Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

I’m really appreciating all the coverage of the Oscar Grant murder and the trial of Johannes Mehserle over on OaklandSeen.com. (more…)

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I live in Oakland, California and I love it. Lake Merrit is one of my favorite spots. Because I grew up on the ocean I need to be around water and so I always pretend the Lake is the ocean. It works, especially on hot summer days.

If you haven’t been here, you should check it out the next time you visit the Bay Area. There is a gondola, a bird sanctuary, and it’s regularly used for exercise. Families, women, men, couples, and people with dogs, strollers or on bikes take the 3-mile journey around the Lake on a daily basis.

Sometimes, driving by at night, I will see a man running, alone, listening to his music on an ipod. And I will be jealous. So jealous.

I will be jealous because that man is doing something that I will never in my life have the chance to experience. I will never run, alone, around the Lake at night, oblivious to my surroundings while enjoying music on my ipod. Never. Not a chance.

Not because it’s Oakland. Because I am a woman and rape is always a threat.

I was probably about 12-yrs old the first time I took a self-defense class. I learned a lot of tricks to stay aware of my surroundings and how to fight back. But the thing that sticks out most in my mind all these years later is what I was told to scream, should I ever find myself attacked.

“Never,” the instructor said, “should you yell RAPE. Always, yell FIRE.” If you yell RAPE, no one wants to be involved, but if you yell FIRE, everyone wants to be a hero.

To this day, if I ever find myself walking to my car at night, alone, I repeat “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE” in my mind over and over in case someone attacks me. I want to be ready with the right word. I want someone to want to be a hero.

The fact that I haven’t been raped has everything to do with luck. It could happen at any time, in any city, day or night. These are the statistics. While never running alone at night or being prepared to yell FIRE may make me feel better and more in control, I don’t know that it’s actually lowering my risks of being attacked.

When I look back on life, especially all the times I was drunk in high school hanging out with the guys, I’m actually quite amazed that I escaped without assault. How sad is it, that I see this as lucky, instead of normal? I know it’s not normal. Almost every friend of mine from high school has a story, a story of a time when they felt threatened, when they went farther than they wanted to because they were afraid, and when they were forced to perform against their will. Almost every friend. I don’t think a single one of them ever reported it. We probably just avoided those guys in the future. We didn’t go to their party.

When I think about how lucky I am to have escaped rape on those drunken nights in high school, I know that I have yet to escape the threat of rape. No one really does. Even if I make it to 90, rape-free, and end up in a nice, quiet nursing home, my chances of being abused may have actually increased. Sexual assault and abuse of elders is on the rise.

This is what it’s like to be a woman in a rape culture.

When I think of the young woman in Richmond who was attacked, it is hard for me to describe my feelings. Pain. Agony. Sadness. Horror.

I think of all the women I talked to when I was a sexual assault counselor at BAWAR, and I know that healing is possible, and I know the road can be long.

I think about her family, her friends, and her community. I think about the family members of those young men who attacked her and how mortified and disappointed they must feel and I know that healing is possible for them too and that their road is also long.

Rape is not only a product of urban environments. Neither is being bystander. It is not just young black men perpetuating violence against young women. Rape happens in every community, in every environment, within and between every race. It is worldwide.

Rape, as every anti-violence advocate knows, is never about sex and always about power and control. It is used as a weapon. It is used to intimidate and to hurt others. It can be used by a husband against a wife, a famous celebrity against a promiscuous groupee, an uncle against a niece, a militia against a community, a prisoner against a fellow inmate. It knows no bounds across race or sexual orientation – straight men can rape other straight men.

It’s about power, not about sex.

None of these forms of rape are acceptable. It will not be OK for these young men to have done to them in jail what they did to the young woman. Violence as revenge, to exert power and control, is not the way to transform a culture from one that accepts rape as the status quo into a culture that supports bystanders willing to intervene when someone yells – or sees – RAPE.

Most of all, it does not help to have people like Deepak Chopra say on national television that these rapists and bystanders are emotionally retarded. This makes my stomach hurt. If one in six women will be assaulted in their life, we are all bystanders. We have all stood by and watched, and laughed and took pictures because if we haven’t done something to end violence against women and communities of color, then we may as well have. Because we’re standing by, letting it happen.

So, what do we do? We do as Akua Jackson, Director of Programs for Youth Together said in her CNN interview: we all take responsibility. Parents, teachers, youth, organizations, law enforcement, elected officials, clergy, community members. Preventing rape, stopping rape, is everyone’s responsibility.

Each of us can stop being a bystander. We can be an ally. An advocate.

What I remember most from my days as a rape-crisis counselor was how few women who are raped are believed, and how few report (and often, for good reason). The primary thing we did on the BAWAR hotline is believe callers when no one else would. Rape is so horrible and unimaginable in most of our minds that we would rather play tricks on ourselves than deal with the reality of a rape of someone we love, or of the truth of someone we love being a rapist.

That night in Richmond, it seems that every single person made the wrong choice. The wrong choice to rape. The wrong choice to watch. The wrong choice to laugh. The wrong choice not to act.

Luckily, we get to make the right choice.

We can start by showing our support for this community and these families and the many people, leaders, youth and organizations who have made significant progress in creating a safer, more just community in Richmond. We can let them know we are with them and we believe.

Community Healing Event and Candlelight Vigil at Richmond High School

What: Community Healing Event
When: Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Richmond High School (back Football Field), 1250 23rd Street, Richmond, CA
Who: Students, Teachers, Community Leaders, and Public Officials

Then, perhaps, I can achieve my dream. To run at night, alone, without fear. And a smile.

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Thanks to Tara for posting on FB and Jezebel for raising the question first.

Cover featuring man of color:

Inside photo featuring woman of color (on right):

I am a longtime subscriber to Vanity Fair. My letter:

Congrats to Vanity Fair for putting America’s first President of color on the cover. Imagine, then, my surprise to find a virtually unrecognizable Freida Pinto inside, who seems to have lost her color. It was only because you published her name and the role that has made her famous that I was able to connect your “picture” with the real-life beautiful woman of color. What’s up?

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*** UPDATE 2-20-09***
Read my latest post on the loss of Rhianna’s privacy here

***UPDATE 2-15-09***
Read Chris Brown’s statement
Read what caring celebrity voices are saying against violence and for accountability.

I had just settled in with a glass of wine to watch the end of the grammy’s red carpet when I heard Ryan Seacrest say something about Rhianna and Chris canceling their appearance and performances, but he was very vague on the reason. I jumped onto TMZ and got the gossip: Chris had beat up Rhianna.

Here’s what I read:

Chris Brown Investigated for Alleged Assault

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Chris Brown is being investigated by the LAPD in an alleged assault on a female.

According to police, Brown and a woman whom cops refuse to identify were arguing inside a vehicle around 12:30 this morning when suddenly things allegedly turned violent.

Cops say they received a 911 call, and when they arrived they noticed the woman had visible injuries. We’re told she then identified Brown as her attacker. Cops say Brown had left the scene by the time police arrived.

Cops say they are looking to speak with Brown and may arrest him when they find him.

When we called reps for Brown’s girlfriend, Rihanna, for a statement, her people told us, “Rihanna is well. Thank you for your concern and support.”

UPDATE: Grammy officials have just announced that Rihanna will neither perform on the show tonight — as scheduled — nor walk the red carpet for the event. The same announcement has been made about Chris.

Then Rolling Stone:

And I started to read stuff like this:

Well he can assault ME if we want, I wouldn’t mind at all!!

Besides, that damn girlfriend of his..Rihanna…is driving him NUTS with her insecurity and possessiveness. He’s too young to be tied down Rihanna!!!!!! The sun does not rise and shine in YOUR poontang!

Poor fellow. He got mixed up with a Third World Witch. Wow. She drove him to the edge with her controlling azz! He shoulda stuck to the fine American-bred girls instead of that Islander trash.

My daddy always said…’When you play in trash, it’ll get in your eyes’. Hang in there Chris. You’re the only one in that relationship with talent! Don’t let her take you down to her level….TRASH.

Wow. A woman gets beat up and its her fault? The fans come out to support him? It gets worse, and worse, and worse….

Afrobella writes for many:

Take a gander at any of the popular gossip blogs right now, and read those comments if you want to feel your blood pressure rise. I’m not about to link to any of the posts that REALLY got my goat, but I need to get this off my chest. As a proud Trinidadian woman, a West Indian woman, a woman from the islands… I do NOT appreciate the stereotypes that are being thrown around by commenters seeking to condone or explain this act of violence.

Finally, Kanye West tells Ryan Seacrest, in support of Rhianna:

“[Rihanna] has the potential to be, you know, the greatest artist of all time and, in that sense, I feel like [she is] my baby sis,” added West. “I would do any and everything to help her in any situation.”

“I feel like, just as a person, I don’t care how famous she is or even if she just worked at McDonald’s, that should never happen. It should never come to that, to that place.”

Not to mention, big, big privacy questions. Typically the names of domestic violence survivors, or other survivors of sexual or intimate violence, are not released. But the LATimes decided to print Rhianna’s name anyways, stating:

“The Times has a blanket policy when it comes to not naming victims of sexual assault. There isn’t a set policy when it comes to physical assault or a criminal threat. In that case, there’s a decision internally and on a case-by-case basis of whether to name somebody. In this case, obviously there was a discussion among the editors about this. The nature of this case – against the backdrop of the Grammy’s, the delay in changing things, the explanations put out by both camps – the decision was made that this was fair game.”

Emily comments on the Bitch Magazine blog:

I think that it’s very important for people to consider the lack of privacy Rihanna is receiving right now.

So, what do I think about it all?

I think its awfully sad. I think violence between people that love each other is always sad and awful, and even though I know how common domestic violence is (in teen relationships, adult ones, with famous people, rich folks, poor folks, gay folks, in brown and white communities and everyone else), it doesn’t make it any less worse for those who experience it and those who witness it.

And right now, we are all witnesses.

I think the reactions that are happening online about this very famous couple mirrors what happens in real life – it is so hard for us to believe that someone we know, care about and/or admire could hurt someone else that we jump through all kinds of hoops in our mind to make it not so. It is so hard for us to believe that someone we trust could intentionally and violently hurt someone else, that we make up excuses and reasons on their behalf, even when it means we deny the pain and experience of someone else.

Denial is such a common reaction – it was denied for years that priests could molest boys, denied that workplace sexual harassment was wrong, that date rape is in fact actual rape, and on, and on, and on…Denial allows us to make-believe that we are safe and that it is someone else’s problem. Denial prevents us from action, from taking responsibility, for trying to make something better. As each one of us witnesses the violence of this relationship, many of us are responding with denial online.

I worked at domestic violence agency that worked with men – straight and gay men who had hurt their partners and lovers. We ran batterer intervention programs with the belief that violent men can unlearn their ways. We saw how the cycle of violence can repeat itself across generations and I met men bound and determined to not teach their children what they learned. It is a hard road.

And it is possible.

I believe Kevin Powell sums it up best:

Given all the hype and controversy around Chris Brown’s alleged beating of Rihanna, I feel compelled to post this essay I originally wrote in late 2007, so that some of us can have an honest jump off point to discuss male violence against females, to discuss the need for ownership of past pains and traumas, to discuss the critical importance of therapy and healing. Let us pray for Rihanna, first and foremost, because no one deserves to be beaten, or beaten up. No one. And let us also pray that Chris Brown gets the help he needs by way of long-term counseling and alternative definitions of manhood rooted in nonviolence, real love, and, alas, real peace. And let us not forget that Rihanna and Chris Brown happen to be major pop stars, hence all the media coverage, blogs, etc. Violence against women and girls happens every single day on this planet without any notice from most of us. Until we begin to address that hard fact, until we all, males and females alike, make a commitment to ending the conditions that create that destructive behavior in the first place, it will not end any time soon. There will be more Rihannas and more Chris Browns.

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Shocked, sad, pissed, are some of the words I feel about what happened on New Year’s Day in Oakland. A young father was shot and killed by BART police, while he was laying on his stomach, with his hands behind his back, and with two cops standing over him. So far, the officer has not even been interviewed!!!

Here is the video.

This family, and this community, need justice. This is freakin ridiculous, unnecessary and a tragic loss of life.

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But we have a black president!

So racism is over right???

Not so much.

Check this out from Afro-Netizen:


“Post-Racial” Racism in the Post

By Dedrick Muhammad
Guest Contributor

As we come closer to the “post-racial age” of a Barack Obama presidency, I am intrigued to find that post-racial racism is already being propagated in the pages of the Washington Post.  In “An Enduring Crisis for the Black Family,” Kay Hymowitz blames the economic disfranchisement of African Americans upon the personal behavior of Black people and the silence of Black leaders concerning this behavior. Ms. Hymowitz portrays the massive national growth of single parent homes as a Black pathology.  She uses the real challenge of the breakdown in the traditional family to further stereotype and lay blame on African Americans for racial inequality in this country.

As one who studies racial inequality and the African American condition in particular, I have often been told to ignore the studies that show there is still racial prejudice in employment, homeownership, and predatory lending, and to instead look at the rapid decline of two parent households for African Americans. In the report “40 Years Later: The Unrealized American,” I looked at the decline of the two parent household for Blacks and whites and found some surprising results.

Using data from the 2007 State of Our Unions report, I discovered that the share of Black children living in a single parent home increased by 155% between 1960 to 2006. The share of white children living in single parent homes increased by 229% during this same time period. The white two-parent family has declined at a faster rate than the Black family. Yet, Ms. Hymowitz never once mentions that the increase of single parent Black families exist in a context of an even greater rate of increase in single parent white families.  Ms. Hymowitz attacks Black leaders for not addressing this issue yet as a white woman she never sees fit to mention this issue as it relates to white Americans.

Was Ms. Hymowitz so concerned about the African American community that she failed to consider that Blacks were part of a national social trend that was cutting across racial lines?  I do not know. What I do know is that she is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an organization with a history of concluding that the “deficiencies” of African Americans are the primary cause of inequality.  Charles Murray, formerly of the Manhattan Institute, is the most renown example of this tradition.  In 1994 he co-wrote the book “The Bell Curve“.  This best selling book argued that Black/white inequality could be explained by the inferior intelligence of African Americans.

Ms. Hymowitz’s charge that civil rights leaders historically and today remain silent on the topic of Black family and single parent households is as misleading as her portrayal of the break up of the family. Growing up in the 1980’s, I remember listening to Rev. Jackson as he urged Black men to stand up to their responsibilities as fathers. In 1995 I was proud to participate in the Million Man March, the largest Black gathering this country has ever seen. Over a million Black men came together to pledge greater responsibility for their families and to atone for their sins. The Black community and its leaders have always engaged the issue of greater self-responsibility.  One can look back to Garvey, DuBois, Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman for this tradition.

In his book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” Dr. King stated “History continues to mock the Negro today, because just as he needs ever greater family integrity, severe strains are assailing family life in the white community.”  Someone seriously concerned about the decline of the two-parent family would not racialize a serious national problem. They would, instead, challenge the nation to address this problem in unity.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, who grew up in a single parent home, stated in 1988 that “Protecting America’s families is not simply a problem of the poor.  It is a challenge to the entire society, a practical as well as moral challenge.” Jackson proposed a Family Investment Initiative, an initiative that would go beyond talking about family values and instead place societies’ resources behind valuing families.  As we approach the inauguration of Barack Obama, we look to the President-Elect to enact legislation and inspire a national commitment to strengthen all American families, and to bridge the racial divide that for too long has divided this nation.

Dedrick Muhammad works for the Institute for Policy Studies as part of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good.

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I Faced Race

Colorblind and colormute? Racist abuses or lame excuses?  Shoulda seen the Great Race Debate yesterday in downtown Oakland.  Dam that Kalpana Krishnamurthy and Julianne Ong Hing had me cheering for them, despite their points.  Inspired to get going after meeting the folks at Jack& Jill Politics, Afro-Netizen, and Culture Kitchen.  No time like the present! 

P.S.  The best fro-yo in the world is at Kultured Kitchen in San Clemente!

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