Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007


The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Monday, September 24, 2007

HATE IS ALIVE & WELL IN THE USA

"Here's the unmentionable secret: Racism isn't that big a deal any more. No sensible person supports it. Nobody of importance preaches it. It's rapidly becoming an ugly memory." -- Tony Snow, on an October 2003 edition of Fox News Sunday

(A tree similar to the "Whites Only" tree at Jena High School, Jena, Lousiana -- the original tree has since been removed)

This week as thousands of protesters arrived in Jena, Louisiana to demonstrate against bigotry and support the "Jena Six", The major media was forced to re-consider, that yes, maybe racism is still a major problem in America, and people actually care about the subject. For those who are still unfamiliar with the story of the Jena Six, or would like more information, this is an excellent link: Jena 6 article at While Seated. Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article -- a very moving, and unfortunately, not unusual occurrence in the good ole US of A.

Last week was also when another tragic story came to light: That of a young woman of color held against her will, berated with racial slurs, beaten, tortured and raped by a group of six white people. The district attorney in the case declined to charge these citizens with a "hate crime" because the young woman had once had a personal "relationship" with one of her attackers. For more information, I give you the following article:
Article re Megan Williams at International Herald Tribune

These stories have affected me deeply, as they have many Americans; but I have been following them with a closer eye since just recently I read an article stating what I have long suspected: I live in one of the most racially segregated cities in America. In fact, the de facto "dividing line" can be clearly viewed from my front porch---Troost Avenue.
Map of African-American and White Populations in Kansas City, MO


This park is two blocks from my house. It is not an "official" city park, but an effort on the part of the community to provide a gathering place and a place a beauty, an effort to make Troost a place of unity, rather than a symbol of divisiveness. The mural above depicts the history of the area. Troost began as an Osage Indian trail in the early 1800's. Later in that century, it was an area of expensive homes. Into the twentieth century, as blacks moved from the countryside of the deep south to the cities in the north, the area east of Troost and north of 31st street became known as the "Negro Area". Later in the century, that area grew until it encompassed the entire eastern length of Troost Avenue.

I live in an integrated area, one block west of Troost. I live here because it is my own ghetto in a way; it once was called "Womon Town" and was a mecca for those of us of the lesbian persuasion. Later, as many of the "womons" moved out, gay males moved in, and it became a generic big city gay area. Still, it is one place that despite the crime, lack of police protection and crumbling infrastructure, that I feel I can relax and be myself.

Troost Avenue is trying to revitalize itself. This summer there have been many festivals and celebrations, drawing both black and white to the area.

You might be fooled into thinking it was any other Main Street.



But on most days, you'll see more things on Troost like this:



or this....

It is the last place where TIF money will ever be used, when it should be the first. It is filled with vacant and decaying buildings, vagrants and drug addicts. Even though it is the quickest route home, I no longer use it at night; too many prostitutes blocking traffic, looking for "dates". And why? Because the people in power don't care.

But there ARE people here who care. People who gathered in two (yes two!) area parks, demonstrating for some young people in a little town hundreds of miles away. Many more got on church buses and traveled those many miles to the little town itself.

I went to one of those demonstrations at the J.C. Nichols fountain -- it's on the Plaza, a swank area of town in reality only a few blocks away from Troost, but socially more like a million miles away...

Most of the demonstrators were black, but a few were not, and most of those were young. So I have hope. I still had hope, even when a couple of white guys threw the remains of their lunch at us, and called us those lovely names. I have hope because most of the people that passed us honked their horns in support, smiled and waved.

But if those in power do not see what I see, what we see, those peaceful protests are going to turn angry. Blogging about injustices helps to get the word out. But the only way to get to the powers that be,is to go to the protests, go to the streets, even if you're tired, even if you're too busy, even if you're too old or too crippled -- because the Man in power doesn't read your blog.

Here are some more related articles:
Women in the Civil Rights Movement article by Gail Collins, NY Times
Jena, post by MissLaura at Daily Kos
Megan Williams statement to the police in post at Essential Presence blog
31st and Troost: From Dividing Line to Gathering Place (PDF article)

59 comments:

Aunt Soozie said...

Shado...you've moved me to the streets! Great piece. Thanks.
Now to check out some of those links.

shadocat said...

Soozie---Sorry for so many links, but there's just so much to tell! If you only read a couple, read the first Jena story, and the Megan Williams article---that'll get your blood boilin'!

Josiah said...

Boilin' indeed, Shadocat. I knew about the Jena 6, of course, but I hadn't heard about Megan Williams' horrific ordeal. I just read the transcript of her police statement, and I'm feeling physically ill.

Your post is quite timely, too, as today is the 50th anniversary of the integration of the Little Rock school system. The media coverage of that anniversary seems far too triumphalist, as if the problems of racism were firmly in the past, rather than a painful, living American reality.

kat said...

may I take some space telling you all about a very interesting conversation that I had with my grandmother today? It's a propos of all of this....
if so, I'll be back in a little while.

shadocat said...

Josiah, you're right, today IS the 50th anniversary. I wonder what this racial make-up of the Little Rock school district is today, particularly the high school? I suspect a lot of the white families moved out to the suburbs, and things didn't change as much as people would like to think...

silvio soprani said...

Shado,
All I can think of, especially after reading about Megan Williams, is that Martina McBride song where she says, "Love's the only house big enough for all the pain in the world."

I can sort of understand the crowd mentality operating in the Jena incident. But Megan's tormentors were a family for god's sake! A mother and a daughter and a son...what the hell was going on there? What people used to call "evil" before George W. gave the word a bad name.

Nonetheless, Shado, I loved all the pictures and your description of your neighborhood. It seems like there are some people working their fight and their hope for all it's worth.

Recently on PBS there was a documentary about the origins of hip hop in the South Bronx. The fact that their neighborhood was slowly decaying and being demolished, and nobody cared. So the gangs (which were Black and Hispanic) had a sort of peace conference where they agreed to replace fighting with breakdancing. Pretty amazing, really.

And the way they described the origins of this street dancing reminded me of descriptions I have heard about how the Tango began in ...was it Argentina? or Brazil? I can't remember, but it was that same thing--it sprang from desperation and poverty as an affirmation.

Being the old fogey that I am, my reaction, after watching footage of how the older generation, Puerto Ricans who had formed "SALSA" out of recycled Cuban dancing, was something like "How could these teenagers be satisfied with hip hop when they had already learned to dance so hypnotically and melodically from their parents?

but the answer of course is that every generation has to invent its own thing.

Why am I talking about hip hop and dancing in this blog entry about violence and hatred? Probably because I am so amazed how artistic responses to hatred can spring from people who have been treated so badly.

Also, probably because I spend so much time alone in my house, I know it is much better to take action collectively with others.

Shado, thanks for this very moving contribution.

Maggie Jochild said...

Twenty years ago I had a private conversation with Nancy Kline, a leader in social justice issues, where she told me she had been bothered for a long time by stories of people who commit atrocities repeatedly and in connection with another. What was bothering her was her value system which said people only hurt others in a manner which reflects how they themselves have been hurt: All means of doing harm are learned. She counted on that being true (as do I) because hope is built into that equation.

I believe that when people harm another, it is a cry for help. A very incompetent cry, and I'm not liberal about stopping their behavior first, no matter what, before they get help -- first things first. But I need to believe that people are not "born bad".

But when you examine the backgrounds of serial killers or people like the family who tortured Megan Williams, you tend not to find the extent of childhood abuse to match what they grow up and inflict on others. Nancy said someone, an expert in criminology, had finally explained to her that if you get one of these "enactors" to tell the story of what happened to them as a child, in a symbolic and bare-bones way, and collapse it into a 30-second movie, it will then resemble their torture scenes. And, the worst offenses are done by two or more people, because they are combining their scenarios. Plus -- once you begin re-enacting what was done to you, you add to the damage load you are carrying.

We don't like to believe that, in this county. We don't want to believe that playing at violence or sexual degradation, that "venting" our anger in racist or hateful ways actually makes the damage inside worse. But I believe it does.

To me, this is empiric evidence of how devastating racism is on everybody, white and non-white alike, although in very different ways. I believe all children resist the soul-destroying message of racism as long as they can, until their own survival is at stake, and only knuckle under and believe it when the alternative is to lose your family and the only people who appear to love you. That's part of why I avoid using the word "privilege", or the terms "victim" and "oppressor".

This country was founded on racism, achieved its wealth and power through genocide and holding onto slavery longer than the rest of Europe, and -- I know this is heresy in some circles, but not my circles -- I believe racism (including the classism linked to it) is the greatest problem facing the world today. Greater than woman-hating, greater than child abuse, greater than destroying the environment -- it is more deeply woven into our consciousness and in the way of effectively addressing those other problems.

And yeah, Silvio, I look to art for a doorway beyond. Art, god, nature -- whatever calls on us to make a quantum leap.

shadocat said...

Maggie I share your thoughts on racism--it really is the root of most that is really evil in our society.

Unlike a lot of white people, I've been on the "other side" of racism. I worked two jobs, one of those at the KCMO School District, where I was 1 of the 6 or 7% of the white employees. Let me tell you, when you're white and in the minority, it is a very different world. Some of my co-workers were wonderful, supportive people, but others were NOT. At best, they were suspicious of me. At the worst, they downright hated me. In the white community, there is so much we don't know about our racial past. We know about slavery; we know about the civil rights movement; but past that, we don't know that much. Our elders, didn't tell us about riots where the white populattion came down and killed people of color by the hundreds, as they did in Tulsa, OK. and Atlanta Ga., then sweep all the details "under the rug", as if they never happened. But Black elders make sure their children know. And then of course we (whites) teach our children to watch out for them, because for some reason, they're(people of color) "all angry at us, and we don't really know why, but watch out,just to be on the safe side".

Chris Rock said, "White people like their Negroes like they like their spices; just a sprinklin'."
And he's right. I remember being very uncomfortable as the only white person in a room full of black people. I wasn'r used to it. "What do I say to them?", I thought. "They probably won't like me---I wish there was just one white person I could sit by..." , and so forth. It took me a long time to get over myself. Actually, I still have to work on it from time to time.

For myself, I'm going to reach out to people as much as I can. Because even if we all chip away at this, things will change. And the more people we gan get to do it, the bigger the movement will become.

silvio soprani said...

Shado,
Your comments are reminding me of something Pat Parker talked about at one of her poetry readings in Washington DC in the early early 90s.
I was newly in the lesbian feminist community, working at a feminist newsjournal, and I (a white person) eagerly went to a reading at the (then) feminist bookstore.
Pat Parker was a Black lesbian feminist poet from the San Francisco area. (I am willing to bet big money that Maggie knew her :)
Pat Parker died of cancer in the early 90s, but before she did, she put out some righteous poetry.
Anyway, she read a poem how in the Black Panther days a (mostly white feminist) organization raised some money and wanted to donate it to the Black Panthers for their children's breakfast program. There was some discussion in the organization about whether the black panthers would be willing to accept "white feminist women's money," completely ignoring the fact that some of the money came from black feminists in the same room.

it was one of those moments where you suddenly see through your blind spots.

After the reading was over, I overhead Pat Parker mentioning to someone that she did not have a ride home. I offered her a ride. She accepted graciously and continued her conversation with some friends. At this point one of the (black) friends offered her a ride home. Pat said, "I think it would be incredibly rude, considering that the sister (me!) has been sitting here waiting to drive me home."

I was so incredibly flattered to be called a sister by a black person. (White insecurity, I suppose.)

Anyway, Pat's poetry had a lot of honesty and a lot of compassion at the same time. She was a great lady.

I don't know that I have progressed politically so much since then. I don't have any trouble in Baltimore with my black co-workers; I just treat everybody with respect and affection, and I have not had any trouble.

But Shado, I agree with you, it is not easy to be the minority of any category.

I suppose those brave monks in Burma have the comfort of being surrounded by their brothers, dressed in those beautiful sunrise color robes. Talk about color therapy!

shadocat said...

Speaking of art (even though it's all black, white, and shades of gray) the murals I pictured were by Alexander Austin, a local artist with buckets of talent to spare...his work is on buildings all over town, and it's just plain wonderful.

kat said...

okay.
I was sidetracked for a little while....Well, Maggie thinks that the word is the understatement of the century, since what happened was that my right knee did this weird twisting/locking/popping-out-of-joint thing that occurs every few years....It's much better now, though, so I'm rejoining the discussion.

About a month or six weeks ago, I got in the car really late one night, and turned on NPR. One of the writers from "What about our daughters" was on, discussing the Dunbar Village case. It's really similar to the Megan Williams one, and I hadn't heard ANYTHING about it from regular media outlets. The details of this woman's torture and gang rape were so shocking I almost drove off the road. I was even more shocked that this hadn't been reported on except in a couple of Florida papers. It was really hard to find information, even online.
I think that I did see one other article about Megan Williams, besides the one linked here, but still. Why are these awful hate crimes being ignored?


Here's the original reason for my post. A very interesting conversation that I had with my grandmother the other day. We had both heard or seen the Newshour (from PBS/NPR) report about the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock desegregation. Yiayia (as I call my grandma) was musing on the state of things, and how they've changed since she was a child.

She was born in West Virginia, in a little town called Kaiser. Her family lived in Iowa for a couple of years when she was about 8 or so. I guess Iowa schools weren't segregated, because that was the first time that Yiayia had ever been in class with a black child. When Christmas rolled around, the class held a "secret santa" type thing, and Yiayia drew the black student's name.
When telling me this, she got a troubled look on her face, and then said that she immediately started to cry. What happened next was the start of her knowing that something wasn't right, she said, because the teacher then took everyone's little tag, put them all back in the hat and started again.
Turns out, the second time, she drew the same name. Rather than letting the teacher start all over AGAIN, she tried to be stoic and said that she'd keep it.

She hadn't known what felt weird or wrong to her, just that something was off. Yiayia's mother, whose thoughts on race I don't know, was a southern lady who believed in manners above all else. She told Yiayia that she really needed to find an extra-nice, thoughtful gift, since she had probably made the poor little boy feel awful.

The family went back to West Virginia a few years later. Yiayia graduated from high school at 16 and went to a community college, then to university, and, remarkably, to medical school.
In medical school, in Baltimore, the teaching hospital was, of course, segregated. Yiayia remembers there being a separate ward for each category (white men, black men, white women, black women), all radiating out from a central nurses area.

So, to practice getting patient histories and writing reports and all that, the students would take the patient into a theater type area (instead of crowding around the bed like on Grey's Anatomy). The day that Yiayia presented, her patient, an older black woman, was wheeled in. Yiayia stood up and started: "My patient today is Mrs. Jones. She is..." and was immediately interrupted.
"No" said her professor, "her name is Mary"

Now, with my late 20th Century California brain, I didn't realize what the distinction meant. Yiayia looked at me and said, "Well, she was black, of course, she wasn't supposed to be Mrs. Blacks were always called by their first names."

Neither of these examples is a huge earth-shattering event, but they were the beginnings of Yiayia realizing that something was wrong and unjust.

I think it's a good sign that she came to these realizations on her own, and tried to move away from her conditioning.

Again in medical school, the students would be sent out for the middle of the night baby deliveries. Yiayia remembers being sent out to the poor black neighborhoods and being struck by the differences to her own surroundings. While her family never had a lot, they were infinitely more privileged than the families she was seeing, she realized the unfairness and the pain.

Yiayia is still working on things. She occasionally says things that seem really shocking to me, usually about other minority groups about whom it's more socially acceptable to be prejudiced, even in liberal Berkely. When you call her on it, though, she will stop and think and reconsider. And the whole homophobia thing is slow to leave, but she's getting there.

Interestingly, she's much more accepting of Lesbians than of gay men.....because of the touch of feminism that has crept into her, maybe? But there's work to do there.

I just think that it's pretty cool that at 92 she's still thinking about the state of society and questioning and learning and changing.

I still giggle, though, when she says things like: "You really should meet these two young women at my church. They're musicologists, and so interesting. And...." her voice drops to a whisper, "They're lesbians, you know."

oh, Yiayia, I wonder if we'll never get ALL of the West Virginia out of the girl....I hope not, cuz that might mean the end of the pineapple upside-down cake baked in a cast iron pan....

shadocat said...

Kat---That was beautiful.Thank you, thank you, for sharing your story.

Maggie Jochild said...

Kat, SO great to hear about the "Divine Secrets of the Yiayia Sisterhood"! (Couldn't resist.)

More than once, a character on West Wing would refer to the importance of "raising the level of public discourse", and I felt that was a primary objective of the show itself, not just the Bartlett Presidency. Which is where blogs are can be extremely valuable tools (not to argue with the last line of yr post, Shado).

One of the chief reasons why I think racism is our biggest cancer (aside from the small fact that it affects the survival of the majority of human beings on the planet) is that white folks just can't find ways to talk about it, acknowledge it, *see* it, or if they do see it, express much beyond hopelessness about it. So thanks for this forum, Shado.

Particularly this week, with:
**Bill O'Reilly screaming he's not a racist
**the Klan/Nazis publishing home addresses and phone numbers of the families of the Jena 6
**the mayor of Jena then telling these white supremacist groups "Your moral support means a lot"
**the news that black professionals applying for jobs receive less favorable ratings from potential employers than white ex-cons
**the top four Republican presidental candidates have refused to participate in debates for Spanish language television or for black Americans hosted by Tavis Smiley
**the burial of a story about four young African-American lesbians defending themselves against woman-hating and anti-lesbian attacks, only to be sentenced to prison
and
**New York Times columnist Bob Herbert flatly stated the GOP is anti-black

Just to let ya'll know, over at Meta Watershed I got a tip: A woman named Deidre has created a blog dedicated to all the missing black women in America. Labeled "Black and Missing but Not Forgotten", it also has a link to a fund for Megan Williams (scroll down on the left). (Thx to Second Waverfor the link.)

Josiah said...

Kat, your grandmother's hospital story reminds me of my friend Lilli Lewis, who is an amazingly talented musician. As she relates in her song "Wednesday's Child" (which you can hear a sample of here), her grandfather tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head; however, the bullet glanced off his skull and he would have survived if he'd gotten immediate medical care. However, he was a poor black man in rural Georgia, and even though his family took him to the hospital right away, the doctors wouldn't let them bring him into the hospital. Apparently the practice for black patients at that hospital was for them to line up at the back door, and the nurses would treat them outside when they had time; black patients weren't allowed into the hospital. Lilli's grandfather died while his family was waiting at the back door.

Although we still have a long way to go, I'm thankful that something like that is much less likely to happen nowadays.

Josiah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kat said...

glad I could share.
sometimes between being nagged about not having health insurance, and the car being cluttered, my grandma and I have some really interesting and enlightening conversations.
thanks for the links, maggie, and the wonderful post, shado!

Josiah, that's pretty frightening. At least in Baltimore (at this hospital anyway), it wasn't quite that bad.

Josiah said...

I'm having HTML problems today. The post I deleted above was an attempt to correct one of the links in my post about my friend Lilli: the word "amazing" should have linked to this page, but I made the same mistake on the attempted correction.

Just as well, because I also forgot to point out that on that page you can also see an embedded YouTube video of Lilli singing "Wednesday's Child". The audio portion of the video isn't very good, but it will allow you to hear the whole song. (Then, of course, you'll go and buy it, to support a struggling artist!)

I also wanted to thank Maggie for her comment and links — we can always rely on you to provide the context.

shadocat said...

Maggie---great links!(As usual). Especially loved the Bill O'Reilly piece (I mean, WHAT AN ASSHOLE!) and also the New Jersey Four case---the gay community needs to support them as much as the black community has supported the "Jena Six." Hell, we all need to support 'em! I'm e-mailing my local Anti-Violence Project to ask if they have any info on them, and what I can do to help. And I hope y'all know that I DO think blogs are very important---but it's also important to get out there where the rest of the world can see you.

silvio soprani said...

This is related to our topic here in the sense of trying to be true to the truth and keep the world a liveable place:

http://www.irrawaddy.org/

If you are following the situation in Burma, and are wondering how the government has managed to "shut down the internet," as news sources have reported, apparently they are closing down Internet cafes, which are what most people use to post e-mail. Also, I think I read that they are closing down cell phone reception, although I don't understand how they do that. Above is a link to an online news service about Burma (I think they are posting from Thailand). I have a former student from there who sent me the link.

A friend of mine spent some time in Africa on a work-related trip. She meant to blog every day and document her experiences, but she said it could take up to two hours for a photo to load, and her time was much better spent being out in the country than fuming over a slow computer. I suppose there is probably an element of that in Burma also.

The footage people have been taking with their cell phones is pretty amazing.

http://www.camden28.org/
I think I have posted this next link before, but now The Camden 28-- the commercial DVD --is available (from Netflix, for one example), and it has about an hour of extra features. This is a film about an anti-draft board nonviolent action taken by some Catholic Left activists in 1971 against the Viet Nam war. It is the story of their planning, performance, arrest, and trial related to this action. Two of the women were my close friends from high school, and both of them died of cancer last year. I was able to see them before they died and talk about this and other things.

Watching this film again last night was poignant because here we are again in the same situation--a war most do not agree should ever have begun, and a real need for non-violent resistance in our society.

And I was struck, listening to these people explain WHY they felt it necessary to "break the law" to stop this war, that we really do need to perpetuate the stories of the past or we truly never learn what we need to know to keep our world healthy and peaceful.

Although it was sad and frustrating to see this story of activism and how little good it really did (here we are in the same situation 30 years later,) still, it was heartening as a lesson and an example.

and of course, those monks in Burma have the right idea.

Maggie Jochild said...

Silvio, THANKS SO MUCH for the info and the cross-fertilization that's going on here -- not just from you, but others as well.

Kat wrote me an individual e-mail today about the war in the Congo, and I want to share part of it here: "The article is really hard to get through, and I don't know how we've gotten away with ignoring this for so long. Here's the link: Sexual Violence in the Congo."

The article is horrifying, and it's okay if you can't read it right now. Overwhelm is real. I trust us here to be using our resources as best we can.

I've also put up a new post at Meta Watershed, which I think of as growing out of and returning to the thread here -- many conversations going on out there on related topics. Thanks for being HERE, ya'll.

silvio soprani said...

Maggie,

I too appreciate the "cross-fertilization" as you put it that we have here. A veritable octopus (in the best possible way) of new things and old things to think about.
I also appreciate the affirmation that one is not always ready to read about the hard stuff right away, but like the old Whole Earth Catalog, the knowledge is "access to tools." Use as needed.

I started a new job in August at a desk cubicle in a publishing company (as opposed to on my feet all day running around teaching classes in a community college.) One of the nicest things about it is that I have a desk and a shelf to put plants on. And my plants are with me all day long. I cannot believe that I have made it to age 55 and have never before had a true day to day, minute-to-minute relationship with growing things like this. For the first time I have noticed how the new branches and leaves on a plant seem to always begin at an elbow-like joint that forms on each old branch. Amazing!

I am reminded of that moment when Alan Turing observed a pine cone and figured out that Fibonacci pattern of numbers (I am not comparing myself to him, nor can I explain what the Fibonacci numbers are, but it all springs from quiet observation.)

Why do I mention this? Because I am reading a memoir about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Poets called "When I Was Cool," by Sam Kashner. It is basically a BOY story (about a young assistant to Ginsberg at the Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in the 1970s), but it is also a very honest, funny story about being young, insecure, inexperienced, passionate about writing, and awed by icons, and then seeing up close all their flaws yet still maintaining one's affection for them in spite of it.

Most of it is appalling, but a lot of it is funny, and since I was living in Colorado in those years (in another world, apparently), I can relate to it.

There are a lot of gurus, meditators, adulterers, addicts, and very strange women, who I cannot figure out whether they were victims, power-mongers, or lunatics.

But then I compare my placid little self, 30 years later, not particularly prolific creatively these days, no longer awed by celebrity, and not willing to lug a heavy piano to a gig at 10 pm just to be admired by complete strangers, and I think I am okay with watching my plants grow shoots hour by hour. :)

Lastly, I really like that Quote on the home page from Nelson Mandela about not being afraid of one's darkness, but of one's light.

Did y'all hear that JONI MITCHELL has a new album and it is mostly a piano album! WOWEEE! This does excite me.

Take care, all. It is a BEaUTIFUL morning in Baltimore. Must go out into the light!

kat said...

hello all.
I found the article that Maggie linked over at BitchPhd.
There's a follow up there with a link to a documentary on "femicide." I guess it was on POV, the pbs documentary series.

hope everyone is having a good weekend, despite all the hate and awfulness floating around the world right now.

shadocat said...

Silvio,

My plants have become my refuge from the world when things become too overwhelming.I don't have a garden (I live in an apartment), but I do have a lovely old porch that I've made into a garden of sorts. Most of my houseplants are out there now, and I've tried to cram as many flowers as I can out there as well. I have a little wooden statue of Kuan Yin in the corner (or it may be a baby Buddha, not really sure, but it looks peaceful)and it's very soothing, just to go out there and work among the flowers anf plants, watering, transplanting, trimming and pruning, helping things to grow.

And Joni Mitchell has a new album? I'll have to check that out. Gee, sometimes life CAN be good...

silvio soprani said...

Shado,
I heard an interview (maybe it was on Fresh Air on NPR? not sure..) with Joni yesterday. Apparently she is opening an art exhibit of her photos/artwork in New York City-this show is all about her feelings about America and the War.

At the same time she is releasing this album, and she talked about how, to her, the composition of painting and music are the same process -- putting down a framework and then building layers. (Like multi-track recording.)

She also talked about how during the last 10 years (the last time she had an album was 10 yrs ago), she was angry at America and hurt at all the criticism people had given her about her politically themed songs. At a certain point she could no longer resist putting new work out there. (Thank GAWD!)


It's funny, I think of the Joni of the last 25 years (as opposed to that pre-raphaelite blond angel in the hippie dresses singing about Laurel Canyon--) as being hard as nails. Unaffected by others' opinion of her or her work...but she's a Scorpio, you know. We feel stuff, we just don't like to hang our reactions out there. :)

I also read somewhere that Starbucks' recording label is releasing her album. (The last one they did was Sir Paul McCartney!) Perhaps in commerce she found an entity that affirmed her and these strange bedfellows found a common goal. WHATEVER. I'm just glad there's some new Joni music out there!

-Silvio

Maggie Jochild said...

Ya know, every time I think about writing a post about race or class, I need to just head on over to Orcinus and see if Dave or Sara has beaten me to the punch. Because usually they have.

So, here's a couple of links. The first is about how when you decide to "keep the brown people out", it destroys the local economy. Hahaha. I'm waiting for this to catch up with Plano, Texas who should fucking well know better.

AND -- Dave also brilliantly, succinctly elucidates how
classism is used to keep racism in place
, and how confused we are about it. Seattle has a lot to be proud of, but Orcinus is one of the top ten, in my opinion.

I love the descriptions of gardens, plants, and the laying down of musical layers. The real stuff of life. Annie Dillard says "Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you." Yeah.

silvio soprani said...

Maggie,

Regarding the garden discussion--Hey Shado!-- yesterday I went to the Baltimore Book Festival (a lovely, local thing of beauty), the Maryland Library Association was giving out as their souvenir little packets of seed of Black Eyed Susans (Our State Flower). I am going to plant mine in a pot and see if they are willing to grow on my desk at work!

That Orcinus blog was good. Yes, not far from Baltimore, in Manassas, Northern Virginia there is a local vigilante--oops, I meant "citizens..." group taking it upon themselves to make the Spanish-speaking population very uncomfortable. I heard a report about it on NPR yesterday. I think they are trying to pass some sort of ordinance to scare them away.

Manassas is a suburb of DC that has had rapid growth in the last 20 years (like so many places), taking it from a rural agrarian-type "country" community to a suburban anthill full of 1/2 million dollar McMansions on a 1/4 acre of land. Traffic is gridlock and taxes are high.
As one of the Spanish-speakers interviewed commented, "Who build these? Spanish build these." "Spanish" for sure doesn't live in these.

On my street in Baltimore (including in fact in my building) are about 50 to 75 % Spanish speaking people, most of whom get picked up in vans every morning and are driven 50 miles north to the next hopping bedroom community under connstruction, Owings Mills, MD. (more farmland turned McMansions and malls.)

I would say 90% of the shops on Broadway, the main drag in my neighborhood, are places where little to no English is spoken. I have never had a problem or felt usafe or unwelcome. Even on the street, when I pass groups of men hanging out, the hairs on the back of my neck never stand up the way they do when I sense danger. that is just a gut assessment, but that is what I use.

Is it a problem that this part of town, which 10 years ago was mostly aging white working class Baltimoreans is now primarily owned or rented by the next ethnic group? I don't know the answer to that.

That state of affairs is probably no worse for the economy than I am--I live paycheck to paycheck, owe a lot of money, don't own property, but I do vote and pay my taxes. I suppose I am a good citizen, but I don't think I have boosted the local economy terribly much. I few beers and a pizza here and there; occasionally a new pair of sneakers; a certain amount of gasoline; other than that I think I am a freeloader on this economy. The only person getting rich off me is my landlady and I suppose the Utility company.

I do think the more you own, the more unfriendly you feel toward people poorer than you because they become influences upon the value of your property instead of people with feelings. Well, if that is my own only evidence for feeling virtuous, I'll take it.

And now, Maggie, and other Divas, is this the right place to ask a procedural question about the MOC?
Thank you for your indulgence.

I like the new design; the way that the comments come up in a box when you click instead of increasing the amount of scroll time for the whole blog. BUT, on my computer, it comes up as a rather small box--about 1/8 of my screen. I can increase the size of the type (FIREFOX, CONTROL *), but I can't maximize the box. Is there some click tab I am not seeing?
Also, and very mystifiying this is, yesterday, totally by accident, i did something that did maximize the box and all the comments stretched across my screen in truly cinematic spendor! But how did I do i? and how can I do it again?
Thank you to anyone who can solve this mystery!
I am enjoying being part of the MOC again and I have gotten over whichever hurdle was keeping me from being gregarious. See you later.

kat said...

Silvio,
I have the same problem with the comment box.....no idea how to fix it, though.

I heard the report on Manassas on Friday, too. I was particularly struck by the interview with an older african-american woman who essentially said that the immigrants were ruining the neighborhood and were trash and should get out.

It seemed so strange to me that those words would come out of someone from a group that was subjected to that same kind of attitude....
(that sentence doesn't seem grammatically correct, but it's 8am on a sunday and I can't write coherently right now...)

I've had a couple of really frustrating conversations about "illegal immigration" (by which we really mean "influx of people with darker skin who speak spanish") in the last couple of years.
It seems that people get fed some really ridiculous ideas and just go with them, rather than actually thinking about things.
My aunt, who lives in rich-ass Scottsdale, Arizona, is convinced that all immigrants are criminals who introduced gangs to her state. A man that I met in Fresno (now more housing development than field, but still in the main farming region of CA) insists that ALL harvesting is done by machine and therefore no one needs to personally pick vegetables......Driving down I-5 is enough to dissuade that theory, but whatever.

How do we go about spreading the message that the all powerful media is feeding people a lot of BS?

silvio soprani said...

Kat,

Well, until I moved into this "spanishtown" of Fells Point, Baltimore, my main experience of immigrants was from teaching adult ESL at the community college in a nearby suburban town in Maryland. I have never met such wonderful people! Virtually ALL my students, regardless of age, occupation, circumstances, were honest, hard-working, friendly types with parents, children, rent, mortgages, health issues, and every other kind of life experience that native-born Americans share.

I did have some students whom I knew lived in crowded kind of "underground" conditions, but they were nice people.

To answer your question, I think if more people got involved with immigrants, either by volunteering to tutor in English,or even by just working side-by-side with them, they would realize that people are people.

This whole idea that "they are taking over" is ridiculous. I think the only hope for our world is a one-by-one process.

Maybe people with major prejudice issues need to go buy their eggs and milk at a Spanish-speaking store from someone who tells them the price in Spanish until they realize they speak English. Then they need to negotiate their communication. It is kind of a nice experience. It reminds me of the first time I ever played "catch" with a small rubber ball with a female friend. Until then I just never did any sports. but one day she said, "Want to play catch?" And I discovered how personal a thing it is to play one-on-one catch with someone. You are totally focused and you get all the attention. It is very satisfying. i think at that moment I began to understand why guys like to play sports so much. What girls get out of gossiping, guys get out of throwing and catching. One-on-one attention.

Anyway, if these people had to look their convenience store clerk in the eye and count out their change in Spanish/English, they would make a connection and realize everybody is okay.

My other comment about your post is that yes, there are a lot of spanish-speaking gangs. When I taught in a boys' correctional facility in Tucson,AZ, there were about 300 boys in the school, and 90 gangs represented, and they were virtually ALL spanish-speaking gangs that had either migrated from Los Angeles, or direct from Mexico. Scary, yes. But all those boys had parents or other relatives in the south Tucson area who were most likely NOT in gangs.

It all comes back to that script written for Yoda: "Ignorance begets Fear, Fear begets Anger, Anger begets Hatred," etc.

Maggie Jochild said...

Two answers, practical first. Re the size of the pop-up box for comments: I, too, find it too small. But a search of Blogger's help files plus all the geeks out there hacking code for Blogger turns up no one who's figured out how to change it. We can either have a small pop-up box or go back to the old way, where comments are on a new page and you have to Go Back to the previous screen when done. Ya'll vote and I'll go with the majority, either is fine with me.

Second: Something like 95% of talk radio in this country is run by right-wing hate-oriented folks, and the majority of news/contact from people in non-urban areas is via radio. It's a serious problem that has occurred over the last 20 years -- the Right went after radio very consciously. So, what rural and small town people are hearing is the same message pounded in over and over -- that their difficulties are the results of immigrants, queers, liberals, and atheists.

In particular, there is a myth that an astonishing percentage of Americans believe, the Atzlan conspiracy: That Mexicans and Central Americans have an organized plan to "re-take" big sections of the U.S., and illegal immigration is the first wave of that plan. Google Atzlan and see what comes up. So, they really do think it's a plot.

One solution is to support locally-owned, community-based radio.

I was struck by the fact that one of the threads followed in The War documentary concerned Babe Ciarlo, a young Italian-American man from Connecticut who wound up dying in the march to Rome. His letters are read as narration, and his sister and brother comment frequently on how the war was for them with him at the front. The interesting thing is, his mother spoke no English at all. Couldn't even read his letters home, although he became the central focus of her life. I know, from friends, that Italian-Americans (like Irish and Jewish immigrants from another era) were at one point hated in the same way Latin-American immigrants are hated now, and one of the things held against non-native-English speakers was their language. But no one is condemning this mother of a soldier (at least, on camera), for her supposed "lack of assimilation", and rightly so, in my opinion.

shadocat said...

I'm reminded of another saying---"the more you have, the more you have to lose." Is it me, or does it seem that those who have the most (things) to lose, are the ones who seem to panic around the groups of people who can only go up (financially) from where they're at now?

Computer-wise, I'm also having the same problem with the little box; still trying to find a solution, but no luck so far...

shadocat said...

Maggie, You're right about the Italian-Americans; and don't forget the Irish!

Years ago, I took my girls to see the movie "Far And Away". I'd never really told my kids about how the Irish were treated in this country for many years. "When they saw the signs, "No Irish Need Apply" and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman wandering homeless in a snowstorm, they couldn't believe it. It really wasn't that bad Mam, was it, said my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Irish daughter. "I'm sure it was," I told her. "It was probably a lot worse. Something to think about if you ever feel like being mean to someone because they're different. Your great-grandparents had to go through that."

Okay, this is totally OT, but did anyone see SNL last night? This made me shoot water out of my nose:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhBQxbxAcLg

Maggie Jochild said...

Omigod, Shado -- I'd been seeing mention of that SNL short on various blogs and was thinking about looking it up -- HYSTERICAL. Now that's effective humor! I'll never see that man the same way again. And kudos for Jake Gyllenhaal for his continued unconcern about "teh gay" thing.

Thanks for the link. "You're in New York now, baby!"

And, to tie it all together: The worst race riot in American history was when Lincoln started the first military service draft during the Civil War. 300 people were killed in New York City, mostly African-Americans including a large number of orphans, and most of the folks doing the rioting were Irish-Americans who knew damned well they'd be the cannon fodder, because they wouldn't get the exemptions that richer or more influential "non-Irish" white men would. Using class and ethnicity to divide us once again.

little gator said...

A friend of mine has been a high school teacher for many years. This year for the first time she's teaching ESL to mostly Spanish speakers, and a few French speaking Haitians. She loves it-she says for the first time she has students who want to learn.

About the comments box-i vote for back to the old way please.

My Irish greatgreatgrandparents were in Boston. One of of their grandchildren, my grandmother, never knew she was Irish because the family did so well at "passing for English" Her families has English-sounding surnames. Her husband, my grandfather, was in the same situation except that his families' names were clearly Irish and he was proud of it.

My great aunt, g'ma's sister, tried to join the DAR(anothe rmyth busted for her) and learned she not only didn't have qualifying ancestors, at the time of the US revolution they were all in Ireland. She was very upset and id her best to keep this info from me when I started research. She died before i figured it out, which was a bit of a relief.

You find this attitude in the weirdest places. Mr Gator and I both grew up in post-JFK Massachusetts. his town was a mix of European=origins, while mine was about half Irish and/or Italian. Mr Gator's ancestry is mostly Swedish, with immigrant grandparents.

My MIL, one of the most tactless people I ever met, told me once how impressed she was that I was Irish and short and not ashamed of either. Until then no one had told me those things might be shameful.

Heightism in particular astonished me. Mr Gator is a foot taller than I am and I've been told I should have left him for a tall girl to get, and married (yes really) "one of my own kind" since short guys have so much trouble find women who are not taller than they are. And one of Mr Gator's relatives said Mr Gator shouldn't marry me since any children of mine* would be "handicapped" by being short. I'm 5' 1" which I don;t think is all that freakishly outside the usual.

And not in quite those words, I've been calledd a height traitor since i obviously *only* married him because he was tall. I was called a liar once for claiming I've felt attracted to individual men in a great range of heights.

Big feet run in Mr Gator's family and it
s miserable finding him size 15 shoes. If he'd been shorter his feet would have been smaller, which would have been a win.

*but we fooled him. we didn't have any,

little gator said...

oh. just for completeness, a few of my Irish ancestors were in Ontario for a generation before getting to Boston.

MIL wanted to argue theology when she learned I'd been raised Catholic-even after we had a nonreligious wedding outside a church with a JP. I answered any questions with a bored "don't ask me, I don't beleive it either." I was so mean.

kat said...

Ah, yes, Silvio, the immortal words of Yoda.
but wait, you say "script written for"....hm...am I to understand that Yoda is not real??
I'm having a hard time with that. It's just too much!

Anyway, is what we're experiencing the next generation of "scapegoat the immigrant"? Historically it's been Italians, Irish, Chinese, Japanese.......On the surface, we seem to have gotten over some of the prejudice, but as Little Gator pointed out, the sentiment seems to have stuck around. Sometimes more overtly than others.

As always, this doesn't have a nice, clear, Maggie-like point to it all.....She's the binder of all information and I'm the scatterer, I suppose.....

And I loves me the elipsis.

Oh, and I liked the old way of comments better. I don't mind the scrolling.

Maggie Jochild said...

Okay, two votes for the old way -- I just put the setting back, unless we get increased votes for the pop-ups.

And, Kat, you crack me up. Hang on your ellipsis. I had a writing mentor who said I had to ditch my addiction to parentheses. Which just made me insecure for a while, but had no permanent effect (as you can tell).

little gator said...

Just to clarify, when I said I married outside a church I didn't mean on the church grounds. I meant that may wedding was completely unchurchly. It happened at a friend's house.

kat said...

gator,
I think it made sense that you said "outside the church," but I like the image of standing on the steps or in the geraniums or something to get married!

silvio soprani said...

Something I have wondered for years: we know about the Japanese internment camps in the USA during WWII.. Why were there no German or Italian camps? (I am not complaining; my family is 100% Italian & Sicilian. My father was in the navy in WWII.) But why was it only the Japanese-Americans who were distrusted as potential enemies? Is it just a skin color thing? Is it because Japanese were in this country less time than Italians and Germans? (Is that true?) I have always wondered.

I like the old way of comments. Thanks for putting it back, Maggie. And HOW COOL to be recogized as the blog with the coolest name, especially considering how organicially our name came about! :)

silvio soprani said...

Shado and Maggie,
If the clip of jake gyllenhal you were linking to was "IRAN SO FAR," guess what? ABC and YouTube both took it down from their sites.
So I am a bit frustrated because now I am really wondering what was so funny. (I did not see it and know nothing about it.) It must have been GOOOOD.
--Silvio

Maggie Jochild said...

Silvio, well THAT's interesting. But Alternet plugged it, and their link is still working. Go here, girl:
Iran So Far

shadocat said...

Silvio,

I checked at NBC.com and looks like SNL will be putting that video on their page very soon---would tell you what it's all about, but it's better, trust me if you go in with a blank slate. Very funny stuff.

Maggie Jochild said...

And Silvio -- the questions you asked about German-Americans and Italian-Americans during WWII were ones I asked, too. I found some answers to them and they're up in the comments section of my post at Meta Watershed at War, Theirs and Ours

kat said...

I just watched "Iran So Far" and almost died laughing. It was too brilliant for words.

On a totally separate note, one of the other posts on that site was about Michael Moore on the Oprah show last week talking about health care.
I actually saw the whole episode (despite not really liking Oprah), and it was really interesting. I hope that Oprah's insane popularity will help people get over the bs about "socialized" health care.

shadocat said...

Silvio,

I think I found a link for "Iran So Far" that hasn't been pulled yet:

http://www.breitbart.tv/?p=6200&comments=1

hope this works!

Maggie Jochild said...

I just gotta say, these lyrics actually work for me:

With your sleepy brown eyes
Butter pecan thighs
And hairy butt....Yeah

kat said...

I liked "you got me straight trippin, boo/I wanna hear that you're trippin' too"
teehee

shadocat said...

Now I guess they've pulled my other link to the video---wonder if someone got in trouble for this?

kat said...

Maggie's Iran So far link just a couple of comments up from the end worked for me, Shado.....that was last night, though, haven't tried since then...

shadocat said...

Nope, NBC has pulled them all, so I guess the mystery is---why?

kat said...

huh, weird.....

you could try one of the (not altogether legal) download sites. If you're not too scrupulous, that is.


I was just over at Yahoo, and they've got a video featured. It's everything a mom would say in 24 hours condensed into 2 muinutes and sung to the tune of the William Tell overture.

The singer is a woman called Anita Renfroe, and is apparently a christian singer.

(These terms always confuse me when used together. Would Barbara Streisand be a "Jewish Singer"?)

Also, her high notes were frightening, which leaves me skeptical of her singer-dom.

Anyway, it's hysterical, and you should all check it out.

kat said...

dammit, the William Tell overture is stuck in my head now.....damned ear-worms....

shadocat said...

Gawd, Kat, that was a riot! Here's a link in case the rest of y'all want to see it:

http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?vid=1202370&fr=yfp-t-501

Maggie Jochild said...

Thanks for the link, Shado. I LOVED it, Kat, and have added it to my favorite videos list up at Meta Watershed.

Also, the Iran So Far link I posted above from Alternet is still working. Must be that NBC is insisting on control of where the video is posted, now that it's going viral.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, and here's a link to Jesus' General. He recently wrote a post (about four of five down on the page) responding to the statements Bill O'Reilly made about his surprise that a black-owned and patronized restaurant in Harlem was "just like any other restaurant". Jesus' General wrote one of his infamous letters to O'Reilly, playing on the historic shit said about Irish immigrants to make his point about why O'Reilly's comments were, in fact, racist.

kat said...

yeah, I thought that was pretty great.
also great was the incredible spaghetti sauce I made for dinner.....mmm....still full....

little gator said...

Celebrating my Irish kin:

I'm off to dig up my garden potatoes, feeling as always how lucky I am that I won't die if the crop fails.

Jana C.H. said...

Maggie, you say the lyrics were clever, but when I played the Iran video I could hardly understand a word. The guy mumbled the whole way through! (His back-up singer, on the other hand, was understandable.) If your lyric has two lines that don't even rhyme, you can mumble or screech or overlay it with loud instrumentals with no argument with me, but that's not the way to perform a clever political parody. Without witty lyrics it was just a mildly funny joke that went on way too long.

Jana C.H.
Seattle
Saith JcH: ENUNCIATE! Someone sat up all night writing those lyrics.

kat said...

Jana, that's part of why I almost never listen to pop anymore....either no one enunciates, or they do that annoying thing where they sing really breathily, as though that makes something intimate/artistic/sexy whatever.....crap! such crap!