Archive for October, 2007

31
Oct
07

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Red.

In lieu of the Halloween post I was planning about self-image, I’m linking to this campaign against violence against women of color (“Document the Silence”). From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The recent mass rally in Jena, La., protesting alleged racial injustice has led some pundits to ask whether it signaled the dawning of a modern civil rights movement.

Now that the Jena headlines have subsided,a group of Spelman graduates and others are asking different questions: …Isn’t it time for a modern civil rights movement to protest intra-racial violence just as vigorously as inter-racial violence? Particularly when it’s a crime against women.

The campaign organizers cite two particularly heinous violent crimes against women of color in W. VA and FL, respectively, in which women were raped, assaulted, verbally abused, and humiliated in ways I’ll let you read for yourself. 

“Race is easier to deal with because it’s a single issue,” [organizer Fallon] Wilson said. “It’s easier to build a movement around. But when you add in gender and sexuality, it gets harder.”

That complicated space where race and gender politics collide — is where a small, grassroots campaign such as “Be Bold” tries to edge in. The campaign has gained momentum through online blogs, but it will likely have nowhere near participation of the mass action in Jena.

Both [organizer Moya] Bailey and Wilson admit the campaign doesn’t have the deep resources of established groups. But if those groups don’t speak up, particularly in the case of West Palm Beach, “we have to,” Bailey said.

“We have to call it out and broaden the mission, because race cannot be the only thing we deal with,” Wilson said.

Well said.  They’ve got an audience and a pulpit here at the REDstar Perspective.

30
Oct
07

The Need for Diverse Coalitions

(This is me, working on some thoughts for my general exams forthcoming in December.  Read at your own risk.  You might learn something.  Links to follow later.)

Lately, there’s been two debates in the blogosphere (and beyond) that I see as distinctly related though I have not seen them paired.  The first is the question of whether activism is “dead.”  Never mind that the overly narrow definition of activism used here is a 1960s model of urban protest and Southern Civil Rights organizing; folks across generations seem eager to proclaim activism (and the Roxy) dead and unlikely to be resurrected.  (To their credit, young politically minded upstarts take issue with this, then claim fatigue and a suspectible distraction to house parties in Brooklyn).  Check out Weboy’s take on this silly debate with his own wizened view. 

In my opinion, activism is alive and well in different, perhaps more viral, but ultimately just as vibrant forms as periods past.  It has a transnational/global character (which is not new, though targets of the multinational corporations and governing institutions may be), and a multi-issue focus, often on the rights of varying overlapping groups – women, workers, immigrants, gays/lesbians, or on the rights of the overall human race.  It reflects the awesome mobility of capital, people and culture across borders, and is inherently highly multicultural as a result, despite being as susceptible to issues of equity and power (North v. South, white v. non-white, developed v. developing, West v. “the Rest”, etc.) as one might expect.  I argue it is more diffuse and de-centralized than, and certainly in contrast to our popular memory of, the movements of the 1960s and 70s. 

One of the key activist and generational claims and corresponding policy efforts I think we’re seeing today is demand for an enacted set of universal rights, in particular economic rights.  This includes the right to housing, the right to a basic education, the right to medical care, the right to work in a secure environment, etc.  This is qualitatively different than past activism frames and policy initiatives that demanded equality for specific groups (African-Americans, women, the poor and/or working-class).  The rather contradictory factors that shape these claims towards universalism are A) the (incorrect) perception that equality, or a good enough approximation of it, has been achieved within our civic capabilities, and B) that inequality persists and is worsening for most of us due to the machinations of institutional structures (free markets/capitalism, governing elites/constrained electoral systems).  Even those liberal (as opposed to conservative, versus in the political philosophy vein) individuals who don’t feel any particular claim that their rights or access is constrained feel indirectly threatened by the instability of a system of widening inequality, not least because they are often compelled to believe they ought to do something about the injustice of being so fortunate and privileged (and of course, ridiculously good looking). 

But here’s the (rather obvious) rub: C) there are many, many groups and individuals out there who (rightfully) believe that realistically achievable equality has not been met, and the rise of contemporary inequality is merely further erosion of a job not well done, hell, not even close to finished.  And this is where the recent debate about the rise/return of anti-black racism (and anti-Semitism) and sexism comes in (we can’t come clean with ourselves as a nation to really talk about class yet).  Because as individuals and group members, while we may have (relatively) strong concensus on B, we are sharply divided about A and C.  And this disagreement, and the political action it engenders on our behalf, is the source of rising conflict as we all strive to confront the shared realities of worsening income, wealth and spatial inequality.  We can’t mutually engage in the fight for universal social justice (or just universal healthcare, to start) if we’re not lined up along the political spectrum due to our beliefs that past struggles for equality are still on-going, and should thus take precedence, and that the (white, affluent) folks aiming to protect the “middle-class” now in the name of universalism are the same people, or their descendents, even by association, who uphold the racialized, gendered and classist inequality structure that is being exacerbated by current, neoliberal policies.  We’re not fighting the same battle, and that’s pissing everybody off, because it seems we’d like to be, and this dissonance, tension, mistrust and conflict is seriously obstructing our ability to take to the streets and create policy-by-riot, like the Boomers did in the good old days. 

Before I move on to the point that inspired this post, I have to say that our respective framings on past equality struggles and the outcomes as shaped by race, class, and other cultural factors has an irrefutable bearing on how we decide to approach contemporary problems of inequality.  Weeks ago, Matt Yglesias wrote what I consider to be his most ludicrous post to date about how the sources of inequality don’t matter.  I’d like to spend several more paragraphs and wee morning hours chastising him for this, but I hope my rather terse outline above is enough of a refute for now.

Now, on to the need for diverse coalitions.  On Saturday my mom and I attended the anti-war rally on Boston Common. (The family that protests together, stays together…and then has lunch at Louis Boston and goes shopping at Filene’s Basement.)  Though by now I should know better (e.g., my surprise at the HRC event earlier this month), I was still struck by the whiteness of the sea of faces.  People were mostly old and young, and almost all white.  And I realized, not for the first time: in the Gulf, I work with a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition.  We are white, black, Creole, Latino, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, disabled, young, old, women, men, Northern and Southern, living in trailers and homes that we own (and that’s all I’ve been able to confirm so far via others’ self-identification).  At a meeting three days prior to the anti-war protest, I was one of only 2 white persons in the room, out of six (three men and three women).  At MIT, my mentors are white women and women and men of color.  Even though MIT is still predominately white and Asian, my intellectual networks are not.  And at Brandeis, well, most of you know my Jewish-Christian experience there.

See, for me, working in diverse coalitions is the norm, though not since Brandeis have I had to confront the issues of power and privilege that are bound up in all of these relationships.  But, the nature of my coalitions now demand this reflexive analysis, and at the worst, we’ll go down fighting to build a common agenda that best meets our different needs as individuals and group members.  And somewhere in that struggle ideally emerges a platform of universal claims and demands, and the political commitment and breadth to advance it. (Do multicultural coalitions have the power to raise resources to fund our causes?  Now that’s a question for another blog post!) 

Racial and economic residential segregation has rendered the workplace as the key site where non-homophilous interactions take place, and cross-racial and cross-class bonds are formed.  Yet activism (vs. charity) and organizing in most workplaces is prohibited or sanctioned.  I ask us, where do we form our socio-political bonds; what inspires us to action and where and when?  How do we effectively build these diverse coalitions so that we might press nationally to realize goals such as universal healthcare, better public education, an expanded social safety net, the enforcement of our civil and economic rights and claims to citizenship and full participation in society?  It is at the national level where these struggles must unfold, yet our current patterns of local segregation, alienation and control make this opportunity far less likely.  Furthermore, the likelihood that our victorious spoils will be distributed equally is even smaller unless we can build cross-cultural coalitions focused on universal claims.  Sustained, visible activism and a concurrent reduction in contemporary racism, sexism and discrimination depends on it. 

Let the arguments about universalism v. particularism begin.

For now I’ve spared you the analysis of activism and policymaking by urban liberals v. progressives v. conservatives and the roles of race and class.

 

28
Oct
07

Chick blogging during Game 3 while the M.A.S. is away

Ok, so now I’m just being cheeky and provocative…

9-5 Sox, with the M.A.S. at a conference, and me in my fave spot on the couch with my PC in my lap.  Thought I’d cross-link with a conversation going on over at Pandagon, that began at Feministing, regarding a study (full text) on gendered attitudes towards “childlessness.”  The authors run a regression of 11k+ survey responses (from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”) in 1987-88 and 1994 to

(all my emphases throughout)

“…the parenthood imperative: [i.e.] whether ‘’it is better to have a child than to remain childless’ [and]

whether ‘the main purpose of marriage these days is to have children’

[and] responses to a common warning about the negative consequences of remaining childless: that ‘‘people who have never had children lead empty lives’…â€?

They find that there is a strong if complex gender gap between women’s more positive attitudes towards childlessness (what they describe as being more “comfortable” with the idea) than men’s, particularly due to gendered attitudes toward marriage and its perceived trade-offs. 

Continue reading ‘Chick blogging during Game 3 while the M.A.S. is away’

27
Oct
07

A Refresher on Boston Cultchah

In honor of the Sox in the World Series, sent to me by my OFD* stepmom!!  Note my personal additions to this handy guide in italics.

Welcome to Bawstin!

For those of you who have never been to “Bawstin”, this is a good guide. I hope you will consider coming to “Beantown” in the near future.

Information on Boston and the surrounding area:

  • There’s no school on School Street, no court on Court Street, no dock on Dock Square, no water on Water Street.
  • Back Bay streets are in alphabetical “oddah”: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, Hereford, no I/J/K/L, Mass Ave.
  • So are South Boston streets: A, B, C, D, etc.
  • If the streets are named after trees (e.g. Walnut, Chestnut, Cedar), you’re on Beacon Hill.
  • If they’re named after poets, you’re in Wellesley.

Massachusetts Ave is Mass Ave; Commonwealth Ave is Comm Ave; South Boston is Southie. The South End is the South End.  East Boston is Eastie. The North End is east of the former West End. The West End and Scollay Square are no more; a guy named Rappaport got rid of them one night. Roxbury is The Burry, Jamaica Plain is J.P.

How to say these Massachusetts city names correctly:
**Say it wrong, be shunned**

Continue reading ‘A Refresher on Boston Cultchah’

25
Oct
07

Like “comparing apples and drowned people”

Check out The Rude Pundit on our national eagerness to compare the evacuees of the CA wildfires with Katrina evacuees.  Gross (with the photos to prove it).

Then check out this link for more information on how you can help. 

25
Oct
07

How to Find Me

Well, right now, I’m on my couch in my pajamas, Shark frozen on my DVR.  But if you’re looking for Redstar via Google, here are 10 of the (less obvious than Redstar) search terms in which the RP pops up 1st:

1)) “feminist critique of grey’s anatomy

2) “baptist church ninth ward

3) “suburbs and urbanization

4) “waterworks chestnut hill sucks

5) “kisolanza farm lodge

6) “new bedford ma raid on illegal immigrants

7) “HUD public enemy” (this may be my favorite)

8) “why we don’t need health insurance” (It’s not what you think, I swear!)

9) “upper east side thin social women

10) “costs of shrubbery

 

What’s in your blog?

(h/t.)

23
Oct
07

Discuss

I’m headed out this afternoon for a quick trip to Baton Rouge.  I’ve been drifting around the blogosphere, and had hoped to organize my thoughts for a substantive post on race here, a topic that’s all the “rage” these days (pun intended), it seems, since Jena 6 raised public awareness of the enduring anti-black antipathy in this country.  (In a related moment of rare media activism, the press has filed a motion to open up the Jena 6 re-trial of Mychal Bell.  It’s worth noting that the Chicago Tribune has been relentless on coverage of this case; commendable, especially compared to some of their peers.  Check out the still video image of hot ticket Maxine Waters in action in a recent Congressional hearing re: Jena 6.)

However, my ideas are still churning, and so instead I leave you all with some links to the different conversations that have captured my attention.  In my absence, discuss:

First, activism among the young.  Alive?  Dead? Worthless? I think this inter-generational conversation is overly binary, and certainly bounded by class and race.  As you all know, all my post-Katrina recovery work is happening at the margins of serious global, regional and national activism regarding workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, racial justice.  I’ve tried to raise this point in the past at Ezra and elsewhere, but it seems my experience with activists more likely to be found at the US Social Forum than on the mainstream political blogosphere is not that relevant to the other commenters.

Next, racism and the academy.  This is part of the larger conversation that’s been happening re: racism, nooses and the rising social conflict many of us perceive over racial inequity.  I could spend endless posts on this topic, bringing in the issues of class and gender, but I’d never make it to the airport.  This link is one of many that is a reminder to myself that I need to expend some emotional and intellectual effort on this topic.  In the meantime, another white academic takes the rest of us to task for our complicity in propping up racism; I almost feel irresponsible posting to this one link and no others (such as those from persons of color also calling us out), this topic is such a can of worms.  Let me say for now that there’s two issues for me here: a) the total isolated disfunction of the academy in which we talk to one another about issues such as inequality and race that have almost no relation to the way they play out for in “real people’s” lives (an academic phrase I loathe), and b) the aforementioned social conflict and racial antipathy that is the point of Rachel’s post.

Meanwhile, here’s just a brief glimpse of the impacts of racial inequality on the lives of women and kids, a topic I am digging into right now in the terrific and easy read Flat Broke With Children.  Anyone up for a blog book club?  After Flat Broke, we can get to this one on single mothers choosing to have children alone.  Jessica at Feministing takes issue with some of the letters in the author Louise Sloan’s Salon interview that criticize Sloan as selfish and putting her child at risk by her choices.  I personally like this one by spacekase:

The fact that the lifestyle “choice” championed in this interview is applicable to such a tiny, insignificant fraction of America as wealthy, single lesbians speaks volumes about its relevance. It’s a faux-cause; it is certainly admirable that she is so happy with her choice, but to attempt to link it to fundamental issues such as sexual identity or single motherhood sounds like narcissism to me. I think this is why books and polemics of this type are always doomed to fail. So a few right-wingers pooh pooh your choice — I don’t, and I still don’t really think you’re making some grand stand for womens’ rights.

Start talking about affordable daycare, living wages or the working class and I might think otherwise.

Sums up perfectly my cognitive dissonance over the obsession over women’s reproductive rights in the mainstream feminist blogosphere at the seeming expensive of a wider treatment of how cultural expectations of our role as caregivers clashes with the economic and cultural realities of women’s labor force participation, and how this clash plays out very differently according to race, ethnicity, class, etc. 

And with that, I’m out.  Back on-line Thursday.