Saturday, December 03, 2005

I can't wait

From Black Prof "'Ask Mom:' Announces A New Advice Column"

Mom is ready to advise the law-lorn on a host of everyday problems that professors (especially professors of color) face: What if my new dean seems unfriendly? If the minority students take me for granted? If my institution is constantly putting me on all those committees? If my tenure committee seems uncomfortable with my writing about race? If I’m lonely for company? If the only blacks (Latinos) who want to date me are students? If everybody ignores me when I speak during faculty meetings? If….

“Ask Mom” is written by Professor Richard Delgado. Professor Delgado is a founder of critical race theory, and the most prolific author in the legal academy. Professor Delgado was our first celebrity guest, and we are thrilled that he will be joining us as a regular contributor. He is a creative, provocative and often brilliant writer - a true legend. Next week we will post a link for readers to Ask Mom. This is going to be a blast! more

better dayz? for whom?

I found this discussion of Camille Peri's article in Salon on BitchPhD

Peri writes:

"The insidious face of inner-city poverty seemed to raise the stakes on everything -- even the simplest get-together. Should we let Joe sleep overnight at the home of his new best friend, who lived in public housing? Would Joe be a target in a tough inner-city neighborhood, or just an unlucky victim of a stray bullet? Should I be honest about my fears with his friend's mother or make excuses? A longtime African American friend of ours told us we were being too cautious, but when a man was shot down after a high-speed chase with the police on the street where Joe's friend lived, it settled the question."

With Joe's new friends in our lives, neighborhoods that we usually drove through only on our way somewhere else now became our destinations. I remember walking through double locked gates into a labyrinth of concrete halls to drop off one friend at a unit that had only a TV and a PlayStation -- no chairs, no kitchen table, no beds.

These neighborhoods became their destinations? What about taking Joe's new best friend "home" to the place one wants to protect ones child from? That what makes Joe a possible target is that Joe's friend (in that space and others) isalways a possible target.

This piece immediately reminded me of a piece that appeared in February in the Lives section of the Sunday New York Times Magazine

"I was 7 years old, a scrawny white kid, and I was standing in front of some 30 second graders, all of them black. One after the other, the boys and girls in the sun-drenched Miami classroom giddily peppered me with questions. What is it like to live in the ''nice'' part of town? How many swimming pools do you have? Are all of your brothers and sisters white, too? (The girl who asked this last question was roundly hooted by her classmates.) I tried to answer the rapid queries, but I became shy. As the only white person in the room, I felt painfully under scrutiny and downright weird. I might as well have been a snowman. When I began to stutter, the friendly lady teacher told me I could sit down.

What was I doing there? It was 1967, and it was show and tell -- more accurately, I was the show and tell. Along with a huge sunflower one girl brought to class and a firetruck that a boy had hooked up to a toy giraffe, I was the day's novelty item. The children of my family's housekeeper, Gladys, had taken me to school. Gladys was a lanky Bahamian, an ex-model and single mother who was a weekly presence in our house.

My parents, liberal émigrés from New York, moved to Florida in the 40's. Like many other Easterners, my father and mother found in Miami an improbable setting for their progressive social ideals and entrepreneurial plans for self-advancement. ''I went to sleep in the winter darkness,'' Edmund Wilson wrote in a 1949 essay about his first train ride to this southern Florida city, ''and wake up to a dazzle of golden light on green palms and low-growing pines that drip with Florida moss.'' My parents must have felt something similar.

Although they were hardly wealthy (my father ran a small drug-and-cosmetics business), they decided that I was becoming impossibly spoiled. Too many handsome Swedish toys and swank bar mitzvahs were making me soft, they claimed, so off they sent me to Gladys's family in a poor section of Miami, the first time for a couple of weeks, later for sporadic weekends. In the 60's, it was very much a city with a racial divide. Public schools were segregated. Blacks lived in ghettos like Overtown, and well-off whites inhabited areas with mellifluous names like Coral Gables.

Gladys's two sons were friends of mine and had come to my house many times. But these sleepovers were different -- a strange reversal that raised eyebrows among some of my parents' friends. Although it never occurred to me at the time, I was a sort of civil rights social project for my parents. By today's standards, my parents were naïve reformers, comic idealists, and their decision to send me into a ghetto was of a piece with their wacky idea of letting me attend a local production of ''Hair.'' (''What was the nude scene like?'' all my friends wanted to know.)

For me, staying with Gladys's family meant days of sheer pleasure. Gladys may have been a wonderfully efficient housekeeper in white South Miami, but her own house was, to a 7-year-old, fabulously messy, noisy and chaotic. Friends and relatives dropped by at all hours. There seemed to be no observance of bedtime curfew. And Gladys's two sons treated me like a wonderful treasure, an exotic animal they had taken in. They took me to other peoples' homes and showed me off to their friends. Sure, I was a pawn in their continuing show-and-tell game, but their guided tours introduced me to a marvelous counterworld.

My sojourn in Gladys's neighborhood was undoubtedly the first time I thought about myself self-consciously as white -- as inhabiting white skin -- the sort of self-consciousness that most blacks feel every day and that many white people don't. No particular social mechanism requires it today; nothing insists on it. For years I used to perplex my politically-minded friends when I argued on behalf of national service -- on the principle that there was something beneficial in whites and blacks, privileged and not, living together for periods of time.

Gladys's kids came to stay with me, too. If I loved the cheerful clutter of their house, they liked the relatively prosperous fun of my family's swimming pool (just one). But my sleepovers came to a sudden end after a year of visits. A riot broke out in one of Miami's poor neighborhoods during the 1968 Republican National Convention. I recall my mother, crying into the phone as she explained to Gladys (who had telephoned to set up a visit to her house), saying, ''But your people don't want us in your neighborhood.'' My mother tried to explain to me why I couldn't go to Gladys's for a while, why everything had become impossible. Then she sat down at the kitchen table and cried some more. It was all a little confusing for me, but it definitely felt like the end of something, a fragile, unlikely experiment in biracial friendship across neighborhood lines." more

"Note From New Orleans: BLACK OUT" plus

More on New Orleans' race/class cleansing.

From Village Voice

"Rose Harris was a resident of the Lafitte Housing Projects in the Treme (rhymes nearly with "dismay") neighborhood of New Orleans for 28 years. She lost a brother, a nephew, and a sister-in-law in Hurricane Katrina. The first floor of her home was flooded, and she has not been able to retrieve her things from the second floor because the project, like the majority of New Orleans' public housing, is currently locked to its former residents.
"HANO is not reopening at this time due to security and safety concerns," reads the Housing Authority of New Orleans website. "HANO has secured your unit with security doors and/or windows." more

The Snail-Paced Recovery of New Orleans
From Der Spiegel

"New Orleans, three months after "Katrina": The metropolis on the Mississippi Delta remains largely a ghost town. Whole neighborhoods remain uninhabitable, without electricity or water and with heaps of trash piled up along the streets. Only about one tenth of the 500,000 inhabitants have returned and the sweet smell of decay hangs in the air. But a few determined individuals aren't giving up. While the officials squabble and financial aid runs dry they have taken the initiative into their own hands to save the 300 year old architectural heritage of their homeland -- with sponges, brushes and optimism." more

From Times Picayune

""I think I'm in a war zone, really," said Washington's brother Wilmot, who lost his house in eastern New Orleans. "I'm supposed to walk in this? What needs to be done hasn't been done. There is no reason they couldn't be doing something."

While Thursday marked the opening of the entire Lower 9th Ward, the city still had some rules and limits in place. This was still "look and leave," Mayor Ray Nagin's office said, and "enter at your own risk." The area is open only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and no residents are allowed to remain after dark. Identification is required to enter.

Residents must sign in at the disaster recovery center at the intersection of Caffin and North Claiborne avenues and display a paper "pass" on their car windshields. Police barricades remain on most of the streets, as the city Thursday tried to usher all traffic through Caffin.

The city, along with activist groups, urge residents to wear protective gear, from masks to boots, and to wash their hands often. Activists were handing out respirators, gloves and foot coverings Thursday at Claiborne and Caffin.

Uncertain future" more

Thursday, December 01, 2005

WORLD AIDS DAY -to be continued

Lars von Trier - "I am an American woman"

In sign and sight via black

Q: In "Manderlay" you raise the question of whether slavery is still in place in the USA, years after it was abolished.

A: That's why I was not remotely surprised by what happened in New Orleans. It was as if storm had to come along to open the Americans' eyes. To show them the conditions in which the black population lives.

Q: In "Manderlay" Danny Glover plays an elderly slave. He says that even after slavery has been abolished it's more honest to carry on living in simulated slavery than in a freedom which is no such thing. Do you share this opinion?

A: As I was writing "Manderlay" I was thinking about getting rid of the word freedom from our vocabulary. After all it's impossible to define. If you're on a desert island then you are probably fairly free. But you have to eat and drink and that restricts your freedom again. But if you take away all the romanticism that surrounds the word, then it's just about finding the best and most pleasant way of living your life. And if you then call this slavery, it's also okay. Maybe a slave who is subordinate to a man with a whip has more dignity than a slave who is held in check by economic forces. In the world of economics, the assumption is that the clever, hard-working person will manage to feed his family and even go on to become really wealthy. In this world, it's your fault if you're black and poor, because you're free. Or at least what they call free. You could say that the scenario in "Manderlay" is crazy. But my films are my fantasy and my argument in one. more

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Echoes of Stephen Lawrence - The murder of Anthony Walker

From the Independent "The killing of Anthony: The boy who died because of the colour of his skin"

"Mrs Walker spoke of her "broken heart" yesterday after she watched a teenager with a history of racist behaviour convicted of the murder which has taken her son from her. The murder, caused by a single blow to the head with a 2ft ice axe, has drawn comparisons with the death in 1993 of Stephen Lawrence and was committed, the jury in Liverpool was told, "for no reason other than the colour of his skin". After an eight-day trial, the jury convicted 17-year-old Michael Barton of murdering Mr Walker on 29 July by supplying the axe and provoking a confrontation in which a torrent of racial insults including "niggers" and "coons" were hurled at him and his cousin, Marcus Binns. Barton's cousin Paul Taylor, 20, had already admitted wielding the axe as Mr Walker, aged 18, his white girlfriend Louise Thompson and Mr Binns walked through a park in Huyton, Merseyside, in an attempt to escape the confrontation. ... "How can you mend a broken heart?" Mrs Walker asked. "You can't imagine children you watched playing in the school playground [killing your own son]. They played together, they stood in the same dinner queue.

"I believe that all kids are innocent and something went wrong along the way, and what it is I don't know. Someone planted a seed of hate in their minds." She insisted that it was the role of parents to prevent that happening. "Mothers and fathers blame teachers these days," she said. "But it is parents who should teach the respect and train their children. more

"Katrina victims yet to be identified"

From CNN NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans' coroner expressed outrage Tuesday that the process of using DNA to identify more than 200 bodies left from Hurricane Katrina has not begun because the state of Louisiana has not signed contracts with firms that would do the testing.

"It's extremely frustrating," said Dr. Frank Minyard, given that so many dentists' offices were wiped out in the flood along with their dental records, which are commonly used in the identification process.

"We have to rely on DNA and it should have been done, at least started, a month ago," he said. more

Remembering, Forgetting

From a New York Times article on Southern colleges with confederate roots thinking about symbols of confederacy as they look "to appeal beyond the privileged white children of the South." From article:

"Some traditionalists say they fear that the name of the university's guest house, Rebel's Rest, will be next to go and that a monument donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy commemorating Edmund Kirby-Smith, a Confederate general who taught at the university for nearly 20 years, will be removed.

"I think they ought to leave it the way it is," said Dr. David W. Aiken, an alumnus who is an orthopedic surgeon in Metairie, La. "I wouldn't be for changing anything. I think they're doing quite well. What is the purpose of making it a more national school? Do I want kids from California, New York coming there? Not really." ...

Across the country, colleges are trying to reposition themselves to attract more high-quality students and raise their national profiles. But perhaps nowhere is this more challenging than in the South, where university officials often find themselves struggling to temper Confederate imagery without alienating alumni and donors determined to uphold their heritage.

"The issue that all of us face is that alumni love to have the institution frozen in amber," said Gordon Gee, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "The truth of the matter is that for an institution to survive, it has to grow, to look at the world as it is rather than how they want it to be." more

I want to think about these claims, what the confederacy means, and the desire to "uphold their heritage." And I want to think about US public memory about slavery in relation to public memory in South Africa after apartheid. I'll be returning to this.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Diary from Paris"

Jeremy Harding in London Review of Books

"The public, no longer quite so nervous, has rewarded him for his outspokenness with a boost in his popularity rating and the Sarkozy show rolls on, with its own imperturbable, riveting script, watched with fascination by those who love him and those who don’t. The two young boys, Bouna Traoré and Ziad Benna, both in their teens, who were electrocuted in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris, on 27 October, are all but forgotten, though their deaths set the rioting in motion. Few recall that when they died Sarkozy wasn’t the only public servant to argue that it was their own fault: several officials, from the administration in Seine-St-Denis to the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, took a similar line. Where Sarkozy suggested that the boys, or their friends, were implicated in a petty theft, Villepin opted for the vaguer and loftier formulation ‘thieves at work in the area at the time’: a nuance that confirms the different styles of the two rivals for the presidency in 2007, but leaves them substantially close in this instance. The most understandable assertion from officials, and yet the unlikeliest of all, was that the boys weren’t being pursued by the police when they scaled the wall around the substation. A combination of these unfortunate pronouncements turned the localised rioting in Clichy-sous-Bois into a nationwide phenomenon.

Even so, it might not have happened without Sarkozy’s rhetorical flourish, a few days earlier, in another tricky Paris suburb, where he spoke of the trouble-makers on a local sink estate as ‘racaille’. It’s a powerful word, whose force has been deliberately weakened by ironic usage: disaffected, disabused youth (and well-educated, not-yet-disabused youth who wish to slum it) talk about themselves as ‘racaille’ in much the same way as African Americans used to call each other ‘niggers’. To be described from on high as ‘racaille’ (riffraff? rabble? trash?) is a different matter. Sarkozy insists that he knows the racaille from ordinary, disadvantaged young men trying to find a way for themselves, but his judgment on this point was under attack even before the incident in Clichy-sous-Bois. Since then, the term ‘racaille’ has carried over to include the rioters. Whatever the majority of French people think, there is a fierce sense among young black and North African French that the government’s position has been unacceptable: that the moment certain words were uttered they should have turned to ashes in the mouths of various talkative ministers, Sarkozy in particular. Perhaps that’s what so much of this burning has been about." more

Via Sketchy Thoughts "Did Rap Cause the Rebellion?"

"Following the events of the past few weeks [translator: meaning the riots that swept France earlier in November], over 200 members of parliament have called upon the Minister of Justice to prosecute rap musicians who they accuse of inciting hatred and violence amongst young people.

SUD Culture is outraged at such an approach, which is just a populist escalation meant to cover up the social issues that have been raised over the past weeks, replacing them with the far-right’s favourite issues in view of the next elections.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hersh on CNN

Late Edition CNN

HERSH: I just think -- I think it's really bad out there. I think it's, you know, if you look at the -- it's just real simple. You don't have to be much of a genius to figure it out, we're almost -- it's Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving of '04, it was much worse than at Thanksgiving of '03.

It's now Thanksgiving of '05, and it's much worse there than it was last year. How is it going to get better next year? What magic is there?

HERSH: Suffice to say this, that this president in private, at Camp David with his friends, the people that I'm sure call him George, is very serene about the war. He's upbeat. He thinks that he's going to be judged, maybe not in five years or ten years, maybe in 20 years. He's committed to the course. He believes in democracy.

HERSH: He believes that he's doing the right thing, and he's not going to stop until he gets -- either until he's out of office, or he falls apart, or he wins.

BLITZER: But this has become, your suggesting, a religious thing for him? HERSH: Some people think it is. Other people think he's absolutely committed, as I say, to the idea of democracy. He's been sold on this notion.

He's a utopian, you could say, in a world where maybe he doesn't have all the facts and all the information he needs and isn't able to change.

I'll tell you, the people that talk to me now are essentially frightened because they're not sure how you get to this guy.

We have generals that do not like -- anymore -- they're worried about speaking truth to power. You know that. I mean that's -- Murtha in fact, John Murtha, the congressman from Pennsylvania, which most people don't know, has tremendous contacts with the senior generals of the armies. He's a ranking old war horse in Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The generals know him and like him. His message to the White House was much more worrisome than maybe to the average person in the public. They know that generals are privately telling him things that they're not saying to them.

And if you're a general and you have a disagreement with this war, you cannot get that message into the White House. And that gets people unnerved.

BLITZER: Here's what you write. You write, "Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the president remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding."

Those are incredibly strong words, that the president basically doesn't want to hear alternative analysis of what is going on.

HERSH: You know, Wolf, there is people I've been talking to -- I've been a critic of the war very early in the New Yorker, and there were people talking to me in the last few months that have talked to me for four years that are suddenly saying something much more alarming.

They're beginning to talk about some of the things the president said to him about his feelings about manifest destiny, about a higher calling that he was talking about three, four years ago.

I don't want to sound like I'm off the wall here. But the issue is, is this president going to be capable of responding to reality? Is he going to be able -- is he going to be capable if he going to get a bad assessment, is he going to accept it as a bad assessment or is he simply going to see it as something else that is just a little bit in the way as he marches on in his crusade that may not be judged for 10 or 20 years.

He talks about being judged in 20 years to his friends. And so it's a little alarming because that means that my and my colleagues in the press corps, we can't get to him maybe with our views. You and you can't get to him maybe with your interviews.

How do you get to a guy to convince him that perhaps he's not going the right way?

Jack Murtha certainly didn't do it. As I wrote, they were enraged at Murtha in the White House.

And so we have an election coming up -- Yes. I've had people talk to me about maybe Congress is going to have to cut off the budget for this war if it gets to that point. I don't think they're ready to do it now.

But I'm talking about sort of a crisis of management. That you have a management that's seen by some of the people closely involved as not being able to function in terms of getting information it doesn't want to receive. more

"UP IN THE AIR: Where is the Iraq war headed next?"

Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose. ...

“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”