Sunday, November 14

Better Late than Never

I recently replied to some commentary on the Popcorn Privilege demonstration that i ran on campus a couple of weeks ago. Someone forwarded me a link to American Renaissance, a website dedicated to solving the problems of race (their words, not mine). Their problem with race is that the interests of other races seem to have been elevated higher than the interests of white people. this is borne(sp) out by the comments written by their readers on the various articles the website posts.

in any case, they picked up the article from the Daily Illini on our protest (read it here) and their readers immediately had a hissy-fit. some of the comments follow:

Notice how they attack white MEN and drive a wedge between white women and white men? Yep, clever. Make white women HATE white men and then encourage them to date and mate with black men to show they are liberated, advanced and "with it". Thus ensure the extinction of the white race.

While negroes and other non-whites complain, it needs to be pointed out that White Males, are the smartest, most talented, most inventive, most cultural and most law-abiding people in the world. So why shouldn’t we have privileges?

i could go on and on - they do - but i'll just reprint my reply in full. i can do that cuz this is my blog:

i'm one of the people who came up with the concept of the Popcorn Privilege demonstration a couple of weeks ago. what we attempted to do was take concepts from Peggy McIntosh's article "white males white privilege" and put them into a concrete form that people could see (or in this instance, taste). the strength of the McIntosh article is that she also lists benefits, immunities, and privileges that accrue to whites simply because they're white. Our demonstration showed that by handing full bags of popcorn to white men while giving everyone else partially-full bags.

it always amazes me when whites (and upper-class non-whites) cling stubbornly to the belief that their privileges were earned through individual effort, rather than through the mores, values, and norms that reward conformity with an ideology of white supremacy and capitalism. if blacks are not as educated as whites, then we are trained to look not at the failure of underfunded educational institutions or teachers but to consider blacks to be stupid "by nature". same goes for environmental discrimination; how easy is it to accrue wealth when you are forced to over-qualify for a mortgage, pay higher interest on that mortgage, and then watch your property value shrink because you bought the property? Many whites never have to face that dilemma and indeed, continue to benefit from government-sponsored programs that rewarded their grandparents’ membership in the “white” race.

The GPSC was formed because of the absence of support mechanisms for students of color in academia. In a world constructed around white privilege, people of color have to build and maintain safe spaces where they are not assailed with racism, prejudice, and hate. However, we often reach out to mainstream groups simply because we find good people everywhere, not just in our own communities. W.E.B. DuBois, a pragmatist, noted that segregation is not the way to promote a truly multicultural society – but that until whites make a real effort to support integration, we need a space to nurture our own.

"any more questions, go ask yo' mama" - Positive K

Thursday, November 11

Crackers for Blacks

So I'm at a local fast food spot, waiting on my chili order and the Black Sister who brings it to me asks me if I want crackers. I say "no" to which she replies, "What? No crackers? Are you Black?"

There it is again - The Blackness question. I guess that it says something about my Blackness that I didn't even know that eating crackers with chili was a stereotype of Black folks. I didn't even have the option of pretending that I wanted crackers with my chili to validate my Blackness. That is what integration has done to me-deprived me of important cultural information like: Blackfolx like crackers with chili.

Anyway, I thought the shit was funny.

So then, seriously, the question becomes: What should we as Black folk be preserving about our culture and what do we not need anymore and should these questions be left up to chance? Should we just be ourselves regardless of the consequences? Or should our cultural development and preservation be a political project, a project with clear orientations?

Monday, November 8

The Quick Hit

did you know that Michael Moore had people filming in Ohio during Election Day? Did you know that they posted a quick hit of their footage? You can check it out here.

**Found while while roaming the Boing Boing website.

i'll be back later with comments on this's so rich (Jesse actually says something powerful!)

Friday, November 5

Inching back from despair...

Why despair? because i came across this piece of shit today which perfectly summed up why i feared a Bush election (i refuse to call it a re-election):

The Democrats are now talking about how this is a signal that Bush should “bring the country together”. Translated into American, this means “now that you’ve won, you should surrender to us.” The hell with that. We’ve won. Winning means not having to say you’re sorry. Bush already brought a majority of Americans together: they voted for him. He doesn’t need to reach out to them: they need to reach out to him.

Let’s face a hard truth: this was the bitterest Presidential campaign in living memory. The Democrats and their allies staked everything on the defeat of this President. All of the resources they had accumulated over a generation of struggle were thrown into this battle: and they have failed. Despite all of their tricks, despite all of their lies, the people have rejected them. They mean nothing. They are worth nothing. There’s no point in trying to reach out to them because they won’t be reached out to. We’ve got their teeth clutching the sidewalk and out boot above their head. Now’s the time to curb-stomp the bastards.

But, whatever, we won: to hell with the rest of them. Those who didn’t support Bush can go and perform a certain anatomically impossible act. They lost, now they can sit in the back of the bus.

Some people would like to say that this guy is a nut, and most people Republicans/conservaties don't think like this, much less put it in writing. to which i say, "read the title of the blog". i titled it like that because me and my co-authors are all hyper-aware of the way rhetoric tied to racial tropes is used to inflame and frighten mainstream america.

so, why do i not despair as much? i'll give you the best examples: one from Orcinus and another from somebody i respect.

it's eerily symbolic that last week i ran a protest against White Privilege (read about it here). some suburban kid ran up on the table and told us that we were "stigmatizing" white people by informing them that they possessed privilege. at the time, i laughed him off (after he left, of course - i'm only a jerk 17% of the time). but now that i look at the election, i realize that white people really do feel "stigmatized". enough so, that they voted for white privilege over economics, job security, and foreign affairs mishandling.

last word belongs to Ian over at Different Kitchen.

Republicans and Political correctness

Generalization: I get the impression that Republicans have beef with the notion of political correctness. Many find it oppressive to free speech. That being said, here is an example of how the current administration proves that resistance to political correctness is in bad faith:
How you gonna have a Department of Homeland Security and a Department of Defense at the same time? Don't they mean the same thing? Now I know for the most part what the different missions of each department are, but then isn't defense a misnomer? Why not call it the department of war, just as it used to be called? Simple answer: "Defense" is more rhetorically pleasing to the listener than "war." This is a perfect example of "political correctness." The problem with this particular form of political correctness is that "defense" is an euphemism for "war" and so it is a way to use rhetoric to mislead or lie about what is the true purpose of the department of defense.

Saturday, September 18

Not quite disillusioned...but not far from it either.

As i mentioned before, i'm chasing a PhD in Library and Information Studies. in my CMC course the other day, we were reviewing articles on online culture - some good, some bad. One of the articles was "The Rhetorical Dynamics of Gender Harassment Online"Information Society 15 (1999) by Susan Herring, who's a pretty big deal in CMC.

Briefly, Herring looks at two excerpts of conversations between men and women - one on IRC, and the other on Usenet. Both examples are pretty egregious - the men involved use pretty aggressive, pejorative language to attack the women involved. Herring analyzes the exchanges using Discourse Analysis literature by Labov, Lakoff, and Propp. She also analyzes the mediums referring to work Turkle, Nancy Baym, and some of her own articles. Overall, a fairly important article highlighting online behaviors that were less than democratically ideal.

We review the assigned articles by groups, and this week's group was pretty unanimous - they hated this article. They didn't disagree that gender harassment in online environments such as IRC or Usenet may be possible online - although one of the reviewers claims that he's never noticed it. Their problem was with the extreme nature of the case studies; with the conclusions drawn from the case studies; or with the fact that they didn't feel she had enough evidence to make her case.

So i got pissed.

see...most of my classmates are white. okay, maybe that's not much of an excuse, but it's the best one i can come up with.

I said to the class,

"The way you destroyed this article reminded me SO much of the way that white people deny the existence of racism in this country. if the example is too extreme (say, someone gets lynched) then the problem is the behavior of the individuals involved - it's not a societal problem. if the example is too nuanced (say, coded language devaluing the intellectual merit of minorities), then the problem is the perception of the victim - it's not a societal problem. No matter how many incidents are recounted, there are never enough examples given of racism/sexism/(you pick the)-ism to convince you that a transgression has occurred."

i added,

"i am disappointed because y'all are going to be my colleagues one day. your devaluation of the validity or even reliability of this article devalues the conclusions that the author is making and even the experiences of the women involved in each incident - and you guys don't have any problem with that."

when i re-read what i said (and yeah, i actually said it like that), i realize that i tiptoed. i should have told them that their behavior was straight up racist; that their dismissal of the article was a reinforcement of white male privilege. i was trying to be polite...and as a result, they wiggled right the f*ck away from what i said.

they said that they were just being objective, that the article was too biased because Herring was LOOKING for gender harassment rather than letting her data give her enough information to draw her conclusions.

it's frustrating enough that i'm the rare Black male in a field dominated by middle-aged white women. it's even more frustrating to be confronted over and over again how hidebound, conservative, and subliminally racist academia is - much less my field.

for those of you who care...any suggestions on how to deal with this?

Saturday, September 11

Let's get it started

....from the Afrofuturism listserve....

Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 13:33:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Art McGee
Subject: Am I Black?

> i want you to convince me that you're black.

Hey, this wasn't directed at me, but it's still a good
question. How do I signify that I'm Black in a virtual
medium with no visual cues, when Blackness has become
so commodified that many non-Black people could pass?

Talk amongst yourselves...

we were talking about this in my CMC class the other day - how do online communities determine membership without the verification of face-to-face contact? i brought up the Afrofuturism listserve (even though i'm a lurker more than a poster) because people are often called out to verify their "ghetto pass".

  • one of the ways i thought of was to be culturally literate - although the AF list tends to privilege radical black media over other, more popular stuff.

  • one of the ways that doesn't always work is the online version of the dozens. the insults and rejoinders are often witty,
    but some posters who are always online tend to "loudtalk" or post many times in order to shut dissenters down.

  • my personal favorite method of Blackness authentication is anecdotal stories of resistance, since the personal affront of racism recounted tends to make people vulnerable and perhaps more credible.

i don't think many non-blacks can pass both cultural literacy tests and the dozens, though.

in any case, why does it make a difference whether or not you're black online? one of my (non-black) classmates asked me this, and so i'll put it to the blog before i post my own answer.

Tuesday, August 24

A Shout out to the Locals

As I sit here alone on the eve of the upcoming school year, I am trying to mentally prepare myself for what lies ahead of me. Term papers, tons of reading (in one class I have 10 required books plus 7 recommended readings, yikes!!!), not to mention seeing clients, research projects, and lots of grading are all in my very near future. Just thinking about it all makes me anxious. I also realized that I didn't accomplish my academic goals for the summer. I didn't read enough, write at all, and I still have no master's thesis topic. However, I don't feel that this summer was an entire waste.

This summer I worked as a telemarketer and it really was an eye opening experience. Although this was not my first experience as a telemarketer, it was the first time I really paid attention to what was going on around me. I met a lot of wonderful people and I just wanted to give a shout out to my coworkers. As a grad student, I really did not have much interaction with the "locals" in my new community. Though rarely discussed, there is a major disconnect between the University and the community at large. We do our community service projects and conduct our research, which is supposed to benefit our people, however more times than not we play right into the seperatist bullshit that we so passionately fight against. However, as I worked alongside those in the community, I was reminded of their humanity. Those who we consider "the locals" are our the mothers, fathers, grandmas, granpas, brothers, and sisters back home. Many of women that I met at my job remind me of my girlfriends back home. They have goals, hopes, and dreams just like we do. They work hard and get paid little and many times are treated less than humanely. And now I feel personally offended when I hear one of my colleagues criticize the people in this community because they could just as easily be criticizing my family and those in my own community.

The experience this summer has put me in my place. It reminded me that I not only am part of my community back home but I am also a part of the community here. We have a responsibility to treat the people that we encounter here with dignity and to give them the respect that they deserve.

Friday, August 20

a return is imminent

now that the summer is closing, i can return my attention to this space. funny how summer is the most hectic time for grad students, what with trying to make sure the rent is paid while your fellowship is on hiatus.

in any case, thanks to ian over at Different Kitchen for the shout - i always enjoy reading your stuff, man.

i'll close with just a couple of things that have been on my mind recently:

Black Student gets stomped out by White football players This story's a little old, but better late than never, seeing how little press it got on campus here. The funny thing is that they don't mention how badly the young brother got hurt - he got a couple of ribs cracked, lost a tooth, etc.

i'm catching up on my movies from the last twelve months - thanks, Family Video. Saw The Return of the King last night and could not disengage my critical faculties. Is this one of the greatest paeans to homoerotic male relationships in recent memory or what? i mean, i thought Sam was going to *expletive deleted* Frodo in a couple of scenes. This movie was SO focused on the covert love relationships between the men that it even reduced the women to non-entities. Arwen (Liv Tyler) had to give up her immortality to be with the man she loves? what kind of BS is that?

Apple has diluted my enthusiasm this summer. i've had to send my iBook in TWICE to replace the logic board (numbers 2 and 3 for those at home) and now it's acting up again. Customer Relations has promised me that if it dies again, i get a new iBook - but the catch is that it has to die first. So the fact that it's acting out doesn't count...pray for failure, y'all *laughing*

last - i'd like to put into print how much i love my firstborn child. Ryan has really been patient with his father as we negotiate his time with me. He sits up in the coffee shop with me as i return emails and write documentation, playing his GBA SP or reading books from the used bookstore down the street. he is such a great child - doesn't act out and is often funny and insightful. love you, baby boy!

Sunday, July 25

Once again: Who is Black?

So I'm at this Black political convention in Chicago and there is this cat there who appears to me to be White, but I am not certain.  He also had an accent which sounded British to me. At one point another attendee indicates to me that this individual should not have been allowed up in the spot.  As it turns out this man who appears to be White is Dennis Brutus, who is an emeritus professor of Africana studies at Pitt and a well known Black activist, poet and political prisoner (alonside Mandela @ Robben Island).  This was the first time I had heard of him, so I stood mute as his presence was questioned.  But this experience was very memorable because it really brought to mind how confusing the notion of race is and how quickly race and the illusion of race can produce knee-jerk reactions. So my ultimate question is this:  can a "Black" person who passes for "White" be "racist" or not???

Sunday, July 4

A Dissenter Speaks

i've been stewing over the Cosby speech (now speeches) for a while now. in my inarticulate rage, i've been trying to figure out just why the Cos' words irk my last nerve so badly. some of it rests upon the definition my friends and i came up with to define the axis of black culture: we decided that the one trait all blacks had in common was a shared experience of oppression. that trait encompasses liberals, conservatives, da black bougeoisie, da ghetto fabulosi, the niggerati and the skreet kids - a multiplicity of worldviews shaped by the one experience.

if so, where does the Cos stand? Ta-Nehisi Coates hit on it back in May. there is a core of black elitism; one that is ashamed of and hyper-aware of their "country cousins". they exemplify a tried-and-true method immigrants have used to enter mainstream society. let's call it the 'American Way'; assimilate supremacist attitudes towards blacks and black culture in order to gain acceptance.

so what, if any, difference is there between Cos and a white supremacist? Cos is allowed - nay, encouraged - to air his views on the paucity of black culture at every chance. in a society where trent lott was pillaged for hinting that he might have been in favor of segregation, why has the Cos not been urinated upon by the media? instead, he's been lauded by celebrities and pundits, columnists and 'people-on-the-street'.

what makes it worse is that his statistics are off and his distate for his brethren blares from every sentence. prometheus6 spoke on it, as did Earl Ofari Hutchinson. Pinko Feminist Hellcat also addresses the problems inherent in Cosby's words.

Coates noted that Cos' show, set in crack-era NYC, never once had an episode where the kids had their 'pockets were run' (good turn of phrase, mr. coates). a blindness to sociopolitical conditions then; a blindness to socialpolitical conditions now.

Sunday, June 27

Late, late, late nights

so...i wuz drinking Sparks (which i'm nominating for "Caffeine Replacement of the Millennium") while writing a paper last night. it's now 7 AM and i CAN'T GO TO SLEEP. so i started updating our Links section, which might explain why i found myself on Debra Dickerson's weblog. I cain't stand her Booker T.-esque views on race (see her book) - but that's a discussion for another day containing actual sleep time.

Anyhoo, ms. dickerson did post something worth watching. You can check it out here.

For the faint of heart (read "afraid of viruses/spam/pr0n"), imagine that the Bush-Cheney campaign let YOU make up the slogan for their bumper sticker...NOW go check it out.

Monday, June 21

An Interesting Perspective

Below is an article that was sent to me. I found the author's perspective to be intriguing. Even though I might not be totally in line with everything that he is saying, I thought he made some valid points. I would be interested to hear what anyone else thinks about what he has to say.

Miss Moni

Commentary: No Handouts: Open Up the Door and we’ll get it Ourselves

Date: Sunday, June 20, 2004
By: Gregory Kane,

The late President Ronald Reagan, buried nearly a week now, received few
praises from blacks during America’s seven-day mourning period after the
40th president died June 5.

What we did hear from many black commentators was a constant theme: Reagan,
as president, didn’t do anything “for” black folks.

You have to wonder where these commentators are learning their black

Before continuing, I feel compelled to point out that Reagan most certainly
did do something “for” black people. It’s the same thing he did for
Americans of every race: his best to convince us that the federal
government, with its powers strictly limited by the Constitution, is not
our mommy and daddy and was never meant to grow to the behemoth proportions
it has since the New Deal started.

Legislators in cities and towns that have passed resolutions against the
Patriot Act seem to concede Reagan’s point.

But the history says no president has done anything “for” black people
that black people didn’t cajole, agitate, exhort or implore him to do.

You remember the fairy tale you heard back in grade school: President
Lincoln freed the slaves. You’ve since learned Lincoln’s Emancipation
Proclamation freed no one, that he didn’t accept blacks into the Union army
until Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists urged him to do it, and
that many slaves, by abandoning the plantations and providing invaluable
labor for Northern forces, more or less freed themselves.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t issue Executive Order 8802
[anti-job discrimination] because he woke up in the White House one morning
with the itch to do something “for” black folks. He did it because A..
Philip Randolph threatened to raise hell and take thousands of black folks
in a march on Washington that would expose America to its fascist foes as
preaching equality and freedom while practicing a vicious racism of its

Randolph was around again after World War II ended, at a dinner with
Roosevelt’s successor, President Harry S. Truman. Randolph let Truman know
blacks would not serve again in a segregated army. Truman was miffed at
Randolph, but he got the message. Truman desegregated all branches of the
armed forces in 1948.

The president perceived to have done the most “for” blacks — John F.
Kennedy — actually did very little. He proposed a civil rights bill but
couldn’t get it passed, and he, along with his brother, Attorney General
Robert F. Kennedy, actually resegregated some Army units sent to quell a
1962 riot that broke out at the University of Mississippi when James
Meredith enrolled. The Kennedys hoped to appease Southern racists and
rioters, while putting the lives of Meredith and black and white soldiers
in jeopardy.

The president who actually did the most “for” black people was President
Lyndon B. Johnson. He got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, but he had lots of help. Given little
credit is a man named Clarence Mitchell Jr. who, as head of the Washington,
D.C. branch of the NAACP, lobbied to get that legislation passed.

Mitchell became known as “the 101st senator” for his efforts.

This notion that blacks need a president to do something “for” us flies in
the face of our history. We have always done plenty for ourselves. We even
did it during slavery, the “white-man-as-devil, black-folks-as-victims”
school of history currently in vogue among us notwithstanding.

Historian Ira Berlin, in his “Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries
of Slavery in North America” tells much of this story. Berlin’s book is not
very popular. It doesn’t have the attraction for many of us that, say, the
Willie Lynch fantasy does. But Berlin makes clear that black folks did
plenty for themselves during slavery.

Our ancestors “established cook shops, groceries, and taverns to cater to
their own people,” according to Berlin. They also “educated themselves and
their children, insured themselves against disaster, protected themselves
against kidnappers, planned for their future and…set the standards for
their deportment…”

These were the black folks who didn’t fret about what a president could do
“for” them. Many did for themselves, including hiring out their free time
to make wages to purchase their freedom and that of their loved ones.

If Ronald Reagan didn’t do anything “for” black folks, perhaps it’s because
he was more in tune to our history than we are.

Monday, May 24

My wife said it best...

Kanye is a producer, not a rapper. we are in agreement on this one: although he's topical and at times even hilarious, his delivery leaves something to be desired.

My pick for best hip-hop/rap album of the year so far? Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine. College Dropout is damned good - even though it brings up the question "why producers never save their best beats for themselves" - and the Pretty Toney album is in the CD player as we speak...

so this is why i'm a professor in training

because it's 75 degrees and sunny while i surf the web at panera, suckas!

granted, i'm a barely-functional member of an exploited underclass (read: PhD student), but i CHOSE this life. it went a little like this:

after f*ckin around tryin to be grown, i finished my undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa in 2001. my choices were: go work my liberal arts degree into a better job (admin assistant is a job best suited for the organized/anal retentive) or listen to my boosterized advisor and apply to PhD programs in Rhetoric and Composition.

so i sent off applications for both options (remember interviewing on campus? - it still sucks BTW) and lo-and-behold, i was accepted to every program i applied to. not only accepted: 1 school offered me a full ride for the PhD even though i hadn't exactly completed the application(!). at around the same time, Salomon Smith Barney offered me a position as an operations analyst (which paid less than my admin assistant job - go figure). i weighed my options, asked god for advice/help/a frickin sign, and decided on grad school.

end of story.

Sunday, May 23

by way of introduction

imma write this in as conversational a style as possible, so you grammar fiends and Ebonics-phobes please step the f*ck back. this space is where i plan to ramble about my two favorite obsessions: race and rhetoric. being that black culture is where my heart is, that's what i'll prolly talk bout the most - but other cultures (read: white) might crop up from time to time *evil grin*.

got an academic background (read: master's) in rhetoric and critical race theory, so if i start getting nerdy, please move past the parts you don't like. i study race, technology, and rhetoric at the University of Illinois, so my classes will probably make their way into this space too. because of my interest in critical race, i tend to rant about the economy, white privilege, and the black bourgeoisie as well...

which leads to my next point (and i do have one); i decided to start blogging because of the commentary i kept coming across about Cosby's speech - not just from the Niggerati Online, but on the radio stations i listened to afterwards. let me just say this one time - ITS TIME TO STOP HATING ON THE "COMMON" FOLK.

i was raised in Louisiana, grew up in Queens and Houston. although i was always crammed into gifted/talented classes (mostly in white schools), i never lost my appreciation for my folks that didn't have my opportunities. hell, most of them schooled me in things i could have never learned in school. my family is middle class on one side, poor on the other - and trust me, we've weaved betwixt and between both sides of that equation.

it irks me so much when black people forget that ALL of us make up the "black race". even those that claim to be aware of the plight of those of us who ain't economically viable seem to fall into a neoliberalist mindset that sez that po black folks CHOOSE to be po. that economic discrimination, environmental racism, poorly funded and poorly staffed school systems, a shitty job market, an omnipresent consumer culture that glorifies materiality, and just plain ol racist white folks might just account for the reasons why some of us never make it off tha block.

i'm not claiming a victim mentality, so put your conservative bullwhips away. i understand that there are many who actually do work hard in school and manage to find good jobs and then move away (!) from the 'hood. if it was all that easy, there'd be more of us in the middle/upper class, hmm?

Rebecca Gordon (i'll post the link later) writes that single mothers on welfare have trouble keeping jobs because of scarce child care resources; when their child is sick and they have to take off, employers are usually unforgiving. however, these mothers are considered "lazy" because they have trouble keeping jobs and have to apply for welfare to help make ends meet...sound familiar? poor black people in general have a higher hill to climb when it comes to "moving on up", so this theme of "personal responsibility" rings false to me - and probably to you too.

dang - this went longer than i meant for it too...we shall return.