Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fewer words than usual Wednesday

So this is the post I was going to start when I ended up writing this post instead. Yes, it's not Wednesday anymore, but what areyagonnado?

This is a pic of a little boys t-shirt. I'm not really sure why a person would put their kid in a shirt like this, because it's calling the kid's dad dumb. I'm not going to call it reverse sexism or anything like that, but can you imagine if there was a shirt that said, Mom: Like dad, only dumber-- there would be a huge problem.

This shirt is a good illustration of something that can happen when someone is really mean to someone else and then the second person gets a little bit of power. I was going to say oppression instead of really mean to someone , but something about that word is rubbing me the wrong way today. Maybe because it's because I've been doing a lot of reading and seeing it too much, maybe because I feel like it's overused, maybe because I know people read words like that and roll their eyes and say, "Oh, come on!"

Anyhow, another example like this shirt is the trend of calling certain women real women . Like, "In this commercial/magazine article/etc. we're featuring real women ." Usually they are referring to women who are not professional models and/or weigh more than what the dominant culture puts out there as being the ideal body size for a woman. I understand that it is important to show that there is diversity among women, and that that diversity is beautiful. But I don't think that it needs to be done in such a way that puts down the group that has seemingly benefited from the screwed up standard that existed before. Like with the t-shirt: it's important to value the contribution that mothers make to raising their children, without framing it in a way that makes fathers look like dumbasses.

This whole thing reminds me of Animal Farm. If you haven't read Animal Farm, but are planning to and don't want any spoilers, skip on to the next paragraph. The animals are being exploited by the farmer, the pigs lead the animals in a successful revolution, and then the pigs become the ones doing the exploitation.

It makes me wonder if, as marginalized groups get more and more power, they are going to fall into the same trap that the people who originally had the power fell into. The idea that power is best utilized by elevating your status over the status of others, and gaining a large sense of your identity from this elevated status. If marginalized groups buy into the myth that the people with the power have wonderful lives, it's just going to cause them to try to emulate the same behaviors, which is going to lead to the same problems. I think it is more beneficial to look at how the current system is harmful to everyone, even the skinny women and seemingly powerful men. Because if we can do that, we can work to set up new ways of functioning that don't include us just falling back into our old habits.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fewer words than usual wednesday--Not!

It's actually Tuesday right now, but I wrote in my planner start blog post so if I write some stuff before I go to sleep, I can put a nice checkmark next to that action item in the morning.

Part of me wants to talk about my last blog post for a minute, but I want to keep to the fewer words part of these wednesday posts. So lets see how concise, yet eloquent I can be ;)

I'm a little concerned that Rebecca was scared away by what I wrote last time. I used her name a lot, and anyone with a name knows that when someone else uses it unexpectedly, it can be kind of jarring and strange. My husband assured me that I was nice in everything that I said. But still, I can think of some little tweaks that I could have made to the post that would have made it better. Part of this has to do with my perfectionistic tendencies. A good illustration of these tendencies is the lengthy debate that went on in my head just now about whether I should say perfectionist or perfectionistic in that sentence.

Another part is just wanting to encourage dialogue/deeper thought yet also wanting to keep people engaged. And I know that sometimes people don't want to stay engaged if they feel uncomfortable. [ Sidenote: R, I am really not talking about you anymore--just working out some of my own issues.]

There's this struggle for me that I think a lot of other bloggers can relate to. You start a blog because you want to express yourself. You get feedback on said blog that makes you feel engaged/connected/energized. But then you struggle with keeping your priorities straight: Is this thing about me expressing myself, or is it about me connecting with other people? What if me expressing myself makes people not want to read anymore? Then what? It's like the whole tree in the forest. Except instead of a tree and the falling, it's a blog, and instead of the forest, it's the internet. You get it.

And then add to this whole thing that I am a black person talking about things that are related to me being black, to an audience that includes a fair amount of white people who don't know a lot about things related to me being black. And I can't care too much what they think, because then my priorities will definitely be getting screwed up. But it would be somewhat ridiculous to say that I don't care at all what the white people think, because they're the ones that do all the racism andiftheydon'tstopdoingtheracismthenwhyamIwritingthisdernthing?

Oh that's express myself.

Well, look at that--I didn't just start a blog post, I finished one! Franklin Covey would be so proud. I think I'll save my intended topic for a separate post. If you'd like to connect with me via comment...feel free to do so.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Follow-Up Fridays

So, I am attempting to write this post before my son wakes up from his nap. Let's see if I can do it. I also have noticed that I start a lot of my posts with "So,". Sometimes I delete them and sometimes I don't. Just writing that because I was thinking it, and wondering if you've ever noticed it too.

Anyhoo, today's follow up friday comment comes from Rebecca. Rebecca commented on my last post about the use of the word ethnic and said:

I'm terrible at stuff like this but I'm going to try my best......I think that those adjectives are used because they refer to something that isn't the norm. If you walk into a room with 100 people all wearing suits and one is wearing a yellow shirt, you will say "the guy in the yellow shirt"

So I think what this food manufacturer is trying to do is call this ethnic because around here.......that is what isn't the norm. (Now, I'm not saying the food isn't NORMAL) but it's the thing that's different in the frozen food aisle next to the fried chicken that I've been familiar with since I could eat.

Do I even make any sense?

Yes, Rebecca you do make sense. If I am understanding what you are trying to say, you're saying that in the context that I describe ethnic doesn't mean bad; it just means different.

There are several things that I want to say back and haven't spent a lot of time trying to organize them, so now it will be my turn to wonder if I am making any sense (:

I think I will bring back my handy bullet points.

--I was thinking about this idea of difference in a more neutral way when I wrote the post. I consciously decided to use the phrase "not normal" instead of the term "abnormal", because I knew that the word abnormal would probably trigger people in a way that I was not looking to do.

--I disagree somewhat with the idea that ethnic just means different or outside the norm. If we use your example of the guy in the yellow shirt, we wouldn't look at that guy (assuming he is white and wearing an oxford shirt,) and say, "Look at that guy in the ethnic shirt." or "Or look at that ethnic guy in the yellow shirt." The word ethnic has attached to it this idea of racial or cultural difference.

--To take the last bullet even further, cultural difference alone is not enough for something to be called ethnic. For example, traditional French cuisine is not something that most people in the United States eat on a daily basis. But if there was some escargot in the frozen food aisle, it most likely would not be described as ethnic food. Ethnic is most commonly used not just for cultures different from the dominant American culture, but cultures that are associated with people of color.

--Even if ethnic does just mean different...Different from what? Outside of whose cultural norm? Why is fried chicken the "normal" food and like Steven said on my Facebook page , the lasagna right behind it not labeled in the same way? If there is an Indian family who goes to your grocery store and eats chicken tikka masala regularly, that food is not ethnic for them. Heck, if there is a white family that eats Indian food a lot, it's not ethnic/different for them either.

--This leads me to my most important bullet (er, two dashes) point: Why is it that the white people get to decide what/who is different? "Well, we're the majority myblackfriend." Yes, that is true, but according to census data, it probably won't be true for much longer. It also wasn't true in the pre-civil war South.

Numbers might seem like a convenient explanation, but I would argue that it has more to do with power. Power to make the rules, and power to decide who is or isn't following the rules. Because if it was simply a numbers game, when Latinos begin to make up a larger and larger proportion of the U.S. population, white people would happily say, "Oh, I guess you should be in charge now, Latinos--just let us know what cultural/societal changes you want to make!" That doesn't seem to be happening.

--Let's go back to the yellow shirt guy for a second. If I saw yellow shirt guy, I would just notice him and then go about my business. But other people in the crowd might stare at him and whisper among themselves, "Look at that guy in the yellow shirt! Doesn't he know we're all supposed to be wearing suits? He's so dumb/unprofessional/clueless/etc. I'm not going to go network with him." [Rebecca, I have turned your hypothetical situation into a networking event.]

But supposed to be in suits according to whom? To the white guys a long time ago that said that suits are what you wear to look professional. These same white guys decided that ham sandwiches are food, and samosas are ethnic food. To many people, difference doesn't just mean difference--it means bad. To the crowd at the networking event, yellow shirt guy isn't just wearing a yellow shirt, he now has all of these negative characteristics attached to him because of his choice to wear the shirt.

Just like someone who eats tikka masala might be called weird/not normal/UnAmericanbecause they bring something "outside the norm" to school for lunch. I have heard too many stories of kids of color being made fun of for things like this; so I know it happens.

--All of these two dash points don't talk about my original point from the last post. That if you take the term ethnic as it's actual definition, it doesn't make sense to use it in the context of the frozen meal because all frozen meals are ethnic. Rebecca, part of what I gleaned from your comment (and correct me if I'm wrong,) is that the makers of the meal didn't mean any harm in
naming the product what they named it. I would agree with that, I don't think they were trying to say anything bad.

My point is that 1) they didn't describe the product accurately and 2) By characterizing it is as different, the manufacturer is further marginalizing Americans who don't see the food as different, because that is what they eat regularly at home. They are also reinforcing the idea that non-different Americans (i.e. "real" Americans) tend to eat certain types of food.

I feel like I'm rambling a bit, and my quotes and italics are all messed up, but the little dude is calling for his mama--so I've got to go. Rebecca, I really appreciate your comment and I hope that I was able to clarify better what I was trying to say. If you have more comments about my comments, I would love to hear them. And if anyone else has a comment, leave it for me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fewer words than usual Wednesday

This is a picture that I took at my local grocery store. I'm thinking it might be pretty good, because Indian food seems like the type of cuisine that would lend itself well to freezing.

But this blog isn't about frozen food, it's about race and inequality!

The reason I took this picture is because of the name of the dinner, Ethnic Gourmet. Another thing that annoys me is when people/companies refer to anything that does not have to do with white people as "ethnic." Ethnic art, ethnic people, the ethnic hair care section at the store. The ethnic hair care section usually consists of products that are marketed exclusively to black people.

My first thought was that they could call it the black hair care section, but I think we all know the confusion that would probably arise from that. They could also call it the curly/kinky hair section, but I'm, pretty sure a lot of black people would have a problem with having their hair being referred to as kinky. But I bet there are a lot of people who are white that have curly/kinky hair that could benefit from the use of some of the products in that section. My curly-haired white friends, check it out the next time you're at your local big box.

Ok, I'm getting off on a little tangent. The reason the common use of the term ethnic bothers me is because absolutely everyone in the world has an ethnicity. Now, I could go around and find a definition of ethnicity on the internet, but I really don't feel like it. If you are not familiar with what it means, I could describe it as a subset of the concept of race, that takes into account culture and geographic location. Like with race you have white and black , and ethnicity you have African-American and European-American.

So if there were two black people and one was from Kenya and one was from Ohio, they would be the same race, but not the same ethnicity. Likewise, if you had two white people, one from Canada and one from the U.S.--they would not be the same ethnicity. I could get a lot more convoluted and complicated than that, but it's all just one big social construct (i.e. completely made up ) anyway, so I am not going to bother.

When we get into this habit of describing people of color/things associated with people of color as 'ethnic,' but don't do the same for white people, it just serves to reinforce the idea that white people are "normal" and anyone else is "not normal." Like I said in one of my earliest posts, it's like white people are the sun, and people of color are the planets orbiting around the sun. Instead of recognition of the fact that we all have ethnicities; we are all just planets orbiting around something bigger and more powerful than ourselves.

I look forward to the day that green bean casserole is considered fine ethnic cuisine.

Comments? Leave them for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Just a few odds and ends I wanted to go over with you all.

First, I updated my blogroll. I took some blogs off that hadn't been updated in forever (but not you, Eddie ;) I also deleted some that I don't really read anymore. However, I also added a few that I think are worth checking out. It's not a complete list of the blogs I read, just a few that I enjoy, and ones where I don't think the authors would mind having a few more randoms from the internet checking out what they have to say. If you find your blog listed there, don't expect your server to crash from the new mbfs traffic :p You can find them over on the right hand side of your screen where it says "my blog list."

b) I also added some books to my "read more books" section. Right now there are 36 books there, all things that I have read that have somehow shaped my views on race and inequality. While it says that it takes you to 'my store' when you click on the link, I don't make any money if you purchase the books from amazon. But I'm sure the authors wouldn't mind making a few extra bucks (or dimes) from the sale. You can find those also on the right hand side, just click on the orange letters at the top of the books.

III) There are a few more ways that you can connect with me. You can follow me on twitter , and/or 'like' this blog on facebook. I try to post different content on both of those sites, things that you won't necessarily see on the blog.

Like, on twitter you can learn all about my reversible belt. On Facebook you can find out that some Republicans in Mississippi are even more racist than you thought :p

You can also follow the blog with google friend connect. I'll be honest and say I am not really sure how google friend connect works. But those now 56 people (Hi Ivonne!) over on the top right I think will tell you that google sends you an email whenever I make a new post. Plus, you get to put your pretty picture up, and people can see any blogs that you write and other blogs that you like to read. Or you can just remain anonymous and get the email.

Conclusion: I have been debating whether or not to put the information in III at the end of all my posts in some abbreviated form. I'm still debating it, but know if I do do it, I'm not trying to be annoying.

I'm not really seeing much here to comment on, but if you have one--leave it. If you'd like to share some of your favorite blogs that you think I would enjoy--feel free to leave those too.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Music Mondays

I saw this video last week and thought I'd share it. It's a catchy song and has a flashmob in it, if you're still into that sort of thing ;) I am not going to link to the lyrics, because that's not why I'm posting it.

What is remarkable about this video is the diversity of the band. Three of the five members are people of color. When I was in high school, bands pretty much either looked like this:

or this:

There wasn't a whole lot of overlap.

Another thing: while it is a rock(?)/pop song, in order to get the full meaning of the chorus, you have to be familiar with a certain rap song. In general, I think there is a lot more fluidity with race and music than there was when I was younger. I wonder how/if this affects race relations among the youth of today.

I might be remiss in my bloggy duties if I didn't mention that, as usual the lead singer (aka the person who gets the most attention in any band,) is white. And some might argue that their homage to 50 cent is actually ripping off his idea, furthering the long musical tradition of white people ripping off black people's mad musical skillz to make a buck.

However, today I choose to focus on the positive--this nice, United Colors of Benetton band singing their infectious song to their nice United Colors of Benetton audience.

Comments? You know what to do.