Police Behaving Badly 6.16.17

Across the United States, more than 800,000 people serve as local and state law enforcement officials (LEO). These LEOs 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 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 such examples:

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Police Behaving Badly 6.16.17
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Bill Maher’s guide on how to be a human trashfire

Image of one Bill Maher, douchebag extraordinaire, suffering from a self-inflicted case of White Male Entitlement Mentality.

Once upon a time, Bill Maher was cool in my book. I vaguely remember watching  a couple of episodes of his old show Politically Incorrect and while my memories are fuzzy,  I remember being quite entertained. Once he made the move to cable television, I started watching him more often. Hell, I used to dvr his show and watched it near religiously.   I used to appreciate the frankness with which he’d talk about religion, his support for legal marijuana, and his vocal opposition to all things conservative and Republican.  At that time, I knew of no one who was an unabashed critic of religion, so listening to Maher mock and criticize religious beliefs was refreshing, as was his no-holds-barred criticisms of Republicans.

But there was a side–several of them in fact–that I didn’t know about and/or weren’t woke enough to recognize. In 2017, however, I can see them plain as day. In fact, they’re so apparent that I’m not sure why he hasn’t written a ‘How to be a Human Trashfire’ guide. Such a guide would include examples from Maher’s various displays of bigotry over the years and include advice like:

  1. Learn to be a Pro. An ableism pro. One of the beginner steps to mastering ableism is to treat disabled kids with contempt like the time Maher equated developmentally disabled kids with dogs.  More advanced human trashfires know how to engage in multiple forms of bigotry simultaneously, as Maher did last year when he blew up at BLM activist Ashley Williams for crashing a HIllary Clinton fundraiser. And don’t forget–no self-respecting ableist bigot can claim that title if they don’t point to cognitive ability and say “POTUS45 is an asshole bc there is something wrong with his brain”.
  2. With boundless pride, you’ve got to share your sexism and misogyny with the world. Fly your “I hold women in contempt and think anything feminine is inferior to me” flag high. This can be done through an ancient male ritual called “I’m not sexist, but…”  or through the not-so-subtle derision of femininity,  or the use of gendered slurs (for someone who isn’t sexist, Maher has a long history of the word b*tch falling–I guess uncontrollably, since he says he’s not sexist–from his mouth when talking about women) or by “joking” about killing women for it doesn’t matter what the reason is   or if you combine your misogyny with ableism or…(yeah, the list goes on)
  3. Another trait often found in the modern Trashfire Bigot is transphobia. An excellent way to show the transgender community that you are the opposite of an ally–an enemy, for those uncertain–is to grant a platform to a White Supremacist Piece of Shit and not only let him speak his mind unchallenged, but indulge in a bit of transantagonism yourself (yes, I’m talking about that time Bill and Milo the douchebag bonded over their disgust of trans people).
  4. Of all the forms of bigotry he has displayed, one of Bill Maher’s favorites, one he can’t seem to go for too long without gushing over (as if his newborn child) is his anti-Muslim bigotry. From his completely unproven claim that millions of Muslims supported the attacks against Charlie Hebdo  to his smells-like-he-pulled-this-from-his-ass commentary about Muslim men, Maher loves him some Islamophobia. Of course, he doesn’t call it that, bc to him, he’s merely criticizing the religion when he condemns millions of Muslims for the actions of a relative few extremists**.

As with so many other bigots with racist beliefs, Bill Maher’s racism is not focused solely on Muslims. He also has room in his evaporated husk of a heart for some anti-black racism. Unlike his anti-Muslim bigotry, however, Maher’s anti-black racism has traditionally been more restrained. For example, on the face of it, his 2012 comment to Wayne Brady about the latter being a “non-threatening black man”, doesn’t appear racist. It is though, bc it  betrayed a view of black men as violent and dangerous. Such a view, which is ridiculously absurd*, is commonly held today and is one of the main biases at play when police officers shoot and injure/kill black people.  His supportive comments to Bill O’Reilly after the latter engaged in some casual racism regarding Representative Maxine Waters’ hair went a step further.  There’s also his comments about wanting President Obama to act like a “real Black man” by pulling up his shirt to reveal a gun tucked in his pants (the image of a black man with a gun hidden under his shirt and tucked into his pants is shorthand for criminal or thug). It’s one thing to have subconscious racial biases and prejudices. We all do (especially white people). It’s quite another to defend the racism of a virulently racist dirtbag like O’Reilly.And it’s something else to playfully allude to black people as criminals  Now, as if he were tired of hiding, Bill Maher has fully embraced his anti-black racism by doing the thing virtually every white person in this country knows is racist:

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Bill Maher’s guide on how to be a human trashfire

Sam Harris is racist

I woke up yesterday to distressing, though not completely unsurprising news: author, intellectual heavyweight, and [supposed] skeptic Sam Harris had interviewed Charles Murray.  Yes, that Charles Murray who, along with Richard J Herrnstein, co-authored The Bell Curve, a controversial-because-it-is-a-racist-pile-of-trash 1994 book. The Bell Curve reintroduced the concept of scientific (or intellectual) racism into modern USAmerican discourse and stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller’ list for 15 weeks, selling roughly 300,000 copies. It clearly struck a familiar and racist chord with people–especially its likely target audience:  white people (many of whom felt they finally had a scientific basis for their racist beliefs).  Of course, for all that it has a history reaching back to at least the 1800s, scientific racism is little more than repurposed white supremacist ideology with a touch of “science” (air quotes because it’s really that cheap knock-off of the real thing, pseudoscience). Murray’s book, which was an attempt to fuse alternative scientific facts with racist ideology, has been thoroughly debunked multiple times (such as here, here, and here), and criticized for its questionable science and its faulty logic, as well as its sources. Additionally, there’s one other liiiiiiiiiiiitle thing the book has been criticized for: its financial backers, the Pioneer Group. A far-right organization of so-called “race realists”, the Pioneer Group is a white supremacist organization with Neo-Nazi ties that backs studies on race, intelligence, and eugenics with the ultimate aim of racial betterment of white folks (which, unfortunately doesn’t mean ‘seeking to redeem white folks in the eyes of PoC after centuries of genocide, slavery, rape, forced assimilation, and imperialism’ and likely means something more like  ‘making the country great for white people again by getting rid of all them colored folks forcibly or through…well, there is no “or” ‘).

Despite being a book beloved by many a white supremacist piece of shit, Charles Murray’s book–what with its faux science, unsupported and hastily drawn conclusions, sources of a…questionable nature, and its backing by fans of the guy who penned POTUS45’s favorite “alone time” book, Mein Kamf–the only use for The Bell Curve is kindling.

So we’ve got a white supremacist organization with Nazi ties (wonder if they know Nazi punching bag Richard Spencer) that provided the financial backing for Murray and Herrnstein to write a piece of racist trashfire material that sought to provide a scientific foundation for the belief that white people are the best, smartest, coolest kids on the block and all the rest of us suck bc we have too much melanin. Although widely discredited by the scientific community (including the notion that the full spectrum of human cognitive abilities can be measured by one’s intelligence quotient), the idea of scientific racism still managed to seep into the public consciousness. Furor over the book died down in time, but the central theme of the book never disappeared and unfortunately, intellectual racism is once again seeing a resurgence. Nicole Hemmer of U.S. News & World Report writes:

Intellectual racism, in its cultural and pseudoscientific guises, is having a bit of a renaissance of late. At least, it’s receiving more attention than at any time since the debut of “The Bell Curve,” the 1994 book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray about race and IQ. Murray himself is back in the news, triggering protests as he tours college campuses. Andrew Sullivan, who published excerpts of Murray’s work as editor of The New Republic, recently went out of his way to make a case against the persistence of racism and for black pathology at the end of a much-read piece about Hillary Clinton. Within the last year, white nationalist sites like VDARE, American Renaissance and Radix have become part of the political landscape.

I’ve written elsewhere about the trap of intellectualized racism, which cuts against the common assumption that racism is rooted in ignorance and provincialism, that it can only be crude and passe. Thus when Richard Spencer, the face of the alt-right, shows up in a natty suit, he is treated as an unusual curiosity. When Charles Murray shows up brandishing a Ph.D. and some regression tables, he is treated as a sober-minded scholar.

Yes to all of this. Bigots like Spencer and Murray–in an effort to be seen (and thus treated) as respectable–have rejected the pointy white sheets and the jackboots worn by their racist predecessors. Similarly, instead of spending their free time lynching PoC or using them as gator bait (all with the ultimate purpose of instilling  terror in communities of color), many of today’s white supremacists put forth an air of respectability by repackaging their beliefs (and themselves) in an attempt to make them more palatable for the masses (doesn’t “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, oxymoron though it may sound, seem so much kinder, than mass murder?).  I suspect this is one reason why the odious ideas presented by these ethically challenged, morally bankrupt, evil human beings are gaining traction in the mainstream. As before, with the release of The Bell Curve, the dead and beaten horse that is intellectual racism allows people to justify their racist beliefs as scientific (nevermind the lack of science behind them).  And in the current political climate–one which saw the rise to the presidency of a morally repellent, authoritarian leaning, hater of the US Constitution, Mein Kamf loving misogynistic bully–there seems to be a great deal of interest in listening to and coddling the views of people who would like to see those like me six feet under or cast out from the place of my birth simply bc they think this country belongs only to white people. I’m talking about people like Richard Spencer, Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopolous, Raymond Wolters, and yes, Charles Murray.

So when I hear that a prominent, well-respected (why?) member of the atheist community has conducted an interview with a man who is, and has long been known to be, a white supremacist*, my spider-sense goes off. From what I know of Sam Harris, he is something of an intellectual. I know he has a few degrees (one in philosophy and another in neuroscience, I believe). I know he’s written a few books that had a positive effect on some and a lackluster “meh” effect on others. Basically, I know he has some degree of higher education and knows how do research on a subject or person. And it’s that knowledge that rules out the first theory I have about why he conducted this interview: that he did not know who he [Murray] was or was not familiar with his views. I have a hard time accepting the idea that Sam Harris knew very little about Charles Murray and The Bell Curve, and thought “I need to clear some things up, so I can better understand his position. I should interview him.” No. When you can easily search for Murray and find his Wikipedia page, his entry at AEI, his well deserved page on the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s site, and more, there is no need to talk to the man to find out his beliefs.

Perhaps then, he decided to interview the racist woo peddler in order to give said beliefs a proper thrashing and demonstrate to a new audience what Dr. Stephen Gould demonstrated back in the 90s? This is certainly a valid approach, but unfortunately, it’s not one that he took, as evidenced by the apology Harris offers to Murray at the start of the podcast. Apparently, in the world according to the great Sam Harris (he who peels back the layers and reveals the truths *they* don’t want you to hear), this poor, poor fellow was viciously maligned by politically correct critics (I gotta say–great job completely ignoring the work of all the people who have rebutted Murray’s work over they years, including Dr. Gould). It’s pretty much downhill from there as you can see from the blog AngryWhiteMen where the author criticizes pretty much everything about Harris’ podcast, from Harris’ refusal to critically examine Murray’s beliefs to his failure to acknowledge the effect of scientific racism on social policy:

And then there’s the effect The Bell Curve has had, and will continue to have, on social policy. As Claudia S. Fischer et al pointed out in their 1996 rebuttal Inequality By Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth, the upshot of Murray and Herrnstein’s book was that “intelligence largely determined how well people did in life.” “The rich were rich mostly because they were smart, the poor were poor mostly because they were dumb, and middle Americans were middling mostly because they were of middling intelligence.” And, as we have already seen, their view on race and IQ is that blacks and Latinos “were by nature not as intelligent as whites; that is why they did less well economically, and that is why little can or should be done about racial inequality.”

In other words, no amount of affirmative action can raise the standard of living for black and Latino Americans, since they are mainly being held back by genetics. In addition, with lower than average IQs come other social consequences: violent crime, petty theft, out-of-wedlock births, and so on.

Is Harris aware of the impact applied scientific racism could have on the lives of those who are not white males? Does he care? If he is aware and does care, it is not apparent because he fails to offer a substantial rebuttal to Murray’s views. Thus, listeners are left with the impression that there is nothing unreasonable about them. The piece concludes by listing Harris’ failings as a host, a skeptic, and in my eyes, a decent human being:

And all of these points — unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans — would have been worth bringing up in Harris’ conversation with Murray. As an interviewer, he should have done more than toss softballs and whitewash Murray’s record. As a skeptic, he should have been more willing to examine Murray’s beliefs. His unwillingness to do so will only bolster racist pseudoscience and toss more red meat to Murray’s white nationalist fans.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that Sam Harris did not conduct this interview with noted White Supremacist Piece of Shit Charles Murray to debunk his pseudoscientific beliefs. No, as it turns out, the interview was conducted because…well, I don’t want to try my hand at mindreading. I’ll leave the attempts at alt-science to people like Murray. I can’t speak to what Harris’ intent was with this piece. But I can talk about the impact of the piece, and its implications. That impact? Those implications? They say nothing good, and everything bad about Sam Harris. Consider the following:

  •  Harris chose to conduct this interview–an interview which sees the resurrection of the beaten horse that is scientific racism–at a time when our country is simmering in a toxic social and political stew. A stew in which racism is bubbling right on the surface, ready to explode. In several cases, that racism has bubbled above the surface and boiled over, as in the various clashes between  alt-righters white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous or the numerous incidents of law enforcement officers executing African-Americans leading to protest marches by Black Lives Matter activists. What message is sent when a leading figure in the secular/atheist movement plays host to a white supremacist without criticizing said views?  Among other things, it legitimizes Murray’s views.
  • He titled the episode ‘Forbidden Knowledge’. With a title like that, shouldn’t the listeners have knowledge imparted to them by the end of the episode? And not just knowledge, but useful, evidence based knowledge? I would think so. But the interview was with a man for whom evidence appears to be his personal Kryptonite.* His work has already been discredited several times over and the faux science behind it laid bare.  The impact here is ironic, given the title of the podcast. Rather than knowledge being imparted and peoples’ awareness raised, thanks to Harris’ softballing of Murray, misinformation, distortion, and outright lies are treated as legitimate and scientific in nature.
  • the financial backers of The Bell Curve, as well as some of the sources have strong Neo-Nazi ties. It should go without saying that if your backers or the source of your information are Nazi, you really ought to reexamine your work. From top down. Failure to do so allows Nazism one more foothold out of the sewer it belongs in. And we all know what happens when Nazism gains too much of a foothold.
  • Remember the connection between Murray and eugenics? Murray’s idea, that white people are genetically superior to People of Color paired with “race betterment” sounds uncomfortably close to a “Master Race”.
  • The impact of scientific racism on political issues such as immigration and government assistance programs would be huge. If our lot in life is determined (largely or in whole) by genetics, then nothing can be done to improve our quality of life. So why should government assistance programs exist? And why worry about racial inequality if our genes determine our place in the US caste system?

Consider too:

  • Sam Harris is advocate of racial profiling at airports  to root out terrorists (though he’s yet to give a non-appearance based reliable method for rooting out terrorists)
  • Sam Harris’ denigration of identity politics. Given that he considers himself an intellectual (he may even consider himself a Bright person), I can’t imagine he’d reject or denigrate an idea without first learning what the idea is (it’s not controversial to assume a leading figure is intellectually honest, is it?). So surely he is aware that identity politics is a form of political activism focused on uplifiting and liberating the various identity groups that are oppressed in society (groups like women, queer people, PoC, disabled people, etc). Further to that, surely he knows that identity politics is key to marginalized groups achieving liberation and equality. That can only be done by focusing on each group and finding out what they need to improve their quality of life.

When you take into account those considerations, as well as Harris’ whitewashing of  The Bell Curve, his refusal to critically examine Murray’s beliefs, and his lack of acknowledgment of the social costs of intellectually racist beliefs used in support  of legislation, a very unflattering image of Sam Harris begins to emerge.

I wish that image had been of a man who–recognizing the social power he has, the platform he possesses, and how far his influence reaches–had acted in a responsible manner to eviscerate racism. Publicly. Loudly. Without hesitation. I wish Harris understood that racism benefits all white people, bc in oppressing People of Color, it grants unfair advantages (privileges) to white people.  Those unfair advantages enable white people to make their way through life with fewer obstacles than if they had higher levels of melanin. Racism continues to exist because–collectively–white people have done next to nothing to tear down that system of oppression.

No, the image of Sam Harris is not a good one. What he did here was irresponsible. More to the point, it was also immoral, bc not only did he not work to tear down racism, he actively worked to shore up its foundations by lending credence to Murrays woo-filled beliefs, failing (or refusing) to critically examine Murray’s views, and raising the profile of a white supremacist and presenting his ideas to people who–already primed to trust and respect their host–might well be sympathetic to the views of a racist extremist whom the host treats cordially. By giving Murray a platform and challenging him in no substantial way, Harris may as well have told his listeners “treat what this man says as the truth”.

That’s a reinforcement of white supremacy.

And that is racism.

Which makes Sam Harris a racist.

 

*I’m not quibbling over the difference between white supremacist and white nationalist, bc both believe in the innate superiority of white people. White nationalists claim they just want a nation-state all to themselves and don’t have a problem with PoC, they just don’t want them in “their country”.  I don’t believe that claim. But more to the point, they believe they are genetically and intellectually superior to PoC, which is the same belief held by white supremacists. At the end of the day, maybe white nationalists don’t want to re-enslave African-Americans or continue the genocide of Indigenous people, but they are only a few steps removed from those who do. And they all play on team evil.

 

Oh, would you look at that, another prominent figure in the atheist movement wants to throw his lot in with Murray.

Sam Harris is racist

This can all be traced back to the Civil War

We are going through some horrifying times right now. The presidential win by the incompetent, thin skinned rapist demagogue (I refuse to refer to him by his actual name, nor will I *EVER* call him “Mr. President” or “President [redacted]”) has led to a government that is very much not democratic, and is in fact, in danger of becoming an authoritarian police state (one run by white supremacists and Nazis at that). Chitler and those he brought on as part of his Cabinet have no respect for the people of this nation or the Constitution that all government employees are supposed to uphold. They have a complete disrespect for the rule of law  as well as disrespect for the basic standards of decency, transparency, and accountability expected from the leaders of this country. This disrespect and the trampling of the Constitutional and human rights of USAmerican citizens can be seen almost daily:

  • issuing an executive order that effectively bars Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States (no, the writing of the order does not literally say “ban on Muslims”, but that’s the end result) is an attack on people based on their religion and ethnicity
  • the imposition of a media blackout on multiple federal agenices such as the FDA and the EPA
  • criticizing the exercise of free speech rights of USAmerican civilians (the ‘Hamilton’ cast) and attacking celebrities who express disapproval of his actions
  • referring to his critics as enemies
  • openly displaying aggression to private companies
  • being extremely hostile to reporters and the media (signalling an opposition to the freedom of the press)
  • nominating a host of appointees for government positions who are not only supremely unqualified, but also (in most cases) want to gut the departments they are to be in charge of
  • continuing to associate with Russia, despite the successful cyberattacks carried out by that country

That’s just off the top of my head.  There’s been so much that the Tangerine Tyrant does on a daily basis that flies in the face of human decency or respect for the founding principles of this country. What many people may not realize though, is that our current slide towards an authoritarian or fascist state are directly connected to the demonization and enslavement of African-Americans for 245 years, which culminated with the Civil War.

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This can all be traced back to the Civil War

I’m so tired of liberal calls for reaching across the aisle

In the wake of the supremely awful badness that was the 2016 US elections (which saw the rise to power of a racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, ableist rapist), think piece after think piece has been written about liberals needing to reach across the aisle and work with conservatives. We’ve heard that we need to break bread with Chitler supporters. That we need to sit down at the table with them and hear what they have to say. That it’s some sort of high moral calling to reach out to conservatives and empathize with them. The latest bout of the “shake hands and play nice with the bigots” nonsense comes from Anthony Bourdain, who recently said that Chitler’s  rise to the presidency is the fault of Eastern liberals (content note for casual ableism):

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I’m so tired of liberal calls for reaching across the aisle

Police Behaving Badly 10.25.16

More than 800,000 people serve as local and state law enforcement officials in the United States. 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 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

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Police Behaving Badly 10.25.16

We are still not being heard

Civil unrest has once more broken out in a USAmerican city; this time in Milwaukee, following the execution by police of a 23-year-old armed suspect (who apparently committed the heinous, only-recourse-is-lethal-force crime of fleeing from cops after a traffic stop).

A gas station and an auto-parts store were set on fire.

Bricks were hurled at law enforcement officers (resulting in the injury of one officer).

Police have apparently said that shots were fired (it should be point out that currently, the only firearm-related casualty has been the execution of the suspect at the hands of the police).

As I’ve seen several times when civil unrest engulfs a city in the wake of state sanctioned brutality or extrajudicial execution by cop, it is inevitable that some people will criticize the actions of those involved in the unrest (curiously, these people never aim their criticism at the actions of police that precipitate such events; it’s almost like they don’t take issue with the behavior of law enforcement officials).

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We are still not being heard

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

National Burn It All Down Day

Meow.

Krakoom!

Meow.

Krakoom!

Meow!

I woke to two sounds. To my cat, sitting on my chest meowing as if to say “wake up and feed me ya lazy bum”. This was a new experience for me. Although I’ve had Cassie for more than 8 years, she never sleeps in my room with me. Mostly bc I didn’t want cat hair all over my clothes, but also, I like my sleep. The idea of having a four-legged feline alarm clock wake me every morning isn’t appealing. Still, I just got her back from the veterinarian after having a serious health scare and I wanted to monitor her closely. So I bit the bullet and let her into my sanctum (which she promptly took over, taking half the bed at times, and leaving me with only two pillows, rather than my customary three). Her comfort is important and she seems to appreciate having me at her beck and call.

The other sound came from my laptop. You might be thinking that the sound ‘Krakoom’ on a laptop was a bad thing, but it is not. Those ‘Krakooms’ are nothing more than the sound of thunder from a Youtube video playing ‘Soothing Thunderstorm’. I find the sound of thunder and rainfall relaxing; the sounds enable me to relax and drift to sleep with ease. Without such sounds, I find it difficult to sleep. I hear the crickets outside. I hear the snoring of the dogs one room over. The traffic on the street near the house can be heard. Such sounds…such erratic sounds annoy the fuck out of me, making it difficult to relax. Such is the curse of having good hearing. Good hearing is a good thing in the right context. After all, I’ve been complimented on my hearing multiple times in the past by guests at my bar (back when I was gainfully employed). Patrons appreciate having someone who overhears-however unintentionally-their drink order and begins preparation before they’ve even said ‘hello’. But that’s a radically different context than trying to sleep. When it’s time to sleep, I need no extraneous sound. I need the equivalent of white noise-a consistent, soothing sound.

Cat fed, I proceeded to feed myself. And check the dogs. And hydrate myself. Once those tasks were done, I began to ponder what to accomplish today. Before making a ‘to do’ list, though, I decided to open Facebook and see what was going on with my friends and in the world.

That would prove to be a mistake.

Because three stories in and I was reminded how little African-Americans are valued in this country.

Three stories in an I’m reminded how little justice there is for African-Americans in the United States.

Three stories in and I’m ready to declare today ‘National Burn It All Down’ Day.

BLACK-LIVES-MATTER

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National Burn It All Down Day

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.

Continue reading “Black Panther fans have reason to rejoice”

Black Panther fans have reason to rejoice