This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

February 9, 2010

Hi-Tech Fruit and Strange Lynchings

This is another post from my old blog. I was reminded of it recently when I read this excellent post at Sociological Images. Lately my mind has been on all things NOLA. (Our Colts’ loss to the wonderful and well-deserving Saints is only part of the reason.) So this post caught my eye. In particular, this slant makes me ponder my old post in a new way:

For someone who was harmed by a hurricane, using the imagery is a way of reclaiming the hurt they suffered, even appropriating the strength of the force that hurt them.  But, for others to use it, it is trivializing that same hurt, re-imagining the destruction they suffered.  It is not funny, from this perspective, to imagine that New Orleans could be hit again.

I was reminded while reading that of some of my (Black) family and friends using “slave” in an in-group, joking kind of way. I’m OK with that, but bristle when I hear others use it. For example, at a recent swim meet, one of the other parents (a White woman) said something about not doing “X” because we would get yelled at by the person in charge of the meet. She said, “We’re liable to get lynched behind that.” All of my crew sitting there—me, my husband, and my father—were taken aback. My father said, “Oh, you probably don’t want to say that.” The woman totally didn’t get it: She thought he was talking about not saying that the person would be angry with us. He kept at it: “No. I mean, you shouldn’t be saying that—to us [motioning to him, my husband, and me].” The woman, light dawning, turned all shades of red.

The in-group/out-group dimension was not something I considered when I first wrote this piece years ago. But I’m thinking of it today. And today I am (still) wondering: What’s in a song? What’s in a phrase?

"Broken Branch" PPR_Scribe

I. Some Background

The summer before I left home for college I raided my parents’ music collection, choosing dozens of albums (yes, albums: black vinyl, 12 inches, 33-and-a-third rotations per minute: LPs) that I wanted to “borrow” and take to Boston with me on my great adventure in adulthood.

One of those albums I chose from that raided collection was by Billie Holiday. One of the songs on that album from that raided collection was “Strange Fruit.”

That song is something I could not ignore. At the time, I was not too enamored of Lady Day’s voice: It seemed a little scratchy to me, and wispy…without the force, range and rhythm of female jazz vocalists like Ella and Sarah and Dinah and others who I was getting into at the time. (It didn’t help, I guess, that my image of Billie Holliday and what her voice must have sounded like was colored by my having first seen and heard her in the guise of Diana Ross in “Lady Sings the Blues.”)

But that song, “Strange Fruit,” I had to listen to.

Since that time I have come to appreciate Billie Holiday. And I have continued to be fascinated by that song. I have recordings of it by at least three different artists. And a recent search of the song on iTunes revealed more than a dozen different versions, by a very strange and eclectic mix of artists. There is even a group, The Strange Fruit Project, hailing from Waco, Texas.

In addition, I am glad to see that there is a scholarly interest in the song as well as the phenomenon “Strange Fruit” so eerily bore witness to: the widespread lynching campaigns of African American men, women, and children in this country. (See resources below.)

II. But, What Does (Can) It Mean?

I have to admit, I am not sure what all these artists intend when they invoke these images:

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

What is it about these words that makes the song relevant for an artist—of any background—living today? What does the history of the lynching of Black Americans mean to a 50-something White European rocker, or a 20-something Black American rapper?

Is it even about “lynching” at all?

III. Lynching as Metaphor

Whatever you think of Clarence Thomas, his was–hands-down–the most brilliant use of lynching as a metaphor ever. In one swoop he galvanized a deep memory in African Americans and scared off White Americans who saw themselves as exactly opposite of those Whites of days gone by who were the perpetrators of lynchings with ropes, guns, fire, and tree branches.

Hard to believe that almost 15 years have passed since Thomas’s confirmation hearings. A little memory-refresher from the 10/11/91 hearing session (Note the words I emphasize in bold):

Mr. Chairman, I am a victim of this process and my name has been harmed, my integrity has been harmed, my character has been harmed, my family has been harmed, my friends have been harmed. There is nothing this committee, this body or this country can do to give me my good name back, nothing.

I will not provide the rope for my own lynching or for further humiliation. I am not going to engage in discussions, nor will I submit to roving questions of what goes on in the most intimate parts of my private live or the sanctity of my bedroom. These are the most intimate parts of my privacy, and they will remain just that, private.

In that evening’s hearing session he evoked this metaphor again in his now (in)famous and classic “high-tech lynching” statement:

There was an FBI investigation. This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.

One book specifically takes on the idea of the use of “lynching” in metaphorical contexts, “Legacies of Lynching: Racial Violence and Memory” by Jonathan Markovitz

...Examines the evolution of lynching as a symbol of racial hatred and a metaphor for race relations in popular culture, art, literature, and political speech. Markovitz credits the efforts of the antilynching movement with helping to ensure that lynching would be understood not as a method of punishment for black rapists but as a terrorist practice that provided stark evidence of the brutality of Southern racism and as America’s most vivid symbol of racial oppression. Cinematic representations of lynching, from “Birth of a Nation” to “Do the Right Thing,” he contends, further transform the ways that American audiences remember and understand lynching, as have disturbing recent cases in which alleged or actual acts of racial violence reconfigured stereotypes of black criminality. Markovitz’s original and brilliant reinterpretations of the media spectacles surrounding Bernhard Goetz, Susan Smith, and Tawana Brawley provide subtle and compelling examples of the continuing stakes of political battles waged over imagery of race and gender nearly a century ago. Markovitz further reveals how lynching imagery has been politicized in contemporary society with the example of Clarence Thomas, who condemned the Senate’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings as a “high-tech lynching.” (Source)

If you do a little window shopping in the blogosphere and other media you’ll find Thomas’s “high tech lynching” metaphor/accusation invoked all over in all sorts of situations, by both those on the political left and those on the political right. In no case are any of these uses about actual people being burned, their genitals cut from their bodies, their necks broken from being snapped by a rope looped over a tree branch. In these cases, like that of Justice Thomas, the appeal is to the perception that “mobs” of media folks or government officials or university professors or other elite others in positions of power are using sophisticated tools and tactics to unfairly attack the ideas and integrity of some “victim.”

Whatever you may think of the individual cases, is this deployment of “lynching” as a means of description an appropriate use of history? Not: “effective” use–appropriate

I am all for the use of metaphor in rhetoric. But in most of these cases this particular use of lynching as metaphor sickens me. Comparing a “good name” or a well-paying job to skin, genitals and a beating heart is definitely a case of evaluating apples in terms of oranges.

Very strange fruit, indeed.

*******************************

Other Resources:

November 23, 2009

Hello Kitty and Smurfs: Because Sometimes You Need a Break from the Insanity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 12:10 am

Things have been pretty quiet here at Post-Post-Racial Life. Working on a college campus again means I am once again yoked to the academic calendar and all the work that means for this time of year. I have also been traveling for work. I have also been less than my usual 80%, health-wise; Nothing serious, just a chronic condition flaring up worse than normal. I have also been on a pleasure-reading binge—brought about, I think, by my brilliant though simple move of bringing a comfy chair from the living room and a floor lamp from the office into my bedroom.

But mainly I have been quieter than usual because I have become exhausted by about 99% of the news and analysis in Blogland.

This is no fault of bloggers. Bloggers have been observing and analyzing and discussing the day’s events with skill, sensitivity, and often, humor. But the news they have to report on is just so incredibly heartstucking. From abuse and murder of little kids to continuing racism and veiled (and not-so-veiled) violence against the President. It is all just so…much. As I have said before, sometimes a body needs a break from all this. Sometimes self-care must trump the desire to post—or to even read and comment on other posts.

Research has shown that people who watch a lot of television news have unrealistic perceptions about the prevalence of crime, who commits crime, and where crime is likely to occur. I think the same might be true for bloggers. It may be that heavy diets of blognews and bloganalysis might be warping our views about the amount of nonsense that exists in the “real world.”

Or it may be that we haven’t even scratch the surface.

But whatever the case may be, sometimes we should hit the “re-set” button on our perceptions. Just for our own sanity and piece of mind.

"brainy smurf was a tagger." deepwarren, http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzhead/11287941/

Recently a blog friend commented on a post and said her blog had been fluffy and weak as of late. I reiterated my thought that maybe she just needed a break, and opined that “fluffy” does not equal “weak.” I joked that real fluffy blogging would involve posting about Hello Kitty and the Smurfs.

But really—what is so bad about a little “fluff” every now and then? That is one of the things about the Old School Friday meme that I love so much. Even when the weekly theme is pretty serious, being able to express it through music makes blogging soul-enhancing instead of soul-sapping. But I have even missed posting OSF entries lately—two Fridays in a row!

I tell you: That will not happen again, if I can help it!

So what is the point of this post? I am not retiring. I’m not even “resting” per se. But the topics of my posts for the next…how many ever days I need…will be less weighty than is often the case here.

I have photos to share. I’ll catch the blog up on some music offerings. I even will get to Part 2 of my latest “At the Front” tale. And I have a couple other tales that might finally see the light of blog. I do not plan on actual posts on The Smurfs or Hello Kitty or The Care Bears. But I’m warning you: I may come close.

November 18, 2009

Heartstuck

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 6:21 pm

I was in the middle of writing a post about 5-year-old Shaniya Davis of Fayetteville, NC and found myself stuck. It was like trying to swallow a huge, chalky pill without a glass of water. Then once you manage, the thing gets stuck somewhere in your chest…feels like it’s actually stopped up in your heart, though of course you know that anatomically that’s not possible. One of my little ones gets occasional gastrointestinal problems that so far has not been diagnosed as anything that doctors can find. One time she was describing to me her ailment: instead of saying the term she had heard her father and me use—heartburn—she said she had heart stuck.

What an accurate word.

That is what I felt when I tried to write about the short life of this little girl in North Carolina.

It is tempting to try to place her life and death in some sort of context. Others have written beautifully about Shaniya and how her life, abuse, death—and media coverage of her death—fits in with other current events or broader societal ills. In the post I was writing, I tried to link Shaniya’s experience to that of a girl I once tutored—who also, coincidentally, was 5 years old when I met her—who had a similar story of pain and abuse. But I started to get that uncomfortable feeling—that hearstuck—and stopped writing.

I didn’t like the ending to that post that was coming clearly into view, even though I had not yet typed it. I think I was aiming to write a post of One Who Survived. One who was not Found Dead. One who was not a headline or a post in blogs from across the sphere.  I hadn’t seen the little girl from my past in many years. But recently I got a report about her and it was not cheerful. She had become a mother as a teenager and was currently serving time in a detention center. I think I was aiming to write a post with a happier outcome than what happened to Shaniya. But my blog post could have no happy ending. Unless I invented one.

So I am heartstuck and writing stuck and instead of commenting any more about this tragedy (or any number of other such tragedies of similar girls and boys) I choose instead to restate something I wrote a while back. I don’t know if Shaniya or the little girl I used to tutor ever had an outing with girl cousins like the ones in this post. But after thinking about their stories I am more dedicated than ever to make sure I get my Girl Cousins together soon and often, and make sure I fight for their right to be fully themselves, safe and sound, for their long and happy lives.

Working With Black Women, Epilogue: The Next Generation

***Part 1 here; Part 2 here***

So, as the blog says: What about our daughters?

Will they be destined to travel our same paths, stumble over the same exposed roots and boulders we did? Will they be able to be all their selves with each other? Will they decide to identify as feminists, womanists, multi-ists, or nary-ists? Will they be more than their hair, their skin tone, their names? Can they be yoked romantically to men, other women—to no one in particular—without being defined solely in terms of these connections or lack of them?

…The Family Reunion is an ideal natural environment to gain insight into these questions. The aluminum foil is peeled back from the homemade mac and cheese and the pork ribs. The card decks and dominoes are slapping table tops. Frankie Beverly and Maze is echoing across the green grass of the public park, and the living is easy.

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

"We all gonna get a chance to stir", PPR_Scribe

Hugs and greetings of long-losts have been exchanged and now the sub-groupings have been formed. Loosely based on age and gender, but not completely.

A group of Girl Cousins, from 3 to 10 years old, has coalesced around a shared love of babies and homemade ice cream and a cooler full of juice in pouches. At some point I take them across the field to the portable potty. In-depth discussion: toilet paper and hand sanitizer, who is doing number one versus number two, the merits of High School Musical underpants versus plain white or pink, the odd looking “cookie” in the urinal (“where men go pee-pee; see, their penises fit inside there”) beside the toilet. After all this—and of helping with lining the dirty seat with paper and fastening snaps and belt buckles and buttons—I am ready to head back to the picnic site.

But the Girl Cousins are not.

They have found a sewer drain, full of water from three straight days of rain. The sewer drain is actually a pot of stew, and a discarded stick has become a wooden spoon. Beans are required from amongst the pebbles of the adjacent baseball diamond. Leafy greens are needed from the dandelion plants and grass. Seasoning in the form of sand from the pitcher’s mound gives it extra flavoring.

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

"We need more beans for the stew", PPR_Scribe

Braids and twists and puffs top the heads. Inside the heads minds work to create a state-of-the-art kitchen. The conversation is focused and intense. No, that’s a little too much salt. Yeah, great idea—Get the brown beans up under the lighter ones. Please let her add her greens next. Look at what I found—we can use it for a measuring cup! OK, OK, we all gonna get a chance to stir! Mmm, it’s almost done; Y’all wanna taste?

The Girl Cousins are from the inner city and the suburbs. They participate in vacation bible school and swim practice and drill team. They sing all the words to Kidz Bop and Beyonce and Keke Palmer and Alicia Keys and Hanna Montanna. Their parents are married, never married…their siblings are theirs by biology and social agreement.

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

"No, it needs to cook a bit longer" PPR_Scribe

They are a diverse bunch.

After the stew is made, the oldest calls for everyone to join hands and bow heads for a prayer. Her words give thanks for this food and the hands, Lord, who has prepared it. She asks for the continued safety of our family, Lord, and the love that we share for each other today and all days. The other Girl Cousins nod, their eyes tightly closed in reverence.

At the end of the prayer they all say amen and begin to eat their meal.

Eventually we head back to the picnic area. The Girl Cousins run ahead, leaving me to snap a few more photographs.

I pray that if there is a God, she or he listens to and answers the prayers of little children over make believe stew.

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

"And now may we please bow our heads", PPR_Scribe

November 10, 2009

“We are a nation…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 5:57 pm

…We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it.  We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.

We’re a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.  And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

We’re a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal.  We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today.  We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality.  That’s who we are as a people….

~ President Barack H. Obama, Ft. Hood, Texas

 

November 3, 2009

What am I missing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 11:33 am

**UPDATED: As of 11/4/09 the body count is now up to 10: “A judge denied bond Wednesday for a convicted rapist accused in multiple killings, saying the latest allegations are ‘gruesome’ and the ‘most serious’ he has heard during his time on the bench.” [Source] These latest developments have resulted in the case garnering front page exposure on the Nancy Grace Blog (stories here and here).

Frustrating: The story below reports that latest news on the investigation into the discovery of remains from six Black women at a convicted rapist’s home was to be aired yesterday on Nancy Grace’s CNN show. However, when I looked for further information about the story and aired report on the Nancy Grace blog, there is not an entry for it. (There is only a link back to the news story I excerpted from below. There are, predictably, several stories on Elizabeth Olten and Somer Thompson that appear on the first page of the site.)

So what am I missing? Did Grace cover the story or not? How many murdered Black women does it take to warrant a series of posts about them? (Apparently, more than six….)

…Local authorities also are attempting to trace 50-year-old Anthony Sowell’s residential history since his June 2005 prison release to learn whether there are additional victims, according to Lt. Thomas Stacho of the Cleveland Police Department.

Police arrested Sowell on Saturday, two days after discovering the decomposing bodies of five females inside his home. Another female body was discovered outside the house.

Authorities found the first two bodies while trying to serve an arrest and search warrant on Sowell related to a sexual assault investigation. Sowell was not home at the time; officers found him after a tipster told them of his whereabouts.

The decomposing bodies of the women, all of whom were African-American, could have been lying where they were found for “weeks, if not months or years,” a coroner said Saturday….[Source]

The Nancy Grace blog does have a post appearing on the front page about this case. See more commentary about this Cleveland case at From My Brown Eyed View and at Black and Missing But Not Forgotten.

October 12, 2009

Race and Real Estate “Riots”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 10:14 am

…Yet if hard numbers mean anything, the 1970s FHA-HUD Scandal, and not “the riots,” bore well over the lion’s share of responsibility for the decayed buildings and vacant lots that scar urban minority communities.

Take Detroit, for example.

In that city’s 1967 riot, 2,509 buildings were looted and burned. In comparison, the FHA-HUD scandals of the 1970s were responsible for the abandonment and ruin of ten times that number – approximately 25,000 properties.  The scandals, moreover, clearly foreshadowed today’s subprime mortgage crisis that is similarly hitting black families in grossly disproportionate measure.  In both the 1970s and the late 1990s and early 2000s, minority communities that were vulnerable because of decades of state-sanctioned racial discrimination in the granting of credit were suddenly promised a “chance at home ownership”….

~Beryl Satter, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University;
author of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

October 1, 2009

Could Moving Pictures Hurt, Not Help?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 5:45 pm

With the latest youtubized capture of street violence in the form of the beating death of Derrion Albert comes another round of usual blog reactions including grief, confusion, shock, sadness, dismay, anger, frustration. Blame is cast on the usual suspects: the media, rap music, parents generally, mothers (teen mothers, non-wed mothers, baby-mamas) specifically, fathers (teen fathers, absent fathers, irresponsible fathers) specifically, poverty, inadequate education, racism, neglect by the Black middle class, self-hate, gangs, culture of anti-intellectualism, the prison industrial complex, American acceptance and glorification of violence, testosterone, mental illness, and whatever I forgot to add to the list.

But the more crucial question for me is: What role do we, as bloggers, have to play in this? And I am particularly interested in whether or not bloggers have been making a conscious decision to embed or not embed the video of this crime on their blogs.

I have argued in comment sections elsewhere that I think we mainly embed videos (any videos) on our blogs because we are technically capable of embedding videos on our blogs. Perhaps in addition we feel it adds interest to the look of our sites, or adds variety to our content. Most of the time when I see embedded video clips on blogs, I see the same clip on lots and lots and lots of blogs. So the issue is not that we think folks will not be able to see the video elsewhere. We could choose to just provide a YouTube or other URL, or to just mention details of the clip and have our readers search for a viewable clip elsewhere.

Chances are, for the vast majority of buzzed-up videos, there are many opportunities for everyone with an Internet connection to find and watch the video.

The President, it turns out, has watched the captured beating of Derrion Albert. Here the argument is made that everyone should watch Derrion Albert lose his life—that it is “must-see TV”:

Back in the 1960s, we only needed to see footage of black protesters being beaten, hosed down and attacked by police dogs once to understand how bad racism was down South.

Back in 1992, we only needed to see the video of Rodney King getting beaten by members of the Los Angeles Police Department once to understand the boys in blue aren’t always on the right side of the law, even if a judge says otherwise.

Now, in 2009, many of us need to see the video of 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beat to death at least once to understand it’s no longer just the police and white people of whom we need to be afraid. It’s also each other.

Sorry. I do not buy that.

I think the circumstances for that kind of visual evidence today is a lot different than it was in days past. The medium is no longer new, and we are too sophisticated about special effects and other ways to make moving pictures show something that wasn’t there to be convinced of anything by video images alone. And to use Rodney King as an example? Do we not recall how that video was taken apart—frame by frame—in the courtroom, and what the jury’s verdict was? Were there really people anywhere who, before the beating of this young man in Chicago, thought that it was just police killing Us?

…So back to the bloggers.

My fear—perhaps eventually it will be an opinion, but I am not to that point yet—is that the airing such viral videos of violence  mostly contributes to an air of titilation, an atmosphere of voyeurism. I fear our blogs may become places where readers can take a peek at the horror, and then make the appropriate comments of shock, sadness, dismay, anger, frustration, blame: a kind of virtual highway rubbernecking. I fear that—in a culture in which the criminals of heinous crimes have their names remembered (Bundy, Manson, Dahmer, Gacy) but their victims are nameless—such people captured on phone cams killing other people will see themselves more as 15-minute reality super stars instead of perps caught in the act.

I talked a little here about my initial decision to not post videos when I began this blog:

I also decided that I would give my new space a kind of stripped-down, minimalist feel. Embedded videos are everywhere on the ‘Net, and on my previous blog I greatly enjoyed posting them. But I decided against posting them here. Thus, for example, when I participate in Old School Fridays I post links to audio instead of embedding video.

So the core of my first decision was more aesthetic, an attempt to try something new…to go retro in a way. Now I am thinking about whether or not my decision to go clipless should also be guided from an ethical standpoint. I am trying to be more intentional about the decisions I make as a blogger. I do not have one of the big blogs, and I am not a traditional journalist, but I do still think it is crucial for me to develop a code of “paraprofessional ethics” when it comes to what type of blog I put out into the cyber-universe.

And I am just not sure I want to be one of the sites that hosted viewings of the death of human being.

September 29, 2009

Derrion Albert: No More Space on the Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 10:22 pm

…Latiker wonders how she can possibly make room for Derrion’s headstone. Latiker created a memorial two years ago to honor the young people killed in Chicago. Each time a child is shot, stabbed or beaten to death, she adds a stone to the memorial wall.

“We have 163 stones right now, but we are 20, now 21, behind,” she said. “I thought, well, I hoped, I dreamed that there’d be more space on the wall than kids being killed.” (Source)

September 7, 2009

Our Daughters, Our Selves

In another part of the country, a mother buries her Black daughter. This mother probably thought this daughter, killed steps from a college library, would be safe. She probably aches from the thought that she could not have protected her better. All over the country, mothers of Black daughters in her age group (15-24) ache for their dead daughters—dead from “unintentional injuries” (#1 cause of death) and homicide (#2 cause of death).

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

"Peace, Love and Freedom Hair." PPR_Scribe

No one else seems to ache for their daughters. There does not, for example, seem to be a national feminist organization, or a national Black civil rights organization, whose mission it is to ache—and advocate for—these Black daughters.

So we mothers of Black daughters must advocate for our daughters, for our selves.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope. I look around and see who we cry for, who we call into radio programs to show support for, who we march in the streets for, who we file amicus curiae briefs for, who we garner our righteous indignation for. And those whos do not, in most cases, seem to be  Black daughters.

The First Lady must advocate for her First (and Only) Daughters. As must we all. Our nation’s First (Black) Daughters are our symbols. They are our symbols for what it will be to be a Black daughter in this still-new century. Will it be more of the same? Or a New Day? Will the new day be a good new day, or will it surprise us with the creativity and inventiveness of its new-found horrible-ness?

INVISIBLE_TEXT
"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

"Sunlit Babes." PPR_Scribe

My Black daughters came to me in a pair. And people tend to think of them as a pair. Venus-and-Serena. Sasha-and-Malia.

Yes, my daughters are individuals, not an interchangeable unit. Yet I like their paired-ness. Hopefully the dashes sandwiching the and between their names will remind them that they will have to advocate for each other. To be their own best friends.

Their own most ardent defenders.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

I stand in solidarity with other mothers of Black daughters. Many of these mothers are Black daughters themselves. But some are not. Some are White daughters, or identify racially as other than black or white. Some mothers are “actually” grandmothers, or aunts, or older cousins. Some are not even female, but they “mother” their Black daughters just the same. Black daughters are yoked to their mothers by biology and by adoption and by social contract. By necessity and by convenience and by happenstance.

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

"Maybe He's Not Thirsty." PPR_Scribe

These varied Black daughters might struggle to see themselves in other Black daughters. And we as their mothers must release ourselves from whatever bulky and heavy bags we still tote around, filled with random items of wrinkled shit of our own histories with other Black daughters.

It ain’t gonna be easy.

But it is for our daughters, so we will find a way.

INVISIBLE_TEXT

I feel a special concern for other Black mothers of Black daughters. There is a saying in Black communities: We love our sons and raise our daughters. I often do see evidence of this. With all respect, some of us need to do more forcing our sons to grow up, and ensuring our daughters do not grow up too soon. I have seen the consequences of some Black mothers’ “loving” of their Black sons.

And it is not a pretty sight.

Mothers of Black daughters: Love your daughters. Fiercely and completely. Love them as much as you do—or should—love yourselves.

"Daddies Are for Fames of Tag." PPR_Scribe

"Daddies Are for Games of Tag." PPR_Scribe

INVISIBLE_TEXT

One of the greatest gifts I have given my Black daughters is a man in their life—in this case, their biological father—who loves and cherishes them beyond any other. Even beyond me.

It sounds retro, old fashioned to say it. Maybe “conservative” and “anti-progressive.” Certainly anti-feminist. But.

My Black daughters need at least one man in their life who feels this way about them. All Black daughters do. Black daughters who do not have such a man in their lives as children may struggle as grown women. Many of these grown Black women—straight or lesbian or bisexual or otherwise—will waste years of their lives trying  to find a glimmer of themselves as wonderful beings in the eyes of men, never knowing what it is in those eyes that they should be looking for. They may mistake possessiveness for protection. Violence for passion. Sex for love.

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

"First Day at the New School." PPR_Scribe

Thinking back, I was probably not the Black daughter at adolescence that my own mother hoped for. How can one young woman (i.e., me) be so arrogant and contrary about everything—from spirituality to my bedroom decor, from music to academics, from my treatment of my little sister to the meaning of life?

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

"African Princess." PPR_Scribe

I try to remember my own saltiness as I enter new relationship phases with my own mother, and as my daughters move from little girls to pre-teens. I try to remember—as my mother’s words flow from my mouth, and my daughters hear these words with my former ears—that this is just a stage, just one way station on a long path.

But it is a journey that must be navigated with sensitivity if I want to arrive at the next stage with daughters who respect me.

And who will not cringe when, one day, they hear my own words come out of their mouths.

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe

"Real Princesses Build Their Own Castles." PPR_Scribe

INVISIBLE_TEXT

…Sometimes I am cynical about what my daughters’ world will be. I look around and see signs that do not fill me with hope….

Then other times, I think otherwise. I may be standing in a hot shower, five minutes past my alarm clock siren and 30 minutes before my first sip of coffee, and my mind chains together several links of good—or at least, not-so-bad—Signs; and in a moment of clarity I realize how much power I have to ensure that my daughters’ world will be a gift and not a curse.

It is important to hold onto those moments, even in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

Especially in times of hopelessness and cynicism.

August 20, 2009

What About Dunbar Village?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 7:38 am

Please follow the multi-post and continuing coverage about the Dunbar Village rape trial over on What About Our Daughters?

August 18, 2009

“Open Carry”…and (again) I’m Wary…

A man toting an assault rifle* was among a dozen protesters carrying weapons while demonstrating outside President Barack Obama’s speech to veterans on Monday, but no laws were broken. It was the second instance in recent days in which unconcealed weapons have appeared near presidential events.

…Asked whether the individuals carrying weapons jeopardized the safety of the president, [U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed] Donovan said, “Of course not.”

The individuals would never have gotten in close proximity to the president, regardless of any state laws on openly carrying weapons, he said. A venue is considered a federal site when the Secret Service is protecting the president and weapons are not allowed on a federal site, he added…. [Source, emphasis added]

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*The term assault rifle is a translation of the German word Sturmgewehr (literally meaning “storm rifle”), “storm” used as a verb being synonymous with assault, as in “to storm the compound.” The name was coined by Adolf Hitler to describe the Maschinenpistole 44, subsequently re-christened Sturmgewehr 44, the firearm generally considered the first true assault rifle that served to popularize the concept. [Wikipedia entry]

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“It is extremely disturbing that you have that kind of weapon in close proximity to where the president is,” said Ruben Gallego, a retired military veteran and Arizona Democratic Party official who observed the man.

“He was demonstrating his Second Amendment rights,” Gallego added, “but he was clearly there to intimidate people who were there exercising their First Amendment rights.”

…Gallego, who served a tour of duty in Iraq, said he believes the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle was loaded. He spotted a magazine clip in the firearm and another in the man’s back pocket.

…”Individuals carrying loaded weapons at these events require constant attention from police and Secret Service officers, thus stretching their protective efforts even thinner,” Helmke [president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence] said. “The possibility that these weapons might be grabbed or stolen or accidentally mishandled increases the risks of serious injury or death to all in attendance.”

Voices messages left with several NRA officials in Arizona were not returned. [Source]

I’ll ask the question again. Well?

August 6, 2009

Are We Worried Yet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 4:01 pm

I understand the impulse to make jokes about “crazed Right-wingers” ranting about Barack Obama being (a) Muslim (or, as the sign-maker above believes, “muslin”), (b) a socialist, (c) evil incarnate, and/or (d) a secret Black Panther bent on destroying the White race.

But are we worried yet?

I understand the snickers about the Birther movement, and the ridiculousness of fake Kenyan birth certificates. I barely resisted making my own Kenyan birth certificate. I chuckled at Sarah Palin’s Canadian birth certificate.

But—are we worried yet?

I know it is easy to see mistakenly-sent email rants and cartoons and poor puns and jokes as just further evidence of how stupid They can be (while we feel ever the elitists that They claim we have been all along)…as further proof about how much They and their Party are Out of Touch and Unraveling at the Seams.

But are we worried yet?

I understand that many of us my age do not recall the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers or of King or of others, being merely babes or toddlers. I realize that those of us younger than I am do not even have any memories of the failed assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. And I, too, found comical the endlessly replayed clips of former President George W. Bush being nearly knocked upside the head with a shoe—not fully recognizing it as the vulnerability and security breach that it was. But tell me—

Are we worried yet?

I hear how expressing safety concerns about President Obama and his family can sound as irrational as the conspiracy theories claiming Obama was some sort of Manchurian candidate. I read the same article as you probably did stating that “Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush….” And probably like you, after reading this I clicked on to other news, merely shaking my head in mild dismay with the smug satisfaction that such news did not surprise someone as smart and worldly as me. But just between you and me and our computer monitors,

are we worried yet?

I get that random acts of violence by deranged, troubled individuals would likely happen were Barack Obama president or not. I understand that whenever a marginalized group is perceived as succeeding, members of that group can be at even greater risk of backlash, of being scapegoated. I recall from history books how the combination of general economic hardship plus the perception of an inferior group getting special privileges, jumping their turn in line ahead of others more deserving—how all of this can turn fairly level headed people into mobs with a grudge and a target at which to aim their sense of loss, anger, and frustration.

Are we worried yet?

I remember the line from the bad guy in one of my favorite horror movies: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” I remember how that was supposed to help him de-humanize in his mind his soon-to-be victim, make her Other, so that it would be easier for him to treat her as prey and not as a fellow human. I know how in times of war, soldiers give harsh degrading nicknames to the people they are fighting against, learn to see them not just as enemies, but as undeserving of compassion. And I know that on the other side of the front, the other soldiers have been trained to do the same thing. So,

are we worried yet?

I understand that what we still call the “news” business is all about ratings, about branding, about money, about theater. I understand that some of the hate that passes for talk is partly or fully artifice. I also have read stories about research on people who watch a lot of local news who then overestimate the prevalence of street violence. I believe in freedom of speech and that talking heads do not kill people– Believe, though it may surprise you, in the rights of private citizens to have and bear (some) arms, and that guns do not kill people. I know that people kill people. I also believe that hate speech contributes to a certain toxic environment in which violence can (and does) thrive, though. And that firearms make killing fast, easy, impersonal. And more efficient.

I know. I understand. I hear, read, and see. I am sure we all know, understand, hear, read, and see.

Are we worried yet, though?

Are we?

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