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.