Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Real Americans: A Rant.

So the president released his birth certificate. The extra-special long-form one that even Orly Taitz wanted him to release. Unfortunately, this will not please his "critics" who don't think he's American enough to be president because, well, he's still black.

That's right, I said it. The only reason this is happening to Obama - wait, no, let me not use the passive voice - the only reason the "birthers" are assailing Obama's parentage is because he is black, and they are racists. Can we talk about that, please? Can that fact be on the nightly news?

And I can't believe he actually had a press conference on this. Seriously, look.

(added: transcript here)

I would have a billion times more respect for Obama, politics, and America in general if the current cultural atmosphere had been such that the president could have spoken plainly here, and said, "We are only talking about this because I am black and American society is still deeply racist." I recognize why he couldn't say this, I guess. I just wish it could have happened.

These people, the "birthers" are so transparent you'd think they would be embarrassed if they could just hear themselves. To quote a friend on Facebook, psychologically, it's fascinating. It's also textbook. A first year psych student could make up something more complex. They're like the racism version of mustachioed villains from a bad silent movie melodrama.

The conspiracy talk around his mother is also interesting/not surprising at all to me. She's a slut who posed nude and the Kenyan guy probably isn't even the father.
It seems altogether possible that the progressive and adventurous 17 year-old Dunham was impregnated by a black man while the family was still living in the Seattle area.
White women who fuck black men: "adventurous" (read: slutty) race traitors who will fuck anyone.

These people, they sound like cartoons.

Now it only took about 2.5 seconds for a new conspiracy to form. Before the press conference above even began, Donald Trump (the "carnival barker" I believe the president was talking about) now wants to see Obama's school records, because the only way a black person could have gotten into Harvard is because white people let him in through the pity of affirmative action.

That's rich, considering the legacy Yalie C student who was our last president. But I forget, Bush was a white guy, and clearly an American Success Story of Pulling One's Self Up By The Bootstraps after some Youthful Mistakes.

Silly me.

I really hope people in the media call it like it is now - people think Obama is not American enough because he's black and has a "funny" name. No amount of documentation he releases will change that. Let's please stop using euphemisms like "cultural unease" to describe the reasons why the GOP base doesn't like Obama.

There are plenty of reasons not to like Obama, ones I even agree with. But this nonsense? It's racism, pure and simple. American society is so deeply racist not even getting elected president is enough to make you immune.

Hey there

Poor old neglected blogger, a relic of my life in the aughts. I've been posting over at tumblr now, if you're interested. I like the social networking aspects of tumblr, but I must say I think blogger is better at long-form, ranty style posts. And I definitely feel a big one coming on.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I have a question for fans of the “Hipster Indian” look.

(This is a more thought-out and in-depth version of a post I first put up on Tumblr this morning.)

If the reason that you feel the need to dress this way is just that you “appreciate the culture” and “think its beautiful” why don’t I ever see fashion spreads of Native Americans dressed in the attire as it was meant to be worn? Why is it always shirtless white ladies in the desert with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other?

(picture of a young white woman with straight brown hair wearing a war bonnet, is seemingly shirtless, with "warpaint" that looks like lipstick and smoking a cigarette, standing around in a forest)

Seriously, you don't need an advanced degree in semiotics to figure out what's wrong with this image.

My theory? These people don't give a shit about any particular Native American culture. They feel fine and dandy "appreciating" these images because the culture being appreciated is not any particular Native American culture. It is the culture of middle class America from 30 years ago, back when if you dressed your kid up as an “Indian Princess” for Halloween no one would think twice about it (I’m looking at you, mom). Back when you sent your kids to summer camp and they made wallets with fringe and plastic beads on them to "appreciate" Native culture. Or when you could take your family on road trips to reservations and buy a bunch of plastic tomahawks and fake arrowheads made in China (my husband is looking at you, mother-in-law).

(picture of three young white women wearing costumey feather headdresses, blackened eyebrows, and those cheesy 70s-ish clothes so popular with kids these days.)

You can tell because all these pictures also often exhibit artifacts of the 70s, like feathered hair and tube socks pulled up to your knees, or have orangey red faded color palettes or excessive lens flare like a flashback in a Wes Anderson movie or something.

The “more innocent time” these images are hearkening back to is not to some imagined time of pre-Colombian noble savagery but the time from my childhood when middle America felt free to stomp all over Native American culture without guilt.

That time has come again, apparently.

And let's go a little bit deeper. BFP on tumblr notes:

when you literally don’t care or it never crossed your mind what is happening to native peoples today—what their struggles are, what is happening to their children while you are admiring how pretty their headdress looks (if you dye it orange and green first) with blue eye shadow and blue jeans—when you write passionate defenses of your right to wear native dress instead of passionate pleas to people to donate money so that elders and children don’t get their fucking HEAT shut off in the middle of winter (because, yeah, that whole thing about having to pay somebody exorbitant rates for the use of minerals found on your own land sorta sucks ass)—then you can judge yourself as not having the right to wear native clothes of any sort.
I’m from New Mexico, the phenomenon of the rich white (or Hispanic) lady from Santa Fe who is fond of Navajo jewelry and Navajo art but not so much, you know, actual Navajo people is well-known to me.

Which is not to say that you can’t have a beautiful turquoise bracelet or something. Just don’t wear sacred items and always buy it from local Native artists so that the economic power stays with the people whose culture is being commodified.

That, I think, is at the heart of what makes this sort of thing so offensive (to me, at least). White people make money selling this crap to other white people while the people whose culture this comes from deal with some of the worst poverty in the US.

If I may nerd out for a moment, it's something I spent some time studying in school. There was a similar pattern with African art in the 1920s and 1930s, and Australian Aboriginal art in the 1980s. Cultural Anthropologists (which, while it is my chosen field of study, has a lot to answer for) would "gather artifacts" from communities and then sell them to art galleries for a jillion dollars.

Recommended reading: Hipster Appropriations and My Culture Is Not A Trend on tumblr. I got the pictures in this post from these blogs.

And, for those with an anthro bent, read anything by Sally Price, especially this book and this one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I stayed up all night reading Octavia Butler's "Kindred"

And I’m not even tired. Holy shit, that’s a good book.

It was very good at making me think about - well, not so much the reality of slavery, because I’m sure no mere book would be enough to convey the experience of what chattel slavery is like - but the reality that my ancestors were slaves.

I got a similar feeling when I went to DC for the Obama inauguration - that the buildings all around me had been built by black slaves, and now a black man was being elected president. I was seriously on the verge of tears almost the whole time. (Not so much out of happiness at the election, although back then I was much more on team hopey-changey stuff than I am now, but out of horror of the past).

I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a neighborhood where the oldest buildings dated to maybe the 1950s. Black chattel slavery is distant here.

To have my stepmom (who is from there, and who is biracial just like me) point out buildings and say “That’s an old slave auction house,” or “That tunnel is where they brought slaves in from the docks,” and whatnot was completely upsetting to me.

"You're very sensitive," she said to me, not unkindly.

My family is from Cuba, so the likelihood that any ancestor of mine walked through those tunnels or stood on those particular auction blocks is probably low. But they walked through tunnels, they stood on auction blocks. And there were similar ones, right in front of me. Meanwhile, a black man was getting ready to be President.

It was the same feeling I got when a white friend of mine explained to me that her grandmother, who I had spent the previous afternoon chatting pleasantly with, was actually a horrible racist and said mean things about my daughter. Betrayal, shame, embarrassment, anger, fury. Pride that I wasn't what her grandmother thought I was.

That feeling - that's what it's like to be black in America.

Thinking back about my week in DC two years ago, I remember a conversation I had about the whole thing with a man who was a friend of my stepmom’s family. “I don’t think white people understand,” he said.

I agreed.

Also, I’m pissed at myself that I haven’t been reading Octavia Butler this entire time. Next up - Fledgling.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yes, I am a Muslim-American

(eds note: My father, who has been increasingly horrified by the growing tide of bigotry apparent on the nightly news lately, emailed me this last night and asked if I would post it on my blog. Of course I would, I said.)

Am I an American? Why am I asking myself this question again? Yes, I am an American, a Muslim African American.

Why am I asking that question again? It is because the monster is trying to once again rear its ugly head. A monster who once tried to trick me into believing that I was not an American because of the color of my skin and because of the origin of my parents and the first language that I spoke (Spanish) as a child.

The ugly beast who snapped at the heels of my parents, with its white only bathrooms and diners, and the black only seats at the rear of the bus or train, and the inequality and lack of justice that permeated its presence, breathing the fire of hate for those who dared to be different than it.

The horrible looks and words of hate that frightened a child and young adolescent, emanating from the mouths of pale skinned creatures that looked as human as I; and breathed the same air that filled my lungs, and walked the same earth that I walked upon. I a child not really understanding the disease that filled the hearts and minds of these men and women, some who called themselves the follower of Jesus (peace be upon him) as I was, the prophet of peace and love.

Why I said as a child why, why do you hate me so, the answer always being you are the other, not like me, apart from me. Yet in my heart I always knew this to be a lie, knew that the other was as human and fragile as I was. He or she was just sick in the head from some blow of a hammer that must have once fallen upon their heads.

Then as I grew into adolescence, came the words and actions of Martin, words of freedom, equality, respect, the transformational words of Malcolm demanding respect as a man and as a human being and servant of God. The demand for the implementation of the eternal principles that I knew permeated the hearts of all men and women who know the truth and that submit to the one and only Lord and Creator of the universe.

These waves of change passed through our country transforming hearts and minds, as they always have when the creature appears. Men like Mandela, Gandhi, Muhammed, Jesus, and Moses and so many others. Who chase the monster away; if not for a little time, making him hide in slumber for another day.

Here is that day, today when I ask myself again, am I an American? The monster stares in my face, I now a grown man a Muslim-African-American.

The beast once again looms in our presence, again staring at me with eyes aglow. It basks in its own self-indulgence of ignorance, hate and accusations of being the other. The same old story just another time and another place.

Know this oh beast, I will stand firmly on this sacred ground that I call my country, my home, my place of birth. A place called America; I stand here with no fear of you in my heart. Knowing with surety who I am and why I am.

I am a Muslim American, a servant of Allah, born in the home of the brave the land of the free.

I am a red-blooded American.

You can screech your words of being the other, of there is no room for Muslims or mosques, or adhans in this land. I tell you we are here to stay, over nine million of us strong and growing, most born American Muslims and true believers in our hearts.

I stand here wrapped in the cloth of freedom made by the blood of my ancestors and yours. The promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not a dream but a reality made true by the following words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This is my birth-right, a covenant made to every citizen of this country born or naturalized.

Your disease of the heart has made you blind and ignorant to the beauty and guarantees encased within those words. So beware oh beast, the sword of justice looms over your head, and no matter how loudly you screech, justice and freedom always prevail as God our Lord and Creator has promised. Watch your neck because the sword of Damocles hangs over your ugly head. You will consume yourself in your own self-hatred and ignorance.

We stand as brothers and sisters together Muslim, Christian, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and all the other paths of life that exist in this world.

For we stand with the Creator who has given us love and compassion the most powerful forces in all of creation. Beware and be aware, because we have the Niyat (intention) to us this force of love and compassion to its maximum effect.

We wish to change your heart, to cure you of the ancient disease of hate and ignorance. Your brothers and sister call to you to join us in peace (salaams), to join us and to become part of the human family once again.
We await your decision.

Salaams always,

Imam Abdur’Rauf Campos-Marquetti
TaHa Mosque-Islamic Center of Santa Fe

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How little things have changed.

It's really depressing, but not entirely shocking, to see how little things have changed since this speech was given.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's not us and them. It's just us.

The hysteria surrounding the not-a-mosque, not-at-Ground Zero interfaith community center that an Islamic group wants to build in Manhattan has gone on longer that even I thought it ever would.

The objections to it are so ridiculous, so reactionary, so based in hatred and fear that I don't even know where to begin taking them apart anymore.

The fact that you have representatives of the Muslim community on the news having to make statements like "American Muslims were not behind the terrorist plot," is totally fucking Twilight Zone-scary.

David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana, says that the not-at-Ground-Zero, not-a-mosque is "a slap in the face to the American people." If that's the case, then I backhand slap the American people right in that stupid, afraid, bigoted, unthinking face. Twice.

9/11 was not an attack by Muslims against America. 9/11 was an attack by those who embraced a theocratic view against the forces of democracy and capitalism (there's a reason they targeted the World Trade Center, it was a financial center). Those Muslims who committed almost 3,000 murders that day were also attacking other Muslims. Many of the office workers, restaurant employees, firemen, police officers, and paramedics who were killed for the "sin" of living in New York (or D.C., let's not forget the Pentagon was also attacked) were...Muslims.

It doesn't work to say that "Muslims attacked us" when "Muslims" and "us" are two groups that overlap. This, despite the best efforts of many, is a cosmopolitan nation. Muslims are not others, they are us. As are Catholics, Jews, Baptists, gays, blacks, asians, hispanics, Dallas Cowboy fans, Sarah Palin fans, and even (gasp!) atheists.

I say again, this, despite the best efforts of the worst amongst us, is a cosmopolitan nation. You can't change that no matter how hard you try. It's the whole fucking point of our country. To think otherwise puts you on the losing side of history.

I mean, Jesus, even W. said we were not at war with Islam.

President Obama finally weighed in on the subject on Friday, saying “Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam,” the president said, adding, “In fact, Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion, and that list includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.”

To which I add, No shit, Sherlock. Really? Does this even still have to be said? I get the feeling my poor dad (who is an imam now) is going to have to go on another "Muslims don't all have claws and fangs" tour of local churches.

Usually, I find Keith Olbermann just this side of shrill and histrionic, but this time I think he hit just the right note.

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Right now, (during Ramadan no less) millions of Pakistanis, the vast majority of them who are probably Muslim, are dying because of horrific flooding in that country. Wouldn't our energies (and our 24-hour news cycle) be better spent helping -or at least paying attention to- these people? (*cough* Donate to Doctors Without Borders *cough*)

To conclude, I like the point made in this blog post.
In the real world, New York is rebuilding. The site of the ruined World Trade Center is the site of the new World Trade Center, 20 stories high and rising. Get rid of the Islamic center and the alternative will not be a memorial park, but a fitness center, an American Apparel, a Pinkberry.
Maybe I'm naive in my patriotism, but the reason I think that so-called "Ground Zero" is sacred ground is because all of America is sacred ground, because the principles laid out in the Constitution (although, historically, actually following those principles has always been a bit touch-and-go) protect the inalienable rights of the people who live here.

Well, for now anyway.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chuchu the sock monkey.

Why yes, I did just spend the last 10 hours or so making two socks into a monkey, why do you ask?

Discoveries along my journey across the sock monkey learning curve: use thicker socks, use longer socks, use smaller stitches, use more interesting socks, and most of all, don't explain to your child what a sock monkey is because you're certain to spend the next ten to twelve hours making one, much to your chagrin.

But then she named it Chuchu and gave it a big hug and loved it despite all the obvious flaws I saw. Which is why she is wonderful and I am a jaded former punk rocker.

Full evolution of Chuchu here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A challenge.

I don't know what I was thinking. I ventured into the comment sections of this and this (much better) article on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither at Ground Zero nor a masjid) and I think I've been driven to the edge by the complete rejection of both reason and reality on display by many of the commenters.

So, I issue a challenge.

I challenge anyone to explain to me why this community center shouldn't be built at this location, using 500 words or less. You must (unlike anyone I've read or heard who so far who objects to this) take these five actual, factual points into account:

1) The proposed building is not just a mosque, but a community center that will include a restaurant and a gym.

2) The proposed site is not at "Ground Zero" but in fact several blocks away, and you can't even see it from the WTC site.

3) Dozens of the New Yorkers (and, if I recall correctly, at least one of the people on the planes) murdered on 9/11 were Muslim, and their families deserve the same respect as the other victims.

4) It's private property owned by this group, and as long as all proper building codes are followed they're allowed to build whatever the fuck they want.

5) Republican politicians (and celebrities like Sarah Palin) are using this as a wedge issue to motivate their base to vote for them in November, as a distraction from the successes of the Obama administration and the previous eight years of Republican failures.

Seriously. 500 words or less. I'll send you a free Viking Fish t-shirt.

I don't expect any takers, because a) no one reads my blog anymore, but more importantly b) once these five points are addressed you don't have much of an argument beyond, "I hate Muslims because television and the Internet said I should."

Hm, I kind of like this idea. Maybe I'll try it next for those who oppose gay marriage.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The power of images

I've been kind of haunted by Time magazine's most recent cover image ever since I saw this Salon piece on it yesterday. In it, a striking beautiful young Afghan woman stares defiantly at the camera. The woman, an 18-year old named Aisha, has been brutally mutilated by her own husband, her nose and ears cut off. But the way the photographer Jodie Bieber captures the fire in her eyes shows that even this brutal act did not defeat her.

Or, at least, that's what the photo says to me. I have to idea how Aisha actually feels about her situation and the horrific crime that her husband and the people of her village, who enabled him to do this, enacted against her. But I appreciate the decision Bieber made to not photograph her as a broken victim.

What I don't appreciate, what in fact drives me up the wall, is the headline Times chose to place with her picture. The cover reads, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan." Nice try, Times, but I'm not buying it. This isn't what happens when we leave Afghanistan, it's what's happening now. Aisha was attacked last year.

In what, as Daisy on Facebook mentioned, appears to be a bald attempt to engage in a propaganda war with Wikileaks (and what I think is more of a cynical attempt to sell magazines), Times has hoped that the arresting nature of this image will make your brain skip over this fact.

Not to mention that, with the addition of that text, the image becomes yet another Muslim woman is the "ultimate victim" needing rescue from the West. Boy, does that trope not ever get old.

You can't solve problems like violence against women with a war. If anything, our presence, and the money we're funneling to all the wrong people, is merely fueling top-down corruption that is probably making situations like this worse. Watch this segment from Rachel Maddow's recent trip to Afghanistan to see what I mean.

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I don't have a solution for how to make it that another woman never gets mutilated for attempting to escape abusive situations. I don't even know whether or not I actually feel like we should withdraw from Afghanistan, really. I mean, I recognize all the good reasons to do so, but there is a part of me that feels like its kind of amoral to destabilize a country and then just leave.

What I do know is that you can't use what happened to this woman as a reason to stay. Because our presence there couldn't keep it from happening in the first place.

And also because the suggestion that we're in Afghanistan to protect the lives of the women there is laughable. If this were the case, how come it took us so long? I was reading about RAWA and the oppression of Afghan women years before the war (in, if I remember correctly, Jane magazine). What about women in the Congo? Women in Juarez? Women in Darfur?

And if you're looking for arresting images, how about the image of this child, burned after a NATO bomb attack?

War is a complicated issue, there are no easy answers. Let's not be swayed by an (admittedly powerful) image, but try to actually think.

**Edited some for clarity. It's hard to blog when a four-year-old is also seeking your full attention**

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


If I really am going to pick up blogging again, which I seem to be doing, then I need to update my blogroll. There are blogs I don't read, dead blogs, dead people on it, and blogs that I do read (lurk at, mostly) that aren't on it. I'll be doing this over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Fridge!!!

Motherfucking iced tea in the house, yo!

We were snookered! Wait, what?

Last night, Jon Stewart returned from a two-week vacation and unleashed his sharp knives of satire on those on the left who were "snookered" by a re-edited tape released by Andrew Breitbart that supposedly demonstrates racism and corruption on the left.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lost in Race
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

(Also, Comedy Central, your embed code is crappy. I had to go in and close like three tags to get it to work. In case I screwed it up, the link to the video is here.)

Which is something I would have thought way more awesome, if this hadn't been Jon Stewart's response to Breitbart's completely fraudulent ACORN tapes last year.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

(Link here.)

Hm. Did you get snookered, too, Jon? Were you so eager to demonstrate that you treat the left and the right equally that you were willing to throw poor, black, (and in that clip, mostly females) under the bus?

I had sincerely hoped that someone in the media would be willing to revisit the ACORN tapes, just to throw light on the extreme injustice done to this now-defunct organization at the behest of the crybabies on the extreme right. I kind of thought it might be the Daily Show. Oh well.

The beard is dead sexy though.