Friday, March 30, 2007


Yolanda Carrington at great post about there being no immunity from racism. It inspired me to create this handy flyer:

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Go on over and give the woman props for her great thoughts!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The hidden poor

On a thread a while back a woman spoke about never seeing poverty in the U.S. as bad as what she saw in Mexico. I and lots of other people spoke about how poverty is hidden in the U.S. by zoning laws, police and the prison system.

Here's a story from the LA Times about a particular hidden community:,0,3370103.story?track=mostviewed-storylevel

The Southland's hidden Third World slums

In the Coachella Valley, hundreds of trailer parks house desperately poor Latino workers amid burning trash, mud, contaminated water.

By David Kelly
Times Staff Writer

March 26, 2007

THERMAL, CALIF. — Like most of their neighbors in the sprawling, ramshackle Oasis Mobile Home Park, the Aguilars have no heat, no hot water. On cold nights, the family of eight stays warm by bundling up in layers of sweaters and sleeps packed together in two tiny rooms.

Bathing is a luxury that requires using valuable propane to boil gallons of water. So the farmworker clan spends a lot of time dirty.

Jose Aguilar, a wiry 9-year-old, has found a way around the bath problem. He just waits until dinner. "My mom makes frijoles," he said, "then I take a bath in that water."

Jose and his family live in a world few ever see, a vast poverty born in hundreds of trailer parks strung like a shabby necklace across the eastern Coachella Valley.

Out here — just a few miles from world-class golf resorts, private hunting clubs and polo fields — half-naked children toddle barefoot through mud and filth while packs of feral dogs prowl piles of garbage nearby.

Thick smoke from mountains of burning trash drifts through broken windows. People — sometimes 30 or more — are crammed into trailers with no heat, no air-conditioning, undrinkable water, flickering power and plumbing that breaks down for weeks or months at a time.

"I was speechless," said Haider Quintero, a Colombian training for the priesthood who recently visited the parks as part of his studies. "I never expected to see this in America."

Riverside County officials say there are between 100 and 200 illegal trailer parks in the valley, but the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition says the number could be as high as 500.

California Rural Legal Assistance says as few as 20 parks are legal, and they are often as dilapidated as the illegal ones. When county inspectors locate a park without permits, they prefer to let owners bring the place into compliance through loan and grant programs rather than evict the tenants.

Some of the largest and poorest parks are on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation where they are not subject to local zoning laws and the county can't monitor safety, hygiene and building standards. The reservation is also home to the worst illegal dumps of any tribe in California, Arizona or Nevada, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency has closed 10 of the 20 most toxic dumps and cited four of the largest trailer parks for health violations.

Despite the conditions, park owners say they are providing a vital service in an area where housing prices have soared.

"Before the parks, they were living in their cars, in the desert and bathing in the canals. Five guys would pay 50 bucks a month to share a camper shell," said Scott Lawson, a tribal member and co-owner of the Oasis park on the reservation. "Nobody cared when they lived like that, only when they moved into trailers. You can't expect the poorest to live like the wealthiest. They feel comfortable here; it's like being back in Mexico. They tell me that."

Lawson's 300-trailer park has been cited by the EPA for clean-water violations and was recently ordered to stop pumping raw sewage into the nearby Salton Sea.

"We had some citations about water but it's because we didn't know how to test it," he said. "I'm not ashamed of my place. There are a lot worse places than mine."

Exactly how many people live in the trailer parks is unknown, but social workers estimate tens of thousands. The biggest park, Desert Mobile Home Park, or "Duroville," has more than 4,000 residents and can be seen off California 195 near Thermal. Others are on private property and virtually invisible to passing motorists.

The tenants are almost entirely Latino farm or construction workers. Many are in the United States legally, but plenty are not. Their average income, according to county officials, is about $10,000 a year. Many parents rent out their children's rooms for extra money, leaving kids to sleep on floors or in sheds. Many families keep warm by burning grape stakes, which fill their trailers with toxic fumes.

In one nameless park on the reservation off Avenue 70 in Thermal, trailers with broken windows and unhinged doors sit against piles of trash. Box springs, tires, car parts are stacked 10 feet high. Sewage runs behind the trailers, and wild dogs yap and howl.

"This place has some of the worst conditions I have seen," said Sister Gabriella Williams, who does community outreach in the parks and is raising money to build a learning center for residents. "And it's actually gotten worse since I last saw it."

She picked her way through a yard that doubled as a trash heap.

"The park owners have to look into their own conscience as to why they run these kinds of places with these kind of conditions," she said. "They wouldn't want this in their backyard. They wouldn't tolerate it. We all need to recognize the dignity in each other."

Former resident Conrrada Valenzuela said she went three months without electricity, living by candlelight.

Maria Renosa, 35, from Guatemala, lives in the park now. She makes $7.25 an hour picking broccoli and shares a battered, sparsely furnished trailer with six other adults and her children, Edith, 2, and Frank, 3.

Renosa's husband was recently deported for being undocumented. "It would cost him $5,000 to return," she said. "I am not going back. What am I going to do there? I'd love to live somewhere else, but here it only costs $360 a month."

The EPA has cited park owner Robin Lawson for clean-water violations; Lawson could not be reached for comment. He is Scott Lawson's brother. Another brother, Kim, operated a vast, illegal dump for more than a decade that was shut down last year by a federal judge.

The presence of the parks on the reservation has frustrated Torres Martinez Tribal Chairman Raymond Torres.

"The owners started off with good intentions, then I think it overwhelmed them," he said. "I have a real problem with it. Someone is going to get hurt. I'd like to see the parks gone and the owners start over again."

But in the complex world of tribal sovereignty, Torres cannot close the parks; only the Bureau of Indian Affairs can. The bureau said last week that parks on the reservation are illegal because they do not issue bureau-approved leases to tenants. They are now threatening legal action against Duroville and said other parks could be next.

Trailer parks began springing up on Indian land largely because of a county crackdown. In 1998, after several fatal accidents caused by faulty wiring, Riverside County began closing parks that did not have permits and threatening to sue others not up to code. Faced with outrage from farmworker advocates and the Roman Catholic Church, who feared thousands could be rendered homeless, officials backed off, but not before many panicked park dwellers had moved onto the reservation.

"We wish we could wave a magic wand and make them go away," said County Supervisor Roy Wilson. "But we can't."

Adding to the misery is Kim Lawson's dump. Since 1992, it has burned paint cans, car batteries, plastic pipe and treated wood and other waste, throwing so many toxins into the air and soil that EPA said the dump represented an "endangerment [that] can be considered imminent and increasing over time."

And the dump, its smoke blowing for miles up and down the valley, sits right beside Duroville. A 2003 EPA memo reported some areas of the dump contained levels of dioxin 20 times the national average. Dioxin, a carcinogen, is one of the deadliest manufactured substances.

According to agency documents, soil samples revealed dioxin, PCBs and asbestos in Duroville itself. Citing the risks of cancer and other illnesses, the EPA urged the dump's immediate closure. The park remained open because the danger to it was not deemed "imminent," said agency attorney Letitia Moore.

Four years after the EPA recommendation, a federal judge in Riverside closed the dump in August. On Thursday, the judge ordered Lawson to pay $46.9 million to help clean up the mess. Since the facility was padlocked, there have been 20 fires — most the result of spontaneous combustion, said Ray Paiz, battalion chief with the Riverside County Fire Department. One fire in November nearly forced the evacuation of Duroville and nearby schools.

Smoke in the parks is as common as wild dogs and swirling dust. Health workers report that children suffer high levels of pulmonary illnesses, coughs, infections and skin rashes.

"These are almost Third World conditions," said Rosa Lucas, a nurse who runs the Oasis Clinic, across the road from a trailer park. "It's unbearable out there when there is burning. You literally can't go outside."

Although poverty is endemic in the parks, nothing rivals Duroville for sheer blight.

The 40-acre park is a grim, colorless warren of dirt roads with more than 300 trailers tightly packed inside. It's often hard to tell an abandoned scrap heap from a home. There are start-up businesses — car dealerships, a small taco stand and a restaurant specializing in Michoacan food — squeezed in amid the clutter. Trash blows here and there. Toddlers, some naked from the waist down, wander around in fetid muck. A wall surrounds part of the place, a thin barrier separating it from the dump.

What began as occupants of a few trailers seeking refuge from the county has turned into a vast slum bearing streets named after members of park owner Harvey Duro's family. Duro declined to comment for this article.

Efforts by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to close Duroville fizzled in 2003 when the owner agreed to make basic electrical and sewage improvements. Still, officials said, he has failed to provide tenants bureau-approved leases defining minimum living standards.

"He will have to come up with an approved lease or we will shut him down," said James Fletcher, the bureau's superintendent for Southern California.

Fletcher said all the parks on Indian land could be closed if they don't provide leases. "If that happens, where do the people go?" he asked. "I don't know."

Duroville is a bastion of poverty divided between the poor and the desperately poor. Among the most destitute are the Purepecha, an indigenous people from the Mexican state of Michoacan who speak neither Spanish nor English but their own language, Purepechan. They are often mocked by other Latinos who consider them backward.

In their culture, girls often marry young and drop out of school to have children.

Anjelica Serrano, a Purepechan, watched her children play in the dirt. "I got married at 15," she said through an interpreter, "and have five children."

She is 24.

At night, the dark streets come alive with thumping rap and mariachi music pouring from cars. Ice cream vendors work the narrow streets. Because there are no sidewalks, pedestrians keep a wary eye on traffic. Men gather in front of trailers, some drinking themselves into oblivion. Others have hard stares and watchful eyes. Residents say drug dealing is rife.

Theresa Argueta, 42, would leave if she could afford to. She lives in a two-bedroom trailer with her husband and eight children. The four boys sleep in the living room, the four girls in a tiny bedroom. Inside, the trailer is festooned with rosaries and statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"The smoke has affected my children's health," she said. "When the smoke comes, they get bloody noses and have difficulty breathing."

On the other side of the park, Cesar Rafael, 17, a Purepechan, lives in his parents' trailer. He and several other students at Desert Mirage High School in Thermal made a short video about their world, "The Contaminated Valley," which was shown at school.

"I wanted people to see another side of life," he said. "Everything is poisonous here, even the water is poisonous. And nobody really cares about it. We are invisible."

The video is available at the link above, but only for a couople of weeks, so click on it soon!

Last one to view it?

I've never tried embedding a video before. Wish me luck!

I want this little girl on my team. She tells us what she's gonna do to a monster!

What Are you Gonna Do To The Monster - Click Here for more great videos and pictures!

Missed it

60 Minutes had an interview by Katie Couric with John and Elizabeth Edwards last night. A good friend who is a cancer survivor sent me a copy of a letter she fired off immediately after the broadcast. If you saw the broadcast and agree, please write a letter as well. Talk about missed opportunities!

TO: The Producers of "60 Minutes"

What a disappointing interview!!

Instead of asking both Elizabeth and Senator Edwards (since they are a team) how Elizabeth's cancer has affected their thoughts on the health care system in this country and to explain his political program on that issue, Katie wasted the entire interview time concentrating on the things that both Edwards obviously want and have to accept and adjust to and then -- equally important -- they want to move forward with their lives. Katie wouldn't let that happen.

I saw their announcement on CNN Thursday and that was much more informative both as to Elizabeth's cancer and John's campaign plans.

One of the reasons I watched "60 Minutes" tonight was that because I knew Katie had dealt with the death of her husband from colon cancer and yet went on to raise her -- then -- young girls and also to continue with her career. For some reason I thought she would give a good interview based on her own experience. Obviously, I was wrong!!!!

To Katie Couric: How irresponsible of you, Katie, for playing on the fears of many out there who may have seen your interview with the Edwards tonight. It would have been better if "60 Minutes" had asked Betty Ford to conduct the interview. She was an inspiration to women years ago and saved many lives because of her encouraging women to have regular mammograms. Elizabeth and John Edwards have taken that contribution one step further only you didn't understand.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Watch this

From Mad TV on Youtube.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oh crap

I wish Queer Dewd, formerly known as Prince, I mean, Bitch|Lab, weren't up to her eyeballs in a new job and moving, because she would understand this completely.

One of the things about being a graphic artist is that you do a ton of crappy advertising meant to sell cheap plastic shit to people who don't need it because you need a job to pay the bills.

BUT, you can, if you choose, use your skills for politically important work. I've been doing that for years.

On occasion, however, my efforts can be sabotaged when a "client" -- i.e., an important, valuable cause, -- is represented by people who have ... um ... let's call it shit for brains. Sometimes those ShitForBrain people screw up royally. If they reach the professional level of ShitForBrain-hood, the next step is to try to blame their fuck-ups on the graphic artist. That would be me.

That happened to me last night. I'm still pissed about it.

I agreed to help out an organization by putting together a booklet of ads from people who support the cause. I was not selling the advertising. I was not contacting the groups. I was not designing the ads. I was simply putting together the book: laying out the ads and making them pretty and printable.

Last week I got about half the ads. Some were 8.5x11 inch fliers that I was supposed to condense into a 3x4 inch ad. Some of them were scraps of paper or printed ads torn out of a newspaper or magazine.

Well, call me chump ("Chump!"). I went ahead and accepted the crap, fixed it up, did some research, found some art I could use, etc. Fact is, I did hundreds of dollars worth of design work I had not agreed to do.

In addition, I gave the client a list of ads for which I had received no art or copy.

I hear nothing all last week. I hear nothing over the weekend. I hear nothing on Monday.

Monday evening I get a phone call from the director of the organization asking where the hell were all the ads and why was I making everything late.

Now the director is a woman who happens to be a friend. She is someone I respect and admire. And yet she somehow believes it when shitforbrains tells her I'm the one who dropped the ball.

As far as I can tell, shitforbrains decided that it was my responsibility to create from whole cloth any ads that were not delivered to me last week. Which I wouldn't have done even if it had been suggested. But it wasn't suggested. It was somehow assumed. Now why the fuck would anyone assume that?

Is it because I was a chump and went ahead and made ads from the damn scraps of paper that were sent to me last week? Did I convince them somehow that I could create art out of nothing?

But even so, if they seriously thought that was what I was doing, why did NOBODY call me? Why did NOBODY respond to my e-mail?

What really made me angry was the fact that this person who decided that I was supposed to create these ads and then decided that I was lazy in not producing said ads, did not call me or write me directly.

Instead, he chose to go behind my back to my friend, the director, and ask her to leave a rude fucking message on my phone machine.

Screw this. I'm outta there.

10:30 pm - editing to remove all those nasty typos that I create when I'm PWA (posting while angry)

Monday, March 19, 2007


Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Thousands of Minneapolis protesters march against Iraq war

Organizers estimated about 4,000 people participated in the antiwar march that began in the Uptown area, continued north on Hennepin Avenue and ended at Loring Park. Police did not respond to a request for a crowd estimate.

They marched, organizers said, to urge President Bush to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq

Metro protests against the war in Iraq

Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. People on both sides of the issue took to the streets of Minneapolis with a message to Congress.

From Washington to New York City to right here in the Twin Cities, across the country was protestors walked the streets Sunday.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Five questions meme

via Belledame

Here's the deal:

Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."

I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions may be a little more intimate!

You WILL update your journal/bloggy thing/whatever with the answers to the questions.

You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.

When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

So, here were my five:

1) What's your (a) secret vice?

I'm not very secretive about my vices. Buying books I don't get around to reading. Red wine, Romantic movies.

2) Aside from ravens, are there animals you feel closely connected to? (if so, what?)

Cats, dogs, Jersey cows (they have beautiful eyes!).

3) How do you feel about: "religion is the opiate of the masses"?

Yup. Spirituality, on the other hand, is more like chocolate or caffeine.

4) What's the best way to stay warm when it's 25 below?

You don't. But layers can help you survive.

5) What did you have for dinner tonight?

Vegetarian spaghetti and garlic bread.

OK, any takers?

Serendipity on the Internet

Brownfemipower is writing a series on Radical Women of Color Theorists that began with Lee Maracle. BFP is helping us learn there are more than just two (Audre Lorde, bell hooks) radical women of color theorists in the world.

Intrigued, I googled Maracle and found an article in Trivia magazine called "The Lost Days of Columbus". Great quote:

Columbus came from a “throwaway” world. A “get rid of them” culture. We don't.

I'm unfamiliar with Trivia: Voices of Feminism magazine. So I clicked on current issue and found a wonderful poem by my favorite writer, Marge Piercy, called "Blue Mojo". This is a poem Piercy wrote for her friend, Audre Lorde.

Here's a portion:

We were Amazon raiders dusty from battle,
feisty, thumping, hope riding
our shoulders like a screeching parrot.

After you lost your first breast
you joked that now you were a true
Amazon. You were always true.

Writing by or about Lee Maracle that I found on the internet:

I am Native. I am Woman. I am.
Article from the McGill Daily

Some Words on Study As a Process of Discovery
Coming to know is connected to and a result of the process of seeing, thinking and considering phenomena, subject or text and either challenging and either believing or transforming that phenomena, subject or text, based on your particular culture of origin.

The Lost Days of Columbus
"I return Christopher to those who would adore him. I give him back to those who cling stubbornly to throwaway ways."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Playing with the layout

Tonight I started playing around in the new blogger tools. Since I don't have the choice anymore to stay with the old blogger, I might as well play with the new one.

Something about myself: I am a "dragged-kicking-and-screaming" adapter. I bought a CD player last year because I figured they were finally catching on. This year we bought a TV with a built-in DVD player so we could try out that new technology. The thing tanked after a couple of months, but it was fun while it lasted.

Being forced to upgrade in Blogger was a trauma I managed to survive.

About 10 years ago I watched an amazing exodus of skilled workers: printers and pressmen, become extinct as technology raced past them. I figured typesetters were next, but a few of us survive.

I'm all about print and I get it. I know what works and what doesn't on the printed page. I can kern a document within an inch of its life. I can make type sing off the page. I can make it invisible so that thoughts flow directly from the page directly nto your consciousness with no distractions or side trips.

So it's bizarre to be communicating in pixels. HTML coding is not that different from traditional cold type. I know I could learn it if I put in the effort.

But, you know, I bought a CD player last year because I believed they were catching on. I bought a DVD player this year.

Sami makes it to Metafilter.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

By good friend, Sami Rasouli is mentioned in a post on yesterday's metafilter. There are tons of links there, but I especially wanted to note this article that was in the Minneapolis paper this week:

Doug Grow:

Sami Rasouli, back from Iraq, says U.S. is impeding peace

By Doug Grow, Star Tribune
Last update: March 12, 2007 – 10:42 PM

Sometimes in this troubled world, even peacemakers smile.

Sami Rasouli, the former restaurateur who gave up a comfortable life in Minneapolis to return to his native Iraq three years ago, laughs when he thinks about the recent trip Gov. Tim Pawlenty made to Iraq and Afghanistan

"I would love to talk to him," Rasouli said. "I'll ask him, 'So tell me, what's going on in Iraq?' I will ask him, 'Did you meet any Iraqis?' And then I will invite him to stay with me the next time he comes. I'll tell him, 'I'm an embedded son of Minnesota. Come visit. You might see some different things than you've seen before.' "

Rasouli, 56, doesn't expect he'll hear from the governor anytime soon. Few U.S. officials have been knocking at his door in Najaf, the city where he has established his organization, Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

They haven't been attending the sessions he's holding at schools and in churches since returning to the United States on Feb. 27, either.

U.S. officials just don't seem interested in hearing an ex-restaurant guy tell them there can be no peace in Iraq until U.S. troops are out of the country.

But Rasouli does sound pretty rational.

"Occupation and democracy do not fit together," he says to anyone who will listen.

This is Rasouli's third trip back to the Twin Cities since November 2004, when he decided to sell his popular Nicollet Avenue restaurant, Sinbad's, and return to the country of his birth.

Rasouli's goal -- here and there -- is to build bridges among people of all religious backgrounds with the message, "One God, one people."

It seems like a good message, but it has been a tough sell.

Over the three years he has been in Iraq, he has seen violence increase, friends assassinated and living conditions deteriorate. Distrust reigns.

Given these realities, was it a mistake to give up "Eat Street" for Iraq? After all, even this man on a peace quest still loves dining at Sinbad's.

"Oh no, no, it was not a mistake," he said.

Where's the hope?

"Human beings always have evolved to something better," he said. "It is the war that is delaying the process of evolution."

Repeatedly he says it's U.S. policy that's creating the continuing deterioration.

This is the second time I've met with Rasouli on one of his return trips. Both times I've tried to put myself in his shoes. Both times I've failed.

I can't imagine going back to something that seems so futile. But in both conversations he insisted that it's a greater shock to return to the Twin Cities than it is to return to Iraq.

"It truly is more heartbreaking to come here," he said. "Sometimes I actually break down when I see the food, or use the electricity. It just reminds me of what the people don't have."

So, late this spring, he'll go back. "Maybe on his next trip, the governor will look me up," the peacemaker said, smiling.

Doug Grow •

A Plea

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

This weekend marks the 4th anniversary of the U.S. military war against Iraq. A lot of us will be out in the streets saying this war must end.


Click for ANSWER Coalition information about the large marches in DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

Click to find an event in your area.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Thanks to My Private Casbah

C-List Blogger

Thursday, March 08, 2007


First, a little background:

BelleDame has a pretty good round-up of a recent dust-up in the blogosphere centered on the comments of two white women who had married black men and have referred to themselves as Race Traitors.

Their version should not be mixed up with Race Traitor, the anti-racist journal and book by Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey. These women are talking about the term as used by racists.

One of the women has repeatedly said that her marriage to a black man was a political decision. That confused me. How I vote is a political decision, how I act in my community is a political decision. How I act in regard to my loved ones and family is different. In a rather controversial post at ChasingMoksha's blog, Heart explains her viewpoint:

The lies and distortions are also cruel, like suggesting I married my husbands for political reasons only or whatever stupid bullshit. I married my husbands for love. I left the world of white privilege because of my politics. Part of leaving that world was not marrying white. Part of leaving that world was being rejected by my extended family. Part of leaving that world was becoming poor. Part of leaving that world was bearing and raising biracial children, nine of them, over 36 years now, with all that has meant over the years. I could have set my sights on moving upward, upward, upward through the echelons of privilege available to white middle class women, until I hit the layer-of-men ceiling. I could have stayed in the sorority my parents forced me to pledge to when I went away to school (because I went to school at 16, in the 60s, and they feared for me in the dorms). I left the sorority after my freshman year, couldn't stand the place. I could have gotten serious about, and married, one of the many white frat boys I had to drag along to sorority functions that freshman year (which was a year I had sworn off of men completely so I could attend to my studies and plus, I was sick of men. Some things never change. :P) If I'd done my folks' plan, that is, stay in the sorority, making those all-important connections, marry a frat boy and enlarge that circle of connections, become a professional, married to a professional, then I'd have been solidly ensconced in white privilege, American style. I didn't want that. I said fuck that. I was a pacifist. I was an anti-racist, involved in the Civil Rights movement. This was the 60s and all of us who were activists hated the "Establishment". I wanted to participate in the political revolution that was going on on my campus and in my city, and that's what I did, and I never turned back, even during my fundie years, during which I was still a pacifist, still anti-war, still not patriotic, still interracially married, involved in all sorts of various alternative movements. So anyway, what I did was, I chose my male partners from amongst the political radicals with whom I was engaged in political work, and when, as it so happened, I fell in love with my first ex, I said, hell yeah. I did not skip a beat for fear of losing all my race or class privilege or for what might happen to me, or whatever. Of course, as it turned out, the worst things that happened to me happened to me at the hands of my ex! Which is another story for another time. And which doesn't change how much I loved him, or my second ex. Why are people such idiots, those talking about this? I have to believe they are deliberately being idiots out of cruelty. That men have abused us (generic "us" meaning women) and even tried to kill us doesn't change the love we have had for them or the way our lives intertwine from that point forward. That's the horror and betrayal of abuse, that the men we have loved and trusted more than any other men have battered us, tried to kill us. Even when we leave them behind, usually, we still love them. Maybe we always love them. That's the way that goes down. Anyway, so yes, I consciously, deliberately, married my exes, once I'd fallen madly in love with them, and then had to consider my future. I didn't do what lots of women, and men, would do, say, "No, I can't marry this person, my parents will freak out and disinherit me and disown me." "No, I can't marry this person, it just isn't done." "No, I can't marry this person, it will be too hard on the children." "No, I won't marry this person, he is too poor, he's had too hard of a life, we are too different, our cultures, backgrounds are too different, we will have too many problems." "No, I won't marry this person, his family won't like it." "No, I won't marry this person, he'll get kicked out of the Panthers and he won't be able to go to BSU meetings." "No, I won't marry this person because racists will treat us like shit." I said, "Yes, I'll marry this man whom I love because I love him, and I don't give a shit what anybody says or thinks about that, because the reasons people give for their opposition are RACIST, and my marrying him might make things easier for the next couple like us." Which is POLITICAL. I have to wonder if people understand what "political" even means, you know? That a decision is "political" doesn't change the fact that it is still made because of LOVE. Which kind of gets at something I've wanted to write about for a long time, actually, the heady excitement of revolution-making, the way that falling in love with your "comrades" happens easily, because making revolution in a way that is real is, in fact, to make real, vital, exciting connections, is centered in hopes for a future that is good and hopeful and loving, and that energy spills over into every interaction you have with your co-revolutionaries. So yes, it's political, and yes, it's love, and where one stops and the other begins is not so clearcut for those of us who have experienced this.

When I first read this explanation, I made the following comment at Veronica's thread titled White Lady Pity Party:

Over on CM’s blog (link above), Heart has further explained her “political reasons” for marrying black men.

It’s breathtaking. I honestly don’t believe I’ve met anyone more clueless about her privilege.

It’s breathtaking. I’m speechless.

I literally couldn't comment then because what Heart talked about: her experiences and her decisions, refer to the kind of life that could only have been lived by a tiny, tiny portion of extremely privileged white people in 1960s America. It immediately brought to mind the film Born Rich, a documentary film by Jamie Johnson. If you haven't seen it, you really should. Here's a brief intro:

First-time filmmaker Jamie Johnson, a 23-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, captures the rituals, worries and social customs of the young Trumps, Vanderbilts, Newhouses and Bloombergs in the documentary special, BORN RICH, a 2003 Sundance Film Festival selection. Offering candid insights into the privileges and burdens of inheriting more money than most people will earn in a lifetime.

I'm not claiming that Heart was obnoxiously wealthy, as the people in this film are. I am claiming that she existed in an extremely narrow world in which acts like not pledging a sorority or marrying outside your own race are seen as courageous acts of rebellion. Heart wrote: "I left the world of white privilege because of my politics." She lost her chance at a corporate career, she lost her space in a sorority, she lost her chance at a professional husband.

What the rest of us realize, is that 97 percent of the U.S. population never had a chance at that. And those of us in that 97 percent who were white and never had to make those tough decisions about which wonderful future to give up, were still making out like bandits compared to people of color. We got the nice houses, the nice services, the presumption of innocence, the helping hand of neighbors and strangers.

We could barely get arrested: I know that for a fact. My father was a major conman, a grifter, a charmer. He broke the law and lay waste to family and friends for decades and nobody said boo. None of which would have happened if his skin had been a different color.

I can see that, in Heart's world, she had to pass up a lot of goodies. Having to live a life lilke mine must have seemed hugely difficult. So, perhaps she can convince herself that the privilege is gone. Perhaps the subtleties of racism are too hard for her to see.

Especially if she chooses not to look at them. And you, know, that's one of the bestest things about being white. You can choose to ignore it altogether if you want. Heart become quite the expert in not noticing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Newspaper ad

We're putting an ad into the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder so I threw this together. Getting the word out!

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Monday, March 05, 2007


Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein

Published: March 2, 2007
Filed at 11:13 p.m. ET

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.

''We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem,'' Daniel Reist told The Associated Press.

Officials in Liechtenstein also played down the incident.

Interior ministry spokesman Markus Amman said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers, who were carrying assault rifles but no ammunition. ''It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something,'' he said.

Liechtenstein, which has about 34,000 inhabitants and is slightly smaller than Washington DC, doesn't have an army.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Adding the endorsers

So you've got your nice layout and your pretty flyer. A month later, somebody decides to add a ton of copy. Hello mice type! Squeak squeak squeak!

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

En espanol

Just got the Spanish translation for our March 18 flyer:

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

If you're in the Twin Cities, try to make it to the Immigrants Rights march today at 2 pm! You can see the flyer here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Art of Misdirection

Magicians use intricate hand movements to misdirect our attention from the hand that carries the "disappearing" coin or card. We white feminists have a similar trick to make sure that political discussion focuses on us. Here's a classic example:

In a post at TPM, Jessica Valenti mentions the behavior of a sorority at DePauw University that decided to kick out fat women and women of color from their group because they were "socially awkward" and were deemed unable to recruit new members.

This is a story of women from traditionally underprivileged groups making it past the many barriers to social progress and entering into a particular elite society: sororities on college campuses.Yet all that money and educational privilege does not protect them from the raw discrimination that the rest of us get to experience more frequently.

What can we learn from this and where should we turn to learn more?

Well, you could look to women of color who have been talking about this for years. You could look at women who deal with body issues. You could cite activist groups of young women who are making a difference.

Or you could just chuck all that and use this incident to focus on the pain of your white, middle class twit-like self. Which is exactly what Jessica chooses to do. And she specifically implicates her "feminist and blogging peers" in her effort to turn this important discussion into a rant about the needs of white privileged women.

What are the horrors faced by these women? I'll tell you, but first I believe I should post one of those disclaimers you see before TV shows:

the following may be inappropriate for some viewers. Boys and girls, prepare yourself for the horror and pain that is the life of Jessica and her peers:

Are you ready? Deep breath, now. Here goes:

"Being told you're too young to speak on a panel (this happened to someone I know at the 2005 NOW conference); being lectured about how your opinions are naïve or misinformed ("you weren't there!); being relegated to the "young feminist" table or forum at major conferences, having your accomplishments looked on warily because you didn't "pay your dues," getting emails about how all of your hard-working feminist blogging is for naught because your logo is sexist (cough, cough)."

The horror. The horror.

There you have it: the pain of racism is comparable to having to sit at the "kids table" at your family's holiday dinner.

As an older feminist, I should probably take umbrage that Valenti is using the worst sort of psychobabble to explain our failure to admire her and her peers. Katha Pollitt actually takes the bait in her response.

And that makes the circle complete. Misdirection accomplished. When racism and body issues are involved, all it takes is two white women focusing on their own issues to divert the discussion onto the problems faced by white women.

I'm hoping for something better this time. I'm hoping that readers of Valenti's post will also see the awesome reponses being posted by kick-ass women who call bullshit on this nonsense.

Go, read, and learn (be sure to read the comments as well):

Women of Color


Black Amazon

Renegade Evolution

Women writing on the body


The Gimp Parade

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Addiction

This Geogrpahy Quiz is the kind of test my mother, the professor of geography, despised. So of course I had to send her the link. It has wasted a major part of my time recently.

Posting Problem

The new blogger now makes it impossible for me to post from home. Bummer. There's been a lot of interesting stuff to link plus I turned 51 yesterday. So wish me a happy birthday and I'll get back in the swing of things once I figure out what Blogger has done to my home computer.