Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Beware White Men Saying Your Votes Don't Matter

I admit that I went through a period in my life when I did't vote, and I'll own up to this: It was pure laziness hiding behind the ignorance of "my one vote doesn't matter." But as I got older, I realized that if I don't vote, who am I to protests anything our legislators, councils, mayors, governors, and presidents do?

So, when I read Andrew O'Hehir's essay on essentially discouraging people from voting, I wanted to spit bullets, and I did. How privileged a white man are you when you get on your high horse and tell people voting doesn't change anything and that voting in the midterms is a waste of time?

*huffing puffing*

Here's the comment I left at
No matter how effed up the system is, people who don't vote lose credibility when they complain about government.

I'm an African-American woman who readily criticizes this nation. I also tend to be a pessimist, but I'll be damned if I'm going to stay at home from the polls and spit on the graves of my ancestors who've been poll-taxed, literacy tested, beaten, burned and lynched all so they could to have the right to vote. Political operatives are working right now to suppress the votes of young people, women, and minorities. So, somebody in Washington's afraid that voting can change things. Why would I help them hold their power by staying home?

As it's said, "If you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem," and people sounding off with misguided fronts of righteous indignation about why they don't vote are exactly that, part of the problem.

But you know what, if you don't vote, given your gender and complexion, probably nothing will change for you--nothing at all because you're already in the catbird seat. So, just speak for yourself and leave the rest of us out of your agenda.

Not voting is never the right answer even in this increasingly more oligarchic nation.

The disturbing picture in this post relates to the Opelousas, Louisiana, Massacre of 1868. Southern White Democratic Party members, angry about Reconstruction efforts, may have killed hundreds of black people who wanted to join a local all-white political group.

Yes, once upon a time the Democratic Party (mainly the Southern members later called "Dixiecrats") were the rabid racists, and the Republican Party was the one trying to ensure the voting rights of African-American. However, when it became clear to Southern Democrats that the Democratic Party platform included racial integration and supporting Civil Rights, those Dixiecrats ran to the Republican Party and were greeted with open arms, and today it's mainly Republican Party operatives who work to abolish the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dr. Cornel West arrested at Moral Mondays protest, Ferguson (Videos)

cornel west arrested in ferguson

Above, veteran social justice activist, Dr. Cornel West, is handcuffed and arrested in Ferguson, Missouri. From RT article:
NBC News reported from Ferguson that West and others had attempted to create a makeshift memorial outside of the police station on Monday for Michael Brown, a local teen shot two months ago this weekend by a Ferguson cop, but arrests began soon after when demonstrators reportedly breached caution time and advanced towards the station.

In this video, West is shoved a bit in crowd's scuffle with police.

Protest video from USA Today, which previously said Ferguson has gone from protests to a movement.

From USA Today, October 13:
FERGUSON, Mo. – Police arrested clergy and activist academic Cornel West on Monday as they led hundreds of protesters in a march to the police station to draw attention to police shootings nationwide.

The protests Monday were the culmination of "Ferguson October" – four days of activism and civil disobedience sparked by the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old black man, by a white police officer on Aug. 9 in this St. Louis suburb.
On the Big Picture RT, Thom discusses the renewed protests in Ferguson, MO with Radio Talk Show Host and Activist Joe Madison.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Do you believe in coincidence or Godwinks?

I've had some pretty remarkable so-called "coincidences" in my life. About half of them I attribute to "Godwinks," those little clues in life that remind us not to rule out significance of the spiritual. But scientists, and I've known this for a long time, say coincidences are just that, coincidence. They are not "mystical but mathematical," chance following rules of probability.

Then psychologists join in and say humans tend to only pay attention to information that supports what they already believe. I agree with that up to a point. For instance, people who want to believe that in general a particular group is inferior or dangerous will ignore or rationalize away any evidence that contradicts that belief.

But what do scientists do with events and phenomena they can't explain? How do they explain people suddenly having insight into a situation they know nothing about? For instance, once I awakened from a dream in which I found a specific object that didn't belong to me but I needed to know about for my own safety. When I woke up, I left the bed and went straight to the place I'd seen in my dream and found the object.

A science-oriented friend of mine said, "That was your subconscious. You were aware of the object on some level and that's how you found it. He said this even though the object I found had been hidden inside a toilet tank, and I am one who rarely lifts the lid on a toilet tank. When I found the object that may have been only the second time in my life I'd ever seen the inside of a toilet tank. He, however, was determined to believe that there was nothing mystical about that moment. Was that a case of him ignoring information that challenged his ideology?

Or how is it that sometimes you have a very specific thought not to do a specific thing, and you listen to that thought, so you don't do whatever it is or go wherever you'd been headed. Then you find out later that the decision saved your life? If this happens to you more than once, it's hard to chalk it up to coincidence. (These expereinces probably don't count if you're a couch potato or afraid of most things.) Science, however, demands that you reject your own interpretation of your personal experiences and accept whatever it is science says is true at the moment.

Notice I say at the moment. All it takes is a study of how science has shaped racist propaganda and how scientists, after consuming the very propaganda science helped create, then go on to misinterpret the word around them and you'll see that science itself should also be given the side-eye sometimes.

Since scientists discuss the human tendency to cling to information that only supports what a human already believes, what beliefs do most scientists hold that influence how they interpret phenomena such as coincidence? I mean, they're human, too. What are the ideologies that propel scientists?

In general, I support science, proven facts, and numbers, but I do not automatically rule out "God" or the mystical. I make room in my life for the possibility of miracles. I have to because I am not a natural optimist. Life's difficulties have stripped me of idealism and my earlier leanings toward the romantic, I think.

And I don't care that some people I otherwise respect think that believing in the mystical and spiritual is for cowards who can't accept what athiests call "the fact that there is no God." It's impossible for a living person to know whether God exists, which is why belief in God requires faith. However, it's not unreasonable to say that old concepts of God, such as the image of a white man in a robe and long beard sitting somewhere in the sky is hard to swallow and highly improbable. On the other hand, theories in theoretical physics open the door to believing almost anything is possible in terms of alternate dimensions.

I recognize that it's a choice to believe in the spiritual just as it is a choice to accept a specific system of ethics, but as long as such beliefs are not putting me and my family's lives in jeopardy--for example causing me to refuse medical help or to not take action to solve problems or assume agency in my own life--how does it harm me?

Actually, when scientists and atheists ask us to reject belief in the unseen and ignore perceived patterns or that strange sense of presence we sometime feel (which can be explained by causes other than God), they are asking us to work against our own evolutionary survival instinct. That doesn't mean we should believe all kinds of superstition. It simply means that perhaps we should not, in our effort to prove how intellectually sophisticated we are, rule out the possibility that some aspects of the mystical may be valid. Until we fully understand everything about the human brain or disprove string theory with irrefutable evidence, those of us who prefer to believe in God are not as nutty as those who don't would have us think we are.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Implicit racism in Ebola tragedy? Read Wright and think

Nowai Korkoya, mother of Ebola patient
Thomas Eric Duncan with Rev. Jackson
I have been processing information regarding the medical care of Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan, the first patient in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, died at a Dallas, Texas, Presbyterian hospital on October 8. I am ruminating what I know of his case and contemplating how subconscious racism or racial bias may have played a role in his treatment.

Is it probable or merely possible that the hospital failed to diagnose the Liberian correctly because he was Black and uninsured?

Other activists, bloggers, and journalists sensitive to the effects of racism on America and the world have already scrutinized his treatment as well as how various media companies have reported on the Ebola crisis and concluded that more than likely both racial bias and medical capitalism played a negative role in how the hospital treated Duncan and how America has approached the Ebola crisis.

Early in Duncan's case, the hospital asserted it was treating Duncan as best its staff could and attributed possible missteps to flaws in the electronic health records system. Duncan's family, however, felt otherwise. Speaking out, they said they believed the hospital might have been treating Duncan differently because he was African.

Since his death, the family's released his medical records that show Duncan definitely told hospital staff he had recently arrived from Liberia, and staff documented that he had a 103 degree fever, but the hospital sent him home anyway. Since the records release, the hospital has said it will review its procedures.

I'm aware of studies showing that "racial bias skews medical diagnoses of African-American patients." Nonetheless, when I learned, prior to Duncan's death, that the family had called in Rev. Jesse Jackson, fearing Duncan would not receive the treatment he needed, I thought maybe they were paranoid. My logic was surely medical professionals of any racial background would understand an Ebola epidemic in the U.S.A. would be disastrous for everyone and that medical professionals would know to be cautious with sick patients coming from Ebola-stricken countries.

I think carefully before I call an action or policy "racist," but when I discovered that Duncan, once diagnosed, had not immediately been given the experimental drug credited with curing a White doctor who contracted Ebola in Africa and was flown to the U.S. for treatment, I began to think perhaps the family was not overreacting.

Now that I've read "The Implicit Racism in Ebola Tragedy," an opinion piece by Robin Wright at CNN, I'm beginning to think calling out racism on the handling of Ebola is not as crazy as it sounds. Citing examples from African children in Dallas who have no connection to Duncan being called "Ebola kids" to how the media is resurrecting old tropes of Africa as "dark continent," Wright's essay should give us all pause. Eventually, the U.S.A. will have to deal with some kind of communicable disease and neglecting to treat people adequately because they are Black or Brown and poor will only worsen the situation.

So, I highly recommend you read what Wright has to say. If you're the kind of person who believes racism no longer exists at the instituional level, I hope you can set aside that assumption and really give what she's saying deep thought.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Twitter's tripping over Raven Symone's colorless approach

On twitter, folks have been tripping over a statement actress Raven Symone made in her recent interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The Disney-groomed star has declared herself colorless. Oprah, great mother to the misguided, tried to warn Symone that she'd take some heat for her assertion, but the younger woman didn't care.

And Oprah's probably already let it go because she knew the furor was coming. Look at how the Queen of TV hugs the former Cosby Show star in the picture below, showing the girl lots of love. Don't be mad. I'm not. Raven Symone and the rest of us need all the love we can get. But Symone, in this case, may need more because she's swallowed a chunk of racist propaganda and doesn't know she's in danger of choking.

E! Online quotes the conversation:
"I'm tired of being labeled," she said. "I'm an American. I'm not an African American; I'm an American."
"Oh, girl," a surprised Winfrey said. "Don't set up Twitter on fire...Oh, my lord. What did you just say?"
"I mean, I don't know where my roots go to," Raven explained. "I don't know how far back they go...I don't know what country in Africa I'm from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I'm an American. And that's a colorless person."
She says that she connects with Caucasian, Indian, Asian, and Black. I do wonder where she thinks the Black comes from, though, if not Africa.

Despite being "from Louisiana," Symone apparently has forgotten that there's a term for being of mixed ethnicity down here. It's called "Creole." (Side note: Beyonce's family also has Louisiana Cajun/Creole roots.)

But even within that category, people still make a distinction. There's "Black Creole" and "White Creole."

So, what people hear when a person of African descent talks like Symone's talking is this: "I don't want to be Black." And they're not being unfair when they say that's what they hear. Notice that Symone did not specify first that she would not like to be labeled any of those other "races" or ethnic groups with whom she connects. And she didn't sound as though she merely has a philosophical or spiritual objection to being "labeled" a specific "color." She said she was "tired" of it, which indicates irritation, frustration.

I've got to quote Jesus here, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" because I've observed that whenever people make statements like hers in this so-called "post-racial" era, they focus on eliminating the Blackness label not Whiteness, which shows what's really in their hearts or on their minds even if they don't know it.

However, this is not just a Raven Symone issue. Many of the light-skinned "Black" Creoles of the past down here, those who appeared racially ambiguous said for the longest the same kind of thing Symone did. They declared that they are a group in between. Nonetheless, if you read the histories of such discussions, rarely is anyone decrying that they have sometimes been mistaken for White and want people to also acknowledge their Blackness. Almost always what angers them is that someone has called them "Colored, Negro, Black, or African-American."

Here I acknowledge that many light-skinned Black people do not think that way. I'm just making this point about "Black" Creole complaints because it's a fact that some take pride in their French, Spanish, and Native American roots but actively seek to distract attention from their African roots.

Symone is also not alone in her age group with this attitude. I've run into multiple 20-somethings, all of them dark brown to nearing blue black, who have said, "I'm not African-American! I'm an American." All of the Black 20-somethings that I've heard say this are educationally privileged, meaning they have college degrees.

Our education system is doing a poor job if these young people don't see the implications of the "Don't call me African-American. I'm just an American" statement. And they really think it's a perfectly logical assertion that shows how fair-minded and enlightened they are, as one young lady's tweet illustrates.
I get it. I get it. These young people want to feel accepted in America and for who they are, which is more than their physical appearance or ancestral origins. This desire to be accepted for who we are does not go away as we age. I do hope, however, that with age a sociological and political maturity arises in people that let's them see how short-sighted and insular that statement reveals them to be, not so much in terms of how they feel about themselves, but in whether they care about perpetuating the subjugation of African peoples, their descendants, and other oppressed groups.

Also, this "I'm colorless" mantra is not strictly an American phenomenon. Two years ago, a woman whose parents came to America from the Dominican Republic wrote on Blogher, "I'm Not Black. Why Do You Care?" I don't think I commented on that post, but I'll say here now, "I don't care what she calls herself," but I do care about how these kinds of statements feed into the racist rhetoric that to be of African descent, to be Black, is to be undesirable.

Generally, I don't argue with young people who make these kinds of statements. I try to cut them slack when it comes to opening their mouths and revealing their youthful ignorance. Symone and other people who are insufficiently-educated on global race matters and history are African-Diaspora illiterate. They are unaware that they are victims of Euro-American cultural brainwashing.

When I say African Diaspora, I'm referring to the dispersal of Africans from Africa as well as their displacement and oppression brought about by slavery, colonization, and segregation. Being Diaspora literate helps people understand Black culture on its own terms. When combined with the practices of critical literacy, Diaspora literacy can help people dissect and decipher rhetoric within texts categorized as academic or scientific as well as those that are political and "historical." These literacies encourage readers to examine the rhetorical methods these texts employ to perpetuate dehumanizing societal beliefs or persuade action against specific ethnic, religious, or gendered groups. In other words, people who are Diaspora and critically literate can see the bullshit being shoveled down society's throat that keep its members believing lies about Africa and its peoples.

Scholarship, scientific inquiry, policy proposals, and historical texts, no matter how much the authors declare themselves objective, have the world views of their authors embedded in them either boldly or subtly. Honest researchers, however, fight the human tendency to favor data that favors what they already believe or to ignore information that contradicts their beliefs.

 A good example of scholars failing to resist that tendency would be the work of archaeologists who either consciously or subconsciously accepted white supremacist rhetoric about sub-Saharan Africans and therefore denied for more than a century that the "Kushites overthrew the ancient Egyptians." With this denial, they perpetuated negative stereotypes of sub-Saharan Africa as a land without language, skill, or culture.

And even literary texts, such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness, have ideological pillars that should be examined. For more about racist tropes in that book, see Chinua Achebe's Hopes and Impediments.

All that said, Symone and other miseducated people can believe whatever they choose to believe and live under whatever philosophy that helps them sleep better at night or love themselves adequately. I, however, prefer to live with truth even if it means I endure some restless nights. Living with the truth furthers hope that one day we will all be free and live in a country of sincere inclusiveness not imprudent erasure. Denial of the truth hinders that day's arrival. People don't solve problems they can't see.

So, herein lies the truth: To deny or try to bury your African heritage knowing you are of African descent is to co-sign white supremacist policies and doctrines that oppress people of African descent. This denial flows from internalized racism and magnifies self-hatred.

To shun being called African-American or gay when you are Black and gay and to also make the statement, "I just want to be equal" or "I'm just American" is to cooperate in your own oppression. Such statements logically imply their inverse, which is people of African descent and people other than straight cannot be considered equal or American.

The question is if race, color, sexual orientation really don't matter to you and you know you have Black roots and are gay, why does it bother you that people refer to you as either?

The question is if you mean no disrespect to your African genes, why go out of your way to bury references to the African in you?

This instinct to bury Blackness makes you complicit in Black erasure, genocide, both physical and psychological. In other words, when you publicly promote the color-blind, gender-blind, or sexuality-blind approaches to solving social justice issues or, supposedly, to promote harmony, you are doing the opposite. You are complicit and a potential collaborator with the very systems you supposedly want to condemn.

We have keep having to review these elementary principles. Why can't there just be a book we give people when they show their ignorance on this topic? Don't answer that. I know the answer.

Nonetheless, just as Raven Symone is "tired of being labeled . . . African-American," I'm tired that people keep making statements that disparage being of African descent. The next time someone does an interview and they've got these issues about Blackness, I hope they'll keep it to themselves, and one day, maybe, when they wake up, they can attend remedial classes and figure out not who the hell they are but who do they want to be. For all our sakes, I hope it's someone more concerned about how the oppressed are treated than they are about being "labeled" a member of the oppressed

Each new generation of historically oppressed peoples must be educated to critically assess the targeted, dehumanizing propaganda of hegemony or that generation will unwittingly dance down a path to its own slaughter.

Race is a social construct, true, but the same world that constructed it has neither abolished its construction nor is it willing to let us demolish it without a fight. Race may not be real, but perception is everything. Race as construct, therefore, is real. Declaring alone "there is no spoon" does not topple the power that created the illusion of the spoon.

Blackness and how we perceive Africa and peoples of African descent is also a construct in terms of the qualities and attributes society assigns to Blackness and African. Reshaping negative perceptions does not rest in denying who created those perceptions and how they continue to have power over people's lives.

Self-ascribed colorlessness or declarations of color-blindness are manifestations of human dysfunction not progress. But if you don't get what I'm saying, then maybe you'll get it when Jane Elliot explains it here. Ironically, she said what she said on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

All that said, let's leave Raven Symone to her own devices. When you have fame and money in America, you can live in whichever bubble you choose, even the ones that contribute to the oppression of others and keep you blind. Let her live in her imaginary colorless world.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vine Videos from Women Performing for Women benefit

Tonight I attended Women Performing for Women, a benefit for Hagar's House, a sanctuary for women and children in New Orleans and a ministry of First Grace United Methodist Church. The event was held at Cafe Istanbul. The evening included performances by The Pussyfooters (a women's step group), Nichol Luebrun & Lizzy Shepherd, Charmaine Neville, (funk and jazz) and Amanda Shaw (Cajun fiddler).

I enjoyed it in spite of my having to record Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder.

Here are some of the Vine videos I took.

First, the Pussyfooters and also a clip of the Cupid Shuffle.

This man certainly enjoyed his time on the dance floor.

Charmaine Neville

Pastor Shawn Anglim

Amanda Shaw

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Black Teen,14, Killed for Allegedly Wielding BB Gun (video)

Tuesday evening, Houma, Louisiana, deputies shot and killed 14-year-old Cameron Tillman when the teen opened a door while allegedly holding a BB gun. The shooting occurred less than 24 hours before an Ohio grand jury declined to indict police officers who shot to death John Crawford III, a black man who was holding a BB gun in a Walmart that he found on the store's shelves. He was talking on the phone when he was killed.

The deupty shot Tillman four times. WDSU reports a spontaneous memorial for the slain youth grows outside the house in which he was shot. His blood still stains the floorboards.

According to the Associated Press, the stories about what happened Tuesday evening differ. The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's office tells their version; teens who witnessed the killing tell another.
". . .  the sheriff says, he [Tillman] flung open a door brandishing a BB gun made to look like a Sig Sauer .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Relatives of other teens who were there when Cameron Tillman was killed Tuesday evening say that's not true. (AP)
Witnesses say Tillman was not holding the BB gun, and the gun was on a table in the middle of the room when the deputy fired first directly at Tillman and then fired more shots through the door when Tillman quickly shut it. The teens say that the deputy did not announce himself, and that Tillman opened the door because he thought it was a friend.

Perhaps taking a page from how the police handled the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Sheriff Jerry Larpenter defends the shooting and has not yet identified the seven-year police force veteran who killed Tillman, reports the Houma Courier:
"He knocked on the door and said 'Sheriff's Office, come out.' A very short time after, Tillman threw the door open brandishing that gun toward the officer. The officer feared for his life, and, unfortunately, the individual was shot four times," Larpenter claims. "He (Tillman) turned that gun toward the deputy, and that deputy had to shoot or assume he would be shot." (via Courier)
The police were called by a neighbor who reported seeing young men brandishing weapons, says the sheriff's office. (I don't fault people for calling when they see groups of people with guns, but I also know that Louisiana has some of the loosest gun laws in the country, and since the teens were indoors, I wonder what the neighbor saw.)

The Associated press reports that Larpenter is no longer giving interviews.

Unfortunately for this nation and young Tillman's family, we've all seen this show before. When will we stop the encores?

In related news, Police Chief Tom Jackson apologized via video today to the family of Mike Brown Jr. for how long Brown's body was left in the street, and he said he's realized that some African-Americans mistrust the police department and he hopes to do better.