Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remembering Malcolm X on his 85th Birthday, and Be Clear about What is Happening Right Now

[photo portrait of Malcolm X is from here]
"We declare our right on this be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
-- Malcolm X [source: here]

I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X almost 30 years ago. My, how time flies, and how little changes. Anderson Cooper this week has been focusing on a CNN study which is a variation of a study by Mamie and Kenneth Clark from the 1940s identifying the degrees to which white supremacist/anti-Black and anti-Brown racism finds its way into the hearts and minds and attitudes and actions of U.S. citizens white and of color. Here is a video from a more recent study using dolls:

The Clark's study was used to make a case for desegregating primary and secondary schools. The U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision, Brown vs. Board of Education was delivered on May 17, 1956, fifty-four years ago this week.

What CNN will not likely tell you is how systems of oppression work, how white supremacy is deliberately manufactured and sold, how and where and in what ways it is bolstered, fed and fostered, in a country that was built on land soaked in the blood of 75 to 90 million American Indians by the blood, sweat, and tears of enslaved West Africans. One wonders, really, given the ecocidal failures of white Western companies like BP and other major oil corporations, what it will take for these corporate heads to be held fully to account and what that would even mean, given the levels of human, non-human animal, and environmental destruction.

One wonders how it comes to pass that white men on Wall Street pay each other millions in bonuses to run companies into that bloody, poisoned ground, then rehire each other to continue to do abominable work. Can someone name for me ten or one hundred (or however many corrupt Wall Street and banking and loan institution executives there are in the U.S.) Black women or men who get so rich by working so poorly?

Where does our rage go when millions of non-rich people have lost or are losing their homes, and in response to the reality that many people in the U.S. will never have safe and secure housing and will never be able to get a loan in the first place even from morally bankrupt banks? Where does our rage go when these corrupt white executives are allowed to keep their many homes, for summering and wintering, falling and springing back, leaving each empty for months at a time while others are homeless or packed into ghettos?

Where, please tell me, is the outwardly expressed, organised rage over straight white men pimping and raping women of all colors with impunity?

--over wealthy white men with corporate media on their side (and in their stock portfolios) promoting themselves as the heroes, the brains behind any good idea that isn't really any good at all, such as getting this country back on the right track by strengthening straight white male supremacy.

--over older white men in universities being tenured more than any other demographic while bemoaning the plight of the few white men who don't get into their first choice college, ignoring those who got in for utterly unethical reasons including because their grandfathers once attended and have since contributed to the college's endowment?

--over rich white men receiving medals of honor for orchestrating and ordering the slaughter of Iraqi and Afghan citizens?

--over rich white men being praised for donating money to "good causes" that, if examined closely, will only promote more destruction of Indigenous societies on continents like Africa?

Why is praise also being given to "selfless" white U.S. Christians for "adopting" Haitian children whose parents still live in poverty in Haiti? Why, one wonders, don't those well-meaning, upper middle class people take a bit of the money they will spend on that child and give it to the Haitian parents to raise their own child? The money would do a lot to support the entire family, to allow that whole family to remain whole. The answer is that doing so would preserve, rather than destroy, Black families and Black communities; support for communities of color has never been the agenda of the white members of my beloved country.

From the bloody start, the U.S. project has been for straight white men to rape and sexually dominate all women and destroy people of color--women and men. There's more sexual and wage slavery now than ever before. But do we really want to know about it? And will corporate media allow us to know it, to see it as such, rather than what Fox News tells you these misogynist-racist mass murders are: "defending and promoting democracy globally"? In response to this outright lie that the U.S. is promoting democracy anywhere, instead of a "Hallelujah" can we have a collective "Bullshit!" Because what the U.S. is promoting is corporate-sponsored, militarily-backed white het male supremacy. It won't be called this. It will be called promoting free speech by making sure that rich white straight men get richer by pimping pictures of exploiting girls and women around the world. It will be called liberating a country from an oppressive dictator. It will be called fighting the war on drugs, when the U.S. has interests in Afghanistan because it is a source of opiates and poppies, in one form or another, will put us all to sleep. What we, the good privileged citizens of the greatest country ever, are in fact doing is committing genocide, gynocide, and ecocide. The evidence is all around you, if you're willing to see what's actually going on and not be misled by morning talk show hosts and a very unfree press. When Time and CNN are conspiring to lie to us, you'd better be sure you're not getting the truth about much.

The media did and still will tell you the problem religion is Islam. The media did and still will tell you the thieving, diseased, dirty, immoral people are Black women and men, the poor, Mexican immigrants, and homosexuals threatening the moral fabric. The truth, however is that the slave-picked cotton cloth of Amerikkkan society was and still is cross-woven into face-masking white sheets and lynching rope. The media will not even mention American Indians, hoping they will all die off, making the manifestation of a destined project of genocidal slaughter something that can, finally, be located in the past. Finally, then, contemporary whites can say, with less guilt, "That didn't happen while I was alive, so why are we still talking about it?"

Malcolm X knew what was going on in the U.S., and what the it truly stood for. He knew that it stood for whiteness standing on the bodies of people of color in order to have its leader's heads rise up and be seen as strong and wise and proud. A white head on a dark body. The bald eagle is a fitting symbol. The wings, after all, allow flight; the body allows the symbol to soar. Malcolm called for those wings to serve another mind, another system of thought, another course of action toward another vision, one not seen through white eyes, nor invented and governed by a white man's mind.

[image is from here]

Malcolm was prepared to lead racially oppressed people to use any means necessary to achieve for Black people what has not yet been achieved in this terribly racist society. In the U.S., however, no outspoken leader is allowed to use any or all means necessary, unless they are working for military and corporate interests, working to maintain and promote the ideologies and institutions imbued with white het male supremacy. Any and all means necessary are being used to rape and sexually enslave women and girls, and traffic them internationally. Any and all means necessary are being used to commit genocide and ecocide globally. These supposedly "moral endeavors" are being expressed, organised, and led by U.S. and other Western and Christian (not Muslim) straight white men.

Remember Malcolm X and what he stood for. Be clear about what is happening right now and what you will and will not stand for.

*          *          *

Some of my womanist and feminist sisters have also blogged about Malcolm X today. Here are some of those links:

Womanist Musings, here.
La Reyna's Journal, here.
Feministe, here.

One Unnamed U.S. Citizen is Annoyed Their Tax Dollars are Going to Address Het Men's Sexual Violence Against Women

[image is from here]

There is never any single approach that will adequately address and effectively end men's sexual violence against women, well, other than radically uprooting racist heteropatriarchal systems and institutions and identities and values and practices all at once.

In the mean time, there is never anything that shouldn't be tried if it is seriously aimed at the source issues: men's entitlements, privileges, heterosexist and homosocial power, lack of accountability, and lack of negative consequences for very normal perps. So leave it to some to chime in with cynical boos and the promotion of booze when efforts are announced to cut back on het men's "fun".

It is standard liberal fare on television to state that "even if one person is helped by what I'm doing...". And applause generously follows. And, well, yes, if someone's actions help one person, great. I won't put down that. But I'll add that when half a continent of people on Africa are dying, or when a significant percentage of Indigenous women are raped by white men, and when WHM supremacist/pro-corporate profits patriots are sending troops to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to commit mass murder, genocide, in fact, then we'd best set our sights a bit higher than helping one other person. And men practicing the ethic of "do no harm" would be a nice start.

In the category of those who helped millions to register and identify when they were being sexually harmed by men, allowing them to confront, challenge, protest, leave, or whatever made the most sense at the time, is writer Andrea Dworkin, who, rather than being thanked and applauded--perhaps even a standing ovation?-- for helping a million times more than one person, is derided as "the reason feminism in the U.S. failed" or reprimanded for creating "censorship" in the U.S. To believe this nonsense about a human rights activist one had to pretend white het male supremacists don't work very hard to crush any dissent, to censor the voices of women who speak truth to men's disgusting forms of corrupt power. Note comments #1 and #2. My reply to commenter #2 is at the bottom.

What follows is from *here*.

The Sexist

UMD’s New Sexual Assault Education Program Draws Some Early Skepticism

The University of Maryland has begun planning a “mandatory sexual assault prevention education program” for the upcoming school year. The details of the program are still in the works, but UMD student newspaper the Diamondback is already skeptical.

The Diamondback reports that the new education program will be funded with a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice, and that it will be targeted at “expanding existing programs, educating students, training public safety officials and training administrators.”

It’s the “educating students” part the Diamondback is concerned about:
Though the details of the education aspect are still being worked out, health center officials said it will likely be incorporated into freshman orientation and be similar to the university’s online alcohol education program, AlcoholEdu.
. . . Some students, however, were doubtful the effort will have the desired effect.
“Taking a collaborative approach is a great way to help decrease the amount of sexual assault that goes on campus, as it is not possible to tackle the problem if not everyone is involved,” junior marketing major Stephanie Nguyen said. “But if the education program is similar to AlcoholEdu, then I can guarantee that no one will pay attention.”
AlcoholEdu, for the uninitiated, is an “interactive online program” about the effects of alcohol that all University of Maryland students must complete. On-campus skepticism of the alcohol abuse education program is encapsulated in this University of Maryland Facebook group, entitled “AlchoholEdu Is Way More Interesting When DRUNK!!!!!!!!” The group, which currently only has five members, describes itself this way: “group is for anyone who has had to sit through that 3 hour bullshit that encouraged me to drink way more.”

Let’s hope that UMD’s sexual assault education program does not produce similar results.

Well, it looks like AlcoholEdu haters are in for some good news. The sexual assault education program “will not be anything like AlcoholEdu,” says Kelly Kesler, Assistant Director for Health Promotion at the university. “The comparison is actually not correct.”

Outside the Classroom, the organization that developed AlcoholEdu, has also created an online program for addressing sexual assault on campus: SexualAssaultEdu. Kesler says that UMD’s program will be not at all be related to that initiative. (Outside the Classroom, for its part, says that several independent studies have found its programs effective).

So what will UMD’s student education piece look like?

It’s a video. Kesler says the project is still in the beginning stages, but the proposed content of the work has largely been defined: “The objective is to educate students about the scope of the problem on campus in terms of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking,” says Kesler. “It will teach students about the contributing factors. . . . It will educate students about bystander support skills, about making a positive peer influence, and about the resources that are available for victims and how to make use of them.”

Kesler says the university is researching how best to relay that information—two possibilities are through “vignettes and expert interviews.” The video will likely be shown at new resident orientation programs for students living on-campus, in selected classrooms, and online.
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  1. #1
    The issue here is that you appear to be demanding a complete end to crime on the UMD campus. This simply will not happen. There are criminals and people raised to become criminals and the criminally insane in any group of people, particularly when they’re 40,000 of them and they do way more substance abuse than the normal population (as college students do).

    If the program reduces these crimes by 25% I think it will be well worth it to the 25% of victims, probably women, who wake up next to someone after passing out and everyone’s still dressed or the dude who goes and sees a counselor when he can’t resist the urge to follow, stalk or humiliate women in public so he avoids flashing or committing assault.

    I was in a highly volatile relationship at age 20 and I thank god that I was exposed to enough Andrea Dworkin back then that when I got slapped and called names I snapped to attention, walked out, and never looked back. Because my natural inclination was not to walk away from getting slapped. Boys need to be trained to look for the warning signs and get the hell out asap.

    I don’t know how many times I intervened with other guys when they appeared to be stalking friends who weren’t interested. 5 or 6 times. this stuff needs to be taught and if it stops 25% of the incidents so that 40 guys don’t become alcoholics who hate themselves and 40 girls don’t have to go through counseling, then that’s a good thing.

    But anyone who judges the program based on the behavior of truly psychotic criminals is missing the point of society on the whole.

  2. anon May 19th, 2010

    A half-million dollars…. So that’s where my tax money is going….

  3. #3
    While I think it is a good cause, and probably much needed. I do know that most students do not care for videos. Just by personality. Interactive mediums such as lectures, or interactive plays I think tend to work better.
    Just my two cents

  4. #4
    If you think your tax money funds the majority of UMD expenses… where do I start?

  5. #5
    Yeah, ew. Who wants their tax money going to programs designed to help prevent crime? I want all of mine going to guns and WARS and shit, because I’m an AMERICAN goddammit.

  6. #6
    No one will give a shit about a video. I’ve seen a few of these cheap ass sexual assualt videos. There more laughable then informative. Save the money and just make them read this blog.

  7. #7
    A VIDEO? They’re getting a half a million and they’re only going to have a VIDEO? How is that going to be able to properly address and prevent sexual violence at all? I’m sorry but (wait, no, I’m NOT sorry) just a video during freshman orientation will do very little-if anything at all-to properly educate students about campus sexual assault.

  8. #8
    I wish more colleges and communities took more seriously the sexual abuse that occurs on and off campus.
    @commenter #2, anon
    May 19th, 2010
    11:53 am
    A half-million dollars…. So that’s where my tax money is going….

    No, anon, your tax dollars are paying for U.S. soldiers to rape and kill Afghan and Iraqi women and girls.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Fighter and Amazing Artist, Lena Horne (1917 - 2010)

I have already posted once on the passing of the Great Lena Horne, *here*, singing the classic original version of "Stormy Weather". But one post cannot suffice. No number is sufficient, so please find her work and enjoy it. Here are two performances and a synopsis of some of what this woman endured, breaking barriers that I hope feel inconceivable to you today. Compare, if you will, the version of "Stormy Weather" sung so many decades earlier, to this version here just below. And later, at the end of this post, see what a person on a stage can do, when welcomed to do so.

I just saw a biography on television about Lena Horne. I had learned about her life years ago, have known and admired her work for decades, but had missed learning some of the details of how this country, this endlessly wretchedly amoral country that so prides itself on being Great, worked so hard to keep her down.

What you ought to know, if you don't already, is that virtually everywhere she went in Hollywood, Hollywood's color barrier kept her out. She could only appear in movies if the cast was all Black, as no interactions among characters of different races was allowed, unless the Black performer played a maid or butler, porter, or shoe shiner "serving" the white characters. If you watch just about any movie with both white and Black actors from the 1930s, you'll be hard pressed to find an African American in any other role, and you'll also notice, if you wish to, that even when the actors had speaking parts, they were usually not listed in the credits. But Lena's father made sure that MGM would never cast her in such a role. Which meant, really, the studio couldn't do much with her. How MGM showed off her talent besides giving her parts in two all-Black films, was to have her perform solo, singing one number in an otherwise all-white film, a number which would be cut out for the films' showings in movie theaters throughout the South.

The white Ava Gardner was cast in a role Lena was meant to play, in a classic MGM musical film called Show Boat; Ava wore make-up to make her skin a bit darker, and had someone else entirely sing her songs to her mouthing the lyrics. Imagine the insult to Lena.

On tour with the U.S.O., she was made to perform for U.S. soldiers with the white ones up front, close to her, and the Black soldiers in the back. She did what the U.S.O. organisers hoped she wouldn't consider doing: she walked into the audience, right to that color line, and performed with her back to the white soldiers, for the Black soldiers up close. (She was never allowed to part of another U.S.O. show after that one.)

She found success as a singer on the stage, free of the racist restrictions of the U.S., in Europe, but when she returned she'd been "blacklisted"--a term from the McCarthy Era that only adds insult to injury. On U.S. television, a white man was not allowed to make physical contact of any kind, including a handshake, with a Black woman performer. The first time this rule was broken was due to Lena Horne being on TV--her hand and a white performer's hand greeted each other in a shake. In the 1960s, many, many great singers had their own variety shows, but no network would allow a Black performer to have her or his own show. Imagine the indignity.

Lena Horne learned both how to fight and how to keep her deepest feelings inside, away from the harsh and mercilessly critical glare of the very white spotlight. This came at a price, as having to cordon off parts of yourself because dominant society doesn't want to know who you are inevitably does. She met with James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, so many other great colleagues in the Civil Rights movement. The movement gave her some strength and began to bring her more fully into contact with parts of herself she was not allowed to show to white folks.

Only into her sixties, seventies, and eighties was she allowed to be herself on the U.S. stage, and that happened only when a mixed race audience was truly ready to embrace her. Then she did open up and allowed others to see the depth of who she was--a extraordinary talent, a powerful person, a singer with years of fierce resistance and painful stories and wellsprings of emotion available to be expressed from the entirety of her being. These two videos show THAT Lena Horne, the woman who was no longer bound to laws and customs designed to keep white supremacy safe by keeping her silent.