Saturday, May 28, 2005

Let's talk about race!

Via feministe I found a link to a Bitch PhD post about white privilege. Bitch linked to a great article that I'll excerpt below. I really like how she talked about her efforts to explain white privilege to white people. It sometimes takes us white folk a long time to but aside our blinders. Here's Bitch:

A lot of that shit is invisible to most middle-class white kids--through no fault of their own--and when I used to tell those stories in some of the classes I taught, the white kids would start out saying, "oh, I'm sure that the teacher wasn't being racist, he just didn't hear you speaking Spanish but he heard the other kid"--until I said, "and what about this story? And this one? And this one?" And the students of color would say, "I was that brown kid, and the teachers *never* believed me," and then the white kids would say, "really? wow," and get kind of quiet and say, well, maybe yeah, after all. And then sometimes they'd start to see that there were things they just *did not know* that the brown kids did, and that not knowing was not their fault, but that nonetheless, it was a kind of ignorance, a kind of racism.

Like me, Bitch has a problem with "white guilt":

Now, I truly think that one of the best ways to get past that paralyzing and annoying and counter-productive guilt bullshit is just to learn to recognize onself as part of a larger whole; and, in my own education, learning to think past guilt (not, of course, always successfully) was probably one of the best things I ever learned how to do.

I'm not at all as charitable as Bitch is towards the experience of "white guilt". I think white guilt is a damn cop out. White guilt is just another method of making the white person the subject of the story. I all of sudden realize that I have been experiencing the benefits of a racist society, and my response is to continue to think about myself exclsuively. I now need to deal with my guilt, my mistakes, my ignorance. Boy I am awfully important aren't I. I'd better spend more time working on myself!

The point is to get over yourself and turn your attention to someone else for a change.

Here's the great article that Bitch referenced.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

Daily effects of white privilege

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person's voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race.

25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.

45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.

47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.

49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

50. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Blog oddity

Many months ago I wandered into a blog called The Underview. Several times I have wanted to comment on posts there or send comments directly to the person writing the posts.

BUT, when I click on any link on that website, I get moved to a random portion of the blog. I cannot contact the writer, I cannot comment at all. If anyone out there has a clue as to what is going on, I'd appreciate an explanation. It feels as if I've encountered some kind of internet curse.

Label me baffeled.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ravenhub met with Sami today. It's good to know he is safe and sound. He says the only people who support the occupation are the puppets who are getting paid by the U.S. government. Otherwise, the people are doing what they can. He told Ravenhub, "The Iraqis have a saying: 'When the horses are gone, you saddle up the dogs.' "

So an occupation government is a dog, not a horse. And still, you make do with what you have.

The thing that drives me crazy is that almost any ordinary American could and would do more to help the Iraqi people and one week than the bureacrats have done in months. Send some real construction workers over there and see what amazing accomplishments you'll find. Send American doctors and nurses over there and watch miracles occur. Send your neighborhood teacher, social worker or frelling babysitter, and see what can be accomplished. Instead, the Iraqi people are dealing with the sheisters and carpet baggers who couldn't make a living here, so they went to Iraq to make a "killing" on the Iraqi reparations shenanigans.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Report back from Iraq

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
My good friend, Sami Rasouli, is returning home from Iraq next month. I created a flyer for the report back he'll be giving on June 21. It makes it so much more vivid to have someone you know and trust tell you what they've seen and heard.

Sami is currently working for an Iraqi human rights group and has been to many of the areas affected by the war.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I just watched the movie, Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst on PBS. I was profoundly affected by the entire Patty Hearst incident, but in ways that aren't normally talked about. I was a senior in high school when she was kidnapped, seeing my friends getting killed or warped by their experiences in Vietnam. Two years into the story, I was a journalist and waited with baited breath for the two-part story that Rolling Stone did about William and Emily Harris and Patty Hearst hiding out in Pennsylvania. I was in southeast Ohio at the time and everything seemed so close and immediate.

The webiste that PBS set up is hilarious. You can find it here. I'm thinking if the SLA had ever had the kind of production values PBS put into their little web sitelet, they might have won a few advertising awards!

I took their little "What's your bag" quiz and here's the result:

Authoritative Activist

You continue to speak out for what you believe is right, as part of a left-wing social justice organization. You've found a life partner who is a kindred spirit. The whole Nixon debacle affirms that the political system is corrupt, and you find yourself saying, "I told you so" to all those who doubted your earlier criticisms. Maybe now that Vietnam is in the past, the country can evolve -- you are committed to working for change through peaceful means. The Sixties might be dead, but the spirit of activism keeps on truckin' in the Seventies.

Well, that's only because the answers I wanted to provide weren't available, of course.

If you watch the film, I recommend you also listen to an interivew Terry Gross did with the film maker and a journalist who covered the story. It is available here. It does a good job of explaining how the timing of the Hearst kidnapping made all the difference. It was the first time journalists were able to report from the scene. They camped out in front of the Hearst mansion and competed with each other for coverage of the distraught family. The shoot-out in L.A. was the first life coverage of such an event. The media was so as much a part of the story as anything the activists or the authorities attempted in the whole affair.

I hope to write more about this soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I've been doing lots of reading lately. Good mysteries.

I just read Denise Hamilton's Sugar Skull (2003). I read Hamilton's The Jasmine Trade a year or so ago. Hamilton's main character, Eve Diamond, is a journalist who investigates interesting aspects of life in Los Angeles. The Jasmine Trade was about children of rich Asians who are sent to the U.S. for high school. The parents never actually live in L.A., they just pretend they live there so their kids are eligible for school. The kids are set up with maid and housekeepers, but are basically left to fend for themselves. This leads to chaos, of course, and Hamilton does a good job of describing a world unlike any I'd known.

"Sugar Skull" is about Latino music culture in Los Angeles and also about rich kids who get off on hanging out with homeless kids in urban hell holes. Again, Eve Diamond gets involved in a world unlike any I've known. What I like best about these novels, of course, is that everything has to do with class. In the U.S. we pretend there are no classes, and yet when we scratch below the surface, we run up against the consequences of class.

Hamilton has two other books, Last Lullaby and Savage Garden that I'll add to my list of what to get next.

Next up, I read three books by Charlaine Harris. I'd already read several Lily Bard books based in Shakespeare, Alabama. Bard is a fascinating woman whose life was transformed by a brutal kidnapping and gang rape. She survives, but in the process she murders her abductor and becomes a media celebrity. The pretty obvious subtext in these books is about how a survivor's live is affected and how one goes about re-establishing trust and healthy relationships after such a brutal event. Bard is a cleaning lady, which allows her to become intimately acquainted with her neighbors and also helps her to solve the rather-too-common murders that occur in her neighborhood. Shakespeare is like Sunnydale, CA, from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer -- you have to accept that nobody seems to notice that horrible things seem to happen in this small town and people still choose to live there.

This past week, I read Shakespeare's Trollop and Shakespeare's Counselor. The writing is sure and involving. I don't want to stop reading and I always am left with the "and then what?" feeling when I'm forced to put the book down. Bard is a woman worthy of respect, but also deeply flawed in a way that's easy to relate to. I look forward to reading more.

What was surprising, however, is that Harris has branched into the vampire world with her Sookie Stackhouse series. I read the first book, Dead Until Dark. We meet Sookie, a working-class waitress in a small-town bar. Vampires have just come "out of the coffin" with the explanation that their condition is actually the result of a virus and therefore a medical problem (ala alcoholism), rather than being actually undead. So learning about real-life vampires has a sort of voyeuristic appeal and fascination. Sookie, of course, ends up with her very own vampire lover who is the archtypical broody man of mystery. I'll definitely read some more of these books. Harris's vampire books are pitched as Anita Blake-light. I tried to hang onto Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake vampire series but got really tired of reading the same book over and over again. In that light, Stackhouse is a fun and enjoyable alternative.

At the moment I am reading The Librarian by Larry Beinhart. It's about a presidential campaign against a strikingly familiar spoiled rich boy who grows up to be president. So far, it's hilarious and interesting. I'll write more once I've finished reading.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Pinko Commie Cosmonaut!

Well, this proves it!

You scored as Communism.

<'Imunimaginative's Deviantart Page'>

















What Political Party Do Your Beliefs Put You In?
created with

Thursday, May 12, 2005

mother's day march

mother's day 3
Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Just uploaded a few pictures from last Saturday's Mother's Day march. It was a great turnout considering the drizzly weather. Also, it turns out there were two or three other progressive marches last weekend, so the antiwar movement had several choices to express their sentiments last weekend.

mother's day
Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
My job for these events is to create the flyers (see below). Once I get to the event, my job is to do several crowd counts. This is not only to keep track of our own activities, but also to have some honest numbers for the press. Local news organizations got into big trouble for underestimating crowds several years ago and ever since then we've been building the reputation for honest reports on turnouts for our events. In the second picture, that red-draped figure in the background is me, after performing the third crowd count of the day. I was on my way to the front of the march so that I could do a count of people entering the church. As it turned out, there was only one reporter at the event. I called and spoke to her a couple of hours after the march and gave her my numbers. She agreed to the wording "over 250 participants" after I gave her all four counts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Additions to the blogroll.

Today I've added one of my favorite blogs, Wood's Lot, to my blogroll. I've been reading this blog for several years. Every day there is at least one link that inspires and teaches me something. Yesterday there was a link to a Michelle Cliff article about reclaiming forgotten history. Fascinating story about the lies we tell ourselves about the past. Here is an excerpt:

How do we capture the history that remains only to be imagined? That which has gone to bush, lies under the sea, is buried in the vacant lots of big cities.

In my mind I erect a scaffolding; I attempt to describe what has not been described. I try to build a story on the most delicate of remains.

I traverse the American landscape as someone foreign-born, as a writer, a novelist, as a woman who has fallen in love with this country—certain that this love demands accountability. This love impels my search into America’s past.

Wood's Lot contains links to art, poetry, fiction and philosophy. Sometimes the subjects are way beyond my comprehension. Often I learn about painters, photographers and poets I've never known before. Often I am reminded of writers that have influenced me greatly (Joy Harjo, Michelle Cliff, etc.) and I find wonderful links to articles I haven't read before.

The second addition to my blogroll is Sappho's Breathing. The webmistress is a graduate student teacher of feminist moral philosophy. Lately I've been reading through her archives and coming upon topic after topic of interest.

Catching up now.

Last Saturday was the Mother's Day March for Peace. About 275 people showed up on a warm rainy day. There were songs and a reading of Juliet Ward Howe's Mother's Day proclamation at the Peace Garden, then a march over to a church for a snacks and a program. The program was terrific -- all women and all reflecting on the war and its effects. The first speaker, a teacher, spoke about the affect of the "No Child Left Behind" act and the lack of funding for schools. The second speaker has a son in Iraq and talked about war and its effects on her family. The last speaker was a state senator who immigrated from Laos and talked about war as it affected her own life. All were fantastic.

I got a call to work at the bookstore Saturday afternoon -- from 4 to 8. I picked up a stack of Andrea Dworkin books to reread.

Sunday we drove down to Mom's to enjoy a Mother's Day brunch together.

Yesterday I went to a program on Wal-Mart and its effects on workers and neighborhoods. One of the neighborhood activist was an architect whose viewpoint was from how buildings impact on a community. He spoke of the troubles the Midway neighborhood had trying to make sure the big box stores moving in had windows, lights, etc. They had to fight to encourage them to face the street with foot traffic and transit stops. The big boxes, born on freeway exits, still orient themselves toward the freeways, despite moving into urban areas that have different realities.

Today I'm catching up on chores and reading.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Baby owlet

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Here's a shot of one of the baby owls from the Xcel center site (see link in post below this one). Momma is the huge mass on the right (both head and tail are out of frame). The second owlet is that furry white thing in the lower left corner. It's shots like this that make me smile.

I get an inordinate amount of enjoyment by watching live bird cams. Our local energy conglomerate has a slew of them at this site including nests for owls, eagles, osprey and several peregrine falcons. They are all roosting on eggs or taking care of babies this time of year. The owlets are just plain silly looking and make me laugh whenever I happen to get a good look at their faces!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yesterday, I met with Craig Cox to pick up several copies of his book Storefront Revolution for the bookstore. His book is about the "co-op wars" in Minneapolis that happened just a few years before I became politically active here in the late 70s and early 80s. Co-ops are still around and still struggling, and people are curious to know more about the history.

After work I went over to the U of M to join in a student-organized protest against the new plan to phase out General College. Nine protesters were arrested after sitting in at the President's office. The issue is about class, pure and simple. General College is the only access that people from the community have to the University. The U wants to attract top research scientists from around the world, which is a worthy goal. But they've decided they must cut off access from the local community in order to do it.

Tonight, I went to St. Paul to hear Liza Featherstone talk about her book, Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Women's Rights at Wal-Mart" at Macalester College in St. Paul. The author is not a gifted public speaker, but the book, of which I've read the first few chapters, is quite good. She's onto something with her analysis of consumer culture and what happens in a world where citizens are turned into consumers. More on this issue once I've finished reading the book.

I just finished reading A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. I picked it up at my last book group meeting. It is a quick read and quite hilarious. Bryson decided to walk the Appalachian Trail one summer and his account of the event is hilarious. Not a champion athlete, he managed to plow through several hundred miles through sheer stubborness. In fact, the successful trail walkers seem to embody a combination of sheer grit and lunacy that would be out of place anywhere else in the world. I lived on the edge of the Appalachians when I went to college at Ohio University and I vaguely remember fantasizing about walking the Appalachian Trail. After reading the book, I recognize that the trail is a symbol of something purely American and wonderful -- the urge to appreciate nature, the willingness to help strangers, the code of the trail. With so little community left in this world, it is a joy to read about it in Bryson's book.


Yesterday, May 4, was the 35th anniversary of the Kent State massacre. I lived in Ohio in 1974 and the memory of that day was still alive at that time. In this day of cynicism, it is hard to understand how much that day affected people my age. We didn't realize just how callous our politicians had become. We didn't understand the depths to which Richard Nixon and his cronies would stoop to gratify their personal ambitions. Those soldiers who opened fire on their fellow citizens had been convinced by Gov. Rhodes, the mayor of Kent and the president of the University, that the innocent students they were firing at were evil infiltrators bent on destroying their way of life. Why did Rhodes and his gang stir up such hatred? Purely for their own personal political gain. They won, too, in the short term. But our country lost so much that day. I can't experience May 4 without feeling that draw -- that memory of betrayal and profound sadness.

And speaking of sadness, I am still profoundly affected by the death of Andrea Dworkin. 20 years ago I spent my life working day and night against violence against women. I understood then that there was a war against women in this world. The women in combat -- those on the front lines -- were living in a war unlike any we have glorified in our combined social conscience. The front line was the home -- the battle was between individual men and women. The personal is the political and once you are touched by that truth, there is no going back.

What Dworkin was then and will continue to be is an anchor for the rest of us. The horror of what happens to individual women at the hands of individual men in this country is sometimes incredibly hard to bear. But Dworkin bore it and refused to back away. She was our standard-bearer. She stood out front and suffered the slings and arrows -- the lies and distortion -- and never flinched. It made it easier for the rest of us, knowing that she was there, standing up for all of us. I want and I need to write more about this amazing woman.

In time. In time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ravenhub had me ROTFLMAO Saturday morning as he pretended to be a cable news reporter following the story of the "missing" woman who turned out to be a runaway bride. It had just been learned that she had not been kidnapped, there had been no danger or crime -- she just needed to get away -- and apparently VEGAS was the proper place (oi vey!)! As Ravenhub so aptly put it, the prestitutes went on and on about how "betrayed" they were. "I feel so used!" Ravenhub whined. "I've been violated!" he added. Yeah, right, you fuckheads!

In a totally unsurprising web meme, I discover that I am not a Republican:

I am:
"The Marxists are too reactionary for you.  With people like you around, America collectively thanks God for John Ashcroft."

Are You A Republican?

I'm finally recovering from a busy weekend. Saturday I had a meeting of my book group, followed by my shift at the bookstore. Sunday was the annual Mayday Parade. This event is sponsored by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater and involves large puppets, a parade made up of community members and lots of fun. From the web site:

The 31st annual MayDay Parade and Festival will be Sunday, May 1, 2005 beginning at 1:00 p.m.
HOBT's MayDay Parade and Festival is eagerly anticipated by thousands who flock to the parade route and ceremony site to join this joyous spring ritual. For many, this is the highlight of the year, as they donate countless volunteer hours needed to bring beautiful and fantastic puppets and floats to life.

The 31st annual MayDay Parade and Festival will be Sunday, May 1, 2005 beginning at 1:00 p.m. HOBT's MayDay Parade and Festival is eagerly anticipated by thousands who flock to the parade route and ceremony site to join this joyous spring ritual. For many, this is the highlight of the year, as they donate countless volunteer hours needed to bring beautiful and fantastic puppets and floats to life. Click here to see this year's MayDay Park Entertainment Schedule.

Held on the first Sunday in May, MayDay is a testament to COMMUNITY. Immense joy is generated as thousands of people work towards a common, energetic purpose.

After the puppets, various community organizations, etc., there is the Free Speech Zone in which politics can raise its ugly head. This year I marched with Women Against Military Madness and handed out the flyers I made for an anti-war protest on June 30. The weather was typical Minnesota "spring" weather: include snow, sleet, patches of sunlight, winds and rain. By the end of the day I was tired, but happy.

For dinner we went out to Stillwater where my uncle and aunt provided dinner. My mom was staying over, after flying back home from visiting my bros in California. A wonderful evening with family and friends.