Our own little American Hitlers

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I find myself, not for the first time, with an inexplicable internal disenchantment. I say that a bit facetiously for my overpriced pieces of paper—also known as degrees—may have bestowed upon me the ability to verbalize my thoughts in an efficient manner. In any case I will attempt to do so.  I recently collaborated with my track coach and assisted in—wait for the pun—running  a speed camp for local youth ages 5-16. The older ones, 14-16 were fairly pleasant. The younger kids were just like any other; loud, obnoxious, belligerent, unruly, hyper, sweet, adorable, kind.

What disturbed me however: was a much darker, deeper, problem. I find this problem consistent in the majority of my contact with America’s youth (This past year has granted me hundreds of hours in local high schools and several hours in various camps). The problem at least to me seems to be, an extreme aversion to gays and a willingness to oppress others. As a side note, due mostly in part to my geographical location, most of the children I was in contact with were colored. Though the race of the children is not imperative to the issue at hand, it is ironic. This will be addressed later. Now, I’d like to make clear that this is not as much an argument on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, as much as it is a jab, or an assault on parents and how they raise their children.

While I understand that there are power dynamics in all social settings; that is there are unwritten rules amongst peers in which a few, usually by their own doing presume positions of power. And to that end, in a group or society, in this case a group of 30 or so school-age campers, there are favorable individuals and less favorable individuals. I do not understand however parents that allow such hatred to be instilled in children. In their allotted free time, I would hear 6, 7, and 8 (boys and girls) year olds, their tiny voices filled with disgust and ridicule “Aw you’re gay, get away from me” or “That’s gay, you like guys”…The children on the receiving end of the ridicule obviously uncomfortable, and what shocked me most, was my immediate contention to say things like “watch your mouth” and “language!” in a failing attempt to stop the ridicule.

I was not sure what to say. I was not sure how to respond. The children knew enough to know, at least indirectly, that gay meant same sex attraction. I did not want individuals that were being called gay to feel uncomfortable—hence me telling the ridiculers to watch their mouth—but I did not want to simultaneously make other campers think that “gay” was a bad word. Or worse, that being gay is a bad thing. This too, however is not imperative to the larger problem at hand.

The problem is hatred, and the mere fact that these children despite their prepubescent feeble minds can stigmatize, hate, and oppress others with no knowledge that the same oppression, and second-class citizenship was once a problem they faced. Especially considering that majority of children I am referring to are colored. It is not absurd to assume that a few of their grandparents lived in an America far different from our own, lived in a time that saw blatant racism run rampant. Let us not forget it was only 50 years ago that blacks were boycotting to be treated as equals. Blacks, or Negroes as they were eloquently called, were being stopped, harassed, by police and canines alike. Colored people too often were the targets of water hoses, and batons.

I can’t expect for these children to know their history, but as a parent one should play an intricate role in molding their child’s world perspective. It is funny to me, blacks, and America as a whole reveres Martin Luther King Jr. yet few know that his fight in the civil rights movement was not necessarily for blacks, and against white, but a fight against oppression.

Minority X

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Down With Doma

The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted under President Clinton in 1996. This act allowed for states to not recognize same-sex couples married in other states. Until today, it has also denied these couples of federal marriage benefits. What it boiled down to was allowing states to decide whether or not they would honor same-sex marriages but uphold the constitutional rights every married couple in the nation should have access to.

There are three main points I would like to make in support of the fall of DoMA and also bring up some point against one man’s arguments for DoMA. On the basis of principal and policy, marriage should not be defined by religion, all married couples should have access to the same benefits, and same-sex marriage does nothing more to “discredit” marriage as do things like adultery, prenuptial agreements, and divorce.

Separation of Church and State: Pretty straight forward and explicit, I think. The definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was heavily influence by religion. But the truth of the matter is, America is not a country of one religion and even though many religions can be interpreted as being anti-gay, to have laws based on the ideals of a specific group of people that will influence the lives and liberties of others is not only unconstitutional, but immoral, especially in the sense of democracy.

Widows left with nothing: When a spouse in an opposite-sex couple dies, their partner rightfully inherits their benefits. Heck when they are living, they are able to share benefits. It wasn’t the same for same sex marriage. How would you feel if the person you loved would be left with nothing if you were to die while the partners of others remained secure? I’m just saying. Adopted children get the benefits of their adopted parents. Should they not be able to because they share no biological ties to the person taking care of them? Yet, the children of same-sex couples cannot be covered by the benefits they should be entitled to. Another fallacy in this law is that post-operational transgender individuals can be wed to a partner of a now opposite sex. That is Steve can make his outty and inny and now marry Josh, but Steve’s still technically biologically a guy. Talk about confusiinnggg; yet it’s allowed. Pish posh.

Alas, the very name of the act in itself is a poor argument for its existence. Defense of Marriage… what exactly is it being attacked by? Droves of same-sex couples who love one another and are in long-term, monogamous relationships? Ah yes, but the people getting married and divorced within weeks, (*cough, Kim Kardashian), bare no persecution for ruining the sanctity of marriage. I mean, should adulterers be subject to hanging upon sentencing? Prenuptial agreements were explained to me as being like life insurance; you don’t want to get hurt, or sick, or die but you want the protection in the case that it does happen. If marriage is this holy, sacred, cure-all occurrence that will help separate the heathens from the enlightened, WHY on Earth would you think it would be flawed to failure? The thing about life, car, renters insurance is that shit happens. You’re going to die; that was established the minute your mom spat you out her vag. But, did you walk into that alter thinking, “fuck, this bitch is going to leave me and take more than 75% of my life’s earnings” and not stop to think that this very mentality is attacking the sanctity of marriage? With more people getting married and being able to express their forms of love and appreciation, I believe the nation will gain a new perspective on love and not the story line crap we’ve been fed by Hollywood.

I can’t remember the guy’s name, mainly because I didn’t have my glasses on, but he was on ABC News talking about how the fall of DoMA may seem all fine and dandy now, but when businesses begin to suffer and the country is thrown into more financial turmoil, all supporters of same-sex marriage will rethink their ideals. All I have to say about that is, I’m pretty sure the biggest losers were slave owners, but they’ve survived right? If a baker chooses not to sell cakes for same-sex marriages, I’m sure their are two more who will be willing. He argued that these laws are being pushed on people. We’ll duh, DoMA was pushed on people.Every law and regulation is pushed on people. Just laws leave you the wiggle room to make choices. The difference is, you can CHOSE who you provide service to in your OWN PRIVATE company, but people cannot CHOSE their sexual orientation.

This is America. Let’s keep the options, okay.

Daily Dose: Just Shut up Already

I’m not sure that I have the patience to write a competently thought out and calmly constructed post about the prejudices I witnessed today because I’m running on quite a short fuse.

I’ve been encountering a lot of family in the past few days due to the recent passing of my aunt. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen these people for more than one day out of a year, so I didn’t realize the full extent to their absurdity until this week.

The first racist comment came from my grandmother (my dad’s mom, 70 something years old). Her, my mother, and myself were sitting in the living room and she started talking about how utterly shocked she was to see my sister with a black boyfriend. She commented on how my mother should have warned her about it and how she hoped they didn’t have kids. When asked why she felt that way by my mother, granny recoiled in her chair as if she’d been slapped. She looked awestruck at my mom for a minute then proceeded to make up some excuse about how “two colored children” (yes, her words) have shitty lives growing up, and how people shouldn’t be subjected to the cruelty that mixed children go through.
*First off, we’re in the 21st century and mixed children aren’t as ostracized as they once were. Second off, there’s no point in my rebuttal to that make-shift argument of hers because that is clearly not why she hopes they don’t procreate.*
Throughout the whole conversation, my grandmother kept looking to me for support while my mother was challenging her. I said nothing, and ten minutes later my black ex-girlfriend walked in the room. Granny almost had a heart attack.

The next incident took place with my nana (my mom’s mom, 50 something years old). Race was not the issue this time, but sexuality sure was. My mother and I were talking about her ex-stepdad George. She revealed to me that he was bisexual. My nana (who was married to the man for 12 years) walked in the room at that moment and immediately her face squeezed into itself as if she’d bit into a lemon. She held her tongue, but I knew something was up. Then as I was talking about attending Dublin Pride this month, her and my mother seemed excited because I was saying how fun I thought it would be. Then she asked “what’s Pride.” My mother responded, “gay pride, mom.” Her immediate response was “ewww.”
Eww?
Eww!
Not necessarily the blatant prejudice you hear about, but her “eww” and slight snarl at the idea of attending gay Pride was the most disgusting thing she could have done in my eyes. I mean even if you feel that way, have the respect and decency to keep a remark like that in. I’m anti-religion but I don’t “eww” every time she spews some righteously religious judgement or script, strictly because I’m not an asshole.

I’m suffocating by the un-acceptance in the air here. If another person throws stones at someone then ducks behind their bible one more time, I’m likely to freak out. I’m frankly concerned about being related to these people.

And that’s my daily dose of prejudice.

-Agent Change

You’re beautiful…I think?

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Beauty has always been interesting to me. Partly because I like beautiful things/people and because in my years of inevitable, ongoing erosion and decay–more commonly referred to as aging, we sure love to romanticize what is happening to us and our bodies–I’ve come to realize that what we know to be beauty is so arbitrary and synthesized anything can be beautiful if the right people sponsor it. It is really a shame. There is a very small percentage of people that in their own right “create” beauty. Artists, such as painters musicians, poets…

Beautiful people however are simply varying degrees of others right? I mean, we collectively dress, apply make-up, and in some extreme cases go get surgery to look like what others deem as beautiful. Which brings me to my next point, models. Essentially we canonize individuals in society that are aesthetically superior than the rest of us, as if we do not already live in a world with enough social stratification. Before I continue let us examine what is meant by “model” we too often overlook issues without examining the words themselves (I will omit model as a person who wears clothes and shows them off. For I believe the word has much deeper meaning than that.) Model is derived from Latin, and varying definitions mean different things but have common themes: A miniature representation, an image or structure to be reproduced in a more durable manner, a standard or example for imitation, something/someone worthy of imitation. The word itself in many of its definitions creates a sort of inferiority complex, something or someone worthy of imitation, a standard.

This standard of beauty (at least in America) has its roots in white perspective which is, when examined closely, varying degrees of demonizing colored people. That is, an enduring affinity rooted in extreme aversion towards big lips, dark skin, wide nose etc…It was not until 1974 that a black model appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine. It is my contention, that this particular black model did not have what we may colloquially call as particularly “black” features. As she had what is generally considered “good hair” didn’t have a particularly wide nose, and lips were rather modest, not to mention that, while she is black, she is a very light shade of what one might consider black. I say that to say this black woman may have indeed made the cover because she possessed–at least to some degree–a beauty comparable to the standard of beauty, that was–at that point–synonymous with white.

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It is not a coincidence that colored models are more readily–oftentimes erroneously–considered “exotic”. Again, let us examine the term exotic, roughly meaning origination or characteristics from distant or foreign country. Greek and Latin influences literally meaning “from the outside”…If then, a colored model, a colored American model, is exotic, why then are white models less likely to be considered exotic? Are whites indigenous to America and colored people necessarily from distant and foreign countries? I’m no historian, but the “white” and “black” look are technically both exotic, as neither race has its origins in this country (for argument’s sake one could argue that since natives tend to have darker skin and facial features more comparable to blacks that whites are exotic). This may seem unrelated, but like I mentioned before a great deal of society’s issues can be examined simply by the vocabulary attributed to it. Let us digress, if then, exotic is an erroneously attributed term, it would then seem that the term is more so used as a discrete exclusionary tool, exotic in this case meaning outside what is normally expected to be beautiful.

Understanding that beauty is just as man/woman made as iPods and Mercedes will bring people a step closer to liberating themselves. There are countless oppressors in society, let’s not let beauty be one of them. It is an unfortunate reality that beauty, specifically white perspective beauty, has dominated mainstream society and has in my opinion even caused blacks, women in particular to question their beauty and go to extreme measures to achieve beauty. Again, it is no coincidence that “Beauty Supply” stores plague low income neighborhoods, look at it stores that “supply” beauty. As if beauty is something that can be bought and sold. Beauty is a concept a feeling even, hardly a $120 of Brazilian hair sewed into one’s hair to pass off as their own. I’ve asked many young black women why they pursue such unnatural looks, I have gotten many answers, some more believable than others, I have never however gotten “because long silky smooth hair is more socially desirable than my own hair” which I believe at least partly true for most women. Whatever motivates individuals to look a certain way, more power to them, I just ask that they examine why they’re doing it…

-Minority X

Realistically Fighting the System

Fighting the system is easier said than done.

I am currently seeking an internship to complete my undergrad communications degree, and sticking to my morals throughout this search is proving to be more challenging than I expected. I really should have seen this dilemma coming since the media is owned and run by conglomerates….
I promised my self that I would exemplify my belief of “free” media and quality content in any future position. This means that refusal to participate in “cluttered” (riddled with advertisements) media, refusal to construct and publish PR for strictly capitalistic corporations, and refusal to accept a position at a place practicing opposite ideals than those that I hold dear (Fox News). Little did I know how completely ridiculous my demands seemed in American free-market society.

At times I fear that my aspirations to uphold Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Henry David Thoreau’s ideas of a “just society” are too fantastical to realistically live out. I get filled with the excitement of the idea of fully fighting the system and refusing to partake in and contribute to a government, society, and ideology that I see as ultimately damaging to communities and the Earth.Yet, no matter the how hot my ignited passion, this self expulsion seems unrealistic. I still have to live in the system. I have no choice. No matter what I do… no matter if I build my own Walden, the system will continuously be working around me. Just because I chose to ignore it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist and doesn’t mean it still isn’t affecting everyone else who may not have the means to ignore it.

Fighting the system from within is the more realistic and effective way to initiate and continue social, economic, and political change. You can’t aid in evolution from the outside. This is the mindset I have chosen to have going in to find an internship for the second time.

I want to pride myself in living the life I know I truly desire. I don’t want to cheat myself morally because some internship or job was easier to find. My career will be a big part of my life. That is how I will facilitate and participate in global change. I don’t want to sacrifice my ideals in something so important. I hope others feel the same way. I see too many people get caught up in the system itself, that they forgot to fight it. You get comfortable and your vision gets hazy when you start making good money. I want an internship that reminds me, if not everyday then now and again, why I do what I do.

I want to work because the work means something to me; the paycheck that comes out of it is just the realistic part. I can be civilly disobedient when I need to, but still feed my family.

-Agent Change

Hot Topic: Is Porn Rape?

I was recently asked to read a post on Womanist Musings titled, All Porn is Rape, All the Time.

In this article the author, Femonade, asserts that because actual consent can not be calculated and contractional because it is ever-changing and cannot be given prospectively, that the sexual encounters in porn are rape. “The constant renegotiation required in consensual sexual encounters simply doesn’t occur when deals are struck, and contracts are signed beforehand,” claims Femonade, “a woman’s mere voluntary presence does not equal her consent to anything except being there.” She goes on to say that the constant communication, verbal and nonverbal, a man has with his partner to ensure that consent has been given does not happen in porn simply because the woman is acting and her communications are “inauthentic.”

I can agree that the porn industry is inherently harmful and misogynistic but I disagree that it facilitates and perpetuates rape. I also find that the extremist nature of Femonades claim inevitably discounts the agency and autonomy of porn actresses. She victimizes these women and portrays them as helpless and mindless.

Femonade scoffs at the assumption that just because a woman has shown up to the set, she has given her consent, but I consider this valid. The whole point of a contract is to spell out what is expected of you. The signing of the contract is the first step of consent, the second is showing up, the third is completely the act. The actress knows what she is expected to do, has confirmed her knowledge and willingness to do it in return for whatever her compensation may be (getting paid), and has shown up at the job site to carry out the deal. This screams consent to me. I do believe that because she is acting, there is a sort of blurry line of consent for sex. She may not want to have sex and get pleasure out of the act, but she has agreed to have sex for whatever reason (money), and has therefore given her consent.

Femonade demonizes male porn stars and male consumers of porn in her post, and that is problematic for me. The men are there for the same reasons the women are there. The author is automatically assuming that every male in a porn, and every porn a male shoots is wanted and even enjoyed. Porn is a job, just as any job, and is done for money… hence the term “Porn Industry;” yes some people enjoy their job and some hate it, but at the end of the day workers are there to receive a pay check. Femonade is also perpetuating the stereotype that only women are raped. Porn as a collective industry dabbles in EVERYTHING. The mens consent is also constructed through contract. So are the sexual acts performed on him rape too? According to her logic, it is.

The author assumes that because she and her female friends don’t partake in the consumption of porn, all audiences of porn are male. This is another stereotype that discredits her assertions. She ultimately comes to the conclusion that men who watch porn, and therefore watching rape, are “indulging in rape-fantasies, and can become rapists if they bring these behaviors into the bedroom.” I find this even more far-fetched than her accusation that male porn actors are rapists and should be tried as such. Her sensationalism is highly problematic.  

I can agree with some of her statements for specific porn fetishes, like gang rape, that add to rape-mentalities. Those are scenes of rape, therefore perpetuating rape, and feeding rape-culture. The sex act being filmed as a rape scene however, isn’t rape until the woman says stop, or is unable to say stop (mouth gagged) and no one listens. The reason it isn’t rape initially, however,  is because it is an act and she has given consent to act in this particular scene.

I’d like to quote my best friend Amber Stapleton and an opinion of hers on Femonade’s article, “In her effort to vilify the porn industry as rapist she perpetually victimizes women in this industry and thus objectifies them. The author views these women as just voiceless victims; she doesn’t view them as fully actualized human beings with motives and needs that explains their participation, thus “consent” (keyword here), in the porn industry. She doesn’t explore these women as participants in this industry but as a problematic element she wants to diagnose. Her whole implicit paternalistic tone (ironic much?) of “I know whats really going on” better than the actual porn actresses who experience porn day-to-day both physically, mentally, and financially is irritating.”

Her opinion is shocking only because we do live in a patriarchal society that marginalizes women, and however superficially taboo the porn industry is, it is perceived as acceptable, even so that it is not illegal. Porn and prostitution are invariably linked in my opinion, and many people argue that prostitution is rape. All of the counter arguments I’ve used above to verify that porn is not rape, can be used to say that prostitution is not rape. I think we can all agree that there are problems with both industries and that systematic oppression keeps women cycling through them, but calling them rapists victimizes and dehumanizes the female participants, demonizes and condemns the male participants and viewers, and ultimately hurts the validity and vitality of the term “rape.”

A Lil Bit O’ Cream With My Coffee Please

I’ve never dated outside of my race, but I’m not opposed to it. Personally, I’m more afraid of not being able to find white, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, ect., men who are willing to date outside of their race. I know very few black women who are dating white men. In media, black men are portrayed to date outside of their race more often than black women. I think the taboo associated with dating outside of our race has to do with racial stereotyping and more specifically the way black women are portrayed in the dating world.

As a black woman, I can reassure you that I am no more demanding, steadfast, or have crazier outburst than any woman out there. But because of the color of my skin I may just be a turn-off to most men. Before getting to know me, I’ve already been stamped with the “Crazy, Black, Bitch” logo. Then let’s talk about the way in which I speak. In grade school, I was told that I talk “white”. Once again, my proper English and exact pronunciation of words was deemed “white”. God forbid a black girl, was black and proper! So here, even being the “token” I never really seemed to be anyone’s eye candy, asides from the stereotypical lust glares at my booty.

Dating outside of your race is probably easier for a white male than it is for a black woman. It has everything to do with privilege. As the “superior race”, a white man can easily date outside of his race. Of course, he may get some heat from his family but socially, his pursuit of a colored girl would be less criticized. Now on the other hand, Sasha Fierce tried to court John Miracle Whip III. She’d probably be labeled a gold digger.

Another factor in interracial dating is class structure. Typically you see two people within the same class dating. It will be very race for your favorite whigger to be dating an Asian business woman.

I make a lot of jokes here, but in all seriousness, I think interracial dating is a beautiful thing that if presented with the opportunity I would definitely get some culture in my life.

However, I cannot go without noting that the black family/dating scene is going through a major change right now. We’ve inherited poor dating and communication skills and quite frankly, traditions that hinder us socially. The more positive relationships our youth are exposed to, despite sexual orientation or skin tone, the less the debate of interracial dating will arise. The real problem is forming healthy, lasting, relationships.

—GJ