It's all about perspective

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Silence

I was having a conversation with a few co-workers about employee rights, civil rights, and the blaze attitude of citizens where other’s rights are concerned. This led me to thinking about the recent snafu with so-called “Tea Party” nominee Rand Paul, son of the infamous Presidential nominee Ron Paul, where Rand showed his true colors by stating (by avoidance of the issue) that private institutions not doing business with, or getting public funds from, the government have a right to discriminate.

Is that an inherent right though? Do we have a right to discriminate? The answer, as usual, is never easy. Yes we have a right to believe however we want. Since a discriminatory view is based on a preconceived notion, a belief, and everyone has a right to believe what they want then you are welcome to believe that Jesus was something other than a story, that women are inferior to men, or that black people are by their very skin color somehow less than whites. However there is no enshrined or unspoken right to act on those beliefs. Just because you believe someone will die unless you cut off their arm does not mean you get to. Likewise, if someone believes that someone of a different race, class, or gender is a lesser person does not mean they get to act on that belief. You don’t get to hire a white guy simply because he’s white, a man, or both. Private property such as someone’s house is one thing, but private property that is open to the public like a restaurant or other business where goods are for sale is no different than public property when it comes to access to those goods.

Just like the separate but equal argument, by doing such a thing you automatically create an underclass of limitations in access, opportunity, and ability. Furthermore, by saying this amendment is unnecessary you say that the people who did exercise their first amendment rights to a redress of grievances were wrong to do so. That redress, by the way, your contemporaries were on the losing side of. Get over it and stop crying.

The Bill of Rights specifically states that those rights not enshrined therein are automatically granted to the citizen (9th amendment). Does that, however, grant the protection available for the named rights to the unnamed ones? The ninth and tenth amendments specifically state that the government cannot deny those rights, but is that also implying that those rights should be enforced? It comes down to logistics eventually. How can our government protect and enforce unnamed rights? It can’t. All it can do is not deny them, which the repealing of that amendment would do.

This document was designed to enumerate not only what the government can and cannot do, but what its citizens are allowed to ask of it. Yes, we may have four thousand pages of rights unnamed in the constitution, but unless we can define them the government can just as easily say “not my problem, buddy.” Redress of grievances does not mean we will win that redress.

My suggestion to you Mr. and Mr. Pauls is thus; if you truly believe in the libertarian way of life, get out of my government, go buy an island, and live out your little Republic de Fantasy on your own. The thought of a libertarian attempting to force their viewpoint down my throat reeks of just the hypocrisy they rail against.

Just because you have a right to say whatever you want, does not mean you have a right to protection from retaliation based on those words. Such protection is only offered when you learn when to speak and when to remain …

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Tim Wise: Imagine if the Tea Party was Black

Tim Wise: Imagine if the Tea Party was Black.

I’ll let Tim say his peace. He is a much better man that I.

An open letter to Kris Broughton

I stumbled across your writings by accident, and first allow me to say how great it is to finally find a voice speaking about the questions I’ve had as a white sociologist studying race, privilege, and cultural creation. Your questioning of the current media machine’s ethnic influences is one which needs to continue to be questioned before any real action can be started. (e.g. Fox’s white network of unfair and imbalanced news; CNN and other major news outlets’ portrayals of black men and women during the Katrina disaster)

Your frame of “our national tribe” in Who Controls America’s Racial Narrative is one I find to be long overdue. It seems more and more we are becoming splintered. The states which make our union are increasingly becoming exclusionary. People from Missouri find little with which to relate to our cousins in New York or California.

I also find the questions you begin to ask in “Recarving Our Cultural Totem: An Excerpt” to be both long overdue and fascinating as I have been asking similar questions about my own ethnicity. My own research into white culture has uncovered some disturbing revelations on the nature of white privilege.

However, I would like to ask a few questions myself on your excerpt. One: does the book take into account the “trinity” of cultural interactions; e.g. race, class, and gender? Two: in answering your questions, (as I attempt to answer my own) how does one account for their own pre-conceived notions? Three: your frame of “Black America 5.0” assumes that Black America 4.0 – Integration, has already occurred. How do you take into account the stark contradictions to that integration which you refer to in your other posts?

In this paragraph you discuss what I can only perceive as an attempt to connect with your “paler brethren:”

This is a stubborn subset of the black community that wants to have their cornbread and eat it too. But if they are honest with themselves, they have to admit that all white skinned people do not enjoy all the attendant privileges of whiteness. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, Midwestern hicks — they face a level of ostracism that is almost equal to what some of us encounter because we have our hair braided, or because we wear hip hop clothing, or sport rows of gold capped teeth.

However, your claim that certain subcultures of whiteness do not enjoy the same level of privileges others do is not only incorrect, but lacks respect of social environment and the basis for intra-ethnic racism. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, and Midwestern hicks may feel out of place in a larger urban area, but in their home regions they enjoy the exact same (if not increased) level of privileges which every other white person receives. This is not always the case in ethnic communities. Intra-ethnic racism is based not on stereotypes one ethnic group creates about itself, but on ones which are borrowed from the parent culture. Furthermore, anyone may choose to “dress the part” of a stereotype and then subsequently remove the costume, but I will never be able to walk into a room full of Native Americans and say “it’s okay guys, I’m not white any more, I’m Cherokee now.”

I applaud the attempt to relate, as I agree it needs to happen for real change to occur, but that is one of the fundamental issues in collaboration between ethnic groups in the United States: white’s inability to relate to the struggle of minorities under institutional racism. A poor white does not equate to a poor Souix or poor black; they may be similar in appearance, but are in no respects equal in circumstance to each other.

So in your opinion, how do whites collaborate and relate to minorities when they have no real understanding of what its like? I have been poor, homeless, and starving. I know what its like to go to bed so hungry you just want to die so the pain goes away. Is that the thread which people, regardless of race or creed need to grasp at when attempting to bridge racial lines? Focus not on our differences but in how we are similar? In theory I would agree with that, but then do we just forget everything that came before? I believe that is more of a slap to the face than anything else. Doing so not only lessens the influence of those events on current ones, but allows whites to continue to act without consequence. I believe whites must take responsibility for their cultural history before this outreach along shared experiences can occur and be meaningful.

I think this is one of the linchpins of color-blind racism. Your question “how do we get others, whether they are white, Latino, or Asian, to [rearrange their mythological constructs] when they encounter us?” Those mythological constructs are based in white culture. For them to really change one (or both) of two things must occur; white culture must change, or white culture must become the minority. I think that if we can get white people to start taking responsibility for their culpability in the situation real, lasting change can begin.

I look forward to reading your book.

545 People

I got an email this morning from my father. It was a simple email containing no words, but a simple attachment I was beckoned to read (you can read it at the bottom of this post).

As is normal with nearly every email my parents forward to me, I immediately hit snopes.com to investigate the email’s validity. To my surprise the email was true and in fact was written by Charlie Reese. To my further surprise, this was originally written 25 years ago. (To see two more versions other than the one above hit up this piece on snopes.com.)

After reading the three versions I’ve found (I’m sure there are more) I’ve come to the conclusion that good old Charlie was either a brilliant clairvoyant or a vitriolic idiot. I’m inclined to lean toward the latter. For twenty five years the conservatives in this country have been blaming Congress for every single woe we’ve faced. In fact, the conservatives have been blaming Congress for far longer than that (even way back when the Democrats were the conservatives).

So does this little missive, with its updated names and places, serve as the “I told you so” to the rest of America? I don’t think so. What it does show is the real problem: a lack of personal responsibility. The piece touches on it a few times, but lays that responsibility mostly in the hands of the infamous “545 people.” What about our responsibility as voters? (It’s mentioned once)

There certainly are more than 300 million people in this great nation, but good old Charlie neglects to mention voter turnout. There aren’t 300 million people voting in these elections, not even close. According to infoplease.com voter turnout was only 56.8% of registered voters.

And I bet some of you are saying “Oh wait, what’s this registered voters thing?”

Me: “That? It’s just the number of people in the country who are actually of age to vote; 18 or older.”

You: “Oh. So there aren’t actually 300 million people who could replace these 545 wicked sinners?”

Me: “Not even close, but I was just talking about the number of people who could vote. There’s an entirely different number of people who are eligible for any of these 545 positions.” (I’ll direct you to the Wikipedia page on the qualifications of a Senator and a Representative so this rather generous number shrinks even farther now.)

You: “Damn lazy reporters.”

Me: “Damn right.”

Then again, voter turnout is only really high every four years during a Presidential election. On the “off years,” as I call them, the voter turnout is closer to the high thirtieth percentile. (37.1% – roughly 80 million voters)

The only part of good old Charlie’s letter I agree with is the last few lines, which comes down to this: “Bitch, follow, or do it yourself.” The first two do no one any good, but the last is imperative to the health of any republic. The personal responsibility lays with us. Every registered voter in the United States has an obligation not just to bitch and whine, but to actually do something. Get out and vote your opinion. Don’t just scream it. Don’t just grouse behind a computer screen or newspaper. Support the representatives you support with your votes. But before you can even do that, they must be supported financially and physically. If you can’t donate $5, then donate a few hours of your time to help the people you believe in get to where they can do some good. And if you don’t find anyone out there who agrees with you then run yourself and find others who believe in you.

If you’re unwilling to do any of the previous, then the Common Sense Committee hereby revokes your right to bitch about this or any future situation the United States finds itself in.

Attachment follows the jump:

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The Speech

On September 8, 2009 President Obama will give this speech to schools around the U. S. This speech is designed to:

Help get America’s students engaged! On Tuesday, September 8 — the first day of school for many students — the President will talk directly to students across the country on the importance of taking responsibility for their education, challenging them to set goals and do everything they can to succeed.

Ever since the announcement there have been people screaming about how it is illegal, immoral, and just propaganda. This, coupled with the Right’s attempt to paint President Obama’s health care initiative in a similar light, just goes to show how far they have actually fallen.

Let me assure you, it is not illegal. The President is not setting curriculum. To do that he would have to say something to the effect of “Today all science classes will now teach Intelligent Design.” This is not something he’s doing, nor will he ever. The President is not changing all schools over to the metric system. He is giving a speech. About personal responsibility. Something that I will agree should be taught by the children’s parents, but a concerned country and member of this society can only blame the parents for so long until action must be taken.

For that reason alone, it is not immoral either. The right wing, and many others, in this country want the government out of their lives. I can understand that and can even sympathize with that. I want corporate control out of my life and feel that’s a much bigger issue than government, but that’s an issue for another time. However, personal responsibility, a skill that very few members of my generation learned and thus, were not able to pass on to their children, is something that must be taught. If we did not learn it from our parents and we did not learn it from school, where were we supposed to learn it? So as a concerned citizen and leader of a society President Obama is stepping up to address the challenge of that very question. He’s not trying to supplant parents, nor is he trying to supplant schools, he is merely challenging the youth and future of our nation to do better than the generation before them. What loftier goal is there?

As far as propaganda is concerned, yes it is a bit of propaganda, but so is education. In fact, every educational system on the planet is designed to lay out the propaganda of that society. “U.S.A. is #1!” The pledge of allegiance and all that jazz. Yet President Obama is not putting a left spin or a right spin on the speech. He is trying to use his own experiences and the experiences of others like him to motivate our children to do better. Not because they’re failing and not because they’re lazy, but because as a parent he knows, just like every parent out there knows, that our children can do better.

It is a speech to our kids about something important that the vast majority of you never would have even hinted at to you own children, but because someone else is doing it, you have to scream and whine and moan about “parent’s rights” and “government influence.” Get real and wake up. There are far worse influences than the government speaking to our children every day.

As a final note, I would like to challenge everyone out there who is a member of the “screaming me-me’s” to tell everyone else where they were when President Bush did the same thing? Where were you when any President addressed the nation like this? I’ll tell you where you were. You were safe at home, or at your jobs, or at your bars not worrying once about it because that time it was “no big deal.” That President was just “one of the boys” what harm could he do?

In the beginning…

So I want to talk about race. I’ve done this before, but in my previous post I only talked about science and splitting hairs between the definitions. This time, I want to talk about what this little monster called race has done, what it’s been doing, and what it’s likely going to do to us if we don’t do something. I’ll likely not get to all of that in this post, but I have to save something for next time.

Unfortunately, there is no real progression of racism so a simple linear look at race in the United States is somewhat worthless. Now we can track it and study it and find it throughout history, but race is a subtle thing with not-so-subtle trappings. Its like finding out that all your apples taste sour not because of that new fertilizer you’re using, but because of what your great-grandfather used; it was fine for him at the time, but now its wreaking havoc on you. Now this shit our forefathers threw all over the place is coming back to poison us.

Seeing as how race is a social construct it changes with each new leap or change in culture. This used to take several generations, but with the advent of the modern age and the swiftness with which information can be distributed these changes occur at a much more rapid pace. So now we find ourselves trying to figure out where to go from the forgotten and broken promises made in the 60’s, the 70’s, and all the way back to the Bill of Rights. This was supposed to be the future and the future wasn’t supposed to be racist or have anything to do with skin color. And for anyone, ANYONE, who says that race and racism is over because we managed to get a black man in the White House; shut up and sit down because you haven’t been paying attention for pretty much your whole damn life.

The United States of America, the country I love and, contrary to how I write about it, am so proud of, needs to face the truth about itself. This country was born from the womb of racism. Our forefathers committed heinous atrocities all in the name of economic progress. We hunted down and killed Native peoples by the millions. We bought and sold human beings. We treated human beings like little more than trinkets to be done with as we wished. I say we need to own this. We need to take responsibility for what our predecessors did because no one else is. We were shamed into action in the 60’s and 70’s, but shame, like anger, is an emotional energy that only lasts so long and does not extend into the next generation. Now we sit here almost two generations down the road and there is no real change that can be counted. One person, one family making good does not a revolution make, nor fulfill a promise.

Every time we pledge allegiance to the flag, every time we sing the Star Spangled Banner, every time we cheer the Braves or the Chief’s and we’re talking about a sports team instead of political leaders, every time we tell an off-color joke, every time we laugh at an off-color joke, every time we cross the street to avoid someone who looks different than us, we say to our children, our friends, and our society that “all of that stuff was okay. All of it was necessary and perfectly fine. You don’t have to take responsibility for it either.” This absolutely must stop.

So let me start at the beginning.
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Racism?

I’m a member of a few social networking sites. Myspace, Facebook, Atheist Nexus, and a place called OkCupid. OkCupid is an entertaining site as it mashes up a dating site like Yahoo personals or Match.com with a social network site like Myspace. I have some fun on there and have met a few entertaining people. But what sucks the hours right out of my day is the forums.

Just like any forum there are varied and sometimes quixotic topics ranging from “how many drinks would it take to sleep with the poster above you” to “critique my profile.” Today though, I was looking through the forums and ran across this topic titled “In the name of God…” It was started by a thirtysomething white male in response to a few emails he had received.  Apparently the original poster (OP) specifies on his profile that he is only looking for a single white female. The person who emailed the OP inquired about this and wondered if he would be willing to “give up on all other races and possible love connections just because they are not white.” The OP responed to this by relegating his choice in skin color on his potential mate to the same level as hair and eye color, weight, or height. The woman emailing the OP brought in God and made the OP out to be a racist and herself to be more enlightened because she’s a God-fearing woman and the OP must not be. What followed has been a flurry of topic responses calling him prejudiced, racist, a bigot, and many others. There are plenty of responses that back the OP, but far more that denounce his choice of potential mates.

So I have been wondering, is this man’s exclusion of several ethnicities from his pool of potential mates based on racism or on a measurement of attraction he has no conscious control over?

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