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Category Archives: Social Justice

Speaking Truth to Power: Black students at PWIs

indexI went to a southern PWI ( Predominantly White Institution) more than ten years ago as an administrator just certain that I was on a mission of truth, justice and the un-American way of social justice. I was not on campus long before both blacks and whites with my best interests in mind began sidling up to me telling me to be careful what I said. Their message was basically one of, people are listening to you and if they don’t like what you say they will get rid of you, and we don’t want that to happen.

I was happy they liked me and wanted me to stay, but puzzled by this seeming fright that if I said something the people in power did not like they would get rid of me. After all, I was a diversity officer, wasn’t part of my job to point out injustices, work against injustices and advocate for change to remedy injustice? The veterans, those who had worked there for a while, knew what it took me several years to find out. The administration was only interested in protecting the status quo–white supremacy–not in making changes. They were however, very interested in getting help pretending to change things or to care about about social justice.

During my tenure I was fascinated at the cooperation of the black folks on campus with this charade. Not only did they do what they were told, they usually pretended to like it. When I asked them things like why there were not more black professors or why some of the programs like study abroad seemed to be virtually without minority representation or why women kept getting leapfrogged by men who had been their subordinates until those men were now their superiors, they all tsk-tsked and shook their heads, ducked and covered and collected their paychecks.

So, this missive is to black students at PWIs. You are on your own. In the vast majority of circumstances the black people on campus as powerless. They have choices, keep their mouths shut, please their superiors, always a white person, and keep their jobs, or advocate for real change and be sent packing. They are not bad people, they want to do better, they simply are not allowed to, it is a binary situation: Stand up–get removed, go along-keep your job. They are powerless and kept that way on purpose. If you do not believe me ask them to give you a list of what they have changed for black people on their campus in the last five years. Do not be fooled by ” We hired a new black director of…..”, unless you see evidence that the new black director of …..has actually done something besides be the new black director of…..As one sage said sometimes we have met the enemy and it is us. In my home school district of Xenia, Ohio we hired fewer black teachers when we had a black head of personnel than before or since. Because he was in the position he was able to help make the district proof against discrimination. “See we are not prejudiced, our personnel manager is black!” Of course, the fact that principals actually do the hiring and the personnel head only rubber stamps was ignored. Thus it is on your campus. Look to see who actually hires and what kind of people they actually hire.  The black head of……. is only as good for the rest of us as he or she is allowed to be, again they are generally powerless. If they really try to effect change they are going to be marginalized or removed.

You on the other hand are not powerless. You can raise questions about why there are so few or no black professors, why things do not change, why committees are formed and people are hired without anyone of color being involved in the decision. You will have to do your homework, of course. Ask questions frequently and of anyone you can find who might listen. Ask why there are no black trustees, or blacks on the board of visitors , if that is true. If there are black folks on these bodies ask them why there are so few black professors or other staff. Ask they why the names of slave owners and klan members adorn some of your buildings without comment, ask them where the voices are of black folks on the campus. Ask they why certain areas of study are considered more scholarly than others, like African American Studies. Ask  any question that comes to mind about the state of black folks on the campus, and for that matter what are they doing to foster and promote and encourage and effect social justice on campus, in the state, in the country, in the world. The fights these days are more subtle. There are no signs that say ” no blacks allowed”, but look around your campus and see how many clubs, choirs, organizations, honors, etc, are monochromatic. Who sits in the fancy boxes at football games? Whose kids and grandkids get to be ball boys and ball girls at the basketball games? Whose pictures are hung in the hallowed halls? .

Our white administrations are good at making pretend changes with pretend front folks ( we called them house niggers in my day) who assure you all is well. Yet, when you are in class and find yourself the only black in class,expected to represent your race as all faces turn towards you when the subject of race comes up  is all well? When you have been at an institution for four years and have never had a black professor, is all well? When honors days come and go without anyone black being on the podium is all well?

Beware the grateful blacks who think they do not belong at this prestigious school and are lucky to have been admitted. Quite a lot of them work there. They are convinced they have been honored to be allowed to sit at the foot of the table and they show up at reunions singing the praises of the school, forgetting the times they were insulted, ignored, passed over, denigrated and devalued. They too will tell you all is well, you just have to try your hardest and love your institution even if it does not love you back.

Speaking truth to power is rarely, if every, popular, but it is necessary if things are going to change for those who come after you. At one point in our history black people stood up and demanded that places supported by common monies serve everyone and serve them equally. We have now sold out to the point where success is not making progress for your race or your gender or your sexual orientation or citizenship status, but whether or not you can make money. If you cannot fight for social justice and make money then you should not fight for social justice. Or, put another way, it is better that I have a nice fat paycheck and the hell with the rest of y’all.

Audre Lorde said ( read her if you are unfamiliar) “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The black people you have on most campuses are the master’s tools. If they were not they would not be there. That means if you see things that you believe are unjust you have to be the power that changes it. It can be done. Even on the most docile campuses there are some folks, and they may not be black, who will help you. But, you need to lead and you need to be heard. Think something is wrong? Change it.  Think something is missing? Say so. You are standing on the shoulders of people who did or you would not be there.  Make up your mind whether you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

Don’t join the ranks of grateful blacks unless you can be grateful that you made real change, change that will benefit future students, faculty and staff of all colors by making the institution more equitable and welcoming and not afraid to take a stand for what is right, even if it costs.

 
 

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The Invisible Man and Woman Redux: Attempts to make blacks once again invisible

thThere is a campaign going on in this country that is being missed by many, if not most people. That campaign is to undermine or marginalize black people and black culture. This is not a one issue campaign, black people are not alone in the cross-hairs of dedicated racists. Latinos, people of Asian descent and as usual American Indians are also being targeted. I, however, identify as black and , therefore, will only be commenting on that war.

It has begun with the majority of our society at least claiming to be bias free in the area of race. They point to the election of a black man as president, they point to increase in middle class blacks and their more common representation in certain areas like some governments. What that has permitted, or perhaps caused, is the development of a new strategy to discriminate and discredit.

I am sure as an educator I do not know what is happening in big business or the media, although my friends the Byars , both recently retired journalism professors, could probably tell me enough horror stories to curl my hair even more. I do know that no only are blacks disappearing from the education community nobody seems to care or understand the impact of this disappearance. Fewer and fewer blacks go into education. The common myth is that it is because they are being wooed by every industry and offered astronomical salaries, much more than any school teacher or even professor could make.

The unfortunate underlayment to this is, of course, the belief black people are not smart and do not want anything more to do with education than they absolutely have to in order to make a living.

The truth of the matter is that it is not a coincidence that the requirements for becoming a teacher have been, in recent years, increasingly linked to standardized test scores. Tests prepared with the majority culture in mind and predicated on the premise that you received a good K-12 education, something not experienced by many students of color, including blacks. We know, for example, that students in inner city schools and rural schools have less than a 50% chance of being taught math or science by someone who majored in those disciplines. Many high schools in less affluent areas do not even offer higher level math or science courses. How then are these students expected to compete with kids who have had AP or International Baccalaureate curricula at their disposal?

Recently a study came out that, once again, linked income of the parents to the academic achievement of the child. In response to this many in the public forum screamed that the rich are just better, they have better values, they make their kids study! What they are either ignorant of, or simply do not care, is that rich people have privilege. The kind of privilege that allows them to pay for and demand excellence in their schools. They can also pay for tutors, for software to prepare their children to take standardized tests and for enrichment activities to help them know more and learn more. In most cases they also tacitly indicate to their children that people with more education have more money and live better lives.

Some of the respondents to the news of the study also pointed to what they consider to be the denigration of black culture, their concept that all blacks lead lives of some form of degradation and inferiority. Similar to the comments made about black youth after the murder of Trayvon Martin. More later in this post about the attempt to justify any violence or indignity directed at black males because they are all thugs or potential thugs anyway.

Children who live where people are not living better lives would have difficulty linking better education with better lives. The better educated from their communities move to places where other people with better education live. Three incidents recently, two in the news and one personal have set off alarm bells in my head about the role of race in America, in education and in society. I will start with the two media incidents. A North Carolina school board voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s marvelous book “ The Invisible Man.” They cited sexual violence and incest as the reasons. They did not, it seems ban Oedipus , any Steinway, Faulkner or other authors or works for the same reasons. This was not random dear readers. This is targeting. Don’t believe it? The Ohio School Board is attempting to ban Toni Morrison’s ( an Ohio native) book “The Bluest Eye” on similar grounds. It appears that if black people write about raw life events it should be banned. If white people write about it then it is literature. In both cases the overarching reason given for banning the books was that they lacked education or literary value. I doubt if the people making these decisions have read either book and I also would like to see their credentials in literary criticism if they have.

The personal event was even more disturbing. One of my former Face Book friends, a young white woman married to a black man and the mother of several bi-racial children, posted a picture of herself dressed up in costume to represent a black rapper, Flava Flav. The concept of this kind of mimicry was kind of beyond me and her captioning of the picture as #thugnation2” ( evidently she had appeared in an earlier post I missed as Tupac) actually upset me quite a bit.

Here was the mother of boys who look like they are black and the wife of a man who is black and she was either giving homage or making fun of the linkage of the word “thug” with a black person. Did she not understand that the appellation and stereotype of thug with young black men is getting them killed either in their own communities or by people like George Zimmerman? When I raised an objection she chastised me for trying to inject race into her page.

Let me see, you are a white woman dressed up as a black rapper who you refer to as a representative of thug nation and I am the one injecting race into it? To add insult to injury at least two or three of her younger black friends defended her, saying it was funny and no big deal.

This latter is one reason that I am as alarmed as I am about the reality of race relations in this country. Far too many young blacks are asleep at the switch. They think as they tell me from time to time, “ it is not like that anymore.” Okay. How many black teachers have your children had? How many black professors did you have when you went to college, if you went to college? If you think that presence of diversity does not matter I will direct you to the two attempts by school boards to eviscerate the curriculum of black literature having already removed most of the black teachers.

When was the last time you looked at your city and county government and its staff and checked for racial diversity? When was the last time you paid attention to who is in power and what they are doing with that power? Ever heard of the Voting Rights Act? Do you know what the Supreme Court did to it? You presume we have left overt racism behind. We may have for the most part, although there is certainly a good measure of it still around, but the kind that will get you, undermining your culture, denying you employment, refusing to loan you money even though your qualifications are the same as those of other ethnicities getting loans , educating your children poorly or not at all, is still here and growing in some cases.People do not trust people who identify as “thugs.” And our society is not good at determining the difference between pretend and reality.

The idea that I take objection to racism, linking blacks with being thugs and attempts to roll back the clock and get rid of some, if not most, of the progress we have made because I am hyper sensitive  is both facetious and ignorant. I know a lot of people, black and otherwise who would,  and do ,find objection to the things I am calling out.

People must begin to ask questions. Why are there no black people working in your restaurant, your store, your post office, your county building, your city building, your schools, your colleges? Or, if they are working there what kinds of positions are they holding? Can they influence policy? Hiring practices? If they can, do they? Black folks are not homogenous, thank goodness, but we have some who are more house than field. They want to protect their own jobs at the expense of others. When Xenia Schools had a black director of personnel they hired fewer black teachers than before. The system felt it was proof against discrimination claims and the director went along with the decisions made, primarily by principals, all of whom but one were white. This is not to imply all white people are prejudiced or that they hire whites every time because they are white, but there is definitely still discrimination based on race in hiring practices in many place. It is past time to pay attention.

Education is in many instances being purged of black people , black scholarship and black thought and at least some of my younger black folks are so determined to “fit” that they are willing to turn a blind eye to racism and declare, along with the Tea Party , that racism is all in the minds of a few discontented people of color and white liberals. If the black intelligentsia can be wiped from our education system it is easier to portray blacks as inferior, as venal, as uneducated and un-educable, as thugs or potential thugs.

Fortunately there are a lot of young black folks, Latinos, Asians, Indians and white folks and older black folks, Latinos, Asians, Indians and white folks who are not going to allow this to happen on our watch. Those of you that think race does not matter get out of the way so we can save your ignorant behinds, even if you do not deserve it.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Education, Race, Social Justice

 

Tales of Xenia: Euphoric recall “Everything was always great between the races, still is, I swear!”

xenia on the map

Dear Reader, I have been engaged over the past couple of days in discussions with people on Facebook about race in my hometown of Xenia. I have discovered that a lot of the white folks about my age and some other age groups as well, believe things about Xenia that are not true, have never been true and will never be true. Xenia is a typical midwestern small town which has fallen, like most small midwestern towns, on hard times. The devastating Xenia tornado in 1974 changed our town physically, psychologically and most importantly, demographically.

Because the more affluent folks had insurance and the SBA was handing out 4% loans to repair homes damaged, a lot of them chose to move out of Xenia. Xenia was originally an agricultural center, but obviously by 1974, even though we still had a grain elevator downtown, we were no longer living on agriculture. The school system has probably never been more than adequate, there is limited shopping , was even in 1974, although it was better, and therefore, unless you just love the old place like some of us do there was no reason to wait for your house to be rebuilt. They just moved to Beavercreek or Centerville, both towns that were considered more upscale and not coincidentally had very few people of color in them.

So, our doctors and lawyers and successful businessmen took advantage and moved out and on in many cases kind of elevating the pecking order of teachers and minor businessmen and businesswomen. The tax base suffered. Currently the schools are almost totally disconnected from the community and seem to be led by a truly clueless superintendent. I have not met the woman but have heard nothing good said about her from any quarter. The schools are losing 300 students a year.

So this is Xenia. I grew up in the black section of town, the East End. At one point in history it seems that the white people lived in the East End and the black people lived in the west end. Because we continue to be segregated even unto death, there is a black cemetery in the west end and a white cemetery in the East End. Someone said those were both created when they would have been outside of the town before it grew, but even so I presume you would plant your loved ones in their apartheid resting places closer to where the folks who looked like them lived. It is a mystery and the source of many urban legends about why the change occurred. None of them imply that it was for the good of the black folks.

Xenia was, in my childhood seriously segregated. I am not old enough to remember the movie theaters being segregated but I have been told by people I trust that you could not go to some theaters, I believe at one time we had three, we currently have none, and if you could go you had to sit in certain sections. My sister-in-law Thelma Weakley tells of baby sitting white kids and taking them to the movies. They, of course, wanted to sit in the white section so they did. The usher came and told her she had to move. She pointed out the difficulty. If she moved she would have to take the white children to the black section. He would not allow that. She could not leave them alone in the white section so they were at a stalemate, until that is, their father, the movie manager came in and told the usher to leave her alone.

The schools were segregated and the black schools, East High and Lincoln Elementary were next door to my house. We received books that had been marked “discard” and periodically students had to be sent to sit ( quietly) in the superintendent’s office to make them purchase supplies for labs and sports and other things. There were no blacks on the school board. The school system did not fully integrate until the mid1960s despite the Brown v Board of Education decision having been a decade before. There were restaurants in town where black people could cook but not eat. ( One of the Facebook posters took great umbrage at me pointing this out when the picture of one of these restaurants was posted on a site dedicated to Xenia history. Why, she wanted to know did I have to inject race into everything? Perhaps because growing up in Xenia when it came to restaurants and other places that discriminated race is part of my memory? We were all sharing memories, sorry mine is not as rosy as yours!)This not being the South there were no signs, you simply would not be seated or served. When I was one of the winners of a medal for placing third in the state in French on an achievement test and a couple of other black kids placed in other categories it caused a dilemma. Geyer’s Restaurant where they held the awards banquet did not allow black people to eat there. The only hotel in town, a sorry structure called the Xenia Hotel did not allow blacks to stay there. When the school system took the elementary school students to the Cincinnati Zoo on the train they put all the Lincoln students at the back of the train.

I could fill pages with the discrimination, micro-aggressions, insults, slights, exclusions and omissions due to race one was exposed to growing up in Xenia. I was spared many of them for a variety of reasons, including having a well known and well respected and perhaps slightly feared father.

It is fascinating to have white people who grew up in the same town express how oblivious they were to racism. It is mind boggling as a matter of fact. To have them engage in euphoric recall that presumes that all was well because we did not have a lot of demonstrations and marches is hilarious. One person earnestly told me in the Face Book discussion that Xenia Schools were never segregated. I presume he is on some kind of medication. Another told me that he knew Pinecrest was not segregated because it was a private golf club, but they let the integrated high school track team practice there so I needed to get my facts straight! Pinecrest is a swim club, not a golf course. “We all got along well”, is the mantra. What is meant is that I did not know that y’all were being discriminated against because it did not impact or bother me. Race is not generally on the front page for a lot of white people. People of color think and talk and read about and ponder about race virtually every day. Not that all discussions or memories or ideas about race are always negative. Thinking about race can be quite enlightening and entertaining, it certainly is for me.

I first encountered euphoric recall and historical distortion as part of the Women’s History Society of Xenia. I was the baby in the group and I was fifty at the time. We decided to publish a book about Greene County History and because I was the only person still working in academe I was tapped to be the editor. The ladies, two blacks besides me, about 9 white women, all college graduates at least, a couple of PhDs, almost all retired, were to write chapters on certain Xenia populations, individuals or groups. I was charged with writing about Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Chief. One woman proudly brought me her chapter on the Galloways, a prominent Xenia family in the early days of Xenia ( Xenia was founded in 1803). In her chapter she repeated a Xenia myth, that Rebecca Galloway, the teenaged daughter of the family had taught Tecumseh to read and he had promptly fallen in love with her. I had to gently break it to her that there was absolutely no documentary evidence to support this white supremacy myth. The idea that men of color lust after white women is woven into our culture so deeply it pops up and has popped up everywhere. Tecumseh according to all of the documents I could find was not particularly fond of either white people or women.  So, we had to scrap that part of the chapter and stick to the facts that we could establish about the Galloways.

The kids from Antioch College, almost all white, wealthy, and from the northeast, led demonstrations  against discrimination in Xenia  in the 1960s at places like Geyer’s, inspiring the enmity ,which still continues to this day to some extent, of Xenia whites. Why, there was nothing wrong with our town, blacks were treated just like everyone else, how dare those hippie, Communist, outside agitators come to our little halcyon of racial harmony and cause trouble? Even now quite a few Xenia whites consider Yellow Springs, the home of Antioch and Antioch itself to be the bastion of trouble makers. Social justice  is an alien concept to some segments of our population.

Looking back I wonder why it took the Antioch kids to push the topic of segregation in Xenia to the forefront?I do know that the community of Wilberforce, where I now live, the site of two historically black universities, kept itself to itself. My mother was the secretary to the President of Wilberforce University so i spent a lot of time in Wilberforce. The kids from Wilberforce attended Lucinda Cook Elementary on the Central State Campus, a laboratory school. I went there for nursery school as it was called in those days. They also had a secondary school called The Academy which was held in Galloway Hall on campus. That meant that the most educated and powerful black people did not have to deal with the discrimination in the Xenia Schools and they simply did not interact that much with the white people of Xenia.  Xenia and Wilberforce could still be four hundred miles apart rather than the four they actually are, in many ways. I had a white friend once joke that if Jesus Christ was appearing on Central State’s campus the white people of Xenia would say ” We will try to catch him when he goes through downtown on his way out there.”

Xenia’s racial past is nothing to be proud of with few exceptions. Xenia’s racial present is very much improved, but still has a lot of room for improvement. Employment of people of color by the county ( Xenia is the county seat) and the city has always lagged and people in positions of power in any department including the police department and sheriff’s office , are virtually non-existent. We have had two black mayors, James Henry in the 1960s and Marsha Bayless now. The mayor, alas, is basically a ceremonial job in Xenia. If not then I would have presumed certain improvements, at least in the area of hiring a more diverse work force would have been made. But, that is frequently the dilemma of any black leader. If you push for equity then you are considered a special interest person who is not representing everyone. Pissing off white people has always been dangerous and will probably continue to be so for a very long time despite the fact that according to demographers more children of color were born in the US last year than white children, something they had not expected to happen for a few more decades.

I have white friends and colleague and family members who not only get race, they get it better than some blacks. I have white friends and family members who are serious social justice warriors, some of them put me to shame. White scholars like Tim Wise and Peggy McIntosh and Joe Feagin write about white privilege and racism past and present. So, this euphoric recall, obliviousness to past racism and the resilience of racism in our country, exacerbated and exposed to a greater extent recently by the election of a black president, is not a fault in all, or even most white folks.

So, what to do? Do you try to give information to people who are happier not having it? Should you do that? Understanding the past is crucial to understanding the present and planning for the future, but if these people are so wrapped up in their inaccurate memories is it fair to burst their bubble? I have no idea. I am going to continue to correct them when they wander across my path ( most of the white people who were making these outlandish and delusional claims were encountered in a public forum, we are not friends on FB or anywhere else for that matter) and see if I can at least make them think. But you know what they say, you can lead a person towards the truth, but you cannot make them think.

Xenia is my hometown and I love it, warts and all. Sometimes though I wish we had a bit more Yellow Springs in us and a lot less Mayberry.

 

Right Wing Friendships: There are limits to what a body can take!

right wing politicsWoke up this morning and went through my usual routine. Being a slave to routine I went into the bathroom, washed my face ( I am a night bather, I do not like getting into the bed with the world’s dirt on me, although some people evidently like to take a shower in the morning, makes sense if you are white and need to wash your hair, but black people, well most black people, do not create oil in their hair so we don’t have to wash it each morning, I wash mine at night ), put on my foundation, all I wear is foundation to even out my skin tone and some lipstick,  took off my nightgown, put on my underwear, applying deodorant and perfume first, put on my clothes which were selected last night and hung on the peg behind the dressing room door designated for the next day’s outfit, turned out the lights in the dressing room, put on my glasses, collected my iPad from the night stand and went down the stairs. Greeted Wayne and the cats, plugged my iPad into the charger fixed breakfast—oatmeal, toast and tea, and read the morning paper. I then went  to check email on the computer.

 

I start with mail and progress to Facebook. I have had a “friend” a woman I have known since high school on FB for a couple of months. She is a little older than I am, we actually both appeared in the same prom dress when she was a senior and I was a sophomore, she being taller and slimmer she looked better in it than I did.  She always seemed nice but nothing approaching a rocket scientist. To my horror after accepting her friend request a couple of months ago I discovered she is not only a Republican, she is a Tea Party Republican. This for me is akin to discovering your sweet neighbor lady who bakes you cookies is secretly running a meth lab in her backyard. It is game changing.

 

My FB friends do not have to share my liberal Democrat ways or attitudes or beliefs or passions. They do, however, have to not be prone to posting fabricated crap about President Obama that is insulting not just because it is untrue, but because it is idiotic. Of all the bad habits that can annoy me stupidity is the ultimate deal breaker. I do not care if you hate President Obama and his mama and his llama. I do care that you post stupid crap about his birth certificate or about him being a Muslim ( and the fact you would think that disqualifies him from being president if true is an indication that you are not wrapped too tight by the way) or some other made up fantasy fault that has been created by people who have pointy hoods hanging in the backs of their closets. I am not a big Obama cheerleader. He is far too conservative and non-confrontive for me. He should be telling the GOP to kiss his melanin gifted ass and issuing executive orders like  they are going out of style.  He has been too weak in fighting the evil right and in not calling them out for the paranoid, racist, homophobic, misogynistic bunch of xenophobes and morons they are.

 

But, if you want to be critical be critical of something valid. I am not a fan of the drones for example. Killing people you don’t have to be near has too much danger of turning into a violent video game and taking some of the horror out of fact you are killing people, some of them innocent civilians. But the kind of things these idiots post are just that, idiotic. It makes me wonder about what kind of fellow citizens I am sharing this fair country with. Mercifully as his re-election shows, they are in the minority, but how many morons does it take to wreck a society? Especially if we are not paying them much attention, presuming because they are morons they are basically harmless.

 

My friends and colleagues from my former state of NC can tell you what happens when you presume the morons are harmless. They take over your legislature and proceed to turn the state into a joke. People who have extreme anti-social attitudes like the Tea Party nuts are dangerous. They are not in touch with reality and you never know how their delusions are going to play out, either in the statehouse or the schools or the universities. The GOP has been waging a war on education for decades, and for good reason. Independent studies have shown that the more educated you are the more likely you are to be a Democrat. Obviously an ignorant public is to their advantage.

 

Which brings me back to my now former friend. This morning was the final straw. I had ignored her simpleton posts about the President, chalking them up to her limited intellect and her obvious lack of a diverse pool of people to interact with.  I had even put up with her asking me why I needed to be so interested in race and could not be satisfied by just calling myself an American. That led me to wonder if there was any reason I should try to be friends with her since she was obviously clueless. If I had had any faith in her intellect I would have suggested she read some Tim Wise or Peggy McIntosh but I am afraid that would have been way over her head.

 

She is the quintessential white woman who thinks that her life and her circle are the only norm and who has lived with and embraced both white privilege and racism without questioning either. She engages in using her privilege and in ignoring racism and in some cases participating in racist activities but would be massively offended if anyone suggested she is racist. She is, thank goodness, a representative of a genre that is a fading anomaly. My white women friends and most white women I am not friends with , are thinking, intelligent, informed and marvelous critical thinkers. They are not all liberals, but they are not intellectually limited. They will accept evidence and engage in discussion. We do not always agree, but we can all respect each other’s point of view as based on reason. Some of the strongest warriors for social justice in my circle are white women.  They get it. This woman is a throw back to a type that is on a rapid path to extinction and I am not going to try to mount any charity efforts to preserve them.

 

What was the final straw that got her unfriended? She put up a post today on Facebook that called for recruiting Sarah Palin, the poster girl for idiocy, to run for the US Senate. I can take right winger dumbness, even right winger dumbness tinged with racism, but when you are a fan of Sarah Palin I can no longer consider you compos mentis. It is the closest thing I have to a litmus test. Saying you are a fan of Sarah Palin tells me that you are not a thinking person. Or, that you are so corrupt that you would be willing to install this joke of a human being into the legislature in order to further your own political agenda. Either way I cannot have anything for your but sympathy and a hope that you have not or will not reproduce.

 

I am generally hard to surprise, but to discover anyone who would even think they want to be my friend would be a Sarah Palin fan is surprising, and disturbing. I like diversity, including intellectual diversity and political diversity, but Sarah Palin? Really??? If you are so far right that Sarah Palin seems like a viable leader to you then you do not want to be my friend, trust me. We are not in the same zip code politically, perhaps not the same planet.

 

So dear friends, and former friends and about to be former friends here are the rules: 1) All criticism of the President has to be founded in reality not fantasy and not racism, 2) If you like Sarah Palin do us both a favor and unfriend me now

3) Read, learn, inform yourself, not just about you and your friends, but broader. One of the reason I have a few conservative friends ( the thinking kind) is I need to see what they are up to and how they interpret and perceive things. I question my own attitudes and beliefs on a daily basis to see if they are still valid or if they need tweaking. I try to read the Tea Party things, but they are so bizarre and uneducated and inferior that they just end up making me a wee bit paranoid about the future of my country, so I have to take them in small doses.right wing politics

 

I hope that all of my friends, indeed all who read this, keep thinking , keep forming ideas and opinions and keep defending them. Just make sure your defense is based in reality and not something that some mental defective in Snake’s Navel Alabama has churned out on his or her computer after their Klan, The Flintstones was a Documentary,  or Flat Earth Society meeting.

 

 

My fellow rightie citizens: some of them are nuts!

The aftermath of the Romney loss has been scary. The reasons the GOP is giving for losing the race are founded in exactly the same bigotry and delusion that cost them the election in the first place. From Ryan continuing to use coded racist language like “urban voters” to Romney swearing Obama won because he gave the biggest gifts–not in a league with what he was proposing to give to the 1%–, they are ignoring what all the analysts, even their own, are saying.

I just finished reading an article where a leader of the GOP in Georgia is claiming that the President and the UN are using mind control to convince people to allow certain land usage. Really?? Explain to me how people take leaders who talk about legitimate rape, mind control as if they are facts but deny global warming, evolution and the age of earth despite any proof that can be be offered? And let’s not forget the woman who ran over her husband because he did not vote for Romney or the simpletons from the red states trying to secede. One of the leaders of the movement from one southern state is mad because the government (in 2001 before President Obama was close to being in power) closed down his topless carwash, driving him out of business. The fact that it was his state legislature’s decency law–passed in 1998– that closed him down does not seem to intrude on his desire to leave the Union. I guess he thinks if he can get away from the feds he can convince his state folks to let him have his breasts and bubbles. Of course, virtually all of the states that want to secede collect more money from the federal government than the blue states. They are suckling harder and harder at the public teat ( but not at the car wash) then any states,but they want to leave the Union because Obama gives too many things to the 47%, of which they are part.

Reminds me of my colleague years ago who had a non-performing in the economic sense husband who fancied himself a sort of small town robber baron. Problem was he did not have any money. He strutted around town in his brand name  hunting attire, had a “hunting cabin”–more like a lean to on a creek, that he habituated while living off of his teacher wife’s earnings. He was a rabid Republican and led the charge when Ohio, under a Democratic government, mandated a teacher’s raise, to get it repealed. He was living off of her salary, which the state had ordered raised , but old Rusty was out trying to get the law repealed and take bread out of his mouth and LL Bean vests off of his less than impressive chest. He set up a card table in the parking lot of one of the local big box stores and spent his days collecting signatures to cut his wife’s pay.

What kind of people follow folks with these kinds of delusions? Or are willing to be associated with them? Call me an intellectual snob, but any party that would hop in bed with people like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter would not have me as a member. If you lie down with mentally diseased dogs you gt up with things worse than fleas.

The entire party seems to have a case of severe dysfunction. And yet, I know perfectly normal people who cling to their Republican party. They are not racists, homophobes, kooks, sexists, they are just plain people, holding on to a chimera of what used to be the GOP. The fact that the party has been taken  over by the mentally challenged is seen by them as a temporary condition, one that can be reversed. I do not know whether to applaud them for loyalty to smack them for delusion.

Republicans’ public personna today is of a party woefully out of touch with reality on virtually every subject from those mentioned above to women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights and human rights to the environment to education, the latter of which the party has come out against with guns blazing and do not get me talking about how scary it is to have people armed with guns who think that the UN is engaging in mind control or that the President is actually a foreign born Muslim! Most of these people should not be allowed to have any implement more dangerous than a spork and I might have to consider it carefully before giving them one of those.

I believe in the two party system. I am a yellow dog Democrat because I see no other viable option. I would love for the Republican party to right itself and turn back into something that would not make me think that they are all crazier than a sprayed roach. The concentration of affinity groups like blacks, Latinos, white women and gays in one party  makes voter suppression and other electoral ills too easy and the parties lose the voices of a diverse group which is not in the best interests of anyone. But damn people, I cannot be in a party that suggests that some rapes are legitimate or that asking for birth control is tantamount to being a prostitute. Break us folks who would like to see two viable parties off a little something and get rid of your lunatic fringe. Let the start their own secessionist party, maybe we can give them an island somewhere, build a barbed wire fence around it and let them enjoy their guns at will.

I want y’all to rebuild a Republican party that will not make me ashamed to say my father was a Republican until he died and then have to explain that he was not THAT kind of Republican. Is that too much to ask?

 

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Race: The past is never dead, it is not even past

In this season when a black man is running for reelection to an office I would have sworn he would never be elected to in the first place and the inevitable talk of race and racism has erupted in full force, encouraged by things like bumper stickers that exhort white citizens not to “re-nig in 20012” or to put the “White back in the White House” , I just watched a special on television about Ole Miss and its football team in 1962, the same year James Meredith was admitted to the university amid riots and protests and with armed federal marshals defending him.

Many young folks of all races think the images of riots, police brutality, dogs been turned loose on children, people being beaten, hit with water hoses, etc. are images of a bygone era, one that was awful, but is over. Having lived in the South now for about 10 years I can tell you there are still remnants of that era although the weapons that are used to deny opportunities are much more subtle and much more insidious and much tougher to fight. For example, the mascot of Ole Miss is the Rebel, named after men from the college who volunteered to go fight for the Confederacy, many of whom were killed or wounded in battle. The mascot honors them. I find it hard to believe that I am the only person who would find it ironic that black students and players would not have a problem honoring someone who was fighting to keep their ancestors as chattel property. But, I will write another blog about the perceptions of some Southern blacks that I find puzzling.

I went to a Southern Research 1 institution in the spring of 2003 with great expectations of what could be accomplished there in the area of race. They claimed to want more black faculty, a better climate for racial and ethnic minorities and lots of other things. That did not prove to be true. What they wanted was a cover for the maintenance of the status quo. Ergo, I found out quickly I was not going to ever fit in, not really. Oh, I had my fans, quite a few I can immodestly say, but I was not willing to be nice about what I saw as social injustice. And they were not willing to change.

The past ( and that is a paraphrase of Faulkner–one must give the citation or be accused of plagiarism) is not the past. The past influences the way black people experience life every day. We no longer sit in the back of the bus, but we have to endure things like white people trying to tell us what is racist and what is not, attempts to convince us that racism is dead–even though we know it most certainly is not, and efforts to encourage “color blindness”, in other words let’s pretend everyone is white.

A poster on Facebook recently reminded me of the motto of the US E Pluribus Unum–from many, one. I am not sure if he is uninformed or naive or just stupid. America has never been a melting pot, and the “one” has almost always been white, male, rich  and straight. Let me say right now that I have absolutely nothing against white, male, rich, straight folks. I have quite a few friends who fit into that category, some of them quite beloved. But, to pretend that America has ever been a place of equality for all is a fool’s tale told by a liar.

Ole Miss today still has Confederate flags around, still has Confederate statues of “heroes”, as does my campus for that matter and no doubt still has some lingering racial problems. The author of the piece I watched, basically an apologist for his beloved state, admitted that last year the Chancellor had to intercede because some of the students were chanting ” The South Shall Rise Again!” before a football game. I am sure you know that Ole Miss football, like all division 1 football has quite a contingent of black players. Who do you suppose the crowd of students was directing their comments to?

I recently went on a job interview for a VC ( Vice Chancellor) postion at another Southern University–why? Because I am crazy I think, or an eternal optimist. I will not get the job, I know that because I refuse to pretend to be someone I am not. The same scenario will play out that has happened to me several ( more than 3) times before. The committee will select me, the people who came to my open forum will adore me ( one woman , a black professor approached me after my public talk, grasped my hand, looked me in the eye and earnestly said “God sent you here.” ) and the Chancellor will over rule them all.

I am not obsequious enough or grateful enough or humble enough for the Chancellors and Presidents of the South. I do not know my place. I know my stuff, I could work quite a bit of change, given the authority, but there lies the rub. They do not want change. The past is not dead, it is alive and well on campuses all over our favored land, and not all of them are in the South I must hasten to add. Black faculty numbers continue to be miserable at the vast majority of campuses, and even the campuses that have a large population of black undergrads rarely translate that to their graduate and post doctoral ranks. The past is not dead.

Racism will never be gone from America and certainly will not be gone from education until the majority, read white, decide not to tolerate it period. Like the other sins of sexism and homophobia and classism, racism exists because the majority culture tolerates it, often acting like racism is just a social gaffe like farting or burping loudly, something you personally might find distasteful, but that is best handled by turning your head and forgetting pretending you didn’t see or hear it.

The football players from Ole Miss were nostalgic about their time in 1962, and, of course, expressed their horror at the actions of the white students at the time, even though one of the players admitted to throwing a Molotov cocktail at one of the soldiers guarding the building Meredith was in. The entire tone of the program “Ghosts of Ole Miss” on ESPN was a paean to how the football team had pulled together to go undefeated that year. The narrator said, ” Having seen the worst of Ole Miss ( the riots) it was time to show them the best.” I snorted with laughter, if he thought that all white team was the best athletic talent in Mississippi then or now he is sadly mistaken.

And there lies the problem, looking back at your past you want it to be pretty, pleasant, made up of good memories, so we engage in euphoric recall. Not just whites, blacks do it too. Recently on Facebook some of my era friends were posting about how great their junior high and high school years were in Xenia. I had to rain on their parade. We were integrated in junior high and only two of us–none of the ones talking about their lovely time, were allowed to take honors classes. Not only that we were not represented in any way in the student government and most of the clubs I belonged to might have had one or two at the most other blacks. I was on the very large scholarship team with only 3 other black students and we struggled to get a black cheerleader chosen. In addition the basketball coach at the beginning of our school years, Kaylor, refused to start more than three black players no matter how goo they were.

I enjoyed high school and people, teachers and students, treated me well, but most of my black classmates from East Jr. Hi, disappeared academically and socially at the white school. Who knows how their futures might have been different if they had not had the opportunities denied them to achieve more academically? It was not their intellect that was at fault, it was the view, sadly still present in much of education, that black people are not as smart as white people.

Someone , not a friend, but a friend of a friend, shared a right wing article with me with the position that if Barack Obama does not win re-election it will not be because he is black. I do wonder how many times we have to hear a lie to make it the truth? Being anti-Obama does not make you a racist, but that does not mean that a significant number of those who are against Obama far more than they are for Romney are not racists.

America has never dealt with race effectively or honestly. In Canada they have Anti-Racist Education. We have Diversity Training which can range from soul-food carry-ins to Community Seders. Diversity means nothing, we are a diverse people we don’t need lessons in diversity, we need lessons in how to treat each other and even more importantly in learning about each other’s realities, culture and history. . What we need to call it is what it should be about Anti-Racist, Anti-Homophobia, Anti-Misogynistic, Anti-reinventing history to make you and your ancestors look good Education.

The past is not dead, it is not even past. That quote is never truer than when applied to race in this country.

 

Really Urban League? : Pleas to Nike not to sell expensive sneakers are ludicrous!

I woke up this morning and as usual turned on the morning news, expecting to see the latest idiocy spewed by some brain deprived Teapublican. This morning, however, they were out moroned by a representative from the Urban League, a group that primarily represents ( as the name would indicate) city dwelling black folks.

What was this worthy going on national television to talk about? The recently accelerated spate of racist comments and actions from the right? The fact that urban blacks have much higher unemployment rates than almost any other population? The problem of single mother births? The deteriorating infrastructure of the cities in times of economic hardships? Poor schools in poor neighborhoods? Food deserts?

Nope, this cretin was on television complaining that Nike was releasing a new sneaker that costs $315.00. I was, as my British friends would say, gob-smacked. With all of the plagues and perils confronting black people in our cities he wants to focus on their angst at not being able to afford $315 sneakers, or their inability to snag a pair?????? As our middle class shrinks and most of us find ourselves closer to having more than we need or having less than we need this kind of simple minded and quite frankly racist drivel only drives the wedges deeper.

Any population that would riot ( as he suggested) for sneakers is obviously in trouble far beyond what they put on their feet. If the values system of urban blacks has actually been eroded so much that this is what is important to them then I am going to have to presume that they are beyond help, mine or anyone else’s, and quite frankly if that is what they think is important I don’t have much interest in helping them. This only makes us more alienated from each other within the black race. We already have economic divides, skin color divides, education divides, do we really need footwear divides as well? Or the desire for footwear divides? Who could believe that rational people faced with hard economic times would be obsessed with sneakers of any kind? If the people have that kind of mentality how can one relate to them, support them, defend them or care about them?

I have some questions for the UL guy. 1) Do you realize how stupid what you said makes you sound? 2) Do you realize how stupid what you said makes the urban blacks you represent appear? 3) If a white person went on television and appealed to Nike not to release expensive sneakers because it would make the natives restless what do you think people would say? 4) Shouldn’t your efforts be towards making your constituents more savvy about life and economics so that they covet ownership of real property, stocks and bonds or at least fat savings accounts rather than sneakers? 5) Have you thought of sponsoring free workshops that will show what you can do with $300 that would improve the quality of your life more than sneakers? 6) Why did you make idiotic statements like how many museum memberships or admissions they could buy with $300? Didn’t it occur to you that some people, even some urban blacks, there are rich ones too you know, can afford both $300 sneakers and museum memberships? And probably do have $300 sneakers and museum memberships?

Your talk was so steeped in stereotypes that it stank to high heaven. Urban blacks are poor, ignorant, not interested in higher pursuits like museums, too dumb to understand that they should not want, let alone buy, $300 sneakers. IN other words you portrayed your entire constituency as a vast mass of ignorant, grasping, brutish people obsessed with owning fancy sneakers.

Thanks from the Republican Party and every racist in America. You done good.