Finally! Some political developments to celebrate

From a socio-political perspective, this past year has been a cosmic-level trashfire. Hell, one could make the argument that this quagmire  we’re all trying our best to cope with began the day Cheeto Hitler declared his intent to run for president. Following his win, it has been a never-ending battle to minimize the harm he has sought to cause.  In many cases, that harm has centered around attempting to eliminate the achievements of his predecessor, President Obama. He pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords (with Nicaragua and Syria having signed the Accords, the United States is the only major country in the world to refuse the deal), rejected the Iran Nuclear Deal, and he has pushed over and over again for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (not caring that such a move would lead to roughly 32 million people–on top of the millions without coverage already–without healthcare coverage by 2026).

When he’s not  trying to undo President Obama’s legacy, the bigoted bumblefuck has been aggressively working on his grand plan to Make America Great Again For  Those Poor Persecuted and Aggrieved White Men, The Last Demographic Deemed Socially Acceptable To Discriminate Against (this, despite the fact that white men experience no measurable discrimination based on their race or gender). More a back of the beverage napkin drunken bucket list than a meticulously composed, well thought out, evidence based course of action, this grand plan (which honestly can’t really be called a plan) has included:

 

  • pardoning the  guilty and virulently racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio who really should have been imprisoned for the rest of his life (which is probably 10 years at best, given his age)
  • attacking the Mayor of Puerto Rico (on more than one level,  as the Petulant Pissant never wastes an opportunity to “put women in their place ” by indulging his sexist side) and blaming Puerto Ricans for not doing enough to repair their own island in the wake of Hurricane Maria (and don’t forget his declaration about the great job he has done, and throwing fucking paper towels at Puerto Ricans)
  • rejecting any influence on the the 2016 presidential election by Russia and claiming (without a shred of evidence to support his position) that widespread voter fraud led to Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote instead of him
  • undermining faith in and credibility of the Presidency with his inability to inform his statements with facts and evidence
  • taking aim at Freedom of the Press by openly speculating on how he could censor media outlets that do not kiss his ass
  • referring to  NFL players protesting over police brutality and systemic racism in the United States as “sons of bitches” and calling for them to be fired
  • disrespecting the family of a fallen U.S. soldier *and* the soldier himself (that he can bring himself to chastise anti-racist advocates for disrespecting U.S. soldiers, while he does that very thing is maddening)
  • ending workplace protections for transgender people
  • granting white supremacist fuckhead Steve Bannon a role in his administration, as well as nominating the Racist Ratfucker himself, Jeff “the Confederate loving, should have been born 150 years ago “Sessions, to Attorney General
  • Muslim Ban 1, Muslim Ban 2, Muslim Ban 3
  • seeking to punish ‘Sanctuary Cities’ for not participating in or supporting the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants
  • That Fucking Wall
  • Refusing to 100% condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville “but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides”, “I think there’s blame on both sides […]
  • threatening federal funding for UC-Berkeley for shutting down one of his staunchest supporters, a speaker well known for ginning up hatred against women, gays, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people and who thinks of himself as a “provocateur” who is spreading truths that others are too fearful to speak (I refer to that wretched waste of space, Milo Yiannopoulous), and who has–on more than one occasion–referred to the Orange Menace as “Daddy”***

That’s not a comprehensive list, by the way. With the exception of maybe three items, those incidents were off the top of my head. Being an authoritarian bully and a fascist-leaning, racist rapist, who speaks without any care or concern for what he says or how he says it pretty much guarantees that anything he says or does during his tenure is going to, at the very least, piss people the fuck off.  I really don’t want to imagine what his list of “accomplishments” will look like come the end of his term (which will hopefully be the only one).

Making matters worse for those of us who realize that “Make America Great Again” is a dog whistle is that the GOP controls so much of the federal government. You’d think that if one of the two major political parties in this country gained as much power as the GOP currently has, they might be able to get significant legislation through. Heck, they might even do something wild and totally unheard of like, oh, I don’t know…GOVERN. Alas, all they seem capable of doing is introducing legislation to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (they’ve backed away from that for now, but I am confident think they’ll be back at it in the spring of 2018).

You know, that’s not fair.  Sure  the Bigoted Blowhard is so incompetent that brokering a peace deal between kindergartners (let alone war-torn nations embroiled in combat whose origins reach back centuries) is far outside his wheelhouse and sure his party has tried (and largely failed) to keep out immigrants and MuslimsAnd never mind that he and his administration (and by extension, the Republican Party) have had success in one area: the advancement of progressive social or political agendas that benefit people other than rich, white men have been stifled. With these people in power, the best we’ve been able to hope for all year is that we’ll be able to minimize the damage he and the GOP want to cause. There certainly wasn’t any hope on the horizon that things would get better.

At least, not until Tuesday night.

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Finally! Some political developments to celebrate
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The Week in Racism 7/5-7/12

White supremacy is a complex social phenomenon comprising actions, beliefs, and habits that enforce an artificial hierarchy of racial order that places white people at the apex, and all other races beneath them. One of the primary manifestations of white supremacy is racism-a system of oppression that concentrates the overwhelming majority of social, political, and economic power in the hands of white people and simultaneously enforces cultural norms and economic policies that disenfranchise, marginalize, and oppress People of Color while also downplaying, dismissing, or outright erasing their achievements and accomplishments. The roots of white supremacy and racism in the United States can be traced back to the brutal invasion of this country, the genocide of the Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans, and the establishment of a nation designed to benefit Europeans at the expense of everyone else.  Today, white supremacy and racism continue to be firmly enmeshed in USAmerican society, with no corner of our culture immune to their pernicious effects. Here are some of the links and articles I’ve read in the past week, with subject matter ranging from stories about the effects of the twin ills of white supremacy and racism on politics and culture to tales of their victims or the beneficiaries:

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The Week in Racism 7/5-7/12

Black Panther fans have reason to rejoice

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It is fairly common knowledge that Marvel Studios has a diversity problem. 11 movies in and not a single one has featured a woman or a Person of Color as the title character. While fans have been demanding a Black Widow movie for years now, Marvel Studios has yet to even announce one will be made (they keep saying they are open to the idea). Similarly, there has yet to be a MCU movie starring a Person of Color. On the smaller screen, things are slightly better, as two of the four Marvel Cinematic tv series are headlined by women (Jessica Jones and Agent Carter). All told though, between the big and small screen, Marvel isn’t deviating much from its white male leads. The sea of white faces are not the only problems facing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Issues of whitewashing, racial stereotyping, and the erasure of Asian identity (I’m looking at you Dr. Strange, and you, Iron Fist) also plague the MCU. The company has a long way to go before it can claim to be truly diverse.

Now, I tend to harp on the problems in Hollywood and/or the comic book industry bc I care. I care about movies. I care about comic book characters. And I care about racial and gender diversity in both. I want things to be better. I want greater representation (not just of women and PoC, but also queer and disabled people, and more still; but that’s a subject for a different post). Not just for my benefit. Not just for the benefit of others whose opinions align with mine on this subject. I also want greater representation bc it is important for future generations, as cultural anthropologist Michael D. Baran explains:

It is critical that children see all sorts of people playing both the good and the bad roles in media. Otherwise, they may take those absences as meaningful and it may affect how they understand social categories. And it is certainly important for kids to be able to identify with heroes that they feel represent who they are as people.

For very young kids, this might or might not fall out along racial lines and we must be careful not to impose our reification of race onto their knowledge. But we might as well err on the good side, by having a diversity of heroes for people to relate to – not just racially, but also in terms of gender, religion, body type, etc.

While Marvel Studios has much work to do in diversifying its interconnected universe, there are some bright spots on the horizon, and I think there is cause to have some degree of optimism that things are getting better (even if getting to better is like swimming uphill in a tar pit).

I’m optimistic because the Netflix series Jessica Jones was an intense, well acted, rollercoaster of a series that I loved from start to finish. Jessica Jones was presented as a strong, flawed, and three-dimensional character. The widespread acclaim of the show led to the quick announcement of a second season (speaking of which, I need them to announce *when*). On the big screen, I’m optimistic because 2019 sees the release of Captain Marvel, which will mark the first feature length MCU film with a woman in the starring role. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero (formerly known as Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird), this movie has the potential to position Captain Marvel as the premier female superhero of Marvel (in a way comparable to Wonder Woman’s position at DC). Though no actress has been cast in the title role, I am hopeful that this movie and this character will receive the respect they both deserve. Back on television, all 13 episodes of the Mike Colter starring Netflix series Luke Cage (which has been likened to the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire) drop on September 30. In the last decade, I’ve gone from ambivalence toward Cage to a fan of the character (writer Brian Michael Bendis may do a lot of things I don’t like, but his treatment of Cage has been exemplary). And then there’s the Black Panther, Marvel’s first black superhero. Seeing what Marvel has planned for the King of Wakanda between the comics and the big screen ought to please a great many Panther fans. I know I’m excited.

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Black Panther fans have reason to rejoice

A pathetic attempt at historical revisionism

A pro-Confederate flag group on Facebook put up this deeply ridiculous meme recently. There are a few problems I can see with the it. First off…oh, you know what, let’s be fair here. I don’t want to be so overly critical of the meme maker that I neglect to offer them praise. I mean they totally deserve a slow clap or two for their ability to Google ‘how many people died in the Civil War‘ and come up with 620,000. That level of talent just boggles the mind.  So yeah, let’s take a moment to congratulate the meme maker here for the ability to find a number related to the Civil War. Now, about those problems with the meme.

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A pathetic attempt at historical revisionism

White privilege example #20349

We can’t talk on our phones at an Ohio Wal-Mart while holding an air pellet rifle without being seen as suspicious, even if that rifle is classed as a toy, it’s aimed at the ground, and open/carry is legal in the state (John Crawford, III).

We can’t walk down a Utah street with a fake sword even though Utah is an open/carry state–and that applies to *real* swords too (Darrien Hunt),

Our kids can play in public with toy guns, but they’d better expect concerned citizens to freak the fuck out and call the cops. Once law enforcement officials arrive, we can expect them to open fire before assessing the situation (Tamir Rice).

If a loved one is shot by police and lays dying, we can’t be allowed to rush to their side. But we can be confident we’ll be treated horribly by police during our attempts to do so (Samaria Rice, sister of Tamir).

Our babies can’t be asleep in their cribs without flash grenades going off in front of them (Bounkham Phonesavanh).

Running from the police even if we are unarmed is out of the question bc apparently that’s grounds for being shot to death. In the back (Walter Scott).

We can’t walk outside in near-freezing temperatures with our hands in our pockets bc some “concerned citizens” are worried that a black person with their hands in their pocket must be guarding a nuclear weapon rather than warming their hands (Brandon McKean).

We can’t circumvent state tax laws on cigarettes bc OMG the world will end. And if we do, we can expect to be choked to death. Because violating state tax laws on cigarettes is totes grounds for being killed (Eric Garner).

As adults, we cannot have an attitude or be disrespectful to law enforcement officials during a traffic stop bc authoritarian thugs don’t like their authority questioned (Sandra Bland).

As children we must remember to always be respectful and deferential to law enforcement officials-even ones nicknamed ‘Officer Slam’-bc if we don’t, we deserve to be body-slammed or so I’m told by a lot of white people invested in upholding white supremacy (Spring Valley High School teen).

Our kids cannot be loud and unruly at a swimming pool. Not unless they want to be treated like an armed and dangerous felon, grabbed by the hair, thrown to the ground, and sat on by a really swell douchebag in uniform (Dajerria Becton).

If we are in the midst of a mental health crisis and the police are called, we have no guarantee they will assist us, but we can be confident they’ll make the situation worse (Tanisha Anderson).

We can expect our constitutional rights to be violated if we commit even low-level crimes, bc apparently the punishment for robbery is execution by cop (Shelly Frey).

We can’t expect our children to be able to sleep in the comforting presence of a grandparent without worrying about SWAT teams raiding the wrong house (Aiyana Stanley-Jones).

We don’t get to do any of these things, whether legal or not, without being harassed, detained, abused, brutalized, or murdered by police officers bc our existence is constantly under supervision by agents of the state. At every turn, black people across the United States are overpoliced. From everyday actions like getting an attitude with teachers, to not being thrilled at being pulled over for a bullshit reason, to yes, even committing a crime-black people are not allowed the luxury of any benefit of the doubt. At every turn we are treated to civil rights violations and a denial of basic human rights. For another group of USAmericans, this is not the case. Members of this group are accorded undeserved privilege, even in situations where one of them is a direct threat to the lives of police officers (Roger Hale), or situations where one of them point firearms at cops and children (Lance Tamayo), or even in cases where two of them show up at a Wal-Mart, remove BB-guns from their boxes and shoot up the store (two drunk guys). Even in these examples, when these people were a direct threat to others, no excessive force was used against them. In addition, none of them were killed, despite the danger they posed (which is why I find the “my life was in danger” line used by many cops to justify the murder of suspects to be, how shall we say, hollow-as-fuck). That’s all part of having DUM DUM DUUUUUUUM: White Privilege!

And for the latest example of ‘shit only white people can get away with’ (also known as DUM DUM DUUUUUUM: White Privilege) we have a story out of Akron, Ohio:

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White privilege example #20349

What if…?

The pervasive influence of white bias is felt in all corners of society. From musicians to actors, politicians to police officers, firefighters to lawyers, CEO’s to teachers, there is no area of society free from the bias in favor of white people (and, more specifically, heterosexual, cisgender, white men). As a long-time comic book reader, I was long ignorant of this bias in the comic book industry. Growing up as a teen, and later as a young adult, race was never on my radar. It wasn’t until I began to pay attention to matters of race that I began to see the comic book industry through more enlightened eyes. Once I began to view the world with greater clarity and understanding, I began to see that the comic book industry has long been dominated by white men. And that explains why, for the vast majority of the history of USAmerican comic books, white men have been the primary protagonists, villains, and supporting cast members. The same holds true of the film industry. But what if things were different? What if white men were not the sole (or primary) guiding forces behind movies and comic books all these decades? What if people of color were involved as well? What might the result be?

Alijah Villian is an artist who has tried to imagine just such a world. Using African-American celebrities, he re-imagines protagonists and antagonists from comic books and movies. Take a look:

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What if…?

Black Lives Matter? Not to NBC

During a recent appearance on NBC’s Today, singer Janelle Monáe performed her songs ‘Yoga’ and ‘Tightrope. Along with several labelmates (including Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, and George 2.0)  she also performed a new song, ‘Hell You Talmabout’. ‘Hell You Talmabout’ is an amazingly powerful song. It literally gave me goosebumps. The song is a protest song in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It features a series of chants naming many African-Americans who have had their lives stolen as a result of systemic racism. Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Trayvon Martin. Emmett Till. Freddie Gray, Jr. Michael Brown, Jr. Walter Scott. These are some of the names featured in the song. I’ll be honest, while the song affected me powerfully, I was worried for a few minutes that the focus would only be upon African-American men. It is a significant concern because the deaths of African-American women as a result of police brutality are often downplayed in the media. I’m happy to say that several minutes into the song, the names Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton were also featured, which allayed my fears, and allowed me to enjoy the song without regret (because funny me, when I say Black Lives Matter, I’m talking about *all* black lives and last I checked black women are part of that group).  I can’t embed the video of her Today performance, but it can be viewed here. Here is a YouTube video of the song at the kickoff night of the Eephus Tour at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA (it’s fine, but I prefer the Today version).

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Black Lives Matter? Not to NBC

What a privilege indeed

Content Note: Discussion of slavery and white supremacy, disturbing imagery

For much of my life, I thought I knew about slavery and white supremacy in the United States. Not everything mind you. But I knew about that ‘peculiar’ institution. I watched ‘Roots’. I saw ‘The Color Purple’. I knew stuff.

  • I knew that millions of Africans were enslaved and brought to the United States where they had no rights.
  • I knew that these Africans were not considered full human beings, and had no rights.
  • I knew that they could be bought, sold, traded, and bartered like property.
  • I knew that male slave owners often raped their female slaves and bore illegitimate children which they sold when the children were of sufficient age.
  • I knew that families had been ripped apart and destroyed. I knew that black families sought to form whatever communities they could, often in the form of churches, though white people would have none of that.
  • I knew about slave patrols, which played a role in the development of modern policing.
  • I knew about black people being whipped, chained, disemboweled, and brutally beaten.
  • I knew the tools often used to keep black people enslaved.
  • I saw the images of black people before, during, and after they were whipped.
19th century medical missionary and anti-slavery advocate David Livingstone sent weapons and tools such as these to Britain as evidence in the battle against slavery.

I knew all of that and more still. I knew that slavery was a vile institution; one that dehumanizes its victims (in this case, African-Americans), treats them as things…as property. I knew that the Civil War was fought over slavery; that slavery was the bloodiest conflict in US history. I knew the Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery. But there was much I did not know. Oh boy, was there ever. Here are three things I’ve learned about slavery and white supremacy in the last year, one of which I learned about today.

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What a privilege indeed

Michael Brown, Jr. was killed a year ago today

 

Note:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the execution of Michael Brown, Jr at the hands of ex-police officer Darren Wilson.

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Michael Brown, Jr. was killed a year ago today

Black Lives Matter, all of them (Content Note: Transphobia)

In response to the 2012 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi created the Black Lives Matter movement. Their goal was to address the multiple forms of systemic racism within the United States and to protest the injustices African-Americans continue to feel living within a racist system. They sought an inclusive movement-one that spoke to the needs of all black people:

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Black Lives Matter, all of them (Content Note: Transphobia)