Archive for July, 2009

Beer Makes it Better? Masculinity & Race on Display

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 31, 2009 by thebibliophile

President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Gates, and arresting Camridge police officer Sgt. Crowley. Photo credit: Stephen Crowley, New York Times

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama invited Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley to The White House for a beer to discuss the incident in which Sgt. Crowley arrested professor Gates in his own home, as he returned from an international trip to China. This snapshot raises much for me, but the most top of mind reflection, is the way in which gender, and specifically masculinity allows space for forgiveness and bridging of racial tensions. I noticed often, that the dynamic, at least from the outside looking in, between Black and white men, is often mediated of course by masculinity and the attendant (and yes, problematic) notions and stereotypes, that in some ways Black men “out man,” white men, through hyper-sexuality and physicality. Black men are to be feared, posited, cruelly and inaccurately as being animalistic, and thus a threat to the logical minded white man. Some of that has even played out in the reports of Dr. Gates response to Crowley: Crowley was being “rational” and thoughtful and Dr. Gates (understandly the media is quick to say) was exhausted and may have responded irrationally (with his physical or verbal prowess). This analysis seems to suggest that Gates, the Black man jumped to action, while Crowley pondered. I’m sure this psychological trope of response based on racist ideology is also in part why folks responded so virulently when President Obama said Crowley’s acted stupidly. We’re not used to white men (Bush and Quayle’s aside) being called stupid publicly, and certainly not be a Black man, who also happens to be the leader of the free world.

To smooth it all over, President Obama, Dr. Gates, Vice President Biden, and Sgt. Crowley met for a beer at the White House. Somehow this is a particularly gendered event to me – designed to trade on the common attribute of gender: all guys love to kick back with a beer, right? But I find this photo so interesting. Sgt. Crowley looks decidely uneasy (though handsome), Biden, looks distracted and distant, but certainly not present. President Obama as always looks cool and at ease. But Dr. Henry Louis Gates looks as if he might be truly enjoying himself…after all it’s a trip to be an invited guest at the White House, no matter how you slice it.

I have to say, I’m so very curious as to what was discussed.  As apparently were the press corps and every one else according to The Washington Post. Race porn. This country is fascinated with race in the same ways its fascinated with sex. It all leaves me with a question: is it easier for men to negotiate race with one another because they can bond around masculinity? That seems a simplistic question – it isn’t so for womyn of color and white womyn. But it does seem different for men. And if masculine gender does make race different between men of color and white men, what are the reasons for that?


I Heart Break Out in Song

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 28, 2009 by thebibliophile

I love this! Commercial. Gimmicky. A displacement of the fourth wall. Yes, all of the above! I love it. A group called Break Out In Song, stages live, seemingly spontaneous performances of musicals in the midst of the city – from Columbus Circle to Pier 17. I’m particularly fond of their performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

These kinds of performances have been happening for some time in NYC and throughout the country, as the New York Times reported in a recent article. I wonder, however, if the recent economic downturn makes gorilla theatre more attractive, feasible, and an easier sell to advertisers (notice how prominently each locatio and its “unsuspecting” corporate sponsors are featured) and actors/dancers alike. Times are rough, for real.

Consumption politics aside, it’s what I always imagined is possible in NYC, spontaneous singing, dancing, and outrageous talent in every person you meet – who knows you could literally bump into a star.

Snapshot: Internalized Oppression in Action

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2009 by thebibliophile

Wow. Let me make sure I understand this correctly. Chris Brown has pled guilty to assault, and has in fact released a video apologizing and taking responsibility for physically abusing his girlfriend, abuse that includes, strangulation, punching, and biting – and yet, these two female police officers from New York city, sworn to protect and serve, feel the need to have a celebrity moment?

I’ve heard an uncomfortable number of womyn, saying that “some womyn just don’t know when to stop,” saying the things that result in their men hitting them, to asserting that certain ethnic womyn are just known to be wild. And I’ve yet to hear a Black man roundly and soundly condemn physical violence and abuse against a womyn.

But for me, somehow, this picture encapsulates the internalized oppression for some womyn of color – this picture might as well be an absolution.

Sweet & Sour: Starburst Gets Foolish with Contradictions of Identity

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2009 by thebibliophile

I’d never seen this commercial from Mars Incorporated owned company, Starburst. The premise of the commercial is that there are Asian Scottish people, and that this is “a contradiction.” I feel like Burger King has started a truly problematic trend, which I guess Starburst has decided to adopt…

Problems, problems, problems.



Look at This! Looklet Lets You Play

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 18, 2009 by thebibliophile

Great news: there’s another fantastic website that lets you play with different looks, called Looklet on which I’ve just spent an embarassing amount of time.  But it’s addictive. You can select a model and unlike similar sites, you can actually see how the clothes will look on the body, you can also select a bacgkround, and Looklet seems specifically designed to encourage you to buy the look you create (a pro or con depending on who you poll).

I created the look below which I called “An Autumnal Turn.” You can change the background of the style you create – allowing you  to see what it will look lik “on location” so to speak. You can also, in an ingenius move, select shirts, jackets, and pants, deciding whether your model wears it open, tied, or in layers with another item. It’s like having your own access to a high-quality look book.

look image

Education for Liberation: An image

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 17, 2009 by thebibliophile

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

                                                                                                                                                         – Paolo Freire


One More Day, Keep on Shining

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 16, 2009 by thebibliophile
I hope that Judge Sotomayor is everything we hope she is: a wise Latina womyn who will make wise, legal, equitable, empathic decisions on a court lacking all of the above. But we don’t know for sure, do we? All we can watch is the embarassingly sexist and racist media coverage, which seems sure that because Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican, she will be race biased in her decisions. As evidenced by her statement about “wise Latina judges.” The assertion that Sotomayor would discriminate, when every bit of evidence shows that would not be, is similar to pre-Civil War and Civil Rights’ apologists assertions that enslaved African-Americans had to be freed slowly, otherwise they would rise up and massacre white people. A dear family friend is fond of saying, “evil people think evil things.” Now, let me be clear, I am not calling white people evil. So just stop right there. But I am suggesting that once one has gotten accustomed to oppressive behavior, whether one is male, white, wealthy, or in any situation where society gives your group power out of proportion to the actual demographic of the population, and you’ve been able to exercise that power with impunity, it can be quite hard to believe that when the tables are turned the ones you’ve oppressed, won’t resort to punishing those who used to have power. In other words, white male Senators who’ve interogated and been appallingly rude to Judge Sotomayor, are having a bit of crisis – and at the center of that crisis is a question: will they do to us what we have done to them? Will they use their power in the same ways we have used ours? And its unimaginable that people of color, womyn, LGBT, the poor, differently abled people, would act for the interests of everyone – in other words, that with power oppressed people would walk the higher ground of public good and equity, as opposed to following the self-serving model of our founders and the traditionally white and male leaders that have had power in this nation.
“every major United States media outlet has, in one way or another, reported on Republican (and other) fears of Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s potential for “racial bias,” given her Puerto Rican ethnicity and her now infamous comments about a “wise Latina” making better choices than a “white man.” ….That Sotomayor might harbor some bias based upon her Puerto Rican-ness is not an unreasonable thought; we all harbor some biases based upon our backgrounds – it is just that certain people’s biases get to be called “truth” while others’ get to be called “militancy”.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor meets with White House counsels at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House June 1, 2009 in Washington, DC. Judge Sotomayor has been meeting with White House staff members since U.S. President Barack Obama announced her nomination to the Supreme Court on May 26.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sonia SotomayorWhile I don’t agreee with all of Valdes-Rodriguez’s argument – particularly how she takes pains to note that Puerto Rico isn’t as Black as say Haiti or Jamaica (leaving out Cuba- a sublte anti-Black aside), I do think its helpful that she calls out the media for really lacking a nuanced discussion of race and identity – and for pointing out that many of our “leader,” who happen to be white, also happen to seem quite frightened when not engaging with people who don’t share their backgrounds. Instead of being afraid, maybe they should befriend some people of color and they can learn helpful tips from us: code-switching, even-ness, and professionalism in the face of crazy. I also appreciate that she points out who’s background gets labeled normative and who’s background is labeled radical.
The fact is that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is extremely qualified for the role of Supreme Court judge. She is a phenomenal judge who has achieved a great deal.
I am embarassed by and for the Senate.  The lack of professionalism, the paternalistic phrasing and delivery of questions (who cares if you like her, should she jump with glee?), the baiting and switching. If there was any question about why more people of color don’t serve in government or in the higher echelons of the corporate world. It takes an amazingly strong spirit to put up with this kind of nonsense and undignified treatment. Mike Madden in a pleasantly blunt and real article discussed the behavior of Senators for Salon in “When Old White Guys Attack.” I’ve also been reading over at the Uppity Negro blog’s post about Sonia Sotomayor.