Sunday, March 30, 2008

Addressing the Issue of my Middle Name, Part II

About a month ago, I addressed the issue of my middle name (here). Since that time, someone has posted a response asking if perhaps "Kaye" is French, as in "que." Here was my reply:

Sigh. I'm sorry you apparently received that email. We see such smear efforts time and time again, my New Orleans roots met with cries of "Frenchie" much like the stories of Senator Obama's having attended a school in Indonesia and being Moslem. Some think the "Frenchie" issue may have been part of the reason for our neglect during Katrina - that, plus the fact that we have lots of poor and black folks who don't vote Republican. As is usually the case with such rumor and innuendo, there is a kernal of truth but it is presented in the worst possible light.

The fact is that, yes, while I am a product of a mixed marriage between a New Orleans woman and a young man visiting from the relatively underdeveloped part of the north American continent known as Mississippi, here in search of an education so he could improve his station in life, my family has not really even spoken French in three generations. Although New Orleanians take pride in their French ancestry, many Louisianians of French descent have served nobly in the War of 1812, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars, proving themselves as willing to offer themselves up in America's armed conflicts as any other true patriots. My grandfather belongs to a New Orleans VFW post (yes, we can - and do - have them), and, all rumors to the contrary, he does indeed salute the American flag (in that one photo, he was just distracted by a mosquito bite, which is also part of our culture). Flag wielding honor guards even lead Mardi Gras parades, although I do denounce the periodic efforts to undermine our Katrina recovery through the selective leaking to the news media of locals in their Mardi Gras garb (it is a proud tradition, to be sure, and one we embrace, but we question the way such photos - ones that might look silly to those in the heartland - are circulated, and we really want to know who is sending them to Matt Drudge). In modern NOLA, we even have McDonald's, WalMart, and Starbucks now right alongside our po-boy joints, Rousse's, and CCs, inspiring real multicultural pride with which all Americans, red-staters and blue-staters, can be comfortable.

To return to your original question, Glinda, I think my mother went along with "Kaye" out of a desire to honor my father's anglo-Mississippi heritage and that her own French roots were just not as big an issue. It's hard to be sure what my father thought, as he left us when I was young and returned to his native land of rural Mississippi, where he is now buried, so we can't get a definitive statement from him on this issue.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New Orleans Museum of Art - "You Can't Handle the Truth"

From June 28 to September 21, 2008, the New Orleans Museum of Art will exhibit works by Columbian artist Fernando Botero (at Artnet, at Artcyclopedia).

There is one series of his art, however, that you won't see at NOMA. You won't see it at any American museum.


Well, when Botero read about American soldiers' abuse of prisoners at abu Ghraib, he immediately began sketching out what he was reading about - right there during his cross-country flight. That effort led to Botero's creation of more than 50 graphic paintings of the events described in Seymour Hersh's New York Times expose.

Although a few American galleries have shown this collection, no American museum will do so.

Here is Fernando Botero's youtube video of what NOMA won't show you.

Americans are so often told that we are the freest country on earth. If, however, you've lived abroad for a few years, you quickly discovered the other news, the stuff our media won't tell us. It turns out there is "other" art too. And you won't find it at NOMA.

I Interrupt This Blog to Announce...

Big ovaries, baby!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2008 - Solidarity

released on February 14, 2008:

African-Americans to Conduct Citizens' Arrest in Louisiana of employer accused of modern-day slavery practices:

Today, a group of African Americans in Amite, Louisiana will stand in solidarity with about thirty Mexican farm workers who have faced an on-going situation of forced labor and indentured servitude, providing another example of temporary foreign workers enduring modern-day slavery in the US.

These men, originally from San Luis Potis, Mexico, are documented workers who came to this country on an H2A (agricultural) guest worker program. They paid recruiters in their homeland, were transported to Louisiana and delivered to a prominent farmer and storeowner whom they have been working for since September 2007. The delegation of African Americans, along with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), will conduct a citizen’s arrest of the yet to be identified local farmer and storeowner....

The group of African Americans conducting the citizen’s arrest will seek to arrest this tyrant and interrupt the slave-like conditions in the undisclosed town close to New Orleans. Organizers will demand the return of the workers’ passports and seek the intervention of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Department of Labor.

Louisiana has codified the citizen’s arrest, allowing private persons to conduct an arrest if they become aware of an ongoing felony.
Citizen’s arrests were popular in the reconstruction era, when many Southern governments encouraged white and black citizens to act as law enforcement to stop groups from committing atrocities. Local organizers, in voicing their disbelief, have said that the proprietor is not only operating without a permit, but has been sued before by workers alleging violation of the federal minimum wage law.

Now if working class and even middle class whites would connect the dots, we would truly be a force to be reckoned with, all of us - at long last. It's several centuries past time for working whites to realize that our common cause is to be found not with white elites by virtue of a shared trait as illusory as "whiteness," but rather with all workers by virtue of our survival depending on our ability to organize in resistance to exploitation by the megagroupthinkcorptocracy.

Viva la revolucion, my white brothers and sisters. Tim Wise wants St. Bernard residents to march over to the Ninth Ward in solidarity, then for all to march together on Baton Rouge and the headquarters of the Corps of Engineers and places beyond:

Today, I was in a small town and got hungry very suddenly (the old hypoglycemia), so I stopped at a Taco Bell. I hadn't eaten there in a long time. When I lived up North, I would eat their tacos once in a blue moon because I liked them at least better than fast food burgers, but the last few years, I made sure to stay away because of the boycott and hunger strike against them. The action was started because the suppliers of Taco Bell's tomatoes were keeping the immigrant farm workers in slavery conditions.

So, woo-hoo, the boycott has been over for more than a year, and today I ate two tacos there. So, um, what's with the bell near the door, with the sign that invites customers to "ring the bell" if they've enjoyed their meals? So, what are we, Pavlov's dogs now? They're training us to train ourselves to associate that ringing bell with cornmeal shells stuffed with mystery meat and cheap tomatoes picked by underpaid migrant laborers? And I couldn't believe it, but several people rang the damn bell on their way out the door. Have we no dignity left whatsoever? We're doing their advertising for them now, in front of the other customers?

Then, an employee went from table to table offering people a coupon for a free combo meal IF they immediately took out their cell phones and called Taco Bell headquarters to answer their customer service survey. People seemed so thrilled to get their combo meal freebie, which has a street value of, I believe, about $4. They took out their phones mid-meal, calling as the employee stood guard and made sure they completed the corporate bidding before she would hand over the golden ticket. It was the middle of the day - don't they pay for their weekday/daytime minutes? I do. Also, no one questioned for a second what they were being asked to do, why, and by whom. I mean, I wanted to know, for example, would those bastards have my cell number for telemarketing purposes after this (in many cases, accepting a free offer of any kind does indeed give telemarketers a legal "in" to annoy you unlimited times in the future - that's why you see those ads for free ringtones; what they want is to get your cell phone number into their telemarketing database). Would they be asking for my name or address?

Why aren't more people skeptical about this stuff? Recently, I went to a website that sells women's clothing, a very reputable company. I wanted to track some items - you know, haul them around in the virtual shopping cart for a bit - and to do that, I had to register. I, however, believe in evading and sabotaging the information gatherers whenever I can. After all, Wendell Berry said so:

Manifesto:The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection

To that end, I use made up names. Strangely enough, these alter egos of mine most often can be found at 555 Main Street (and they like the 90210 / Beverly Hills zip code). Every once in a while, I use my real name but with the wrong address, to throw them off in case they get close to pinning down the real me. Oh, and the woman who made my life hell at my previous job - I use her name for CVS cards, for Winn Dixie cards, all kinds of stuff. She's been places she doesn't even know she's been! Still, I figure, while I'm indulging my adolescent grudge I am also doing her a favor by confusing the information keepers about where she really is and what she's really buying - so, you know, it's a win-win.

Anyway, so back to the women's clothing company. On this occassion, I needed to give my real adddress - for some purpose that I can no longer remember - so I decided to name myself "Violet William" (there are Williams on the family tree, and I was kinda in a purple mood). Mind you, there was no reason for them to send me anything. Eight weeks later, I receive three women's clothing catalogues in the mail, all on the same day, all addressed to Violet William. And the first thing I thought was, "Who the hell is Violet William?" And then I realized, "Ooooh, right, one of my information-age alter-egos." And the second thing I thought was, "Those bastards sold my information to some database," and I was quite annoyed. Finally, however, I rememberd that the whole point of the consumer alter-ego is to try to keep the information gatherers off my trail, so, hey, let them try to compile their multi-source consumer profile of Violet William.

So, soon after having eaten at Taco Hell, I had to make a stop at Wal-Mart - NOT because I've lost the stomach for fighting the megagroupthinkcorptocracy but because my body was engaged in its own struggle post Taco Bell (TMI? Sorry, trying to give the context). This Wal-Mart was so rundown. The bathroom was all torn up, the stall doors scratched up and hanging crookedly. On the way past the makeup section, I saw a display for some cologne and on the display it said something like "That's why she's yours. Because you're the king."

We are such a nation of consumers. Consumers rather than citizens. I mean, someone offers a free coupon and people give up their right to privacy, since the data collectors are mining EVERY bit of information they can get on every one of us. You know what my brother-in-law's argument is in favor of the congressional telecom immunity law? "There is no point in lawsuits that award damages, because the corporation will just pass on the cost of the damages to me, their customer." Even if the guy is right and assuming a request for a rate hike from your phone company were immediately approved, it might be, what, thirty cents a month? A dollar? He can afford that; it won't mean his sweet babies will have to go to bed hungry. I was horrified by his point of view on this - his first thought is how will this affect me, the consumer rather than how will this affect me, citizen of the republic. Are your civil rights worth a dollar a month added to your phone bill, to make it clear to the telecomm companies that they are under no circumstances to cooperate with illegal government spying on citizens? This kind of consumer-think would preclude ANY corporate tort judgements, since, according to my brother-in-law, the corporations will just pass on the cost to him, so he doesn't want any judgements against big companies. Let Taco Bell enslave tomato pickers. Let the telecoms sell our private data. Let chemical companies pollute the groundwater. Let Wal-Mart engage in the most wide-spread sex discrimination yet documented. But no damages should be awarded, says the brother-in-law, because we consumers want our cheap shit as cheap as possible. No accountability please.

Meanwhile, back in the car, the only talk shows on the radio at the time were Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh. Nothing local. No signs of intelligent life coming through the airwaves. Limbaugh was bragging about the success of "Operation Chaos," which means voting for Hillary just to keep Democrats busy plucking each other's eyes out. Hateful bastards. I would never bother trying to screw up their primary - partly because it's just wrong and partly because I don't want ANY vote for a Republican on my soul when I die. They CAN NOT WIN THE BATTLE OF IDEAS and they know it, so they resort to distractions and dirty tricks.

Also in the car, I heard that a movie crew shut down the bridge so the city could serve as their Hollywood set and, as a result, there would be traffic jams. You know, finish filming, then come in and just tear the place down - it's all cardboard, right? New Orleans is the adult Disneyland, Hollywood South, JazzLand, GumboLand, yes ma'm, souvenire shop is up ahead to the left in what was once known in this neighborhood as Miss Riti's house.

I've been brewing this rant about tourism ever since Katrina and I think the brew will become a blog post very soon. Today I saw a book I REALLY want to get (next payday) called "Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy". I'd like to mix that author's academic insights with some of my own experiences and write about it. I'm pretty well fed up with putting the "New Orleans brand" out there for tourists. I mean, is this a city or a zoo? A home or a theme park? Let the tourists puke in their own backyards.

Viva la revolucion.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rape STILL Isn't Funny

Last December, a disturbing column appeared in the publication produced by engineering students at the University of Ottawa. The "advice" column included the following:

When asked about dealing with a messy roommate, the columnist advised the inquirer to “reach back like a pimp and smack that hoe [sic].” Another column suggested that ESS President André Sponder “is a cheap drunk with Rum and Coke,” and included a rundown of her weekly office hours.
The editor's response:

"I found that people took things out of context,” said Brunet. “I was aware that [the article] was a little bit pushing it, but it was our first time writing a paper. I had no guidelines to follow; I didn’t know what the line was [and] if we were crossing it or not.”
One might hold out hope that men as human beings will someday have guidelines of personal integrity telling them not to publish such things.

Said the coordinator of the Women's Resource Center:
“You kind of get a sinking feeling in your stomach,” she said. “We’re coming up on Dec. 6—this is the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre—which makes [the comments] especially inappropriate.”
You remember the massacre don't you?

Gamil's father had contempt for women and believed that they were only intended to serve men....

On December 6, 1989, Lépine walked into the École Polytechnique de Montréal. There, he entered a second-floor classroom where he separated the men and women and then ordered the approximately fifty men to leave. Claiming that he was fighting feminism, he shot the nine women who remained, killing six and injuring the rest. After this, Lépine moved to other areas of the building, including the cafeteria, corridors and another classroom. A total of fourteen women (twelve engineering students, one nursing student, and one university employee) were killed, and four men and ten women injured before Lépine turned the gun on himself.

A three-page letter (see below) was found in the pocket of his jacket....In his suicide letter, Lépine claimed political motives, blaming feminists for ruining his life. He considered himself rational and expressed admiration for Denis Lortie, who had mounted an attack on the Quebec National Assembly in 1984 for political reasons, killing three Quebec government employees. The letter also contained a list of nineteen Quebec women whom Lépine apparently wished to kill because of their feminism. more
The incident led to Canada's declaring December 6 each year a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Okay, so back in December, young mister editor claimed he hadn't known what the ground rules were (as far as publishing misogynist bullshit at an engineering school). Lesson learned? Let's see, a summary of what was published next:

After counselling men on the biological irrelevance of the female orgasm, the authors offer “tricks that will get her to think twice about finishing faster than a pedophile at a preschool.” They encourage, “jerking off on her after she’s finished: if she doesn’t get the message after the first or second time, she’ll sure get the message when you start aiming for the eyes.” Finally, they recommend anal sex in language that evokes rape. They say: “Don’t stop: Hey, if she’s screaming and moaning in pleasure, just keep thrusting harder and don’t let her get away…remember, you two aren’t finished until you say you are.”
Asked to comment, the vice-president of social affairs for the Engineering Student Society said:

“For myself, personally, I think some of the content in the paper is meant to be humorous,” he said. He added that engineers “have taken a lot of flak for being engineers,” and are often the subject of jokes about engineers rarely touching women or getting laid.

“I believe that when we take this sort of thing in stride and that sexual harassment, if we dish out a little bit of our own, who’s to say who’s more right?”
He, a dood, has taken some razzing for being an engineering type, so what's a little harassment of women? If you can't get laid, might as well hate women, cuz what else are they good for??? If you can't get laid and the other boys say you don't measure up, degrade women so they will recognize you as one of the men - because nothing says male bonding quite like woman hating. And rape's funny, right? And woman-hating, that's not dangerous to women engineering students, right, well, except for that one time in Montreal and all.

The school has shut down the paper for now.

via "The F-Word"

This reminds me of the Auto Admit case in which male law students targeted female students with such awful online commentary that the women, Yale law school grads, became unemployable.

This is what being a woman in law school or engineering school is like - in 2008. But we're all so post-feminist now.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Comments Policy

Some very disturbing readers' comments at a blog I frequently read prompt me to offer the following:

I blog mostly about New Orleans; antisexism activism and theory; antiracism activism and theory; and liberal/radical politics. Sometimes, I just write about being a mom and being me.

I very much appreciate visitors to my blog and welcome their comments on all subjects.

When it comes to racism and sexism though, I am really not interested in debate with people who deny that those things are institutionalized and ubiquitous. As I see it, we exist within social structures, and the social structures in our country are deeply informed by racism and sexism (and agism, ablism, and heterosexism too). Arguing with me about the existence of these things and their profound impact on individual lives would be like arguing with Neo about the existence of the matrix - because once you know, you know. Exchanges about these things are not going to change your mind or mine - and would not be productive for either of us.

My blog is not a free speech zone (I couldn't believe the men who swarmed the site I mentioned above, called her a bitch and a cunt and then insisted on their right to free speech! "What about my sacred right to abuse you...."). When it comes to racism and sexism, the purpose of my blog is to faciliate networking with other activists and theorists in these fields, and perhaps also to reach out to those who are somewhat interested in these subjects but still kind of on the fence. If you find that you profoundly disagree with me about something as rudimentary as racism or sexism being rampant in our country, your time would probably better be spent commenting at blogs hosted by people who share your worldview. I respectfully encourage you to have your free speech and activist networking in those places. There is room for lots of opinions in the world, but this blog comes from a particular perspective. I've heard all the arguments many times before about how the so-called tolerant are actually so intolerant because we won't entertain viewpoints that we see as sexist, racist, or homophobic. Whatever.

Yes, too many times I have seen viciously misogynist comments offered at feminist blogs. There are men who swarm women's blogs with threats of finding women bloggers in real life, cutting off their heads, "grudgeraping" them, even kidnapping their children because feminist bitches must be bad mothers - just horrible, monstrous, crazy stuff (more about attacks on women's blogs here).

I'm also on to the whole "concern trolling" thing that so often shows up in the comments at feminist blogs. Too many times, I've seen these comments derail conversations. The poster pretends to be interested in debate, but really intends to silence women (or - even if that wasn't the intention - that is the effect).

So, I'm setting up rules for comments. When the subject is racism or sexism and if I think someone is just playing games or wasting my time, the submission will be deleted with no comment from me (I know that attention is the mother's milk of trolldom; you won't get that here, ever).

If you have GENUINE questions about racism, sexism, or homophobia, and you are white, male, and/or straight, the best way to start becoming an ally is to begin by educating yourself rather than asking a woman or a person of color to take time from their own work to debate you. Please understand that members of minority groups have lots of work to do when it comes to protecting and healing their own communities. If you really want to delve further into these subjects and want to become an ally, the best way to start is by spending time educating yourself rather than asking someone else to explain the basics; please recognize that this work is not and can not be focused on you. There is so much great educational material out there, and if you are genuinely concerned and are not just a concern troll, you will indeed educate yourself.

On the subject of racism, here are some great sites for white people to begin examining race and race privilege:

For White Folks: How to Become an Ally

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Tim Wise's "White Like Me"

On sexism, here are some sites for beginners:

Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog

XY: Men, Masculinities, and Gender Politics - an especially good resource for male allies

How Not to be an Asshole

Anti-Feminist Bingo

Anti-Feminist Bingo 2

Another note: any comments offered that can already be found on Anti-Feminist Bingo or Anti-Feminist Bingo 2 will be deleted without reply. The reason those things are ON those bingo cards is because what you're saying is so unoriginal and predictable.

Also, women bloggers may find Blogging Feminism: (Web)Sites of Resistance a supportive resource.

One final point: This blog is also 100% anti-porn. I used to be one of the sex positive, "fun feminists," and a lot of horrible, painful stuff in my own life, leading to my SO being in treatment for sexual addiction - together with the brilliant analysis of so many radical feminists - changed my mind. I won't post a pornography apologia of any sort. The pro-porn position utterly dominates in our culture now. Ads on city streets are pornified. Television is pornified. Highway signs promise "adult entertainment" just off the next exit. Women who publicly challenge pornography consumption have their names (and in one famous case, a private email to a peace rally organizer in which the woman questioned the event's being partially underwritten by Flynt publishing) sent to Larry Flynt, who uses his mass-distributed publications to viciously attack them with photos and cartoons of them dismembered, bound, raped in every orifice. These days, "we're oh-so enlightened about sex now" academic panels on pornography usually don't include any members who bring a critical feminist analysis. Women's Studies departments have been taken over by the sex-pos cool kids, so that anti-porn feminist academics are having difficulty getting hired and getting published. In fact, "feminist" journals these days won't even accept porn-critical articles (they also ask would-be authors not to use the word "patriarchy" - WTF? When did we sell out to the rest of the academy, and how much did we get paid?). So, this blog is my own space; pro-porn arguments, which dominate everywhere else, are not allowed on anti-porn blogs like mine. It's where women - and male allies - against porn can safely speak our minds; they are precious few such spaces. I hope you will check out the many anti-pornography links on my blog; there are many thoughtful, bright people out there eloquently explaining exactly how pornography is not good for us - men, women, or children. If you disagree, that's fine, but just realize pro-porn comments will be deleted without publication.

Thanks again for visiting my blog.

What Even Schoolchildren Know

Even schoolchildren know - the best all-purpose insults involve calling someone homosexual or female.

A study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that the top insult in UK schools is "gay," with 83% of teachers reporting hearing it. The others were Bitch (59%), Slag (45%), Poof (29%), Batty boy (29%), Slut (26%), Queer (26%), Lezzie (24.8%), Homo (22%), Faggot (11%), and Sissy (5%).

So the insults go to gays, women, women, gays, gays, women, gays, gay women, gays, gays, and feminine gays.

I'm noticing a trend.

Of course, the misogynist slurs (bitch, slag, slut) center around women who don't conform to sexual puritanism. The common thread between all of these is that it's an insult to be penetrated or to be accused of liking to be penetrated.

Volumes can and have been written about our culture's anxiety around penetration and hatred of anyone perceived as enjoying it. What's particularly interesting here is that nothing else made the list - not "stupid" or "dumb" or racial slurs. (study)

via "The F-Word again

The Fuzzy Math of Racism and Sexism in Recruiting

What does putting the focus on recruiting minorities - into a firefighting service that is over 95% white male - add up to in the minds of the dominant majority? Discrimination!!! That's right. White males are already 95% of this profession, yet taking the focus off of them, just for a couple of days, is "discrimination."

Got that?

Let's do the math.

training session 1 - ethnic minorities only +
training session 2 - women only +
training sessions 3 and 4 - women and ethnic minorities +
training session 5: everyone, including white males
= total new recruits -
already existing total force of over 95% white and male

Note this was not even an example of affirmation action (which apparently is called "positive discrimination" in England). Nope, this strictly had to do with who attended the recruiting drives. Once the sessions were over, there were no promises made about who would get hired.


Hysteria ensues. Cries of "discrimination" reverberate through the chambers of the British Parliament.

And one writer offers the following in a letter to the Daily Mail:
As I watch my blond, curly haired, toddler grandson I feel sad that his genes, and mine, will dissapear but it is inevitable unless we take a stand and demand England for our own.
Yep. A couple of days of targeted minority recruitment = the end of the Aryan race.

Fuzzy math indeed.

via "The F-Word"

Tennessee Williams Fest - STEEEEELLLLLLAAA

Tennessee Williams Festival

(lightening up from yesterday's post!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Back during the South Carolina primary, Bill Clinton tried to marginalize Barack Obama by comparing the latter's victory in that state to Jesse Jackson's decades before.

Most white Americans can not stand Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I'm sure about this because I'm around white people a lot, what with being white and all. Bill Clinton's putting Obama's name out there with Jackson's was calculated - and despicable.

Bill Clinton is a sharp pol. From what I've read, even direct quotes over the years, the man can calculate electoral percentages quicker than you or I can figure up how much to tip a waitress (Catholics plus X percent of Protestants on this issue, X percent of red state support on that issue). He knows the different demographics and how they will break around various issues. He knows these as well as he knows the insides of his own eyelids. I am certain of it.

Bill Clinton knows the demographics - and he knows how to split them too. For instance, remember his infamous Sister Soulja moment? As recently as 2004, he was, we now know, still up to his old tricks:
Clinton Advice Spurned. Looking for a way to pick up swing voters in the Red States, former President Bill Clinton, in a phone call with (John) Kerry, urged the Senator to back local bans on gay marriage. Kerry respectfully listened, then told his aides, "I'm not going to ever do that." (Pam's House Blend).
So, Clinton knows how to split different demographics for political advantage (right - and my next insightful post will be on the imporant topic of "the world is indeed round"). He is willing to throw minority groups under the bus if he sees a potential electoral advantage to doing so.

After spending my Katrina evacuation in Little Rock (which we chose so we could tour Clinton's presidential beats Houston!), I decided to take a detour through Bill Clinton's boyhood home of Hope, touring some of the sites linked to the childhood of the former president.

Truth be told, there wasn't that much to see. There was Clinton's mother's home, his grandparents' home. There was the Blythe/Kelly/Clinton cemetery plot, an unremarkable looking school he attended (long since converted to another purpose). Finally, there was a little train depot that functioned as a museum.

That was it.

Still, I am so glad I took that detour. It was deeply moving, not because any of the designated sites of interest were in any way remarkable, but precisely because none of it was remarkable. As a southerner, once I'd walked around in Hope, Arkansas, I felt I understood some things about our nation's forty-second president. The southerness of the place was palpable. It looked quaint and tidy in places, shabby and unkempt in others. There was no large-scale commerce, no industry. There was poverty. And, to this New Orleans girl, the racial mix of the residents looked like that in my hometown (indeed, census figures show that the town is about 42% white and about 42% black).

From this place came Bill Clinton, this humble place, a president born of working people. I admit that tears came to my eyes because for all that I bitch about what's wrong with my country and engage in activism against the status quo, there is, truly, something right about a country in which a white man so humbly born can become president. (I know, I know. Radical critics are supposed to hate America, right? Well, actually, as Dr. King said, "I criticize America because I love her. I want her to stand as a shining moral example to the world."* No, I'm not an America hater, no matter what my brother-in-law says about me. In truth, I'm a woman whose idea of a great vacation is to go to Washington, D.C, to wander the grounds of Mount Vernon giving thanks for the light rain shower so that no one will notice that I'm crying, to visit the Library of Congress and find that I have to locate a bench on which to rest because standing just on the other side of the glass from Thomas Jefferson's beloved book collection has literally made me lightheaded. I confess to all of that even though, in the context of the rest of this essay, said confession puts me firmly in the camp of white American nationalists I'll be criticizing a few paragraphs hence - just one of the many paradoxes inherent in trying to do antiracism work when you're white like me. Please forgive me my absurdity while I flirt with radical honesty. As Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.")

In this place called Hope, Clinton has oft told us, his grandfather taught him to reject the racism that was as much an ordinary part of life for whites as were warm, ripe tomatoes and oversized, iced watermelons. Clinton's grandfather taught him by example to do business with local blacks the same as he did with whites, a habit quite different from other white shopkeepers of the day.

So, I've been to Bill Clinton's hometown. I know he and I share the same roots, roots in a beloved, schizophrenic South - a South of sweet tea and relic slave shacks, of casserole-bearing funeral attendees and still-segregated churches, a South of unfailing manners as well as fierce racism both personal and institutionalized (I've lived up North and out West too, and white people there need not check their mental compasses for due South when they think about racism).

And so I've seen where Bill Clinton grew up. And I know. I know that Bill Clinton knew exactly what he was doing when he made that comparison of Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson. He knew, and for personal gain for himself and his, he was willing to fan those racist flames, always there, always hot, always bright - and denied by whites even if maintaining that denial requires us to stay in our skivvies and wander blindfolded while denying the existence of the fire.

Oh, he knew.

And it isn't just that Clinton compared Obama to Jackson, Jackson is someone most whites don't like, therefore the association could hurt Obama. It is that, but it's also more.

Hearing about what's happening with Obama's polling numbers beginning to decline now that lots of oh-so inculpable white people have seen film of Obama's pastor speaking his truth, I was thinking today that about how this process, this process of making Obama black enough to make whites consciously uncomfortable, began with Bill Clinton's comment in South Carolina. Now, I'm sure someone - a bunch of someones - would have eventually begun doing that anyway. So this thought came to me: they intended to morph him into "the angry black preacher," to link Obama in the minds of white voters to Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton. It ended up being Reverend Jeremiah Wright instead.

Mission accomplished. Heckuva job, Billy.

And it's no coincidence that in order to morph Obama into those two "angry" black preachers so dreaded by whites, they went through....Obama's preacher.

That was the only way white culture, really, could finally go after Obama.

You see, most white people - and I am a white person - don't know black people. Sometimes, it's overtly racist whites who don't want to know black people. Sometimes, we move to the suburbs, shop at Whole Foods, vote for Democrats, and tell ourselves we just don't have that much opportunity for interracial interaction, but that if we did, you know, we're sure we would be "good" white people who are culturally colorblind. After all, in our reality, race isn't a problem, ergo racism isn't a problem in America.

And even if we know some black people, we don't know black people. How can we, running around the racist bonfire I described above, stripped down to our skivvies and blindfolded so we can deny the heat and the light that are right there? Blindfolded is no way to see. So we don't see.

And when we, blindfolded, hear someone like Jeremiah Wright, ranting apparent madness out there in the beyond, we are shocked. We are appalled. We are angry. We can't imagine why they are being so racist!**

Why don't we know black people? Simply because, to borrow from the boorish Jack Nicholson, we can't handle the truth.

I'll borrow from someone far wiser than I to explain further (his name actually is Tim Wise, but that actually isn't why I consider him a wiseman):

What Jeremiah Wright knows, and told his flock--though make no mistake, they already knew it--is that 9/11 was neither the first, nor worst act of terrorism on American soil. The history of this nation for folks of color, was for generations, nothing less than an intergenerational hate crime, one in which 9/11s were woven into the fabric of everyday life: hundreds of thousands of the enslaved who died from the conditions of their bondage; thousands more who were lynched (as many as 10,000 in the first few years after the Civil War, according to testimony in the Congressional Record at the time); millions of indigenous persons wiped off the face of the Earth. No, to some, the horror of 9/11 was not new. To some it was not on that day that "everything changed." To some, everything changed four hundred years ago, when that first ship landed at what would become Jamestown. To some, everything changed when their ancestors were forced into the hulls of slave ships at Goree Island and brought to a strange land as chattel. To some, everything changed when they were run out of Northern Mexico, only to watch it become the Southwest United States, thanks to a war of annihilation initiated by the U.S. government. To some, being on the receiving end of terrorism has been a way of life. Until recently it was absolutely normal in fact.

But white folks have a hard time hearing these simple truths. We find it almost impossible to listen to an alternative version of reality. Indeed, what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it. We are, in fact, shocked that this should be so, having come to believe, apparently, that the falsehoods to which we cling like a kidney patient clings to a dialysis machine, are equally shared by our darker-skinned compatriots....

Whites are easily shocked by what we see and hear from Pastor Wright and Trinity Church, because what we see and hear so thoroughly challenges our understanding of who we are as a nation. But black people have never, for the most part, believed in the imagery of the "shining city on a hill," for they have never had the option of looking at their nation and ignoring the mountain-sized warts still dotting its face when it comes to race. Black people do not, in the main, get misty eyed at the sight of the flag the way white people do--and this is true even for millions of black veterans--for they understand that the nation for whom that flag waves is still not fully committed to their own equality. They have a harder time singing those tunes that white people seem so eager to belt out, like "God Bless America," for they know that whites sang those words loudly and proudly even as they were enforcing Jim Crow segregation, rioting against blacks who dared move into previously white neighborhoods, throwing rocks at Dr. King and then cheering, as so many did, when they heard the news that he had been assassinated.

Whites refuse to remember (or perhaps have never learned) that which black folks cannot afford to forget. I've seen white people stunned to the point of paralysis when they learn the truth about lynchings in this country--when they discover that such events were not just a couple of good old boys with a truck and a rope hauling some black guy out to the tree, hanging him, and letting him swing there. They were never told the truth: that lynchings were often community events, advertised in papers as "Negro Barbecues," involving hundreds or even thousands of whites, who would join in the fun, eat chicken salad and drink sweet tea, all while the black victims of their depravity were being hung, then shot, then burned, and then having their body parts cut off, to be handed out to onlookers. They are stunned to learn that postcards of the events were traded as souvenirs, and that very few whites, including members of their own families did or said anything to stop it.

Rather than knowing about and confronting the ugliness of our past, whites take steps to excise the less flattering aspects of our history so that we need not be bothered with them. So, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, site of an orgy of violence against the black community in 1921, city officials literally went into the town library and removed all reference to the mass killings in the Greenwood district from the papers with a razor blade--an excising of truth and an assault on memory that would remain unchanged for over seventy years.

Most white people desire, or perhaps even require the propagation of lies when it comes to our history. Surely we prefer the lies to anything resembling, even remotely, the truth. Our version of history, of our national past, simply cannot allow for the intrusion of fact into a worldview so thoroughly identified with fiction. But that white version of America is not only extraordinarily incomplete, in that it so favors the white experience to the exclusion of others; it is more than that; it is actually a slap in the face to people of color, a re-injury, a reminder that they are essentially irrelevant, their concerns trivial, their lives unworthy of being taken seriously. (please for the love of god please read the rest of this***)

So, there it is. We don't know black people and Tim Wise has explained why we don't.

And what happens when we don't know or know them? Well, apparently the best we can do is to rely on what we've seen.

What have we seen? Well, each of us has been provided through American culture with a rather limited range of black archetypes. There is what Spike Lee calls "the magical negro, there is "Mammy" (yep, still), there is "the driver" a la Morgan Freeman in "Driving Miss Daisy" - those are the classic archetypes.****

In addition to archetypes, whites commonly hold stereotypes of blacks and despite our being supposedly oh-so postracial, surveys show the list hasn't change much in the last sixty years.

In 1933, the top ten stereotypes of blacks were "superstitious, lazy/slovenly, happy-go-lucky, ignorant, musical, ostentatious, very religious, physically dirty, naive and unreliable."

In 1995, the top ten were "athletic, rhythmic/musical, unintelligent/ignorant/stupid, poor, loud, criminal, hostile, very religious, disloyal to family, and physically dirty." (source)

So I submit that whites individually, mainstream culture, and the media have been struggling to find a category - an archetype or stereotype, something for heaven's sake, it's all so disorienting - a hole into which we whites could peg Barack Obama because, once again, we rely on racist cultural shorthand since we don't really know black people (and we really can't recognize that we don't know because the whole system of white privilege is so invisible to us).

For months, Barack Obama was broadcasting to white America as an individual (well, who doesn't, really) and seemed to be being received as such. He wasn't Mammy (or, to be gender precise, Uncle Peter), the driver, Sambo, "the magical negro" (although some have attempted to link him to the latter). He is clearly not, to return to the list of top ten stereotypes, unintelligent/ignorant/stupid, poor, loud, criminal, hostile, disloyal to family, or physically dirty.

He is athletic, and the media has treated us to a number of "Barack plays basketball" stories, but I think white voters were also seeing in those stories the Obama who is competitive and a fighter, who is focused, who is young and vigorous (although I heard some time back that, should he be the nominee, Republicans will run campaign ads that show him playing basketball).

He did joke during one of the debates about his dancing abilities versus Bill Clinton's, and he also danced on the Ellen show.

I offer these last two items with tongue-in-cheek. The point is that I believe whites and our media have been working down a list of "black people we think we know" to try to know Obama.

One item remains on the list of top ten stereotypes - it's "extremely religious." Somehow, the (white) public has very quickly begun morphing Obama into his minister (even as the Clintons previously tried with Reverend Jesse Jackson). And if the (white) public can successfully do that, can think "angry black minister" when they think of Obama, then we will have finally, after these long months of bumbling around, found one of our holes into which he can be fitted. "Angry black minister." Then maybe Obama too is "angry." And then maybe he hates us. In fact, maybe he can't be trusted; maybe he's acting nice around us and hating us behind our backs and plotting against us (these were the big fears during slavery, obviously, and I think we still fear these things today). AND, Hillary is here to explain to us that he isn't even qualified for the job he seeks - she will give that much to the likes of John McCain, experienced political whore in more ways than I care to list at the moment, and not to Barack Obama. I notice too that the red phone ad has lots of racist fearmongering potential - nighttime, white kids sleeping sweetly all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads - virtuous white women of America, can you entrust this man with your precious children? (NY Times noticed too).

THERE! I think that'll do it. Yep, he's finally fitting in that hole! Whew, what a relief, my white brothers and sisters. Life as we understand it can now continue! We now return to your regularly scheduled oblivion.

Enjoy your recession. Buy a bikini to celebrate global warming. Keep those kids safe and send them to America's fine institutions of learning; McCain says we'll be needing them in Iraq years from now. Keep a month's supply of, well, everything in case there is a levee breach near you (yeah, you, non-Louisianians, I AM talking to you too; check out the links). Stock up on the duct tape because it looks like for the indefinite future they will be hating us for freedoms (apparently "they" haven't heard that our freedoms ain't what they used to be).

Submission accomplished. Barack who?


* Tim Wise's essays don't seem to have individual URLs, so I can't link to them directly. All I can get is the URL to his homepage. From there, click on "essays" and then "A Dream Distorted: Reflections on the Hijacking of Martin Luther King Jr."

** from the link, click on "essays" and then "Another Batch of White Whine:
Obama, Black Voters and the Myth of Reverse Racism"

*** from the link, click on "essays" and then "Of National Lies and Racial Amnesia:
Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the Audacity of Truth"

**** It occurs to me that in each of those examples, African-Americans are defined strictly according to their utility to white people - mammy, driver, "magic negro." This is also the case with female archetypes - wife (in relationship with a man), mother (in relation to a child), virgin (not yet penetrated by man), slut/whore (penetrated by too many men), femme fatale (man can't resist), damsel in distress (needs protection from or rescue by a man), and so on. This tendency toward what I'm calling for the moment the archetype-in-relation illustrates the extent to which women and people of color are still viewed through the lens of the dominant culture (women as seen by men, people of color as seen by whites).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gay Scientists Isolate the Christian Gene


Hat tip The F Word.

The other day this New Orleans talk radio program did a whole show on Obama's pastor and some of McCain's buddies (Haggee?) and about what people thought. So, on the topic of some people's religious views, this woman called in and said that in the aftermath of Katrina, she worked sorting food donations that were coming in from around the country. The donors apparently didn't realize that the food bank would break packages down into the smallest possible units (I guess to get widest possible distribution). Time and time again, when this woman opened the packages, she found that people had tucked notes inside their food donations, notes telling the already devastated recipient that Katrina was the wrath of god visited upon a sinful people.

I really do hope those gay scientists, now that they've isolated the gene, can find the cure.

(with apologies to any REAL Christians out there; I get so frustrated with the other kind)

An Email Conversation - Contrary Teens

First, my sister passed on the following email from my thirteen year old niece (if this part makes your eyes cross, don't feel bad, just skim it; in fact, I recommend just skimming it).

I had a heated debate with Mom and Dad a few weeks ago about the ethics of robotics (I'm not sure if you remember it, Mom and Dad, but it sure got me

I still don't get why so many people are afraid of the advancement of robotics. Why are people unafraid of computers to the point of not even giving supercomputers a second glance(supercomputers, mind you, that can calculate PI to thousands of places, and can easily defeat the worlds leading chessmasters in the game.), but the thought of Honda's ASIMO humanoid robot terrifies them? Why the bias? One is not any more of a threat than another.

This gave me an idea. You all have heard of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics(If you feel like you don't know enough about them, see this- Though these three laws are mainly just a plot device used in Asimov's robot series, they can be progammed into today's robots. (I will try not to go too technical with this explanation). Have you heard of HARDWARE(not tools like you see at home depot ;) ) and SOFTWARE? You probably have heard of software. That's the sort of thing Microsoft makes. It adds programs to an already existing basic set of programs. The already existing set of programs are very hard to alter or delete, but the software can be changed quite easily. Hardware is the physical representation of the technology(http: Think circuit boards and wires. Things programmed into hardware are designed to not be changed. Thethings can be, but really they're the sort of things you need to leave for the computer to work as desired. It could work so that you could create a non-removable chip (like the CPU of most computers)that had ethics closely resembling the three laws, right next to the CPU. Or, it could be stored as a non-deletable .EXE(or similar file extension) file as the permanent memory of the robot. A wide variety of options are availabe to give an adavnced robot the desired ethics programming, and we can> limit A.I. to allow the enough freedom so that they don't need humans to tell them everything, but they don't put thier own personal twist on thier ethics programing(as seen in the movie I,robot.). It is possible. Robots can be advanced, and with the bonus of thier being little to no risk of the robot breaking the oh-so-important first law of robotics-or even the "0th law"-a robot cannot harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come into harm. All that is limiting this from happening is humanity's unwillingness to accept that this can work, and humanity's unwillingness to give potential builders enough funding to do so.

There is one last quote I want to include form the wikipedia link I included on the three laws. this quote comes from an essay written by Isaac Asimov. "Robots are very similar to tools. The three laws cna be changed just a little and they can fit a tool's laws. 1. A tool must be safe to use. (knives have handles, swords have hilts, and grenades have pins.) 2. A tool must perform it's function correctly unless this would harm the user. 3. A tool must remain intact during it's duration unless it's destruction is required for it's use or for safety."

Think about it...
Love, A
"Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is
to find out if the polls were right?"

My reply to my sister:

How did you manage to raise a kid like this in this culture? Somehow I, radical feminist that I am, have raised a girl who wants to be a model. Help me before I finally off myself.

My cousin's reply:

Of course she wants to be a model BECAUSE you are a radical feminist! When I was that age, I said/wanted/did any and everything that contradicted my mother. She was so uncool! Happily, she is much cooler through the eyes of my adult self!

Thank heaven for wise women! Instead of seeing teenaged rebellion, I was assuming failure as a parent. Sigh.

Monday, March 17, 2008


So, I went to Mississippi to canvass voters last week. This is what I saw on the way into Natchez.

It's a restaurant called Mammy's Cupboard.

And, shockers, I know, but not only are we not postracial, we're also not postpatriarchal either. I spent two whole days, walking mile after mile, knocking on doors and handing out leaflets, and I got sexually harassed the whole time. Men whistling, yelling, honking their horns (my previous street harassment post about living while female is here).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Calling Brothers and Sisters of the Diaspora - COME HOME

And my mom too...


Eve Ensler gets it! Ensler in New Orleans:

Yesterday I did a blog post about the Mardi Gras Indians.

Today, paying homage to a Southern goddess:

(hat tip Katrina Film)

Also this month is a series of Irish, Italian, Irish-Italian, and Irish-Italian-Islenos parades and masses in honor of St. Patrick's and St.Joseph's days (lots more at Time Pic)

Finally, this week is also time for the St. Joseph's alters around the city (partial lists here and here, with a good explanation of the tradition at that second link).

For my friends from around the country, here are some photos of what St. Joseph's alters may look like.

And, of course, no New Orleans-related blog entry of mine is ever complete without a finger flip to those who want the city to just die.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite (Louisiana) Things

First, I just want to say that I've worked out the issue about the other person in my house knowing where my blog is. I talked to him about this, made it clear that my blog has kind of also become my journal (my fault for showing it to him when it was just political rants & blog round-ups). I told him that he has his 12-step program journals in the house, and that I've never cheated by reading any of them. Then I found out how use the blog stats thing so that I can always sign on and be sure the last time anyone here went to my blog, it was ME - and I told him I would be checking from now on too!

Thanks for the supportive comment.

And now, on to some of my favorite (Louisiana) things.

Thanks, Katrina explains how we can be tourists in our own backyard.

This weekend is Super Sunday, which involves the Mardi Gras Indians. The Mardi Gras Indian tradition grew out of the respect and affection African-Americans had for native-Americans, who often harbored escaped slaves. The traditions involved are unique, fascinating, and very complex - and way beyond my ability to explain here, so instead I will provide a link.

This video is offered as a f**k you to the "just let New Orleans die" crowd - and a polite rebuke to the otherwise fabulous Barbara Ehrenreich, who wouldn't include New Orleans in her book on celebrations of joy in the streets because she said Mardi Gras is too commercialized and because she has apparently seen one too many ads for "Girls Gone Wild: Mardi Gras edition." Here you are, Barbara! Come see for yourself!

This video is of two tribes of the Mardi Gras Indians doing "battle." In the old days, actual fights broke out and scores from other times during the year were settled. In modern times, this is how the chiefs do battle. Ultimately, one chief will bow to the one who is "the prettiest."

If you're interested in this, go to the original of the video above at youtube and there is a link to a New Yorker article. Also, try a search for "Mardi Gras Indians" at youtube.

I'm sort of working the event on Sunday. I am volunteering to be a legal observer for the ACLU, observing and then noting what happens between attendees and the police (more at LaACLU).

I did this kind of volunteering once before, when I was a first year law student and member of the National Lawyers Guild (I went to type that last night and it came out "National Lawyers Guilt - how Freudian!). Anyway, that was when friends at the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane held this protest in which they sat down on the highway outside of the Air Force base. At the time, I was so amazed by how professonal and polite the many police and military and riot control units present were. Now that the ACLU has used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain our FBI files (the law students referenced on page 12 would include moi), it is abundantly clear why law enforcement were SOO nice. Anyway, so I am going to do that for Super Sunday.

Next, my favorite author in the world, James Lee Burke, gives an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald. (sigh)

NEW ORLEANS isn't just a place for bestselling crime writer James Lee Burke. Nobody could describe it - the good and the bad - the way he does without a deep well of affection. Love even: "You woke in the morning to the smell of gardenias, the electric smell of the streetcars, chicory coffee and stone that has turned green with lichen. The light was always filtered through trees, so it was never harsh, and flowers bloomed year-round."

That's a blues musician talking, a character from Jesus Out To Sea, one of Burke's most personal stories. He's clinging to a roof in "the Big Sleazy" after Hurricane Katrina has ripped it open. He goes on: "New Orleans was a poem, man, a song in your heart that never died … I only got one regret. Nobody ever bothered to explain why nobody came for us."

I went to a book signing of Burke's at a fabulous indie bookstore called Auntie's. At the time, I had been living up North for about ten years, and Burke's books were the closest thing I could afford to a trip home. When it was my turn to have him sign my book, I told him that I was from New Orleans and that I used his books for mental transport back there, then I said, "Thank you so much for writing to life some quirky, recognizable Louisiana characters who aren't just the same old Scarlett and Rhett stereotypes. It means a lot to me." He stopped in the middle of signing, looked up abruptly, kind of searched my face for a moment, then said, "Why, thank you, ma'm." (another sigh)

I walked into my therapist's office one day carrying one of Burke's books and was amazed to learn that she'd never heard of him. She wanted to know specifically what I like about his novels (especially since, as I'd told her, I rarely read fiction). As I tried to describe the complexity of the Dave Robichaux character and the complexity of the world as Burke - accurately - depicts it, where cops have Vietnam flashbacks, occassional violent tempers, and weekly 12 step meetings, where there is honor among thieves but little among politicians and patriarchs, my therapist pointed out that Burke's novels and characters reflect the complexity of my life's experiences. It's true. I've found the good guys aren't easy to tell from the bad guys. I've found little of the black and white I crave, but lots of the gray I dread.

She's right. Burke's complexity gets me (and, if you read the interview, that complexity of ordinary characters, what he calls "the bottom up story" is what he is trying to tell). It's also, however, the simple fact that his descriptions of my beloved Louisiana are melt in your mouth poetry.

Perhaps I carried too many memories of the way the city used to be. Maybe I should not have returned. Maybe I expected to see the streets clean, the power back on, the crews of carpenters repairing ruined homes. But the sense of loss I felt while driving down St. Charles was worse than I had experienced right after the storm. New Orleans had been a song, not a city. Like San Francisco, it didn't belong to a state; it belonged to a people.

When Clete and I [had] walked the beat on Canal, music was everywhere. Sam Butera and Louis Prima played in the Quarter. Old black men knocked out "The Tin Roof Blues" in Preservation Hall. Brass-band funerals on Magazine shook the glass in storefront windows. When the sun rose on Jackson Square, the mist hung like cotton candy in the oak trees behind the St. Louis Cathedral. The dawn smelled of ponded water, lichen-stained stone, flowers that bloomed only at night, coffee and freshly baked beignets in the Cafe du Monde. Every day was a party, and everyone was invited and the admission was free.

The grandest ride in America was the St. Charles streetcar. You could catch the old green-painted, lumbering iron car under the colonnade in front of the Pearl and for pocket change travel on the neutral ground down arguably the most beautiful street in the Western world. The canopy of live oaks over the natural ground created a green-gold tunnel as far as the eye could see. On the corners, black men sold ice cream and sno'balls from carts with parasols on them, and in winter the pink and maroon neon on the Katz and Besthoff drugstores glowed like electrified smoke inside the fog ...

Every writer, every artist who visited New Orleans fell in love with it. The city might have been the Great Whore of Babylon, but few ever forgot or regretted her embrace. (a little more...yum)

Hat tip New Orleans News Ladder for the James Lee Burke interview.

I'll close with this, "Unsuffer Me," by Louisiana GODDESS Lucinda Williams. This isn't really a video, but it plays the song, which is fabulous. Lean back and let Lucinda massage the sore spots in your soul.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Women for Obama HAVE to Read This

If you want to know what kind of woman raised Barack Obama, if you want to know more about Obama, if you just like reading about free-spirited, tough, smart women, READ THIS!

Will Thomas: Obama Releases Earmark Requests, Challenges Hil

Barack Obama has released all of his earmark requests from 2005 and 2006 (his 2007 earmarks have already been released).

His campaign also took the opportunity to tweak his opponent for not doing the same:

read more digg story

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finding Good Stuff

I've been struggling with my depression quite a lot lately. Sometimes, you have to find cool stuff where you can, and today I did just that.

Today, I drove the kidlet to another town for a track meet.

It was a perfect, sunny March day in the South, outdoor thermostat set on "just right."

I got a snowball at one of those little snowball stands, and we got pints of fresh strawberries right off of some guy's truck.

On the way into the track meet, I saw two little girls, one black and one white, both beautiful and wearing pigtails. They were holding hands, skipping, and giggling. Watching them, I was transported to a long since forgotten time, when my best friend was black. This was back in elementary school, before anyone had gotten around to teaching me that such friendships are "supposed" to have limits (sigh...). Her name was Leslie Parsons. She wore glasses and was quiet, except with me. Sometimes we joined the other girls at jump rope, but mostly, we played jacks every chance we got. We were both really good at jacks, better than anyone else in our school; no one else could beat either one of us, so we mostly just played each other. We laughed and held hands like those two I saw at the track meet today, until I asked if she could spend the night at my house. That's when I got "the lesson" - it's okay to be friends at school, but we don't invite "them" to spend the night.

Trying to figure out racism, I have sometimes thought that, okay, maybe people have a natural tendency to seek out those who look most like themselves, that a tribe mentality might have some evolutionary purpose (although surely, we could EVOLVE beyond that by now!). In the end though, I still believe the truth is that "you have to teach a child to hate." If tribalism were so natural, such an evolutionary imperative, why would two innocent little girls be drawn together in friendship to begin with? The truth is that children will make friends with other children, regardless of race - at least until an adult comes along to "correct" them.

Oh, the things I think about just sitting in the sun at a track meet.

Good things about the day:

  • ordering jambalaya from the concession stand right there on the track field (where else but South Louisiana!)
  • warm, sunny weather in early March (just set my new plants out this weekend)
  • locally grown strawberries in March
  • spearmint snowballs in March
  • kids who say "yes ma'm" and "yes sir" (a Southern sweetness I really missed when I lived up North; my NOLAfugee mom is now teaching in the Northwest and when she recently showed her kids an article about the law requiring schoolchildren to call their teachers ma'm and sir, they really acted like that was child abuse, despite her best efforts to explain the word "manners")
  • teenage girl atheletes getting all competitive and fierce, focused on working hard and winning instead of on appearance and getting boys

One mom at the track meet made me think of "Sticks" by Alix Olson. The woman was blonde and bean-pole skinny. Even when I was younger and weighed 102 pounds, I was never stick skinny like that. I always had curves - a 34/24/34 body. But this woman was so tiny, perky, blonde. She had a flashy red handbag, splayed open on the bleachers, filled with everything a well prepared mother might need. She had coloring books and markers for the younger child. She had a stash of big, bright bows so her daughter and her daughter's friends could constantly redo and readorn their little ponytails (geez, my kid was lucky to get a plain stretchy thing for her ponytail; I suck). She had little ziplock baggies full of kid friendly snacks like grapes and Cheez-Its. Sigh:

...We stick baby boys’ lips on our nipples- to relieve them,
stick big boys inside our lips- to relieve them,
suck until we swallow their stickiness.
We tell our sons ‘only sticks and stones
will break their bones,’
then call each other bitch, knowing it sticks
more than hurled knuckles ever could.
We are ignored when our butts stick out,
admired when our chests stick out.
We chant "stick together, stick together", until
size six bitch walks by-
"sick", we whisper, menacingly, to each other,
"Stick", we think, admiringly, to ourselves....

So, yeah, that's how I caught myself thinking about her ("bitch"). I was wondering why I'm not blonde and perky, why my purse contains crumpled ATM receipts with messily scribbled lists on the backs of them (compiled while standing in the bookstore - lists of books I want but can't afford, titles to try to find at the library), pens that don't write, lipsticks I hardly ever use, and two cigarette lighters (even though I haven't smoked since I had the flu in January). I didn't plan ahead, hadn't brought Gatorade and snacks for my teenaged athelete, was lucky I had managed to find matching socks for us to wear.

Then, I thought about the poem, about how expectations pit women against one another and decided that Ms. Perfect Mom was probably an interesting and nice enough woman. Then I got really radical and decided that I'm an interesting and nice enough woman too, just a different kind. Unlike Perfect Mom, I couldn't stay enthusiastically focused on the many track and field events. On the other hand, at least I can say I set a good example for my child by letting her see me read books! Unlike Perfect Mom, I hadn't packed fabulous snacks. On the other hand, I did have one hell of a rocking conversation with my teenager in the car on the way to the meet - about sexism, racism, Clinton, and Obama. As usual, she had absorbed more of my newswatching than I ever dare hope, had strong opinions of her own and wanted to discuss them.

So, yeah, I thought about the poem and decided it was okay that I wasn't Ms. Perfect Mom, that being Me Mom was good enough.

At least today.

After all, it was cool yet sunny and there were fresh strawberries, snowballs, bowls of jambalaya, and giggling little girls.

It was a good day. I managed to find good stuff.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

High Heel on the Other Foot

NOLA radfem's "RealBeauty"* campaign

This, to me, is what a beautiful woman looks like.

Born in New Orleans and has lived there all her life. Five children, nine grandchildren, thirty-seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Single mom back when that was unheard of (the 1940s - wouldn't tolerate a good-ol-boy's philandering). Once talked her way into an accounting job, then came home and asked her accountant father, "So, what does an accountant do anyway?" As a divorced mom in the 1940s, she used to sometimes go out on more than one date in the same evening. Took care of her elderly mother, even when that mother's much-favored sons were nowhere to be found. Buried a forty-two year old son and has survived despite resulting permanent hole in her heart. Another son was taken away from her by an abusive ex-husband when that son was a little boy. Has outlived both asshole ex-husbands. Was a ballerina and tap dancer in her youth, remembered for her brown skin, jet black hair, and her lovely legs. Can scale and gut a fish and make it look sooo easy. Loves baseball. Adored by everyone. Absolutely hilarious. Gets hair done on Fridays, plays poker on Mondays. Was always destined to become the "old woman who wears purple" she now is.


  • age: 89
  • gender: oh, definitely a woman!
  • race: half Creole and half Irish
  • body type: 4'10" and rounded like a goddess


  • cooking and crocheting (although she's physically unable to do either anymore; used to cook the kind of New Orleans food tourists pay big bucks to eat, like etoufee and shrimp stew and merliton casserole and hot spinach)
  • music (big band and opera)
  • clothes/fashion; jewelry (the bigger the better)
  • reading (mysteries)
  • movies (especially westerns and musicals)
  • "Southern Living" magazine
  • her rain lamp
  • peaches
  • dirty jokes
  • friends

ultimate turnon - Vegas, baby.

known to say

  • "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" (that was fifty years ago, before it could be found on posters and refrigerator magnets)
  • "I love you with my heart, I love you with my liver, but if you were in my mouth, I would spit you in the river."
  • (to a granddaughter) "I didn't ask you if it's expensive. I asked if you want me to buy it for you. Are we spending my money or yours?"
  • "No, you aren't going to get drawn into an argument. You are going to show up there and act like the lady you are."
  • (on cheating husbands) "Makes you feel lower than dirt, doesn't it?"
  • (to grandchildren running like hell to get inside because they had just discovered that the door to the alligator pen was left open) "I don't care what all the hollerin' is about, you kids wipe your feet before you come onto this porch."
  • (handing over cash) "Don't tell Grandpa. This will be our little secret."
  • (to an Italian waiter at Mandina's) "You are very handsome, young man. I'm just trying to figure out who I could fix you up with. I just realized all of my granddaughters are married."
  • "Well, I'll tell you one thing to live by. Never outlive any of your children."

famous for

  • sense of humor (laughing until tears flow)
  • cooking
  • kicking ass at poker
  • hiding cash in her bra
  • being the little old lady driving the big tank of a car
  • scandalizing her grown grandchildren with lusty remarks


  • handsome men
  • big jewelry

Hollywood knows nothing about real beauty.

* a play on Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign

Monday, March 10, 2008

Access Denied

To whom it may concern:

I don't know if you still read this (and maybe you should, although it's not all about you as you probably think - typed with Carly Simon choruses of "You're So Vain" playing in my mind and remembering when we were teenagers and you actually broke the lock on my diary to find out what was in there about you and then, right now, thinking that I should have realized even then that you didn't understand how not to violate women's spaces and that it's all about you), but in case you do still read this...

It's true that I ache almost all the time, and you can keep trying with your bullshit manipulative massages, but the reason you are going to find that access is always denied is that you still can't enter where I am, even if you tried, and I don't think you really do try.

You've spent a lifetime colonizing women and now you actually wonder why once your exploitation is discovered, access to our womanspace is denied? Really?

"How much longer until I can be close to you again?" you had the nerve to ask me this morning, all little boy bewilderment, telling me about yesterday's behind-the-wheel hardon (from thinking about little old me - aw, geez, hold your breathe and wait for me to take that as a compliment; older and wiser now, I've learned most men just aren't that discriminating and their hardons are NOT to be taken as compliments) and bringing me roses and catching up my tuition so I can crawl out of the pit of depression you've dug and get back to my real calling in life (the tuition-paying is an act some feminist friends have pointed out is not deserving of my gratitude but is better viewed as a simple "asshole tax").

"How much longer?" Really? How about you listen to this dude for two and a half minutes and then ask yourself, "How much longer?"

How much longer? Take your time. My sisters and I - my spiritual ones plus the biological one you molested for years - we're waiting. Just fucking waiting. Just fucking, waiting.

P.S. Access is denied as long as my sister is in pain and maybe as long as my sisters are in pain. I have no idea how you can fix that, which is why it's wise to avoid breaking people to begin with. Not my problem. Figure it out. Access denied.

Wait, I'll leave you one more clue:
right here, with audio