Thursday, November 4, 2010

Racial Blame Games: abortion, welfare, crime and prisons

I have a habit of reading blog comments -- even the ones on FOX's propaganda "news" station --because I like to know what folks are thinking. While the comments I read are extremely varied, the ones that invoke, mobilize, and manipulate racist-sexist-classist (etc) misinformation sometimes bore me, often bug me, and always concern me, because not only these comments present factless opinion as irrefutable truth, the beliefs they reflect uphold existing institutional inequalities and oppression.

How 'bout some truth-telling.

Contrary to popular stereotypes (rooted in the racialized meritocratic myth that, in the U.S., hard work yields success for everyone) about women/girls who undergo abortion, welfare recipients, "criminals," and imprisoned people:

In the U.S., WHITE WOMEN HAVE *MOST* ABORTIONS (even without Census statistics, which verify this fact, it's safe to presume white women have *most* abortions because white people are the numerically dominant population in the U.S. Interesting that many people presume the opposite. Why is that, I wonder... ).

Sadly, it is true, that black women have abortions at a disproportionate rate (but that's more a reflection of the historical, instutionalized racism, sexism, and classism that severely limit or entirely eliminate black women/girls choices and opportunities (e.g. jobs and education), rather than an indication of moral bankruptcy. Post-World War II U.S. government policies, for example, created a racial wealth gap in the U.S. that maintained blacks disproportionate and severe impoverishment. All poverty is terrible. And black and Latino/a poverty is even more severe than the poverty in which poor whites live.

-- most WELFARE recipients are white (white women -- not black people, or black women as the prevalent, historical racist-sexist-classist stereotype encourages people to believe)

-- Justice Dept. statistics also show that most CRIMES are committed by white people (mostly white men, who commit mostly violent crimes against mostly white women and children);

-- most DRUG USERS are white (73% is the conservative estimate;

-- most DRUG DEALERS are white
(Yet, the majority of those incarcerated for the aforementioned crimes, and for crimes in general, are black and Latino/a. Why is that? Racially and economically discriminatory police practices, judicial practices, crime and prison discourse, as well as unequal education, social services, etc, are some of the causes for black and Latino/a men and women's disproportionate imprisonment rate).

-- when whites are victimized by VIOLENCE, they are most often victimized by other whites

-- the overwhelming majority of RAPES are INTRA-RACIAL, acquaintance rapes (i.e., people tend to rape within their own racial/ethnic group. So, white women aren't raped by a black or Latino male stranger jumping out of the bushes. Like all women, white women and girls are raped most often by men and boys that they know. And when interracial rapes occur, most of the time, it's white men and boys that are raping/sexually assaulting women/girls of color. That's a historical and present day FACT.

One need look no further than the historical sources and texts on rape in the U.S. South's slavery institution for abundant evidence of white men/boys sexual violence against black women and girls. This racial trend in sexual/gender violence did *not* end with slavery's abolition. It continued in the post-emancipation Age and under Jim Crow as the majority of (legally) employed black women/girls did domestic work for white employers. Domestic toil for white families made black women/girls vulnerable to the rapacious appetites of the white men that employed them, and the white boys, friends, and relatives for which they were hired to serve).

(For a history of sexual and gender violence in the slavery South and Early America, see Deborah Gray White's brilliant "Ar'n't I a Woman?" Female Slaves in the Plantation South and

1) For info on abortion & race, see:

**ADDITIONAL reading:

Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor, edited by Tara Herivel and Paul Wright

Prison Profiteers Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration, also edited by Tara Herivel and Paul Wright

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hot White Mess: Christine O'Donnell & her Tea Party

Christine O'Donnell.
Sarah Palin knock off.
A more frightening version of the original protype, which I previously thought impossible.
A recent beneficiary of the United States' long tradition of Affirmative Action for wealthy white folks, this time, in higher education (O'Donnell may not be wealthy, but her campaign coffers are teeming!) --about which the GOP, right leaning Libertarians, Tea Party members, and all the cantankerous white folks that regularly voice their rage at their tax "enslavement" under black supremacist, (*cough*), I mean mixed-raced president Barack Hussein Obama, as the Rolling Stones article entitled "Teas & Crackers" aptly demonstrates, will not utter a complaint.

"Big government" ain't a problem when the beneficiaries are perceived to be hard working whites, and therefore, implicitly deserving and worthy.

News flash for the uninformed harborers of white racial resentment: the beneficiaries of U.S. "big government" programs are always overwhelmingly white.

And while O'Donnell benefitted from the Affirmative Action/racial preferences historically, and most frequently reserved for rich white men, she can do so while also being a representative of the significant inroads white women have made in the decades that followed the passage of LBJ's 1964 Civil Rights Act, barring gender and race discrimination in the workplace, and the Nixon Administrations Affirmative Action programs and policies (intended to resolve the problem of the severe poverty that disproportionately ensnares African Americans -- didn't work). After all, white women have been and remain Affirmative Actions primary beneficiaries, even while 100s of 1000s have organized to abolish it, and continue to actively oppose it.

But you shouldn't say that to the (always white) victims of "reverse racism" -- it'll just confuse them.

Read this Huffington Post expose on Tea Party candidate, Christine O'Donnell, and join me in being really really pissed:

Christine O'Donnell's LinkedIn profile says that she has an undergraduate degree from New Jersey's Farleigh Dickenson, an expensive private college; that she was a graduate fellow at Claremont Institute; that she attended Princeton and Oxford University.

And, guess what, it's a pack of lies! One clever Huffington Post journalist didn't have to dig far to hit bullshit. He learned that O'Donnell's so called "educational background" had been manipulated to misrepresent her "accomplishments."

I want to know why Farleigh Dickenson gave O'Donnell a degree TWENTY ONE years after she took her last undergraduate class at the school...

This pisses me off!
(and I can guess their very capitalist motive for doing so).

MILLIONS of people don't stand a chance of getting into a four yeaBoldr college because they don't have the money or the skills -- because the elementary and/or secondary education they recieved did not adequately prepare them, or provide them with the resources to attend a four year college. And this is largely because those schools were over-crowded and under-funded, since the property tax basis for school funding in the U.S. PLAINLY privileges those who live in middle and upper class suburbs, and disprivileges, and disfranchises those who live in rural, suburban, and urban poor and working-class communities.

Many of the students who attend these schools, or drop out of them, are FUNCTIONALLY ILLITERATE!

It's LEGALIZED economic segregation that plays out along race lines -- F*CKED UP.

That should NEVER be allowed to happen in the richest country in the ENTIRE world.

Is it realistic of me to expect anything more from a country that got rich by stealing from the poor -- for over four centuries...

Millions of people bust their asses to get into a four year college, and 100s of 100os of them stay in despite having to work 40 to 60 hours a week while taking a full course load , and this jackass can just call a higher up at Farleigh Dickenson, throw some donation money their way, I'm certain, and say, "hey" how about overlooking the fact of my NOT completing course requirements -- just give me the degree, so I can get liberal and left critics off my back! And then position myself to infiltrate the government! This is CRAZY!! This woman should not be able to acquire the institutional power of government.

She can vote -- it should stop there!

And this is how it is -- got lots and lots of money? Then you got EVERYTHING.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prisoners are bad people.

Or that's what mainstream U.S. culture encourages us to believe.

The vast majority of incarcerated people aren't there because they committed a horrible
crime -- like rape, or rape or murder of a child. The overwhelming majority of
imprisoned people are in carcerated for:

1) Possession of an illegal substance/drugs (inc. drug use -- or drug addiction. Drug addiction should not be criminalized but treated -- with compassion, therapy, support, and a access to resources that would prevent addiction, or help a person recover. Deprivation of (institutional) resources -- for ex, access to any kind of health care, access to quality health care, access to quality education and jobs) would help A LOT of people avoid addiction, or overcome it.

2) Possession of an illegal substance/drugs for sale (drug dealing)

3) Robbery (which is, historically, a crime that poor people commit, because they are trying to access the cash/goods to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves. I'm not *justifying* robbery -- I know that people who are robbed are hurt in these scenarios. I also know that, based on a close examination of historical patterns, and institutionalized oppression -- which robs people of choices, or constrains/limits them, thereby practically forcing them to break the law -- that far fewer people would steal, sell drugs, or use drugs, or commit most of the crimes for which people are arrested (because I wholeheartedly agree with those who point out that most people who break the law are NEVER arrested or convicted -- and most of those people are middle and upper class people (an overwhelmingly white income group) who already have so much power and privilege that they A) don't need to commit the crimes that poor people do to survive, or B) won't ever get caught because the police aren't patrolling their neighborhoods, the police and public don't hold them under great suspicion and racially profile them under the *assumption* that they are innately criminal, or tend to commit crimes, or C) when they are caught, they can hire the best of lawyers to ensure they won't be incarcerted, and/or D) the government and courts will simply "pardon" them for their "high crimes," their "white collar crimes," that rob BILLIONS of ordinary working people of BILLIONS -- but, hey, that's a "just a mistake" worthy of forgiveness, a slap on the wrist, and a fine).

**Most drug users (73%) and most drug dealers are white yet the overwhelming majority of those incarcerated for those crimes are black (70 to 90% depending on the state) and Latino/a -- WOMEN and MEN (not just black or Latino men). Poor women are funnelled into prison in droves for "crimes"in which poor people disproportionately engage, like sex work (prostitution), drug use and drug dealing.

**The real crime is poverty, unequal access to resources, and the government's war on poor people ( = "War on Drugs").

Individual decisions (can't call them "choices" -- people choose when they are free to choose, when ALL choices are EQUAL) made in the context of poverty explain the crimes most people in prison committed, and explain why it is so difficult not to "re-offend" upon release -- why recidivism (re-incarceration) rates are so high.
(White ex-convicts are FOUR TIMES more likely to be hired than black ex-convicts, AND even often more likely to be hired than black people who HAVE NEVER BEEN
IMPRISONED. That's wild, right?)

***My sources: Tim Wise's short essays...

1) "A Quite Deliberate Failure: Reflections on The Politics of Crime"

2) "Excuses, Excuses: How the Right Rationalizes Racial Inequity, Part Two (Criminal Justice)"

3) "The Mother of All Racial Preferences: Reflections on Affirmative Action for White Folks"

4) "Racial Profling and Its Apologists"

5) "Of Danger and Double Standards: Police, Prison and Preferential Treatment"

6) "Fear and Loathing in Suburbia: Crime and the Irrationality of White Racism"

Find Tim Wise on Facebook (he's awesome!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Gays are All White; How the Christian Right uses white racism to divide white LGBTQ's & straight African Americans

When Christian fundamentalist groups that are actively involved in the opposition to marriage equality make statements like,"homosexuals [are] hijacking the Civil Rights Movement," it is a DELIBERATE attempt to exploit racism among white lesbians and gays, and heterosexism among African American heterosexuals (quote taken from OneMan_OneWoman's twitter page).Too many people, including but not limited to white folks, believe that African Americans are particularly/excessively homophobic. Dan Savage, a white middle class gay male journalist, was among the people who mobilized this racist belief (albeit, Savage did not think he was colluding in racism) when the California public's votes passed Proposition 8, or the 2008 California Marriage Protection Act, which amended the state's Constitution to repeal marriage equality in that state. (Thankfully, Prop 8 was overturned on August 4th, 2010 by Distric Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, but remains valid pending the outcome of an appeal). In the wake of Prop 8's passage in 2008, Savage, and many many white gay/lesbian folks placed Prop 8's passage squarely on the shoulders of African Americans. After all "we've" done for "them" they said! "We" elected a "black" president and now "they" take "our" rights away!

Who is the "we" whose rights were abolished?

Who are the "they" that participated in the abolishing of those rights? This language is really interesting because it implicitly locates ALL African Americans as: 1) heterosexuals and 2) as homophobes *AND* ALL lesbians and gays as 1) white and 2) anti-racist. In so doing, the existence -- and oppression (racial, gender, and sexual) -- of African American LGBTQ's, and LGBTQ's of color, more generally, is COMPLETELY elided -- ignored -- erased.

After all, if "blacks" are voting against "gay rights" -- none of those blacks are gay, which means all of the gays must be white.

The (unfortunate) widespread belief that African Americans harbor more intense homophobia/heterosexist attitudes than whites IS a stereotype -- a racist assertion -- doesn't matter the race of the person that's says it! It's a racist belief. It's simply not true (see bell hooks article "Homophobia in Black Communities" in her book, Talking Feminist, Thinking Black).

One need look no further than the U.S.'s largest voting population -- white middle class heterosexuals -- and the U.S.'s political ruling class -- white upper middle class heterosexual men in the federal government (it's useful to remember, that prior to Barack Obama's ascendency to the presidency, he was ONE of TWO black Senators in the House at the time of his election. One of two!) and local government are literally designing and defending the laws that daily deny LGBTQ folks of all races rights guarenteed them under the U.S. Constitution. In short: it is white voters and white politicians that play the most direct, predominant role in maintaining (white, upper-class) heterosexual (men's) supremacy -- not black folks.

Which is *not* to say that there aren't black folks who are homophobic and heterosexist -- indeed, there are. Black folks, however, are NOT PARTICULARLY homophobic *NOR* more intensely homophobic than any other racial group in the U.S. And it is important to recognize that there are many black heterosexual allies to LGBTQ's -- people such as Coretta Scott King (Dr. Martin Luthar King's partner), Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, Danny Glover, Wholike Nobel opie Goldberg -- and these black allies span the globe. I am referring to people Peace Prize winners South Africa's former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African ex-President Nelson Mandela -- and many many more, most of them ordinary folks like you and I (okay, so we're not so ordinary ;).

That said, there are folks -- people of color *and* white anti-racists -- who have criticized LGBTQ folks for comparing their social justice struggle to that of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1950s to late 1960s, a practice the popular queer magazine, The Advocate addresses in it's article, "Gay is the New Black?". The vast majority of LGBTQ's who make that comparison are themselves white middle class people, who sometimes talk about "gay rights" as "THE last remaining oppression" tolerated by the masses. In the same breath that LGBTQs compare their struggle to African Americans' in the Civil Rights era, these folks often say that racism is a thing of the past -- "black folks got their rights, now it's OUR turn!"

(I thought the first image was a rather subtle appeal to the sentiment that "gays are the new blacks"...until I found the historical photograph on which the image was based. Yeah... )

However, the gay folks who say stuff like that don't speak for me, or for those like me: queer people of color.

Like many white folks (who are not middle class, cisgendered, etc), queer people of color are targeted for multiple oppressions -- racial, gender, sexual, class, etc and so on. If white middle class gays (who comprise the vast majority of those who lead LGBTQ rights organizations) aspire to create allies among folks of color, and build coalitions -- they must acknowledge these crucial differences -- they must stop talking about "gay rights" as though they describe one kind of oppression that is experienced the same way by all LGBTQs. Certainly, a white middle class gay man who fits stereotypes of masculinity does NOT have the same experience of heterosexist oppression as a poor white gay man, or a middle class gay woman, or a gay person of color living with a disability, or a poor transgender person of color living in Uganda, to name just a few examples.

White LGBTQ activists must also recognize -- and emphasize in their rhetoric! -- the multi-racial character of LGBTQ communities (AS WELL AS class differences, ability differences, etc) *AND* the very real existence of racism in the LGBTQ community, particularly among white LGBTQ's (who are the bearers of white privilege/ who reap the advantages of racist oppression, albeit limited by their LGBTQ status**), and the existence of individual and INSTITUTIONAL racism in the U.S. and the world. Black heterosexuals and black LGBTQ's confront racism everyday of their lives -- racism that limits or entirely eliminates their job, education, housing (etc) choices; racism that results in their excessively disproportionate incarceration; racism that motivates police to murder unarmed civilians of color who have committed no crime; racism that makes the poverty that most blacks folks live in far more severe than the poverty white folks live in.

Finally, white middle class folks ought to use caution -- perhaps, even re-consider -- comparing the LGBTQ rights movement to that of mid-20th century African American Civil Rights activists -- not because one oppresson is "worse" than the other -- but because the kinds of oppression, though similar in some ways (both groups are fighting white male heterosexual supremacy), are in many ways very different.

More specifically, the Jim Crow/legalized race segregation that existed from 1893 to 1965 is a different kind of terror institution than the legal inequality of LGBTQs today. For example, the years 1893 to 1965 were certainly no cake walk for homosexuals and transgenders. But if those homosexuals and transgenders were white, and could pass for straight cisgenders, they too would benefit from the legalized race segregation that kept most Southern blacks living in a brand of poverty most of the people reading this post could never imagine -- that meant organized rape campaigns where white men gang raped black girls and women -- where white men *AND* white women lynched black men, women, and children -- as their own white children looked on... there are so many more examples I could give, but I'll stop there.

LGBTQ's in the present day belittle the experience of African American heterosexuals *AND* African American LGBTQ's who survived and perished under that kind of institutionalized racism, when we, LGBTQ's, say that our oppression is EXACTLY the same as the oppression blacks suffered under Jim Crow. It's simply not true.

Racist white Christian fundamentalist groups like OneMan_OneWoman would be powerless to exploit racial divisions among LGBTQ's -- and the broader Right/Republican movement would be rendered powerless to exploit racism among liberals/Democrats and leftists -- if we actively and consistently try to understand how whiteness, white privilege, racism and other oppressions shape our perspectives on various issues, our rhetoric, and our activism.

LGBTQ liberation movements MUST be inherently anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-ableist, etc, in order to be most broadly effective.

**In An Open Letter to My White Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Sisters and Brothers, Dianne Finnerty sets THE perfect example of how LGBTQA's can fight for social justice with an anti-racism as a fundamental organizing principle.