Monday, September 25, 2006

TV Appearance

Tuesday night at 9pm I will be featured on a show entitled "Bridging the Racial Divide" on Detroit Public Television. The show is a brainchild of Emery King and Paul W. Smith who have been working with issues of race and race relations for years in Metro Detroit.

The show is based on two dinner conversations that Kingberry Productions arranged. The dinners featured conversations around race and metro issues but were divided into a "Black" dinner and a "White" dinner. Last week, Rochelle Riley (columnist, Detroit Free Press), Heaster Wheeler (Executive Director, NAACP-Detroit), Nolan Finley (columnist, Detroit News), John Rakolta (Chairman, New Detroit), Kary Moss (Executive Director, ACLU-Michigan, and I sat on a panel to discuss the dinner conversations and debate a little. I think the discussion was good overall, a little short, but that's the nature of the beast. If nothing else, tune in to see if I embarrass myself ;)

In Ann Arbor it will air on channel 6 at 9pm.
In Detroit it will air on channel 56 at 9pm.
And for the radio heads it will be simulcast on 760 WJRam.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Playing the Rape Card

The other day I was inspired to write on the "race card." Today I woke up and was driven to think about sexual assault and the concept of the "rape card." I must first admit that I can't really recall this term being as common as the race card, but in my view the ideas that motivate the concept of rape as illusion are the same that motivate race as illusion. This morning I received an email from a close friend that simply read "Dear Morehouse Brothers, stop raping your Spelman sisters." I was shocked, confused, and inquisitive. I ran to the trusty google news search and typed in Morehouse. A couple entries down I found this story from the AJC. As Tribe said, "Don't you know that things go in cycles." The article discusses the walk out that Spelman students executed in response to recently emerged "alleged" incidents of rape. I wrote alleged like that for a reason, let me explain.

Back in 1996 when I was a freshman at Morehouse there was a huge controversy that tore Spelman and Morehouse apart. There was an "alleged" rape of a Spelman woman by multiple Morehouse students on Morehouse's campus. The story was covered, literally, on the now defunct Emerge Magazine. At the ripe age of 17 I was in a world of confusion. I've always considered myself, despite my behaviors at times, as a feminist as well as a supporter of Black men. In the swirl of the rape controversy I didn't know where to stand. In my years prior to Morehouse I had decided to always believe any woman who said she had been assaulted be it physical or sexually (I do know these terms are not mutually exclusive but you know what I mean). But in a hall full of Black men, I began to doubt this idea. I wondered, what if she's lying? I honestly think it was the first time I found myself in conflict with my own politics in a way that I couldn't easily resolve. Well, I do not think I was alone in that, despite what the more vocal voices on Morehouse's campus said.

Instead of having to remedy this dilemma, for many years I thought I was absolved of this responsibility when it was found that the "alleged victim" was found in the same dorm in a compromising position shortly after. That is how "the rape", became "the alleged rape."

If you ask virtually any brother who went to the House during that time they will mention "the alleged rape." I have attempted to avoid that saying, but much like Tribe said "I try not to say it, but my lips are like an ooh-wop as I start to spray it." By naming it "the alleged rape" we employed the same rhetorical device as "the race card". I heard many brothas say, "If she was raped, then why would she be in the same dorm again?" and "she's a hoe." Slippery slope reasoning 101 was and has been in full effect on the campus and beyond. At the ripe age of 17,19, 28 or 65 many of us can't see how rape can occur, regardless of how we interpret a person's sexual proclivities. As my friend Dance recently posted, the truth is that rape is almost exclusively identified as the responsibility of women in our society. Essentially, if you can find a breech in her responsibility, you can find absolution.

Fast forward ten years, Spelman students walk out of classes to protest the silence that has existed between Morehouse and Spelman and sexual assault. Once again, the same "alleged rape" scenario is appearing under the guise of impartiality. Once again, I know many young brothers are "caught in the same situation" that I was in 10 years ago. In the fray of all these debates, disagreements, and arguments, most of us who debate "the truth" miss the forest for the trees. I have finally come to the conclusion that even if these incidents are found to be "untrue" or are "dismissed" we still must realize that there is no way in HELL that in a span of 10 years there have been 2 or 3 sexual assaults between our campuses. It is almost impossible to quantify how many sexual and physical assaults, because so many have gone un-noted, un-reported, and un-treated (and not just between Morehouse and Spelman). A word for the concerned, drop the debate and deal with reality. The fact is that rape is rampant in our society.

See, in my mind, I could accept "alleged rapes" but I couldn't accept "race cards". Though analytically dangerous, the best way for me to understand gender and oppression is to find an analog in the areas of race and oppression. Not until I re-read my words about the race card and read about my Spelman sisters and Morehouse brothers did I see the reality, alleged rapes and race cards are the same. Rhetorical tools used by the dominant to assure that we are never fully responsible for our actions. We have a problem, a serious problem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Playing the race card and Metro Detroit

I spent the day in suburban Detroit trying to convince White men to sit down and share their views and opinions about race and social opportunity with me in a survey. As you can imagine, it would have been easier for me to learn Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor (and trust me I don't even know how to play an instrument)in between writing dissertation chapters. If nothing else was confirmed to me today, its that most White Michiganders don't want to talk about race and ethnicity, unless it's on their terms. The survey is a lengthy one, so I can understand people being intimidated by length, but I was intrigued by one White man's response. He took the survey, looked it over for about 5 minutes and returned it to me empty and said "I'm not prejudice in any way and I'd rather not take this." So the good social scientist in me says, "Well Dumi, he thought you were trying to get him to answer in a certain way, thus you tainted the experience." But the catch comes in that this same man when I asked him about the city of Detroit a few minutes earlier told me, "It's going no where" and the problem of the city were because "people want to play the race card." He went on to explain some issues with race and how they were too trumped up, etc, etc. His returning of th survey reminded me of 2 things about White dialogues about race: 1) we can talk about race and ethnicity, but only on White folks' terms and 2) the race card is real in White folks' minds.

Now you can say I am unfairly characterizing a group, White men, on this guys response, but trust me, I had a number of guys be not so kind to me after the survey. I don't think it was simply the people who I bumped into today, but this country and Metro Detroit has a serious silence on the dialogue of race. Now Detroit is the most segregated major metro area. Want the evidence of it? I spoke to people who have lived over 10 years in the suburbs of Detroit who admitted to me that they had only been into the city 2 or 3 times. When I informed some people I wanted to get their opinions about Metro Detroit they said things like, "Well I don't know anything about the Detroit area." Ladies and Gentleman, if you live in the same county, less than 8 miles from the city limits, you may be a part of the Metro Detroit area. I didn't make the term up, hell if you watch the news they say it at least 30 times each morning. But somehow, White Metro Detroiters, seem to consider themselves autonomous, and in many ways are. If you live in a completely segregated space, attend segregated work, and socialized in segregated ways, you are autonomous. But if you live in those conditions then why not talk about race?

Well because talking about race means that someone is going to play that dreaded card. That's right, there is always a hold card tucked deep in my hand. It's more powerful then a flush and apparently all Black folks are adept at playing it, it's the race card. I think the term the race card is really interesting in that it immediately trivializes social experience. There is nothing cool or joyous about being pulled over and having police officers approach your car with their gun drawn because you're a young Black man. There is nothing fun about being followed around stores when you're really trying to buy something. There is nothing amusing about living in substandard conditions because you inherit the debits of your family's "misfortune." When I talk about race, I'm not playing shit, I'm telling you my experience. Don't discount my experience because you have lived a different one than me. I don't discount your experiences. What if I said, "Oh he's playing the class card." People don't say that, because folks who are White, Black, Asian, Latin@, Purple know that social class matters. Isn't it peculiar that race and ethnicities, which are just as "socially real" as social class, are part of a game.

There are so many rhetorical tricks around the issue of race in the country that silence the dialogue. If you want some good reading on them check out Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. I think the first step to real dialogue about race and opportunity is realizing that no one here is playing a card or a game. The stakes of segregation, discrimination and deprivation are real. See cause if this was a game, I would be holding chips under the table, because the race card doesn't seem to "win" me much. Ah man, I'll write more later.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Some things never change???? Black Self-Esteem???

The video below is done by Kiri Davis and its entitled "A girl like me." It's a short film from the Media that Matters Film Festival. Dance posted the link to it on her page earlier this week and I found myself too busy to check it out, then my sister sent me to it, so I decided to watch it. Honestly, it made me cry, literally. I just grabbed it off of youtube so you could click on it directly and not be like me and just pass it by. One click. Please watch it.

One of the reasons I cried was that for someone who studies race and children everyday, in someways I have to believe or want to believe "things have changed." Her "replication" of the doll study, was the thing got me gushing tears. As a social scientist I've toiled over, rationalized, and critiqued the Clark findings by saying, well the doll was painted, etc. which had an effect ... blah, blah, fucking blah! There is something powerful and clear about this video. Scientifically we'll always debate self-esteem among African-Americans, but I'm not sure science can tell us some of the things that we're living.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Two new exciting things for Black folks at University of Michigan (Update)

Okay, I really don't have time to be posting on this right now, but I had to acknowledge it. I went to sleep last night and opened my webmail today and was greeted by a new face.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's blurry but this is the icon for a personal message! Before it was a little White face, literally White with no color, but now we have Raheem. That's my nickname for him! I may even respond to U of M email from now on because of Raheem.

Secondly the Black Welcome Week schedule is up and posted here. Aight, off to do work.

Update: This morning we seem to have gone back to the old White person instead of Raheem. I pray that this is just a system adjustment. For those who didn't remember the old one, this is what he/she looked like.