-aid, bbq ribs image was plucked from a (historically) racist stereotype of African Americans.

She didn't know??? 

There isn't much in the realm of racist, sexist, classist, heterosexist, abelist, xenophobic (etc.,) behavior/speech that surprises me -- but the "Obama buck" watermelon-fried chicken stuff could have been plucked straight out of Ku Klux Klan propagandist material from either 1878 or 1948 or 2008. The image is a model of naked, bald-face, unapoletic racism. When I use the term "unapologetic," I use it to signify how "far" the U.S., and particularly some/far too many white folks -- as the bearers of the wealth of racial privilege and power in the U.S. -- have (or more accurately, have not) evolved with regard to the way they conceive people of color.

In the year 2008 -- a significant historical moment for many reasons, including the *reality* that a white woman (Hillary Clinton) and a black man (Barack Obama) entered the presidential race and got farther than any other contending Democratic candidates -- this in a context of continuing institutional sexism and racism. (It is important to identify the economic status of both candidates -- I don't believe either of them would've gotten as far as they had if they weren't filthy rich). And now, that black man -- Barack Obama --  could very well be the next president of the United States, in part, because a significant number of white people choose to support him.

So much has changed.

Yet too much has stayed the same.

Nope. No stirring up of racial fears here:)

Racialicious blogger Latoya Peterson drew my attention to the "Obama bucks" image -- read more here.

"How We Are Getting Racists to Vote for Obama"

Excerpt from a recent racialicious blog written by guest contributer SuzeNYC, a white woman. Please Read the full blog post here.
She writes:
I knew these people were intimating that they were having trouble with Obama’s race but I couldn’t figure out how to approach this.

The answer came in the form of an amazing guy I’ll call Stan. Stan’s daughter answered the door. She had long blond hair and looked to be about 15. She said her Dad was across the street at the garage where he works and he had not decided who he was voting for. My canvassing partner Kevin and I crossed the street to find Stan who was sitting with his co-workers having lunch, so we had quite an audience for what was to follow.

Stan said the usual stuff. Democrat. Doesn’t like McCain. Worried about the economy and then he was hedging around the fact that he has some problem with Barack. I looked him in the eye and with a relaxed smile on my face I plunged into the water and asked, “So, are you having a problem with the color of his skin?” He said he was. I asked him why and he said some non-sensible things like, “I don’t know. It’s just not right, you know? Something feels wrong about it.”

I asked him, again in a relaxed, non-judgmental tone, “Do you think you are a racist?’ At first he said, “No.” Then he said, “I don’t know, maybe.” I said, “You know, Barack’s mom looked a lot like me. And Barack and Michelle just finished paying their student loans last year. I wish that you would take a closer look at this man and try to see deeper than just his skin color. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are regular people who will never betray the middle class. That isn’t who John McCain is.” He agreed. At this point we could feel him relaxing and Kevin and I really stared connecting with him. I think he felt relieved that the cat was out of the bag and we weren’t giving him superior attitude or stomping away. We talked with him and listened to him talk about taxes and how Obama will give tax breaks to everyone making under $250K and we talked about the war and oil prices and how hard it has been to pay the bills."
Again, please read the entire blog post here.