Black Women: Black or Female?

January 21, 2008 has an article by reporter Randi Kaye about the difficult choices facing African American female voters in South Carolina. The premise is who will black women vote for? Will they vote their race or their gender. Read the Article Here.

I think that is a degrading oversimplification about a group of people.  While I highly doubt Randi Kaye is a sexist (Randi is a women) or a racist (she has had wonderful coverage of Katrina and other potential race issues).  The article smacks of racism and sexism.  I expected to read the name of some 65 year old white man on the by line.

Black women are both black and female.  It is not trading on either to vote for the candidate of one’s choice.  The article does not acknowledge until 3/4 of the way through, and only then with one sentence, that black women are capable of voting on the issues.

The tone of the article just didn’t sit right with me.  It takes a serious topic (and a serious portion of the voters in South Carolina) and trivializes it into black and female stereotypes.

At Anjay’s Salon in Charleston, the only thing louder than the hair dryer is the chorus of political opinions.

Salons are a target for the campaigns — across the state they have turned into caucuses of sorts. They’re where women gather and gossip.

Why is it when women are gathered talking about politics a reporter has the nerve to call it gossip.

For these women, a unique, and most unexpected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race, or should they vote their gender?  No other voting bloc in the country faces this choice.

Race and gender are not the two separate halves that compose black women.  I think if a black women is torn between the two candidates over race or gender, it is about race and gender issues.  There is a difference between voting for Clinton, as a woman, because you believe she will more vehemently right for reproductive rights, and voting for her because she is a woman and you think it is neat to have female president.

It could just be me reading too much into the article.  But I think a few revisions, better selection of quotes, and a little more caution in using stereotypes and this could have been  an actual piece of journalism.

Apparently civil rights don’t include gays or women

October 24, 2007

Homosexuality is a sickness, just as are baby-rape or wanting to become head of General Motors. ~Eldridge Cleaver, “Notes on a Native Son,” Soul on Ice, 1968


I recently came across this gem of a quote by Eldridge Cleaver and have begun to read Soul on Ice. I have not finished by any means, and as such will reserve final judgment until the end. But so far it has been possibly the oddest read of all times. It has insane range. It varies from brutally honest introspective analysis to preachy ivory tower judgments of others. It varies from oblivious and cocky to self aware and humble. It may be the most offensive thing I’ve ever read (that was not intended as hate speech) towards both women and gays. But at the same time he is very aware of his misogyny and understands his hatred is misdirected. He admits to raping multiple women and practice on girls from the ghetto. There are no direct references really, but it is well known he killed several people over the course of his life.

The book was extremely popular in the 60s, he was a revolutionary (literally and figuratively) and was considered a significant civil rights figure. But his idea of civil rights was extremely limited. He notoriously switched religions at his convenience and after each conversion was a fierce proponent of that religion and its accompanying doctrine. I think if he came forward in our politically correct world and tried to step up as a civil rights leader, he would be a laughing stock. An angry, violent ex con with a disposition towards sexism and homophobia telling us how the world should be equal. Equal for black men at least, all the while flip flopping on religion and trying to assist international revolutions.

As it is with all the crazies, I admire his passion. I am looking forward to finishing his book, and to researching him further. Maybe there is a movie!

Disturbing Racial Statistics

September 27, 2007

A new government census report indicates that black and Latino people are more likely to live in a prison cell than a college dormitory. I think early education is the source of the problem. It is statistics like these, which contribute to racism.  People who fail to understand that some of this crime is the result of historical discrimination and lack of education assume there is an inherently criminal nature of minorities.  Here is the basics of the article:

More than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms, the government said in a report to be released Thursday. The ratio is only slightly better for Hispanics, at 2.7 inmates for every Latino in college housing. Among non-Hispanic whites, more than twice as many live in college housing as in prison or jail. The numbers, driven by men (men are 90% of the prison population), do not include college students who live off campus.

Black students are more likely to attend segregated schools with high concentrations of poverty, less qualified teachers, lower expectations and a less demanding curriculum, she said. Nearly 40 percent of inmates lack a high school diploma or the equivalent, according to the census data.

Blacks made up 41 percent of the nation’s 2 million prison and jail inmates in 2006. Non-Hispanic whites made up 37 percent and Hispanics made up 19 percent. About 9 percent of prison inmates were immigrants last year, up from about 4 percent in 1980. Immigrants made up about 13 percent of the total population in 2006. Non-Hispanic whites made up about 73 percent of the 2.3 million people living in college housing in 2006. Blacks made up about 12 percent, Asians about 7 percent and Hispanics about 6 percent.


Jena 6

September 21, 2007

So as I am sure most of you have read about, the Jena 6 in Louisiana was the topic of the day. Although the events involved happened last year, the news has been picking up the story and more people are starting to hear about. It is an unfortunate event, actually more like a series of events. To familiarize yourself with the story, the most non-biased and straightforward article I have found is the NY Times article. People protested all across the country this week, and today many people wore black in solidarity. I go to school in North Philly and saw at least 15 people with “free the Jena 6” shirts on just on my lunch break.

Not knowing all the details I cannot formulate an exact opinion. But from what I have gathered so far, I agree it is a heinous example of racial discrimination. The initial tree incident should have been dealt with swiftly and severely and there should have been early attempts at relieving racial tension in Jena. Violence perpetuated by white students on black students should have been punished severely within the school and additional legal options made available for any victims. But that in no way excuses the attackers or implies that the people involved should be set free. Now if those people are cleared of wrongdoings or found not guilty then they should go completely free. But in reality, no one is denying that six people attacked one person. As such, those six people need to be punished. Violence, except in self defense, is never permissible. So because the system has been unfair to you in the past does not mean that system does not apply to you. What I find disturbing and to be racially discriminatory is the charges filled. A fight, even a brutal out numbered one, is a fight. An assault is not an attempted murder. There is no indication their intention was murder, and with six people if the intention was murder, the victim would be dead. The charges are clearly blown out of proportion, but I think the prosecutors are to blame and will over the course of time, reduce all charges (if not just drop most completely) and there may be resignations/firings coming down the pike at both the school and the DA.

What this incident really should serve as is a conversation piece. People need to start talking about racism and discrimination in our society and ways to prevent and deal with it. Racism is clearly still alive, but we need to focus on the modern reincarnations. Knowing about Martin Luther King Junior or sit ins or marches is not relevant to solving today’s problems. Modern racism is more subtle, more gray. We don’t live in a black and white world, of racists and non-racists. I think our societies racial problems stem from a lack of knowledge more so than an intrinsic feeling of superiority. I think really understanding the significance of socioeconomic factors, historical circumstances, and legal inequalities (for example the war on drugs, and 3 strikes laws) would help rid America of much of the racial tensions. I know it is sometimes hard for people to see how African Americans can still be so far behind in terms of monetary, political, and social equality when many immigrant populations have come to America and succeeded in far less time. But a strong education (in early childhood and continuing through life) about the cyclical nature of poverty, discrimination, and crime might change things. I don’t know, maybe I am just an optimist, but I see the majority of racial discrimination as a solvable problem. I think education is the only tool available to level the field. If quality education could be provided at all levels in all areas regardless of economics, then more of the underserved populations (which consist heavily of minorities) would get out of that life and go on to success. As more succeed, there are more examples, more hope, and more possibilities opened for other underserved people. It wouldn’t be overnight, but slowly things would begin to even out. The wealth, the knowledge, and the privileges of American life would be spread more evenly among the races, largely cutting racial tension and resentment.

But before anyone jumps down my throat for being a pansy liberal and allowing society to take the fall for individual’s choices, let me say I feel everyone is accountable for their own actions and their life’s outcome. I believe if someone works hard, gets an education, and always strives for what they want, they can get ahead in life. Letting race, or for that matter anything, hold you back or using it as an explanation for failure is copping out. I think the first step towards full equality is for the discriminated population to stop viewing themselves that way and to stop wallowing in real or perceived discrimination.

As my man, Bill Clinton said:

“I believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. I believe in religious liberty, I believe in freedom of speech, and I believe in working hard and playing by the rules.”