Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Serenity now!

No race and inequality talk today, just my favorite hilarious commercial of the moment...

Even though I have Tivo, I will stop fast forwarding to watch a commercial that I haven't seen. Or to watch a funny commercial again. Am I alone in this? This commercial's got lots of people of different ethnicities, tied together by their despair over buying bad games. Ok, so maybe just a little race and inequality talk...


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My baby, she wrote me a letter...

So as I my blogroll can attest, I am a big J. Crew fan. So much so, that I have a free baseball cap that I got back when 1) J. Crew sold baseball caps and 2) They were trying to entice their customers into trying out this crazy new thing called "the internet" that you could use to buy stuff.

J.crew (like most retailers,) has always left something to be desired when it came to showcasing models of color. I chalk it up to them being products of their environment ;p I have coninued to shop there because I like their clothes, and have been satisfied with the service I receive.

Contrast this to Abercombie & Fitch, a place where I stopped spending my money because I wasn't satisfied with the service that I received. Now, I know that A&F tends to give crappy service to everyone, but that seems like a pretty good reason not to spend your money there, doesn't it? I'm also too old for that place these days. Sidenote--did you know that Abercrombie and Fitch was involved in a class-action lawsuit a few years ago that they settled for $40 million dollars? Charges of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination. Sucks to be them.

Ok, back to J. Crew. I got a catalog in the mail a few weeks ago, and immediately noticed a brownish lady on the cover. As I flipped through the pages, I saw that she was on a lot of them. It was a woman named Liya Kebede, and they were partnering with her to promote her children's clothing line. I want to reinforce this kind of behavior, so I wrote them a letter. It said:

Dear Mr. Drexler,

I am writing to express my surprise and delight with my April '09 J.Crew catalog. I have been a long time fan of J.Crew clothing, wearing it since the days of the barn jackets and rollneck sweaters of the early '90's. As your company has made a transition with its designs, I am pleased to see that you are also expanding your ideas about beauty and what the "J.Crew customer" looks like. When I saw Liya Kebede so prominently featured modeling this year's spring fashions, I was excited to see a beautiful, sophisticated woman of color representing your company. As such an iconic American brand, J.Crew is in a unique position to help reshape and expand the idea of the "All-American girl" as we embark on this next decade of the 21st century. The United States is a country with a rich history that includes Americans of all shades, and it is very promising to see a major retailer acknowledging and celebrating that fact. Keep up the good work.


I used my name, the is again, for branding purposes.

There are a couple of things that I want to highlight that can help you write an effective compliment/complaint letter to a company.

1) I addressed the letter to the CEO. Now does that mean that he is definitely going to read it? No, but it shows that that's who I intended it to get to, and so the chances are greater that he will see it. Also, if they send me a response, they will have to acknowledge that Mickey is the person that I sent it to.

2.) I emphasized my long relationship with the company. Long relationship= $$. Long time customer that is happier now than she was before = more $$. And like Diddy would say, "It's all about the benjamins, baby."

3.) I made a point to tie-in what I was writing them about to their brand image. This is really important because big corporations are obsessed with their "brand image." If you can show how what they are doing is or isn't consistent with that image--it can have a big impact.

4.) I made it clear what I wanted them to do. In this case, "keep up the good work." But this step is important if you're complaining about something also. It's not effective to right a letter and say, "I'll never shop here again!" because if you do that, what is their incentive to try and satisfy you? Companies want to know what you want them to do to "make it right." If they can do that, they will. If they can't--they'll tell you what they can do.

I'll let you know how it turns out. And I want to also say that sometimes, nothing comes of writing letters. I talk in this post about a similar situation. I never heard anything back at all from this company, and as a result I don't buy their products--and I take every opportunity to encourage others to spend their money elsewhere.

It is important to note that regardless of the outcome, I am making my voice heard. And that is definitely worth something.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I love music, any kind of music...

It's Monday, which means it's Music Monday time! Remember, if you've missed any of the other Music Monday offerings, you can click the little label at the end of this post and that will bring up all the previous videos.

This weeks selection is My Life by The Game featuring Lil Wayne. As my faithful readers know, I chose another song by The Game a couple of weeks ago. I really want us to compare and contrast the two songs, so if you haven't heard the other one, or you need a refresher, you can click here.

The lyrics to my life can be found here.

And the video is below. Be ready for profanity, references to violence and drug use.

So, what do you notice?

A couple of things that I notice:

In all the lyrics that I've found on the internet they say, "I need meditation so I can leave my people." I always thought it said, "I need meditation so I can lead my people. Those two words give the line very different meanings, so I wonder which one is right.

We learn more about his father, who was apparently an IV drug user. This reminds me of the line in the other song when 50 cent says, "Daddy a'int around, prolly out commitin' felonies..."
There are still references to violence, but the context has changed.
In both songs he talks about getting the female caretakers in his life expensive cars.
There are a lot more references to white artists (Kurt Cobain, John Lennon) in this song than his previous one. This reminds me of last week's music monday selection. I wonder if this is just a trend, or something that will continue long into the future.

When he says, "F*ck Jesse Jackson, cause it a'int about race now" what do you think he means? If it's not about race now, what is it about?

I don't think I need to tell you that I want you to leave me comments, do I?
Ok, I want you to leave me comments.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Follow-up Fridays

It's Follow-up Friday time! I'm going to cover three comments today. However, Marshall--yours will not be one of them. I think soon, though (:

I want to start off by saying I am becoming borderline obsessed with comments. This blog is my baby, and I am really interested in hearing how people are responding to it. I know people are reading, and I don't want you to be afraid to type some lines and tell me what's going through your head. So even if it's something like this, from my faithful reader Dana:

Wait...what happened to Wednesday?

Write it up and send it to me. Dana, to answer your question--I didn't make a post on Wednesday. Good eye, good eye.

Moving onto a comment that I received on my last follow-up friday post from my friend, Weezermonkey. Last week, there was a comment that asked me about all the other "minorities" that have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. I asked who the person was referring to, and then asked my Asian-American readers how they liked constantly being referred to as the "model minority." This is part of what weezermonkey had to say.

To be honest, I don't mind being referred to as a "model minority." As far as labels go, it's a pretty good one.

I want to say thanks to weezermonkey for reminding me of an important lesson. When I asked that question, I was looking for someone to say something like the following, "being called the model minority sucks, because it puts too much pressure on me, makes people assume things about me, etc. etc." That's because those are my thoughts on the subject.

But, by thinking that I could predict what someone else's thoughts on the subject would be (particularly a person of color's,) I was going against one of the main points of this whole blog: that people of color have the right (like white people,) to be seen as individuals. We are multi-dimensional and do not all think the same way. I forgot that myself for a moment, and I want to give a shout out to weezermonkey for reminding me of it.

It's important for me to acknowledge that I still fall into these patterns, and I've been studying this stuff for years. I think this shows how ingrained our conditioning around issues of race and inequality really is, and how it is up to all of us to try and stay aware and recognize when we're falling into ways of thinking that are not constructive.

You can read more about my thoughts on this subject here, here and here. I would also encourage you to check out weezermoney's fabulous blog morefunthanabarrel about her fantastical food adventures in California.

Finally, a comment from your friend and mine--Anonymous. I'm kidding, I'm pretty sure all these Anonymous' are different people. Except when they tell me they're the same. Anyhoo, Anonymous left this comment on my post sharing my experiences with my thoughts around the clothes making the (wo)man:

sorry but this is just one thing that is not about race at all. i am white and i don't dress in sweats or sneaks when i go out of the house b/c i don't like to look dumpy. i like to present myself in a certain way. am i a shallow white person b/c of that? i grew up poorer than dirt to a single mom in an all white ghetto. i have made a very good life for myself and presenting my person a certain way is about pride. i'm not saying i look down on people in hoodies and sneaks because i don't but really? because i make an effort to never dress that way myself i send some kind of bad message? i really enjoy your blog but this whole post smacks of "i have nothing else to write about today."

oh, and i wear second hand clothes all the time. hell, some of the 2nd hand stuff i have is nicer than a lot of what i buy new b/c i can buy better brands used. another false/weird perception on your part this time around, i feel.

sorry but this is just one thing that is not about race at all.

Maybe not to you, but it is to me. I certainly get that people who aren't black can be concerned about wanting to consistently appear a certain way. That is part of why I asked the question at the end of the post, "How do you let people's potential negative assumptions about you inhibit your self-expression?" I knew that everyone could have some kind of answer to that, regardless of their race. That's also why I posted that Pretty Woman clip, I don't think there were any black people in that movie. The point that I was trying to make is that for me my hangups around this issue were related to my race. And it's not really your place to tell me whether or not my experience is valid. We are different people who've had different lives. Sometimes, we are going to perceive the same things differently--and that's ok. I would never want to negate the validity of your experience, and I would ask for the same respect from you.

i am white and i don't dress in sweats or sneaks when i go out of the house b/c i don't like to look dumpy.

What if you did go out of the house looking "dumpy"? Would that send some message about how people should treat you? If so, what message would that be?

i like to present myself in a certain way. am i a shallow white person b/c of that?

No, you aren't. In my original post the people that I referred to as "shallow" were the people who base the level of respect they give someone on how the person is dressed. Like the clerk in the movie. (Sidenote: I scoured youtube for the first clip where the saleswoman is all rude, to no avail.)

I would also offer to you the idea that if you are intent on never leaving the house without looking "presentable," (like I was,)
you might want to take a look at where that comes from.

i grew up poorer than dirt to a single mom in an all white ghetto.

What messages did you receive growing up about what kind of people lived in all-white ghettos? How were people in your neighborhood treated by others around them; people of different races or economic classes? How did/do you feel about the people that you lived around when you were younger?

i have made a very good life for myself and presenting my person a certain way is about pride.

I think it's great that you have made a good life for yourself, I sincerely mean that. And I definitely can relate to using my external appearance to send a message to the world about how I feel inside. I think that can be a very valuable thing.

At the same time, I think pride (at its core,) has little to nothing to do with the clothes that we wear. Pride comes from within, and it should be there if we're wearing a paper bag with sewage on it, cinched at the waist with a frayed rope belt. I mean look at this guy:

Whenever I saw him on tv, he was always dressed in some fine articles of clothing. I know a thing or two about clothes, and I can guarantee you he wasn't buying his stuff at wal-mart. Yet, he felt so empty and worthless inside that he spent decades of his life engaged in a unimaginable deception. He screwed up the lives of countless people, and is most likely going to die alone in a prison cell. Those expensive suits aren't going to be much use to him there, and the fact that he wore them didn't tell us much about what kind of person he was.

i really enjoy your blog

Glad to hear it (: I'm also glad to know that you read it somewhat regularly, I really hope that you will share your feedback about my feedback.

but this whole post smacks of "i have nothing else to write about today."

That's unfortunate that you think that, I thought my original post was actually quite good. I said before that I have a list of topics that I can write about if there's nothing current event-y that I want to discuss, this topic was on that list. But hey, you are entitled to your opinion.

oh, and i wear second hand clothes all the time. hell, some of the 2nd hand stuff i have is nicer than a lot of what i buy new b/c i can buy better brands used. another false/weird perception on your part this time around, i feel.

Yeah, that's probably true. I tend to only buy vintage t-shits at secondhand stores, but I have heard that people can get some pretty nice stuff there.

So, that's it for today. Anonymous, like I said--I'd love to hear more of your thoughts. And to all of my other readers, thanks for taking time out of your day to check out what I have to say. If you leave me comments, it will make me happy (:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I can see Russia from my house!

I've been watching Saturday Night Live for about 25 years. Yeah, since I was 5. I created a theory about the show while watching Zac Efron the other week. The theory is as follows...

If the host plays him or herself in that night's episode, that host is as not as talented an actor as someone who does not play him or herself.

I haven't seen any of the High School Musical franchise, so I am not very familiar with Zac's work. But I'd say I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. One of my favorite sketches was the one where he played Kathy Lee Gifford's son.

Contrast this with Seth Rogen. I've actually seen several of the movies that he has been in. I think it just took me awhile to figure out that he is just not that good at what he does. This was confirmed after watching him host SNL--he was just wasn't very funny.

But I noticed that he played himself, and SNL often has athletes and other non-actor types play themselves in sketches. If you think about it, they've got 90 minutes to fill. It would make sense for five or so minutes of that time to have a mediocre host play himself, because really--how hard is that to screw up?

Sidenote: There are exceptions to every rule. Neil Patrick Harris played himself, and we all know he is an acting dynamo. When is he going to get his own show? That's what I want to know.

Ok, back to Seth. Seth has a new movie out called Observe and Report . It's about a mall cop. How they got two mall cop movies out within months of each other is beyond me. I want you to watch the trailer below, and play close attention to the relationship between the main character and the blonde woman. Be warned that this is the restricted trailer, so it has bad words in it. You should also not watch it if you are under 17, unless you are being accompanied on the computer by an adult.

First off, let me say that this looks like one of the funnier movies Seth has been in. I tend to be a fan of darker comedies, and this seems to be more in that vein.

There was a fair amount of controversy though, about the scene where he is in bed with his date near the end of the trailer. What were your thoughts after watching it?

This is what I think...

Do I think this scene is supposed to be a joke? Yes.
Do I think Seth Rogen has ever date raped anyone? Probably not.
Do I think that scenes like this one, combined with other messages that we receive in popular culture contribute to a climate where some guys think it's okay to have sexual contact with semi-conscious/unconscious women? Most definitely.

I read an interview with Rogen about the scene and he said something like what "made it ok" is the part where she says, "Why are you stopping?" because that qualifies as consent. I have to say I just chuckled while writing that. I really don't think that would qualify, because we can see that this chick is totally wasted.

Should she have gotten so hammered since she knows that would make her more vulnerable? No.

But that's like seeing a drunk person passed out on the street and reaching into his jacket and stealing his wallet. Would you do that? I would hope not.

Do I think they should cut the scene from the movie?
Not if the director doesn't want to, because it's his artistic vision.

Will this scene being in the movie make me boycott it?
No, I don't think so. If there is any reason for me not to go see it, it's because of my bad history with Mr. Rogen. It's like George W. says, "Fool me twice--something or other."

But do I think that the scene is questionable enough that we should all think critically about it and what it means for our society?

You betcha.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'Cause we are living in a material world...

There was a time in my younger days when I would talk to some of my white friends and they would say some variation of this statement: "I don't judge people on their skin color, I judge them by the way they dress." Let me share how attitudes like this affected me for much of my life.

I rarely wore t-shirts or hoodies. The only time you'd see me in sweatpants or tennis shoes was when I was on my way to engage in some strenuous physical activity. I was always very conscious of what I wore, lest I represent my fellow black and brown people in an unflattering light. There was a black girl that I went to college with, who always dressed like she was going to church: dress, stockings, jewlery--the whole nine. I never talked to her about this, but I often wondered if she was working from the same place that I was: needing to represent herself and the other members of her race in a positive way.

I remember another time in college when I was in a Sociology class and we were talking about ways that we could all reduce our consumption/ impact on the environment. Two of the suggestions were "take public transportation" and "wear secondhand clothes." I remember raising my hand and saying something like, "These wouldn't work for me because what are white people going to think if they see a black woman on the bus wearing secondhand clothes?" I think I added having two little kids with me on said bus, because I was already thinking about the future (:

black woman + old clothes + bus well meaning hippie trying to do her part to save the world.

It was like my skin was already an indicator to many people of these things that were not positive, and if I wanted to have a chance at being treated with respect, I better make a conscious effort to show why I was worthy of receiving it. This is an example of internalized racism.

It wasn't until several years later that I realized I was worthy of receiving respect because I was a human being. And that people who judged me (or anyone else for that matter,) on how they dressed were shallow and insecure. So these days, I wear the occasional hoodie. I wear my sneaks even if I'm not headed to the gym. Hell, sometimes I don't even comb my hair. Because I have learned that if someone reacts negatively to me because of these choices, the problem lies with them--not me.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite-ist movie clips of all time. And I want to ask you the question: How do you let people's potential negative assumptions about you inhibit your self-expression?

Monday, April 20, 2009

High School Musical

It's Monday time! Which means it's Music time! This week's selection is Blame it by Jaime Foxx featuring T-Pain. I actually picked this song for the video, not the lyrics so I'm not including those this week. So press that little triangle below, and watch closely.

What's different about this video? We've got the furry, which is somewhat cutting edge. But even more cutting edge are the two white guys: Ron Howard, and the delicious and nutritious Jake Gyllenhaal.

Now, we've all seen white guys in black guys' videos before. However, the white guys are usually doing some combination of the following : 1) playing golf 2) being the evil, money hungry record executive 3) Dancing poorly 4) Living in the suburbs 5) Generally being uncool.

This video is different because the white guys in it are doing none of those things. There just there, chillaxin' like everybody else.

I think we should have a lot more videos like this one. Don't you agree?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Connect the dots, la la la la...

So after I made this post, I got some important feedback privately which compelled me to write this post today.

This blog is intended to be about all forms of inequality, about the wide variety of -ism's that people can experience in their daily lives. Most of the posts have been (and most likely will continue to be,) about inequality related to race, because that is the factor that is most salient in my own life.

However, I also want this to be a space where I can highlight issues that at first glance, might not seem to have much to do with me. Because if there is anything that a person learns when doing this kind of work, it's that these groady -isms are all connected.

It's like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Follow-up Fridays

Yup, it's Thursday, but we've been over this: my blog, my rules. (ETA: Oops, it's actually Wednesday. This is what happens when you don't have a job--you forget what day it is.)

First things first. Marshall, it ain't happenin' today, buddy.

I've got a lot of comments to get to, I have a feeling this is going to be a long one.

First from Papa and Meme on my post about my experience with my acquaintence Carrie in 3rd grade.

It is obvious from your post that racism is too important to you to ever overcome.

Yeah, no. I wouldn't be writing this blog if I didn't think racism could be overcome.

Next, we have anonymous. Anonymous actually left two comments, so I'll post them both. This first one was posted on my list of 10 ridiculously interesting facts about myself.

I hate the word "blacks" almost as much as the word, "N----r". Until you stop thinking of yoursel as a black, and start thinking of yourself as another productive member of society, others will never do the same.
I know that your ancestors suffered great oppression. Get over it! Look around at those of every race who have pulled theirselves up by their bootstraps. Don't continue to dredge up radicals like Malcolm X, and yet at the same time think that we will all somehow get over our rediculous racial barriers.
Promote education and hard work over welfare. (Surely you know how important it is.) Some of my dearest friends are black, but I rarely think of them as that until someone like you pulls out their "repression card."
Do you think that by yelling "prejudice" that you are not also screaming "hatred"? Get over it, and we will all be able to?
At the same time I say this to you, I also speak out to those who would harbor unjustified prejudices. I send them the same message, "Get over it!"
Now, with all of that being said, I will say this in defense of some. (at least in my experiences) In southern cities the highest crime areas and unsafest areas are almost always in the black neighborhoods. The majority of crimes against blacks are committed by blacks. We, as a society should stop segregating ourselves and reach out with love to one another. There comes a time when screaming about injustices is not the right thing to do. At some point, all of us should become pro-active in cleaning around our area of the kingdom, and join forces instead of pointing fingers.
As long as we think of ourselves as black or white, we will never be genuinely unified.

And then this comment on my last installment of Follow-up Fridays.

You have not posted the comment I made to you yesterday. It must have struck a nerve with you. Ask yourself, if you are willing to share all views, or are you just trying to be a heroine to all of the others that see themselves so oppressed because of what happened to their ancestors in the distant past. Get over it!
I had hoped that your blog was a truthful sharing of views. Are you afraid of the truth?
Are you afraid to share descenting views? Obviously, not! I feel sorry for those that refuse to go on with life without preconceived ideas, and bitterness, especially when they they are the downtrodden with a masters degree. I am disappointed in you.


Anonymous, you should know that I posted both of these comments as soon as they showed up in my inbox. I am wondering if since the first one was posted in a seemingly unexpected place, that's why you couldn't find it when you came back to look for it?

I hate the word "blacks" almost as much as the word, "N----r".

What makes you say that? What do those two words mean to you? Do you hate the word white as much as you hate the word blacks?

Until you stop thinking of yoursel as a black, and start thinking of yourself as another productive member of society, others will never do the same.

I didn't realize it was an either/or proposition. Can't I be black and a productive member of society? If not, why not?

I know that your ancestors suffered great oppression. Get over it!

By "great oppression," do you mean 300 years of slavery followed by another 100 years of Jim Crow? During which time white Americans were gaining immeasurable amounts of wealth from the underpaid/unpaid forced labor of black Americans? And which at it's conclusion black people were "set free" with no education, no money and facing intense discrimination at pretty much every turn?

Yeah, I'm working on it.

Look around at those of every race who have pulled theirselves up by their bootstraps.

Like who, Asian people? Can I take a detour and ask some of my Asian-American readers how they like being constantly referred to as the "model minority"?

Here are just two reasons why the "bootstrap" argument has it's own specific set of challenges when dealing with black people.

First, one common way that some immigrants "make it" in this society is by going into highly specialized niche markets. This way it everyone can get familiar with the business model, and each new owner can lean on the expertise that the previous owners have. There are way more black people than there are Asian people, so it would be very difficult for black people to follow that model. Can you imagine 30 million black people trying to open say, ice cream shops? There is not the market demand to support such an undertaking.

Second, our legal immigration policy definitely is skewed towards people with education and money. That's why you hear so much about people who were doctors in their "home country" coming to America and driving cabs. Even if you can't be a doctor in the U.S., anyone who can make it through all that schooling clearly has many of the values that can make one successful (hard work, determination, sacrifice, etc.) and so you have a better chance of "making it" once you get here.

Don't continue to dredge up radicals like Malcolm X

Anonymous, have you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X ? Or seen the fantastic movie, Malcolm X directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington? If you had, you would know that Malcolm X renounced his most "radical" views before his untimely death in 1965.

Promote education and hard work over welfare

Nowhere on this blog have I "promoted welfare." In terms of education--I've been in school 19 years of my life, I think it is pretty safe to say I am riding in the first car on the "education is good" train.

Some of my dearest friends are black, but I rarely think of them as that until someone like you pulls out their "repression card."

Really? You don't notice their darker skin pretty much every time you look at them? Huh. My husband is 6'7", and I notice that pretty much every day because that's like, a foot taller than me, and he's got to duck when he goes a lot of places. Read more about my thoughts on "I don't notice people's skin color" here.

Do you think that by yelling "prejudice" that you are not also screaming "hatred"?

I'm not really sure what you mean by this. I don't think prejudice and hatred are the same thing. I think that we have been conditioned to have certain prejudices, and we can control how we respond to them with a reasonable amount of work. I don't hate anyone. I think hating people makes your insides die and gives you cancer.

At the same time I say this to you, I also speak out to those who would harbor unjustified prejudices. I send them the same message, "Get over it!"
Now, with all of that being said, I will say this in defense of some. (at least in my experiences) In southern cities the highest crime areas and unsafest areas are almost always in the black neighborhoods.

I think it's telling that you spend one sentence of both of your comments chastising whites and then in the very next sentence go on to "defend" those with what you see as justified predjudices. Who then, are the people with unjustified prejudices?
Also, what exactly does having a justifiable predjudice justify?

Get over it, and we will all be able to?

Like I said, I'm working on it. It is a process that takes a lot of time and conscious energy, because it is a very depressing part of history. I would also like to invite you to work on getting over your hatred of the word "black," and the idea that people have "justifiable predjudices" towards black people because black neighborhoods are higher crime neighborhoods.

It is not just my responsibility to get over it, or just your responsibility to get over it. I know from my work as a counselor, that you have to acknowledge pain to truly heal from it. Having someone repeatedly exclaim "Get over it! Get over it!" is not constructive.

We all have work to do. I am willing to do mine. Are you willing to do yours?

We, as a society should stop segregating ourselves and reach out with love to one another.

I totally agree. You want to know one of my most favorite quotes, Anonymous?

"We must love one another or die" W.H. Auden

Epic, no?

There comes a time when screaming about injustices is not the right thing to do.

True, and there also comes a time when acting like the realities of today don't exist and the horrors of the past never happened are not the right things to do, either.

As long as we think of ourselves as black or white, we will never be genuinely unified.

I don't believe we all have to meld into one beige, monocultural mass in order to be unified. Wouldn't that be boring as all get out? We can celebrate the things that make us different as human beings, while at the same time celebrating the things that make us all the same as human beings--what is so wrong with that?

If there are no comments after this long butt post--I am going to be shocked.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the dying of the light.

This 11-year old boy committed suicide last week. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself with an extension cord in his room while his mother was cooking dinner. Carl was subjected to daily bullying at his school because some of his classmates thought he was gay. This is at least the fourth suicide this year of a middle school child because of bullying.

Can you imagine finding your 11-year old son dead after a suicide?
Can you imagine being 11 and in so much despair that you think that killing yourself is the answer to your problems?
Can you imagine being a middle school bully and finding out the person you've harassed mercilessly is dead?

This is such a senseless, senseless tragedy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

If music be the food of love, play on...

Monday means it's Music Monday time. Originally, I was going to do another song by The Game so we could compare and contrast his lyrics as he got more fame. But, after the convo I had with anonymous last week about black men and elevators, I decided to do this song instead. It's called Brotha by Angie Stone. And guess what? It doesn't have any cursing! Music the whole family can enjoy.

If you'd like to follow along with the lyrics, you can do so here.

As always, if you've got something to say--I'm all eyes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I don't roll on Shabbos.

Hey y'all, this is just a post to say that I don't post on the weekends. That's my family time--cause it's all about balance, right?
Make sure you come back on Monday when I'll have some great new content. Since you're here, feel free to check out some of my older posts. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Follow-up Fridays

Hey y'all it's time for another installment of Follow-up Fridays. First off, let me start by saying thanks to everyone who left comments this week. I really appreciate everyone's willingness to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. I do believe that it is this honest dialogue that is going to help us all move forward as we delve into these sticky and complicated issues.

Because I got so many great comments, I'm going to use today's entry to respond to more than just one.

The first one comes from my friend anonymous on my post about being racish:

"I don't believe people are color-blind. What do you say, black friend?"

Anonymous, I definitely don't think people are color-blind. I think we as a society need to figure out what it means to use that term. I personally think it can have some troubling ramifications. You can read more of my thoughts on the subject here.

And then another comment from (I think) a different anonymous when discussing what it means to be a proud Southerner.

"You mentioned your chest tightened when the woman mentioned she was a proud Southern woman. Did it tighten because of the Union thing, or the preconceived notion you have of Southerners as being racist? Isn't that the same feeling some white women get when, say, they get on an elevator with a black man?

If you've never been there, why did your chest tighten?"

My chest tightened because of my preconceived notion that a considerable number of white Southerners are racist. This is based on what I've learned about the South in school, what I've seen about the South on T.V., and what some of my white Southern friends have told me about what it's like there.

So this is similar to what a white woman would feel in an elevator because she has a preconceived notion of black men being violent based on...

what she's learned in school, what she sees on tv, and perhaps what a some of her friends have told her about black men.

The point is this: even if we have some limited information about a group as a whole--it's not necessarily appropriate to use that information in our behavior with individuals from that group.

My chest tightening was an involuntary reaction based on my conditioning. Being aware of it is great, because that gives me more control if I ever happen to find myself in a similar situation in the future.

I also want to stress that it is not necessarily the chest tightening that is the problem, it is the actions that I choose to take after that. I could have read, "I'm a proud Southern woman" and let my preconceived notions take over and left her a comment that said, "You racist b*znatch! How can you be proud of slavery? You suck!"

Instead, I wrote a blog post asking people to help me understand what that term means to them.

Just like when a white woman is in an elevator with a black man, she can let her preconceived notions take over and grab her purse tightly and move as far away from him as possible. Or, she can become aware of her chest tightening, think to herself "this is happening because of my conditioning" make a conscious effort to keep her hands where they were before the guy got on the elevator, attempt to make eye contact and smile at him.

It should really take more than a self-imposed label or someone's outward physical appearance to determine how we respond to them.

So that's all for today. Marshall, my grand plan was to get to your question--but it looks like it'll have to wait 'til later, buddy (:

As always, I welcome your comments.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Old times there are not forgotten...

One of the things that do to drive traffic to my blog is to leave comments on other blogs. Now, I don't comment on every blog that I come across. First of all, most of the blogs that I find using the "next blog" button are not written in English. And as you may have learned in this post, English is my go-to language. Second, I have to feel like the blog is interesting and that I have something meaningful and sincere to contribute. I don't just go around writing "neat blog" on every page, because I think that would be annoying. I've also found some really cool blogs that way, ones that I have become a regular reader of.

So one day I was doing this and I came across this blog of a white woman in her early to mid-20's. It seemed to be a blog about her life and the daily goings on in it. I happened to look at her bio and I noticed that one of the first things it said was, "I'm a proud Southern woman."

As soon as I read that, I felt this tightness in my chest. I thought to myself, 'What does that mean? Should I even comment on this blog, or just hit "next blog" again?' I actually did the next blog thing once when I found this site that was all about this small town in the "Deep South." And all the followers were white, so I was like, "I'm gonna just move along..."

Now, I know that people can say that they mean they're proud of the women being friendly, and the men being gentlemen--the South defiinitely has a reputation for being one of the more traditional parts of the country. They also have sweet tea, which I think we all can agree is quite tasty.

But, the South also has another reputation that isn't exactly something to be proud of. Even if we're not talking about the whole slavery situation, a couple hundred years ago the people who lived in the Southern United States tried to remove themselves from the Union. To me, this is an act of treason. This is a big part of why I didn't put a confederate flag as the picture for today's post, because I don't think there's a lot of honor in that symbol, and I don't want an image like that on my blog.

I remember I would be in school, and we would have yearly discussion about racism and invariably some white kid would say, "Well, racism is really bad in The South. "Dun dun it was just some ghastly place. And I would think to myself, "Oh white person, racism exists everywhere--not just there."

That being said, I've never been to the South. Well, I've been to Disneyworld, but I don't really think that counts.

I've never been there and I have no real desire to go there, because I have to say--I haven't heard a lot of good things about it. I have this impression that if I was there for any extended period of time, I would have to deal with some BS that I am just not that interested in dealing with. And I have to say that I've gotten this impression from my white friends who haved lived there over the years.

So, why am I writing all of this? I'm not writing it to piss Southerners off. I would actually really love it if some of my Southern readers would leave some comments about what the phrase "I'm a proud Southerner" means to them, and what they think it means to the people around them. For some people, is it just code for, "I'm a racist"? Or am I completely misunderstanding the whole thing? I mean I watched The Real Housewives of Atlanta and white and black people seemed to get along fine on that show. My Southern readers, how do you feel after reading some of my thoughts about your region of the country?

If you're not from the South, what does the phrase "I'm a proud Southerner" mean to you? What comes to mind when you think of The South?

I actually did end up leaving a comment on that woman's blog, and nothing horrible happened. So that's got to be worth something, right?

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

10 things you probably don't know about me.

1. I was on the debate team all four years of high school. As a result, getting in arguments with me is not very fun.

2. The first movie I saw in the theater without adult supervision was Awakenings with Robin Williams.

3. The last movie I saw in the theatre without adult supervision was Monsters vs. Aliens 3D. 3D stuff: amazing. Girl power theme: good, but I would have liked to have seen more characters of color. And by color, I don't mean blue.

4. I have taken 6 years of Spanish instruction, but I probably speak Spanish as well as a 7-year-old who speaks Spanish as her first language.

5. I sing pretty much everyday. Not professionally, just in my daily happenings.

6. I love quotes: the more motivational-y, the better.

7. I have most of the Calvin and Hobbes books. Scientific Progress Goes Boink is my favorite. I am definitely more Calvin than Hobbes.

8. As I was typing the last one, I was realizing how it was three things and not one. I think that would qualify as being "anal," but I am not a big fan of that word.

9. Now I am wondering if my blog is going to show up in some inappropriate searches.

10. I love writing this blog. Me saying what I think and other people listening; attempting to create social change--it doesn't get much better than that (:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


So, I made up a new word. I made it up because there is a concept that currently isn't being captured by any word in the English language. Kind of like shadenfreude.

I've made up a couple of other words in the past. Like, I say dangernoose instead of dangerous--for no other reason than I think it's funny. Most of my made-up words have something to do with the best cartoon ever, Squidbillies.


The definition of racish is as follows:

Kind of racist.

Racist is such a charged word in our society, that whenever people hear it--they tense up. So the word "racish" was invented to say, "Hey, I'm not really sure I like what you just said/did, let's talk about it in an attempt to understand each other better." People who do or say racish things are not bad people--they don't go to secret meetings or strategize about how they can keep other people down. What they do is occasionally engage in behavior that helps to keep the races apart, instead of bringing them together. This is not a term that only applies to white people--doesn't that make you happy, white people? I thought it would (:

"Hey, when you assume that me and the black person next to me in line are together, even though we haven't said one word to each other--I think that's kind of racish."

"Hey, when you give me a dirty look as soon as I step in the door to spend money in your black-owned business, I think that's kind of racish."

"Hey, just because you voted for Barack Obama doesn't mean you're not a racish."

Isn't this exciting?! I really think this is going to give us a whole new way to discuss race relations. Don't get me wrong, racist things definitely still exist, but I think since we're no longer in the 1950's--a lot of the things that we need to work on are more accurately described as racish.

So, here's how you can help this word establish itself in popular culture.

First--start using it in your own conversations.

Second, go here and give this definition a thumbs up. Perhaps if it gets enough thumbs up it will become the word of the day, and then it'll blow up!

What do you think about the existence of this word?
What other examples of racish things can you come up with?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Please don't stop the music.

Hey everybody. It's Monday, and you know what that means--it's Music Monday time! This weeks selection is Hate it or Love it by The Game featuring 50 cent. Once again, I must warn you about the language in this song. I found a version that had all the questionable language taken out, but I thought that made it difficult to figure out what was going on. This is because in addition to the cursing, MTV took out any references to violence or illegal activity. Both of these things apparently figured prominently into both guys' formative years, so I think it is important that we the listeners be able to hear them. As always, I found the lyrics for you and you can read along as the song plays here.
Sidenote: Apparently some of my readers visit my blog at work, and so they don't want to play music videos at their desks, to avoid giving the impression that they are doing anything other than diligently working. First, let me say thanks for making me a part of your day, even at the risk to your livelihood (:

Second, if you can't listen now, you should make sure to come back when you're in the comfort of your own home. I've even tagged all of the Music Monday entries, so you can just click on that little label below this post--and all the videos will come up.

A couple of things about this song. I first heard it when I was driving home in my car. I (like most others I would suspect,) was immediately drawn in by the beat. Then there's that catchy chorus:

"Hate it or love it the underdog's on top,
and I'm gon' shine homey until my heart stop.
Go ahead envy me-- I'm rap's MVP
and I ain't goin' nowhere so you can get to know me"

Talk about a refrain to keep people pushing forward, I love it.

But the moment that I still remember 3+ years later is when The Game says, "When I'm in the booth and get exhausted, I think 'What if Marie Baker had got that abortion? I love you, Ma'"

That line stopped me in my tracks. I thought, "Yeah, what if that had happened? This song wouldn't exist, for one."

Fast forward to today. I just saw a report from the CDC that said that in 2003 36% of the women getting abortions were black. I don't have any reason to believe that number has decreased significantly in the past six years, do you? And faithful readers of my blog know that black people are what percentage of the population in the U.S.? That's right--12%. So that's three times more likely.

I'm not trying to make some statement about abortion, but I have to say that really bums me out.

I have more to say about this, but I think I'll leave it for another day.

You know what doesn't bum me out? Comments.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Follow-up Fridays

Yeah, I know it's Saturday. And I know I said I don't post on the weekends cause that's my family time. But "follow-up Saturday" doesn't really have the same ring to it. I also had the opportunity to have some lovely family and friend time yesterday (Sushi! I swear I could eat that stuff everyday.) And I got some great comments this week, so here I am on a Saturday night getting my blog on.

This weeks comment for follow-up Friday comes from my friend anonymous. First, let me give a shout out to my friend Massimo for the comment that he left on Monday's post; I want you to know that I really appreciate the encouraging words. I also want to send a special message to my friend Marshall: I am still thinking long and hard about your question(s), and you'll have your very own post soon ;)

Okay, back to anonymous. Anonymous left this comment on my post about America's prison system:

"Even if whites and blacks use drugs at the same rate, drug charges are not all about use. "Drug charges" includes a wide range of violations, including distribution and manufacturing. Also when you refer to prison sentences, keep in mind that there are different mandatory minimums dependent on what type of drug is involved, how much of that drug is involved, and what you're doing with that drug. I'm not saying that blacks are necessarily more involved than whites in the drug crimes that carry mandatory prison sentences, only that there is more to take into consideration with these figures than your stated fact that both blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate. Of course though, I definitely do agree that there is a general bias against blacks in our justice system."

Anonymous makes some good points in this comment. The first one is that there are a wide variety of violations that fall under the realm of "drug charges." This is definitely true. The first thought that comes to my mind is another statistic that was in the article:

In 2007, four out of five arrests was for possession, and only one out of five was for distribution.

So most of the people we're talking about are users. And even if that weren't true, unless that other 20% is made up entirely of black people (which we know is not the case,) the disparities don't exist simply because black people are the dealers and white people are the users. Even if the 20% was all black people, it would not explain a 74% incarceration rate because 12% + 20% is only 32%. So even if every drug dealer was black, statistically black people should only make up around 32% of the people incarcerated.

Also when you refer to prison sentences, keep in mind that there are different mandatory minimums dependent on what type of drug is involved, how much of that drug is involved, and what you're doing with that drug.

All mandatory minimums involve prison time, there are no mandatory "community service" or "probation" minimums. There are also mandatory minimums for every major type of drug, so it doesn't matter what drugs they choose to deal. If a person's got too much of whatever drug they've got, they're taking a trip to the big house--period. (Sidenote: there used to be much more punitive sentences for crack vs. powder cocaine, but this just gives more support to my argument.) Also, keep in mind that even if mandatory minimums can somehow explain the disparity in being sentenced to prison, it doesn't explain why black people are three times more likely to be arrested and five times more likely to be convicted than their white counterparts.

Friends are honest with each other, right? In keeping with the "friend" part of this of this blog, I want to acknowledge that I am getting frustrated while typing this post. I didn't really intend for this blog to be a battle of the dueling statistics, which is why I didn't include the statistic about arrests for possession in my original post. That being said, I am confident that the assertions that I make in this blog can be backed up by statistics or scientific evidence or whatever people consider "legitimate proof" that something exists, because I know enough about these issues to know that the evidence is out there.

It is just frustrating for me to take the time to try and prove something that to me, seems so obvious. And not just obvious, but something that carries such huge consequences for some people's lives. But that's when I realize that I have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that not everyone sees things the way that I see them, because we all look at the world based on our own experiences.

Ok, back to anonymous...

"I definitely do agree that there is a general bias against blacks in our justice system."

When I first read this part of the comment, I was really confused. I was like, "Why Anonymous, would you write all those lines challenging my assertions, only to conclude by saying you definitely do agree that racial bias exists in our justice system? If this isn't an example of racial bias in our justice system, what is?"

Every statistic that could be used to prove racial bias in the justice system has some potential counter arguments.

Black people convicted of murder are more likely to be sentenced to death than white people convicted of murder.

"Well, maybe the crimes the black murderers commit are more heinous as a whole."

A person that kills a white person is more likely to get the death penalty than a person that kills someone of color.

"Well, maybe the people of color were doing something bad when they got killed--like a drug deal or something."

One in three black men is in prison, parole or on probation.

"Well, maybe black people are just more violent? I know they scare me when I'm walking alone at night."

Yes, maybe, maybe, maybe.

The point that I am trying to make is this: When we hear unsettling information we have two choices: we can either accept it (and the unsettling feelings that come along with it,) or we can try to explain it away, which is really just a form of denial.

Let me give you an example from my own life. I was watching an episode of Oprah about the recession. On it, they had a woman who was well-educated, well-spoken, tons of experience in her field (I think it was HR,) and she said she was willing to take any job. Yet, she claimed that she had been searching for a job for a year.

I kid you not, as soon as I heard that I said, "No, that can't be true. She must not be really willing to take any job, she must not be looking that hard-- there's got to be more to this story." I just refused to believe that she was telling the truth.

Why? At least part of the reason why is because I am well-educated (just graduated in December,) well-spoken, and I also haven't had any luck in finding a job. And I'm not even willing to take any job, I want a job in my field that pays well! So if she's been looking for 12 months, what the heck does that mean for me?! And I don't even have that much experience! How am I going to pay my bills? AHHHH! I want to go cry now.

You see what I'm getting at? I could have just stopped at "she's lying" and been done with it. Instead, I chose to believe her and now I have to face some really harsh realities about what my job search may look like, and what that means for me and my family.

So my fair readers, you can read this blog and dismiss whatever is too disturbing to deal with, or try explain it all away--and keep living the happy-go-lucky status quo. Or maybe, just maybe--you can believe that the things written here do happen, and more importantly that they happen for some very gross reasons. And you can regognize that it is up to all of us to do something about them.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues...

So, I was reading Parade Magazine this weekend, and the cover story was, What's Wrong with Our Prisons? by Senator Jim Webb. Normally when I get my Sunday paper, I just take out the coupons and throw the rest of it into the recycle bin. Maybe people like me are part of the reason newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur? But this cover story caught my eye, so I decided to read it.

Senator Webb spent a lot of time talking about how the U.S. incarcerates a lot of its citizens, way more than most other industrialized nations. He also focused on the War on Drugs, and how that was contributing immensely to the number of people we have in prison. There was one statistic that stood out to me.

Even though drug usage rates are essentially the same between black people and white people, Black people make up 37% of the people arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted on drug charges and 74% of those sent to prison on drug charges.

Now, we are only 12% of the population. And remember, I just said that blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate. This means that a black person that uses drugs is three times more likely to be arrested, five times more likely to be convicted, and six times more likely to go to prison on a drug charge than their drug using white counterpart.

WTF is up with that? I say "F" when I'm mad, and I have to say reading this kind of stuff makes me mad.

I applaud Senator Webb for writing this article, so much so that I sent him a message at the link that I posted above. I also think it's pretty cool that Parade would make this their cover story. I always thought their gig was more along the lines of interviewing the women of Desperate Housewives about how they manage to "have it all," but I'm glad to see them tackling such an important topic in such a direct way.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

That's what's up.

One of the great things about having your own blog is that you can do things your way. I know I said I'd do part two of my last post today, but you know what?--I don't feel like it. Instead I am going to post this old commercial that I think is really funny.