Friday, December 22, 2006

Away from Michigan

Ah yes, to the East my brother to the East. For all my X Clan fans. I'm back East for a while. I celebrated a happy bday and had a good anniversary with my parents. My first couple of days were relativel low key, I've found myself watching all sorts of TV.
Hair Trauma
Ultimate Fighting
Bush's Address
Maury Povich - the holiday special "is this hottie a male or female"
Jerry Springer
Colbert Report

You know the usual brain food! I've also signed up for a virtual writing challenge over at Just follow the links to the discussion forum and "Publish or Flourish." Also, that reminds me to shout out Blac(k)ademic who has retired from blogging. She was a great voice in the blogosphere. I'll be skirting around the tri-state for a little bit, so maybe I'll see you virtually or in real life, if not, then catch me in 2007. Oh, I should be doing a best of, we'll see.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Conflict... Blood... Peace Diamonds? Russell you are still not Hip-Hop!

A couple years back Rosa Clemente penned a heavy letter about Russell Simmons called Russell Simmons You Are Not Hip Hop. Back in 2001 it caught me, it helped me remember why I got sick of people sweating Russell. It got me to realize why I did a little "mouth vomit" when I heard someone refer to him as the Godfather of Hip-Hop (didn't Herc already have that title?). Recently Russell opened his mouth again, this time to defend the diamond industry.

This past weekend I shelled over my hard earned bills to see Blood Diamond at the theaters. Going in, I had my expectations set at the level that I set them when I'm going to listen to a Method Man album (that's pretty darn low). But I was rather impressed with the film. Of course there were your standard issues of gender and race (e.g. Black Africans find White woman in the bush and she charms them with her camera -- don't even get me started) but the message about conflict diamonds was very clear to me. Conflict diamonds help support war and distinguishing between a conflict diamond and free diamond is damn near impossible. Neither of which were new concepts to me, but I thought they were both well illustrated in the film.

When the film was rolling out, I was interested to see that Nelson Mandela came out with a statement about diamonds and their positive impact on African economies. I was immediately a little bit concerned, as were others. Eventually, I had to wrestle with Mandela potentially selling out or if there was a degree of pragmatism attached to support of the diamond trade for the wealth or rather reduction of gross debt for African nations. I think my history with Nelson Mandela allowed me to take his statements within a larger context, when Russell Simmons opened his mouth however, I heard cash registers ringing.

Who the hell died and made Russell chief of Diasporic Affairs? And can I really take him seriously if Jim Jones is on his side with a diamond crusted bracelet? Okay, that's just my bias! For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he's graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn... I wonder is there a difference between the two?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reclaiming Racist!!!

"I'm not a racist." Another variation on it is often, "I'm not a racist but..." or better yet, "Are you trying to say I'm a racist?" All three of these things are beginning to make me literally sick to my stomach. A few weeks back Michael Richards' outburst set the blogosphere on fire, which in turn set the media a fire, which in turn drove Richards to say, "The funny thing is, I'm not a racist." Well to Mr. Richards and all others who utter these words, I have one simple comment, "Yes, (fill in name here), you are a racist." Many folks get jarred by this statement, so read it again in the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" tone. Does that help you stomach it?

I tend to let my mind ferment during the evening by watching reality TV or playing my Nintendo DS (oh it's so great!). Tonight, I opted for Reality TV. I decided to watch the Real World Denver (no I don't think I have a real reason to watch this trash, but I did). Tonight's episode was yet another "big race episode" (this reminds me of when they would say things like, "Next week, a very special Webster" remember that? I digress). The characters end up in a tussle and the N word is barked by a drunken White male, Davis, within earshot of at least one Black roommate. I'll summarize so you don't have to watch the episode, they (producers) take the White roommate away for the night to a hotel and he returns the next day so the cast can talk it out. The result, the Black roommates forgive him and he says... you guessed it, "I'm not racist." One Black roommate Tyrie asked him (and I paraphrase) "So I just want to know, when you used that word. Where did it come from? Is that something you've been thinking or did it come out of anger or...?" Davis quickly responded, "Out of anger." This was particularly important to me because I knew once Tyrie gave him an "out" - mentioning anger, he would immediately jump at that reason. The episode closes with the Black roommates forgiving him and Davis staying so he can show them he can "watch what he says" and "he's not a racist." Dammit, you are a racist!

Now if any of you reading have had the pleasure (or pain) of sitting in on one of my guest lectures on race and ethnicity you know about this. Towards the beginning of the lecture I have all the people in attendance point to their neighbor and say, "You're a racist" and then have them point to their other neighbor and say, "You're a racist." After people follow in a Pavlovian style they usually look back at me, half of them with some form of pissed expression. I then allay their fears by saying, "Now that everyone has been called a racist and called at least one person a racist, we can stop being scared of being labeled a racist." The label racist is avoided like Jehovah's Witness' on a Saturday morning.

Now being the good sociologist that I am, I know that is because most people associate racism with individual deliberate actions towards someone of a subordinate group that are meant to harm and are based on prejudice. Which really means that nobody wants to be considered a Klan member (well except of course Klan members who are out of the closet). That's the big problem, when I'm in a room of over 150 people and I ask, "Who is a racist?" and maybe one or two people raise their hands, we have a problem!!! The problem is not anger, the problem is not drunkeness, the problem is not hecklers and losing our cool, it's racism! I know you want a nice out or absolution, I know you want to prove you're not that bad word, but dammit you gotta claim it to change it.

Imagine this, you go the doctor, you ask him about a piercing headache you keep on having. The headache is usually bearable but on occasion it causes you to yelp in pain for others to hear. The doctor takes does a full exam, xrays, scans, etc. and sees you have a tumor on your brain. When the doctor comes back to talk to you and you ask the doc, "Am I alright?" The doc responds, "You have a cold." A cold, hell nawh you have cancer!!! Racism is a disease, one that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately everyday we ask the world not to label ourselves or others as racist, which drives us further away from curing the sickness of racism. A doctor who prescribed Ludens to you (you know those cough drops you always wanted because they tasted like candy but your momma wouldn't let you have them) instead of chemo would be in serious malpractice and in violation of the their oath. But everyday, people ask me, "Why do we have to say someone is racist?" "Can't we call it something else? or "I get what you're saying, but calling someone a racist is ugly." Racism is ugly!!! I could go into my definition of racism but here is a link to a basic definition of racism that should get you started. If you're already with me, read on.

For me, dropping the term racist from our lexicon weakens our ability to call everyone to the task of being accountable for inequality. Admittedly not all inequality is racial, but many of the social ills that we see have a strong racial component. To borrow from Beverly Tatum racism is like pollution, you may not have started it, but you must live with it and everyday your actions contribute to it. The true question is what are you going to do to reduce it? By ignoring racism and the people and institutions that perpetuate it, we retard social progress. Because we have dropped racist from our lexicon, racial discrimination (disproportionate impact) does not legally exist until animus is demonstrated. Because we stopped calling out people as being racist, the very people who support systems of oppression now label us racists. Because racist became perverted, some are now distorted enough to think the oppressed are the oppressors.

I know this getting way too long, but let me conclude by saying, we live in a world without racists, but in a world full of racism. While I am forgiving, reasonable, and solution oriented, it disturbs me to see us sidestep the root of the hatred that we see in the disparate worlds we live in and in the malice ridden words we speak. I'd rather have chemo than candy. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

While WE were sleeping

So I've been busy, but I did want to post briefly on something that is tremendously important and waiting in the balance of the Supreme Courts. While we were all sleeping, two cases rose to the level of a Supreme Court hearing and stand to place the final nail(s) in the coffin of Brown V. Board of Education. Realize that Brown v. Board of Education has been dismantled steadily through legislation and contestation. For a great discussion of the process check out Dismantling Desegregation by Gary Orfield.

The Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments for Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The first case (Seattle) is about high school assignment and the latter is about elementary school assignment. There is some really impressive social scientific research that went into an amicus brief provided by the Harvard Civil Rights Project here. Essentially both cases boil down to the question that is IN PART analogous to the Michigan cases: "Can be race a factor when determining school entry or placement."

I'll let my legal colleagues dissect the finer nitty-gritty details for you, so I'll let them lead that way. But I do want folks to realize this is once again an attempt to reduce racial disparity by race neutrality.... yeah I know it sounds ridiculous. I recently watched a panel on CSPAN that features Ted Shaw (NAACP LDF), Roger Clegg (Center for Equal Opportunity) and others. The most interesting part was hearing Roger Clegg actually say (and I paraphrase) "considering race is racial discrimination." For me, that sums up my issue with "race-neutrality" in fact it let's just call it "utopian-neutrality" because there darn sure isn't any consideration of race.

Aight, I gotta go write and do the 50 other things I have, but wanted you all to be paying attention. By the way, remember when I posed my simple question of who has beeen doing the work on the k-12 education? Well, clearly the conservatives have been working on dismantling equal oppurtunity there too.