Archive for January, 2010

Looklet Look of the Day

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29, 2010 by thebibliophile

look image

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2010 by thebibliophile

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2010 by thebibliophile

Ella Baker. Know about her.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 26, 2010 by thebibliophile

Shirley Chisholm is my shero. Chisholm didn’t take “no stuff,” as they say. Bold, brilliant, and in charge, Chisholm was an elementary school teacher, who lent her skills to fundraising for the Democratic party in Brooklyn. When the Democrats were successful, Chisholm was prepared – she wanted to know what the Democrats were going to do for all the womyn who worked hard to fundraise for the party. When she couldn’t get sufficient action, Chisholm herself ran for congress, and in 1972, she ran for President of the United States. In her powerfully candid autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed, we get a wonderful glimpse into the life of this great tactician and leader.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 22, 2010 by thebibliophile

How beautiful and elegant is it, when Tyrese takes off his headphones and dips his head. The movement is so beautiful and poetic to me. I loved this commercial….just taking a trip down memory lane. And thinking about how important it was to see a stunning, talented, darker-skinned Black man singing and being beautiful. It was a small thing, but shaped so much. For years, whenever this commercial came on, no matter what I was doing, I would stop to watch.

David Brooks: White Cultural Appropriation Will Solve All Problems

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 by thebibliophile

The very worse kind of intellectual, is the intractably self-important one, who though he has seen little, has few friends from diverse backgrounds, has many mighty opinions and no problem opining. Such must be the case for New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote on January 15, 2010 about the Haitian earthquake:

… it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Brooks drunk on the headiness of his thinly veiled white supremacist notions of culture, goes on to say,

These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.

It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.

Say what, word, David Brooks? One word: Egregious. This is the kind of tripe, that quite frankly, puts Brooks in the same category with devil-deal making Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. What Brooks offers, however, is the suggestion of cultural imperialism. Thankfully, Tom F. Driver and Carl Lindskoog, of t r u t h o u t are far more eloquent than I am. They responded in their piece “An Open Letter to David Brooks on Haiti”. I am grateful that they point out that, David Brooks and “his ilk,”

Lacking a foundational understanding of Haitian history and culture, and bearing the familiar colors of American imperialism, you and your ilk will do vastly more harm than good.

And that they take Brooks to task on his libelous assertions about Haitian culture – which he clearly knows nothing about. Driver and Lindskoog tell Brooks,

Equally unconvincing is your argument about “progress-resistant cultural influences,” which brings us to important truth number two: Haitian culture is not “progress-resistant” as anyone familiar with the examples you yourself provide can attest to. If Vodou or “the voodoo religion” as you put it, “spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile,” how do the majority of Haitians manage to survive on scant resources and less than two dollars a day? How do so many Haitians manage to travel abroad, find and maintain difficult jobs and send money back home if not through careful planning and a fierce defense of precious life? How do the nationwide customers of Fonkoze, the Haitian banking operation that teaches literacy and business practices to curbside marketers to whom it makes small loans, achieve such strong records of loan repayment? In fact, it might be Haitian culture itself (and even Vodou) which allows Haitians to persist.

I lack the eloquence – and am so grateful that there are those who are able to debunk the myths that Brooks and others thoughtlessly spread.

The Language of Looting

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2010 by thebibliophile
Haitian Earthquake survivor from the Jakarta Globe, 2010.

I just want to be clear. I want to be clear, because it doesn’t seem as if the mainstream media is being clear or thoughtful about its language – and that includes surprisingly, the venerable National Public Radio. I am speaking about the characterization of Haitian earthquake survivors as looters, the references to looting, and the insidious predictions of the mayhem and violence that pundits and humanitarians alike, say is invitable. All while aid to Haiti is slow to mobilize.

 First, looting is defined, as:
 
noun – 1. spoils or plunder taken by pillaging, as in war. 2.  anything taken by dishonesty, force, stealth, etc.: a burglar’s loot.  3.  a collection of valued objects: The children shouted and laughed as they opened their Christmas loot.  4.  Slang. money: You’ll have a fine time spending all that loot.   5.  act of looting or plundering: to take part in the loot of a conquered city. 
–verb (used with object)  6. to carry off or take (something) as loot: to loot a nation’s art treasures.  7.  to despoil by taking loot; plunder or pillage (a city, house, etc.), as in war.  8.  to rob, as by burglary or corrupt activity in public office: to loot the public treasury.  
–verb (used without object) 9.  to take loot; plunder: The conquerors looted and robbed.
 
In what way, pray tell, do thousands of people, who have survived a massive earthquake, managed to survive a week without adequate housing, water, burial services, sanitation or food, who are struggling in the poorest nation in the hemisphere, looters? I’m at a loss. I don’t understand how “looting” and “looters” best describes what is actually happening in Haiti. What seems closer to the truth, is that thousands of exceptionally desperate people, literally buried by a 7.0 earthquake, 7 days after that earthquake are running out of provisions – food, water, and clothing – and options.
 
There are no banks or ATMs from which to withdraw money, no grocery store to go to in order to “pick up a few things,” government agencies are not functioning. So. When someone, desperate for food, with children to feed, bent by grief, goes into a store and removes food, water, or clothing, they are not looting. They are attempting to survive. We’re talking about survival.
 
In a recent news cast, an American womyn who survived in a collapsed grocery store with several others, by eating the food in the grocery store, was portrayed as being “lucky” to have been stranded where she was – in a place where food and water were readily available so that it was possible to survive for days without rescue. Yet, the same is not said for Haitian survivors. They are framed as thieves, as looters.
 
But what war did Haiti wage? Who is taking anything dishonestly and not primarily out of desperation? Haitian survivors are being framed, perhaps predictably, using colonialist language and imagery, that suggests that Haitian survivors have no control, rather than owning the fact, that while there have been many donations and offers of support,  organized, comprehensive aid remains elusive. And that is not the fault of Haitian survivors or people. 
 
And why do we never call those that actually do engage in exploitative practices in the Caribbean, “looters?” To reference “looting,” or “looters,” is to call forth a storied bank of imagery depicting people of color, removing items, often from places that have engaged in exploitative relationships with their community, in many instances, but not all, in an attempt to survive. So when I hear mainstream media say, “looting has begun,” or “it’s predicted that widespread looting will continue,” or “looters,” I understand that this has become code for, “look, those Black people are taking things again.” I understand that it serves to hide and cover the complex dynamics below the surface that don’t fit into a 30-second sound byte.
 
What we are seeing  is not some innate predilection to stealing, but tough decisions based on survival and the fact that aid is not widely available – nevermind access to food. Each time the mainstream media references “looting,” and tags on the corresponding “widespread,” it covers the failure of recovery efforts, and blames Haitian survivors, for trying to do just that: survive as aid has been, as it is in many cases, slow to take root.
 
Organized, comprehensive aid is difficult to deliver when a country has no infracstructure. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was recovering from 4 hurricanes, a fragile government gathering strength and credibility, and poverty. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. When you add an earthquake of this magnitude to the mix, suffering results. When you add centuries of racism, systemic disenfrachisement, and willfull ignorance or and policies to ignore Haiti, you perpetuate poverty and desperate situations. And yet over and over, we see and hear language that reifies a racist view of Haiti.
 
It is a small, small, nearly silly request among many real, substanial needs. It is the request that we stop referring to survivors trying to live another day, to find family, loved ones, and friends, as “looters.”
 
May we call our fellow human beings, who they are – people struggling. There is an innate desire to live. Let us not label that deeply, powerfully human urge to exist, to live, as dilinquent; and not especially when we see people of color, in a nation that defeated Napolean for its freedom, downgraded into a nation of “looters,” instead of a nation engaged in a battle to survive. 
 
It does us all a dishonor. That is the real looting, the dishonor of taking humanity from others, with such simple, simple utterances.
 
I just want to be clear, that’s all.
 
Check out Democracy Now’s piece,  “Misinformation and racism have Frozen the Recovery Effort,” about how misinformation impacts the aid efforts in Haiti.