Thursday, December 16, 2010

Words of Wisdom?

On Tuesday, I went to get our car's oil changed. I really like the place that I go, because they give customers free soda, and put a flower on the dashboard for all the women who take their cars there.

While I was waiting, I saw that they had a poster with various motivational quotes on it. And I love me a good motivational quote, so I went over to check them out. Nothing was really jumping out at me until I saw this one:

Never be haughty to the humble. Never be humble to the haughty.

I thought to myself "Oooh, I like that one."

Then I looked down and saw who said it:

Jefferson Davis

Then I thought to myself, "Jefferson Davis?!?"

For those of you not on a big U.S. history tip, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

You know, the side that didn't win.

So anyway, I see that Jefferson Davis wrote the quote, and something very interesting happened. I found myself questioning whether I really liked it as much as I thought I had thirty seconds earlier.

Part of me was saying, "Well what are you supposed to be to the haughty? Haughty back? That's not good. Maybe humble is the best thing to be at all times. But you don't want people to push you around, so maybe it just means stand up for yourself (nicely, of course.) What the hell is this poster company thinking putting a quote from a Confederate leader on their freakin' poster?! Are they trying to send some kind of subliminal message?"

and so on.

But I honestly couldn't say (and still can't,) if my new found questioning of the quote came more from its message, or from its messenger.

Which leads me to this post: How do we acknowledge good things that are done by people that do bad things, and vice versa? Should we celebrate them? Act like they never happened? Or acknowledge that all people make mistakes and no one person is all good or all bad? Does it matter how bad the bad stuff was? Or how good the good stuff?

I was in a really crappy diversity training once that talked about a Neo-Nazi who found a cure for AIDS--I think we were supposed to decide if he should live or die (it was a long time ago, I don't remember all the specifics.)

Besides the fact that I don't think a Neo-Nazi is going to devote his research efforts to finding a cure for that particular disease, it does raise an interesting question. Would this fictitious person deserve to win the Nobel Prize?

Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood ,) was a proponent of eugenics, and gave speeches to the Ku Klux Klan. How should this knowledge influence our view of her and her many accomplishments? Hamas kills people who are riding buses and eating pizza; they also give food and healthcare to people in need--how do we reconcile these two pieces of information?

My free flower is on a vase on our mantle. I wonder if I'll have come to any conclusions about Mr. Davis, or any of these other questions by the time its petals have fallen off. I am also really curious to hear what you all think about the issues I've raised--so leave me a comment.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The more you know...

There are some things that I want to learn more about when it comes to race and inequality. They are (in no particular order,)

The 70's. I know a good amount about the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's, but what happened in the 70's? I know the Black Power movement started gaining steam, but I'd like more details.

School integration/Busing. How did that work? How long did it go on? Why did it stop?

The War on Poverty.

The history of Government Housing/Housing Projects. Is it universal that the people that live in them think they suck? If so, what are the reasons that they think contribute to their suckiness? If not, what separates a good one from a bad one?

The history of the police in the U.S.

Affirmative Action. What is it? What isn't it?

The history of Homelessness in the U.S.

Health care. How did people pay for health insurance/care before the 1980's?

Back to the 60's snd 70's. I feel like I heard about people taking over administration buildings of Universities and having lists of demands. What were on these lists? And prison riots too (Attica.) What was on the prisoners lists of demands?

I'm sure there are more, but that's all I can think of for now. What are some things that you'd like to know more about re: race and inequality? Have you read any books that cover one or more of these topics that you'd like to recommend?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lookin' for love in all the wrong places...

I was watching Nightline the other day, they were doing a story on a newish online dating site called ok cupid. It's a free site, and they use statistical analysis to figure out how to set people up with each other. Apparently they are wildly successful; second only to in total number of users.

Part of the story talked about how online dating is much more popular than it was in the past; that it has lost a lot of the uncool and weird stigma that it once had.

Another part of the story talked about how since okcupid does such involved statistical analysis, they can find out a lot of interesting facts about their users and what makes some users more successful than others.

For example, they said that guys who start their messages with "howdy" are more successful than guys who start off with "hey." Take note, single men doing online dating.

Another less fun factoid is that black people who use the site get fewer messages than other racial groups, even though they send the same amount of messages out. As they were talking about this fact, they showed a screen capture of what I guess was their website saying Men don't write black women back. So, black women are perceived as being the least desirable group of people on the site. The co-founder of the site described this info as "not the awesomest thing to find."

This jibes fairly well with my experience with online dating. Ten years ago (back when dating online was uncool and weird,) I tried my hand at it on I definitely got some emails, but I didn't realize how piddly my action was until I talked to my white friend (we'll call her Polly.) Polly told me how her inbox was flooded with messages from men, and she didn't even have a picture posted! I spent a lot of time on my profile, and you can be sure that my pictures were like most online dating pictures--what I looked like on the best of good days ;)

Alas, the difference in our traffic was probably like, 10 to 1. I also went out of my way to say that I was open to dating people from a variety of backgrounds; that shared values and beliefs were more important to me than ethnic background, religion, etc. At least now I know that I shouldn't have taken it personally; that it was the immutable characteristic of my race that was the most likely to blame for my poor, poor showing.

Something that I think is interesting about this is that if you look at the actual profiles, I would venture that most of them say that the people are open to dating people of all races--because this is something public that other people can see. But when it comes down to actually writing a message to a black person or responding to one that a black person has sent, it's apparently much easier to say, "Um, I'm going to go over here now..." Because it's something the user is doing in the privacy of his or her own home. And said user can rationalize this choice however he or she chooses to.

So that leads me to some questions that I want to ask you to ponder and perhaps share your answers with the group (anonymously, if you so choose)...

Have you ever gone out on a date with/been in a relationship with a person of a different race? Why or why not?

What do you think about a person not being open to dating someone of a different race? What about not being open to certain physical characteristics (hair color, weight, height, etc.?)

What do you think are the reasons for black people getting such low amounts of play on okcupid?

Do you have any funny online dating stories to share?

I want to hear it all--leave me a comment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fewer words than usual Wednesday.

This photo is from the most recent Garnet Hill catalog. From what I can tell, Garnet Hill does a lot of business selling sweaters, coats and sweater coats to women in their 30's and 40's. And from this picture, you can see that they also sell Holiday pajamas for kids.

One time, I remember a black model saying that if there are ever three models in a shoot, one of them will be black. I can't remember if it was Tyra Banks or Iman or Beverly Johnson--but it was one of those ladies. But there is something that she didn't say that is also true. If there is a black model, she'll always be flanking the white model in the center.

I don't recall ever seeing a trio of models where the black person was in the center, being supported by two white people.

Now, I know there is someone out there reading this thinking, "What is the big deal? It doesn't matter--why are you being so sensitive, my blackfriend?"

I would say to this someone, " Someone, if it doesn't matter, why is it so consistently one way? If it was just something random, then 33.33333333333333% of the pictures like this would have the person of color in the middle. I've probably seen hundreds (thousands?) of images like this in my life, and they all seem to have this positioning in common. What do you think that's about?"

I'll end it here cause I'm not 'sposed to be typing as much. If you've got something to share, leave me a comment.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Introducing: Wordless Wednesdays

I'm started a new thing here that I've seen on other blogs. Wordless Wednesdays is when you post a picture of something as that day's blog post. I think it is a way to help people post regularly that doesn't require that they actually type something.

But you know me, and you know that I am a woman of many words. So I don't know how the whole "wordless" thing will work out. But "Fewer words than usual Wednesday" doesn't really have much of a ring to it.

So here's my picture:

One perk of becoming a parent (other than the adorable baby,) is that you start getting free magazines. This is my second issue of Parenting and the first time in my 31 years that I have ever seen an Asian mommy model and an Asian kid model on the cover of a national magazine. I asked my husband, and he said it was his first time seeing a cover like this too.

The little girl is so cute, and I love the little dress that she is wearing. This magazine cover makes me happy, and I hope to see more like it in the future.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You're Fired!

Once when was still in grad school, I was talking to my therapist about how I hated writing papers. The thing that I hated about it was the effort it took to take a list of information and turn that into a paper. Introductions, conclusions, topic sentences, and the like. And don't get me started on APA style. I have often said that much of higher education is a game--forcing people to write in a certain style is one of the best examples of that. Margins, two spaces after a period, italicize this, underline that, and how do you cite websites again? But now I'm getting off on a tangent.

So, in one of our sessions I was telling him how my life would be so much easier if I could just turn in a list of bullet points. He responded by asking me what was keeping me from asking my professors if I could do that? I think he was trying to show me that I had some control in the situation, and that I could stop complaining and take some action. Like most clients, I heard what he said but didn't do anything differently ;) I just continued to soldier through, writing the stupid papers in the stupid APA style, until I got that lovely diploma and got the hell out of there.

But here it is several years later, and I've had a revelation. On my blog, I can do bullet points if I want to! I don't have to ask anyone for permission, and I don't have to let my disdain for finding the perfect transition word keep me from writing about something that's been on my mind for days: the Juan Williams
controversy. So, let's get to it...

--Juan Williams said something like "When I see a person on a plane dressed in Muslim garb, showing that being Muslim is their primary identity--I get scared." NPR fired him soon after. Fox News signed him to a multi-year, 2 million dollar contract soon after that.

--Juan's comment doesn't make logical sense. The people who bombed the U.S. on 9/11 were not wearing what Williams would consider 'Muslim garb.' And even if they were, 19 people dressed a certain way doesn't mean you can come to conclusions about millions of other people who are dressed similarly.

--My understanding of the situation is that Williams was not making this statement proudly. He followed it up by saying that he still gets on the plane, and that he doesn't think the people he is scared of should have to go through extra security. I interpreted his comment as an honest confession of his feelings.

--Part of NPR's justification for his firing is that his role with their organization was as a "news analyst," and with that statement, he was making it difficult for people to distinguish between his opinion and actual fact. Personally, I think a person would have to be pretty obtuse to think that what he said was anything but his personal opinion.

-- Related: I also think it's funny that people in the media think it is even possible to be objective when reporting about pretty much any issue. Anytime a person writes or says anything, it is being influenced in some way by their personal experience. I think the field of journalism would be enhanced if it would acknowledge this fact more, instead of thinking that people are able to be truly neutral, objective, fair or balanced in their reporting.

--Williams' comment bothers me because he is sending yet another message to marginalized people that says, "Hey if you just assimilate--you can be accepted." Don't show pride in your marginalized identity, at least not in a way that is too 'in my face.' I write more about this way of thinking, and why it is harmful here.

--But, Williams simply making the comment doesn't bother me. I think NPR by firing him sends the message, "It's not okay to say you're scared of Muslims. We're not scared of Muslims here at NPR." They're missing an opportunity to explore why he and millions of other people get scared when they see people who look like they follow a certain religion. And what that does and doesn't have to do with 9/11.

--NPR is also being hypocritical because like Patricia Heaton said on The View, if Juan had said he was scared of members of the Tea Party, he would likely still have his job. Basically, NPR gets to decide who it is and isn't okay for Williams to be scared of.

--That last point makes me think of black conservatives Shelby Steele and Clarence Thomas, who make the provocative argument that white liberals are fine with black people--as long as black people agree with them. If black people stop agreeing with them, start having their own ideas, defining problems differently or want to try other solutions--bad things can happen. You can lose your job, be labeled an "Uncle Tom" and/or very quickly fall out of favor. You can read more about these ideas by checking out some books by Steele and Thomas--which are over on the right there under my "read more books" sidebar.

--9th grade civic lesson: this is not an issue of free speech. If Juan had been thrown in jail by the police, or if NPR got more than 2% percent of its funding from the government--we might have a 1st amendment issue on our hands. Free speech and the first amendment only come into play when the government does something to punish someone for what they say...mmmmkay?

--Finally, if you think you're not afraid of Muslims (or gay people, or black people or people in wheelchairs, or some other group that's not exactly like you,) please go here and take some of their nifty tests.

--As per usual, I want to know what you think. Feel free to leave me a comment in whatever style you'd like (bullets, haiku, interpretive dance, etc.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Music Mondays

I've been thinking that I should bring back Music Mondays. There weren't really many songs that were jumping out to me to play, but then I saw the video for this song and thought it would be a good candidate. Then I heard it again on the radio tonight, which I took as sort of a sign from the gods.

It's an Asian Rap group! I've never heard of an Asian Rap group before. There was an Asian guy that went to a bar I frequented in my college days who called himself DJ SARS. But he wasn't a rapper, he was a DJ.

But more importantly, it's a good song. I wouldn't just put them up here because of their sheer Asian-ness, they actually have to put out a good product. This is definitely a song that I would put on one of my legendary itunes mixes, for an imaginary dance party or something. It might be a good workout song too. The only thing I don't like about the song is that it talks about "sipping sizurp" which I think is referring to using cough syrup as a recreational drug. That's dangerous.

I first heard about this song through my husband. He was asking me what a G6 was. He knew it was a car by Pontiac, but he also knew rap groups don't typically make songs about Pontiacs. Through the magic of Google, we found out it was a plane.

So what have we learned today? Not only can Asian people be Scottish, they can drop hot rhymes too.

Comments? You know what to do.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


A week ago on my twitter page I asked, when is someone going to publish the seminal work that answers the question: is the internet bringing us together, or pushing us apart?

My tweet was spurred by learning about the Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his roommate allegedly broadcast Tyler's tryst with another guy over the internet. Like millions of other people, I felt a sense of shock and sadness when I learned about this incident. Tyler was a talented young violinist, and ended his life by jumping off of the George Washington bridge. He also left his suicide note on Facebook.

There are many things that I want to say/questions I want to ask about this situation. I have hesitated in writing this post, because of my fear that I will say the wrong thing. Or that I will offend people that have a more nuanced understanding of the events than I do. But I know that my intentions are pure/good, and hopefully that will count for something.

First, I think the fact that both Tyler's roommate and the woman who was arrested with him are both people of color is significant. It's significant because it helps illuminate the idea that the vast majority of us have some identities that align with the dominant culture. So even if you are brown, if you are heterosexual-- that gives you a set of privileges that a white gay person would not have.

Second, Tyler's roommate seems like a straight up a-hole. I don't know that the internet has a whole lot to do with it. If i-chat didn't exist, he strikes me as the type of guy that would be hiding a video camera in the closet, and then showing the VHS tape to all his friends.

Third, Tyler's roommate tweeted, Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.'

I added the emphasis on the last word, because to me it has a lot of significance. Obviously, he is being sarcastic--he's not really happy about it. But there is a reason that he said yay instead of "sick!" or "gross!" both of which I think are more in line with what he was actually thinking.

He said 'yay' because as a young, little bit of college educated person, he knew that using one of those other words would have made him seem like a homophobe. And he knows enough to know that being a overt homophobe (like being an overt racist,) is not something that is looked upon kindly, especially in college (most colleges anyway.)

So what does he do? He makes his comments more subtle, feels out his audience, avoids saying anything obviously hateful. This is important because it illustrates how a lot of people respond to doing work around diversity and multiculturalism. They learn that some things are not said in polite company, and so they avoid saying them in polite company. But the idea that their hearts and minds are truly changed...I think we know the answer to that.

Fourth, I really wish that Tyler hadn't of killed himself. Refer to my second point, his roommate is an a-hole. Given that fact, an a-hole taping you is not something you want to kill yourself over. He's the one with the problem, not you.

But then that gets me thinking: What caused Tyler to do this? I don't like what I am hearing that places the blame on Tyler's roommate. It is extremely dangerous to put the blame for one person's suicide on another person. What the roommate did was outrageous, and he certainly deserves to be punished. But casting him as the evil one and trying to find a way to throw him in jail for the rest of his life is not the answer.

Our society as a whole has to take some responsibility for this tragic event taking place. When a seemingly healthy, well-adjusted person gets to the point that they are in such deep despair that they throw themselves off a bridge???

Many "straight allies" are pointing the finger at conservative clergy, and just conservative people in general. I agree that any pastor who takes the time to write a sermon calling gay people unnatural; or a conservative voter who does his or her part to deny gay Americans equal rights--they're not helping.

But I said society as a whole, remember?

What about you?
What about me?

My husband and I have beautiful baby son. Already, people make comments about how he is going to be popular with the ladies when he is older. I think to myself, "How do you know he is going to like girls?" But most of the time I don't say anything, because I don't want to seem...weird.

Or when we meet someone new for the first time and say, "Do you have a _________," filling in the blank with the romantic term of opposite sex of the person we're talking to. Now, we'd be fine with the person saying "Actually, I have a _______ (insert same sex term here)" But...why do we even make the assumption?

Or what about when we still think The Hangover was a hilarious movie, even though the characters frequently used homophobic slurs?

Or when someone we know and like (or love) says something intolerant or bigoted, and we don't speak up? Several people were following those tweets about Tyler--what did they do when they read them?

These things are all part of the problem. All these examples promote the message, "Being gay is not ideal, and treating it as something 'less than' is acceptable to me."

Point the finger at conservatives all you want, but not if one of the major motivations is to make yourself feel better and say, "Well at least, I'm not like them." We are like them, and the sooner we recognize that--the better off we will all be.

My baby son is laying on the floor right now; gooing his little heart out.

For Tyler, for all the other nameless gay teens who have died, for my son, and for myself I want to recommit myself to speaking out.

I will risk my heterosexual privilege and take the chance of seeming weird, or annoying, or unable to take a joke. I will continue to examine my own beliefs and attitudes, so that I can try and rid myself of the homophobia that I have picked up along the way.

I will do this in hopes that if my son tells me one day "Mom, I'm gay." I can say, "ok" and that will be the end of it. I won't have to join a support group, and I won't have to worry that because my son is gay, people are going to think it's okay to make fun of him, or beat him up, or kill him.

So, the internet can be used for evil and the internet can be used for good. More than anything, it's probably used to waste ridiculous amounts of time. Today, I am using my little piece of it to invite you all to take risks. To resist complacency; to think about the ways that you continue to be part of the problem, and the things that you can do to continue to be part of the solution.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I think about you all the time; I see you in my dreams...

I haven't been around for a little bit.

It's because I've been busy...

Birthin' and takin' care of a baby!

I've decided I am not going to pimp him out on my blog by posting all kinds of pictures, (you know--babynappers and stuff,) but I will post a pic of the most adorable baby feet you've ever seen.

Those tootsies are a pretty good indicator of the cuteness we're dealing with. Everyone is doing well; adjusting to parenthood and babyhood. I'll be back soon on the blog because, wouldn't you know it? --some racial -ish has been going on during my absence.

Hope everyone is enjoying what's left of the weekend (:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

If I could turn back time...

So you know that question, "If you could go back to any time period in history, which one would you choose and why?"

I've never liked that question.

Because if I'd be me (which I assume I would be,) I think my life would quite likely be way worse than it is now.

I guess this is a testament to how far we've come. But it's also pretty sad to think that for 99% of the time, my life might have been rather sucky.

Well, maybe that's an overstatement. I'm sure plenty of black people had plenty happy lives before the civil rights movement came along. But I do wonder how much slavery/segregation/jim crow affected people on a day to day basis. Not just black people, white people too. How often did you hear "the n word?" Daily, or was it not something said in polite company? When you went in the back entrance to get your food or whatever, were the white workers nice, mean or indifferent towards you?

I read this book called American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow, and one of the things that I learned was that if a black person and a white person were stopped at a four way stop, the white person automatically had the right of way, even if that wasn't the order that they stopped in. I can't help but think that little things like that seeping into people's psyches 50 years ago still have an effect on race relations today.

After I read that book, I had my husband read it--and it f*cked his sh*t up. Y'all know I don't really like to curse on my blog, but I don't know of an appropriate substitute phrase that gets my point across. Anyway, it's a really great book to learn more about the history of our country after the Civil War, that goes beyond the segregated lunch counters we learned about in school. It was written by Jerrold M. Packard, and you can order it on Amazon (through my handy sidebar that says "read more books") or you can see if they have it at your local library.

But back to the original question. I think it might be interesting to go back to the 1950's, to see if it was as conformist as it is always portrayed to be in the movies. Plus, I like the women's fashions of that time. I'd also be interested in seeing what the 60's were like. How much did the hippie/anti-war movement permeate popular culture? Not too much before that really appeals to me. Maybe the Renaissance, because I heard there was lots of good art :P

What about you? What time period sounds appealing? How do your multiple identities (race, gender, etc.) influence your choices?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Follow-up Fridays

So we're bringing back our old friend Follow-up Fridays. That's where I comment on your comments. Because like I said in my last post I have more to say about the Swagger Wagon video and some of the comments/questions that were posed. Maybe I should change the subtitle of my blog from, Thoughts on race and inequality in America to Thoughts on the Swagger Wagon commercial . Ha ha, just kidding.

So my white friend JD asked me,

What do you think of the white dude in SNL who plays President Obama? Surely there's some makeup involved, but it doesn't seem as offensive as the second video.

I don't have a problem with that guy. His Obama impression has definitely improved; would everyone agree? I wonder if he really does the best Obama, or if they didn't pick another white guy from the cast because it would have required more makeup. Or how maybe having more than one black person on the cast might give them more options when it comes to parodying black celebrities. Not much of a resemblance between Kenan Thompson and Tiger Woods, am I wrong?

But one thing that stood out for me when I was watching that minstrel show video was just how unoffended I was by those two guys. Which to me showed that for me, it's not really about the black's about something else. Another thing that I noticed was how I didn't know any of the people that they mentioned when they were talking about the great minstrel shows of yore (exception: Al Jolson,) it's like that part of history has just been erased and we (people my age,) know almost nothing about it.

My Asian-American friend weezermonkey asked me:

Did you catch the MTV Movie Awards? How would you classify Aziz's character Taavon?

To answer your first question: Of course I watched the Mtv Movie Awards! I am a pop culture slor!

For those of you not in the know, Taavon was a character that host Aziz Ansari created. He was a "swagger coach" and did a little tape piece and also accepted an award as this character. If you want to watch him in action, you can click on the video below.

To answer your second question weezer, I thought this character was really funny. There were two major reasons why. First, Aziz Ansari is not white. Unfair, I know-- but him being not white I think gives him more leeway. It's like, since he has probably experienced racism in his own life, he is less likely to perpetuate it than someone who never has. I'm not saying this is an actual true statement, it's just what my brain thinks.

The second and more important reason that I thought Taavon was funny is because I am familiar with Mr. Ansari and his comedy. I know that he appears to have a true appreciation of hip-hop culture, and that he also addresses a lot of racial issues in his standup. I also know from watching his standup that he has a google alert on his name, so maybe this blog post will come up the next time he checks, and then he can see this message: I'm a big fan! Leave me a comment!

But having this information about Aziz is important because it helps put the clip into a context. And I think it also helps to further pinpoint what the problem for me was with the Swagger Wagon video. With Aziz, it's like look how well I can imitate a person from hip-hop culture, whereas with the couple in the minivan video the whole joke lies in how poorly they were able to do it. It's like "Look at how lame we are--isn't this funny?"

I can see the point that both Moufbreatha and john C made about the juxtaposition between the uncool minivan and the coolness of hip-hop culture. And I agree that it can be funny to try to make something unhip hip by associating with something edgy. But what unnerved me was this element of mockery that existed in the swagger wagon video. There was no attempt to say, "Actually we are cool even though we drive a minivan and we do have actual swagger--watch us demonstrate it." Like with Aziz. Or to use an example with actual white people, the Lazy Sunday video from SNL:

Those guys are working it. It comes from an understanding of what they are parodying, and they are able to rap about cupcakes and matinees with conviction; just like Kanye West is able to rap about working at the GAP.

To use another example: The Beastie Boys. I don't really know what they rap about because I think they kind of suck, but they have had long careers and everyone would agree that they treat rap/hip-hop with some level of respect.

I have always wondered why white people laugh if a comedian of color talks about how uncool they are. Chances are, if a white comedian makes fun of people of color, the people of color are not going to be yuk-ing it up. Has anyone else ever noticed that?

This is what I told my husband: I think the reason that white people laugh so freely about being dorky is because at the end of the day, in our society being cool isn't really that important. What is important? Having enough money to buy a minivan. Going to college. Being happily married and having tea parties with your kids. And many white people are very good at those things, so it is easy to have a chuckle at your own expense when someone talks about how you have an overbite when you dance, or are a little too friendly with your dogs.

Remember those articles that I linked to about the disparities in so many important, significant areas of life (education, criminal sentencing, infant mortality) between blacks and whites? No one made any mention of them. I wonder what that's about? Those disparities are not funny, they're real. And not much has changed with them since those Amos and Andy guys were painting their faces mocking black people. As my favorite Kenan Thompson SNL character would say:

OOoooh Weee! What's up with that? What's up with that? What's up? With that?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who am I? Why am I here?

As most people who have a blog know, having a blog is a funny thing. It is really easy to become preoccupied (dare I say, obsessed?) with it.

how many people are reading this?
do I have any new comments yet?
do people think what I am saying is witty/insightful/entertaining/boring/stupid?
why am I even doing this, anyway?
what does it all mean?

et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I think I've gotten a lot better with most of this stuff. I don't check my traffic anymore, and I don't harass my friends nearly as much to leave me comments. But I do still struggle with what to say and how to say it. I've noticed recently that my pattern has been to think about writing a post for several days before I actually write it. There was a time when I was writing a post a day, and the words just flowed out of me each morning. But I think as the blog got more popular and I became more aware of the specific people I knew that were reading, that just sort of changed.

I think a lot of it has to do with the subject matter. It might be easier when your blog is about "today, I did x,y and z." Not, "What am I going to write about this time in an attempt to help solve the race problem?" I can't say for sure because I have never had a blog about x,y and z...maybe it is just as nerve-wracking. But I doubt it.

Another thing is that I sometimes find myself getting upset/irritated/frustrated at the comments that I get, and that makes me take a step back while I decide how I want to respond. I know that some people might think that saying comments are annoying is not the best way to go about getting more comments. But, we are all friends here and friends (good friends, anyway) are honest with each other. I don't tell you that I get annoyed so you'll stop leaving comments, I tell you so we can think about and talk about what it means.

I think for me, these emotions come from a basic feeling that what I am saying is not being heard; not being understood. Maybe you've already noticed, but all of my posts have tags. One of the tags is seek first to understand . That tag is for posts that are just musings about my life or my random thoughts and feelings. The whole quote that it comes from is Seek first to understand, then to be understood.This is my attempt to help you understand me better. Now I get the irony (is it irony? English teachers help me out,) in writing that quote and using it to say "Understand me!"

But I honestly feel like as a black person living in a predominantly white environment, I know way more about your culture, customs, vocabulary, history, mores, music, hair, food, dances, holidays, social movements, family dynamics, leisure activities, etc. than you know about mine.

I got emotional as I was writing that last paragraph, and we learn in grad school that whatever the person is talking about when they get emotional is really important .

So, as I think about it, I realize that I am getting emotional because as I write those words, I feel like someone is going to say,"No, you're wrong!" It's like I don't even have the space on my own freakin' blog to say, "As a black person, my voice is not heard as often as yours. You are allowed to take up more space than I do. Your story gets told, while mine is pushed to the sidelines." I feel like I need to justify or water down what I wrote, so people are not put off. Like, right now I feel compelled to say, "White people are not some homogeneous mass that all like and dislike the same things."

Does me typing that make you feel more comfortable?
Did you really think I thought that before I typed that I didn't?

This was originally going to be a short intro before I started a continuation of the swagger wagon posts. But I think it turned into something long enough to become a post of its own. Funny how that works. So...I'll end it here.

If you have a comment (no matter how potentially annoying or frustrating,) I would love to hear it.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Funny People.

So, I figured that I should answer the questions that I posed to you all in my last post. If you haven't read it yet, take a few minutes to do so now--otherwise the rest of this post isn't going to make any sense.

Let me start by saying that when I initially saw the first video posted by some friends on Facebook, I didn't even watch it. In fact, I probably groaned. I had a suspicion (that turned out to be correct,) that it was going to be yet another "dorky white people 'acting black' for a laugh" premise that we have all seen many, many times before.

This made me ask another question: Why do you think they didn't get a group of black actors to play the family in the swagger wagon video? How would a black man and woman, with black children singing the song, doing the various mannerisms have changed the impact of the commercial?

But then that brings us to the second video. What is the second video of? When I look at it I see the same thing: "Dorky white people 'acting black' for a laugh."

Granted, in the second video they have painted their faces black. And all of us (well, most of us) have been taught that white people painting their faces black is very, very bad.

But if we look at the content of what the guys in the second video are saying, I honestly don't see much of a difference. They tell some stupid (not overtly racist,) jokes, and then dance around like yahoos. Like the couple in the first video, they change the way that they talk when they are acting black vs. acting white.

I have been pondering this for awhile, and I think I am able to articulate what it is about the fact that the videos that are seen as being so different that irks me. We watch the second video and see that it is from 1950, see the guys with paint on their faces and can very easily have the response--BAD VIDEO.

But why? At least part of the reason is that we know in the 1950's racism was alive and well, codified into law and white people could still go to shows like this and laugh out loud and there would be no issue. This makes us mad/sad.

But fast forward to 2010. It's not like inequality due to race has gone away. Look at disparities in criminal sentencing, in educational/economic attainment in infant mortality --I could go on and on. What makes the climate so different now that the swagger waggon family is just funny and entertaining? Hell, just yesterday we were treated to the resolution of yet another "white cop shoots and kills unarmed black man" story. How much longer am I going to have to hear about stories like this?

So to answer my own questions like I said I would: I think these videos are the same. They're either both racish or they're both racist. One is not one and one the other. I am inclined to label them both racish, because they both make me want to take the people who conceived them and say, "Why do you think this is funny? What statement are you trying to make? What impact do you think disseminating this message has on our culture as a whole? Is what you are doing bringing the races together, or keeping them apart?"

Commenters on the last post: You posed some great questions. I shouldn't be surprised, because I think I have some of the most intelligent commenters in the entire blogosphere (: I have even more to say on this topic, maybe I will make a part three. But feel free to tell me about what I just wrote makes you want to say.

And if you read this blog regularly, but don't comment--take this as a potential sign from the universe that today is the day you are supposed to comment. If you have some thoughts, I want to hear them.

Monday, June 07, 2010

No one on the corner has swagga like us...

Except these people apparently:

Now watch this one (you'll probably have to turn it up, b/c it's an old clip):

What are the similarities and differences between these two videos? What's your reaction to the first video? The second one? Are these videos racist? Racish? One one and one the other? Both neither? Why?

Let me know what you're thinking; leave me a comment.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?

So this is officially my 100th post. Whoo hoo! For those of you that don't know, I've had this blog since 2006, but I only started telling people that I know in real life about it much more recently. If you're interested, you can click here and see where it all began. I would put up one of those gadgets in the sidebar that highlights the posts by month and year, but I feel like the main thing that would come out of that is an awareness of how sporadic my posting has been.

I initially wanted to make my 100th post a "best of" where I highlighted some of my favorite entries. But if there is anything that I have learned about myself in these four years of blogging, it's that if I wait for myself to get that list together, it could be quite awhile until you heard from me again. And as usual, I have a lot to say, so I think it best to just say some other stuff and write my retrospective post when the mood strikes. Besides, there's no reason that I can't honor my 112th post in the same way I would honor my 100th. We don't always need to be so focused on the round, smooth numbers. Plus, as I always like to say: my blog, my rules.

So today, I thought I would just share a realization that I had recently that I think will give you yet another peek into my psyche as a black woman living in the United States. Not necessarily every black woman's psyche, just mine: yourblackfriend.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a thrift store looking at some books. Since I wrote this post, I have seen the light when it comes to secondhand stores, and now they seem like places where you can get a variety of cool things at rock-bottom prices.

So anyway, I am looking at some books. There is a woman who looks to be a few years younger than me who has a cart (I have yet to find enough cool stuff to necessitate a cart, but maybe one day) who apparently wants to pass by me to look at some other books. But the thing that I found odd is that she didn't say, "Excuse me," she just stood there with her cart. And then the even odder thing is that when I did finally notice her standing there and took a step back so she could pass by, she didn't say "Excuse me," as she was walking in front of me. In fact, she didn't say anything or acknowledge in any way that I was being a polite person by making room for her to pass.

So this is where the being black part comes in.

A white person has this happen to them and has three possible options to choose from: 1) "This woman is rude and needs to learn some manners." 2) "I (white person) am too concerned with politeness and in fact this situation doesn't require an excuse me" or 3) "This woman was distracted with something else going on in her life. She's not normally a rude person, but if she wasn't thinking about how her boyfriend had just broken up with her ( or something equally traumatic,) I'm sure she would have said something." These are all pretty harmless explanations, and one can be chosen without really giving it a second thought. I suppose the second option might be an opportunity for further self-reflection, but that's really a personal decision.

But, I as black person have a handy fourth option that my brain can choose to consider: This woman did not say excuse me because I'm black, and she consciously or unconsciously feels like she doesn't need to say excuse me because I am black.

I think the immediate reaction of some readers at this point is, "Oh myblackfriend I think you're overreacting." Just stay with me, people.

We all know that there are some white people that don't like black people, right? Right.

So knowing that, it is reasonable to assume that if a white person doesn't like black people, they might generally treat black people in a less respectful way than they generally treat white people, right? Right.

So it is at least inside the realm of possibility that option four might be what is going on, right?


The maddening part of this is the fact that I was not in this woman's brain so I have no idea which of the four options was the motivation behind her behavior. In fact, the only way I might be able to prove that it was the fourth one is if there had been a white person standing a few feet away looking at another set of books and as she strolled past him she said, "Thank you kindly dear sir for making room for me to get by with my cart, I really do appreciate the gracious gesture." Then I would have a fairly good idea that something was up.

But things rarely happen that way, so whenever I'm out in public and someone is unkind to me, I have the unfortunate pleasure of wondering (even if only for a moment,) if the reason for that unkindness is the pesky fourth option. And a white person generally has the privilege of not having to concern him or herself with that possibility.

I feel compelled to say that I don't always immediately assume it's the fourth option, and I don't immediately assume that it's not. A number of factors come into play, and I tend to take these things on a case by case basis. The point is that there are still an unknown number of people who hold the beliefs contained in the fourth option, and that's the sad and depressing part.

I feel this was a comment and/or question provoking post, so don't be shy...let me know what you think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

everything is love

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend a free screening of a new documentary called Babies . It follows four babies from around the world from their first breath to their first steps. Here is a preview if you haven't heard about it:

I thought it was a cute movie: the babies laugh, they cry, terrorize their little brothers and have meltdowns when things don't go their way--just like us adults.

The thing that I thought was interesting was when I saw publicity about the movie (interviews with the director, reviews, etc.) I noticed that there was a tendency for people to describe three of the babies as being from their city/country and one from their more general continent. I'm guessing you can guess who was who.

Yup, we typically had the Mongolian baby, the Japanese baby, the American* baby and the African baby. Even if the person started out describing the Namibian baby as Namibian, they would eventually fall into a pattern of calling her the African baby.

I think this comes from a tendency of people to see Africa as this large, homogeneous mass even though it is a place with lots of different countries and cultures like Europe. And I am guessing the average reader can tell me some differences between Greece and England, but not Kenya and Chad. Let us all ask ourselves: what are the reasons for that?

Comments? Questions? You know what to do.

*I hesitate to use the term "American" even though it is generally accepted that this means not North America or South America, but the United States of America. This is related to the main point of this post--that the language that we use is an indicator of how we see others in relationship to ourselves, and also how we see ourselves in relationship to others.

p.p.s. The title of this post comes from what I thought was being said in the first line of the song from the trailer. I looked it up, and apparently the first line is "everything is lost." I like my interpretation better.

Friday, May 14, 2010

31 and Pregnant.

Today, I want to talk about 16 and Pregnant. Yes, I am a little late since the show had its season finale a few weeks ago. Luckily for all of us, what I have to say is not really time sensitive--issues relating to race and inequality rarely are. These things seem to go in cycles. So, even if I don't comment on the most recent thing, all we have to do is wait a few weeks/months/years and the same issues will come up again, with just a few of the details changed. Not to mention, what's the harm in commenting on something that happened a long time ago, particularly when there is rarely any sort of resolution to the situation ( Henry Louis Gates, anyone?).

Okay, I am getting off on a tangent. For those of you that don't know, 16 and Pregnant is a documentary/reality-ish series on Mtv that follows a different girl each week who is 16 and pregnant. The second season just wrapped, and I have to give the network props for making what I saw as some very important changes this time around.

In the first season, almost every girl they featured had a loving, supportive boyfriend who stuck around after the baby was born. This season...not so much. We had a guy who loved to tell everyone how the people at Mcdonald's told him he was "overqualified," another guy who texted his ex wanting to know where he needed to go to sign away the rights to his "mistake," and yet another guy who repeatedly told the mother of his child not to call him unless it was to talk about the baby. Hopefully seeing these less than stellar outcomes will make girls think twice about getting knocked up in an effort to keep a guy in their lives.

MTV also made a point in every episode to have a scene where each girl talks about what her birth control situation was at the time that she got pregnant. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the girls were not using any sort of birth control when they conceived their kids.

This is really just mind boggling to me. It's like, "You realize you are in freaking high school and taking a huge risk with your future (not to mention your physical and emotional health,) Would it not maybe be a good idea to try to be responsible and take some precautions? And if you're not mature enough to go into your local Planned Parenthood and get some free birth control pills, or stop by the nearest Kwik-e-mart to pick up some condoms (or preferably both,) maybe your easily embarrassed ass is too immature to be having sex."

Okay, I'm getting off on another tangent. The reason I wanted to talk about this show is because the last episode of the season featured a girl named Kailyn. Kailyn was pregnant and living with her boyfriend and his parents because (for some unknown reason,) her mother was living in a hotel with a boyfriend of her own. As a viewer, I was left with the impression that Kaylin's mother wasn't the most stable of mothers and hadn't really given Kaylin a lot of guidance and direction in her life. Kaylin never had a relationship with her father, and so her boyfriend's parents were nice enough to let her live with them, for what seemed like an indefinite period.

What was interesting about this episode is that Kaylin and her parents were white, and her boyfriend and his parents were not white. I don't think they were black, but I can't really pinpoint what race/ethnicity they were. Here is a picture of her boyfriend's mom and the baby:

If I had to guess, I would their say their ancestors came from one of the Pacific Islands. But for the purposes of this post, the most important thing is that they were not white.

Why is this important, you ask? It's important because we rarely see examples in the mainstream media of people of color helping out white people. Can you think of any movies, tv shows, news stories, etc. where a person of color is reaching out to help a white person down on his luck?

I'll wait...

Now flip that: how many examples can you think of where a white person helps the sad, pitiful person of color? The movie The Blind Side is probably the most recent example. I have to say, I haven't seen this movie. But all the white people I know who have loooved it. Like, "I loved this movie so much, I am going to tell people who don't even ask me that they should go see it."

Diff'rent Strokes is another example, and there are many more. In fact, there are so many that there are even names for it: the white knight/white savior phenomenon. If you want to read more about it, just google "the blind side" and one of those terms and you'll get a lot of articles to choose from.

Now, I am not here to criticize the white family that took in that black football player, nor Mr. Drummond for housing, feeding and loving Willis and that adorable scamp Arnold. I am willing to bet both the real family and the fictional family had very good intentions when they did what they did.

What I am here to do is ask several questions. One, what do you think is the psychological impact for a person of color consistently seeing people who look like him never as the helper, but always as the helpee?

On the flip side of that, what is the psychological impact for a white person of always being represented as the helper? Or, if he is represented as the helpee, being helped only by people who look like him?

Also, why do we see so many representations like The Blind Side and so few like 16 and Pregnant? Some would chalk it up to the racist/racish media. I think that is part of it, but not the whole story.

I think the explanation is this: There are many more white people in the economic position to help black people than there are black people to help white people. And most black people who are in an economic position to help somebody are going to choose to help other black people (sorry, poor white people--them's the breaks.)

So those are the two most important questions we should be asking ourselves, imnsho.

Why are most of the people with the spare bedrooms and gently used clothes and non-working vehicles that can be donated for a tax write-off white?

And why do many the people of color who find themselves in a similar situation feel compelled to give that extra stuff to people who are the same color as them?

I have my ideas, but of course I want to hear yours. Leave me some comments.

P.S. Like my title alluded to, I'm pregnant. Baby is a boy and due in August. I'll write more about that later (:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rebels without a cause...

I was watching the news the other day, and saw the story about the Moscow subway bombing. In case you don't know what I am talking about: On March 29th, two women blew themselves up on the subway in Moscow. They killed about 70 people. There were apparently some more bombings today, but I haven't been home to watch the news yet.

What stood out for me is that whenever these stories have been done in the past, they have always referred to the people involved as "Chechen Rebels." However, on Monday they were referring to them as "militant Muslim insurgents" and "Muslim rebels." When I talk about in the past, I am referring to these people storming a theater and an elementary school. Both of these escapades ended horribly. In the school attack, hundreds of little children died.

What is up with the change in phrasing? At first I thought it was maybe pre-9/11 and post 9/11 language.

Nope, both of the other attacks happened post 9/11.

Then I thought, maybe this is some other Chechen group separate from the people who want Chechnya to be an independent state.

Don't think so, that seems like a lot of groups that want to bomb and kill Russians in a small area. And I'm pretty sure those separatists have always been primarily Muslim.

And it's not two different news outlets reporting it either. Because as die-hard fans of this blog know, I am a long time watcher of the CBS Evening News.

Is it the suicide bomber piece?
The martyr videos?
The women covered head to toe in black fabric?
The general tie-in to the War on Terror?
New writers on the program?


Do I even need to say this next part? I do not condone the indiscriminate killing of people who are on their way to work or school by people who strap on explosives and blow themselves into little pieces.

At the same time, I can't help but wonder how the change in phrasing affects the conscious or unconscious mind of the CBS Evening News viewer.

(Hint: probably not well, folks.)

What do you think? Leave me your comments.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Half-hour comedy hour.

My husband and I just got back from Sweet Tomatoes. For those of you that don't know, Sweet Tomatoes is a buffet restaurant that has a salad bar, pizza, muffins, pasta and soup. We like it because you can get lots of fresh veggies and they make a mean albondigas locas soup. I'm betting the soup is probably much worse than some small batch authentic recipe, but since I've never had it anywhere else--I think it's great.

One thing I don't think is great is that in some parts of the country, Sweet Tomatoes is called Souplantation. I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "plantation", not very good things come to mind. As I said to my hubby while I was looking up today's menu online, "It's like calling it SLAVERY 'R US !"

And without missing a beat, my husband said, "And soup." And we both dissolved into peals of laughter.

I actually wrote to them a while ago to give them feedback on their name. Now, it wasn't as involved as the times that I write about here or here. It was more like I went to their website, found the feedback section and said, "Your name sucks."

Needless to say, I didn't hear anything back. However, it is possible that they did respond and I never got it, because this was around the time I was switching my email over to my married name. But they obviously don't care that much, since they haven't changed anything.

So...what's your take, readers? What do you think of when you hear the word 'plantation'? Why do you think the Sweet Tomatoes people have some of their locations with that word as part of the name? Are there any company names that make you cringe?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A funny.

My aunt (please note that I say 'ahnt' and not 'ant',) posted this on her Facebook and I liked it and thought I'd post it on my blog.

A Smart Negro

A Black Man walks into a prestigious private bank in midtown Manhattan and asks for the loan officer who politely tries to direct him to a more commercial establishment.The Black Man says he's going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The loan officer says the bank will need some kind of security for the loan, so the Black Man hands over the keys to a new Rolls Royce. The car is parked on the street in front of the bank. He has all the papers including the title and everything checks out. The bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. An employee of the bank then proceeds to drive the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there. The news quickly spreads throughout the bank and over lunch, the bank's President and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the dumb "N-word's" expense for using a $250,000 Rolls as collateral against a $5,000 loan.Two weeks later, the Black Man returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $20.41. The loan officer says, "Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?"The Black Man smiled and then replied; "Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $20.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"

One of the things I like about this anecdote is that any marginalized group can use it. Just change the title and the slur and voila--you've got your very own story about getting one over on "The Man".

If you have a comment, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I wanna knock your head open and see what's inside.

Today I am going to give you, my readers, a glimpse into my brain. I realize that all my blog posts do that to some extent. But this one is an actual play-by-play of how my mind works. Get ready.

I was watching a documentary on PBS called Surviving the Dust Bowl . I decided to tivo it because I like to learn about history. And other than reading The Grapes of Wrath senior year of high school, I didn't know much about the Dust Bowl. I learned that the Dust Bowl was caused by over farming, combined with lack of rain. If I'm understanding right, it didn't rain any significant amount for 8 years! I learned that animals would die from the dust clouds and when they cut 'em open, they would have two inches of dust in their stomachs. I also learned that there was a guy named Melt who survived the Dust Bowl.

There was a part in the documentary where they called the people leaving the Dust Bowl region for California refugees. "Penniless refugees" to be exact. I paused the program and turned to my husband and said, "They're calling these people refugees? That reminds me of the whole controversy around that term being used during Hurricane Katrina." (That's not an exact quote because this happened like a week ago.) Then I pressed info, and saw that the documentary was made in 1998, way before Hurricane Katrina ever happened.

This example would seem to be a counter to the argument that the use of the term refugee was racially motivated during Katrina. Because while there were probably some black people affected by The Dust Bowl, they sure weren't discussed on this program. So they were referring only to white people when calling them "penniless refugees."

Later, they started talking about how they were trying to get the farmers who were still in the region to start using more earth-friendly farming techniques. At first the farmers had no interest in using these new techniques. Then the government started paying them $1 an acre to do it. I paused the show again, turned to my husband and said, "Why is it never a problem to pay white people to do stuff they should be doing anyway?" I was thinking about our long history of giving white people stuff they don't earn, but getting all butthurt when people of color might get something similar. Then I thought, "I'm going to write a blog post about this." Which brings us to today.

During that last comment, I was thinking specifically about the controversy surrounding paying students to get good grades. Schools around the country are paying kids (mostly kids of color,) for getting A's and B's. Click on the link and read some of the comments that people posted. These kids aren't even getting their money from the school, it's all funded through private donations.

But, how many kids (whose parents can afford it) already get money for getting good grades? I still remember my mom telling me she would get me a camera if I got straight A's in second grade. I was already getting straight A's, but you can bet I took her up on her offer. I even still have the camera somewhere (:

Even if it's just going out to dinner, many families with the financial means provide their children with some reward or incentive for doing well in school. Why do people get so angry when kids whose parents may not have the means get the same opportunity to buy stuff?

So dear readers, what was it like in your household? Was education something that was promoted as important? What if anything, did your parents do to reward you when you excelled? If education wasn't held in high esteem, what was stressed as being the thing that you should be focusing on as a child? What do you think about paying kids to perform? How does the source of the money influence (or not influence,) your beliefs around it's use? I'm interested to hear your thoughts; leave me a comment.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekend Update

So, I tweeted John Mayer about the letter that I wrote him. I have heard that he is very active on Twitter, so I figured why not give it a shot? Not surprisingly, I haven't heard anything back from him. Something tells me he is keeping a very lo pro these days. (P.S.--if you'd like to follow me on twitter, click here .)

I also realized that I never updated y'all on the J.Crew situation from a few months back. There was a pretty neat resolution, and so I figured I should share it.

The day my letter arrived in NYC, my husband got an e-mail from Mr. Drexler himself.
It said:

Hi [my husband's first name] - hope you don't mind that I'm sending but please forward this on to [my first name] (as did not have her email) -

Hi [],

Thx much for kind note - really appreciate - always trying to do the best we can do - have a great weekend!


Millard Drexler
Chairman and CEO
J. Crew Group
770 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

(Dictated while traveling MD:tv)

Random sidenote: the reason J.Crew doesn't have my email address is because I have a separate email address for any non-personal correspondence. It is just a wacky name that I made up whenever I need to give an address to anything that I think my sell/trade my email. This is a really good way to keep your inbox from getting clogged.

My husband liked that it said "dictated while traveling" and I have to say, I thought that was pretty cool too. Probably because I don't do much dictating or much traveling these days :P

So a timely, somewhat personalized response (allegedly) from the CEO himself. Can't get much better than that.

So that's the news and I am outta here...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese...

I wanted to tell you all about a really interesting multi-part documentary series that premiered last week. Faces of America is airing on PBS and follows 12 celebrities as they learn more about their family histories and ancestors. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (you all remember him , don't you?) is the host and he makes these really neat scrapbooks for the people with historical documents and photos teaching them about how they came to be in this country, and interesting things their distant relatives did.

One thing I think is remarkable is how cut off from their family histories so many of the people seemed to be. I always thought this was something that primarily concerned black Americans because of the legacy of slavery. But there were many white participants in the program who didn't know very much about their pasts.

Another thing I noticed was that, when faced with no information we tend to fill in the blanks with information that a lot of the time, is not accurate. For example, Mike Nichols always thought that his late father (who was a doctor,) had scraped and struggled to put himself through medical school. Nope, turns out Nichols' grandfather had made a bunch of money from owning a gold mine in Russia.

I know I would love to participate in something like this, because I would really like to know as much as possible about my past. I am looking forward to hearing more, particularly from the black participants--to see what kind of information Dr. Gates can compile for them.

Faces of America airs Wednesdays (that's tonight!) on PBS, check your local listings for times. You can also watch the premiere on their website if you missed it.

Did you see the first episode? If so, what did you think? Would you want to participate in a project like this? Why or why not? How much do you already know about your family history? Are there any specific things you already know that you'd like to examine more in-depth?

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Open Letter to John Mayer.

Dear John-

I remember folding t-shirts at Eddie Bauer in my post-college days and hearing No Such Thing over the sound system. I liked it so much that I checked the Musak playlist to find out what the song was called, and went out the next day and bought your first major label release. Being only a year younger than you, I could relate to your songs about quarter-life crises, and wondering when your true love was going to come along. I bought a couple more of your albums, I saw you perform live, and in a random moment of post 9-11 angst, may have even referred to you as the "voice of our generation."

So here we are...almost 10 years later. I'm happily married; planning on starting a family soon. You're still writing the same songs about how depressing being single is. You're also dating chicks and dumping them after they take you to the Oscars, and dating other chicks and blabbing to national publications how "crazy" the sex was. I wonder why you can't find a long-term, meaningful relationship.

One of my favorite songs on your first album was Your Body is a Wonderland . But as much as I loved this song,there was always one line that bothered me:

"one mile to every inch of your skin like porcelain"

I thought, "What does he mean 'like porcelain'? Smooth and cold? Or white?"

Now that you've revealed that your penis is a "white supremacist" it's probably safe to say it's the latter.

Now, I understand that people have their personal preferences when it comes to dating, but really, John? I have never been a big fan of people excluding entire groups of people based on skin color. There are smokin' hot, interesting people of all races. (Yes, I do have a bias against non-smokin' hot, uninteresting people--maybe I'll examine that more at another time.)

I also want to share one piece of advice I think will be really helpful to you and any other white people that think "black people love [them]." Actually, to any white person that thinks one black person might even kind of like them.

The fastest way to lose your "n***r pass" (as you so lovingly referred to it,) is to even entertain the idea, much less proclaim to others that you have earned such a pass. It's like the first rule of Fight Club.

Thinking that you are down and as a result, have earned the right to do or say certain things that might be perceived as racist if other white people did them is just a sign of the arrogance and sense of entitlement that is so freakin' exasperating and exhausting to deal with. There are no other white people. Those people are you.

My hope is that you won't come away from this whole thing thinking, " I should have just kept my mouth shut." I really want you to examine what caused you to say the things that you did. Not just "wanting to be clever"--that was only part of it.

What makes it okay to reveal private details about someone you've had an intimate relationship with? Where did you learn your "aversion" to black women? What made you think it would be okay to use the "n-word"? You used a gay slur in that same Playboy interview, why do you think that hasn't been getting as much media attention?

Most importantly: How are you going to change and grow as a person because of this experience?

I was saddened and angered by the comments that you made. My relationship with you and your music has been permanently changed. At the same time, I understand that people make mistakes and that you've said that you're sorry. I just hope that you are willing to do the work necessary to truly understand what you are apologizing for.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Did you know?

That I don't like the letter K? I think it's my least favorite letter in the alphabet. It always makes me think of the KKK. And their obsession with spelling C words with a K. Those Krazy Klansmen.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Taste the rainbow

This is a Starburst commercial I like:

This is a Starburst commercial (that I saw for the first time today,) that I don't like:I probably don't have to tell most of you why I don't like the second one. But if this is your first time reading this blog, I'll give you a quick explanation. A contradiction is something that is "logically incongruous." Being Korean and Scottish is not logically incongrous. It is the belief that it is that leads to instances like the one I describe here. Things like this make my life more annoying.

If you thought the first commercial was hilarious, we should be friends.

Leave me a comment!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DJ Pauly D on the 1's and 2's...

So, I watched the season finale and the Reunion show for Jersey Shore last week.

One of the first questions that the host of the Reunion show asked the cast was if they felt like the show portrayed Italian-Americans in a derogatory light. My man Pauly D had what I thought was a very good response. He said something to the effect of, "I was not on the show to represent all Italians, I was representing myself." His co-stars also reiterated a point that they'd made previously, that if you didn't like the show then change the channel and watch something else.

I agree with Pauly, he is not (nor should he be) responsible for carrying the reputation of the entire Italian-American community on his shoulders. But it was his answer to a related question that made me a little confused. The host Julissa asked if the word "guido" was a derogatory term. He said, "Oh no no no--it's not."

I think what he should have said was, "Well, speaking only for myself and not all Italian Americans--I don't find that term offensive." It's like, you can't have it both ways, bud. You can't on the one hand say that you speak only for yourself, and on the other think that you can give the people watching permission to use a word that many people do find offensive. Because I can guarantee you that thousands of people saw that show, and have now incorporated guido into their vocabularies primarily because Pauly D said that it was okay.

I said the last time I talked about this show, that I had a lot more to say, but Sweet Tomatoes was calling my name. I really appreciated the insightful comments that I got on that post, and I wanted to incorporate some of them here to help guide this post along. It's like Follow Up Fridays, except it's Saturday and I'm not really following up, I'm adding on.

Here is part of what my white friend Carema had this to say about stereotypes:

I am not in as much agreement that the stereotypes that are probably presented in Jersey Shore are harmless as they may seem. Stereotyping, no matter how seemingly inane, leads to prejudice, that leads to discrimination.

I can see how it could seem like I was saying that the stereotypes that the cast of Jersey Shore reinforced were "not that bad." I agree that stereotypes are harmful, or at the very least, not helpful ( you can read more about my thoughts on this subject here.)

What I was trying to say has more to do with the second sentence of the excerpt. Why does someone fitting into a stereotype have to equal discriminating against them? Why does someone doing things differently from you automatically make their way inferior? Like I have said before, I fit some what? It doesn't mean that anything else is automatically true about me.

And here is some of what my white friend JOHNFERGUSON had to say about stereotyping:

Like all jokes and humor about subordinated group identity and cultural difference, it is funny because we can all say, “Yeah that is so true.” But like you noted about the use of pejorative naming words, it is mostly OK when we perceive that the teller of the joke is on our side. When we feel some suspicion that they are taking some attitude of superiority, we are offended.

This is such a critical point. Jersey Shore is only "harmless fun" if everyone is laughing with the cast and not at them. But sadly, we know that is probably not the case.

One of my friends on Facebook posted a Jersey Shore related link on her wall only to have one of her other friends comment, "It's ridiculous they don't realize that they're actually being made fun of."

Now, I don't know this other person. So I can't say if he was speaking as a person who actually does the making fun of, or simply as a concerned citizen.

But I think we can all agree if people are watching the show and treating Italian-Americans worse as a result...that's a bad thing. I watch the show and like the show because I know that I am watching it with a critical eye, and am not looking down on the people I'm seeing on the screen.

But the problem is that there are probably lots of other people who say they feel the same way as I do, but are more inclined to do or say something racish to the next Italian-American they see because that show has been introduced to their brains.

So, where does that leave us? I don't know. I know that Mtv is running a Jersey Shore marathon before the Super Bowl, and that the show is more than likely going to be picked up for a second season. As a reality show connoisseur, I can tell you that the next season won't be as good. They caught lightning in a bottle this time around, and whatever they do next time is sure to be more manufactured and artificial. But this show made Mtv a lot of money, and you can bet they will milk it for all it's worth. I just wonder what that means for all of us.

Comments? I'd love to hear them.