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Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Trayvon Martin Verdict: What it really says about America

racism2Dear Reader, you will notice I did not call it the Zimmerman Trial because he was not on trial. Trayvon Martin a 17 year old young man who many chose to call a thug, with no evidence that he was anything of the kind was on trial. The essence of the trial was whether or not Zimmerman had the right to kill an unarmed teenager he outweighed by 50 pounds or more because he found him ” suspicious” for no reasonable reason. The decision of a jury of five white women and one Hispanic woman was that he did.

We can, and probably will be arguing for decades about whether or not a black man’s murder can be judged by a jury with no black people on it. And that brings me to one of the three things this trial proved.

1) That many white people do not think black people can be objective, or even trusted on the subject of race, but believe they can. This is ironic. Let’s look at some of the decisions about race that white people have made over the years about people of color and try to examine exactly how objective they are as a group. a) That anyone not a WASP was not white–you do know that the Irish, the Italians, the Eastern Europeans were not granted whiteness until it became evident that if they were not they might band with the people of color and throw the WASPs out

b) That pesky slave thing

c) The decision to wipe out the indigenous people variously called American Indians, Native Americans, First Nations, etc. Having killed most of them by exposing them to European diseases they decided to finish them off with rifles and when that did not work quickly enough by giving them blankets infested with smallpox while also taking their children away to “civilize” them.

d) To pass laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act once the railroad and other grunt work were done and they did not want the yellow folks hanging around.

e) Jim Crow or modern slavery

f) Japanese Internment–even though the Italians and Germans who had fairly recently been declared white, were not interned.

g) Lynchings of 3,446 black men and women  well into the mid-20th century

h) Segregated separate but unequal schools well into the middle of the 20th century

i) Using Latinos to do work most Americans do not want to do and exploiting them to prop up the economies, particularly in agriculture and then declaring they should all be deported

j) The Tuskegee Experiments where they injected black men with syphilis to see what happened to them.

Hmm I see why some white folks think we should trust their judgement about race and whether or not there is racism involved. They have proven so good at it.

2) The preconceived notion that all black males are thugs. This is clung to even though it is a remnant of pro-slavery writing that tried to scare poor whites and abolitionists into supporting slavery by saying how dangerous black men were by nature. Ask any black male who is in a position to be honest with you, if he has been the object of clutched purses and crossed streets and challenges to why he is somewhere  he had every right to be and listen. The jury of white women thought of course Georgie was in danger, there was a black teen mad at him and you know how dangerous they are!!!

3) The continuing persistence of some white people to refuse to recognize the enduring nature of racism. It is one of their dearest beliefs that racism is all in the mind of people of color and that any incidence ( even if you show them dozens, or hundreds) of obvious racism are rare and perhaps misunderstood.  (Please read some white authors like Peggy McIntosh, Joe Feagin and Tim Wise if you will not take a black person’s word for it because we cannot be objective, of course). How in the hell can you set yourself up to judge if someone is the victim of racism when you are not subject to institutional and historical racism yourself? That is like a man telling a woman she should just shake it off because a man grabbed her breast, he didn’t mean anything by it and in the final analysis what did it hurt?

Racism hurts, and here is a bulletin for some of you , it hurts whether you meant it to or not. One of my former students posted last week that she uses a practice in her class to explain damaging other people verbally or otherwise. She hands them a plate and tells them to throw it on the floor, it breaks, she then tells them to say to the plate ” I’m sorry.” Then she asks them, “Did your apology work, is the plate back the way it was?”
Racism is alive and well in this country, if you do not want to hear about it work to wipe it out

It is impossible for you to understand what it is like to live in a country where people who probably do not like you have power over your existence, employment, credit, children, education and life in general.

I have white friends who would go to the mattresses for me, some of them more than my black friends, but a lot of people do not. ( Shout outs to Etta, Donna, Rose, actually two Roses, Carolyn, Jeff, Tim-both Tyson and Wise). I was exposed to this kind of white person only after I got to grad school ( they seem to proliferate more on college campuses, probably one reason the racist right hates education so) . For the first time I met white people who got it, who were unequivocal in their rejection of racism, homophobia, sexism and any other form of oppression. They were not just supportive and empathetic, they were leading the charge.  But, these champions are in the minority. I believe most white people are well-intentioned and do not think they are racist, but they will believe almost anything negative said about a person of color without questioning it, they will sit silent in the face of comments and actions they know are racist, and that, my dear friends, makes you a racist too.

If Trayvon Martin looked like my grandson Sam who has fair skin and blue eyes and only slightly wavy hair and would be taken by most for a white boy, he would still be alive. So, should I just rejoice that my progeny which is all at least bi, some of them tri-racial, will probably not be shot for being black like Martin was? ( Just as a matter of information, I am an Old Testament kind of woman, if someone decides to stand their ground with one of my loved ones they had better hope the police get to them before I do).

Or should I be sad and mad and outraged that a child can be shot and people defend his killer based on ” law.” If the law says you can call the police on a young man who is doing nothing wrong, then proceed to follow him because he looks “suspicious”. Unless you are an idiot you know he did not look suspicious to the murderer because he was carrying a soft drink and some candy. Get in your car, follow him ( stalk him) get out of your car and confront him,( if you think I believe the boy attacked him first you are nuts, and on the odd chance he did, if you are being followed by an armed man and you do not know why , shouldn’t Stand Your Ground allow you to defend yourself by force?) , and when he seems to you at least to be winning the fight you caused by following him , against the instructions of law enforcement, shoot and kill him, then the law is wrong and should be changed.

At the same time Zimmerman is free to go shoot a few more people he does not think have any right to be in his neighborhood, a black woman Marissa Alexander is serving twenty years because she shot a gun into the ceiling of her house as a warning to her abuser who was coming after her. Black woman gets 20 years for shooting her ceiling, Hispanic man gets 0 years for killing a black teenager. Maybe if her ceiling had been black Marissa could have gotten off with no jail time too.

Don’t tell me at any point that when I say some thing is racist it is not.  That is arrogance and insulting. Do it and you had better stand back because I am going to roast your eyebrows off.

Trayvon is only one in a string of young men shot who should not have been. Perhaps we need to put our attention on gun violence period. If Zimmerman had not had a gun he would probably not had the balls to follow Martin, if he could not beat up a teenager who he outweighed by more than fifty pounds he cannot be much of a warrior.

Stop shooting people period, and quit telling me this shooting did not have anything to do with race and we will get along fine!

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Myth of the Meritocracy redux: You are not better than other people no matter what you think!

good luck wreath 4

I have been fascinated for some time by what i see as the right leaning people in my life’s seeming callousness and indifference to the rights and opportunities of other people. Increasingly their mantra seems to be competition, crabs in a barrel climbing on top of each other as the great DuBois said, and animus towards anyone they see as being in competition with them or ,heaven forfend, after something they want or have. They seem to live in some deluded state of self-congratulations about having “made it.” As one of my leftie friends point out they seem to equate making it with having amassed money and property only. Not any good deeds,not any philanthropy, not any charity, just what they have collected or are trying to collect. The image of Uriah Heep keeps coming into my mind when I talk to them. Crouched over their horde of cash and property, their fingerless gloves grasping their checkbook and deeds and viewing their possessions as not only proof that they are superior, but that they should be admired for their “hard work” and cleverness. One of my rightie friends informed me that social justice and freedom are antithetical, seems you cannot have equal opportunity without the bad ones dragging the good ones down to their level. I am not sure why he could not envision a world where the more fortunate pull the less fortunate up with them, but I do not think that is congruent with his world view. In his world some animals are more equal than others and he likes it that way, considering himself one of the more equal group.

Some  people have nothing but contempt for the poor and will regale you at length with how they themselves  climbed out of poverty,  or being an orphan, or being from the wrong side of the tracks,  not one soul helped them not one ever, they did it all themselves etc . These proclamations of good old American effort are usually accompanied by some pseudo modesty which also serves to reinforce the fact that they are superior in some way, ” If I can do it, anyone can do it.”  Of course, that is not what they actually mean. This is shorthand for ” see I overcame all my obstacles, if you were half the person I am you could and would too! ”  Hard work is always mentioned, but oddly things like privilege, white, economic, family support, etc., never are. There is no sympathy or empathy for those who have less or are less successful, it is their own darn fault for being inferior. This is, of course, the newest, but very familiar form of Social Darwinism.

Some of the black folks who fall into this genre are the worst. They are so busy vilifying other blacks who did not do as well as they did, thereby reassuring their white betters that they are not like “those” black people, the ungrateful ones,  that they come across as something odd, a black racist against other blacks, commonly known as an Uncle Tom. See Clarence Thomas and his ilk for this genre of person, someone who has firmly internalized racism and is so certain that blacks are inferior ,and so sure that that actually includes them, that they spend their time trying to distance themselves from other blacks by out-racisting the white racists. ” You are right those are some trifling Negroes” their attitude and allegiances seem to say to their white friends and supporters. I have often said you can get very rich in this country by standing up as a black person and telling white people there is nothing wrong with the way blacks are treated in this country it is all an excuse on their part to keep from thriving. Racism, we all know is a figment of the black mind exacerbated by white liberals engaging in and falling prey to undeserved white guilt  ( Uncle Clarence expressed his belief in this when he voted to disenfranchise thousands of black people recently) . This pathology seems particularly strong in someblacks who have dark skin and kinky hair. It is not an indicator, most people with dark skin and kinky hair are not self-haters. But, I have a theory, untried, unr-esearched at least quantitatively, but quite well researched qualitatively, these people, almost exclusively male, have been taught that they are inferior in looks and in intellect. They are so happy and grateful that some white people have found them acceptable, have not rejected them despite their blackness, which they hate, that they will do anything to please them as a reward for their favor.

This narcissistic behavior, ” Look what I did, look how pitiful you are, I beat you, ha ha.”, finds its roots philosophically if not racially in the roots of the pro-slavery writers like String-Fellow and James Henry Hammond. A lot of the prejudice, stereotypes and hateful rhetoric directed at blacks comes from the calculated writings of these men trying to justify holding other human beings as property.  In order not to be viewed as evil themselves ( which of course they were) they had to prove the slaves unworthy, inferior and lacking in skills to even take care of themselves, that they were born and created to serve whites and that it was a favor to “civilize” them by having them work for free for the profit of their civilized masters who beat, raped and often killed them. The pro-slave writers knew better. James Henry Hammond, one of the most prolific of the writers of this scree fell in love, not just lust, with one of his black female slaves and when his white wife threw down the gauntlet of it was the slave or her, he sent his wife away. ( Read the book “The Diary of James Henry Hammond: Secret and Sacred” for more detail) . All the while writing some of the nastiest, most vile prose about how inferior and animalistic blacks were.The slave owners knew that blacks were not dumber or more violent or more hyper-sexual than white people, but they had to 1) justify taking away their freedom and stealing their work, and 2) make poor whites and their women afraid of black people, especially black men. A lot of pro-slavery writing emphasized the sexual appetites of the  black man ( this while the white men were popping down to the cabins to rape the black women daily) and how they lusted for white women. Unchecked they would rape every white female they could find, probably more than once! This was a double fear, getting raped by a black men meant the child that might result would be of color. Even if you were raped that might be enough to get you thrown out on your ear and ostracized. You were spoiled goods.

The modern heirs of the slave owners, black, white and otherwise, because it is an endemic disease, not confined to one group, still try to justify their supremacy by suggesting they are better, or more diligent, or more intelligent, or more skilled than others. WRONG!  Any success anyone has is not 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, it is 30% effort, 30% timing, 20% access and 20% plain ass luck. I have sat on dozens of search committees, some for positions that paid more than I made. One particular search with a six figure beginning salary garnered 176 applications. The search committee had three months to accomplish our task. That meant reviewing 176 applications, paring them down to 60 within a week, paring the 60 down within the next week to 20, paring the 20 down to 9 the next week for phone interviews, paring those 9 down to 3 to bring to campus and making a recommendation after we made hotel, flight and forum and meeting arrangements and then ranking the candidates for our recommendation. Would you like to know some of the criteria used to filter those applications? ( it was 176 after a secretary had gone through and established they all had the education and experience required to be considered) . One committee I sat on rejected an application because the person wrote ” criteria” when the word should have been “criterion.” Do you honestly think this person would have been worse at the job because they used the plural rather than the singular?   One person made the initial cut because they indicated in the cover letter they had grown up on a street called Maple Street. One of the committee members had also grown up on a street called Maple in another city and state. By the time we had reviewed 176 vita they all began to blur. We each had our favorites and for different reasons.  This committee member advocated for this candidate because of their commonality in childhood street names and the person was kept in the pool. They did not eventually win the position, but they could have. That person would not have been chosen because of qualifications but because of street nomenclature.

So, if you have a good job, good ! There are hundreds of people who could do your job as well as or better than you. If you have a lot of money, good! There are thousands of people who have more money than you do and thousands more who could if they thought money was as important as you do. Ditto for cars, spouses, children, cats, dogs, houses and gardens, six-packs, hair, skin, bling and degrees. Human beings have different ideas about what making it entails and no one person or group of people get to decide what that is. You made it because you were luckier or more privileged than someone else, either physically or some other way. You can no more take credit for being smarter than someone ( see above) as having come from your work solely than a 7 foot tall man can take credit for being tall.

What you can do is learn to see the value in every single person, including yourself, that has nothing to do with what they have or know or do. Until you learn that lesson you have not made it, you just think you have.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized