Quotable Quote of the Month

What does it take for Republicans to take off the flag pin and say, 'I am just too embarrassed to be on this team'?".- Bill Maher

Monday, January 26, 2009

The History Lesson

The following essay ("The History Lesson") is one I posted on my own blog "Lori's Old School Mix" in June of 2008. Recently, while re-reading the piece, I realized I'd neglected to mention the race of the teacher in question. For the record, the teacher was White. While pondering my original omission of that bit of information, I realized something--for the most part, it didn't really matter. In all honesty, had the teacher been Black, Asian, Latino or Other, the internal angst and discomfort I felt in that particular situation would have been the same.


Back in high school, I had a favorite teacher, who, with his big grin, jerky movements and small, wiry frame, reminded me of a cricket--Jiminy Cricket to be precise. He was an older fellow whose wisdom and intellect I'd accepted without question, until the day he opened his mouth and spat out the words, "Those dirty Japs!"

The first time I heard him say it, I was stunned. I thought to myself, Surely, I must had misheard him. I didn't want to believe that my favorite teacher, a man whom I'd admired for his quick wit and keen sense of humor, not to mention his command of American history, had actually made such an offense comment.

But it was true. Again and again, while covering the U.S. involvement in WWII, one of my high school teachers used the terms "Japs" and "dirty Japs" in reference to the Japanese. And each time he uttered the words, I squirmed in my seat, made uncomfortable not only by his use of the ethnic slur, but by my own hesitancy when it came to voicing my objections.

Some memories stay with one always.

No, I'm not Japanese. I'm not even Asian. (Well, as far as I know *smile* According to the hubby, I do sorta kinda look Asian when I'm asleep). By self-definition, I am an African American of the female persuasion.

But if it matters, and in this instance it did, there was a young woman of obvious Asian ancestry in that particular high school history class. I don't recall her name. She and I weren't friends or even acquaintances. The possibility exists that she was no more Japanese that was I, as does the possibility that she took no offense to our teacher's comments. But the fact remains that we were both young women of color, bound together in one sense by our vulnerable status as the only two visible minorities in a classroom full of young, White students, and bound together in another sense by our silence.

I can't help but think we should have said something, if only to one another. Why didn't we? Was it youth? Shyness? Fear? Ambivalence? Embarrasment? Or was it simply too far an emotional distance for either of us to cross. Twenty-plus years later, I still don't know.

Looking back on the incident, I now find it both unnerving and somewhat ironic that the teacher in question reminded me of a cricket. The truth is, I have a fear of crickets, a fear that involves my not knowing where the little critters are bound to jump next.

And indeed, it is a small jump from Jap to nigger/from faggot to coon/ from spic to jigaboo/

If I, as an African American, wait until the slur turns from slanty-eye bastard to big-lipped baboon, then have I not, in fact, waited too late? Of course, I have. I think even way back then, I somehow sensed it was so.

"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't Communists. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up for me."
(Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984)

"If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."
(James Baldwin, 1924-1987)

And for those who still don't get it, the "History Lesson" here is--just as there is no safety in silence, there is no safety in drawing the lines of intervention around our own ethnic, racial, sexual or religious identities.

(Written while listening to Erykah Badu's "Honey," "The Healer" and "Master Teacher" from the CD entitled New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War). Check the refrain from "Master Teacher":

"What if there was no niggas only master teachers?"

"I stay woke . . ."

What about you? Have there been times in your life when you wish you'd spoken up? What were your reasons for not doing so?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Stomp Heard 'Round the Sporting World

In the January 24th NCAA basketball game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Houston Cougars, an incident happened that has yanked the Band-Aid off to expose the scab of racism that still festers in the hearts of many. During the 2nd half of the game, Houston guard Aubrey Coleman was called for a charge against Arizona forward Chase Budinger. While Budinger was on the ground, Coleman stepped on his face. As a result of his actions, Coleman was charged with a flagrant foul and ejected from the game. Although this incident may be an unfortunate accident at best or an ugly display of unsportsmanlike conduct at worst, some feel that it's racially motivated. In case you didn't know, Coleman is black and Budinger is white.

After watching the clip several times, it still isn't clear to me whether or not Coleman intended to step on Budinger's face. It appears that Coleman does briefly look down at Budinger. However, it could be that Coleman looked down so that he could avoid stepping on Budinger. After all, Coleman wasn't looking down when his shoe landed on Budinger's face. A counter argument is that Coleman could have prevented this if he had walked around Budinger instead of trying to step over him. As Coleman left the court, one of his teammates can be seen giving him some play. Although that move is questionable, some are looking on it as proof that Coleman did step on Budinger on purpose. If that's true, Coleman should be gone for the season at the very least because there is no excuse for that type of behavior. You can judge for yourself by watching the following clip:

A misconception formed by some is that an incident is racially motivated just because the individuals involved are of different races. Because of America's shameful record when it comes to race relations, I don't see any harm in questioning whether or not a situation might be racially motivated. However, I think it's wrong to automatically cry racism when an incident involves different races. I could be wrong in thinking that the incident isn't because of race. However, if one is to label this incident as being racially motivated, they are assuming that it wouldn't have happened if Coleman and Budinger were of the same ethnicity.

I have no issue with debating whether or not an incident is racially motivated, but using this type of story to spew hate is something else entirely. It seems that some cannot wait for these sort of incidents to occur because they know they're only a mouse click away from littering up cyberspace with their previously hidden prejudices. I first came across the Coleman/Budinger story on Yahoo Sports. Below are a handful of the racist comments that have been posted. There was ignorance coming from both sides, these are just some of the cleaner responses. Reading stuff like this makes me chuckle because it's so easy for these people to hide behind their keyboards rather than air their views face-to-face.

82. what a thug. how afro-americanesque of him

88. Typical brother...

94. his (profane) is (profane) rediculous. i can guarantee if Budinger was black and Coleman was white, he'd be a little whiney (profane) and cry about it being racially motivated. I'm tired of certain groups that think they can literally walk all over us because they are protected by equal rights. Hey, equal rights for whites. You see it in the job market all the time, people with less education and experience get the jobs because of what they look like. I'd like to see Coleman get this same thing happening to him , be it a white guy, and we'll see if he cries racism.

127. i bet for coleman this got somethin to do with obama becoming prez

158. Typical African Roundball play.

166. welcome to obamanation

188. Well i will say this. I have lost alot of respect for black athletes. There always getting arrested and causing harm. Its too bad they cant see the harm their bringing to their cause. I try my best not to be racist in any way. But the black community is making that task difficult.

211. As usual black brainless thug in sports. It must be genetic because that race of people are useless for anything else. As we will see from our current mistake in office

5985. What are white people doing playing basketball still anyway? They suck at it.

If you'd like to read more comments on this story, click here.

It's no surprise that people are fired up over the Coleman/Budinger incident. When I started writing this post shortly after 2 PM EST, the story on Yahoo Sports had a little over 1,000 comments. As of 5:05 PM EST, it had 7,567 responses. I'm looking forward to hearing what you readers have to say on this matter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Street Harassment

When I was younger me and the fellas would hang outside and catcall all the pretty girls that would walk by.

It was what young guys who had absolutely no game about themselves and nothing better to do did to try to get the attention of young women.

It is always done in groups where courage against what you didn't understand can be drawn from your buddies.

Back then the idea was to be funny, charming, persuading a girl to give you the attention you wanted and eventually those digits.

Rejection was part of the game and to save face a rude remark would go flying hard at the girl who dared turn her nose up a little too high at you.

But it was something on the lines of "you ain't all that anyway", a small measure to save face in front of your boys, who wouldn't hesitate to let you have it despite the fact that they too got shot down in other colorful forms.

That was about as far as it went though.

It was all part of growing up, boys figured out what worked and what didn't in the safety of their comrades and girls learned to be selective and to get tough.

My favorites were always the ones who had a slick mouth, shooting back comebacks as fast as I gave them.

It was all in fun then, when we were all feeling each other out.

That was then.

Somewhere between the 80's and 90's something changed drastically.

A cold blooded mean streak developed in some men, where women no longer became someone you won over but "something" you conquered.

It went from us getting with them into us vs them.

When women walk the street it is as if they are outsiders in who have to pay tribute before crossing into the territory that is man.

I to tell the truth have been completely oblivious to it, hell it has been awhile since I have seen it take place.

But by all accounts by women this goes on with the full gusto.

The topic has been brought up before by various bloggers with various degrees of effect on me.

Some of the writing and videos made me shake my head and wag my finger, shame on those bad men and just as quickly out of sight and out of my mind.

Others made me question the purpose of the video, as if it had a black male bashing agenda than an actual message of street harassment.

Either way I didn't get it, it didn't stick, it was something that happened "over there" so I had no reason to take it seriously, when I walk the streets with a woman I do not hear a sound, when i am not there I am not there.

That's how I felt about it till this old video popped up.......

This made me real uncomfortable because of the familiarity of the situation, this I understood completely better than any other public service video that was out there ranting against street harassment.

Reason why is because I have been in crowds like that, where packs of men would commit assault on women passing by.

Back in the 90's Atlanta had an event that started off as a quasi college spring break/roving block party.

It wasn't long before the name changed into Freaknik, a name to fit an event where men and women took flirting to extremes.

That was where I first saw a woman sexually assaulted, men surrounded a car where the girls were flashing them and proceeded to grope them through the window.

Things got out of hand quickly as the women went from laughing and teasing, to shock and fear at what was being done to them.

Windows were busted, the hood was dented in on their car, as men jumped on for a better view, a better reach.

The driver with fear in her eyes forced the car through the traffic and the crowd trying to make their escape.

I witnessed similar incidents like this all over the city during Freaknik, each year it got worse and the city finally had enough and did whatever they could to undermine the event, till it finally stopped.

But the truth was the cops didn't have to do a thing, women stopped feeling safe so they stopped coming.

It was as good as dead then.

Now this is an extreme version of street harassment, but it brought things into perspective, I understood that the catcalling was just a first step in the genesis of this behavior.

Now I am no psychologist or scholar that can explain how these actions by these men is a form of oppression against women.

How their assaults is a way to put fear in women's hearts and thus gain some type of control over them.

I can't break it down like that or understand it that way, I don't know that way.

But what I do know is thugs, Ive been surrounded by them all my life, I know how that mind works because my mind worked that way.

I understand this behavior for what it is, dominance, it is saying that no matter what you do, where you go, who you are with, you are beneath me.

You belong to me and I can do whatever I like to you no matter what.

You are my bitch in every definition of the term.

You can't get any simpler than that.

But I want you to remember that I used the word thugs to describe these men because those are the exact type of men who do this.

You see Freaknik didn't go to hell because of college boys with fast mouths and girls with short skirts, it went to hell the moment the men and women who didn't go to college showed up.

Older men and women who never went to college, but wanted to party, started showing up.

This was followed by teenagers skipping school to join in, then you had strippers, prostitutes, pimps, gang bangers, and drug dealers popping up looking to get paid.

It became a deviant gold rush, that's when thing got serious and very unsafe.

The reason I bring this up is that to solve a problem you have to address the cause, the disease if you will.

Let's be real here, women are not the problem, you can build up little girl's and women's self esteem all you want.

Have all the women rights organizations and girl gatherings you want, make all the videos, and blog all you want, scream to the high heavens about how bad these men are.

Tell yourself that you are in control of your life and you can do whatever you want.

But if men and particularly those type of men ain't listening then what?

If the "gold" standard of women, Michelle Obama, walked through that crowd of men in the above video she would have got groped like the rest of them.

Cause on the streets it is you and them.

That boys and girls is real.

The disease is not even black men but criminal black men, thugs, basic to poorly educated, lower working class to unemployed, men who grew up in neighborhoods where violence, crime and poverty were the norm.

Until those issues are addressed I don't believe street harassment is going anywhere, when you are at the bottom of the muck barrel of society you are going to look for anything or rather anyone to step on to make you feel that you are that much higher in the world.

And black women, no matter her status, is always seen as the stool for this purpose.

That's the way I see it, get men off the streets and you break the street mentality that is fed by their station in life and women can feel safer walking the streets than they do now, not much safer but safer nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

White Privilege: Myth or Reality

I teach several Sociology courses both online and on several campuses in the Dallas area. In my introductory sociology courses around the middle of the semester, lo and behold, it is race and ethnicity time! On many levels this is good because it opens up dialogue and addresses the disparities that exist in the United States. Inevitably some of the students get very emotional and defensive and I tend to become a mediator/negotiator, rather than a facilitator of learning.

Rather than speak in vague examples, allow me to provide a case in point classroom experience. Last semester I had a class of around 30 students, which is relatively large by Texas standards. The class was actually a nice mixture of racial and ethnic backgrounds, which included several African American, White, and Latino people. Surprisingly the class even had a Korean, Japanese, a Filipino, an Indian (from India) and a native of Kenya. On this particular day after I completed the Power Point presentation, I opened the floor for discussion by asking how many students in the class had ever been followed around a department store by a clerk. Of course all of the African Americans, the Kenyan and several of the Latino students raised their hands. Oh! and one lone White woman.

This woman, who is a very intelligent, sophisticated, and articulate, compared her experiences of being followed around in a store with the discrimination that minority people face on a daily basis. She actually told the class that she has been followed around stores when she was dressed in jeans and sneakers, ala “Pretty Woman”. I then pointed out, quite nicely, that also like Julia Roberts, she could put on nice clothing and change her image back to an upstanding White woman. There is nothing that can be done to change skin color or ethnicity. Why do people who feel defensive sometimes tend to get the shovel out and dig a deeper hole for themselves?

She was not finished, she became defensive and came with the old cliché that ”one of her best friends” is an African American who has done quite well in life and agrees with the sentiment that most African Americans do not make the most of the opportunities afforded them. At this point I am about to explode, I am sweating profusely, and seeing red. I regained my composure in order not to start uttering profanities and expletives that could cost me my teaching position (I have a mortgage). I ask the other students if there was anything wrong with the image she was trying to project. Fortunately, several of the students (some White) admitted that everyone in America does not have access to the “American dream”. White privilege exists and I do not say this to lay blame. I am just pointing out the facts.

The conversation between the students became heated after that. Here is where my mediator skills come in to play because regardless of my position on a subject I cannot allow students to decimate each other. The Asian students and the lone African remained mute during the discussion because they had not really experienced what it is like to live for a lifetime with such blatant discrimination. I would be amiss if I did not acknowledge that others have suffered some grave injustices. I have visited Indian Reservations and I realize that much of Texas and California once belonged to our neighbors south of the border. As my uncle Imohtep would say "the point I am trying to make is this" there is such a condition as White privilege (click the link to read more). What do you good people think?

~Pamella, AKA pjazzy~

Monday, January 19, 2009

Work to Be Done

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! What a momentous couple of days we have, today and tomorrow! My heart is full, my soul is bursting with pride, and my spirit is joyful. Behind all that, is the feeling that there is still work to be done, still a path to be travelled...there will be no days off.

One of the most miraculous and lasting memories that I will carry from this election season is seeing people, from all walks of life, from every background, of every color, creed, race, and of both genders, gather together to fight for a common cause. During my volunteering at the campaign headquarters, I met the most amazing people. People who shared my passion, but who looked different than me. Was I surprised at this? A little...until I heard them talk, and listened to their reasoning. This didn't have anything to do with Obama's skin color and had everything to do with his ability to spark a flame within all of us to want to become better. After living through 8 years of divisiveness, we all shared a common desire for someone who was going to unite us...someone who was going to remain a steady influence on bringing us all together for the greater good.

In the 40 + years since Dr. King was assassinated, I think that we have lost sight of what the dream he so eloquently spoke of. Or maybe we look at it in a narrow vision, limiting ourselves and limiting what we can do to change the world around us. The election of Obama is not the recognition of King's dream...I do, however, believe that it is an extension of it.

As an extension of Dr. King's dream, that means there is work to be done. We must all start with ourselves and make commitments and changes that put us out in our communities to get our hands in the mix. This world will continue to grow...I want to be a part of that. I owe that to my son, and to myself.

We have not erased the division of race that separates us, nor can we sweep it under the carpet and ignore the ugly head of racism when it rears its head. Electing a Black President doesn't automatically eradicate the disease; if anything it calls it to the forefront, begging for attention, discussion, solutions. It is my hope that we are walking through the door to equality, but it is a reality that there are several more doors to walk through. Dr. King and Obama have given us something to emulate...but we have to aspire and know that we ourselves can attain the existence of standing in that place where the dream has been achieved.

The Purpose of Diversity Ink

In late 2008, a blog buddy of mine named Barbara asked if I was interested in starting a blog that dealt with race issues. Although I liked the idea, I was reluctant to say "yes" because my other blog (Pop Culture Dish) and life in general keep me busy. However, after reading some of the misguided race-related posts/comments on other blogs, I started to rethink my position. I also realized that if other contributors became involved, it would lessen the time required to undertake such a project.

One of the reasons the racial divide continues is that members of a particular ethnicity may talk amongst each other about race issues, but not to members outside their race. Also, because race is such a sensitive issue, people are reluctant to come out in the open with any of their views, questions, etc. My hope is that Diversity Ink might lead to the bridging of the divide and the breaking down of some of these walls.

When you visit Diversity Ink, you can expect to read race-related posts that deal with the following:

1. The personal experiences of our various contributors

2. Current events

3. Movies/TV shows, books, and magazine articles

4. Poetry (both original and previous works)

As with any blog, comments will be a vital part of Diversity Ink. Although we welcome intelligent debate, we are going to keep it clean and responsible. If you have any questions about the guidelines at Diversity Ink, please read our Comment Policy.

I am really looking forward to taking part in Diversity Ink. I expect it to be educational for everyone concerned.