Monday, December 23, 2013

Music Mondays, and why hearing Black is Beautiful shouldn't scare you...

This song is for all of my black girls (and women). If you want to read the lyrics, you can click here.

Originally, I was just going to leave it that. But then I remembered this post, where I learned that it's important to explain to avoid ambiguity. And if you don't learn from your life experiences and change your behavior accordingly, what the heck are you doing with yourself?!

First, something non race-related: It's actually not a good idea to tell your children that if someone ever hurt them, that you would kill that person. Because God forbid someone was harming your children, the fear that you would go to jail for seeking revenge could actually keep your child from telling you about it. And we don't want that.

Okay, moving on...

I really like this song. It's got a great beat, and a positive, uplifting message. I hesitated a bit to post it here, because I don't want to give the impression to my white readers that being a black woman is just a giant bag of suck. I mean, the song is called Black Girl Pain for Pete's sake. But the reality is that black and brown girl's do face unique challenges that other people don't (if you need some examples, click here or here.) I'm sure this part of why Talib Kweli and Jean Grae chose to write what someone on Rap Genius called An Ode to Black Women.

I also know that some people might be put off by me saying, "This is for all of my black girls (and women)." Saying it's for one group of people implies that it's not for others. So...if you are not a black woman, but identify with any of the themes in the song--then it is for you as well.

But...why do I have to say that? Why are some people uncomfortable with hearing pro-black messages? Why are such messages sometimes perceived as Reverse Racism?

It's true, whenever you hear someone expressing a pro-white message, they usually have shaved head and a swastika and/or confederate flag on their jacket. So if pro-white is racist, then wouldn't pro-black be racist too?

No, and here's why: Being pro-black is more like being pro-Irish than it is being pro-white. When a white identity is discussed, it is usually in reference to white people being better than other people. The only people you hear talk about being proud to be white are white supremacists. But there are lots of Irish (and Italian and Polish and other,) Americans that are proud of their heritage, difficulties that they've overcome, distinct parts of their culture, etc. The reality is that white is way too big of a category for people to have legit sources of pride or connection. And it doesn't help that the whole concept of white only came to exist to justify the subjugation of people that weren't white. So it's kind of a flawed grouping to begin with. (I'm not saying white people are flawed, I'm saying the categorization of people as white has problems.)

But when you hear that someone is a proud Irish-American, people don't immediately become fearful, or think those Irish-Americans need to get over themselves or anything like that. You just think we're talking about a group that is proud of a unique part of their identity. And if you know anything about the history of white people in this country, you know that these white ethnics were pressured to give up their identities and assimilate (i.e. become more like the white immigrants from Western and Northern Europe that had arrived before them.) Many did, which is part of why you hear so many white people referring to themselves as mutts, or thinking that they don't have a distinctive culture. But some resisted, and held on to the traditions of the countries they were emigrating from. [Granted, these white ethnics don't have centuries of being enslaved and then targeted by the U.S. government for various forms of maltreatment--but other than that, it's pretty similar. :p] They held on to things that were important to them, and made this country more interesting and dynamic as a result.

So, white people, the next time you hear a black person say something pro-black, don't be scurred. Unless they're advocating physical violence towards you, I don't think you've got anything to be worried about.

And to all my black girls out there, when the world starts to get you down, remember:

Please hold your head up high
Don't be ashamed of yourself, no I
carry you forth until the day I die

belee' 'dat. (:

What do you think? Let me know by leaving me a comment.

To like on facebook, click here.
To follow me on twitter (@myblackfriend) click here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Black people, camping and you.

Commercial time! I've been working on a post on ENDA, but it requires thinking and arguments and reasoning and whatnot, so it's been taking me awhile to get it up. But this post just requires me to be funny, which comes just about as easily as breathing ;) And now I'm cracking up, because I always crack up when I say something I think is funny.

OKAY...Watch the commercial below:

Black people in the wilderness! Woot woot! Big house, big cabin, no smooth jazz playing in the background*--This trend of people of color doing stuff that is not stereotypically associated with them might just be here to stay. I say might because it might not.

For example, I was watching this documentary about the 60's and the hippies. They were talking about how when an idea gets really big corporations co-opt it and then use it to sell their products. Like that, I'd like to teach the world to sing commercial that Coke put out. That was all about riding the wave of the various civil rights movements that were going on during that time and contorting it into an opportunity to sell product. Since we elected a black president, it is safe to say that we are looking for something different when it comes to race. Corporations are listening, and so now they're making commercials like the one above.

I am just wary because you know what happened after the 60's and 70's? The 80's. Politically it was a shift back in a lot of ways--the War on Drugs ramped up and really damaged the black community. I can't help but wonder if something similar is going to happen after Obama finishes up. Are we going to see some Reagan-esque guy get elected? The pundits are saying there's no way Republicans can ever win nationally again unless they change their strategy and reach out to groups of color, but is that really true? The Tea Party is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. I could see one party getting complacent/cocky and another party getting fired up and organized and moving everything back a few decades. I'm not trying to say here that I think Democrat= good Republican= bad, even though it might seem like it. I'm just trying to point out the fact that these things seem to ebb and flow and I'm concerned that the move towards more multi-dimensional representations of black people might ebb again. I'm a fan of perma-flow.

In case you were wondering, I actually like camping. If by camping you mean sitting around a fire, drinking beer and looking at the stars. But if you mean not showering, walking far, and peeing on the ground, then no--I don't like camping. But I'm thinking this has more to do with my life experiences and personal preferences than being black.

So what do you think? Do you think the increased and varied exposure we're seeing of marginalized groups is here to stay? Why or why not? Feel free to talk about this or anything else in the comments.

*If you're a new reader, know that I like smooth jazz and many other things that are stereotypically associated with black people. I am not arguing that some presentations are better or worse, just advocating for a variety of representations like white people have the privilege of seeing. I would also strongly encourage you to like on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter. Thank you kindly (:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I got assaulted by the police, and all I got was this big bag of money.

In our latest installment of Some Cops Behaving Badly we have the story of Dana Holmes, a white woman that was recently arrested for DUI just outside of Chicago. I will post the video, but it's 6 minutes long. For me, that is pushing it when it comes to attention span for videos on the internet. Here is a recap of the important parts: Three cops are there, and she is being patted down by one female officer. She lifts up her foot, the way someone might when being asked to show the bottom of their foot to someone else. All of a sudden, the cops grab her and throw her into a cell. They then proceed to strip her clothes off. She just lays there in the cell face down crying. Then a few minutes later they throw in a blanket for her to cover herself with.

Feel free to watch for yourself:

[ETA: here is a link to a shorter video that actually shows her clothes being removed.]

A couple things: In the police report, the officers claimed that she "kicked" one of them. Anyone with functioning eyes can see that is not what happened. To me, it looked like she was following instructions to show them her feet and then all of a sudden they got pissed and went cray. Also, they claimed they removed her clothes because they were performing a "strip search." I'm no cop, but I've watched plenty of cop shows. That is not how you do a strip search. For one thing, when you're searching someone with no clothes on you have them bend over so you can look up their butt to make sure they haven't hidden anything there. That didn't happen.


Because they weren't strip searching her, they were taking all her clothes off because they could, and she had clearly done something that they didn't like. They were trying to humiliate her and teach her a lesson. That lesson being: Don't F with the police.

I'm guessing she got the message.

This example shows us, that we live in a nation where regardless of race, color, creed or national origin--if you give cops attitude they all can (and some will,) make your life a living nightmare.

So let me tell you what is most likely going to happen next. First, I have to point out if this video didn't exist, absolutely nothing would happen. This would be a disturbing story that Dana Holmes told her friends and family, and that would be the end of it.

But since we have moving picture proof of the encounter, here's what's going to go down: Dana Holmes is going to sue the police department, and the officers involved are going to be put on paid administrative leave while they investigate. Ms. Holmes and the police are going to reach a settlement, where she receives a lump sum cash payment. It'll be anywhere between 50,000 and 500,000 dollars, depending on how good her lawyer is. The cops may or may not be reprimanded, but most likely all the cops involved will be allowed to keep their jobs. On the off chance they do get fired, they will go to their police union and challenge their firing(s). Then they'll get re-hired once all the media attention dies down. Ms. Holmes might spend her money to buy a house, or she might blow it all on meth to deal with the PTSD she got from being treated so callously by the police. Since it's her money now, she is free to do with it what she wishes.

Here are just some of the problems I have with the likely outcome to this situation.

1) I am a bit uneasy with the idea that people that go through traumatizing things get money for it. Obviously, no one is going to turn down money. But it seems like if you were the recipient of a bunch of cash from a lawsuit like this, the money would seem like blood money. How would you enjoy it? It seems like whatever you bought with it would just be a constant reminder of your horrible ordeal.

2) Paying money as punishment for doing something wrong makes a little more sense when you are talking about suing corporations, because corporations are motivated by money. But what about when you are talking about the government? The government doesn't have a profit motive. I'm not sure what the government is supposed to be motivated by. If I had to guess, I would say something like the common good . How is it in the interest of the common good to pay one person a large sum of taxpayers' money, and let the so-called public servants that caused the money to be paid to continue to work and receive more of the taxpayers' money? It's not.

3) I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of any victim of police brutality getting money. But the problem is that when we just pay off victims, and do nothing to change the system that caused the incidents in the first place. We are just inviting more incidents to happen. A better outcome in this situation would be for Ms. Holmes to get her check (or not,) AND have all the police involved in this incident fired and banned from working in law enforcement at any point in the future. The PD where this happened could put out a strongly worded statement saying how those officers were wrong, and they have no tolerance for such behavior. They would show this by retraining their officers and continuing to fire cops that decided to engage in such behavior in the future.

If I can turn this into a follow up friday for a moment, I want to go back to the last time I wrote about an incident of some police behaving badly. Except this was an unarmed black man who got shot 10 times by a cop. Yeah, he died.

My white friend Paula (whose late father was a cop,) said this:

I can assure you that no one dislikes bad cops more than good cops do.

Well Paula, they sure have a funny way of showing it. I have never heard a cop that is currently employed by a police department speak out publicly against another cop when they do something wrong. People who know me in real life, know that I don't use absolute language often. So when I say never, I mean never...not even one time.

It would be so great if these good cops would come together and create and organization called Police Against Police Brutality. Or maybe Police for Positive Policing. I said here that I don't like it when people always define themselves as against something.

I googled the first term I mentioned, and you know what I came up with? A group called something like Black Cops Against Police Brutality. And it looked like their website hadn't been updated since 1988.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy to see such a group exists. But it doesn't surprise me that black cops are against police brutality, since black people are disproportionately the victims of police brutality. Since cops are disproportionately white, I think it would be nice to see a group that encompassed police officers of all races that were committed to ending abuses in departments across the nation.

I'm gonna wrap it up here, because I've been writing for awhile. Once again, I have to give my disclaimer that I am in no way attempting to disparage all cops. I know from personal experience that some cops are quite cool. My general impression of the number of fleeting experiences that I've had with them is that if you're neutral or nice to them, they will be neutral or nice to you.

I am talking about the minority of cops that do damage to the reputation of cops as a whole. Some other examples of positive policing that could occur would be:

--Making videotapes like the one that recorded Ms. Holmes standard in all police departments, big and small. I also think that all cops on patrol should wear cameras on their person. There should also be serious penalties for departments that "lose" footage, because that seems to be an unusually common occurrence when said footage is subpoenaed in court cases.

--Removing the Internal Affairs department and having incidents of cop misbehavior be investigated by a panel that has nothing to do with the police. It would be awesome if the panel was just made up of randomly selected residents of the area that the department served.

--Making it easier to fire bad cops. This goes for teachers too. And anyone else that is protected by a union. If you're pro-union, you should not be pro-union so incompetent people can keep their jobs. There are many benefits that unions bring about, but keeping substandard employees employed shouldn't be one of them.

So, we'll see how the situation with Dana Holmes plays out. I am interested to hear what you think about what I've written, or about any of the topics I've discussed more generally. Click below all those colorful boxes at the end of this post where it says, " _some number_ comments" and leave me a comment.

To like on facebook, click here.
To follow me on twitter (@myblackfriend) click here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baboons in a hot spring.

Now, I rarely ever blog about specific things just because people ask me to. Normally, I just like to wait until I feel like if I don't write about something, I'm gonna bust.

But when my OG weezermonkey asked me on Twitter to blog about this commercial, I just knew I had to. She's been with me since (almost) the very beginning, so who am I to say no? So without further ado, check out this commercial for the Samsung Smart TV:

Shout out to Samsung for reppin' the Asian and white interracial marriages. As the Asian half of such a couple I know says, Once you go brown, you don't turn around. According to weezermonkey, half white and half Asian kids are called hapa. I think I might have known that, but I also thought it might be kind of a derogatory term. If it is--take it up with her. I also know that it is the name of my favorite sushi spot, but that's neither here nor there.

I have a lot of the same feelings that I had about the infamous interracial family Cheerios commercial. I don't want to repeat myself, so if you'd like to read my thoughts on that one, you can click here.

After I saw the Samsung commercial, a word that came to my mind to describe this family was respectable.

Now, what does it mean to be respectable? What does it mean to show someone respect? I think to respect someone can mean to look up to them as someone to emulate. But I also think you can show respect to someone that you have no desire to be like. Because you respect all people and/or try to treat all people with respect.

So like when I talked about people looking nice, it's interesting how this family of well dressed people, in a large house, that just bought a very large (and probably very expensive,) tv immediately brings up the idea that they are people that are worthy of respect, or that they most likely behave in ways that I would like to behave.

So what do you think? What do you think it means to respect someone? Do you think that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, or that everyone automatically deserves respect? How you determine who gets respect and who doesn't? What does respectful behavior look like to you? Does someone have to show you respect to get respect back?

Just for the record, I don't like it when people say that not everyone deserves respect, and I also don't like it when people say they have to get respect before they give it. To me, that is like moving towards the lowest common denominator. But if you feel differently, that's fine. We can disagree--respectfully.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The best music monday song ever in the history of everything.

I'm slightly obsessed with this song. Though technically, you can't be slightly obsessed with anything. But I've been listening to it much of the weekend on repeat, and I think you need to experience it. Make sure you actually watch the video and not just listen to the song while you do other stuff on the computer. And you should either watch it full screen, or click through to watch it on youtube to get the complete experience.

Damn. If that doesn't want to make you go have sexytime with your partner, I think you need to check your pulse. But this isn't, it's This means I have to write some stuff about race and inequality. Luckily for all of us, I did notice some things. In a particular order:

--This song continues the tradition of white guys who sound black that I wrote about here. What's interesting is that Sam Smith is from England and Sam Sparro is from Australia. I wonder if there is something about those two accents that makes it easier for white people to get that kind of sound? Or maybe they're just more in touch with their soulful sides. Can you think of any white male singers from the U.S. that sound black? Jon B. is the only one that comes to mind for me.

--We've got the two chicks kissing, which is kind of a big deal. What I think is interesting is that I didn't have the same reaction to that that I probably would have 20 years ago. It's definitely the first time I've seen two people of the same sex kiss in a music video, but it wasn't shocking. I think in large part because of seeing Britney and Madonna kiss at the VMA's in 2003 and then having the news media show it repeatedly for weeks afterward. It's like when you say a word over and over and it starts to lose its meaning. You show two women kiss, and the first time it's like "Whoa!" and then the 75th time it's like "meh."

--You'll notice that they didn't show the two guys that lock eyes kissing. It's like Slow your roll, folks. The only time I've seen two guys kiss in a sexual way was Brokeback Mountain. And maybe an indie film I saw a long time ago that I can't remember the name of. Men kissing does happen in pop culture, but it's always played for laughs, like Will Ferrell and some other dude. Perhaps that will change in the future.

--I think that if they hadn't had the same sex couple featured, they would have had a couple of color. Remember the rule of threes? It's just that nowadays gay people are the we're open minded indicator. This brings up some of the issues around intersectionality that I posted about Friday on's facebook page.

--We've got the interracial (maybe?) couple also featured. I say maybe because the woman is racially ambiguous. She looks to me like she could be half white and half black, or half white and half latina or a light-skinned black person or or any number of other combinations. What's interesting about her is that she is the most scantily clad and obviously sexual of all of the characters in the story. Reinforcing the exotic non-white temptress narrative.

--Another thing about the interracial couple: when's the last time you saw a black guy hooking up with a white woman on screen? But nowadays it is becoming increasingly common to see black and Asian women getting it on with white men. Oooooh weeee, what's up with that? what's up with that?

--Finally, if you check the youtube comments, you'll see they fall into three general categories: 1) This song is awesome 2) some positive comment about the light-eyed, blonde-ish couple in the elevator 3) some statement of disgust about the inclusion of the gay couples. So even though the second couple is supposed to be the most relateable and common, they are largely ignored and the blondies get the favor. Is that because they are in an elevator, and many people have fantasies about getting it on in an elevator? Quite possibly. But maybe it's because that couple most closely represents the white ideal.

That's all. Truly, I originally wanted to post this because I just like the song so much. But then they added the visuals, which clearly gave me a lot more to say. If you have something to say, you should leave me a comment.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Fewer words than usual Wednesdays.

First off, I can see that my last post didn't get many views (damn you, no longer existing google reader!) So if you missed that one, click here. Ok, moving on.

This is a picture that I took recently during family meal out night. Long time readers know why I took a picture of it. If you're new, you can click here or here.

Not only is she in the middle, she's dark-skinned to boot. Sweet.

We won't get into the fact that black people probably invented barbecue and that most places you go that sell barbecue (including Dickey's) are owned by white people. Sigh. We really need to step up our "opening our own businesses" game.

Ok, a little googling showed me that black people didn't invent barbecue, but we can all agree that we worked on it and worked on it for many years during slavery, and aren't reaping our share of what I am assuming is a multi-million dollar bbq industry today.

And new reader, before you think it's all our fault that we didn't start opening rib joints en masse as soon as we were freed by proclamation, click here.

Myself, I do plan on opening my own business here in a few years, a psychotherapy practice. I wrote it on this blog, so now I have to make it come true. Tell your friends.

And after you're done, leave me a comment (:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To protect and serve. Or just shoot a bunch of times--I forget which one.

Another day, another unarmed black man shot by the police.

I know that's not the reality, but that is certainly how it feels sometimes. I'm sure you can excuse my cynicism.

If you don't know what I am talking about, please click here. They've got a comprehensive summary of the events.

As I've said before, part of the problem when you are talking about race is that you can never really know if race was a factor in any particular incident, unless all the parties involved agree that it was. And 99 times out of 100 if there are white parties involved, they are going to say that it wasn't. Why? Maybe because if they admit it, they will get the devil's spawn label of racist.

So white people, stop lying to yourselves and others when you do something racist. And black people, stop using white people's racist behavior as an excuse to jump down their throats without offering anything constructive that might help them change. Sigh. I can tell I'm freakin' annoyed. But I'm going to press on, because I've got a lot to say about this.

In a number of ways it doesn't matter if Jonathan was white or black--he's dead. And a cop killed him. There are lots of things about this that open up the possibility that it wasn't racially motivated. It was Saturday night, it was dark, he was built like an ex-football player, he was running towards the cops, the woman who called 911 probably gave the impression that he was some sort of criminal, since she was calling 911 instead of asking him through her locked door why he was banging on it at 2:30 in the morning. And maybe the cop was new or something.

Also, I can off the top of my head recall a white guy in my city that was recently killed by the police (though he had a weapon,) a white pregnant woman that was thrown on the ground and handcuffed (though she was not visibly pregnant, and she got 250k for her ordeal.) And let's not forget about the white grandma and white college student that were tased by white cops (Don't tase me, bro!) Oh, there is an incident where a young white man with Down Syndrome was killed by police when they were trying to subdue him for sneaking into a movie that he wanted to watch a second time. That one didn't even make the news (at least not the channel I watch.)

So, just like police apparently need to learn that perhaps they should change their approach when dealing with a person with a developmental disability, perhaps they should try harder to resist the conditioning that they've gotten from The Birth of a Nation, their grandparents, and/or gangsta rap that tells them to shoot 10 times when a big black man that's just been injured in a car accident is running towards them.

And just a PSA for my readers: If you are ever walking towards the police and they tell you to stop and you don't, they are trained to shoot you--even if they believe you are unarmed. Why?

Because if they don't shoot you, you could get close enough to them to overpower them and take their gun and shoot them. Also, they are not going to shoot to wound. They are trained to aim for the largest part of your body (your chest.) And if you get shot in your chest, there is a good chance that you are going to die. So, all that to say-- just do what the police tell you to do.

It may not seem like it, but I'm not trying to bash on cops. Number one, I don't feel like getting harassed for the rest of my life. Number two, I know their jobs are stressful and they have to deal with a lot of BS. I was even arrested once (a story for another blog post,) and the cop that I dealt with was actually pretty cool. I just wish that cops wouldn't always stick together and support the few among them that are doing wrong.

Like, I can't remember the exact statistic, but in most departments there are a couple of officers who get complaint after complaint, and most officers get one or none. But those officers with multiple complaints against them are allowed to keep their jobs, in no small part due to the police unions that for some reason think those people shouldn't be fired.

I'm speaking directly to cops right now: Those "bad apples" are giving your profession a bad name, and everyone would be better off if they weren't part of your organization. Forget this code of silence crap, and listen to your conscience. You probably got into this profession to help people, but it can be hard to do that when some of your co-workers are unjustifiably abusing and killing others. Being able to legally kill people is a privilege, and it would make sense to me that you would want people that are given that privilege to be held to very high standards.

Ok, I'm not talking to the cops anymore. As a citizen of the United States, it should be reasonable to assume that the people that swear to protect and serve you will do just that. You shouldn't have to worry that your physical size, your skin color or anything else is going to cause them to take an action against you that has fatal consequences. If Randall Kerrick is actually guilty of this crime, I hope that he receives a serious and significant punishment, and that police officers across the country will applaud the verdict as a sign that the community (cops included,) will not just stand idly by and allow things like this to happen.

So, that's what I think. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The 15th thing you can do to stop being racist.

[Editor's note: The stuff below was originally part of another post. I cut it out because I decided that post was too long. If you'd like to read that post, click here . And if you're wondering what things 1-14 are to stop being racist, click here.]

#15) Read blogs and websites whose target audience are people that are different than you.

Not like this blog (though you should definitely keep reading this one or I'll be sad.) is great, but it really only talks about one thing: -isms. I'm talking about sites that discuss music, current events, fashion, family life, etc. Places where you can read and learn more about different (sub)cultures without having to potentially annoy your one __fill in the blank__ friend by asking him/her questions. You also get to see what said _fill in the blank_ people think and say when talking amongst themselves.

Ok, as I write that last sentence I realize that what I am advocating might seem a little sneaky, but it's really not. On the internet, people know that whatever they say is public. So even if it's a site for say, Asian women--the idea that non-Asian women are not allowed to read is just dumb.

An example would be if you're a guy. I'm not going to give any more examples, because like a Romanian gymnastics coach, you can show me how badly you want it by finding these types of sites on your own.

But a key part to thing #15 is that you don't go there and start trying to take it over by commenting all the time, or asking to write articles, or telling everyone how you agree/disagree with them, or giving unsolicited suggestions on how the site could be improved. That's just annoying.

You're there to watch and learn. You'll get to hear about things that you probably won't hear about from sites that are run by members of the dominant group. And you'll get to hear about things that you are reading about on sites run by the dominant group from what is likely to be a different perspective. You'll also learn that the people on these new sites are just like the people in whatever group you're from--some seem smart and some seem stupid, some seem nice and some seem mean, etc. etc. etc.

If you have anything you think would make a good addition to my list, or you'd just like to leave me a comment--leave me a comment.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Gotta dance!

[Editor's note: On Sunday, September 8th, I decided this blog post was too long. So I split it into two. You can read the second part here.]

Hey y'all. I know it's been awhile. I've been busy (I'll explain later,) but now I'm back. I know some of you are/were looking for a Trayvon Martin post. Of course I have thoughts on the verdict, but I am not going to write them today.

Today, I want to talk about the video below. It's possible you've already seen it, since it went viral a couple of weeks ago. If that's the case, you don't really need to watch it again.

That was how Sam Horowitz, a 13-year-old from Texas, made his grand entrance at the party/reception following his Bar Mitzvah. I'm guessing it went viral because it could definitely be described as over the top. Although, it doesn't even have a million views so is that even viral? Whatevs.

One of the places that I saw Sam's video was a site that I have liked on Facebook that talks about all things Jewish. Whoever runs their Facebook page asked people what they thought about the performance. Surprisingly, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. People talked about how his family had messed up priorities, were materialistic, were going to make other families feel like they had to "keep up with the Joneses" and other similar things.

One thing that really stood out to me was that the comment that had the most likes contained the phrase "[this] makes us look bad."

That of course, begs the question: Look bad to whom?

Well, we all know the answer to that. It supposedly makes them look bad to Goyim, non-Jewish people.

As a non-Jewish person, I thought the routine was fun, and just a young boy who likes to dance, performing for his friends and family. I heard on Inside Edition that he had done some fundraising for people in Israel. Community service is apparently part of what you are supposed to do when you have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

It also bugs me when people say things like, "The money spent on x could have fed y starving children!" It's like, "Um, the computer you're writing your self-righteous comment on could probably be sold to buy a poor person a whole new wardrobe."

I am of the opinion that people can do what they want with their money. If they did what you wanted them to do with it, that'd make it your money.

So I left a comment that said what I just said, minus the part about how people spend their money (I don't like to be snarky.) I didn't say, "I'm not Jewish..." but since I'm black and my last name is Gustafson...people probably figured it out. And yes, I know you can be a black person named Gustafson AND Jewish--but I'm not.

You know how many people liked my comment? Zero.

Another sidenote: Am I the only person who goes back to comments I've written on Facebook to see how many likes they get?


Ok, nevermind.

So all this brings me to my point: What is up with this concept that things that people do make other people look bad? You rarely hear about white, straight, tall, able-bodied men talking about how other people like them make them look bad.

Also, what is up with saying things about a member of your own group that if another person who wasn't part of that group said, would get them labeled racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, etc.? If you click through to see the comments on the video on youtube, you will see what I mean. And I have experienced this on sites that are about black people as well. And with people I know for sure are black, because they are sitting right in front of me.

If you find yourself being highly critical of members of your group for displaying certain characteristics, in a way that you don't allow other people to be, you need to realize that either:

1) Those people not in your group have a point, and don't be so quick to label them as evil and hateful.


2) Your internalized racism/homophobia/anti-semitism/etc. is so high that you are doing the work of your oppressors for them.

If you don't like materialistic people, fine.

If you think that video proves that the Horowitz family is materialistic and you don't like them because of that, less fine, but fine.

If you think that the Horowitz family is materialistic because they are Jewish, not fine.

If you think poorly of other Jewish people because you saw this video of Sam, not fine.

Of course, I want to hear what you think. If you are part of a marginalized group, what do you think about the idea of whatever making us look bad?

And the reason I have been busy...I had another baby! She was born at the end of June. If/when she does something blog worthy, I will call her Georgina. And no feet pictures, but you can rest assured that she is adorable (:

So seriously, leave me a comment. I've missed you all, and I want to know what you're thinking.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dark Girls documentary, and a google reader alternative.

Let me tell you a story about one of life's simple pleasures. Rabbi Shmuley says that the way to be happy in life is to find pleasure in the mundane, since the mundane is what makes up most of your days.

Before we moved, I used to have OWN. I watched it all the time. The show about the eating disorder clinic, Ryan and Tatum O' Neal's show about their messed up relationship, Sarah Ferguson's show where she screamed in the desert and followed a string around the backyard while blindfolded--I was all over those. Then we moved and I thought my access to OWN was gone forever (or at least as long as we lived here.)

Then after we had been living here several months, I saw a tivo suggestion that had recorded on OWN. I clicked on it, fully expecting to see a blank screen and a message about how that channel wasn't authorized. So imagine my surprise when an actual show came on! I had OWN again! Who knows how long I'd had it. Instead of focusing on the shows I'd missed, I figured it better to focus on all the shows I could watch in the future. So, the last thing I watched on the channel was Master Class with Susan Sarandon, where she shared gems like it being important to celebrate rejection like you celebrate victories, because not getting something you think you want opens you up to getting something else.

So how this all relates to race and inequality: Oprah's network is showing a documentary this Sunday called Dark Girls. It is all about colorism, something I talked about in my first point of this post. You can watch trailer for it below:

They also have a longer (9 minute) trailer you can watch on the film's website here.

So, if this seems like a topic you would be interested in learning more about, I would encourage you to watch the documentary this Sunday, June 23rd at 10/9 central.

And now for the second part of this post's title. It looks like Google is not changing its mind about getting rid of Reader at the beginning of next month. I have switched over all the blogs I read to Bloglovin'. I haven't completely figured it out, but it is free and it seems to be good enough. They have a way to automatically transfer your blogs from reader to them, which seems like it would be helpful if you read a lot of blogs.

If you don't follow a lot of other blogs, you can like my blog on facebook.
You can also follow me on twitter.

The good thing about both of these avenues is that I sometimes post things on both of these sites that I don't necessarily discuss here on the blog. Like bonus features of a DVD or something. Though twitter is more like the blooper reel :p

I also have an option where you can sign up to receive new posts via email. I don't know how to post a link for that. But if you're not on a mobile device, you can look on the right sidebar (right under the about me section,) and sign up. And if you are on a mobile device, you can wait until you get to home or work and get on an actual computer and then look on the right sidebar under the about me section and sign up.

I think that's everything. Feel free to leave me a comment, though I don't know that I said much to comment on. Maybe you can tell me your favorite show on OWN.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

That freakin' cheerios commercial.

So two people told me directly about this commercial. I had seen it on four or so other blogs before that. A couple-three people posted about it on facebook, and I've seen it discussed on two tv shows. Watch it below, if you haven't seen it already:

So here's what I think about the whole Cheerios interracial couple commercial. Get ready for the bullet points.

--Are we surprised that people leave racist comments on videos on youtube? If so, I don't know why.

--This reminds me of racist hunger games tweet Johnny that I wrote about in this post. Wow, you don't have a problem with interracial marriage? How forward thinking of you. If you would like to take this opportunity to feel morally superior to some trolls on the internet...knock yourself out.

--Who broke the story that Cheerios had to close down the comment section on the video? Was it Mr. Cheerio? Call me cynical, but they have gotten a truckload of free publicity from this story. I'm sure they're familiar with how youtube works (see two dashes point #1)--is it possible some ad guy/gal was thinking a couple steps ahead and saw where this might lead for them?

--As far as my personal feelings about the commercial: It's fine. I have not written about this here before (mainly because I didn't want it to affect my street cred,) but I am in an interracial relationship myself. I am glad that George can see a kid that looks like him on television. But I think their next commercial needs to be hot white dad/hotter black mom--so George can really feel like his family is being represented ;)

--Yes, there are all types of families. Which ones should get the mainstream corporation commercial treatment? Interracial couples? Gay couples? Polygamous families? Polyamorous families? Families where one partner is old enough to be the parent of the other partner? Single teen mothers? Couples where the mom is taller than the dad? Families where everyone is obese? Where someone is blind? Where the family lives in a trailer? A public housing project? Where they're homeless? Some of these and not others? Why?

--The first place that I saw this commercial was an online magazine whose target audience is young black women. One of the conversations going on in the comment section was that commercials like this one serve to help destroy the black family and discount the idea of black love. I put it in italics only because it's an actual thing/concept that I am assuming most of my readers are not aware of. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I think I may write a whole 'nother post (or several) about interracial relationships, but I want to just stick to the commercial for now. I did this bullet point because I think it would surprise some white people to know that some black people aren't super excited about the chance to be featured as member's of a white person's family.

--Which leads me to my final two dashes point. We need to be very wary of the we're just like you, strategy. MLK seemed to be a fan, and I feel like the current push around gay rights seems to have strong elements of this as well. One thing that was so striking about this commercial was that it was so normal. And by normal, I of course mean that it could have been an all-white family with no changes. Because isn't that who gets to be called normal--white people? This whole accept us because we're just like you--we dress like you, talk like you, think like you, waste perfectly good boxes of cereal like you way of thinking is dangerous for at least two reasons. First, it opens up members of your group (of which there are usually many,) that don't conform to this mainstream way of behaving to what appears to be legitimate ridicule and exclusion. Second, it accepts without question the idea that the dominant culture's way of doing everything is the best way. This just reinforces the idea of supremacy that we are supposedly fighting against. White people have had some great ideas (like being on time,) but they haven't figured out the best way to do everything. Some of their ways of functioning are just as destructive as other groups. So instead of trying to fight for your slice of a dysfunctional pie, change the recipe so by the time you get your piece, it already tastes delicious.

You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because you are a human being, period. Don't forget that.

So those are my thoughts on the Cheerios commercial. As always, I would love to hear what you have to say--so feel free to leave me a comment.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Party in the U.S.A.

A little story for your Friday...

Remember this time when I wrote about the little white girl at storytime who had some words she wanted to share about my hair?

Fast forward to today. George and I needed to get out of the house because the weather had sucked the past couple of days and we were both about to go stir cuh-razy.

I was trying to figure out where we could go/what we could do. I decided lunch would be good. Sometimes we'll go through the drive thru, and then I'll park and move George up to the front seat where we can enjoy our lunch with a/c and our favorite tunes.

On our way, I realized this restaurant had a play area, so we could eat inside and afterwards, George could run around and burn off some steam before his nap. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

While we were having lunch, I realized I was a little apprehensive about going to the play area, because I didn't want something like this to happen. Even though he's almost 3, I have done a pretty good job of keeping him in a little bubble where pretty much everyone he encounters either loves him, or thinks he is really, really cool. But I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that bad things are going to happen to my kid no matter what, and since I don't parent every kid in the world I just have to accept it, and try to give George the tools to handle things on his own.

So we're in the play area and we've been there for about 1 minute when this little white girl comes up to me. It wasn't the same girl from storytime. I later found out her name was Olivia and she was 3.

So Olivia comes up to me and skips the normal "Hi, how ya doin'?" and just says,

"I like your hair."

Thanks Olivia. 'Precinate it.

And that my friends, is how you give a compliment. Try it today! I bet you can make someone smile.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My reaction to Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's song Accidental Racist.

So this song is being talked about a lot on different shows I watch and different blogs I read. I haven't read the blog posts, because I didn't want my own opinions to be influenced by what other people were saying. But from what I've heard on my shows, the song is not getting a very positive response. How about you all just listen to it, and then we can go from there. [Edited to add: it looks like the song keeps getting taken off of youtube. Which doesn't make any sense because if we're supposed to listen for ourselves to make up our minds, we need to be able to hear the song, amirite? Anyhow, if you want to read the lyrics, you can click here.]

Ok, it's not the best song I've ever heard. But let's start with the good stuff. [Pro tip: whenever you're giving constructive criticism, always start with the stuff the person has done right.]

--This song is an example of what I was talking about in my last post, about how white people need more truth and black people need more reconciliation. LL definitely goes for the reconciliation (R.I.P. Robert E. Lee) and Brad does acknowledge that the South has a troubled history (not as much as I would like, but we'll get to that in the next section.)

--Both guys make good points that they are guilty of judging people based on how they look. This is something that people of all races are guilty of, and the world would be a better place if everyone made a conscious effort to do it less.

--I appreciate Brad saying that he wears the confederate flag, but does not intend for it to be racist. I still don't fully understand this, but maybe I understand it a little better after listening to this song. Apparently he and LL are actually friends, and if you asked me before if someone who wore a confederate flag would have a black friend, I would have said No.

--I think they both deserve some credit for even putting the song out. Race is a topic that seems to be spoken about in bursts by the larger society (examples: here, here and here.) There is usually a big brouhaha, a lot of criticism, and then the incident in question just fades away. Brad Paisley felt the issue was important and so he decided to make a song about it. This is not something that many white artists do. Can you name another song put out by a well-known white artist that has to do with racism? Let's say in the last five years or so.

Okay, let's move on to the opportunities for improvement [Pro tip#2: call stuff that isn't that great Opportunities for Improvement]

--I heard Brad say in an interview something like, "Our country is still in its adolescence when it comes to dealing with issues of race." So, it would make sense then that a song written about it would be something of an oversimplification of the issues.

Yes, race issues are about slavery, but they're not completely about slavery. It's also about all the other things that are related to slavery that have happened since then. It's about the fact that there was an opportunity immediately after the war to rectify the situation, and it wasn't taken--by the same men that Brad seems to be celebrating when he wears the Confederate flag on his chest.

--The chorus talks about being caught between Southern pride and Southern blame.

While I was making our oatmeal this morning I thought, Why doesn't he say Southern shame instead of Southern blame? It would still rhyme.

And then I thought, Can you be ashamed of something that you didn't actually do? Then I realized if you can be proud of something you didn't do, then it would follow that you could also be ashamed of things you didn't do.

I understand that the blame comes in because he is talking about the black/white dynamic, and he's saying that black people blame white people for things that white people had no control over.

But I think the reason that I would have liked him to use the word shame is because I think on some level, I just need to know that he really understands the enormity of the situation.

If you're going to be proud of the good things about the South, then you need to be ashamed and embarrassed about the bad things about the South. Because if you just try to gloss over the bad things, it makes me think that you don't really think they were that bad. And if you don't think the things from the past were that bad, you're definitely not going to think that things now are bad, because things now are better than they were then.

Like he says, It ain't like you and me can rewrite history and then later, we're still payin' for the mistakes that a bunch of folks made long before we came. Both of these are true sentences. But the first line, he's talking to me as a black person, like we have to work together to move forward. I get it, I'm down.

But then when he talks about the bunch of folks line it's like, No Brad, it wasn't a bunch of folks, it was a bunch of white folks. Why can't you just say that?

A bunch of white folks did some stuff to a bunch of black folks and now a hundred plus years later, white folks as a whole are in a much better position than black folks, even though it's not legal to do that bad stuff anymore. What's up with that?

I don't think I've said this before here, but I think a parallel can be made between how white people in the United States feel about slavery and about how non-Jewish Germans feel about the Holocaust. Of course they are not completely the same, because the Holocaust was more recent, and people were being killed, not enslaved.

But I would imagine it's similar because you have these ancestors, that you want to honor and look up to. But at the same time you have to reconcile that they did some really f-d up things (or just stood by while f-d up things happened.) Why did they do that? Were they just going with the flow? Were they evil? Were they preoccupied with stuff in their own lives? Did they just not think critically about all the things that they had been taught about why it was okay to treat their fellow human beings in such an inhumane way?

I'm just speculating here. Because I haven't lived a long time with this label of oppressor, I don't really know what it's like. But I do know that when/if you apologize for something, you can't at the same time minimize what you're apologizing for.

So, I'm not really willing to say RIP Robert E. Lee just yet. But I am willing to give props to Brad Paisley, and to tell him that I truly believe that his intentions are good. If he is really interested in talking more and thinking more about race, I would invite him to read this post--I think it's an excellent place to start.

So what do you think, readers? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Why black people and white people can't get along.

I've been in a funk since before I wrote my last post. The funk came, then it went away, then it came back, and now it's gone again. I think that is typically how it works (at least with me anyways.) I was trying to think about what was causing it, and as far as blog related reasons, I came up with a couple ideas.

I am bummed because Google is planning to get rid of Google Reader this July. I think that is a way that a lot of my readers use to track this blog, and I know that I use it to follow a ton of other blogs that I read. Also, ever since Facebook changed the way they display posts from pages (in an effort to get page administrators to pay,) the number of people that have liked my facebook page that actually see what I share on Facebook has gone way down.

Am I whining? Probably. But what's that saying? Whining will set you free? Yeah, I think that's it...

So if you're a fan on facebook, know that the more that you comment or like my posts that you do see there, the more likely you are to see other things I post. And if anyone has a good (free) alternative to Google Reader they'd like to tell us about, please leave me a comment. Finally, if you want to sign the petition to try and save Google Reader you can click here.

Ok, onto the race and inequality stuff. I have to say for the record that I do believe that black and white people can get along. Some already do on a small, individual friendships level. But if we're talking on a societal level, I just think that it will take a lot of work. Like, putting a man on the moon amount of work. But I picked that title because I think that it is something that an internet user interested in race might search for, and also because I have a little story from my life that I think will help illustrate why some people might think that we can't.

So, in keeping with the making sure our kid's not a weirdo goal of parenting I wrote about here, my husband and I decided to enroll our son in some toddler music classes. They're once a week and we sing songs, bang on drums, all the usual toddler music class stuff. Sometimes the teacher (I'll call him Dave,) lets the kids strum his guitar.

So our son was strumming Mr. Dave's guitar. I realize now I never made up a name for our son. Let's call him George.

Little George was strumming Mr. Dave's guitar. Oh, I should mention that Mr. Dave is white and all the other kids and parents are white too. But you probably already knew that, right?

So George is strumming the guitar, and Mr. Dave says, "George, you have great rhythm!"

Mr. Dave didn't say that to any of the other kids in the class. But it is certainly possible that in addition to being the cutest and most charming participant in the room, George is the most musically inclined as well.

But one of the first things I thought when I heard Mr. Dave say that was, "Oh, you're just saying that because you think that all black people are great at dancing and music and have great rhythm, don't you--Mr. Dave,?!?!!" ::grumble grumble:: white people.

Ok, I am exaggerating; I didn't think all that. But I did think that I was 99.99% sure that Mr. Dave just said it because it was true, without any racial undertones. And if you asked Mr. Dave, he would most likely say that he was 100% sure that he said it because it was true and without racial undertones.

But the reality is there is the .01% percentage in my mind that there was another reason for saying it. And the other reality is that even if Mr. Dave did think there was a possibility that there was a racial element to the comment, he wouldn't admit it, because that would open him up to being labeled a racist because the limited education that he has received about race as a white person is to say that he never sees or notices race (even though he has functioning cones in his eyes,) and to no matter what--avoid being called a racist at all costs.

And that my friends, is why we have such a hard time getting along. A different black person (or me on a different day in a different mood,) might have interpreted Mr. Dave's comment in a different way. And even if we're not talking about rhythm, we could have been talking about athletic ability or being punctual or being articulate or being aggressive or being loud or being exotic or any number of other things. It's like black people have a completely different frame of reference that they use to filter all the stimuli that they receive from the world. The was that racist? filter.

And, at the same time, there is little to no chance that Mr. Dave would ever admit there was a racial element to his comment, even if he knew there was. Because white people's filter is set up where they can't or don't want to entertain the entire race question. They don't want to examine the messages that they receive from the outside world about race, they don't want to admit the negative beliefs that they hold (for whatever reason,) about black people, and they see all these problems around them that seem to disproportionately affect the black community, but there is a hesitation to have an honest dialogue about what the causes of these problems are. Because when most white people are honest, they get called racist.

It's like we've got these two diametrically opposed ways of looking at the world. And nothing is ever going to change until we can both start to see things a little more from the other filter. It's like I said in one of my earliest posts on this blog: white people need a lot more truth, and black people need a lot more reconciliation.

So that's my story. George has finished watching Sesame Street, so now we've got to go and listen to Pandora while we get ready for the day. You know that I want to hear what you think, so as always--feel free to leave me a comment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taylor Swift's Revenge: Part II

Something real quick before we get to Taylor Swift. They are in the middle of picking a new Pope, and I just want to say that if they pick a Pope of color this time around, it will be further proof that they give a position of leadership to a black or brown person when everything has gone to crap/is about to go to crap. Exhibit A: Barack Obama.

I heard this on The Colbert Report a few nights ago, but you can ask my husband, and he will verify I said it to him well before we ever saw that show.

Just wanted to put that out there. Not really long enough for it's own blog post, but too long for a tweet on twitter.

My last post was about Taylor and one of her more popular songs, and how said song illustrated the idea that even when in a seemingly one-down position, people have a tendency to be cruel to those that have been cruel to them. If you need a refresher or didn't get a chance to read it, you can click here. And the photo above is what I found when I went on google images and typed Taylor Swift and Pope. I think it might be photoshopped. Okay, moving on.

I said I was going to tie her song back to race and inequality, and here goes...

I wonder if part of the hesitation for white people around making concrete steps towards reparations for black people, is this idea that if white people do that, the black people will get more power, and then try to exact some sort of revenge towards the white people. And I'm not just talking about writing mean songs.

If the conversation about reparations is never had, then there is never an acknowledgment that something despicable enough to warrant reparations was done, so we can just kind of avoid the whole topic.

Maybe at this point you are asking, What are reparations? I am not an expert on the subject, but the general idea is some sort of repayment or investment in the black community to apologize for/alleviate the effects of the damage done by slavery and Jim Crow.

Have you heard of 40 acres and a mule? When the slaves were freed after The Civil War, there was some talk of giving each adult male former slave some land and an animal help him farm it. That never happened, I guess they decided sharecropping and mass incarceration was a better plan. I have also heard free college education, massive government spending on social programs, and direct cash payments also mentioned. I have wondered before if some black people that receive welfare see it as a form of reparations that they they are entitled to. Is that my class bias showing, or just an astute observation? Who knows.

I had plans to talk about something else this blog post, so I don't want to stay on this reparations topic too long. For me, I think a legitimate claim can be made for receiving them. At the same time, I don't think the amount that I would consider fair if we're talking direct cash payments, would ever be considered by the federal government. Plus, when you look at the current state of the US economy and the reality that many white people are struggling as well, I really wonder how it would ever be adopted.

Look at how upset some white people get at affirmative action (an idea that may or may not help black people,) and tell me how we get from that, to those same white people being fine with hundreds of millions/billions of dollars actually being spent specifically to help black people.

Ok, let's move on to a less-sensitive topic: Black Power. My white, gay friend (we'll call him Neil,) asked on Facebook what book his friends were currently reading. I didn't answer. I saw Neil a few days later and told him that I didn't answer because I was reading this book:

If you can't see the picture, the book is Blueprint for Black Power by Amos Wilson. It's 900 pages long. I told Neil I didn't want to write that on his post, because I didn't want people to get "the wrong idea." I also asked him what he thought a 900- page book called Blueprint for Gay Power would be about.

I will say that I am on page 650-ish, and the author has not said Kill Whitey once. His main premise seems to be that in order for black people to move up in the world, it all comes down to economics. Black people should put their money in black-owned banks, and shop with black-owned businesses. They should also start their own businesses. He spends little to no time talking about gangs, out of wedlock births, or crime in the inner city. Wilson seems to believe that all of these social ills would be solved if the economics were taken care of and people had well-paying jobs.

He says at the beginning of the book that there have been a number of theories about why white people have been/are racist (cold climate of Northern Europe being one,) but that they can all be summed up by one explanation: because they can be. If black people get economic power, white racism becomes somewhat irrelevant to the whole conversation.

So here are my questions for you, dear readers:

What does Black Power mean to you?

Is a black person preferring to spend money at a black-owned business vs a white-owned business reverse racism ?
What about preferring to live around black people? Or date and marry black people?

I think it's interesting that in a lot of ways we've been supposedly moving towards this ideal of color-blindness, but the inequalities continue to exist along color lines. What are the reasons for that?

Would you be willing to go out of your way to support a black-owned business, in an conscious effort to remedy an injustice? Why or why not? Tell me if you're black or not when you answer this question too, please.

What are the reasons for there being such a focus on charity and welfare (things that do little to nothing to actually improve people's conditions,) and less of a focus on things that can actually help people be more self-reliant?

We've also got the topics of reparations and the new Pope to discuss. Oh, and if you're gay, what a Blueprint for Gay Power might look like.

Before I end, I want to address my statement above about people getting the wrong idea about my current reading selection. I have been writing this blog for a long time, and I know that it can be easier to read about things like me being followed around in stores or how the black model is often on the side, not the center. But topics like black power and reparations are important discussions to be had as well.

People may make judgments or assumptions about me because of my choice of reading material, and they are free to do that. What is most important to me, is that I am honest and true to myself. I think you should be honest and true to yourself too, because that is the only way that we as humans can evolve and grow, whether it is in our personal lives or as a larger human society.

You know I love your comments, so if you have some answers to my questions, or just some thoughts you want to share, lay 'em on me.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Taylor Swift's Revenge: Part I

Here's a Music Monday for you, even though it's Friday. It's Taylor Swift's Mean.

People who are IRL friends with me on Facebook may know that I am not what you might call a fan of Taylor Swift. Well, it's weird. I like many of her songs, but I don't like the that she is such a huge star because while she is a very talented songwriter, she is an average singer at best. So why is she making a living as a singer? I don't get it.

Well that's not true. I do get it--she has a very marketable image, she has some talent, she works hard, and she enjoys being famous--that's why she's making a living as a singer.

Yeah, that's probably mean and maybe I've been sippin' on too much haterade, and whatever else you might like to say. But it is my opinion, and I live in the great country that is the United States where I can say things like that, without fear of the Secret Police coming to get me.

Okay, you can listen to the song now. In case you are not familiar with it, you should know that she wrote this song in response to a critic who wrote a scathing review of her Grammy performance a few years ago.

When I first thought of writing this post, I was only going to focus on the part from 2:54 on. Where she starts to call the guy pathetic and a liar . But I had to listen to the song before I put it up, and realized there is more juicy stuff at the beginning. The very first verse, she talks about how words can be like swords and knives and then she says at 1:39 that the cycle ends right now, 'cause you can't lead me down that road

So...I guess he can't lead her down that road, after she calls him pathetic? But once she does that then she's going to be the bigger person? She's going to be big and important in a city, and he is going to be the loser that no one listens to.

Way to rise above it all, Tay tay.

I say all this not to pick on Taylor, but because this song helps to highlight the tendency we have as humans to lash out at people that hurt us, in an attempt to protect ourselves. Like, when I would get in fights in college with my boyfriend (now husband,) I would try to convince myself that he had all these bad qualities and I was better off without him, yada yada yada. But it never worked, because I knew that I really cared about him and that there was no one else in the whole wide world that I would rather hang out with. So it was really just a not-very-effective defense mechanism.

I said in the title that this post is Part I, because in Part II, I want to bring this all back around to race and inequality. Oh, and if you want to watch another Taylor Swift video that might make you cry (especially if you're a mom,) click here.

Happy Frida. Leave me a comment if you want.

ha ha, that was supposed to say Friday, but sometimes I like to leave my funny typos.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Times they are changin'...

It's commerical Thursday! Watch this classic Diet Coke commericial:

That commercial came out 19 years ago. Yeah, you're old.

That guy is still hot too. I think muscular and hairy chest never goes out of style. Amirite, ladies and some gentleman?

Ok, now check out the updated 2013 version:

What is different about the two ads? Well, lots, but remember what this blog is about...

The second one has a black lady! It was only after seeing them back to back that I ever thought about the fact there were no people of color in the first one. In the mid-90's it probably wasn't so strange to have an office scene with all white workers.

But in 2013, it would be highly unusual to have a commercial with five women and one them wouldn't be black. In fact with five people, you'd probably have a black person and maybe even an Asian or Hispanic person. The old commercial had seven or eight women--all white.

Should we call that progress? I'm in a good mood today, so lets go ahead and call it progress.

That's all. Leave me a comment if you want.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Follow up Fridays

Hi all. So, if you're new around these parts, follow-up fridays is where I respond to some of the comments and questions that I have gotten on recent posts. It's a way to keep the conversation going, and sometimes leads to totally new conversations.

Let's start with a comment I got from chunk hatzumomo on this post, How to stop being racist (for reals this time.)

Chunk said:

In point #3, we are asked not to judge ourselves better than people who make more overtly racist comments. Are we not free to judge on the content of character? I obviously look like an A-hole trying to argue that I should be judged better than Johnny, but by lumping us all together in the same category of racist humans, you are removing the carrot that motivates one to stop posting racist comments. I think it would be better to say we can never achieve the elimination of racist ideas, but we can certainly do "better" than to post racist comments.

This comment raises a really good point; a concern that I think a lot of other people besides Chunk share. The popular narrative is that overt racists are bad, and everybody else is good. I think I can understand some of the unwillingness behind starting to lump yourself in with the already established bad people.

I agree with Chunk's last sentence that we should try to do "better" than to post racist comments. The difference is that I think that it should not be about being better than other people, it should be about being better than ourselves. Does that make sense?

Like, I don't see a lot of value in trying to get some feeling of moral superiority because you don't do things that other people do. We all do the things that seem to be the best for us to do at the time.

Another problem with comparing ourselves to others, is that if you look at someone who is doing worse than you, there is little motivation for you to improve yourself. It's like, Well I don't use slurs on twitter, so my not being racist journey is done.

To me, it makes a lot more sense to look at yourself, and ask if your behavior is in line with your own values. Is the no slurs on twitter standard the standard you want to hold yourself to? Or do you want to go further than that? I'm not saying there is a right or wrong answer, you're the only one that knows.

But Chunk, even if you can't buy into the argument that you are not better than Johnny--there is still something really important for you to think about.

The way that white privilege works, even if you think you are better than that troglodyte johnny--you both get the same privileges from our society, because you are both white.

Now, you might think you are entitled to those privileges for some reason (because you're nice and smart and work hard or something,) but you can't possibly think that he deserves them, can you? That sounds like a pretty good reason to dismantle white privilege to me.

Ok, moving on to my most recent post, Why school funding will always be unequal.

First, let me say that I really appreciated you all sharing your personal experiences and opinions on that post--I enjoy reading what you have to say, and I know that it is easy to just read a blog post and keep it thanks for not doing that.

Paula said:

music, art, etc., are still an advantage even if everyone has access to them. That earlier statement that it was no longer an advantage if everyone had it bothered me. Learning is an advantage to the person because it enriches their life, not just if it allows them to be one up on others.

I have to say after reading this, I have to agree. I didn't mean to imply that having a well-rounded life doesn't have inherent advantages, but I can see how what I wrote made it seem that way. Reading a great book or looking at a beautiful piece of art can change someone's life in a positive way, regardless of how many other people have done the same thing.

I was thinking more about it in the way that anonymous started to describe:

Music classes and computer labs can have advantages even if every school has one. The better teachers tend to teach at the better schools. The instruments can be better if they cost more. The computers can be upgraded and have specialized software, etc.

On some level I disagree with the first sentence, because I agree with the sentences that follow.

Let's just talk about the computers. If there is a federal law that says, Every school must have x computers per y numbers of students. Every computer must be in working order, and must have Microsoft Word and Excel.

So now the poor schools get computer labs. I am pretty convinced that in a few years time, we would start to see something like virtual reality labs in the fancy schools.

Because it's not really about yeah we have a computer lab and hey it's no problem if other schools have them too if they can scrape the money together.

It's about being better. It's about being the best.

And if you can be the best now with just a computer lab, then great. But if all of a sudden you have a bunch of other schools in the running that were never competition before, it becomes What do we have to do to stay on top? That's our society, that's capitalism. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just calling it like I see it.

Harvard is a big deal because it is very hard to get in. 1+s (or 1-s, thank you Chunk,) are a big deal because every choir doesn't get them. If you put the word private in front of a word (like park, school, garden, bus, etc.) 9 times out of 10 it is going to be nicer and/or higher quality than the same thing that has the word public in front of it. The exclusivity itself brings something.

Trying to legislate our way to equality is not going to work. Some people don't want things to be equal, because equal means more competition. And if you're not confident you can beat all that new competition, it's better to just keep them out of the game from the jump. Or if that doesn't work, to constantly raise the bar or change the rules so that you're the one that is most likely to make it to the end.

Virtual reality lab experience will become the thing that gives someone an edge in college admissions. Foreign language classes in all high schools? Well, now the people that have been studying them since elementary school are the ones that will get the job. Are you picking up what I'm laying down?

I know some people might say that I am cynical. But I tend to see myself as being honest, and looking around the corner at what is coming ahead. If we really want things to be better (whatever that may mean,) we need to get real about what is going on, and try to find solutions that don't just give us the same problems presented in different packaging.

But enough about what I think--what do you think? Leave me a comment.