A Discussion on Race and White Privilege at Busboys

On a sunny day on June 5, a group of about 50 people gathered at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant and bookstore that sponsors a monthly discussion on race titled, A.C.T.O.R or A Continuing Talk On Race.  The event is consistent with the restaurant owner’s commitment to social justice and racial/ethnic openness that is obvious when you walk through the doors. The small bookstore has a selective collection of progressive books and the crowd is always very diverse and integrated. It’s like a modern hippy hangout.

Busboys’s monthly discussion on race focused on an hour-long film titled “Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible.”  This summary primarily recaps the film, audience feedback and my brief analysis.

Film Summary: Primarily, the film features adults, all of them white, discussing  racism and, later, white privilege from a very personal place. The documentary used testimonies, dramatic reenactments and dance/theater interpretations to examine white privilege in America.

The film’s first hand stories were enlightening in their honesty and the frustration of learning about race. It’s rare to consider that racism inflicts pain on those who see their friends and relative behaving badly and the shame in feeling afraid or unsure about what to do.  The words: silence, power, family, friends, compartmentalization, denial, others, systems, understanding, pain and action capture the film’s overall message.

One man talked about growing up in an all-white town and seeing Confederate flags at the July 4th celebrations.  Another woman talks about the tensions she’s felt from a friend when it came to her adopted cousins, who were African American.  At a young age, an older women recalls how her grandmother did not want to kiss her after kissing the maid. Throughout the film, you saw a genuine desire within people to be a “good”, to understand race and to be understood by others.

Much of the documentary addressed white privilege in social environments, and provided a few systemic examines such aggressive policing and white flight.  It did not provide an extensive examination of structural inequality, which would have enhanced the film significantly. It is discussed, just not great detail. Overall, the film came across as educational and personal. I’d recommend it for members of any group. After the film screening there was small discussion about the film.

You can access the video in different segments here at YouTube. Here is a 10-minute clip.

From the audience. Overall, the audience enjoyed the film.  The was not extensive open discussion.  One audience member thought the film was a little long for a foundation members.  Another person said that the films examination of overt/semi overt racism seemed dated and not relevant to today’s world.  Someone indicated that the visual interpretations in the film were helpful.  A man expressed a strong desire for the discussion result in tangible anti-racist work.  A young woman talked about her uncertainty about breaking down racial barriers.She was encouraged to just be herself.

Many said  this specific topic needed more time, and requested an extra session during another month.  I agree. In fact, for the next discussion it would be good to understand more of who was in the audience and what motivated them to be there.

After some open discussion/initial reaction to the film about The audience continued the discussion in smaller groups where people shared their personal experiences with issues such as race, privilege and entitlement.  Some discussions continued over an hour after the official event ended.

Here are my takeaways.

There is power in personal relationships.  As simple as that sounds, relationships also play a powerful role.  Participants in the film learned a great deal through social relationships and family.  The film’s intimate stories seemed to break down barriers at the event. The film certainly seemed to create a safe space for discussing personal experiences that day.

Being liberal doesn’t equate to being anti-racist. Several in the film explained that being liberal did not make them anti-racist.  There’s a part in the film where someone says, “A person said to me, oh it’s cool you’re into race. I’m into animal rights.” That resonated with me significantly. Some of my most painful encounters were in liberal spaces where the brown people were treated as either invisible, alien and inferior to everyone else.

Modern Racism is complex. Modern racism/white privilege is very much about how everyone gets along, what constitutes conventional wisdom and how our nation shares resources such as good schools, jobs and even issues such as standards of beauty.  For sure, more Americans people have friends of a different backgrounds and even dated someone outside their race or culture. It’s progress, but social relationships and cordial relationships should be a bridge toward creating a fairer and more just society.

The time has come for new conversations on race.  How we discuss race in the country is not working.  People are as confused  and angry as ever.  Many people are left feeling that no one’s listening or that progress isn’t happening.  It is important that identify more accurate language beyond using the catch-all word “racist” for all thing race.  It’s time educate first, attack only when necessary.  We must all embrace history that is inclusive, comprehensive and honest.

In my world, we don’t pretend cultural differences exist, instead we celebrate them. We look at someone with curiosity versus assumptions, and understand what a person looks like is not an indication of who they are or who they out to be.

Privilege is not just a white thing. Each of us has the ability to exert power over others. This goes beyond black and white.  It extends to religion, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender, language and nationality.  As Audrey Lourde said, “There is no heirarchy of oppression.” This is an especially important issue for me as a Black woman. I know what racism and sexism feel like.  It bothers me that conditions impacting Black women are not understood, mentioned or supported as significantly   as issues impacting Black men such as police brutality, criminal justice.  It’s time for that to change, and for new perspective to emerge.

I look forward to Busboys and Poets’ next discussion on race. Thanks for reading.

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Weiner: I Tweeted a photo of myself. (Time to move on, I say.)

Just as new photos were emerging on Andrew Breitbart’s website, Rep. Anthony Weiner had a press conference  where he confessed to EVERYTHING.

He said that the tweet that was intended to be a direct message to a young woman.  He panicked and immediately took it downThere has been inappropriate communication with six women over three years. He lied about it. He has never met any of the women in person. His wife learned the truth about this situation this morning.  He does not plan to resign. He was tearful, emtional and VERY honest.

Here’s a clip to the first 15 minutes of his press conference video.

The situation is embarrassing for Rep. Weiner, but I don’t see why he should resign. It’s between he, his wife and potentially the House Ethics Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among the policy makers calling for an investigation.

Given the economy, jobs crisis, gas prices and war overseas, I think it’s time to move on. Honestly. I don’t condone his behavior, but I don’t care if Weiner sent the photos. America has WAY more important worries, and so do I.

Keep your head up Rep. Weiner!

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Race for the Cure – Kicking myself for missing it

Today, the Susan G. Komen Foundation sponsored its annual global Race for the Cure in Washington, DC. I’m kicking myself for missing it. I’ve run before, and was excited to be involved this year.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get time off from my Saturday morning volunteering. Usually this isn’t a problem. This week, I was out of luck.

Breast health is a vital issue for women. Every 69 seconds a woman dies of breast cancer. The disease impacts women locally and globally. Preventing breast cancer is just another reason to be active and lead a healthy life.  Hearing the stories of survival reminds me what a blessing it is to be alive, healthy and happy.

Sorry I couldn’t make it today, but I was there in spirit. See you all next year!

Go Komen!

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Real Housewives – Season 4, Ep. 9 – One Crazy Camel


This week’s episode ended where last week’s left off with the fortunate teller explaining to Ramona that her husband’s attention is elsewhere.  Although she keeps her cool, the other ladies, namely Sonja, take the prediction to heart. She revealed how the fortuneteller’s premonition brought back painful memories of the demise of her own marriage.

Ramona consoled Sonja in her own effed up way, by telling her that her relationship was fine. No worries. Unlike Sonja, she and Mario married for love.  I could not believe she said that.  And it’s not the first time Ramona’s been super harsh about someone else’s relationship. The last time was when Ramona told Bethanny that she’s likely to screw up her relationship with Jason. She also told LuAnne that her husband was like really, really old. (Unlike Mario, of course). I sincerely, hope the prediction isn’t true but..after seeing Ramona verbally cut down Sonja…a little schadenfreude…might…okay nevermind. Let me stop.

It was sad to see Sonja still coping with the end of her marriage. I actually empathized with her.  Honestly, the fortunate telling was pretty much the highlight of the show for me.  Here is a really good video of the ladies gossiping about on whether the news of possible cheating was a shocker to Duchess of Pinot Grigio – (VIDEO)

Here are a few more episode highlights of what happened after the fortune telling.

Act one – Seat-gate. Just as the ladies depart for the bazaar, Sonja saved a seat for LuAnne per her request.  I hope you know where this heads. Cindy approached the van in no mood to listen to Sonja. Tensions rise. I scratch my head wondering why Cindy doesn’t know the value of going along to get along, especially on an overseas trip.

Act two – the Bazaar. The ladies are shopping at the open air market. Cindy and Sonja exchange words. Kelly intervenes asking (hell, damn near begging) team Ramona/Sonja to just let seat-gate slide because Cindy’s feelings were so hurt in New York over the pecking order. and “where’s my Pinot?” drama. Shopping continues. Sonja’s not feeling safe.

Act three – Camel Ridin’. The ladies are in good spirits and totally enjoying their the scenery and camel ride. Sonja opts to walk remembering the beating she took after falling off the horse when riding with Kelly. Funny. She sure pretended she was okay. Anyway, the camels walk, the ladies have fun and LuAnne’s animal has a fit. It hops  and jolts like a wild horse.  LuAnne handled it well.  I couldn’t help but see the crazy camel as a symbol for things to come. No matter great a Morocco trip might be, at least one of the ladies seems to break out into some sort of mental, emotional or verbal convulsions thereby, ruining the possibility for smooth, seamless trip. Any given time, one of the ladies seems to sort of lose it, just like that crazy camel.

What was cute, though, was when one of the camels started eating Jill’s bracelet. Even the two male guides laughed.  Comic relief. Cool.

Act four – The magical tent. High from the camel riding, the ladies were in awe as they approached a gorgeous tent in the middle of the desert. It was huge and filled with red and orange decor. The colors were delightful and the ladies were in good spirits. Sitting in a circle, they chatted and had a little ice breaker  (where Alex said some weird stuff about death). The ladies got chatty and loud. Cindy got a little crazy camel, said the ladie were too much and took a breather outside. Again, I am a big Cindy fan but she needs to seriously lighten up. A-personality types = cluster fuck.  Remember that. Sonja and Ramona, though, seized the opportunity to smooth things over.  Nice move. Real Housewife relations improve.

Act five – Ramona v Jill. The end of the show focused on R & J’s conflict. To be honest, I wasn’t sure either woman had a leg to stand on. Jill talks crap about Ramona. We all know Ramona’s the craziest camel in town.

As a huge RHONY fan, I’m half way expected these two ladies to make up by now. Season one, they had a tennis match to smooth things over. S 2, another tennis match with Mario and Ramona took place but with Simon as Jill’s partner. Season three? Well, according to last night’s fight is still an open, gaping wound. Apparently, Jill was pissed Ramona didn’t help her patch things up with Bethanny.  Ramona thinks Jill can be two faced. Unrealistic expectations fly.

The fight pretty much was a screaming match where each woman wanted to be heard, and where Jill said that if Ramona couldn’t say she was sorry for choosing hosting and pedicuring in St. Johns over playing matchmaker for her and Bethanny then they couldn’t be friends. (Empty treat) It was intense and all, but I wanted to just run into the room and scream, “get over it! You’re both pains in the ass!” As soon as Jill and Ramona realize this, the sooner they will stop keeping score and the closer they will be to middle aged zen.

Besides, the last thing I’d want during MY overseas tip is to have a big knock down, drag out, do-you-really-wanna-know-what-I-think-about-you fight. But again, somebody’s got to be the crazy camel.

Why can’t the ladies get along? If you have to ask, you’re not a TRUE Real Housewives fan. See ya next week!

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Small Government Disgrace! – Yahoo News: Fire/Police crews watch a man drown

Has it seriously come to this? Are we so morally and economically bankrupt that safety personnel would watch a man drown and make excuses for it? That appears to be the case, and it makes me sick.

According to Yahoo News, a man waded into the San Francisco Bay to commit suicide and drowned as fire and police officers (and a crowd of 75 people) watched him die. The first excuse from Mike D’Oranzo, a fire department official, was that budget policies and lack of equipment were the reasons they didn’t take action.  Then Alameda Police Lt. Sean Lynch blamed it on the man and his intent to die.

I’m paraphrasing but the police officer cosigned saying, “Hey. The officers did the right thing. The guy was obviously taking his own life.  Plus, he could have been violent or on drugs or something.” I wasn’t there. But this is a disgrace — especially coming from those who are supposed to protect and serve.  Saving lives (and even preventing suicides) is their job! Reminds me of those firefighters in TN who sat back and watched a house burn to the ground.

The good news is the San Fransisco Bay community didn’t buy it, and made that known at a hearing this week. The local council agreed to spend the meager $40,000 needed for training and equipment. A man’s life could have been saved that day, and his family could have helped him get mental health assistance. Instead, they are mourning his loss.  Here are my take-aways.

This is what small government looks like! What kind of policy overrides a sense of humanity and an oath to protect and serve? Small government policies, I suppose.  State and local budgets are slim. Policy makers have cut funding for family planning, the mentally ill, children and the unemployed while conservatives fight tooth and nail to protect tax cuts for the the rich. This incident is just a snapshot of what happens when a government and its people have no compassion. At the end of the day, the police and fire departments did nothing and neither did the crowd of 75 people.  Will this happen again? Maybe.

Tough times are hardest on the most vulnerable. More and more people are suffering these days. Sadly, some lose hope. The police officer’s comments  represented a general indifference to the needs of a man in a mental health crisis but, to a larger extent, someone who needed his government’s assistance to live. These days, the strong are indifferent to the suffering of the the so-called weak.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the rage and hostility displayed when this poor guy with Parkinson’s Disease was demonstrating for health care reform (VIDEO).  If that’s not heartless, I don’t know what is. But sadly, it’s a sign of the times and a departure from the days when Americans cared about one another.

At the end of the day, that man deserved an opportunity to get help. It is estimated that close to one million people make a suicide attempt each year, yet there were 34,000 deaths by suicide in 2007.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), more than 90 percent of those who kill themselves suffer from a range of  treatable disorders, including depression. Those considering or even attempting suicide are not lost causes. They deserve respect and an opportunity to be saved.  But then again, mental health care costs money,  just like fire and police services.

This, my friends, is the disgrace of small government.  The vulnerable are left to fend for themselves — and potentially die. Not a pretty picture, if you ask me.

Resources

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – more information about suicide and prevention, you can go to AFSP’s website at www.afsp.org and can access information on what do do here.
  • Center for Budget and Policy Priorities – Progressive information and analysis on the current budget crisis can be found at www.cbpp.org where you can also access specific information on the recession and poverty.
  • National League of Cities provide policy information on how localities are managing this budget crisis. Visit their website at www.ncl.org
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Please, say it aint so! – NYT: Weiner Can’t Say Twitter Photo Is Not of Him.

Sigh. I’m crying/dying/hurting/scared inside as I write these words. Just as I felt comfortable and kinda smug that Weiner-gate was nothing but a right wing conspiracy, the NYT and other news outlets report that maybe the “hard left leaning” photo might have actually belonged to Rep. Anthony Weiner after all. The plot thickens.

My first response is “Dayum, Anthony!” My next is, “Please, say it aint so!”

The last thing the Congressman (and Democrats) need is an embarrassing sex scandal, especially one with lewd photos.  Let’s not judge too hastily. Sure, he’s  been slow to call for an investigation.  Maybe he sounded a little defensive yesterday.  He hired a lawyer AND private investigator.  He’s dodging questions better than most of my ex-boyfriends.  The HuffPost today wrote:

A day after telling reporters that he’s “not going to talk about this anymore,” Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) broke his silence Wednesday about the controversy surrounding a lewd photo sent from his Twitter account.

“This was a circumstance where someone committed a prank on the internet,” he told MSNBC’s Luke Russert. “I didn’t send [that] picture out” the congressman said, though he does not know who did. Is the photo of him? “I can’t say with certitude” he told Russert.

Certainly, there’s a reasonable explanation, and I still smell a conspiracy. Hackers are certainly a strong possibility given the fact that Andrew Breitbart was among the first to discover and expose the photo. Rep. Weiner’s in a safe Democratic district NY. He’s an excellent liberal messenger against conservative policies.  The Congressman gets tons of press, and is the perfect RW target. Ya know? Sort of like ACORN, Shirley Sherrod (NAACP) and Planned Parenthood. Remember all the malicious gotcha videos against them? What better way to weaken or knock Weiner out of the game than with lewd photos sent to a young African-American woman? Sure, some of this is a little uncomfortable. That was my initial response, especially after reading the NYT article. The details are fuzzy. So, we’ll just have to see how this plays out.  But, in politics things aren’t always what they seem. I don’t think we should throw the Congressman under the bus. I, for one, am team #WeinerYes. I stand by him. I encourage you all to do the same.

Update: The Rachel Maddow Show examined this issue, and showed that someone could send a fake Twitter photo that APPEARS to be from someone’s account relatively easily. Check it out on her blog here.

6/6 Update – More pics out there via Village Voice.

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Beyonce’s Find-a-Man Feminism.

When Beyonce releases a new song it stirs attention and discussion about feminism.  Her recent tune, “Girls (Who Run the World)” is no exception. On one hand, the YBF called Beyonce the next Gloria Steinem.  (yeah right) Others, like internet personality Nineteenpercent, called Bey’s message superficial and dishonest when considering the status of women here, and abroad:  YouTube Video – Beyonce – Run the World (LIES)

Essence Editor Demetria Lucas also raised concerns about WHERE the  girl power lies:

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste and so is a perfectly good video that doesn’t match the song. Despite the declarations in the lyrics (and the unrelated hotness of the video), it’s a still a man’s world, and it will always be as long as women think their vaginas are where their power lies.”

Is the problem Beyonce or the meaning of feminism/woman’s empowerment? There’s no consensus even among Black feminists, according to BlackVoices.  I’m of two minds on this. Beyonce does promote an image of a woman who is independent, and encourages the right things.  Hearing her say a man should “put a ring on it” is a positive anthem, especially for African-American women who are losing hope and believing the hype that there’s no value in having an MRS.

God knows when a relationship’s  gone bad, the lyrics of “Me, myself and I” sends a strong message that walking away is best.  Given the startling domestic violence stats in the Black community, leaving could be a life-saving decision.  No doubt. Her music is pro-woman but songs like these are what I call Find-a-Man feminism — a brand of empowerment that’s centered around relationships.  It’s empowerment lite that encourages female power without the baggage of social justice. This is where I begin to have issues.

Beyonce’s an established member of the entertainment industry, wife of Jay-Z, movie producer, actress, beauty icon, ad woman and role model for women.  Clearly, she has a certain amount of respect and privilege to take some risks.  Yet, when has she EVER stood up for anything meaningful?

Bey’s one of the sexist women in the entertainment world but has never defended female sexuality or her own for that matter. For the longest, Sasha Fierce was the one up there grinding and being sexy — not her.  She’s too nice to be sexual.  As the leader of Find-a-Man feminism, power is in being sexy and appealing to men — not in having opinions.

Within her brand of empowerment, women are independent enough to avoid being a “golddigger,” but never accomplished enough to outshine or intimidate a man.

For those of us, continuing the fight against misogyny, domestic violence, street harassment, work place discrimination, cuts to family planning, moving on and other “girl stuff,” Find-a-Man Feminism does not contribute a whole lot.

In our world, positive self esteem and high heels have no power in against budget cuts, crazy billboards or media attacks  Phat beats can’t drown out being told we’re crazy, bitter, angry, man haters, lesbians, ugly and too serious.

Instead of beauty ads, we’re underpaid, overworked, threatened, stalked, ridiculed and even attacked because of our work.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not hating. In fact, I say “do ya thing Beyonce!”

While you’re silent, the rest of us will be right over here toiling away and making sustained, systemic change.

We are sending out action alerts, writing blog posts, planning conferences, reading our history, analyzing culture, rallying for justice and calling out the bullshit.  We have little choice.  There’s so much work to do, and we’re too passionate and determined to stop.

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