Archive for the 'people of color' Category Page 4 of 6

ACTION ALERT: Trans Day of Action Denied Permit to March and Rally on 8th Avenue During NYC 2006 Pride!

(from TransJustice, a working group of the the Audre Lorde Project)

In the wake of growing violence against Trans and Gender Nonconforming (TGNC) people, as evidenced by the brutal attack on renowned Singer and Drag Performer-Kevin Aviance, the New York City Police Department and the City of New York have chosen to deny TransJustice’s applications to march and rally on 8th Avenue during NYC’s pride celebrations. Trans Day of Action would have been used to commemorate the death of Amanda Milan, a 25 year-old African-American transgender woman, who was brutally murdered on June 20, 2000, in the middle of an intersection near Port Authority Bus Terminal as onlookers cheered. However, during a 2nd meeting with Manhattan South Police Precinct on June 19th, we were told that Trans and Gender Nonconforming people, as well as allies, will not be permitted to march through Midtown Manhattan. Now we have it in writing! We received a written denial shortly thereafter.

We need activists all over the country to do these things!

  1. Inundate the following people with emails, calls and/or faxes:
    • Mayor Bloomberg – Phone: 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC). Fax: 212 788-2460
    • Commissioner Ray Kelly – Email
    • Midtown South Precinct Community Affairs – Phone: (212) 239-9846
  2. Come to our 1pm press conference on Tuesday, June 20th on NYC City Hall steps.
  3. Alert elected officials and the press! Urge them to endorse the Trans Day of Action and attend the press conference.
  4. Come to our work session on Wednesday, June 21st @ 6pm. This meeting is being held in preparation for the June 23rd Trans Day of Action, and will take place at Housing Works – 320 West 13th Street on the 4th Floor.
  5. Be at Chelsea Park, in NYC, @ 2:30pm on Friday, June 23rd for the Trans Day of Action Kick-off Rally. The park is located on West 28th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

Now is the time to act. We call on ALL social justice activists to join us in showing the New York City Police Department that we will not be intimidated!

Historically, 8th Avenue has been regarded as the place that several LGBT and HIV organizations as well as LGBT nightclubs have called home. TransJustice selected this 8th Ave route to call attention to innumerable members of our communities that work, reside, play, as well as access supportive services, right in the heart of Midtown.

On June 23rd, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color and their allies will rally and march against police brutality, to oppose the racist and xenophobic immigration policies of the Bush Administration, to show our outrage at the lack of access to living wage employment, adequate affordable housing, quality education, basic healthcare for our communities, and to demand an end to the devastating impacts of US imperialism (the so-called “war on terrorism”) being waged against people at home and abroad.

Ultimately, TransJustice sees the denial of the march route and permits as part of the ongoing plan of the Bloomberg Administration to repress the progressive political movements of NYC. Now more than ever,
TransJustice calls on all social justice activists from the communities of color, lesbian, gay, bi, two spirit and trans movements, immigrant rights organizations, youth and student groups, trade unions and workers organizations, religious communities and HIV/ AIDS and social service agencies to endorse, build contingents and to help fight for the right to march on 8th Avenue on June 23rd.

Who Said It Was Simple

I’m a bit behind on the blogging and probably won’t catch up until next week. But I just stumbled upon this brilliant poem by Audre Lorde, one of the few by her that I haven’t read before. It reminded me of the recent conflicts that I’ve witnessed between certain white feminist bloggers and women of color (also feminist) bloggers, especially the drama that was playing out at blac(k)ademic. This poem seems a good response to said white feminists.

Who Said It Was Simple
Audre Lorde

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

more thoughts on gentrification

Yesterday, I visited a friend who lives uptown. Walking from her apartment back to the 125th street stop on the A, I was struck by the fact that almost every single person I passed was white. I thought this was Harlem. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, Harlem proper doesn’t really start on the west side until 125th street itself, and I was a bit south of there; but, as the Wikipedia article also states, “Harlem’s boundaries are elastic and have changed over the years, as Ralph Ellison observed: ‘Wherever Negroes live uptown is considered Harlem.'”

As I walked, I got to thinking about the stuff I’ve been writing about gentrification and all the thoughts I hadn’t written out yet. Lots of my thoughts have arisen in response to questions and statements like these, gleaned from the comments on this blog:

  • “You and I are both concerned about being “priced out” of our homes, being unable to afford to live where we want. But you want to tell me where I’m allowed to live? How would you feel if all the boricuas were forced to live in a certain neighborhood? “They are” will be your inevitable reply, but that’s the point.”
  • “It’s not the presence of individual white people that hurts communities like the one you are describing–it’s institutional racism, including the examples you have described of landlords charging higher rent to white renters and real estate agents considering white people as evidence of a safe neighborhood. Why is it his fault if other people react to his presence that way despite his good intentions?”
  • “Isn’t saying white people shouldn’t move into minority neghborhoods just another way of advocating segregation? The danger of gentrification is very real, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should live only among people of their own race, or that a white person who moves into a minority community is automatically a negative presence–especially if he respects the culture and the people, and wants to get to know them rather than surrounding himself with other white people.”

So, with these and other responses to what I’ve written and said thusfar in mind, I wrote this on my long subway ride back to Brooklyn.
Continue reading ‘more thoughts on gentrification’

Of race, gender, and mutants

Jean Grey and Storm

Spoiler alert: don’t click on the link below if you haven’t seen X3 yet, plan to, and care about things getting ruined for you. (I myself am extremely irritated when people, blog entries, film reviews, etc reveal crucial plot points of films that I’ve yet to see.)

Just read some astute analysis on the WIMN’s Voices blog of how some major sexism plays out in X-Men: The Last Stand, specifically in the portrayals of Storm and Jean Grey. In the blog entry, Makani Themba Nixon writes that “a story about fierce women and their struggle to step into their power becomes little more than anti-feminist propaganda.”

Sad, but true, though the phrase “anti-feminist propaganda” kind of irks me – I’d just say that the portrayals of supposedly strong women just wind up being weak and sexist.

It’s a shame, given that I love the X-Men films. And even though this did have many problems (the aforementioned sexism, the weird treatment of some POC characters, etc) and was, as many have said, not as good as X2, I did like it fairly well. And, damn, do I love Jean Grey. Totally my favorite character, followed closely by Magneto, then Wolverine. Too bad Storm’s portrayal totally sucked, maybe I would’ve liked her more.

Magneto and Professor X Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X

Speaking of Magneto – does anyone else find themselves cheering for Magneto and his side of things more often than not? Sometimes I’m just like, hell yeah, fuck those humans!

Which brings me to another piece of excellent thinking on the politics of X-Men: Black Politics, X-Men, White Minds. In the essay, Morpheus Reloaded discusses the parallels between the narrative of the X-Men and the Black civil rights movement, with Professor X symbolizing Martin Luther King Jr and Magneto symbolizing Malcolm X. Before you balk (if that was your impulse), it’s not so far-fetched – the white creators of the X-Men, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that they were witnessing in the 1960s. Morpheus Reloaded also discusses that aspect of the X-Men: what is going on when white people create an allegory for Black liberation movements? What’s the end result of that sort of thing? In summation, Morpheus Reloaded writes, “The reality however, for better or for worse, is that the X-Men are here to stay as is: an intended expose on race, bigotry and intolerance in society that actually in the end sheds more light on the white psyche than anything approaching reality.”

(thanks to Josue for the heads up about the first article)

postmodern hipster colonists suck.

I’ve found myself thinking, talking, and writing a whole lot about gentrification lately. It’s something I’ve thought a great deal about for a long time, but ever since I wrote that letter to Time Out NY, it’s been coming up more than usual. There’s a lot of good conversation going on in the comments of the thread where I originally posted that letter. I encourage folks to check out the discussion.


Yesterday my girlfriend gave me a heads up about an awful post on the Brooklyn USA Livejournal community, which seems chock full of people who are blissfully ignorant of or indifferent to gentrification. This post was entitled “The Gentrification of Pimptropolis,” and was an invitation to what the poster claimed would be the “banginest” party ever to be held in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The poster also declared that, since moving into Bed-Stuy, he was on a mission to gentrify it, and to have “bangin” parties while doing it.

Of course, my head nearly exploded when I read this. So me and a bunch of my friends decided that we’d all post comments to the effect of “gentrification is not a joke. And you suck.” A little comment war ensued, with plenty of people telling us to “take a chill pill” because it was “just a joke” and we shouldn’t be getting all political about it, and that gentrification was actually a good thing because it “renews and rebuilds” neighborhoods. Yeah. Uh huh.

I’d link to the whole mess, but as of this morning, the original poster had deleted the post. He’d never actually responded to any of the comments, so I have no idea what he thought of what all of us were saying. Hopefully it made him rethink making a big, fucked-up joke about something as serious and harfmul as gentrification? One can hope.


In the issue of Time Out that came out after the one in which my letter was printed, there was another letter responding similarly to the Apartments 2006 coverage. The letter was written by Cynthia Kern, a real-estate broker who I know vaguely from some theater stuff that I did a couple of years back. She made many good points that were interesting to hear coming from her, since real-estate agents are often quite complicit with and invested in gentrification. From her letter:

In the inset about Sunset Park, [the author of the article] says that folks should check out the neighborhood because “the real-estate maxim of ‘follow the gay people’ applies dramatically to the evolving Sunset Park.” Follow the gay people? You mean, follow the white lesbians, who make less money on average than straight white folks and gay white men, and who will often move to poorer neighborhoods because that’s where we can afford to live. Many real-estate brokers then use the existence of white faces on a block to indicate that the neighborhood is “safe” and has “changed.” And the historical and cultural integrity of that neighborhood is eventually destroyed as those who’ve lived there for years can’t afford the rents or mortgages anymore because the area has become a “hot deal.”

The next week’s issue featured the first letter written as a rebuttal to mine and Kern’s. Now, I personally have a hard time letting other people have the last word, but since I’m certainly not going to write another letter to TONY, I’ll just respond here.

Paul Brady from Manhattan writes:

I moved to east Harlem a year ago to improve my Spanish, eat some of the city’s most authentic Mexican food and, yes, to find an apartment that I could afford on my modest salary. Does that make me some sort of postmodern hipster colonist?

Yes, Paul Brady, it does. You are, I’m assuming, a white man who has moved into a Latino neighborhood to enjoy their culture, learn their language, and eat their food. You feel entitled to do so, regardless of however your presence might negatively impact the very people whose culture you’re so enjoying. You take what you want from your neighbors and, most likely, give nothing back, at least nothing good. I think that fits the bill of the “postmodern hipster colonist,” as you so aptly put it.

Brady continues:

Perhaps folks who bemoan an influx of new residents – during a time when the city is experiencing the worst “white flight” in its history – should spend less time reading Heart of Darkness and more time enjoying the multicultural vibrancy of Manhattan.

I just love when people pull “facts” out of their ass. New York City is not actually experiencing very much “white flight;” in fact, the upsurge in gentrification has a lot to do with white people coming back to NYC in large numbers. And Manhattan actually experienced far less “white flight” than the outer boroughs, which really counters whatever claim Brady’s trying to make. Are we supposed to be happy that white folks are moving into our neighborhoods? No, Paul Brady, you and yours are not doing anyone a favor – well, not anyone poor or not white, that is.

I’ve never actually read Heart of Darkness, but Wikipedia tells me that it includes much commentary on the evils of colonialism, though critics including Chinua Achebe have criticized the racism prevelant in the novella despite that anti-colonialist viewpoint. But anyhow, it seems like Paul Brady is equally indifferent to the ills of colonialism as he is to the ills of gentrification, and thinks that the rest of us should try to be as indifferent as he is. No thanks, Paul Brady.

As for “enjoying the multicultural vibrancy of Manhattan” – Paul Brady, are you blind? Don’t you realize that the kind of gentrification that you seem to think is no big deal is slowly squeezing the “multicultural vibrancy” that you so celebrate out of NYC? I can see this city becoming more and more monocultural, thanks to people with attitudes like yours. But I guess that doesn’t really matter for you, since that multiculturalism is just a source of spice and entertainment for you and not a real and necessary part of your own life and culture like it is for the Latinos you’re supplanting. Where will you go for your ethnic kicks when you can’t get it in el Barrio any more? Whose neighborhood will you invade next?

Edited to add: Paul Brady speaks! Or types, as it were, in the comments of this thread. And I respond, but of course.

“innate charm,” my ass.

A letter I’ve written to Time Out NY in response to a recent article about finding apartments in NYC:

The low-income people of color and immigrants who live in “on-the-verge nabes” (“Apartments 2006,” TONY 552) are being pushed out of these “hot” neighborhoods by a wave of gentrification that TONY seems to be endorsing. The article speaks of neighborhoods like Bushwick being “widely discovered”; however, just as with the “discovery” of the Americas by white Europeans, there are already people there. Your article completely ignores the negative impact that gentrification has on these residents, focusing only on the self-interest of people who can afford the ever-rising rents. While these neighborhoods may seem affordable to some, they are rapidly becoming too expensive for their current residents, who are forced out to make room for the relatively wealthier swarms searching for a good deal.

The “innate charm” of such neighborhoods fades when contrasted with the harsh realities of life for many current residents. Bushwick has some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the city, as well as sub-par and landlord-neglected housing. Innate charm, indeed.

The background:

My girlfriend and I subscribe to Time Out NY; I’m not really sure why, given that we barely ever make it to any of the events that they list, nor can we afford to dine at many of the restaurants that they review. It can be good for movie reviews, though. Anyhow – this week’s issue arrived and the cover announced the Apartments 2006 feature; one of the blocks of text read something about giving the scoop on five “on-the-verge” neighborhoods where one could get great deals. Immediately, I knew this couldn’t be good. I flipped open to the article and, lo and behold, those five neighborhoods were much what I expected them to be: East Harlem, Bushwick, Sunset Park, Inwood, and Hunter’s Point. Aside from the last neighborhood (which is in Queens, and I know very little about Queens), I know that all of these areas are populated largely, if not primarily, by low-income people of color, many of whom are Latinos, many of whom are immigrants.

The language used to speak of these neighborhoods was classic, a thorough embracement of gentrification, quite reminiscent of colonialism. Here’s some gems:

About Inwood: “Another gentrification indicator: the emergence of a visible gay population.” Right. Because gentrification by (white) queers is GRRRRRREAT! I mean, they actually speak about gentrification by a “gay population” as a good thing! And, of course, there wasn’t a visible gay population there before, because visibly gay means white and gay, not Latino and gay (unless, you know, there were absolutely no queers living in Inwood before white people moved in.)

About Bushwick: “…or that sit next to hot spots, like Williamsburg’s neighbor to the east, Bushwick (this one’s been widely discovered, so move fast).” Oh yeah, discovered – kind of like america was discovered when the white Europeans arrived, right? Because you can’t fucking discover something if there’s already people there. Back then, it was the Native people who got robbed; now, it’s Latino immigrants who are getting pushed out. Different brown folks, same white folks, same mentality, similar effects.

Also about Bushwick: “By now you’ve surely heard the hype, but even a “Sunday Styles” article can’t spoil this Brooklyn area’s innate charm. Besides the giant lofts that can hold a bunch of friends (and their turntables), there’s more traditional housing stock to be had. Near the Jefferson Street stop on the L, you’ll find industrial infrastructure and family houses—a mix that adds up to a pretty cool vibe (though the area definitely still has dangerous pockets).”

Un-fucking-believable. Has the writer ever been to Bushwick, aside from dashing between one of the L stops and their hipster friends’ lofts – because who else are they talking about with those turntables? Does the writer know anything about Bushwick besides the fact that it’s “cheap” and near Williamsburg? I bet they don’t know these facts about Bushwick, lifted directly from the website of Make the Road By Walking, an awesome organization based in the neighborhood:

  • Over 40 percent of Bushwick residents live below the poverty level, and almost 40 percent rely on means-tested government benefits.
  • Median family income in Bushwick is less than half the national average while the official unemployment rate in Bushwick is over 10 percent, which is more than double the national rate.
  • The percentage of children born into poverty in Bushwick is 75.8 percent, the highest rate in Brooklyn. (as I copied and pasted this statistic I started crying)
  • the high school dropout rate in Bushwick is close to 70 percent.
  • Sixty-five percent of the community is Latino and almost half of these Latinos are legal permanent residents who cannot vote.
  • Bushwick’s housing stock comprises many old and deteriorated buildings, mainly tenements with absentee landlords or tax-foreclosed properties owned by the City. These buildings are contaminated with lead paint, and lead paint violations number 64.4 per thousand children, twice the Brooklyn average.

I lived in Bushwick for two years before moving to my current neighborhood in Brooklyn. And while living there, I agonized about the gentrification that I could see happening around me. Over those two years, I saw more and more white hipsters getting off the L train alongside me and scurrying to and from their lofts. Let me tell you, I saw far more white people within a one block radius of the subway stop than I ever did just a couple more blocks into the neighborhood, as if they were afraid to venture any deeper. And you almost never saw them in the local supermarket right across the street from the lofts, either; most often, they were toting their Whole Foods bags from Manhattan. The more of them I saw getting off at Dekalb over time, the madder I got.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t absolve myself, either. Sure, I’m Latina, as was my roommate at the time. But we were both also college-educated U.S. citizens with white-collar jobs, and no matter what our race or class backgrounds or how little extra money we had, those things made us decidedly more privileged than many of the people in the neighborhood. Our privilege was ultimately most evident in our move out of the neighborhood, both of us to more expensive apartments in “nicer” (read: less poor, lower crime rates, prettier) areas. That’s an option that most of our neighbors didn’t have. Despite the obstacles we face because of our race, our genders, our sexualities, we were both upwardly-mobile in a way that most of our neighbors were not. We left Bushwick for greener pastures; if these folks move out of Bushwick, many of them will have been forced out by rising rents, and many of their destinations will not be any greener.

My roommate and I spent a whole lot of time seething over the very visible evidence of gentrification in our neighborhood. When it’s white folks moving into a primarily POC neighborhood, it can look and feel very much like an invasion, all these white faces popping up where you used to only see brown ones. But we also spent possibly an equal amount of time thinking and talking about our own participation in the gentrification of Bushwick, and how to be more accountable for that culpability. I was as guilty of shopping at Whole Foods as those white hipsters, but I also knew that supporting local businesses was important and tried to shop in the local supermarkets as much as possible. When my white girlfriend moved in with me for a while, I felt intense guilt and inner conflict about basically bringing yet another white person into the neighborhood.

And you know what pissed me off the most? My roommate and I, neither of us being white, neither of us being rich, thought about this shit all the time, and did what little we could about it. But how many of those young white hipsters we saw moving in spent a fucking second worrying about what negative impact they might be having on the community? Did they even have a moment’s hesitation before signing those leases on those “amazingly cheap” lofts they were moving into? Did they try to find out more about their darker-skinned, poorer neighbors, about what they were facing in the neighborhood, about what they could do to somehow help and somehow try to lessen the impact of their own presence? Probably not. That was the kicker. But that’s always the case, isn’t it – people who have less privilege, who experience more oppression on a first-hand basis, are always going to think more, care more, and do more about the oppression of others than folks who don’t experience very much oppression at all.

I know that there are no easy answers here. I know that gentrification seems to sweep across the city like an unstoppable wave. I know that rents in NYC are fucking insane, and that many of those young white folks I saw moving into Bushwick probably don’t have a whole bunch of extra money to spend on rent. But it’s this attitude of entitlement, of selfishness, of ignorance and blindness to what’s happening to people around you, of making up excuses to save a little money – that’s what really pisses me off. I know it can be hard to find affordable housing in NYC. But can you at least try to move somewhere where you won’t be pushing people of color and poor folks out, instead of jumping at the next hot deal? And if you absolutely have to move there, can you at least try to do something to lessen the blow or to work for the people living in the neighborhood? At the very least, can you acknoweldge that you and your ilk are probably screwing a whole lot of people over? Is that too much to ask?

From one war on people of color to another

From a CNN report: “An amendment cutting Bush’s Iraq request by $1.9 billion to pay for new aircraft, patrol boats and other vehicles, as well as border checkpoints and a fence along the Mexico border crossing near San Diego widely used by illegal immigrants was adopted on 59-39 vote.”

Really, when is the War on Illegal Immigration going to enter the official political lexicon alongside the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs? Which are all essentially euphemistic pseudoynms for Excuses to Wage War on People of Color, when you get down to it.

Also: those politicians and other people who have hardline view on immigration should read this article about a Senegalese high schooler who has struggled for years to stay in america, stay alive, stay in school, only to face possible deportation now. As I’ve written before, I’m wary of the sort of appeals that pit “good immigrants” against “bad ones” – “Look at this brilliant, well-behaved high school student! Clearly, he deserves to stay in this country, unlike those other sorts of immigrants.” No, I don’t go for that sort of thing, and I hope that this article doesn’t encourage that kind of thinking. But you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard to read something like this and yet still support legislation that would make this kid a felon and force him out of the country.


Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ’em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

babies. and work. (sometimes i hate coming up with post titles.)

Since getting cable TV at home, the cable internet (which we’d had for quite some time already) has been on the fritz. So I have an appointment for a cable fixer person to come fix it today, which means I’m working from home. Except that, since I don’t have internet at home, it means I’m spending the morning working at a coffee shop with free wireless near my house.

When I walked in, I saw babies everywhere. Seems there’s a sing-along/story time/puppet show for kids today. I took one of the few available seats in the place, which is not really within the story circle so I thought it would be relatively baby free. But I am now surrounded by babies. Little babies, too! Who are all flailing and gurgling and interacting with each other in their tiny baby way and being generally adorable. This is not so conducive to working. Luckily I have my iPod so I am not distracted by the sounds as well as the sights.

Another thing I’m observing is that almost all of the babies are white, while almost all of the adults they’re with are women of color. Which is very typical of NYC, and always makes me feel a little bit weird. More than a little, in fact.

In other news, days like this make me miss being self-employed. Going to coffee shops to work, having the option to just put off work for a while and go for a walk or go play piano at the Brooklyn Conservatory or something, setting my own schedule completely… so tempting, even though freelancing is a hard way to pay the bills. I still freelance, but only after hours as a supplement to my full time job; I’m not much of a fan of that sort of freelancing, though, as I hate having to come home and do more work. But right now, I’m technically at my full time job, which means I need to get to working. Speaking of which…