The Silence of Our Friends

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Reward For Spotted Elephant

I finally found it! Since Spotted Elephant completed the assignment even before it was assigned she gets a special reward.


Oh all right, if you must have a peek go ahead, SE will share...

Immigration: The Human Cost

Monday, March 26, 2007

Women Soldiers

Hope Springs A Turtle gave me a little poke in comments to drop by her place to read about LaVena Johnson a soldier who was found in her tent dead by a gunshot wound to the head which was ruled a suicide. She also had a broken nose, dislocated shoulder, two loose teeth, and her lips were so badly mangled the mortician had to reconstruct them, and there was a blood trail leading outside her tent. Odd way to commit suicide. She had recently been tested for STD's and her father suspects she had been raped and reported it, and that she was murdered to silence her. Hope links to a post at Les Enrages with all the details and a plea to sign a petition to reopen the investigation into LaVena's death.

Hope has been writing a series of posts about Women Soldiers in Iraq and the dangers they face, not from Iraqis or terrorists, but from American men, their male counterparts and contractors. Recommended reading: The Women Soldiers and Women in Uniform. I noticed the link to the NYT Magazine story isn't working in her post, you will find it here: The Women's War.

Asking A Favor

Recently I've been involved in a private discussion about privilege and how people are blind to their own privilege and tend to deny that they have any. White people can easily see that people of color are disadvantaged in our society, but they don't automatically see that this gives them an advantage relative to those people of color. The same goes for male privilege at the expense of women. On a couple of occasions over the last month I've been surprised when it's been revealed to me, or I have concluded on my own, that I am blind to privilege as an American/Canadian. (My nation/tribe has Jay Treaty rights, I am able to live and work in either country and have.) We are socialized early on to believe in American Exceptionalism, or nationalism. The belief that we are better than everyone else in the world; the belief that everyone wants to be like us; the belief that everyone would live in the US if they could. This is not patriotism. Patriotism is the belief that your country is the best...for you, but not necessarily for everyone else. You still can see that others might believe that their country is the best...for them. Americans have a hard time getting it through their heads that just because two things are different doesn't make one bad and the other good. That is what makes it easy for them to say and believe stupid things like, "They hate us for our freedom" or "They're just jealous of us".

Since I have become more aware of my own colonialist and imperialist thought patterns, I have been picking it up everywhere and seeing how it is subtly dropped into the discourse in many ways and quite often. This morning on our local news there was a news story about a Palestinian child in a video singing about her mother who was a suicide bomber. I can't find it on the website for that station but it's the same story here at The Daily Mail. what caught my attention was the commentary between the anchors. They were basically saying, This is what we are up against. These terrorists are irrational animals. They don't value life and teach their children to hate. There was no context given for why a mother might be this desperate or angry. No mention of the daily violence and terror Palestinians must live with, and no mention of the dismal and hopeless situation they find themselves in. It is dropped into the discourse in this way in order to make it more palatable to Americans for us to invade Muslim countries and kill them randomly.

Before anyone gets wound up and says I am advocating for suicide bombers, stuff it. I am advocating against dehumanizing Palestinians and for the violence to stop on both sides. As long as it is ok for Israel to blow the crap out of Palestinians then they will continue to blow the crap out of Israelis. Americans must also stop dehumanizing Muslims and it is not ok for us to blow the crap out of them and we will not irradicate terrorism until we learn this basic lesson. The more of them that we displace and kill and steal from, the more that those left behind will want revenge.

Now back to my own colonialism/imperialism. One of the ways I can think of to fight this is by reading international news and blogs. I want to see how other countries cover news stories and politics. One of my favorites is Progressive Gold and one of the favors I am asking is for you to add them to your blogroll or rss feeder. They pick up stories that American blogs miss and the writing is excellent. I am amazed that they aren't more widely read since they have been around forever, or at least as long as the big American blogs. I think part of it has to be due to xenophobia. They're furriners, can't possibly be as good as murrikan writers. The other favor is that my readers leave a comment promoting your favorite international blog(s) for me to add to my blogroll.

I was especially interested in this post at Progressive Gold: US Military Lawyer: Bush’s Military Commissions Are Kangaroo Courts. we need to be reminded that many of those in Gitmo are there because of paid informants. One could make money by pointing the finger at someone and calling him a terrorists with no other evidence to back it up. It is possible, and likely that many are there because of personal disputes and vendettas between neighbors. This is why having constitutional protections is so important. I know that I don't want innocent people in prison for no other reason that someone wanted to pocket some loot and be rid of a rival.

The posts in the past week about the New Bedford raid and in the past months about T. Don Hutto are related. Immigrants rounded up without their families knowing where they are, without access to attorneys and left in limbo in horrible conditions.

The same goes for this post over at the Unapologetic Mexican: America's Secret Police. This one is about spying on American citizens who are lawfully congregating and disseminating information. Their only "crime"? Not being loyal Bushistas. This leads up to the jailing of 1800 protesters at the Republican convention in NYC. Without phones to call family or attorneys, left in cages outdoors to sleep on dirty oil covered asphalt without even a blanket.

In the comments there I left a link to Alternet: Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'. This is about a contract for Halliburton to build detention centers supposedly for a massive influx of immigrants. Another program is guidelines for the Army to run civilian labor camps. First, I don't believe these detention centers (PRISONS) are for immigrants only. I think they would like to declare martial law and round up "enemies of the state", who just happen to all be anti-Bush and question the status quo.

The thread that joins each of these articles and blog posts is that the Bushies have no compunction against suspending the rights guaranteed to Americans and foreign nationals alike within our Constitution. What they are doing at Guantanamo Bay, what they are doing at T. Don Hutto, what they did at the Republican convention, this could easily happen to you. Don't blow it off thinking that the government wouldn't hold someone without charges and without evidence because it is already happening. And like Ralph Isenberg said in my last post, "If we do this to foreign nationals, it's going to be us next." They already do. They have already taken their tentative steps towards imprisoning Americans without charge and without evidence, those rounded up at the Republican convention can attest to that, and so can Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi. Don't think you are safe because you aren't a "terrorist" or "illegal alien".

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Real Ally

Yesterday in the Toronto Star there was an article about 9 year old Kevin Yourdkhani and his family being released from T. Don Hutto "Family Residential Facility" which is actually a medium security prison. That's right, the US government is imprisoning children who have been convicted of no crime other than being born to the "wrong" parents. Kevin and his family were travelling from Guyana to Canada when their flight made an unscheduled stop in Puerto Rico. It is there that their nightmare began with the US government taking them into custody.

The family was released with the aid of a real ally. From the Toronto Star:
In Dallas, a wealthy property manager who helped spring the family from prison without ever meeting them, said yesterday: "I'm so happy. I pray to God that Canadians welcome that family home. Now it's on to the next family."

Ralph Isenberg, 55, who said he has suffered his own immigration nightmare over the status of his Chinese wife, has vowed to get all the kids out of the T. Don Hutto detention facility and force officials to shut it down.

"The conditions are atrocious," Isenberg told Canadian Press from Dallas. "When I see an injustice where I can do something, I step right in. I'm not afraid of these bastards. To hell with 'em."

Isenberg got involved after reading about Kevin Yourdkhani's plight and covered the $1,000 (U.S.) needed for travel permits while also offering to pay the legal fees of the family's Canadian lawyers.

He says the U.S. Immigration Control Enforcement is out of control. "They need to be put out of business.

"(They're) creating terrorists of the future by jailing kids 9 or 10 or 15 years old."

A colourful, blunt-speaking individual, Isenberg tears up when discussing how detainees are treated by authorities.

"I've seen the faces of the children who've been in there. Those kids are damaged goods," he said.

"I may not have been in prison, but I certainly know what this government is capable of doing to anyone and everyone.

"If we do this to foreign nationals, it's going to be us next."

It's too bad more Americans can't see as clearly. It's especially galling when it's people who call themselves liberals or progressives. These crimes against humanity are happening in our backyard. But there is barely a peep or mention in passing from our "allies" about imprisoning children, without health care, education, not enough food, not enough clothing, little or no play time or any toys or games at all. Next to nothing said about children being separated from their parents, nursing infants separated from their mothers. Next to nothing said about these people imprisoned without access to attorneys or telephones in horrible conditions. These are people who have been convincted of no crimes, if they were, immigration violations are civil offenses, but they are being treated like murderers with the quiet acceptance or willful ignorance of most Americans.

Read what is happening in your country; see what T. Don Hutto is really like. Here's an editorial from the Houston Chronicle - An Outrage.

It needs to be spelled out for some. Don't expect people of color to take your concern and fury over some abuse committed by governments and people in other countries seriously, when you ignore human rights violations and the vile treatment meted out by your own government, and we see the unconcern of the American people, including you. We know you are acting out the part of the colonizer. "Look at the bad people over there, but we're so good over here." It's an excuse, the colonizer says he wants to right other people's wrongs, while stealing their resources and lining the colonizers pockets. We're aware of history as the colonized, even when the colonizer has amnesia. When we see you are willing to remove the beam from your eye, your distress about the speck in your brother's might be more credible.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Interview Meme

I resisted this one for a few days, but then gave in to Eli at Mult-Medium. Just a warning, if you ask me to interview you I will ask totally embarrassing questions! Or really hard ones like having to do with sines and cosines, ok, maybe not since I don't remember much about them from high school or college. But I'll be difficult and mean!

Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions may be a little more intimate!
You WILL update your journal/bloggy thing/whatever with the answers to the questions.
You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

These are the questions Eli asked:

1) What was the first blog you ever read?

I'm not sure. It was either Hullabaloo or SmirkingChimp. Does SmirkingChimp count as a blog or message board? I used to post there all the time but they turned into a version of Kos, group think, be moderate, no "conspiracy theories" which means no questioning the status quo, and always support the Democratic candidate even if he or she is DLC Republican lite. I didn't post much at Hullabaloo, but read all the time and used the blogroll to find other liberal/progressive blogs. Blogrolls are more important than Atrios gives them credit for.

2) Who would be your dream president (living, dead, fictional even), and why?

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He understood the value of all people. The world would be a much safer place because I think King would have believed in diplomacy and cooperation instead of might makes right. I think he would have socialized America so that no one would go hungry or homeless or without health care. He's such a wonderfully persuasive speaker and with so much conviction, I think the more people got to hear, the less able they would be to make the argument that people of color are less intelligent or have less capability than whites. He wasn't perfect but he had great leadership qualities and would have made an excellent president.

3) What is your favorite book and author, and why?

I rarely read any book more than once. I do like anything by Jane Austen and have read several of hers many times, but as you know I also confuse them with one another. I also like mystery writers. Ruth Rendell writes the most bizarre twisted plots that are impossible to figure out before the end. The same goes for Francis Fyfield. One book though? I can't choose!

4) Who inspires you the most, and why?

At the moment, many POC bloggers who can hold their anger. Nezua, BFP, and Kai top the list. I also love BlackAmazon even if she can't help but get angry like me. Each is passionate, learned, but also knows the most effective ways to express themselves so that many people not just POC will listen. I think I go with my feelings instead of my head more often than not. It's cathartic in the short run but I think it will wind up turning people off in the long run. There is only so much of watching and listening someone else's rage that people can take.

5) What is your favorite breed of cat and/or dog, and why?

My gray tabby! I don't like dogs, but only because they are high maintenance. I like other people's dogs. As weird as it sounds, my cat's contrariness amuses me. When I want her around to cuddle she disappears, but if I am busy suddenly she is all over me needing love. I also like sneaking up on my kids and sticking her icy cold nose on the back of their necks.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Attention Pet Owners!

There is a recall out for certain cat and dog foods made by Menu Foods. They make dozens of brands, mostly the no name store brands, but to be certain you should check out their website to see if your pet has eaten any of them recently or if you have any of them on your shelves. There have been some cases of kidney failure and at least 10 deaths. Pass this on!
Menu Foods Recall List

Update: This recall does include some IAMS and Eukanuba pet foods too, I noticed that not all the news reports are mentioning this.

Friday, March 16, 2007

White Allies; The Good, The Bad, And The Fugly

Recent discussions here and at several other blogs have centered on how to be anti-racist and more on race and racism, understanding when things go wrong, whether we feel comfortable or discomfort discussing these subjects in mixed company, or even if we can ever really understand each other. Each of these discussions are so very different, and yet so much sameness. What I like best is that each of these posts is written by a white blogger. Each of these people understand that people of color can't be the only anti-racists, that this is something we do together, and that white people must be involved in teaching and learning.

In Bewildered Part II, I mentioned the pain of finding out that someone I thought of as a friend was only being my friend as a favor. In the comments of the first Bewildered post BlackAmazon can't get past the gall of white women saying they expect special commendations for loving their black husbands and mixed race children. There should be no special recognition for doing what should be normal, loving your partner and children no matter what their race! Expectations of unconditional love, gratitude, and undying loyalty no questions asked, are how you might feel about a dog you have rescued from the pound; not a real friend or ally.

Nezua says it too:
I did everything I could to be respectful, to speak the Queen's English in the most careful and splendiferous of ways, to tame my wild, Brown™ friends who had no patience for the bullshit and saw right through it, to keep the room civil. And you know what? It didn't matter. The WHITEPROGRESSIVES came to my joint, spit their shit and split. And I was actually hurt. Can you imagine? Naive Nezua. But he learns quickly.

Like a battered wife who swears to la chota that she had it coming, me and dear Sylvia were still fretting as if we did something wrong. Greenwald's message included the amazing implication that social progress on these issues was not moving forward because of us OVERSENSITIVES. Even more egregious and bold is the implication that WHITE people are doing The Brown™ a favor by comin' round and entering discussions. And that if we don't toe the line, where will we be then? When they decide they just don't feel like engaging it?

And Sylvia too:
After writing that comment, I felt really badly about pointing out that dynamic. Not even how I did it, just that I did it at all. And I thought about the impact it would have on discussion. I felt really upset because I recognized the chance that Greenwald would not engage Nez’s points, and he would not care to find out if I would stick around for the discussion so he’d feel…well…”safe.”

And Greenwald hasn’t returned yet. In the meantime, I questioned what I had done, exactly. Had I called this man a racist? And I did start feeling upset, so I tried to enter again and apologize for the haste. I tried to contribute carefully worded examples in the discussion, I apologized like crazy, and I felt like shit for quite a while. It was hard to try again. I felt butthurt.

POC must be appropriately grateful, respectful, and admiring. White allies can say whatever they want and shouldn't be called on it if it's ignorant and racist. They mean well.

Ok, not you. I don't mean MY white friends. You're the good ones! LOL So I am giving you your anti-racist assignment for this week. You should read all the posts that I linked to and the comments, but if you are pressed for time, at least make time for those last two by Nezua: The Skin of My Soul (Intermission) and Sylvia: White Privilege and the (Knee-Jerk) Woman of Color. I wanted to reach right through the monitor and hug the stuffin' outta both of them!

And if you finish your assignment I have a reward for you. You must view some "reverse racism" and be properly outraged! Or if I have trained you correctly you will laugh your butt off. Either way, here are a couple of great movie clips from YouTube. First at AradhanaD's place: Just Because... then at Amp's place: Nice White Lady to the Rescue.


One of the very uncomfortable realizations I have come to is exactly how much I can identify with the Sofia Coppola Feminists and their solopsism. It's so easy to center yourself and your own difficulties and grievances, and much more difficult to see others and their suffering, and to do something about it. I won't pat myself on the back that I have taken the one step that so many other Americans can't even manage. I read blogs and read or watch news reports and am cognizant of the actions of our government that negatively affect people within our own population and overseas. The same goes for what other governments or international institutions do that impact people's lives. What distinction or praise do I deserve for sitting back and saying, "Tut tut, that's terribly sad."? What is that but as BlackAmazon describes of Sofia Coppola Feminism, "It is a feminism that demands an emptiness (real or invented) of reflection, instead replacing it with self involvement." How does my momentarily feeling uncomfortable actually help anyone or change anything? It's self involvement, it's a form of self deception if I even for a second believe that my knowledge without action is any better than someone else's ignorance.

Many of you already do so much. Some of what you do is difficult but much of it actually isn't. It's not that hard to make a difference. It's easier to sit back and feel helpless and make excuses.

Write: make yourself aware of what is happening in your world and blog about it so that others will be aware too. Your senators and congresspeople take your letters seriously. The editor of your local paper doesn't know the concerns of it's community if you remain silent.

Donate: find organizations that alleviate the suffering of people or push for legislation to do this and give what you can.

Volunteer: Your time is valuable to more people than yourself.

Organize: Going to conferences, joining political groups, and demonstrating with like minded people are all ways to make a difference.

What prompted this post? Both Plain(s)Feminist and BrownFemiPower have been blogging about the New Bedford round up of immigrants. My first thought was, "What difference can I make? I'm only one person with a minor blog!" And ***SMACK*** I hear BlackAmazon in my head saying, "Its helplessness as a feminist standpoint."

Enough. I may not have many readers, but you are here reading this. Between you, and me, and your readers, and their readers, and so on, we can make a difference right here and right now.

On March 6, 2007, there was an immigration raid on Michael Bianco Inc, a leather goods factory in New Bedford, Mass. 361 workers were detained, about half were flown to detention centers in Texas before DSS (Department of Social Services) officials in Mass could interview them about their family situations and whether they had children who would need care. Between 100-200 children were left stranded at school, daycare, or with baby sitters. At least 2 nursing babies had to be hospitalized for dehydration because their mothers could not be found.

Some facts:
State officials repeatedly asked to be involved in the raid to avoid the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded and were refused by ICE (Immmigration & Customs Enforcement). ICE is under the authority of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security). Heckuva job again DHS!

Of the nation’s 23 largest cities, Boston has the fifth “highest proportion of foreign-born residents,” according to “New Bostonians 2005,” a report by the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians. Here in the South End, nearly 23 percent of residents are recent immigrants — meaning that they were born outside of the U.S. Boston immigrants own more than 8000 small businesses and employ about 37,000 people. They generate more than $823 million in state and federal taxes. Some of them are here illegally. Arresting them and deporting them back to Haiti, the Dominican Republic or China — which are the homelands of the city’s three largest immigrant groups — solves nothing. As the New Bedford raid shows, such attempts at deportation have what we can only hope were unintended consequences.

Not only did Michael Bianco Inc have the one government contract that everyone knows about, for $83.6 million to make backpacks and safety vests for the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency, they also have a US Army contract for $138 million.

They manufacture high end leather goods for Coach, Timberland, and Rockport.

It is alleged that INSOLIA
(the owner of Michael Bianco Inc.) continues to maintain a workforce of which the majority are illegal aliens. It is further alleged that he intentionally seeks out illegal aliens because they are more desperate to find employment, and are thus more likely to endure severe workplace conditions he has imposed. It is alleged that these conditions include: docking of pay by 15 minutes for every minute an employee is late; fining employees $20 for spending more than 2 minutes in the restroom and firing for a subsequent infraction; providing one roll of toilet paper per restroom stall per day, typically resulting in the absence of toilet paper after only 40 minutes each day; fining employees $20 for leaving work area before break bell sounds; and fining employees $20 for talking while working and firing for a subsequent infraction.

Michael Bianco Inc was making huge amounts of money on it's contracts. The only reason to take advantage of immigrants is GREED. The owner and managers were arrested and within one day are back on the street. You see, they had access to lawyers and cash, unlike the immigrants.

Dear leader was greeted with protests in Guatemala concerning the raid in New Bedford. Many of the immigrants detained are from Guatemala. While there he lied, no surprise since it comes so naturally. Mr. Bush said he disputed "conspiracies" relayed by Mr. Berger [Guatemala's President] that children were taken away from families. Mr. Bush denied such accounts. "No es la verdad," Mr. Bush said, "That's not the way America operates. We're a decent, compassionate country. Those are the kind of things we do not do. We believe in families, and we'll treat people with dignity."

What can we do? From the South End News:

The solution is comprehensive immigration reform that allows those who are living here illegally to work toward legal status. On March 21, a public hearing will be held at the State House for a bill sponsored by South End State Rep. Byron Rushing that would change Massachusetts law to help immigrants obtain state services and legal immigration status. Kennedy is sponsoring a similar law in Congress. You can attend the March 21 hearing to show your support or write the committee in charge of the bill, the Joint Committee on Children and Families, to show your support. Meanwhile, you can contact Kennedy, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Congressman Michael Capuano to urge them to pass immigration reform as quickly as possible.

If you wish to help those impacted by the March 6 raid on the Michael Bianco plant, you can send a check to the New Bedford Immigrant Families/Ninos Fund. Make the check out to the MIRA Coalition, 105 Chauncy St., Boston, 02111. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of the proceeds will be distributed by families impacted by the raid. The MIRA Coalition is also recruiting volunteers who can help drive family members from New Bedford to the JFK Building in Boston to attend legal proceedings. Call 617.350.5480 or visit for more information.

While much of this post has been writing about me and my feelings, I'm not fishing for compliments. I'll be disappointed if anyone says, "Oh poor baby, you're not that bad." because you'll seriously be missing the point. It's about all of us making a difference. If you already have places you are spending your time, effort, and money on. Woo Hoo! If not, or you have this unpleasant feeling, like I do, that you could be doing more I've given you some suggestions where to start. I'd be sooooooo happy if you all link to Plain(s)Feminist and BFP's posts on New Bedford for one thing.

Update: BFP has more! If you're one of those people who are thinking, but gosh, those immigrants are "illegals", they are breaking the laws and deserve what they get. Read her post. Sometimes the laws are immoral. Any law that doesn't recognize that we are all citizens of the world and deserve equal treatment, equal dignity, and equal respect is an immoral law.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Benefit of the Doubt

The comments on the last post are getting a little long, so I am promoting my last comment to a new post. I'm really wondering, how many chances do we give white allies? How many "mistakes" are they allowed to make before we can say, "Wooooo that white person has a helluva alot of racist baggage he is unwilling to own?" And why is it we don't get this nice benefit of the doubt at least once? Step out of line and we get, "Those POC, always ready to throw out the race card!"


I'm really uncomfortable with this whole benefit of the doubt thing. In the Hmong post I found an example where Hmong people were talking about what happens when there is a dispute out in the field. In every example the white person is given the benefit of the doubt and the Hmong person is assumed to be lying. Now maybe there are a bunch of Hmong hunters out there who the DNR sided with, but I sincerely doubt it. I'd be willing to bet that it has NEVER happened.

When I heard the Chai Vang story, the Hmong hunter who shot eight white hunters, six died from their wounds, the first thing I thought of was Yoshihiro Hattori, a Japanese exchange student who was killed going to a Halloween party. It was down south, Baton Rouge, LA. He was with a white friend from school and they got the house address wrong for a Halloween party. The homeowner saw the Japanese kid approaching and thought he looked threatening, shot and killed him. The jury gave him the benefit of the doubt because we all know those Japanese people look dangerous. Yes, he is free to murder anyone approaching his property who he decides looks scary, and POC are scary people.

Meanwhile Chai Vang said that the white hunting group used racial slurs and shot at him first. I believe him. I don't think they were aiming for him, probably shot over his head or into the ground. I think these rednecks (yes, we have them up north too) thought they would have a little fun at the expense of a POC and it went tragically wrong. The Hmong man didn't get the "joke" and felt threatened instead and fought back. But no benefit of the doubt was given to the Hmong man at all. Most white people didn't believe a word he said. They thought the whites were a pleasant bunch who politely tried to explain property and land rights to a dangerous and ignorant POC. Because we all know that POC get murderously violent at the drop of a hat.

Nezua already gave Glenn the benefit of the doubt. His post was just that. He thought that maybe Glenn actually did want a discussion on race and gave it to him. He probably knew, like the rest of us, that Glenn was really just making white people feel better about their racism, it's not their fault that they can't negotiate these hidden tripwires. Now, Nezua, and the rest of us POC, are supposed to give Glenn more benefit of the doubt. When does this end?

So that quote where I said lead the racist into a discussion to prove that they are indeed racist. It's happened already. Glenn took that opportunity to ignore and dismiss most of what Nezua wrote, and attack Sylvia for making an observation about a common dynamic.

White people keep wanting more benefit of the doubt. Even when a white person uses racial slurs like Rosie O'Donnell with the "ching chong" or Richards alluding to lynching and using "nigger" that isn't proof enough for many of them. Because they are "nice" people, and made a mistake, or are under pressure, or excuse after excuse after excuse... Even when they kill one of us, well gotta give the white guy the benefit of the doubt, POC are scary!

When does the benefit of the doubt end? When do we get some of that benefit of the doubt?

Update: You'll notice there is a difference between my comment and this post. I wanted to put a name to the Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, so I went to look it up. I felt it was wrong to speak of him in the abstract. I also found out it was in Louisiana, not Florida.

Update 2: Made a correction to the Chai Vang case, he shot 8 and killed 6 white hunters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bewildered Part IV

Yeah, yeah, I'll eventually come up with a more original title for my posts, but these all have a thread running through them that connects them. Besides, I am bewildered that racism isn't evident to more people.

In the last post I was mulling over a post that Nezua wrote about the language of racism. Not the racial slurs, but the way nice people have these little nuggets of racism stuck in their unconsciousness and try to explain it away or minimize it as much as possible. Also how POC are highly aware of racist memes, coded language, and certain dynamics that replay themselves throughout our lives. We have to be. We would be stupid if we ignored situations that could be dangerous to our well-being.

Sylvia points out one of those dynamics. When white people have iffy ideas about racism they have a tendency to seek out at least one POC who will agree with that idea. "My black friend says it's ok." It's really common, because it's not hard to find a POC who has absorbed and internalized racism during his or her lifetime, or who is conflicted about backing up a friend vs wading into a difficult discussion about racism and all it's nuances, and people being people, sometimes we just disagree. POC aren't a monolith who all believe the same thing.

Glenn takes time out of his busy schedule to lay the smackdown on Sylvia. Sylvia went and proved him right! By being OVERSENSITIVE she hurt his feelings and now he wants to take his ball and go home. If she had been a Goodgirl she would have 1) given him the benefit of the doubt and 2) give him credit for good intentions and only the best motives.

Kai notices something interesting:
1. When it comes to white folks talking about POC, Greenwald thinks POC should loosen up their demands on white folks. He says racial dialogue is hindered by "unwritten rules" imposed on white folks by POC, thus characterizing being educated about respectful language as an unfair and arbitrary imposition on white folks.

2. When it comes to POC talking about white folks, the rules shift toward increased sensitivity and an (I believe unconscious) assertion of actual unwritten rules ("assume pure intent", "assume race-neutral interpretation", "don't imply I said or did anything racist"). And if a POC says something hurtful to a white person (say, his racial motives were "clear"), based on the POC's lived experience observing the patterns of racial dynamics, this explains why we're not making more social progress.

Pretty neat.
Yes, it's ok for white people to be insensitive to POC. But POC must be sensitive and respectful to white people. I think I've heard this one before...
white people don't have to be our friends and listen to anything we say, and yet she did it all this time, and now I was being so rude and ungrateful when she was just trying to help.
Just to be sure we are clear on this, truth machine drops by to state
...awareness of racism and bigotry is luxury for progressive whites; it's a necessity for POC, as the society they live in imposes it upon them constantly. Most whites actively maintain their ignorance of this through selective filtering and denial of facts that acknowledging would force them to face some of their unearned privilege and advantage...

I dropped in via Greenwald's link, and probably won't be back...

This is your blog, and it's a focus for you -- you will stay, as will your regulars, but neither Greenwald nor I are regulars. And, as I said, dwelling on this subject is a necessity for you, while it's a luxury for us. Hopefully it will some day no longer be a necessity for anyone.

Ok, this time I'm really gone.

Did you catch that? "Sorry racism is a problem for ya. It ain't for me. Ta-ta!"

Bewildered Part III

I hope you will all be around for Bewildered Part 12,582... LOL

When I got online (last night) I intended to check comments and answer/engage any readers. Wow! Thank you everyone for stopping by with words of support, words of wisdom, and your perspective.

Then I got caught up for hours reading Nezua's links, and the links within those posts and by the time I finished, it was way past my bedtime. I do have one minor disagreement with this: "I won't take you any further down this side street. Different story." No, it's all one and the same! One of the reasons I keep quoting R.Mildred is because she is NOT specifically talking about racism. When anyone is viewed as inferior for any reason they will at times experience what I experienced with my "friend". There is always connections and relationships, and I love pointing it out and when other people point it out for me too. It makes it easier to see our shared humanity.

I also think that I should have stated that I mean anyone who is friendly towards POC or should be, like the WHITEPROGRESSIVE in Nezua's style book definition. On a personal level, of course I never want to feel gut punched and that moment of vertigo when I question my humanity again, but she's an indication of something much larger that needs to be addressed for more than just lil ol' me.

It's important to me that people read those posts that Nezua linked to, but I also know that people do not have the hours I spent reading them (and all the comments). I definitely want to post about the parts that spoke, no SHOUTED, to me.

Speech Rules or Beliefs and Attitudes?: Glenn Greenwald wrote a post/column that, in a nutshell, says don't hold whites responsible for absorbing racist language/ideas/imagery. It's the POC's fault for pointing it out with all their PC rules, dammit! Nezua deconstructs the words and phrasing. Sort of a reverse diamond in the rough, he discovers the lump of coal encased in the glittering language. When you live with racism long enough you become aware of certain things, like coded language, which is what Nezua and Glenn are talking about. Biden called Obama "clean and articulate". If you aren't aware of the coded language it sounds like praise, but can you imagine Biden saying that about any white candidate? Whites default to clean and articulate, it would be noteworthy if they were not. What Biden is really saying about blacks - that they default to dirty and incomprehensible. Obama is a credit to his race. Glenn is concerned that POC are hypersensitive and pointing out these "little slips" makes white folks feel bad and then they don't want to talk to those mean people of color who hurt their feelings. Oh woe! How can we discuss racism when those POC keep bringing up (our) racism!

Let me get off on a little tangent here. A battered person becomes very sensitive to the things spoken and unspoken that will set the batterer off. Let's say this couple is in a public place and the batterer says to his girlfriend, not shouting, in a conversational tone, "Shut up." and she cringes, visibly starts shaking, and runs from the room. I wonder if Glenn would say she is hypersensitive? It makes you wonder if the ones accusing people of hypersensitivity aren't instead simply insensitive and unaware, maybe even ignorant to the lives of others different than themselves. Things to ponder...

Nezua explains it more kindly than I just did, you really need to go read the thread and comments at his place, really. Nezua distills it down to: when anyone, even a nice person, absorbs racist ideas and spits it out into the discourse, they must be called on it.

Dammit! This is so fundamental and it makes me want to scream when those friendly to us don't get it! You can't give someone a pass to hold racist ideas because you like them (Glenn, FDL, Amanda, Maha, the "friend" in my last post, on and on), you can't give them a pass because they are nominally liberal and on your side (Biden), you can't give them a pass because they're unaware celebrities (Paris Hilton). You can't give anyone a pass even if they do not INTEND to be racist. You are asking too much of us; you are asking us to spot clean when this blight is ingrained in the entire fabric of our existence. To be honest, I could more easily live with the spots, which are the declared haters like the Klan, if I could get you and all the nice people like you to let go of your grain of racist ignorance. For every visible spot there is a ton of invisible dirt, crumbs, dust, mold, and mildew.

That's why you hurt us more than the declared haters. You don't intend it but you do it anyway and when you are called on it, you minimize the damage you do. It doesn't affect you negatively, so what's the big deal?

Shhh POC, don't point out the piece of racist tripe I'm holding. That negatively affects me. You're UNGRATEFUL. I do you the FAVOR of talking about racial theory and those bad conservative bigots and this is the THANKS I get? I don't think I want to be your friend anymore if you talk about your reality. Are you too stupid to know that this is only an intellectual game? Stop that! The spotlight hurts my eyes!

I have alot more to say on this and hope I have time later tonight, yes, Bewildered IV, coming soon!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bewildered Part II

BrownFemiPower has a great post up continuing the discussion, Women of Color Morphing into Oppressor Status. It's a must read.

What gave me a kick in the pants was this:
Those white women who are our true allies have heard us and don’t need us to tell them “we don’t mean you as an individual.” They know that because they’ve shut up and listened to us and have recognized that we are empowered individuals and don’t “let” us do anything. They don’t “share” power (because that means that they can “unshare” power if they get mad at us)–they say, “you lead the way, and I’m going to be there to take the blows WITH YOU.”
I know on at least a couple of occasions I have apologized to my readers and said, "I don't mean you". The sad part, for me, is that my white readers are already beyond that and I am stuck on it. You may not know it because I can get whipped up in a fury and sometimes write like I am righteous, and intelligent, and believe in myself; but there is always that thought that pops up in odd moments that says, am I really equal? I'm having a hard time right now thinking of a way to say what I want to say. I guess the best would be to tell a story.

I belonged to a Native American group many years ago, we weren't exclusive, if you weren't NA and just wanted to hang with us, no problem. There was a woman in the group who had NA ancestors many generations back and joined us to learn what she could about them and just generally about NA experiences. Now there were certain types who were not welcome, they many times came from this woman's background, which means they are so divorced from those ancestors that they were for all intents and purposes, white; anyhow, they came in looking to see if they could cash in on their gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr grandma's blood to get scholarships, or federal/state Indian trust money, or casino money etc. Or they wanted to learn just enough about our cultures so that they could "play Indian" which more often than not, meant coming up with some mishmash of many different tribes traditions and spirituality and calling that an "authentic" Native American lifestyle. She wasn't one of those. She listened to everyone's stories with great interest but also told her own. We all knew about her husband and kids, and when she changed jobs, and moved house. It was like any friend or neighbor who thinks you are interesting and you think she is interesting and you get along great. I don't know what got up her nose this one day, but we were sitting around discussing current problems on our reservations and things like unemployment came up. She gets a little huffy and chimes in, "Well why don't you just go get a job?" Now the others in the group just stopped talking to her, they knew they got slapped down, but I didn't. I tried to explain that it wasn't that easy and that alot of our reservations are out in the middle of nowhere and you need a car to go into town or maybe even get on a bus and completely leave your home. She didn't hear any of it. She said of course it's easy, you fill out applications and get a job! I tried one more time telling her that cars and gas cost money, that bus fare costs money, that clothes for an interview cost money, the extreme poverty means there is no money, and because of the distance to the nearest city you might be abandoning everything and everyone you know to go somewhere you know is hostile to you. And she dismissed it saying I was just making excuses. She really thought we were either too stupid to think of her simplistic answers ourselves, or too lazy to go and do it. I lost it and gave her hell over it, but her answer to that was that white people don't have to be our friends and listen to anything we say, and yet she did it all this time, and now I was being so rude and ungrateful when she was just trying to help.

I want to quote RMildred again from my last post:
But do you know what really fucking hurts, what really fucking tears my soul apart? when some guy pulls out some often subtle, but none the less substantial, bit of sexist or misogynistic bullshit casually without thinking about it. The only times in my life when I've truely felt degraded have been those times when some guy has basically declared that I, as a woman, am somehow inferior or stupid or weak or not quite fully human like those men show themselves not to be - and do it in such a sort of matter of fact way that a part of my brain actually has to notice that I am actually human because the misogyny has occurred so suddenly, and with such an unquestioning and unwavering sincerity of belief behind it, that I very nearly believe him.

That is what happened to me. I got quiet. I didn't know what to say. I had to stop and ask myself, am I really equal? Am I even human? At that moment in time, I didn't know anymore. Now these kinds of things have happened to me at other times but this one was especially painful because I had been friends with this woman for 2+ years. I didn't see it coming. She never said anything like that before, it was right out of left field. She had said ignorant things in the past, but got an explanation, learned and understood, and we just moved right along.

When I do those posts where I say to my white friends, "I don't mean you." part of it is genuine concern about hurting people. But part of it is fear. If I anger you, I know I can be told again that you don't have to be my friend, or listen to me, and that I should be grateful that you are and you do.

It takes a superhuman effort to love us, so those with white partners only did it as a political gesture. We don't deserve friendship, or empathy, or interest. We need to grovel and shower you with praise and overwhelming gratitude for making the effort. Sure, I'm being sarcastic now, but don't think that it's not in the back of my mind and I sometimes wonder if it's true. It's easier for you to be sure I'm equal and that I am human than it is for me.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bewildered By Mental Gymnastics

I just had to drop by Nine Pearls and read about the White Lady Pity Party, instead of shining the kitchen cabinet hardware or something else useful for showing the house tomorrow. (Yes, it will be the second showing! Maybe I will sell this shack!)

While reading I saw that Sylvia clued people in to what it might all be about by something at her place in the comments of the post, You must have lost your motherfucking mind.

Which then came full circle back here to the comments in this post right here at The Silence of Our Friends.

You know, when CM dropped the Asian racism bomb on that thread I was completely bewildered. I was sure I didn't read what I actually read, or that she didn't phrase it correctly. I didn't just read my "anti-racist friend" say that it's ok to hate Asians because she's had run ins with a few of them in the past, did I?

Which makes me direct you to my favorite post of all time. I know I've linked to it before and many of you have already read it, but go read There is no cannibalism in left blogistan again anyway. RMildred describes the pain of finding out that a friend is racist.
I'm not sure Marc could have said anyting more offensive to me than "can't we just agree to disagree?" To put forth an arguement that empathising with muslim women and WoC was an optional thing you could do if you felt like it - rather than the fundamental aspect of what makes a person a moral human being - was bad enough, but to go on to pull out an arguement that implies that well, we're all white around here, can't we just call it a draw, it's not like it's anything important right?
This part has always stuck with me too.
But do you know what really fucking hurts, what really fucking tears my soul apart? when some guy pulls out some often subtle, but none the less substantial, bit of sexist or misogynistic bullshit casually without thinking about it. The only times in my life when I've truely felt degraded have been those times when some guy has basically declared that I, as a woman, am somehow inferior or stupid or weak or not quite fully human like those men show themselves not to be - and do it in such a sort of matter of fact way that a part of my brain actually has to notice that I am actually human because the misogyny has occurred so suddenly, and with such an unquestioning and unwavering sincerity of belief behind it, that I very nearly believe him.

And I find myself unable to argue or really do anything outside my own head to counteract stuff like that because I know that if I do try to dissuade him of that stupid notion, he'll just react by explaining himself, how obviously what he said wasn't really sexist or wrong becuase hey! Women really Aren't people you know? And his repeated inability to get what I'm pissed off about, what is hurting me, hurts almost as much as the initial act, because where before it occurred I thought I was dealing with a human being, I find in its place this strange empathy less monster who's trying to tell me that I am the inhuman peice of shit because it honestly believes I'm little more than this worthless, retarded cow.

It's that same matter-of-fact sincerity of belief that made me stop in my tracks about CM. Over at Sylvia's she even says that I am no friend because I sided with Kai instead of saying her racism is ok. Feminism trumps racism doncha know? And this is from a woman who thinks she should be taken seriously on issues of racism simply because she married a black man.

Here is the breakdown from a Native American woman married to a white man. When I married my husband I didn't get white privilege conferred on me. I stayed a Native American woman with my POC perspective. I can not tell you what white people feel or live with because my husband is white, any more than I could tell you what it is like to be male because I married a man and gave birth to two sons. Guess what, he also gained no special insights on POC or women, and can not speak with authority on racism or sexism just because he is partnered with a POC woman. The same goes for any whites who partner with POC. Why is that so difficult to comprehend?

UPDATE: AradhanaD is on a tear! She's got at least three posts going that totally captivated my attention. This one is about the same thing I am talking about here and damn! she is fierce and says things I wish I said. But also read her personal history about growing up in a mostly white neighborhood in Canada. I've got so many thoughts and emotions to work through to come up with a coherent comment to leave on that one. And I actually went back there to comment on this post, because I saw a connection between the recent discussions on power, exclusion, and preference. Then I forgot what I was going to say! Read it and see where it leads your thoughts and especially if you are POC leave a comment. She is curious about what POC think and if they see something like this in their own communities and wants comments on that post.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Living In Upper Michigan

I didn't live in the state of Michigan long, less than a year, but it was long enough for my first son to be born there. My husband is the one from Upper Michigan, born and raised there. When he got out of the Air Force, we weren't sure where to go or what to do, but I figured I had my chance; we spent the last several years living near all of my family, and I owed it to him to give the midwest a try to be near his friends and family. Unfortunately it didn't work out, my husband is an airframe and powerplant technician by trade (airplane mechanic) and there isn't alot of that kind of work in Upper Michigan.

My husband is a veteran of the first Gulf War, but we were lucky, his time was up and there were no stop loss orders yet. (I don't think they ever did have stop loss orders during the first Gulf War, but we didn't know that there wouldn't be either.) He actually had intended re-enlisting, but I wouldn't let him because I was afraid they would send him back, and I didn't want him gone from me ever again without any sort of time frame. Somehow it's easier to take when you know they will be back in a week, a month, even a few months. You can mark the time off on your calendar. During a war there is no way of knowing, even in the support positions outside of the war zone, like my husband was in.

So we drove to Michigan from New Brunswick, Canada. We were optimistic. He didn't have his A&P licence yet, but he could finish up the tests within a couple months while he collected unemployment. And he did, but he couldn't find work at the smaller airports in Upper Michigan, they simply weren't hiring. So we moved into a little trailer and he worked installing basements in Iron Mountain for $7 an hour while I, hugely pregnant, sat waiting to pop. Yes, we lived on one $7 an hour paycheck. We did have help from the gubmint though. We had WIC, food stamps, Medicaid, and a program for rural areas that partially pays the phone bill since it's necessary for emergencies. It was the most miserable time of our lives being that poor and feeling like there is no way out. We did also get some help from his family, but they are poor too, there is only so much help you can offer when you are having a hard time making ends meet yourself.

Once my son was born, I helped in my own way by taking him out in his borrowed stroller and collecting bottles and cans by the side of the road to cash in at the end of the month when the groceries from food stamps and WIC had run out. You see in Michigan the returnables are worth a whopping 10 cents each and it does add up when you need a loaf of bread or pound of hamburger.

But what is my impression of the state of Michigan? I have mixed feelings about the people in Upper Michigan, they can be very insular and I know that I felt like an outsider as did my brother-in-law from Missouri. You never really feel like you fit right in. At the same time after living on a reservation where everyone knows everyone else's business, I liked that the small town we were in was pretty much the same. You always knew who was who and what they were up to. I know my husband feels more or less like the entire town is his family, they care about him and what he is doing and where he is going.

Another thing about the people, it seemed like 99.9% were blonde haired and blue eyed. Most of the families originally immigrated from Scandinavian countries or Germany with a few Italians thrown in for that .1% with the darker hair and eyes. And if you have seen the movies Grumpy Old Men or Fargo, and heard the accents and the slow way of talking, that's not just Minnesota, Upper Michigan is like that too. My father-in-law had a friend who owned a little fishing resort up there with a bar to hang out at. I used to go there just to listen to him and his son talk because their accents were so thick I used to wonder if they were purposely doing an act to amuse the crowd.

I don't think there is anywhere in the United States where you won't find racism and Upper Michigan is no different, but it wasn't directed towards Native Americans, at least not in front of me. I did occasionally hear slurs againsts blacks, latinos, and gays. Mostly I would ask if they ever even met these different sort of people or otherwise point out the ignorance in what they were saying, but sometimes you gotta know when it's not worth engaging, give them a dirty look, and walk away. I do think it is mostly ignorance and not a burning deep down hatred, but I still wouldn't want to be black, latino, or gay in Upper Michigan. I felt like an outsider; those people would feel invisible.

I also never felt disrespected by the men for being a woman there. It's funny how we believe that rural people are backwards and suburban people are modern and civilized but I find that it's the opposite. Rural people tend to be poorer which means both men and women must work outside the home. This tends to blur the line and expectations between gender roles. It's in the suburbs that men can believe that their wives jobs are a whim and that they are still the real breadwinner. At least in my suburban Wisconsin neighborhood I have heard more comments like these from the men when they talk about their wives, "I didn't want her sitting around watching soap operas so I made her get a job."

If you're the outdoorsy type who likes hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, riding dirt bikes, swimming at the lake, spotlighting deer at night, or just getting together with some friends around a fire and shooting the breeze, then Upper Michigan is the place for you. Those are some of the things we did for fun. It is a beautiful part of the country that at least feels untouched, but it really isn't, unfortunately there are industries polluting the area with mining and forestry at the top of the list.

So my recommendations are, if you are independently wealthy, like the outdoors, are of Northern European extraction, and diversity isn't especially important to you, then you will probably like Upper Michigan just fine. On the other hand, if you are looking for work, DON'T GO! Alot of Upper Michiganders have had to leave even though they didn't want to, because you can't make a living wage or get ahead at all. If you like the city for museums or other cultural pursuits, or even for mall shopping, you won't like Upper Michigan much. The same goes for if you aren't of Northern European ancestry unless you want to be a hermit, or if you are but like to be around a variety of people, probably not for you.