Archive for June 2008

“One and one and one is three”

June 17, 2008

Today on TheRoot, I saw what appeared to be an in-community tiff between Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Jimi Izrael. Both are columnists on the website, intellectuals: one a professor, one a journalist. Both represent intelligent and creative facets of culture and political critique, always with the black community’s interests at heart. Differences of opinion are to be expected, but one of the qualities of The Root is that these are always incredibly respectful discussions between colleagues, untouched by the name-calling and anger that is found on many other internet sites.  So I was surprised when I found phrases hurled back and forth such as “unrelenting misogyny,” “faux sense of independence”, “[not] intellectually honest.” What’s all the fuss about?

 

Mr. Izrael wrote a column, insinuating that a young, 13 year old girl on myspace was a criminally aggressive black Lolita. Ms. Harris-Lacewell, fed up with recent events like Michelle Obama being called “baby mama” and R. Kelly getting off, fired at him accusations that he was an unrelenting misogynist. Mr. Izrael caught word and posted his response on her column.

Jimi Izrael has a history of writing things I consider distasteful to feminism. He is a VERY outspoken advocate of black men, but when it comes to women, of all colors, I find him tossing them blame instead of sticking by them. Mr. Izrael has fountains of deep intellectual thought, but it seems to be used to illuminate only on the historical and everyday processes that affect black men, not women.

It’s about time someone said something. And who better to say it than Melissa.

The way I see it, both the African-American movement and the women’s movement haven’t had a great history of inclusion. Power play, even in civil rights and equality movements, has always been at work. Those in power have neglected the differences, similarities, and NEEDS of those left behind. Black men have had a history of leaving black women behind. White women have had a history of leaving black women behind. Notice a pattern here?

The 2008 Democratic primaries have brought to the surface a lot of the brewing tension between feminists, particularly between white and black women. White women have cried sexism during Hillary’s campaign, and rightfully so. But they failed to step it up during Michelle Obama’s recent trials, and more importantly, failed to reject Hillary’s questionably racially charged comments. They have let their sisters down.

Similarly, Jimi’s column brings to light some of the inequalities within the black community. Citing that black men are seen as “dangerous, inferior animals” and the issues of incarceration, he calls himself –not anti female— but “pro male.” He says its a stance we don’t see often enough. Excuse me while I burst out laughing.

He says:  “the feminist among us can’t embrace a faux sense of independence on one hand and cower as victims on the other.” Sounds suspiciously like the media’s outcry at Hillary Clinton’s tears. “A self-proclaimed feminist!” they cried. “A powerful woman, showing emotion???” These two things were completely contradictory in their eyes. But why should this be so? The point of feminism is not to be devoid of emotion, to be non-human, and pointing out hypocrisies and sexist speech is NOT “playing the victim card.” Shame on you, Jimi, for buying into that.

Yes, there is suffering in the black male population, and yes, yes there is suffering for white women. But not only is there ALSO suffering for black women, there is SILENCE. When black women are denied their voices, their agency, their complaints, they are betrayed and pushed into silence. Jimi’s quick dismissal of Melissa’s complaints is patronizing and silencing and completely out of touch with the underlying processes and truths at work here. For someone who seems to do a good job of illustrating the subtle inequalities and truths for black men, he is nothing but a hypocrite in the end.

Feminist Linda Hirshman is guilty of silencing women of color too. Her blaming tactics for black women not stopping Clarence Thomas’ ascent to the Supreme Court is similar to Jimi Izrael’s shaming of black women in sexual deviance.  Her recent article in the Washington Post basically asserts that the only way feminism can succeed as a movement is by focusing on “normal,” white women’s issues, and not bringing women of color into the forefront.

People, none of this makes sense to me. We are all strongest against oppression when we are TOGETHER, NOT APART. Do not allow yourselves to be caught up in your own issues while denying the agency of your friends. I don’t see how either movement can gain ground without including key populations of the affected parties.

If we can’t all move together, we’re all standing still.

 

 

Read the article at: http://blogs.theroot.com/blogs/downfromthetower/archive/2008/06/15/unsafe-to-be-black-and-female-call.aspx

June 14, 2008

Hey, ladies (and men)!

After a few random searches related to Gloria Steinem, I came across this site:

KMStitchery

It’s ecofriendly feminist clothing designs. They offer stenciled shirts of great feminist images on recycled clothing. “I am disgruntled with how you see mostly male revolutionaries on t-shirts but not fems….I am here to focus on the great womyn of our past.”

I ordered a tshirt with the famous Gloria Steinem/Dorothy Pitman Hughes picture on it:

                                         steinem/hughes

 

Take a look!

June 14, 2008

Though I still am working on a draft of something bigger to post…I must comment on the passing of Tim Russert. Whatever feelings there may be about him from a political standpoint, he was a good man, from a lower middle class background, who worked hard and achieved great things, and I am saddened by this loss.

Something he said once stands out to me. It’s how he viewed his life and his loved ones. In a world where the rich, white, male, and upper class seem to have everything handed to them at the expense of so many others, I think we could do well to reflect on Tim’s words here:

“Remember: You are always, always loved, but you are never, never entitled.”

The Bird Has Flown (a reflection)

June 4, 2008

That scream you may have heard from the Northwest top of DC was me cheering on with pride Barack Obama, the first African-American man to clinch the Democratic nomination, and he deserves it.

It’s been a long and often bitter road, and I am incredibly proud of the Democratic party and for voters for spilling out in huge numbers to make sure they have their part in the history we are all making. And now, onto unifying the party, and fighting McCain and taking back the White House!

—But let me take a moment to pause. Let me take a moment to reflect on Hillary Clinton, to reflect on people who held her candidacy so dear to their hearts, to reflect on the fact that the first realistic female candidate’s run is essentially over. You can say a lot of things about Hillary Clinton. You can say how the Clinton “dynasty” is no more about “change” than John McCain himself. You can say that Hillary Clinton is power hungry, Machiavellian, manipulative. But to many, Hillary Clinton is more than that.

Hillary wasn’t the poster woman for feminism that many had hoped. She didn’t take the issue of her gender in a powerful and provocative and brave way the way Obama did his whole campaign. And yet parts of her  campaign showed the world how far we’ve come, and how far we haven’t. We can and SHOULD berate Clinton for brushing aside Geraldine Ferraro’s comments, for using the word “assassination,” for being divisive when she should have been unifying, and for being, well, just generally a ‘sore loser,’ but we must not lose sight of what this all means. We must not lose sight of the fact that sexism is alive and well in the media. If we consider her to be a conduit for white priviledge, next to Obama, I think we should also reflect on the ways the she ISN’T.

I am someone who believes that in certain issues, Hillary Clinton did what she thought was best. An obviously brilliant woman, she put her own career on hold for her husband’s own political ambitions. Just a glimpse at her early writings shows that her mind was constantly working, for what she thought to be fair for this world, and though politics may have hardened her, and though I find many faults and frustrations with her, I do not believe her to be this monster so many are quick to call her these days.

When she fought for health care as First Lady, though it was a failed endeavour, don’t we believe that it was a valiant one?

As much as I respect Melissa Harris-Lacewell, African-American studies professor at Princeton, and blogger on TheRoot.com, this post leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. Really, Melissa? You fail to acknowledge that fighting for health care is NOT a white problem. Health care is EVERYONE’s problem. Your desire to box Hillary into an “white person” category makes you blind of the ways that she breaks the mold. You sing John Edwards’ praises for his constant commitment to “the poor” but fail to see the parallel of Hillary’s unfailing desire to change healthcare for everyone?

As you celebrate Obama’s victory, do not pretend that you know how some Clinton supporters may feel. They aren’t all the same. Some are bitter, mean, and sure, maybe propagators of white privilege. But others are good, hardworking, progressive people who do not wish anything bad for Obama. So many of them are excited about Obama’s win. Indeed, this is historic, and he has made great strides not only for African-Americans, but I believe for a country as a whole. But for many people moved by Obama’s campaign and his victory, there is a part of them that must wish Hillary had the same unifying effect on women. That they had a female candidate who could inspire, not apologize for her gender, and who could bring feminism into the forefront in a positive way. In gloating about Obama’s victory, then, do not pretend that you know how all Clinton fans feel. How people like my grandmother feel, a staunch liberal and fiery feminist who is elated about Barack clinching the nomination, but gets a lump in her throat knowing she will not be alive to see any woman in the White House. Do not assume every voter for Hillary Clinton wishes Obama some ill will. But let them grieve. Let us all reflect on what Hillary has done here. She deserves a pause. The first real female candidate ran and lost; however much of a feminist or anti-feminist she was, however good she was for women, however you might feel about this, it means something to people. It means something to me.

While we bask in the glory of having such a promising nominee, a man we can all feel pride in, hope in, who brought tears to my eyes when I heard him give his speech….may we also take a moment to think of Hillary Clinton. Her campaign indeed has changed things. The first woman has gone up to bat, has taken a lot of hits, has hit a lot herself, and has paved the way for women of the future to maybe have a little less gnarly path. May something in women be ignited: a sense of passion, of action, of pride, of perhaps a reawakening of women interested in politics. I don’t know when a woman will be elected President of the United States, but I know now it can be sooner than I would have thought 2 years ago. I know it’s not an empty hypothetical; I know it’s a distant but promising reality.

Let’s hope the next  woman who runs for president has the power to inspire, to be truly inclusive, to not brush aside comments that have racial undertones as if they are not hurtful. To be a feminist, to be a humanist. To fight for the underdog. Let’s hope she really has a chance. I want a woman we can all rally around, we can all be proud of and inspired by. Let’s hope she has to deal with less sexism because times will have changed, or because people are more aware, or because she simply won’t take it. Let’s hope that in many ways, she is a better candidate than Hillary was.

 

Here’s a toast to Obama, a man who gives chills up my spine when I think of him in the Oval Office. Here’s to his wife, hopefully the next First Lady, who is an inspiration. And here’s to Hillary. Because, for all her flaws, ain’t she a womanHere’s to all brave women of the world.