It was an absurd idea, but it worked

Scale of 1 to 10, how believable is the following?

Back in the 1970’s, the Colorado Springs Police Department hired its first African-American (as an officer, not as the help). Not long after being hired, Ron Stallworth (if you thought CSPD would hire a Black woman before a Black man, recall that while Black men are Black, we’re still men, so a society that values men over women would still show bias against Black women and in favor of Black men) saw an ad in the newspaper for the Ku Klux Klan, who were looking to increase their membership. I’m guessing members of everyone’s favorite cross-burning racist organization were doing some spring cleaning and noticed a surplus of white sheets in their stockroom. So instead of donating the sheets to the Red Cross or Goodwill, they figured to begin a recruitment drive. Given that monitoring and dismantling extremist groups was part of his job, Stallworth had an idea. He would infiltrate the KKK and learn all about the local chapter, gaining crucial information that would enable him to bring them down. Yeah, his idea hinged on him, a Black man, infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. By April 1979, he had not only joined the KKK, but he’d also pulled the wool over the eyes of the local KKK chapter and the Grand Wizard himself, David Duke.

Sounds like something out of The Onion, doesn’t it?

As preposterous as that sounds, it’s all true. Today,  just shy of the 40th anniversary of Black Man Makes Fools Out of Local KKK Chapter, BlacKKKlansman debuts, further immortalizing Stallworth’s efforts. Starring John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) and Adam Driver, the Spike Lee-directed film tells the story of Ron Stallworth’s successful bid to do that which most other African-Americans don’t even have on their fictional bucket lists, let alone their real ones.

a copy of Ron Stallworth's 'certificate of citizenship' into the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Essential to verifying his highly implausible tale, here is Ron Stallworth’s actual certificate of citizenship (don’t ask me why the haters didn’t go with the more logical ‘certificate of membership’). See, I told you it was true.

Continue reading “It was an absurd idea, but it worked”

It was an absurd idea, but it worked
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The NRA may be dying and thats the best news all day!

image of a billboard featuring the NRA logo and the letters NRA in bold black against a white backdrop with a red forward slash across the image
Cropped Photo: Lord Jim / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In 2016, the most recent year they have data available on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that firearm related violence resulted in:

(It should also be noted that mass shootings, as horrific and tragic as they are, only account for a small percentage of the firearm related homicides each year)

In addition to those numbers, Everytown For Gun Safety finds that an average of 7 kids and teens (up to 19 years of age) are killed each day, intimate partner violence leads to the monthly death of 50 women (average figure), Black men are 13 times more likely than non-Hispanic white men to be killed by gun violence, and the gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times greater than world’s most “high income” countries (by the World Bank).

Be it injuries sustained via firearms, mass shootings, or suicide, it is clear as day that the United States has a massive problem with gun violence. A problem that needs to be seriously addressed by political officials at all levels of the government,  gun control advocates, and non-governmental organizations dedicated to reforming our country’s gun laws with the goal of reducing gun violence.  Unfortunately, there exists tremendous opposition to such a sensible goal: the National Rifle Association. Founded in 1871 in the wake of the Civil War, the NRA originally had one goal: improving the marksmanship skills of northerners. The founders of the group felt that southern soldiers had superior marksmanship skills, contributing to the length of the war. It is hard to believe this, but for several consecutive decades (beginning in the 1920s), the NRA was a strong advocate for gun control laws:

Continue reading “The NRA may be dying and thats the best news all day!”

The NRA may be dying and thats the best news all day!

Buffy is coming back and this time, she’s going to be Black

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the show. It was Season 3, part 2. I was flipping through the channels, looking for something to watch and for maaaaaaaaaaaaybe 30 seconds (possibly a minute, but, well, I wasn’t timing it, so…yeah) I landed on Buffy’s climactic battle with the Mayor. He had just transformed into a giant snake and graduation day had gone from “Wheeeeeeeeee, no more school, no more books, no more Snyder’s dirty looks” to “Um, there’s a giant snake AND WHERE THE HELL IS BUFFY, THIS IS HER WHEELHOUSE?!” i didn’t remain on the channel for long (see above, re: 30 seconds) as nothing grabbed me. I changed the channel right as the Mayoral Snake devoured someone (can’t recall who).

The next time I saw Buffy, I watched as Glory love tapped her way out of Willow’s force field barrier and absconded with Dawn (the antepenultimate episode of S5; Alexandra, that’s for you). I saw Buffy try to hit repeat on Glory’s actions–but without Glory’s strength–thus failing to save her sister.  For some reason, *something* about the end of this episode grabbed me. Maybe it was the feelings of complete and utter failure Buffy experienced, the sense of impending doom that permeated those last few episodes, or maybe it was the fact that Buffy collapsed into what looked like a waking catatonic state. Whatever the reason, I had to know more.

I made sure to set my VCR to record the next…did I really just type a sentence with VCR? Man, I feel like worn out aged cheese. Anyways…I recorded the next episode, which featured Willow venturing into Buffy’s mind to help her out of her catatonic state, and while it was entertaining, I wasn’t hooked.

What hooked me was the *final* episode of Season 5, ‘The Gift’. The snappy banter, the snazzy dialogue:

“You’re just a human. You can’t understand my pain.”

“Then I’ll just have to settle for causing it.”

 

“<gasp>…the Slayer’s a robot?  Did anyone else know the Slayer was a robot?”

“Glory?

.

.

.

You’re not the brightest god in the heavens, are you?”

the quips, the emotional arcs, the action…it all was just a great big ball of wow (over time, especially when I watched the series from start to finish, this became one of my favorite episodes, in no small part due to the satisfaction of watching Buffy FINALLY kick Glory’s royally obnoxious ass).

As I mentioned, I eventually watched every episode of the series. I also watched every episode of the series David Boreanaz Is A Sexy Vampire Seeking Redemption, aka Angel (who had THE most bangin’ theme song in the history of ever), which in some ways, I found superior to Buffy’s show. Once the series ended and Joss Whedon made a deal with Dark Horse Comics, I even started collecting the comic book series which is an official part of the canon (recently picked up the first 2 issues of Season 12, in fact). The one thing I haven’t done though, is watch the Kristy Swanson movie. I know it’s part of the history of the show, and I know it is important, but the cheesiness of the 10-ish minutes I did watch (once, in days long ago) reeeeeeeeeeeeeally turned me off. It was groan inducing. Not in the good way either.

Over time though, I found that repeat viewings of the series were…hmmm…they were still enjoyable, but there was another layer on top. My appreciation of the series found itself sitting alongside some issues I had with the show. I hadn’t picked up on these issues when I first watched the series all the way through, nor when I did it again. It wasn’t until I started chatting with other fans, reading online fan sites, and perhaps most importantly, when I began hanging out in online feminist sites.  Among the many issues:

  • ableism
  • classism (Cordelia’s ‘softer side of Sears’ comment towards Willow back in S1 is one example)
  • stigma against mental illness
  • the series’ feminist rep is overblown
  • Xander–the epitome of the “Nice Guy” was actually a Grade-A douchebag (which says a lot about Whedon, as Xander was based to some degree on teen Joss)
  • ‘magic as a metaphor for addiction’ was far from the greatest idea,
  • Angel is a creepy, paternalistic stalker

aaaaaaaaaaaand (not that this is the only other issue, but it’s the one most relevant to this post), the depiction of People of Color on the series was firmly on the Not Remotely Good Side. I mean, come on…if a white guy is aware enough to notice the failings of the show vis-a-vis race, then you know it was P-R-O-B-L-E-M-A-T-I-C. Or, you know…racist.

So, when I read that joss Whedon is working on rebooting Buffy (YES, I JUST SAID THAT), I initially got more than a little bit cringe-y on the inside. See, not only is he rebooting the show, but he’s doing so with a Black lead. Given the way the original series treated Black women characters (sidelining them, giving them virtually nonexistent narrative arcs, literally forgetting about them once they died, using them solely as a vehicle to make white characters shine), such a headline filled me with the opposite of excitement. However. There is reason to hope. A very significant one. In the form of Monica Owusu-Breen:

 

Continue reading “Buffy is coming back and this time, she’s going to be Black”

Buffy is coming back and this time, she’s going to be Black

This zero tolerance policy must end immediately

Image shows protester holding a sign reading "stop the inhumanity of separating families"
Keeping families together ought to be a simple concept supported by people across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, we have an administration and its propaganda network that has demonized immigrants to such a degree that many people in this country do not view them as human beings deserving of rights. (image courtesy of USAToday)

By now, you’re likely aware that the current occupant of the White House is deeply racist, holding disgusting anti-Hispanic opinions and has no qualms referring to migrants as “animals” or publicly likening them to roaches.

By now you’ve heard of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy that treats all migrants from Central and South America as criminals.

You’ve probably heard of the thousands of migrant children, separated from their families, forced to live in detainment camps (not “summer camps” you conservative shitstain).

You likely saw images of the cages inside a Texas warehouse nicknamed ‘Ursula’ , some of which house up to 20 children (no, not this miscaptioned photo).

You probably heard about the converted Walmart in Brownsville, Texas nicknamed ‘Casa Padre’, where upwards of 1,500 migrant children are housed (but we don’t need to worry much bc out of that number only a few dozen children have been ripped from their parents arms, the rest is comprised of teenage migrants who entered the U.S. alone, so it’s all good that *anyone*– let alone children–is housed in a detainment center)

You may have heard the desperate pleas and sobbing from children (some crying so hard that they have difficulty breathing, not that one of the border agents seems to give a rat’s ass) in the recent audio obtained by ProPublica.

You may have heard that there is considerable outrage over the zero tolerance policy, with criticism coming from all 5 living First Ladies (yes, even Melania Trump, not that Cheeto Hitler cares what his wife has to say) and even internationally.

You may have heard all of that and find yourself angered beyond all measure.  Perhaps, like George Takei, you think of the racist U.S. policy that led to internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War 2.

Maybe you are looking at the zero tolerance policy the same way the American Academy of Pediatrics does, as child abuse.

Perhaps you are sitting there, feeling a burning desire to do SOMETHING to help resolve this crisis, but you have no idea what to do and you’re feeling utterly helpless.  I know that feeling. Trust me, bc I’ve been there.  I am there. But there are things we can do:

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This zero tolerance policy must end immediately

Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

More than 900,000 people serve as sworn local and state law enforcement officials in the United States (the highest number ever). These police officers are charged with upholding and enforcing the law, maintaining order, and providing general services. To carry out these duties, police officers possess certain powers, granted by the state. If the situation calls for it, police officers can frisk, detain, and arrest civilians, as well as seize property. In addition, depending upon the situation, police officers are empowered to use force to defend themselves or civilians (the amount of force extends along a spectrum from “simply” police presence through deadly force). Given the powers that police officers have, it is incumbent upon them to maintain a level of professionalism in the course of their duties and to wield their powers responsibly and ethically. Unfortunately, there are countless examples of cops engaging in a range of irresponsible, unethical, immoral, and/or illegal activities from bribery and unjustified arrests to illegal search and seizure and the use of excessive force. Here are five examples of police behaving badly:

(against a black and white backdrop of a generic police station, two white, male police officers struggle to subdue a victim. The artistic rendering presents the officers and their victim surrounded by blood, thus implying the use of excessive force on the part of the officers)

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Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

Reclaiming Slurs

I remember the first time I was ever called a N*gg*r. My father was stationed on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. I was between 13 and 15 years of age (it was before I had a car, but when I was officially a teenager), so everywhere I wanted to go, I had to bike it. Which was no problem for me. I loved being on my bicycle.  One particular summer day, I decided to do something that, looking back, was pretty uncharacteristic of me. I was just starting to collect comic books (I wouldn’t start seriously doing so until I was 16, when I had a job and a vehicle) and I’d been to one of the local comic book stores a handful of times with my mother. The shop was a good 8-10 miles from the military base, so I thought to ride on up there and use my allowance to buy some comics.  At that age, walking into a comic book store was, for me, like a kid who loves candy walking into a candy shop:  paradise.

For the most part, I took side streets to get there, staying off the main roads bc traffic and well, I didn’t wear a helmet (i know, I know). At that age, I didn’t give much thought to the type of people I might encounter on my ride. Today, I know better.  As I rode through one residential area, I passed a few kids playing outside in their front yard.  There would have been no reason to take note of that, except for something I heard as I rode by. One of the kids, a young girl, said to her father “look dad, a n*gg*r”, as if I were some peculiar creature that she’d only read about in books or saw at the local zoo (by that point in the 20th century, Blacks and other Non-Black PoC were no longer dehumanizingly and humiliatingly put on display in human zoos, which really were a thing for hundreds of years).

Back then, I knew very little about racism and how pervasive it was.  Nor did I know the history of that slur or how much power it had.  Even still, I knew that the word was an insult directed at me and those like me.  Given the casual way she uttered the word, I suspect she grew up around it, with family and friends using it regularly. Strangely enough, for all that I’ve lived in the Southern United States for most of my life, that instance was one of the few times I’ve heard the slur spoken by a living human (I qualify that bc I’ve heard the word on television and movies before).

I knew enough, however that I hated the word and never used it or any word derivative of it. In fact, for a very long time, I was opposed to anyone using it. Not just myself or any white person (that’s a given), but any Black or Non Black PoC.. To me, the continued use of a word so strongly tied to the subjugation and dehumanization of African-Americans could never not be a reminder of the inferior status many accord us bc of our skin color. I was also frequently befuddled when I heard a Black person use the word (or, more accurately ‘nigga’). I couldn’t understand why any Black person would use a term that was so obviously a degrading term. Perhaps if I’d had many Black friends, I could have asked them.  That was one of the unfortunate aspects of growing up for me–I didn’t grow up steeped in African-American culture. So I didn’t have many Black friends. I suspect things might be different if my parents hadn’t chosen to leave Harlem when I was six months old (though I do understand why they made that choice).

In any case, my strong aversion to the word held fast for many years. That is, until my interest in social justice began to develop; when I first learned about reclaiming slurs. I heard how the LGBTQIA+ community had worked to reclaim ‘queer’ (which I think is one of the more successful efforts to remake a slur) and that ‘b*tch’ was the chosen self-descriptor for many women. Learning about reclaiming slurs made me soften my feelings toward the N-word.  I still don’t like it, and hearing its use (in any form) brings a slight chill down my spine.  But I’m no longer thoroughly opposed to hearing other Black folks use it (it is not, nor will it ever be ok for wyte folks to use it, and even though other PoC have been oppressed in our wyte supremacist society, it’s not cool for them to use either, bc it was never a term used to disempower them).

For all that I can understand the power in reclaiming slurs, I realize there are some who don’t “get” it, so maybe this will help:

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Reclaiming Slurs

Fellow men: Don’t be like Jesse

Fellow men,
Lets have another sit down.

Take a moment to fully read the Tweet below and the response to it:

Image is a reproduction of a Tweet and its Retweet. The Retweet reads "There's no other reason to why a girl uses birth control other than to have sex with countless guys without having to worry about pregnancy." The Tweet that responds to it lists seven benefits to birth control beyond pregnancy prevention: acne, irregular periods, cramps, PMS relief, cancer prevention, PCOS relief, endometriosis relief"
So smug, yet so ignorant, Jesse could stand to learn that there times we men ought to remain silent.

Jesse’s comment is a masterful example of a perceived sense of male supremacy wedded to an ocean of ignorance.

His purpose is to shame women for having sex.

He is trying to fortify the archaic, misogynistic societal norms that have long been in place that have oppressively regulated the lives and behavior of women.

He conveys much about himself in his comment:

•he reveals his disdain for women who use birth control
•he thinks his egregiously wrong opinion is some statement of fact
•he thinks he has the right to dictate to women what they should do with their bodies
•he cannot think of women as equal to him
•”he thinks anyone who has the reproductive equipment associated with birth control as a woman. He equates reproduction/secondary sex characteristics with gender.” (the preceding quoted material–reproduced with permission–offers additional insight provided by my good friend Tamlin)

The slut shaming he engages in is for the likely purpose of “putting women in their place”. Its an attempt to regulate their behavior by way of public scorn. It is a given that he does not think limitations on men having sex should or do exist (though it is possible he thinks queer men should not have same sex interactions)

He thinks he has the first clue what he is talking about. He does not, as is made clear by the response he received. In addition to significantly reducing the chances of unwanted pregnancy, there are many benefits to birth control.

HOWEVER.

Even if there were no other benefits, “I do not wish to become pregnant unless and until I am ready” is reason enough all on its own to use birth control.

WHY?

Once you accept that women are human beings free to act as they choose–including making decisions about who they have sex with, how many partners they have, or how often they have sex–you come to understand why Jesse’s comment is fractally wrong.

As if to underscore his contempt for women, Jesse refers to _women_ as _girls_, an infantalizing act that reinforces his misplaced sense of male superiority by treating women as children in need of a mans assistance.

Guys, don’t be like Jesse. He is a misogynistic ass.

Lesson over.

Your homework is a group assignment: interrogate the idea of “redistributing sex” and explain why it is a morally abhorrent concept.

Class dismissed.

Fellow men: Don’t be like Jesse

The NRA doesn’t have much to say about yesterday’s mass shooting

You know how the NRA and other gundamentalists love to trot out their reality challenged assertion “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun”? NRA president Wayne LaPierre or NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch are almost guaranteed to be right out there in front of cameras on those blue moon occasions when a gunman stops another gunman. They even love to get out there when an incident of gun violence happens so that– like vultures–they can take advantage of a tragedy to push people to buy more guns. I have an extraordinarily difficult time believing that LaPierre and Loesch are ignorant of the fact that more guns equals more (not less) crime. That evidence has been out there for some time, but of course, to make that knowledge widespread would likely impact the sales of firearms. And the NRA doesn’t want that. Another thing the NRA doesn’t want is for the little bubble they live in to burst when reality strikes. Like it did today, when a gunman shot and killed multiple people at a Waffle House in Nashville, TN, only to be disarmed by an UNarmed man. They were likely just as unhappy to hear that as they were to hear that the good guy–James Shaw, Jr–is Black (among the many boogeymen the NRA use as part of their fear mongering tactics are African-Americans).

Continue reading “The NRA doesn’t have much to say about yesterday’s mass shooting”

The NRA doesn’t have much to say about yesterday’s mass shooting

Ditching ableist language

Content Note:
This post discusses ableism and ableist terms. For the purposes of this post, the ableist terms are spelled out.

Reminder:
Ableism is NOT allowed on my wall.

It saddens me that over the years, I’ve had to repeat this several times. Worse still, I’ve lost friends (both in and out of the social justice community) bc it is more important for some folks to be able to use ableist language than it is for them to simply edit their comment (to be fair, that list of people is very small–less than 5; when asked, everyone else who has used such language has been willing to edit their comment). This, despite my friends list being comprised largely (though not exclusively) of many progressive minded individuals who are advocates of social justice. But then I remember that those of us who are social justice advocates and/or progressives were raised in the same bigoted, ableist society everyone else was. That makes us (yes, “us”, bc while I am a SJ advocate and progressive, I grew up in the same bigoted society as pretty much everyone else in the United States) prone to the same in-group thinking, the same human foibles, the same cognitive shortcuts, and the same resistance to modifying our language in recognition of splash damage as any other group. And certainly, many people long ago began the task of ridding themselves of bigoted language. I know a great many people who don’t used racial slurs (including anti-Black, anti-Hispanic, and anti-Asian ones, as well as others). I also know many people who don’t use gendered slurs. I think that’s commendable, bc it takes work to overcome years upon years of cultural indoctrination.

However.

Our society is rife with far more than race or gender based bigoted thinking. Such bigotry neither begins nor ends with racist or gendered thinking. We live in a classist society that regularly discriminates against and oppresses poor people. We live in a body-shaming society that looooooooooves to hold fat people up as objects of contempt. And we love to shame others based on our perception of their intelligence.

Yes, we love our ableism.

And that’s something we need to work on.

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Ditching ableist language

Possibly the only antidote to NaziCap

Marvel Comics’ 2017 event, Secret Empire, is not a series I like. It’s not even a series I dislike. It’s a series I loathe. I’ll freely admit that when I first heard of the plot: “Captain America, having been revealed as a Hydra sleeper agent, takes control of the Nazi-stand in organization and overthrows the United States, installing himself as the supreme leader, must now face down the heroes of the Marvel Universe who face the daunting task of defeating their iconic leader who knows everything about them”, I thought, there’s an idea that could work there. Absolute power corrupting. Cap being swayed to the darkside. What if our icons turned on us? Should we have heroes? Should anyone be granted so much implicit trust and power?  There are some interesting questions in the premise that could have been asked.  Nick Spencer’s mini series failed to deliver on any of the aforementioned potential themes.

Continue reading “Possibly the only antidote to NaziCap”

Possibly the only antidote to NaziCap