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My great-great grandfather enlisted at 16 just in time for the siege of Richmond. My father heard stories from him and his sisters about the war when he was a small boy. (Ltc. Custer used the family farm as a base for a little while, too.) My family goes back to 1613 in Virginia. I went to boarding school in Richmond, and I think Monument Avenue is lovely.

These statues must go.

That's it. Whatever romantic notion of some grand civilization destroyed by manufacturing tradesmen from the north that you're hanging onto must go, too. The reality is that the South fired the first shots. The stated reasons for the war in the individual states' articles of secession included slavery, very often as the chief motive for seceding.

Our ancestors were racist. It's sad, but it's true. The best thing we can do is stop reinforcing this racism with public monuments to individuals who violated their oaths as officers in the Army of the United States. Too many southerners try to say the War was about honor. If that's true, why are we celebrating oath breakers?

(Adapted from a comment I made at Slate)
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I was flabbergasted, as I think most of us were, to read of Prince's death. Like Bowie, I wasn't a huge fan, but it feels as if an important cultural influence has gone. In some ways, Prince was the cultural touchstone of the 1980s into the early 1990s in the same way that Bowie was to the 1970s-80s.

The song that I'm playing is Baltimore. It was performed publicly for the first time last year in Baltimore during the Freddie Gray riots. I'm still amazed that the Crips and Bloods did more to keep the peace during that week than the government did.

But the line that grips me from the song is "Peace is more than the absence of war."

In the mid-1980s I was working toward a Master's in International Relations and was required to take International Systems. One of the central texts was On the Causes of War by Michael Howard. In it, Howard argued that peace wasn't merely the absence of war, but absence of the threat of war. I was mocked by the professor for agreeing with Howard.

I still think it's one of the most important points, and may be part of the disconnect on "Black Lives Matter." Too many white people don't feel the threat of daily violence and so don't grasp that even when things are quiet, the neighborhoods aren't at peace.


Apr. 30th, 2015 12:47 pm
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Crikey. People are saying, quoting a remark by David Simon, that "there are now two Americas."

All I can think is, "Oh, honey, no." There have always been multiple Americas; it's just that white folks have always thought theirs was the only one that counted.

I watch demonstrations of white privilege every fucking day. I probably demonstrate my own privilege in ways that I don't fully comprehend because that's the problem of privilege: you don't always recognize it when you have it.

But. I'm more aware because I'm in the reverse situation from most people of color. I'm the only white person in my office. I'm one of fifteen or so in my 300+ person organization. When I tell my friends who work for the Federal government that I work for DC government, one of the first questions is about how do I feel about working with people that don't look like me. The questions are less direct than that, of course. None of us is a bigot. But aren't you worried that you live in a mix-raced neighborhood, go to that area of town, work with people who went to different types of schools... all of the subtle, and not so subtle codes.

I'm tired. I'm tired of the twenty-something white people going to Nats or Caps games who won't give up their seats on the Metro to an elderly black person or a pregnant black woman or a disabled black man. I know it's not general obliviousness, because they snap up and offer to white people with the same issues.

I'm tired of the rare white customer being so relieved to see me or requesting me when they get one of my colleagues in the rotation.

Baltimore's issues exist because we don't look at racism. We don't realize that Samuel L. Jackson, to give a famous example, was over 20 before segregation ended in the city where he was born. People remember segregation. AIDS policies were and still are geared more toward the gay community than toward the Black community, but AIDS for whatever reason spreads more quickly and more ways in Black communities. It's estimated that one in twenty people (5%) of the District's population is HIV positive. Some of this is due to poor education. Some of this is due to Congress not allowing needle exchange programs. We have a generation in this city reared by their grandparents because their parents died of AIDS.

Those of you in Boston remember busing. Imagine living with that fight every single fucking day and you'll have some idea of what being poor and black in Baltimore is like.
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On the floor of the House

Congressional Staffers yesterday

Yale Black Men's Union

I have a hard time talking about this. I am a white person working in a predominantly black environment. It amazes me how many people assume that, because I'm white, I share their retrogressive or downright bigoted opinions.

So let me tell you that I am so proud of my colleague's son, who is number 22 on that Yale Black Men's Union page (look for the word "Minoritized"). Let me tell you that I'm angry that not one white colleague joined in the silent witness on the floor of the House. Let me tell you about the friends who've been stopped because they're driving a nice car or driving through a neighborhood the cops don't expect a person of color to live in. Let me tell you about my friend whose son was beaten so badly at a traffic stop that the policeman in charge of lock-up refused to let him in and immediately called an ambulance (and bless him for doing so). It's harder to find these stories among my friends and acquaintances who share my skin color.

Lives matter. All lives matter. Black lives matter.
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There was an article in a local blog yesterday by Gary Imhoff which talks about the DC statehood movement and says we should be like Hawaii and Alaska rather than taking our cue from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

There's a difference.

Hawaii has huge strategic importance, and Pearl Harbor was engrained in the memories of those old enough to vote when it was up for ratification.

Alaska has vast tracts of natural resources, and, during the Cold War, was of even greater strategic importance than Hawaii. After all, you could see Russia from there.

DC had to wait another fourteen years after these two territories became states for Home Rule which allowed us to vote in Presidential elections and gave us a vague and whimsical permission to govern ourselves -- when Congress thought it was acceptable and with Congress controlling even our local purse strings.

The military was allowed to vote before we were. (Hands up everyone who didn't realize the military wasn't allowed to vote for President until after World War II and that military bases weren't allowed to vote for local offices until 1986.) Eighteen year olds were allowed to vote before we were, and I happily exercised my franchise on an absentee ballot as soon as I could.

The fight for Home Rule was part of the Civil Rights movement. The patronizing attitudes of much of Congress and many people in other parts of the country -- on both ends of the social and political spectra -- make this a Civil Rights movement.
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When 60 Minutes went on the air, we watched it every Sunday. It was similar to the weekly newsmagazine we'd watched while living in London, and in the winter it was almost a ritual -- a fire in the fireplace (sometimes with bonus popcorn) and 60 Minutes.

My nascent political world was formed, at least in part, by the Point/Counterpoint section of the show. James J. Kilpatrick was the Conservative speaker.

I generally sided with the more liberal person, though not always. My father and I would occasionally get into discussions based out of it, but not once did he tell me that Kilpatrick was a racist whose writings acted as the intellectual underpinnings for segregation. Reading Mr. Kilpatrick's obituary has been a real eye-opener.

Sometimes it's good to see the old guard passing.

My city

Aug. 9th, 2010 05:12 pm
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I am a white woman in a predominantly black city.

I am a city worker in a place where most people work for the federal government.

And I am sick of the racism I read in the comments of The Washington Post.

There was an incident this weekend on the Metro at the stop I use most often. I wasn't there, because I tend to walk or take the bus when I can in order to save money. People were injured. It's been characterized as both a brawl and a riot depending on the article and the people doing the characterizing.

The assumption -- which is probably correct based solely on the city's demographics -- is that the young people who started the incident were black. The invective which has been unleashed is sickening. "Untermensch." "Make a coon-skin cap out of you."

Few people see this as anything but young black people making trouble. No one is questioning why they might be disaffected, though you'd be amazed at how many want to know "where are the parents?" Based on my experience in the neighborhood and through my job, the parents are probably working a second job to try to afford school supplies for their kids.

Even fewer people seem to be willing to do anything like mentor, tutor, or volunteer at a school. They are in favor of "shooting hooligans in the face" and going armed into the city.

I lived here in the 1970s, though in the suburbs. I remember the struggles -- real riots over things like the KKK marching. From the descriptions, this was much smaller than the kinds of troubles I used to experience in the early 80s from the soccer fans in London.

I don't in any way condone this type of behavior. I don't like being hassled and yelled at any more than the next person, and I hate being caught in violence. It's happened to me. But I don't for a moment think that race is a proximate cause for a minor eruption of violence on a hot summer's night.

Oh, dear.

Jun. 24th, 2010 03:54 pm
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Representative Paul Kanjorski said (via The Washington Post's political coverage):

"We're giving relief to people that I deal with in my office every day now unfortunately," Kanjorski said. "But because of the longevity of this recession, these are people -- and they're not minorities and they're not defective and they're not all the things you'd like to insinuate that these programs are about -- these are average, good American people." [emphasis mine]

You'll be happy to know his office is affronted to think anyone could construe these remarks as racist.

From their release:
Anyone trying to politicize this issue clearly doesn't get it. Congressman Kanjorski is fighting for all Americans who are struggling. Any statement saying otherwise is grossly misinformed.

In fairness, Representative Kanjorski is trying to protect a program for homeowner mortgage help that is currently available in Pennsylvania through state funding and creating something similar nationally. He's defending it as not helping the "imprudent, the wasteful."

While I can admire him for thinking of this type of program and trying to help the unemployed, it doesn't change the fact that his remarks are, in fact, racist.
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Once again I volunteered for this discussion at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This doesn't mean I was on any of the panels, just for the record; only that I did things like make certain people had water, directed them places, and generally dogsbodied for anyone who needed me.

At the dinner (it was little bites by 30 different chefs stationed all over the museum) on Friday night, I ran into the son of one of the restauranteuses. H loves the ocean. He's looking forward to turning 8 soon, so that he can finally learn scuba, even if he can only do it in swimming pools until he's 16. He stated that we need to protect the oceans and the environment, even if it were at the cost of our own lives. He asked intelligent questions about the oil leak in the Gulf. When I mentioned Padre Island, H looked stricken and said, "The sea turtles!"

Look again at that number. A seven year old was one of the most intelligent people I spoke with in two days. The adults were knowledgeable about their own aspects of any given issue, and the Gulf leak was mentioned, but not pursued as it wasn't the focus of the conference.

But again, I was struck by the smugness of the people involved. In a predominantly black city, there were no black faces and few of any race other than white. One woman spoke contemptuously (to my ears at least) of the fact that most Americans made their decisions on which fish to buy on price point. The only comment I made was to her pointing out that in the current economic crisis, PRICE POINT was amazingly relevant to people. I used my own unemployment as an example.

One gentleman on the panel came up to me afterward and said he was out of the restaurant business because he was interested in making certain that the fishermen were not being exploited, the end-users got fish they could afford, and the resources were being husbanded.

I also had a dissatisfactory conversation with another volunteer who was shocked, shocked I say, that I suggested putting up fliers for Smithsonian programs in Libraries and Rec Centers in DC. Her point that these symposia need to sell tickets is fine. However, her statement that people who go to these places (i.e. the poorer, darker folks of the District) wouldn't be interested is a flat out lie.

When I came home on Friday night, two of my neighbors were discussing the Gulf leak. They noted the crime to the ecosystems, the problems of employment that may arise, and the way it will effect prices for gas, heating oil, and fish. One of them pointed out that unbalancing the ecosystems may spread diseases or allow insect invasions in other areas which could cause more and different issues. I know these men. One of them isn't a high school graduate. Both are unemployed. That doesn't make either of them stupid or uninvolved with the world and the issues around them.
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On the internet, no one knows you're green.

But, privilege will out and right now, last night's Glee has prompted some discussion in the episode thread there that is frosting my cookies.

The character of Mercedes made a couple of remarks about white people not being able to do funk during one scene. Now, there are exceptions -- I personally think Harry Connick Junior's "I just whisper your name" is pretty funky -- but in general, I don't disagree. Funk is culturally African-American, and DC was, in the 1970s, right in the center of the phenomenon. Hell, the fracking Mothership may be buried around here.


The some of the good folks at TWoP have accused the character of racism, for saying white people aren't funky. I cringed a little, but I can understand the perspective if I squint. But to say, "It's not like she's black in the 60s" or "Then we have Quinn aplogizing to Mercedes for apparently being black and having a hard life as if being black is a handicap and we've had even one scene of her being an outcast b/c of her skin color. Somehow being black which has never been an issue for Mercedes in a clearly diverse school ... "

This "clearly diverse school" has a couple of people of Latino heritage, a South Asian principal, several Jewish students, several Asian students, and Mercedes. I can't think of a single other African-American student we've seen at that school. Is she oppressed? Canonically, her parents are dentists, so she's middle class. But she's still the only black kid at her school. Day in, day out, she sees no one else who looks like her, not a teacher that we've seen, not a fellow student, not even a janitor. It's her and her parents in all of West Lima, Ohio (I doubt its truly representative of the region, but, within the show's universe, this is the case.).

I'm so damn furious with these people. Yes, things are definitely better than they were in the early 1960s for African-Americans. What does that have to do with the underpinnings of Funk as a movement and a music? Yes, Mercedes is middle class. How does that help her to feel connected in a high school where there's no one else who looks like her? In Britain, I think class, as documented by accent, outweighs skin color, but, culturally, in the US, race is the identifier.

I don't feel I can talk about this at TWoP. I may not have the right to speak up on this one. I like the boards and much of the community I've found there, but the level of privilege these people are assuming is just putting me into perma-cringe.
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Confederate Month?!? Really?

Look, my great-great-grandfather (I think that's right, my dad's great-grandfather) joined the Confederate Army at the age of 16 to participate as a defender at the siege of Richmond. I think it's correct for the Confederate flag to fly over Confederate military graveyards. Nowhere else, ever.

But to commemorate the Confederacy sends the wrong message. No. It sends the right message. The message it's sending is that the Commonwealth of Virginia -- the cradle of Democracy in the United States -- no longer cares about being part of the larger society. It's sending the message that they are so appalled by gay rights, a black man in the Oval Office, or the promulgation of evolution that they would rather commemorate the most shameful decision of their past (and remember, Virginia was the final state to join the Confederacy and the fight in the legislature was bitter) than be part of the modern world.
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So, several months ago [livejournal.com profile] jedifreac started the Racebending website and community. She's been posting about yellowface and why it's even worse than usual with The Last Airbender movie due to the original source material.

When an article went up, I posted a comment about the problems with the casting, and I was quoted in today's follow-up article. *G* Admittedly, they didn't use my handle, and I assume my quote was chosen because it was brief (or that they only read the first ten and mine was number three). Still, I feel like I've made a contribution.
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I think I'm finally accepted at my office.

I was talking to a manager when someone else poked his head in (acceptable in my office's culture). The manager said, "I can tell it's bad news. You're as pale as Fabi."

A little later in a meeting about our Federal reporting regulations, he said, "This is where we show our work to the massa... no offense meant, Fabi."

I just shrugged and said, "They're my massa too."
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The jobless rate among young, black men is 34.5%

Read the article.

I would love to make it a requirement that freshman Representatives and Senators be required to live in the District. Maybe then they could see the city.
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There's an article in today's Washington Post about poverty in the District of Columbia.

Every day, I am faced with the realities of it. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood, but one of the only ones that represents the District's approximately 60% (Black)- 40% (White) split. By the way those numbers are simplified a bit. Both percentages are slightly lower with about 4% of the District coming under the heading of "other" and the rest being Asian. I'm not reflecting Hispanic ethnicity because it crosses racial lines, and race is the defining factor around here.

Our overall unemployment rate is just barely higher than the national average. In my voting ward (6), we regularly hit the District average or within one or two tenths of a percent.

When you break the city down by wards, the realities become apparent. Wards 1 and 2 are predominantly white. Ward 1 is extremely affluent. I think you have to pay just to drive by some of the houses in that area. Its unemployment rate, was 1.5% in August. That's right, in a time of national crisis, when the overall unemployment rate was 9.7% for the District of Columbia, theirs was under 2%.

By contrast, Ward 8 -- Anacostia, Marion Barry's Ward for the City Council, had an unemployment rate of 25.7%. Anacostia is one of the rare areas that still reflects DC's racial divide from my childhood; it's 90% black.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been helping out in the local job offices. Of the three hundred people who came in to use the computers to file for unemployment (extended benefits can't be done on the phone), eleven admitted to me they were functionally illiterate. I'd say nearly ten percent were computer illiterate, which made filing for their benefits a hardship for them.

We're doing our best to keep the younger generation from illiteracy. I'm amazed at the number of people who've gone back to get their GEDs after dropping out of high school. People are interested in training and education.

I love my city. I'm really starting to hate the Federal government. At least two big projects have had their budgets denied by the Federal government, after approving them originally. In killing these construction projects, they cited the additional expense of making them LEED compliant. It's a way of getting at Mayor Fenty who wants all new buildings to meet or exceed current environmental standards. But Congress is also killing jobs for District residents. What do they care? Most of them live in Virginia. Or Ward 1.
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Race Fail 2009 and the current "yellowface" issues surrounding the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie have opened my eyes to assumptions. Living in DC has opened my eyes to assumptions.

My future was never white. I want that clear from the beginning. The first book I read that I identified as sci-fi (A Wrinkle in Time didn't count because I didn't think of it as science fiction. They traveled to another planet by tessering, and it never occured to me I was reading science fiction.) was Podkayne of Mars. Podkayne was clearly non-white. She and her grandfather used a Maori gesture with each other to indicate people they thought were stupid. I read the book now and cringe a bit at the sexism, though I know Heinlein was actually ahead of the game by having a female protagonist, but Podkayne was never white to me.

This is where growing up in greater DC comes in to play. The DC I currently live in is nearly 60% black with a population just under 600,000. The DC I went to when I lived in the suburbs as a kid was 90% black with a population of over 900,000. It was called Chocolate City for a reason. If I went to my mother's office, chances were good that every security person or policeman that I saw would be black. More than half of my mother's co-workers were black. The higher up the government chain of command you went, the more likely it was the person was male and white, but it was already beginning to change. Any time I thought about the future, it was a mixed future. In my head, I used terms like mixed and mulatto. I can define all the shades that my southern ancestors used derogatorily. But until I went to boarding school, it never occurred to me to think in terms of race.

Class was an issue, but my mother, for all her prejudices made it clear that race wasn't. If I married the son of a black officer, it would be a little odd, but fine. If I married the son of a white enlisted man, I would be shunned. (Sadly, sometime after returning to the US in the early 1980s, Mom drifted into an easy racism that truly surprises me. My sister occasionally picks up on it. Sis, I can call on it. Mom I can't. Dad does though. Considering Dad's the one who grew up in the segregated South, it's funny that his example is the one I follow.)

At my very first mixer, I danced with a guy from the Middle East and got teased about it. At my second high school mixer, I danced with a black boy from another boarding school. During study hall the following Monday, a couple of the upper classmen threatened me with bodily harm if I ever did it again. I was enough of a coward that I stopped going to mixers. I didn't stop hanging out with my friends, though, and many of them were black. That probably sounds like the old liberal, "but some of my best friends..." racist excuse. I didn't realize that black students had only been accepted four years before I started there. I just knew that these girls accepted me for who I was without trying to put me in a compartment. That was more than I could say for the majority of girls. The first Jewish girl at the school started the same year I did. For me to be able to hang out with the students I liked was a big thing then.

But the future was going to be better than that. In the future, it wasn't that we were colorblind, it was that color didn't matter. The differences would be celebrated and acknowledged, but they wouldn't kill someone's chance at a career. Uhura's earrings made that point for me. She wore distinctive earrings, and, when we see her cabin in Elaan of Troyius, there are African art works shown. Uhura was cool. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I just knew I wouldn't have the tan.

Tonight was the eighth grade graduation for the kids in the program I mentor with. The Secretary of Education gave a nice little speech (and is tall enough to confirm my suspicions that Obama wants to change the sport of official Washington from slo-pitch softball to basketball). One statistic he quoted that stayed with me: 66% of the eighth graders in Detroit drop out of high school. It's chilling to me.

There were no white faces among the graduates. These kids feel like they are on a path toward a brighter future. But when I give them a science fiction book, I want them to see the world, not just this one, as a place where anything can happen.

I gave my students (fifth graders) the books that [livejournal.com profile] revenantrose was generous enough to help me purchase. Three of them were science fiction books and one of them deals specifically with the entitlement the British felt to cultures they thought were uncivilized. (Nation by Terry Pratchett which is technically a sci-fi fantasy book even though it's more of a riff on colonialism and Robinson Crusoe types of stories.)

How dare publishers and movie producers think that a protagonist needs to be shown as white to be "universal"?

The one friend I've had since high school works four blocks from where I live. She won't walk to my apartment building because it's not a good part of town. What she means is, by crossing under 395, she goes from Washington to DC, from a place where she sees primarily light faces to an area where she sees mostly dark ones. It saddens me.

I love my city. I want the future that I see when I read science fiction. Hell, I want the past that I see when I watch I,Spy on Hulu. I sure as hell don't want Jesse McCartney playing an Asian lead.

What I want is a future where we go to Mars or Mirabile and everyone who has a skill or an education can find their way into the deeps of space. I want the kids of Detroit to read science fiction and choose to stay in school so they can go into "Space, the final frontier."


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