Archive for the 'racism' Category Page 2 of 5

Against either/or feminism

Most folks have probably read Gloria Steinem’s op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled “Women Are Never Front-Runners.” Hopefully folks have also gotten to read, listen to or watch the subsequent Democracy Now! debate between Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, in which Harris-Lacewell took Steinem to task for many of the points she makes in her op-ed. If you haven’t gotten to take a look at the debate, I highly recommend it. Here’s just a taste of what Harris-Lacewell has to say:

And so, when Steinem suggests, for example, in that article that Obama is a lawyer married to another lawyer and to suggest that, for example, Hillary Clinton represents some kind of sort of breakthrough in questions of gender, I think that ignores an entire history in which white women have in fact been in the White House. They’ve been there as an attachment to white male patriarchal power. It’s the same way that Hillary Clinton is now making a claim towards experience. It’s not her experience. It’s her experience married to, connected to, climbing up on white male patriarchy. This is exactly the ways in which this kind of system actually silences questions of gender that are more complicated than simply sort of putting white women in positions of power and then claiming women’s issues are cared for.

Today I read another great response from Kimberle Crenshaw and Eve Ensler to “either/or” feminism: a feminism that deems a vote for Hillary Clinton to be the only truly feminist choice. Steinem’s op-ed echoes the arguments of this sort of feminism which, when taken to its extreme, results in the kind of malarkey that the New York State chapter of NOW put out there when it called Senator Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama “the ultimate betrayal” of women. From Crenshaw and Ensler’s essay in the Huffington Post:

While denying any intention to square off racism against sexism, the “either/or” feminists nonetheless remind us that the Black (man) got the vote before the (white) woman, that gender barriers are more rigid than racial barriers, that sexism is everywhere and racism is not, that a female Obama wouldn’t get nearly as far as a Barack Obama, and that a woman’s vote for Clinton is scrutinized while a male vote for Obama is not. Never mind of course that real suffrage for African Americans wasn’t realized until the 1960s, that there are any number of advantages that white women have in business, politics and culture that people of color do not; that all around the world women’s route to political leadership is through family dynasty which is virtually closed to marginalized groups, and that the double standard of stigmatizing Obama’s Black voters as racially motivated while whitewashing Clinton’s white voters as “just voters” constitutes the exact same double standard that the “either/or feminists” bemoan. The “either/or” crowd surprisingly claims that the two Democratic candidates are more alike than different, yet those who gravitate to Obama find their motives questioned and their loyalties on trial.

NYC primary breakdown and Latino angst

Just took a look at the NY State county-by-county primary breakdown (be warned, that page can take forever to load.) Clinton only lead by 2% in the city, according to the Gotham Gazette. Here’s the percentages that Obama and Clinton came away with in each borough:

Bronx: C 60%, O 38%
Brooklyn: C 50%, O 48%
Manhattan: C 54%, O 44%
Queens: C 60%, O 38%
Staten Island: C 61%, O 36%

Woohoo, Brooklyn! I’m happy to have been part of that number. That’s a really strong showing. I’m only surprised and a little disappointed that Obama didn’t win Brooklyn. Ah well.

When I saw the numbers for the Bronx, I immediately thought, “Ugh, Latinos!” with a groan. I’m allowed to do that because I’m Latina. I also recognize that’s probably a little simplistic. But over and over and over yesterday, I heard that Latinos were overwhelmingly in favor of Clinton. Her campaign also pointed out Latino support in New Jersey, my home state, as one of the factors in her win there. My dad was one of those Latinos who voted for her there.

The Latino-Clinton connection also came in to effect big time in the Southwest and especially in California. While I was watching CNN last night, the commentators (is that just a sports term?) said that, according to exit polls, Barack had a healthy lead amongst both Black voters AND white voters. “So why is Hillary winning?” they asked. Well, according to them, it was thanks to Latino and Asian voters. I can’t remember the exact numbers but I think 60-something% of Latinos and 70-something% of Asian voters supported Clinton. When I saw those numbers, I groaned even louder, because it made me think of this article that a friend of mine posted the other day. I have a whole lot of problems with the article, primarily that I think the article doesn’t really get at how white racism against Latinos and Asians is what causes the desire for assimilation. But when I saw those numbers, I couldn’t help worry that, at least in part, that article was getting at something true.

My question, though, is this: why, exactly, do Latinos like Clinton so much? The pundits keep talking about this supposedly long-standing connection between the Clintons and Latinos, but why is that there? What did they ever do for us? Is this kind of like my mom’s (and apparently, many Latinos’) inexplicable obsession with Kennedy? That, at least, has the Catholic connection to explain it. But the Clintons? I just don’t get it. Anyone?

Jena, New York

At a Brooklyn rally for the Jena 6 on September 20, many speakers spoke of “Jena, New York,” referencing the fact that egregious and often violent acts of racism and injustice occur every day right here in NYC, pointing out that this sort of racism is not just an anachronistic, small-town Southern ill.

That phrase and concept was immediately called to mind this morning when I got the news that a prominent Black professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College found a noose hanging on her office door yesterday. From the Columbia Spectator:

On Tuesday, an African American professor at Teachers College, the nation’s top-ranked education school, came to her office to find a noose hanging on the door. Today students clad in black will rally in protest of this hate crime at 2 p.m. in front of Arthur Zankel hall before a town hall meeting at TC.

The hate crime comes after a series of politically and racially charged events that have occurred over the past two weeks including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial appearance, the discovery of racist and Isloamophobic graffiti, and the announcement of an appearance by conservative author David Horowitz, CC ’59, for Islamo-fascism awareness week.

With the nooses found on the University of Maryland’s campus in early September, it seems like we have a new racist trend on our hands. But while the fallout from Jena’s nooses has been much more severe, violent, and endangering of the victims of racism, it is important to note that these two other prominent incidents have occurred on college campuses – one an Ivy League institution in a “liberal” urban center. I think some people might be tempted to write off Jena’s racism as something endemic to “backwater” Southern whites, but that view is inflected with classism and regionalism, trivializes the state of racism in this country, and is proven patently false by incidents like these.

Congress jumps on the hip-hop scolding bandwagon

In today’s news: the House of Representative held a hearing titled “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.”

I love hip-hop, yet I see the flaws in some of the music and culture, especially the corporately approved and pushed brand of hip-hop music and culture that dominates the scene. As a queer woman of color, there’s plenty of times when I’m nodding my head or dancing to a good beat only to find myself cringing at some sexist or homophobic lyrics.

But singling out hip-hop for scolding like this in a congressional hearing? Ridiculous. First off, while some hip-hop artists might be particularly direct in voicing their sexism and homophobia through their lyrics, hip-hop is certainly not the only offender when it comes to such things. Pop culture and entertainment is riddled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism. Maybe it’s not as blatant as “the ‘B,’ ‘H’ and ‘N’ words,” as the AP article lists them, but it’s most certainly there. I don’t think I could watch TV for half an hour without seeing at least a few instances of such things, and I don’t think that subtlety or, say, being packaged as cheesy, harmless sitcom jokes makes oppressive imagery any less harmful or negative. Gentler, kinder isms are still isms, and may perhaps do more harm than the blatant stuff because, for most people, it’s totally acceptable, nothing to bat an eye at. Hip-hop though? Apparently a whole congressional session is needed to talk about dynamics that play out in every facet of American culture, just dished out by less convenient whipping boys.

Also – doesn’t Congress have anything better to do than wring their hands over hip-hop? If they’re so concerned about sexism and racism and violence, why are they worrying over symptoms instead of trying to deal with root causes and systemic injustice? Actually, it’s rather shrewd of them to make a big show over things like this while allowing the factors contributing to these larger, systemic problems to continue unhindered. As rapper and producer Levell Crump said during the hearings, “change the situation in [his] neighborhood and maybe [he’ll] get better … If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities.”

Then there’s the title of and inspiration for the hearing. From the article:

”From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images” was the title of the hearing, referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The Imus incident has sparked debate within the music industry about black artists using offensive, misogynist and violent language.

This is what’s pissed me off about much of the reaction to the Imus incident. Virulent white asshole says something sexist and racist, and … Black artists come under fire? Folks start hollering for the banning of the n-word in Black communities? What is this, some twisted version of that anti-drugs commercial from the 80s, but this time with white folks saying “I learned it by watching you on BET!” when they spout the same racist and sexist bullshit that white people themselves came up with in the first place? PLEASE. This reminded me of an excellent Democracy Now! interview with Michael Eric Dyson that aired during the Imus brouhaha, during which he was asked to respond to the NAACP’s funeral for the n-word:

I think that there are many more issues that the NAACP should be focused on: structural inequality, social injustice, this war in Iraq, the imperial presidency, which has subverted the democracy of the country… I don’t think Don Imus can blame hip-hop for his problems. First of all, the demonization of black women is much older than Snoop Dogg. This is a history in America that is racist, that sees black women as oversexed, because they had to deal with the oversexed organs of their black men.

Word. It’s just incredibly frustrating to watch Congress spending time on something like this when white culture and the white power structure is riddled with prejudice and discrimination that has done and continues to do far more material damage than hip-hop ever could.

ACTION ALERT: Make calls demanding justice for the Jena 6

Folks who have access to a phone and affordable or free long-distance should check out Color of Change’s phone calling tool. It’ll give you the number for a person in a leadership position who can have some impact on the Jena 6 case, along with a script tailored specifically for what that person can do about it. The page will also let you easily report back to the Color of Change folks to let them know you’ve made the call and inform them of the response that you got. You can also take part in Amnesty International’s campaign demanding that the Justice Department investigate what’s going on in Jena. And if you haven’t yet, sign Color of Change’s petition which has 256,276 signatures as of this writing, and check out their additional info for how to participate in today’s Day of Action.

An everyday story of modern America

I’m kind of amazed at myself for not having blogged about the Jena 6 yet, but better late than never, right? Today I read an article from the Guardian UK entitled Apart from the noose, this is an everyday story of modern America. It is a spot-on analysis of how, while the injustices being committed against these young Black men are particularly gross and getting more attention than usual, what’s happening in Jena is merely symptomatic of the racism that permeates American society – North and South, rural and urban. From the article:

According to the census, the top five segregated cities – Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Chicago and Newark – are all in the north. According to the Sentencing project, a pressure group for penal reform, the 10 states with the highest discrepancy between black and white incarceration include Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York – which all consider themselves liberal – but there are none from the south. Jena’s problem is not that it has proved itself more racist than the rest of the country, but that it has manifested its racism with insufficient subtlety.

This Thursday, September 20 is a nationwide day of action to show support for the Jena 6 and outrage at the racist injustice with which they continue to contend. Organizers are estimating that more than 10,000 people are going to show up in Jena (a town of approximately 3,000) for the protest, but rallies and other demonstrations of support are being scheduled around the country, so try to find one near you. For Brooklynites, there’s a rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall scheduled from 9:30am to noon.

ACTION ALERT: Support the Khalil Gibran International Academy

Monday, August 20, 6pm
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A, C

This is fairly short notice for this alert, but I want to really encourage folks to show up Monday afternoon for a gathering in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a soon-to-be-opened NYC public school that will focus on Arabic language and culture (for folks unfamiliar, many NYC public schools have foci like this, cultural or otherwise.) The school has been the subject of racist and anti-Islamic attacks from many conservative pundits and media sources, as in this NY Sun article and an edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes that was written up over at Media Matters. However, the school has been under especially harsh attack since Debbie Almontaser, now ex-principal of the school, came under fire from such sources for not condemning a t-shirt created by an organization that is unrelated to the school. Since then, Almontaser has resigned from her position, stating that she “became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though [she] apologized.”

The t-shirt, which reads “Intifada NYC,” was created by a NYC community organization, AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. The group’s mission states that it “provides comprehensive leadership opportunities in community organizing, art and media skills to young women and girls … to empower a generation of young women with the community organizing and media skills necessary to act as leaders within their communities, which have endured increasing hardship in recent years.” On Democracy Now! last Monday, Mona Eldahry, founding director of AWAAM, said this about the t-shirt’s origin and meaning:

Now, “Intifada NYC” is not a call for terrorism, as they say. It’s not a call for violence or, if I could quote one of the publications, “Gaza Strip uprising in the Big Apple.” “Intifada NYC” is a term that, you know, we developed maybe two, three years ago in the years since September 11th. Basically, for myself — everybody interprets it differently — but for myself, I feel, as an Arab woman, as a Muslim woman and as a woman of color, pressure from two sides … on one hand, from the community discrimination — from the outside, I mean, you know, discrimination on the streets — and then from our own communities, you know, we’re told, you know, “Be careful. You know, don’t — you know, don’t go to demonstrations. Don’t be too outspoken, you know,” you know, especially when we were young …

“Intifada” means “shaking off,” you know, so shake off these pressures that we’re feeling, both from the other side and from our side. You know, we have to speak out. And if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will?

This clarification of the literal Arabic meaning of intifada is what got Debbie Almontaser into so much trouble. Essentially, both she and AWAAM are coming under fire for owning their own language and for refusing to allow it to be constrained to which others wish to limit it. A recent editorial in the New York Post gives this definition of the word: “terroristic assault and murder, undertaken by Palestinians against Jews in the Middle East.” (No mention, of course, of the terroristic assault, murder, and oppression of Palestinians by Israel.) The editorial then calls Almontaser’s explanation of the Arabic definition of intifada “malarkey.” Because apparently, the editorial staff of the New York Post deems itself more qualified to give the definition of an Arabic word than an Arab-American speaker of Arabic. And although it may be true that the word is most often associated with Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation, such a definition even leaves out the many non-violent elements of those struggles, including “civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti, and barricades.”

The repression, stamping out, robbing and perversion of language and cultural identity have long been important tools of colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Right now, it is in the interest of conservatives, racists, warmongers, and anti-Islamic people to promote only those perceptions of Islam and Arabic culture that support american wars and policies of aggression and imperialism in the Arabic world, as well as the oppression of Arabic people in this country. The Khalil Gibran International School is coming under attack because it will not promote the prescribed view of Arabic history, culture, peoples and languages; it’ll actually strive for a fair and complete perspective, one which will go counter to one that props up war and oppression. The attacks themselves – calling the school a “madrassa” (another Arabic word twisted by the media and conservatives) that will serve to “groom future radicals” – continue to promote the twisted view of Arab people, assigning sinister, violent, and anti-american motives to the mere study of Arabic language and culture.

The preservation of language and culture is threatening to american hegemony, to american imperialism, and to american racism. African languages were quite literally beaten out of Africans in slavery; Native languages and culture were wiped out with their people. Today, “Welcome to America, now SPEAK ENGLISH” is a popular t-shirt slogan, Latino kids are suspended from school for speaking Spanish in the halls, and travelers are stopped from boarding planes because they’re wearing t-shirts written in Arabic:

So the security officers and the JetBlue officers at that time told me that wearing an Arabic T-shirt and coming to an airport in the US is like going to a bank while wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

And a principal can be forced to resign because she makes the mistake of defining a word in her own language, instead of allowing her language to be defined for her by those who do nothing but malign her culture.

Intifada NYC, indeed – for there’s a whole lot of bullshit to be shaken off.

Time to switch to AMD processors?

This is a little old and has probably made the round of the blogs already (if I could finally start keeping up with the blogosphere already, I’d know!) But being both a techie and an angry brown butch, I couldn’t possibly let this one slide without posting it.

Racist Intel Ad

Those runners on their mark look a whole lot like rows of faceless, muscular Black men bowing down before a professional-looking white dude, who is apparently going to “maximize the power” of his employees with them. And yet somehow no one at Intel noticed that this ad is majorly fucked up until, well, everyone else noticed. The wide-reaching outcry prompted Intel to pull the ad and offer up a rather weak apology: “We made a bad mistake … this ad of using African-American sprinters did not deliver our intended message and in fact proved to be culturally insensitive and insulting.”

Now, cases of multi-million dollar corporations doing stupid, racist things are a dime a dozen, but an interesting point is being made and getting attention on the heels of this gaffe. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is using the case to draw attention to Intel’s support for a California ballot initiative that they claim will “eliminate class action lawsuits over civil rights issues.” I haven’t managed to find out much more about the initiative besides the info including in the article linked to above and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights’ website, but I’d be willing to wager that any lobbying group whose board member organizations include the rogue’s gallery of mega-corporations listed in this PDF from their website isn’t looking out for the common man first. It’s a good reminder that, while the racism and classism of large corporations occasionally gets revealed through highly-publicized advertising gaffes like this one, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes as well.

ACTION ALERT: Pack the Courts tomorrow in support of Mariah Lopez

In March of this year, I posted about Mariah Lopez, a young Latina trans woman whose case against the City of New York – as well as her very identity and existence – were being vilified in the New York Post. I’m writing about Mariah again because, almost unbelievably, she has been targeted and seriously abused by the NYC police. Mariah Lopez has a long history of being targeted by the police, as do many trans people, especially trans women of color, in NYC. Unlike most, though, her abuse has been repeatedly documented by Amnesty International as part of their Stonewalled report on police violence against LGBT communities. You know, wouldn’t you think that someone whose abuse at the hands of the police has been so highly publicized and protested would maybe not be so attractive a target to the NYPD? A cynical thought, perhaps, or maybe the police really just don’t care what’s said about them, seeing as they continue to get away with the constant abuse of Mariah, other trans women of color, and other disenfranchised and therefore vulnerable people.

Mariah Lopez needs our support, the support of any New Yorker who gives a damn that someone has been not only arrested under apparently dubious circumstances (she was at the police station filing a complaint about getting assaulted in the West Village), but also degraded, abused, harassed and assaulted while in custody. And even if she had done something that “justified” her arrest, there can be no justification for the transphobic abuse that she’s suffered since. I think that’s another important note here: people who are held in police custody, whether justifiably or not, are often stripped of their rights and abused, amounting to extrajudicial cruel and unusual punishment. This must be stopped, not only for Mariah, but for everyone unlucky enough to find themselves at the mercy of an incredibly corrupt system.



Early in the morning on July 17, Mariah Lopez, a young Latina transgender woman and community activist, got arrested after she went to the police department to file a complaint about getting beaten up in the West Village. She has been in jail since then, held on bail ($1.500) that she cannot afford to pay.

Since she has been in jail, we have had reports that:

  • She was first taken to a women’s jail, then ordered to drop her pants to show her genitals so they could decide if she belonged there. When she refused a ‘genital check,’ she was moved to a hospital and then lock-in (isolation) in a men’s jail.
  • She had her clothing, bra, and underwear withheld from her.
  • A male prisoner sexually harassed and assaulted her.
  • An officer assaulted her.

Mariah’s lawyer got her case moved up and is making an argument about her bail this Tuesday. She has asked that as many people as possible come to court because a strong showing of community support will help her argument. It also means a lot to Mariah to know that there are people on the outside who care about what’s happening to her.

The details:
Tuesday, August 7
Criminal Court, 100 Centre St., Part B on the fourth floor (all the way to the right)
The time is never sure, but it will probably in the late morning—be there by 10:30!

Please come if you can—your presence will increase the chances that Mariah will get out of jail and cut short the abuse she’s facing there!

Louisiana’s fashion police

Several parishes (like the counties, not the Catholic congregations) in Louisiana have banned saggy pants, clothes that leave underwear exposed, and “dress not becoming to his or her sex.” Parishes are proposing fines up to $500 and even jail time for violators of the new laws, which may yet be unenforceable since they’re most likely unconstitutional.

Of course, the numbskulls who support this legislation have already started with the cries of “we’re not racist!”:

Despite concern that enforcement could result in racial profiling, supporters of the ban insisted that the dress code would be applied uniformly.

[Lafourche Council member] Toups argued that this isn’t a black and white issue but said he sees the ban as opportunity to put parents and grandparent back in charge.

“If you are Canadian, Serbian, or Afghan and your pants are hanging low, it doesn’t matter what color you are. We will ticket or arrest you,” Young of Pointe Coupee said.

Oh, that’s comforting. A fashion style that’s typically associated with (though certainly not limited to) Black folks and other people of color is banned, but it has nothing at all to do with race! Next, dreads and cornrows will be banned, but you know, some white folks have those, too. The law will be applied uniformly to any Black folks and folks trying to dress like Black folks! Can’t have those white folks trying to imitate Black people, you know.

However, the part of all of this that I find to be really chilling, personally, is “dress not becoming to his or her sex.” Um, what? Does this mean that people can’t wear clothing that’s typically designated to be worn by a person of the sex to which they weren’t assigned? Man, remind me never to visit those parishes in Louisiana or I will be screwed. KatRose at Pam’s House Blend says that a representative from one of the towns appeared on MSNBC and said that the law wouldn’t be used that way. But, like KatRose, I’m not really willing to buy that. The law will be on the books as such and I don’t see that much is going to stop people from applying it in a way that cracks down on people who aren’t conforming to their assigned gender roles. As if trans and gender non-conforming people aren’t vulnerable enough.