web analytics

Yo Solo Busco Mi Destino…

November 30th, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

MALVERDE, with Este Camino.

Este camino que yo sigo
Ha dejado a mucho vencido
Yo solo busco mi destino
Que me ayude a Dios le pido

World Out of Balance

November 29th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

I FIRST WATCHED KOYAANISQATSI when I was 19, it was the end of the 80s and I was meeting new artist/musician friends. This was before I went to film school, before I studied cinema, and before I was exposed to a bunch of art and culture I’ve been lucky enough to trip upon since then. But just coming to this film with an open mind was enough. It was deep, and I felt it, and it rang out within me for a long time.

From the imdb.com summary [my emphasis]:

This movie was designed to have no plot. Meaning is to be created by the viewer, and only the viewer can give value to the images and music. That said, there is a central idea behind the movie, and according to the director it is this:

The greatest event in the history of mankind has occurred recently, and has been largely missed by both the media and academia. Beyond the headlines and every day crises of international events, a deeper shift in human affairs has occurred: Humanity no longer exists in the natural world, we are no longer connected to it. It is not that we are now users of technology, but rather that we exist within technology, we are part of it and it is part of us. The natural world now exists only to support the artificial one in which we live.

Adam on imdb.com

 

The way these fims use cinema is poetic, brilliant, and while it may at first test the average U.S. moviegoing mind (or be “slower” than one is used to absorbing and certainly less linear and less narrative than mainstream USA cinema) they really are worth gearing over to appreciate. They are profound—though not for the short attention span—and they tell a truth that commerce and capitalist societies like ours are not really allowed to teach because the message directly attacks commerce and the most voracious of capitalism’s benefactors. (Even the scientists, who are much more literal and authoritative than artists or filmmakers, were hushed from telling some of these truths in the past few years.)

Shot by Ron Fricke, scored by Philip Glass, and directed by Godfrey Reggio, this trilogy is essentially montages of music and imagery. They have no dialogue and so use form, sound, juxtaposition and music quite to tell a story and issue their warning. They are like…impressionist art that you can breathe in and hear making a sound as it wraps around your understanding. I mean that…if you haven’t peeped these yet, watch this clip as if you would take in a piece of abstract art. With patience and love. Wait for it to reveal itself to you, the light shimmering on the planes, the curvature of negative space, the clusters of color and tone, the human emotion given shape not by facial expression so much as the taut mounds of bodies, the slumped figure of a collapsed worker being hauled on someone’s back, the legs and legs and legs angling up, the mud-streaked muscles straining in a pack.

These films will speak to you in sometimes unexpected and deep ways. They just ask a little time and room.

 

This clip is introductory scene to Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation [Hopi: Way of living/life that consumes other life in order to advance its own], the second film in the trilogy that begins with Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance and ends with Naqoyqatsi.

UPDATE: Full film Koyaanisqatsi [gracias, smartypants].

And the trailer to Koyaanisqatsi:

Stolen Not Given

November 26th, 2008 § 8 comments § permalink

THIS MORNING, in the Twitterverse, we were talking about Thanksgiving. As many of my friends are also people who work to extract themselves from, or diminish the effects and momentum of imperialism and its trappings (or who happen to be of indigenous blood), it is not unusual for us to talk about other sides of “Thanksgiving.” About not passing it on to children as we received it, about not practicing it at all, about practicing alternate forms of the holiday. One friend (Kai) related a story to me that I liked, saying

When I was a kid, my mom would roast a turkey + braise a duck on Thanksgiving. My parents said one was US tradition and one tasted good.

This bifurcated or dual function/form seems to me a good way to approach the holiday. Who wants to put away what some have come to know as a warm, happy time of gathering with family and celebrating food, love, taste, tribe, and life? The USA has so few “traditions” as it is, so as two-dimensional and full of tinsel that they are, they are dear to those of us who grew to know them as recurring events.

But using Thanksgiving as a time to teach children about both the myth and the damage done behind the Myth is crucial. And I capitalize “myth” that second time because this is not about being contrary or “radical” or anything. Thanksgiving is probably the most popular and earliest-given justification for invasion, murder, imperialism, occupation, and “othering” that we know of in this country. You see the harm wrought by the colonizer’s mindset time and time again, and even now in Iraq we hear fables fashioned on the same framework and it sickens. But Thanksgiving is Iraq, with its steaming platter of corpses. Iraq is Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving stands in place of the real story, one of greed and superiority and crusade and greater stores of weapons and greater capacity for violence.

In 1637, English soldiers massacred some 700 Pequot men, women and children at Mystic Fort, burning many of them alive in their homes and shooting those who fled. The colony of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay Colony observed a day of thanksgiving commemorating the massacre. By 1675, there were some 50,000 colonists in the place they had named “New England.”

Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving is the earliest fable given to us along the path of mental indoctrination that allows the USA to continue its method. Some say now a great change has come upon us and we may have to shift the way we do things. Global powers now, no sole hyperpower, diminished American might, changing demographics. We’ll see. “Time will tell,” as a reggae song often playing in my early household would promise the listener. Time will tell. (Obama’s words on not prosecuting anyone for war crimes etc tell us a lot already, though.)

Nonetheless, the path is in place and it is a path that begins with commercially-crafted tales designed to distract us from the USA’s long-running methodologies of exceptionalism and crusade and in place of that, offer us patriotic pablum; saccharine feelgood fakery that suffocates entire peoples and their struggles. Ultimately, who benefits from these fables and the lessons they instill? Who benefits from the invasion of Iraq? From the mercenary armies we have there and are now launching into many nations and onto ocean vessels? From our military bases that multiply like virus? Who are the myths of Thanksgiving designed to benefit? What are the truths they are meant to obscure?

What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school? What is it about the story that is so seductive? Why has it become an annual elementary school tradition to hold Thanksgiving pageants, with young children dressing up in paper-bag costumes and feather-duster headdresses and marching around the schoolyard? Why is it seen as necessary for fake “pilgrims” and fake “Indians” (portrayed by real children, many of whom are Indian) to sit down every year to a fake feast, acting out fake scenarios and reciting fake dialogue about friendship? And why do teachers all over the country continue (for the most part, unknowingly) to perpetuate this myth year after year after year?

Is it because as Americans we have a deep need to believe that the soil we live on and the country on which it is based was founded on integrity and cooperation? This belief would help contradict any feelings of guilt that could haunt us when we look at our role in more recent history in dealing with other indigenous peoples in other countries. If we dare to give up the “myth” we may have to take responsibility for our actions both concerning indigenous peoples of this land as well as those brought to this land in violation of everything that makes us human. The realization of these truths untold might crumble the foundation of what many believe is a true democracy. As good people, can we be strong enough to learn the truths of our collective past? Can we learn from our mistakes? This would be our hope.

Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

That’s a little Haunted Land talk there. I like the hope part. It’s not a “hope” built on simply escaping the utterly depraved last 8 years. It’s not one built on some illusion of letting bygones be bygones with no truthful accounting nor consequence doled out. It’s reality: You cannot move forward with great crimes unaddressed and build a shining city on a ransacked graveyard. (If you ask the Wampanoag people, they will tell you that the “First Thanksgiving” actually involved not “finding corn” but in stealing it and looting childrens’ graves.) You can try! You can scribble in the ledgers and change the stories and lie to the kids, but truth has a way of making itself known, even if the only pathways left to travel are the disease and disintegration of a standing lie.

So! With all that said, I do hope that everyone enjoys their day tomorrow, as well as their lives and their families and their full bellies. I also hope that more and more as we go forward, it can be a day not only for fine foods and laughter and friendship and family, but also for respect, truth and the debt we owe to others. We can dismantle the machine that enacts these crimes one generation at a time, stripping away the veneer of propaganda and revealing the hard beating heart underneath. We could use the words of the Seattle schools this year, who are urging their staff not to simply “celebrate, but to educate.” We can imagine ourselves strong enough to “learn the truths of our collective past” and yet rise.


As you can see by my many links, I think a good place to begin is The Eleven Myths of Thanksgiving as discussed on the Oyate.org page, Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving” by Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin.

Anti-Migrant Democrats Aiding Wave of Hate Crimes

November 24th, 2008 § 4 comments § permalink

the murderers spoke english THE MURDER OF MARCELO LUCERO was an unnecessary and tragic consequence of (and partner to) the hateful anti-immigrant language spit out by too many today. Some of these actors are demagogues who make cashmoney for spewing vitriol on a stage (Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck); some are just fools who repeat whatever seems to support their own ugly urges to demonize Latin@s or migrants; and some are politicians who operate out of racism, ignorance, sheer opportunism or a combination of all three.

Marcelo Lucero was killed in Suffolk County, Long Island. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is being accused by many of being one of those politicians abetting the rising violence with reckless and extreme appeals to harsh crackdowns, local police doing ICE work, and general anti-migrant rhetoric.

“Suffolk County is a particularly good example of elected officials stoking the fires of anti-immigrant sentiment,” [NCLR CEO] Janet Murguía said. “For two years we have urged politicians and members of the media to show some restraint in echoing the damaging rhetoric that demonizes our communities.”

Levy accused Murguía and other critics of blurring the distinction between legal immigration, which he said he supports, and undocumented residents.

Civil rights groups denounce Immigrant Bashing

I love the whole “Oh but not your kind, just those other ones” vibe to this worn out defense. Anyone paying attention knows there are earnest and intelligent ways to engage the immigration dialogue, ways that won’t bring harm onto people or underline dark imagery and fears they may already harbor. Anyone paying attention to Steve Levy knows he is not using any of those ways!

The Rev. Allan B. Ramirez, an immigrant advocate who is the pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church, decried Levy’s policies. “Along with those seven men, Steve Levy, who has demonized the immigrant community, also has blood on his hands,” Ramirez said.

Blurring the lines. Yeah, the Right wing does this a lot, this projection. This time it’s a Democrat, Steve Levy. No progressive here. Just a hater wearing blue. And he’s known for this.

After all, it’s not Murguía who is blurring lines. She is simply addressing facts. Facts about violence, facts about humans getting hunted and killed, facts about how careless and ugly talk inspires ugliness in others. To her—to me, to la comunidad—those are important facts. To Levy, they are not. Suffolk County County Executive Steve Levy is quoted as tsk-tsking the media interest in Lucero’s nightmarish end by admonishing reporters and scoffing it was merely “a one-day story” except for all their stirring stuff up. So that tells you where this man’s mind and heart are. Of course, being a true limp noodle of integrity, he flapped over to the press once his words began circulating and the spotlight found him, claiming “the horrible incident is indeed more than a one-day story. It was a reminder of how far we as a society still have to go.”

He can’t even say “murder,” can he. He can’t even talk about a life. All this “Horrible Incident” and “it” stuff.

You know what’s worse than a scumbag politician who uses his position of power to blur lines between humans in need and criminals, apathetic to or ignorant of the fact that they are feeding a tide of violence that gets innocent people killed? When that politician is so cowardly that he tries, at the same time, to distance himself from his own doings and come off like a saint.

You know how far we have to go, Mr. Levy? We have to go far enough to unseat Democrats like you. And then a little further.

Now Republicans, take heed of what I said to your daddy Karl: the key to the GOP’s revival is making Democrats like this one look bad to Latin@s by showing them up with candidates working for humane Immigration Reform! (And Dems, if you let the Republicans beat you to this, then you deserve to get beat, “progressive left.”)

In fact, I was on a conference call on this very topic the other day and some of the participants were people based in Suffolk County. And the discussion was very much on the toxic atmosphere in Suffolk County and the connection between legislation pushed and forwarded by Steve Levy and others, and the hate crimes against Latin@s/Mexicans. The people I spoke to related a rash of hate crimes there, this only being one. They also warned anyone looking into the numbers that Patchogue officials play with (methodology of categorizing/assessing) the statistics so they can continue to claim hate crimes are going down. They are not. What is true, according to those Suffolk Country residents/journalists was that these officials are “exploiting people’s hate and fear for personal gain.” And they left us with the statement that “the leaders of anti-migrant legislation in Suffolk county are Democrats.” (The two first names offered were Steve Levy and Jack Eddington.)

Obama won Suffolk County. And Barack Obama would not be president today without the shift in Latino votes this year. And it is already documented and understood that a large part of that shift was due to the immigrant situation and our looking for action on this issue. So what are you doing, Levy? On your own little crusade are you? Clearly. I have a strong suspicion that these types of crusades are soon going to have (political) consequences. So don’t pretend ignorance if you end up with any.

Below is the text of a public meeting held by NCLR and other Civil Rights groups on the rising Hate Crimes in our nation and the murder of Marcelo Lucero. Also below is the video (which has no sound for part of it).

CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS CONDEMN RECENT RASH OF HATE CRIMES

Fatal Beating of Long Island Latino Man Should be a “Wake Up Call for America”

Washington, DC—The brutal murder of Marcelo Lucero, a Suffolk County, Long Island man of Ecuadoran descent, brought seven national civil rights organizations together today to denounce the recent wave of brutal hate crimes against communities of color.

Representatives from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the National Urban League,the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) decried the recent spike in hate crimes both during and after the election.

“In the wake of an election that sends a message to the world about freedom, it seems incongruous to raise the specter of hate in America,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “Hate did not win the election, but it has certainly reared its head in local communities across the country.”

“It is deeply disturbing to see this surge in hate crimes at a time when we should be celebrating coming together as a country and looking to the future,” said Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of AAJC. “Encouraged as we are to see many communities hopeful that we are headed towards an age of greater understanding, we cannot ignore the wave of hate crimes that has occurred in the wake of this historic election.”

The group cited FBI statistics that show hate crimes against Latinos and Asian Americans rising steadily over the past four years and a Southern Poverty Law Center report that details hundreds of incidents of hate crimes, vandalism, and threats committed since Election Day. This includes the election-night assault of Alie Kamara on Staten Island by two teenagers who shouted racial epithets and “Obama!” as they beat him.

“We believe that the Justice Department has to become more aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the nation’s historic civil rights organizations. “As a country, we’ve come a long way, but there is still more change needed.”

“At a time when we as a nation are celebrating our demonstrated diversity as millions of Americans of every race, color, ethnicity, economic status, religion, gender, and place of national origin went to the polls in record numbers to vote for and elect Barack Obama president of the United States, there are unfortunately those who are still living in the past filled hatred, fear and division,” said Hilary Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau.

“Hate crimes such as these must be investigated and prosecuted fully at the local and federal levels,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel.

The civil rights groups faulted a “climate of hate” surrounding the immigration debate of recent years and the national election which has been fostered over the airwaves and echoed in political discourse.

“For two years we have urged politicians and members of the media to show some restraint in perpetuating the damaging rhetoric that demonizes our communities,” said Murguía. “Suffolk County mirrors the experience of many communities where hate, fostered on a national scale, has found a new home.”

“Certainly, President-elect Obama’s election speaks volumes about how far we’ve come as a nation; but, make no mistake, it signifies hope, not a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility, ” said Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “Certainly, in a nation of over 300 million people, there will always be a fearful few who can only find self-worth when they disparage and denigrate some group of people they see as different from themselves. We can’t legislate the heart and mind, but we can ensure that this segment is prevented from turning thought into action.”

“Words have consequences, and hateful words have hateful consequences. Mr. Lucero’s death is a direct consequence of the anger and hate spurred on by media outlets that mischaracterize all Latinos and the institutions that serve them as a threat to our country,” said Murguía.

“There is a direct connection between the tenor of the political debate and the daily lives of immigrants in our communities. It is no accident that, as the immigration debate has demonized immigrants as “invaders” who poison our communities with disease and criminality, haters have taken matters into their own hands and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise for the fourth consecutive,” said Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League.

These seven organizations are committed to working together to monitor incidents of hate crimes and hate rhetoric, to urge Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate
Crime Prevention Act and the media to cease resorting to bias and bigotry, and to increase tolerance and understanding among all communities.

To learn more about the code words of hate and what your community can do to combat hate speech, visit www.WeCanStopTheHate.org.

¡Oye! I Contain Muxtitudes!

November 24th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

THERE ARE FEW THINGS as refreshing as the sensation of a stereotype being exploded before your very eyes. Here today to apply a brilliant shade of eyeshadow to the often-referenced machismo of The Latino and Mexicano Male iconry are l@s muxes straight from Juchitan:

JUCHITAN, Mexico (Reuters) – Attaching flowers to a ribbon headdress, pulling a lace slip under an embroidered skirt and draping a necklace of gold coins over his head, Pedro Martinez puts the finishing touches on the traditional costume of Zapotec women in southern Mexico.

“When I get all dressed up like this my father always says, ‘Oh Pedro! You look just like your mother when she was young,” beams Martinez, 28, gluing on fake eyelashes in front of a mirror.

Martinez spent two hours in the hair salon he owns getting ready for this weekend’s festival of the “muxes,” indigenous gays and transvestites in the town of Juchitan who have found a haven of acceptance in Mexico’s macho society.

The muxes (pronounced moo-shes), mostly of ethnic Zapotec descent, are widely respected in the southern town where a dance and parade that crowns a transvestite queen and celebrates the harvest has been held annually for the last 33 years.

Anthropologists say the tradition of blurring genders among Mexico’s indigenous population is centuries old but has been revived in recent decades due to the gay pride movement.

Several dozen muxes were blessed by a Catholic priest at a mass before joining visiting transvestites and other townsfolk at a raucous party on Saturday night. The muxes wore either traditional local costumes or ball gowns and high heels. […]

Some of the muxes, a Zapotec word derived from the Spanish for woman, or “mujer”, dress as women year round and others are gays who only don women’s clothes at the annual party, or not at all.

The area around Juchitan, a laid-back town near the Pacific, has a history of women playing leading roles in public life.

“The legend here is that mothers pray for a gay son who can take care of them when they are old,” theater director Sergio Santamaria, 56, said over a traditional breakfast of iguana soup and sweet corn tamales.

Mexican transvestite fiesta rocks indigenous town

 

I so enjoy the acceptance in these stories. Not only a refreshing blast of love and truth in the face of so much backward fear, hate, loathing, ignorance in our own USA culture (especially as demonstrated as of late by the Mormon Church and others who pushed for Proposition 8/”Prop Hate”), but also a beautiful contrast to what I’ve too often witnessed personally in my own life.

I am grateful I did not take on some of the attitudes I saw demonstrated in my youth. Homophobia staked out a visible presence there. I watched supposed role models start fights with people because they felt that threatened by the presence of gayness. It was amazing.

I never connected to that reaction. Not a bit. Maybe it was another thing where if my (adoptive not biological) father was against a thing, I more or less aligned with that thing. But no, I just think part of my nature could never be like that. The truth is, in my life, I more often felt persecuted by the Male Expectation I felt peering at me through invisible crosshairs than a part of it. In the Male Role world, I was always an outlier, a spy, a fraud. I’m not into and have never been into so many typical “Male” signifiers and activities and maybe that’s because I associate these things (football, visiting strip clubs, hunting, racing, talking luridly about girls you’re with, idiocy, etc) with the stack of unspoken rules that come with being in that club. All the ones that screamed in your ear about how NOT to sit, stand, speak, dress. Ugh. Hell, remember, I’m the kid who took Typing and Home Ec in high school, rather than the highly-sought after Auto Shop. But it’s not just about ducking from the heavy, suffocating, dull, half-dead box that is opened for the Adult Western Male to fit into, it is also about celebrating the non-rigid, the emotional, the intuitive, the fluid, the flamboyant, the colorful—the Feminine aspect of myself.

It is a given to most of us paying enough attention that there is a prevalent misogyny in our culture. Normalized to the extent that hostile and violent imagery against women is a regular presence and energy in our media. In posters, in jokes, in titles, in ideas. From the slightly dismissive to the outright derogatory to the blatantly vile and vicious. Our focus is often (and should be) on the women targeted by this hate, the women who suffer under this stream of threat and this actuality of violence. It should be focused on the actors and co-conspirators as well. Aside from those who take direct part in that hate or violence, another important piece of this is the effects of this misogyny upon the male in general. What misogyny does to the male identity and psyche and sense of peace and self-love. After all, the Female is not hated in a vacuum. So, too, is the Feminine, entire. And that cannot be walled off to one gender. This loathing, this hatred points back to what we know to be part of our natural being.

Men (as boys) are “asked” to join the oppression (under great threat of both social humiliation and physical violence and over and over, too) and to do this of course, we must snuff out/suppress the Feminine in ourselves. This is, of course, a great pain and loss to a human. And as this loss cannot be mourned by implied decree, this pain becomes a bitter, perverse mess that is blind to itself. And so men not only join the hate against women, but they then envy women for their freedom (to still be allowed) to be expressive, emotive, beautiful, affectionate, relaxed, vulnerable. And the loathing to self-loathing ties to envy ties to sorrow and loss and is given ground, and men are emotionally insane when modeled as instructed. And they act out this insanity even when they don’t know why. It is because they have too often been prevented from even knowing who they are to begin with.

I’ve never wanted to be a part of typical men, men groups, or Man Roles. That’s why people like Pedro Martinez to me, bedecked in color and flowing robe and smiles and ribbon, seem so much healthier to me than men buttoned into suits and then pews and pushing propositions. (On a mundane level, part of my being puzzled as a child growing up was also why the “boys” and “mens” sections had all the boring clothes! I could never figure that out.)

Part of undoing misogyny and sexism, and a huge part it seems to me, is men revealing to other men that we are sold an illusion. The “man” some (and a system entire) would have us be is an unnatural and dangerous one. It is a maimed beast; a muzzled, anguished, and hungry creature. Even the ideal is lonely and half-blind. The Myth of Man is a fanged, bereaved, lie. His is the shifting shape of oppression and self-denial with a wolfskin slung over one eye. It is a shroud. Even for those men who feel it makes them more so. For if a man cannot love the feminine aspect of himself, nor can he love a woman. And if he is hiding from that half of himself, he cannot fully see a woman. And if he would abdicate half his power, he is weak to the point of failing.

It is a spiritual thing, of course. Not even a social thing. For me, I’ve always seen my Artist priorities as rising above any imagined “Male” Role priority, and so I’ve long been comfortable with costume and decoration and wearing makeup and masks and just about any way of expressing whatever it is I feel needs to be celebrated or given shape in a moment. (More comfortable than in many typical settings!) And of course I’ve had to become comfortable (or be ostracized at times) for remaining expressive, intuitive, emotional, flamboyant/theatrical and given to many behaviors that violate the Male Code. And yet of course, there is still the work of untangling some of the corrosive and binding threads that our patriarchal/misogynistic culture has sewn into my form.

I love that the same (Zapotec) Indians who gave the world Emiliano Zapata gives us the Muxes! How perfect.

I like this too:

DUAL-GENDERED GODS

Native people in the Americas with ambiguous gender were often regarded as wise and talented, said Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

“They were seen as have having a kind of spiritual power that comes from being more like the ancestors who are mothers and fathers at once, and more like the divinities who may be dual gendered,” Joyce said.

Anthropologists have found evidence of mixed gender identities across Mesoamerica, from Mayan corn and moon gods that are both male and female and Aztec priests who ritually cross dressed.

The Spanish conquest in the 16th century and the Catholic Church snuffed out much of that tolerance.

——Mexican transvestite fiesta rocks indigenous town

 

Because Colonization (and Patriarchy, too) are about control. And thus, Prop H8. And thus stiff collars and the Western Modes of acceptable and authoritative dress. And thus stark unforgivable lines. And thus dichotomized stances and laws that no person lives under comfortably and organically, unless they crave unnatural and aggravating wires strapping them down to the earth, making up for all the strength they have abdicated and would have used to guide and know themselves otherwise….

—–

this post originally posted here: where you can see comments, etc. Some browsers, etc, have issues with the link because of the “¡” character in the URL, so i’ve created this duplicate without that symbol, but didn’t want to break the link to the old post.

¡Oye! I Contain Muxtitudes!

November 24th, 2008 § 20 comments § permalink

THERE ARE FEW THINGS as refreshing as the sensation of a stereotype being exploded before your very eyes. Here today to apply a brilliant shade of eyeshadow to the often-referenced machismo of The Latino and Mexicano Male iconry are l@s muxes straight from Juchitan:

JUCHITAN, Mexico (Reuters) – Attaching flowers to a ribbon headdress, pulling a lace slip under an embroidered skirt and draping a necklace of gold coins over his head, Pedro Martinez puts the finishing touches on the traditional costume of Zapotec women in southern Mexico.

“When I get all dressed up like this my father always says, ‘Oh Pedro! You look just like your mother when she was young,” beams Martinez, 28, gluing on fake eyelashes in front of a mirror.

Martinez spent two hours in the hair salon he owns getting ready for this weekend’s festival of the “muxes,” indigenous gays and transvestites in the town of Juchitan who have found a haven of acceptance in Mexico’s macho society.

The muxes (pronounced moo-shes), mostly of ethnic Zapotec descent, are widely respected in the southern town where a dance and parade that crowns a transvestite queen and celebrates the harvest has been held annually for the last 33 years.

Anthropologists say the tradition of blurring genders among Mexico’s indigenous population is centuries old but has been revived in recent decades due to the gay pride movement.

Several dozen muxes were blessed by a Catholic priest at a mass before joining visiting transvestites and other townsfolk at a raucous party on Saturday night. The muxes wore either traditional local costumes or ball gowns and high heels. […]

Some of the muxes, a Zapotec word derived from the Spanish for woman, or “mujer”, dress as women year round and others are gays who only don women’s clothes at the annual party, or not at all.

The area around Juchitan, a laid-back town near the Pacific, has a history of women playing leading roles in public life.

“The legend here is that mothers pray for a gay son who can take care of them when they are old,” theater director Sergio Santamaria, 56, said over a traditional breakfast of iguana soup and sweet corn tamales.

Mexican transvestite fiesta rocks indigenous town

I so enjoy the acceptance in these stories. Not only a refreshing blast of love and truth in the face of so much backward fear, hate, loathing, ignorance in our own USA culture (especially as demonstrated as of late by the Mormon Church and others who pushed for Proposition 8/”Prop Hate”), but also a beautiful contrast to what I’ve too often witnessed personally in my own life.

I am grateful I did not take on some of the attitudes I saw demonstrated in my youth. Homophobia staked out a visible presence there. I watched supposed role models start fights with people because they felt that threatened by the presence of gayness. It was amazing.

I never connected to that reaction. Not a bit. Maybe it was another thing where if my (adoptive not biological) father was against a thing, I more or less aligned with that thing. But no, I just think part of my nature could never be like that. The truth is, in my life, I more often felt persecuted by the Male Expectation I felt peering at me through invisible crosshairs than a part of it. In the Male Role world, I was always an outlier, a spy, a fraud. I’m not into and have never been into so many typical “Male” signifiers and activities and maybe that’s because I associate these things (football, visiting strip clubs, hunting, racing, talking luridly about girls you’re with, idiocy, etc) with the stack of unspoken rules that come with being in that club. All the ones that screamed in your ear about how NOT to sit, stand, speak, dress. Ugh. Hell, remember, I’m the kid who took Typing and Home Ec in high school, rather than the highly-sought after Auto Shop. But it’s not just about ducking from the heavy, suffocating, dull, half-dead box that is opened for the Adult Western Male to fit into, it is also about celebrating the non-rigid, the emotional, the intuitive, the fluid, the flamboyant, the colorful—the Feminine aspect of myself.

It is a given to most of us paying enough attention that there is a prevalent misogyny in our culture. Normalized to the extent that hostile and violent imagery against women is a regular presence and energy in our media. In posters, in jokes, in titles, in ideas. From the slightly dismissive to the outright derogatory to the blatantly vile and vicious. Our focus is often (and should be) on the women targeted by this hate, the women who suffer under this stream of threat and this actuality of violence. It should be focused on the actors and co-conspirators as well. Aside from those who take direct part in that hate or violence, another important piece of this is the effects of this misogyny upon the male in general. What misogyny does to the male identity and psyche and sense of peace and self-love. After all, the Female is not hated in a vacuum. So, too, is the Feminine, entire. And that cannot be walled off to one gender. This loathing, this hatred points back to what we know to be part of our natural being.

Men (as boys) are “asked” to join the oppression (under great threat of both social humiliation and physical violence and over and over, too) and to do this of course, we must snuff out/suppress the Feminine in ourselves. This is, of course, a great pain and loss to a human. And as this loss cannot be mourned by implied decree, this pain becomes a bitter, perverse mess that is blind to itself. And so men not only join the hate against women, but they then envy women for their freedom (to still be allowed) to be expressive, emotive, beautiful, affectionate, relaxed, vulnerable. And the loathing to self-loathing ties to envy ties to sorrow and loss and is given ground, and men are emotionally insane when modeled as instructed. And they act out this insanity even when they don’t know why. It is because they have too often been prevented from even knowing who they are to begin with.

I’ve never wanted to be a part of typical men, men groups, or Man Roles. That’s why people like Pedro Martinez to me, bedecked in color and flowing robe and smiles and ribbon, seem so much healthier to me than men buttoned into suits and then pews and pushing propositions. (On a mundane level, part of my being puzzled as a child growing up was also why the “boys” and “mens” sections had all the boring clothes! I could never figure that out.)

Part of undoing misogyny and sexism, and a huge part it seems to me, is men revealing to other men that we are sold an illusion. The “man” some (and a system entire) would have us be is an unnatural and dangerous one. It is a maimed beast; a muzzled, anguished, and hungry creature. Even the ideal is lonely and half-blind. The Myth of Man is a fanged, bereaved, lie. His is the shifting shape of oppression and self-denial with a wolfskin slung over one eye. It is a shroud. Even for those men who feel it makes them more so. For if a man cannot love the feminine aspect of himself, nor can he love a woman. And if he is hiding from that half of himself, he cannot fully see a woman. And if he would abdicate half his power, he is weak to the point of failing.

It is a spiritual thing, of course. Not even a social thing. For me, I’ve always seen my Artist priorities as rising above any imagined “Male” Role priority, and so I’ve long been comfortable with costume and decoration and wearing makeup and masks and just about any way of expressing whatever it is I feel needs to be celebrated or given shape in a moment. (More comfortable than in many typical settings!) And of course I’ve had to become comfortable (or be ostracized at times) for remaining expressive, intuitive, emotional, flamboyant/theatrical and given to many behaviors that violate the Male Code. And yet of course, there is still the work of untangling some of the corrosive and binding threads that our patriarchal/misogynistic culture has sewn into my form.

I love that the same (Zapotec) Indians who gave the world Emiliano Zapata gives us the Muxes! How perfect.

I like this too:

DUAL-GENDERED GODS

Native people in the Americas with ambiguous gender were often regarded as wise and talented, said Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

“They were seen as have having a kind of spiritual power that comes from being more like the ancestors who are mothers and fathers at once, and more like the divinities who may be dual gendered,” Joyce said.

Anthropologists have found evidence of mixed gender identities across Mesoamerica, from Mayan corn and moon gods that are both male and female and Aztec priests who ritually cross dressed.

The Spanish conquest in the 16th century and the Catholic Church snuffed out much of that tolerance.

——Mexican transvestite fiesta rocks indigenous town

Because Colonization (and Patriarchy, too) are about control. And thus, Prop H8. And thus stiff collars and the Western Modes of acceptable and authoritative dress. And thus stark unforgivable lines. And thus dichotomized stances and laws that no person lives under comfortably and organically, unless they crave unnatural and aggravating wires strapping them down to the earth, making up for all the strength they have abdicated and would have used to guide and know themselves otherwise….

¡La Vida es un Carnaval!

November 22nd, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

Beautiful Life, Beautiful World

November 21st, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

IT IS A TRADITION not always followed, the YouTube Viernes. Sometimes I take part because I think the collective feeling on Fridays is to want to let go, relax, get loose. Not get deeply thinky angsty feely. A “palate cleanser” as used to be said in the earlier days of the Intertube (1.5 years ago or so? Aeons!!) Sometimes I don’t get to it and then, sometimes I will do a double-feature YouTube in a mestizolicious manner of recognizing the duality that is (at least in my experience) intrinsic to human existence and perception.

Okay, the length of that chunk of text (ironically) negates the YouTube lightness that I was talking about, but hey. Walk with me.

This primero bideo is of the Ace of Base song It’s a Beautiful Life. I admit, I’ve had this on my playlist (on and off) since it came out. It’s so sappy and happy and poppy that it can serve as a momentary dose of tonic that when too many clouds congregate. (Yet, I don’t think I ever realized how unreal the song was until I watched this video, and I’ve actually never watched it until now. I laughed almost the entire way through. It was in disbelief. It’s very weird. It begins con una rubia with the strangest morning breath you’ll find and just gets stranger.)

And this is a song by an early favorite band, DEVO. I had one of their albums as early as ten or eleven and still love some of their work. They are like abstract painters reborn as musical geeks. I love it. They appeal to the clown in me, the trickster, the jinxster, the robot dancer! But I’ve caught up with certain videos and been disappointed, after years of loving the music. (Such as Whip It, where there are a couple really ugly misogynist and racist moments.) I like this one a lot better. Really love the impressionist feeling of it (as opposed to “80s Flavored Hallucination” style that Ace of Base used). It compliments the bitter-flip sarcasm and disjointed feel of the song’s message well. And the moment or two that employ poor societal views seem to do it (or feel it) in context of the song’s disenchantment with society’s holding those views.

If a tune can be said to be sad, angry, and happy all at once, it would be Devo’s It’s a Beautiful World.

It’s an odd coupling of odd pieces, maybe. But these two songs paired—as different in tone, message, and method as they are—might be said to offer a more complete picture of the life each one attempts to describe.

Happy Viernes, Beautiful Gente! Or not!

A Heart Unites. A Fear Divides.

November 20th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

THE OTHERING and fear and blame that is responsible for the pain and violence and murder leveled on Latinos and Mexicanos and Asians and Muslims and African Americans and Gays and Women and Transgendered people by those who do not understand and who do not wish to understand themselves or others is the same in a few very important ways.

It is senseless. It is hateful. It is unnecessary. It is wrong.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

Note: This page was taken from http://www.rememberingourdead.org/day/what.html

El Buen Canario & the Bloody Cage

November 20th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

I JUST WROTE RECENTLY that 2009 was going to be our year, as far as making progress on immigration—education, reform, and of course I dare to hope impact on actual lives and not just the spirits of a blogwriter. Well, the latest sign is one of my favorite actors plugging into the scene and not only recognizing good art, but seeing the truth in it and consequently helping to bring the reality of our broken economic/immigration systems to la gente:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — John Malkovich is so touched by the plight of migrant children who cross illegally into the United States that he plans to make a documentary about it.

The actor and director says the documentary, which will be titled “Triple Crossing,” will seek to humanize the issue of illegal migration.
Malkovich said Wednesday the film will be produced by Canana Films, a production company owned by Mexican actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Malkovich, of “Burn After Reading,” is in Mexico directing the play “The Good Canary.”

John Malkovich to film documentary about migrants

Some haters cannot be reached. But I do think that is the aging fringe. Most people actually aren’t set against kindness and justice. Unfortunately, many can’t see the truth of the situation to even fairly rule on it. Too many here in the USA cannot help but be poisoned by our toxic MSM and its festering monologue. It is a media that cares not for humans most of the time, but instead, for profits and fitting in with the power flow. Like flunkies trailing a bully, the newspundits and anchorfaces ride in the wake of popular corporate opinion and directive. They love to speak of triple concrete fences and beefing up the prison apparatus. They do not like to speak so much about numbers like over 40,000 children. They prefer phrases like “Land of Liberty” and “Freedom on the March.” etc.

More than 40,000 Mexican minors are detained every year by immigration officials while trying to cross the border into the United States. Many of the unsuccessful children are taken to shelters such as the Casa YMCA de Menores Migrantes in Tijuana, where Matilde has worked for years.

“We feed them and offer them a place to sleep, but we also help them to recover their emotional stability and track their relatives,” says Matilde.

On average, 3,000 minors between 11 and 17 years old arrive at Casa YMCA every year. They can stay in the shelter for a maximum of 8 days or until their families are located.

Other teenagers are not so fortunate. In 2003, 11 children died while crossing the border. So far, in 2004, there are already 17 dead minors, according to the Casa YMCA’s coordinator, Uriel Gonzalez.

The most dangerous way to cross to the U.S. is through the desert. A lot of immigrants have died of dehydration or animal attacks. Other risks are assaults, robberies, and sexual assaults.

That’s why many families pay a coyote to cross their children. However, since the 1990s the price to cross with the help of a coyote has skyrocketed because of increased immigration enforcement at the San Diego border.

Immigrant Children Face Trials and Heartbreak to Cross the Border

Please tell me what laser drones and more aggressive men with guns are going to do for hungry children? 40,000 of them? And that’s in 2004! Because we know that in the first seven months of this year, ICE has deported 90,000 children. And many of them are just dumped.

A new study finds that unaccompanied children are being abandoned on the Mexican side of the border at an alarming pace.

In the last seven months, U.S. authorities have deported at least 90,000 children to Mexico, according to a study by the Mexican Government’s Commission on Population, Border and Immigration Affairs.

At least 13,500 of these children ages 17 and under were deported to Mexican border states but never reconnected with their parents or legal guardians. Many of these children have resorted to begging with the hopes of crossing into the United States again to be reunited with family members, according to the study. Other abandoned children are being cared for by churches and non-governmental organizations.

Many of these children were caught while being smuggled into the United States. U.S. authorities typically funnel the children through an “expedited” deportation process — sending them back to Mexico in a matter of hours.

The study cites another disturbing statistic: for every three adults deported to Mexico, one child is left abandoned in the United States.—Deported Children Abandoned in Mexico

arte by XOLAGRAFIKIf not abandoned or dumped over the border, we shunt them into our growing private prison system and make about ten to fifteen THOUSAND dollars off of each kid. A month.

Humanity? Freedom? Liberty? National Pride? Change? Hope? Honestly? Fuck off with the pipe dream propagandic phraseology until we see some justice.

More like this, Diego. More like this, Irene. More like this, Señor Malkovich. More heart into the matter. More truth to the people. More info to the People. More power to the people. It’s not enough all by itself, but every hand helps, every heart helps, every big boca helps.

We’re getting there. I’m sure it’s not fast enough for those families living in detention centers or broken up and criminalized or for los niños perdidos wandering far from their familias. Nor for me. But we’re getting there.

Chicana Art and Experience: Mujeres con Garbo!

November 19th, 2008 § 5 comments § permalink

AS HISTORY IN THE USA pointedly picks favorites and leaves some of us out of the books and movies and stories and truths (unless we are positioned as lessors, or alternately kick up hella ruckus), it is very important for raza to continue to tell our own stories through art, poetry, song, and performance. This is one of the reasons that arte is so integral to nuestra cultura. My own familia has been a part of this, and I do my best to carry it on today.

The art exhibit Chicana Art and Experience: Mujeres con Garbo that opens today in DC is a good example of what I mean. As a side note, I can personally speak for one of las mujeres whose art is being featured in this show, and she definitely is una mujer con garbo!

So if you’re in DC, stop in and check out the show, give up some support for la comunidad and the artists, and if you see Molina, tell her Nez said hola.

If you’re in Washington, D.C., in the next four months, make sure to stop by the AFL-CIO to view a dynamic and rich art exhibit by Chicana artists. The exhibition includes more than 30 prints, paintings, posters and photographs by women who reflect on the experiences and struggles of Mexican Americans.

In the late 1960s, inspired by the civil rights and labor movements, Mexican Americans coined the name Chicano/Chicana to describe an individual’s self-identification with a rich, complex fusion ancestry and culture. The name expresses pride in the culture of the indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo people of Mexico and denotes support for struggles against discrimination, brutality and poverty.

The Chicano/Chicana movement spawned a dynamic and creative arts community that includes many of the most prominent artists in the nation. Some of their work will be on display at the AFL-CIO in Chicana Art and Experience: Mujeres con Garbo (Women with Attitude).

This exhibit focuses on the struggles of working Chicanas—organizing, immigration, women’s rights, health care, workplace safety, housing, community and cultural identity. The title of the show comes from Juana Alicia’s poster, “Mujeres con Garbo/Women with Attitude,” shown above. Click here to see more of the exhibit.

The artists represented include Barbara Carrasco, Ester Hernández, Cecilia Concepción Alvarez, Laura Álvarez, Favianna Rodriguez, Yreina Cervántez, Juana Alicia, Irene Simmons, Delilah Montoya, Laura Molina, Tina Hernández, Yolanda López, Carmen Lomas Garza and Kathy Vargas.

The exhibit will run from Nov. 19, 2008, to May 31, 2009. The exhibit was organized by artist, independent curator, writer and educator Rex Weil.

Chicana Art Exhibit Opens Today at AFL-CIO

Pro-Migrant Voices Grow Stronger

November 18th, 2008 § 6 comments § permalink

HOW ARE YOU FEELING about 2009? I feel good. In terms of making progress on Immigration Policy and fighting back against the wave of ignorant, racist, dumbass sentiment being spewed by too many on the right (like ALIPAC.us, Rush Bimbo, Lou “I’ve lost my frickin bearings and sense of proportion” Dobbs, Tancredo, Buchanan, Stormfront, Malkin, etc etc etc) I think it’s going to be our year. I think as we take this feeling of being a more diverse nation where immigrants and dark-skinned or darker-skinned people are seen more and more as “us” and less and less as “alien/other/invader” we will enlist more voices and more strength. I think Obama being elected is not the precursor or instigator of this change, I feel his election is simply a sign among many (though no small one!) that not only are our demographics being more realistically represented on many levels, but our heart and minds and awareness are finally demonstrating the reasonability and empathy that a modern day human ought to have.

Here is another sign:

IPC Launches New Immigration Policy Blog

ImmigrationImpact.com aims to re-shape the immigration debate

November 17, 2008

Washington, DC–The current climate of undeterred online, immigrant-bashing is about to be faced with a force to contend with. The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) is pleased to announce the launching of its new blog, Immigration Impact (www.ImmigrationImpact.com). Immigration Impact was developed to help reshape the immigration debate in a way that will bring us closer to comprehensive immigration reform. The blog will provide thoughtful and rapid-response commentaries and insights on the latest news and events so that you can be up-to-date with what’s going on with the immigration debate.

“The misleading messages coming from an increasingly large number of anti-immigrant blogs demand an honest and informative response from their counterparts in the blogosphere,” says IPC director and Immigration Impact contributor, Angela Kelley. “We’re joining the blogosphere to tell the other side of the story and counter these attacks with arguments based in fact, research, and in-depth analysis.”

Writers currently include Dr. Michele Waslin and Dr. Walter Ewing-two leading researchers and policy analysts in the immigration field. Notable and longstanding immigration advocates Benjamin Johnson and Angela Kelley will also serve as regular contributors. The Immigration Policy Center welcomes guest-contributions from reputable writers, bloggers, and advocates in the field.

# # #

For more information contact Andrea Nill, 202-507-7520 or email anill@ailf.org

Now of course it’s fantastic that IPC “aims to re-shape the immigration debate” and we all benefit from each person or site that aims to do this in a positive fashion, as IPC can’t do it all by themselves. As so many of us have been “aiming” to do this and working daily to accomplish this for years now (and have certainly had a measurable effect as it is) I want to point to this part: The Immigration Policy Center welcomes guest-contributions from reputable writers, bloggers, and advocates in the field. So, if you have a passion for this and feel a need to lean your shoulder into the wheel, this might be a good way. If you’ve been doing this type of activism for a while, maybe check it out and see if they can boost your volume or reach.

A New Breed of Colorblindness

November 17th, 2008 § 22 comments § permalink

IF GEORGE W BUSH hadn’t destroyed the notion with his lurid and violent brand of hypocrisy, Obama might be running on being a “Uniter and not a Divider.” Sometimes I call George W. Bush the Great Divider. He did nothing so well as entrench the divisions between poor and rich, elite and peasantry, Red and Blue, Us and Them. He is ALL about division. He just wants to think he’s a nice guy so…wait. We’re done ranting about Bush, I forgot. We’re happy happy in a Post-Racial World (wait, do I hear a Material Girl spoof in my head?)

But let me get on with it. Obama really is a uniter. He really does erase lines of separation. He does not live by those hard lines, or at least does not espouse them, nor behave as if he is guided by them. This “grayness” in both his ethnic makeup as well as his ideology is disturbing to many. We like our divisions, our containments, our separations. They are comforting. They let us know who is in the “Us” and who is of the “Them.” Of course taken too far these divisions and delineations lead us to…war.

I get the grayness. I am there. I’ve long been there. I feel I understand a bit of this. Perhaps it is because we both have lived between worlds. We are both “mutts” as Obama said, in a way. (Or maybe it’s not that entirely, but I bet it has a little to do with it.) And in this new Era Obama, everyone wants to get in on the mutt train. We all wanna be Post Racial. We wanna be like him, He Who Seeth No Race. We shiver away from the Dire and Dim Bush Days and hope to enter a sunny land of unpartisan-skin and we got us our Black Prez statuette on the dashboard to guide the way. But I don’t like how some of this discussion is muttying lines.

The press conference is already being called the “mutts like me” press conference. Some are praising his comfort in talking about race.

So yes, he was trying to be light-hearted about the dogs and inserted that little self-deprecating comment about his race to heighten the effect. After his prepared remarks, he appeared a bit on edge, perhaps a little nervous, during the question and answer session with reporters. He seemed to be laboring to hit the right tone – serious but not somber, concerned but confident – and his gaffe about Nancy Reagan seemed to be a product of jitters, more than anything else. But the inquiry about the dog and his daughters was an opening for him to shake it out, if you will.

And so he threw it out there, it was nothing, just three little words. Right?

I’ve heard mixed-race people use that term to describe themselves before, usually in the same ha-ha way Obama did. I’ve also heard it thrown around as an insult, a pejorative, a slur. I’ve felt the slap of that word across my face and it is not a word I can “reclaim.” My fear, however, is that Obama, as the first mixed-race president, will shape the way most Americans view people of mixed race for at least a generation. And will Obama calling himself a “mutt” – with humor, as if the word is nothing, nothing at all – make it socially acceptable for people to start calling me a mutt? My kids?

Because not only does the word have a history as a slur, but there are reasons that that word makes such an easy slur. It allows people to rhetorically reduce us to animals – people “bred” like dogs are bred. For all our “mutts are better!” talk (it is, as Obama knows, better to adopt a dog from a shelter, right? Rejected, but nonetheless in need of love), it still comes from a place where “purebreds” are better. It stinks of eugenics and generally just makes me queezy.

Mutts, like me, we may not be as desirable as purebreds but we can be lovable despite our unfortunate mix.

Mutt Like Me, Kimchi Mamas

And then you dig into the comment threads on a page where the Kimchi Mamas (Burn Your Tongue!) blog was picked up, such as Political Intelligence (boston.com) and you begin to see how our bright shiny Post-Racial Nation is being embraced by some:

135. Oh, get over it. We are way to wrapped up in race in America.

I chuckled when Obama said that, that’s what I call my self, so what I am too.

The Black, White,Asian, Latino thing is getting soooo tiring, let’s start acting like the brothers and sisters that we really are. The constant racial harang is only a mechanism to divide and destroy.

Posted by Evelyn B November 10, 08 02:32 PM

So tiring, the “Black, White, Asian, Latino” thing.

I’m not sure what to do when I come across comments like this. I point it out because it is indicative of a growing trend, not because I have found the only comment that takes this stance.

It is far too tempting for many in this nation to want to get past all that “Tiring” stuff. I don’t blame you. I can’t tell you how tired I am of peering into mirrors or hoping I never hear a racist comment again, or crying over beaten or killed immigrants, or children in rooms without sun, or of fearing conversations that pop up because I don’t know how I’ll react when mi gente or mi familia or myself are insulted, or worse.

But how do I react? Do I point them to Kai’s landmark post on the idea of Political Correctness?

Or do I post something like this:

In case you cannot see or don’t have time, that’s a video on the killing of Marcelo Lucero, a man who has been living in the USA and working in the USA for 16 years. He is a migrant from Ecuador. He was working to support his family down south. He was not “way too wrapped up in race.” He was working and living a life. On one of those nights, he went out to catch a movie at a friend’s house but never made it past the driveway. He was killed by seven young men who were out with the express purpose of looking for “some Mexicans to fuck up.” Marcelo was not Mexican, but they fucked him up all right. They stabbed him in the heart. I can’t even type this out without crying again. (Don’t get me wrong. I’ll cry with one hand tight around a baseball bat, so if you want to come looking for Mexicans to Fuck Up in my part of town, keep it in mind.)

Others are rejoicing after hearing Obama’s “Mutt” reference, too. One man is “Hecky Powell,” who used to serve on the District 65 School Board in Evanston, Illinois. During a “discussion of how District 65 School Board statistically reports multiracial students” Powell used the term “Mutt.”

Critics took off on his mention of the remark […] as insensitive of the feelings of African-Americans and multiracial children.

Powell eventually issued an apology. He drew more criticism later, however, when in answer to his critics, he added a “Mutt Special” to the menu at his restaurant, Hecky’s Barbecue. […]

Ever since Barack Obama’s first press conference as president-elect, Evanston restaurateur Hecky Powell said calls have been pouring in. “It just feels like Obama gave me a pardon,” a not unhappy Powell said Tuesday. […]

Guess what? He’s renaming the dish after perhaps the most successful self-described mutt in history, calling it the “Obama Mutt.”

Obama’s ‘Mutt’ Remark A Pardon For Evanston Man

The title of that post is so telling. The idea that people who have been called out for using speech that hurts members of society not in the dominant demographic now are “pardoned” from any transgression against any person or persons by one joke from one man who happens to be President is lunacy. But it is a lunacy that will sell to the Colorblind crowd. Worse than simply being happy with his past boundary-steppin’ being pardoned, it seems Mr. Powell (and we know he is not alone) feels empowered to move forward with gusto and conviction.

But you’ll notice one thing. Mister Obama called himself a Mutt. He did not call another person a name. And yet Hecky Powell did. Children! Even disregarding the intelligent thoughts that Mama Kimchis put out there, there is a huge difference between calling yourself a name, and calling another person a name. (Ask Kramer about this one.)

To commenters like Evelyn B, whom I quoted above, who are so “tired” of the “Black, White, Asian, Latino” thing, I would ask, is it cool if a man calls you a “bitch”? Seriously. Plenty of women have reclaimed the term “Bitch” and there is even a “Bitch” magazine. Does not the success of that magazine pardon me? Anyway, it seems dog references are okay now. Right?

No—I’ll answer for you because I have access to writing this post and you do not. It is not okay. Even if the word “bitch” is in songs and on magazine covers and even if women call themselves it. It is still not okay for men to call you a Bitch. Even if many men are “tired” of that whole “feminist” thing. Because no, we cannot “start acting like the brothers and sisters that we really are” by ignoring our brothers and sisters’ voices when they say “that hurts me.” One magazine cover cannot give men permission to use a word on any woman they meet (who had no part in making that magazine), women who may have been hurt badly or seen others hurt in connection with the same hatred that birthed that slur and who may feel that word is simply another bone in the same violent beast that spits the word “Bitch.”

And one last thing. White folks: You don’t get to step over this whole sticky issue of race and power and oppression in this nation by claiming you, too, are a mutt. Not when your muttiness is composed of Russian, Scottish, German, and Irish. Not today, not now, not here. Because the lines have been drawn, and the power flows in certain directions and we benefit or suffer according to that power flow. And Obama is the type of multiracial person who is seen as brown or black. Period. Those who are of European mix do not get to step next to Obama and claim the same path. You don’t even get to claim my path, and mine is not his, either.

I was reading Womanist Musings yesterday, and a post called Why We Need To Talk About Whiteness and Privilege. In that post, she ends on the thought of those of us who are “bi-racial.” In that post, Renee recenters some of the discussion away from the White Lens and frames it in a way she feels is more useful. One that doesnt focus on the “Raced” parties (the Brown™ as I call us non-whites and non-white blends) but on Whiteness. And of course Whiteness does not like to see itself. Whiteness is the Universal Standard in this nation. Whiteness gets uncomfortable seeing itself, and would rather center itself and see all others from that viewpoint. Whiteness doesn’t mind talking about the poor folks in the ghetto or working in the fields, if it comes to that. But Whiteness does not want to talk about how it benefits from these situations. PortlyDyke, a commenter on Renee’s post, muses that she will soon begin conversations with white people “So, how often do you realize you are white?” as a way of pointing toward an empathy of what non-whites live.

Those white people/Euro people who want to hop on the Post-Racial Mutt-tastic bandwagon might consider this question. How often does your “muttness,” then, confuse you? How many hours do you spend a year looking at reflections and trying to see the separate “halves” of yourself? How often does your “Muttness” make you feel shame? Make you fear for your life? How often does the USA introduce the idea through so much media that you are gross and unworthy? Show images of your people that paint them as oversexed filthy criminals? Lock your people up in vastly disproportionate amounts, in detention centers? Hunt for you? How much does all this eat at you every day?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We may howl at the same moon, and that is a beautiful thing. But we still running in different packs. And most of all, I aint ya pet.

Finally, Mister Obama? I know you have to be careful up there. I know this groundbreaking move you are doing requires you to be one hella skillful navigator of deadly currents all about you. Right Wing/Religious weirdos are now mainstreaming burning crosses and lots of people are pretty sore over losing the land their forefathers stole for them. I know part of us moving forward is, indeed, breaking down the idea of Otherness and I’m sure the Mutt joke came from that urge. Why not hand so many people at once an opportunity to feel joined in a struggle? Why not soften those lines of separation? It fits in with all you do, and seem to believe in. I can understand this.

Cuidado. In your attempts to soften and blur those lines, you can easily erase people and their struggles. I know you stand for change. But some change has to be earned. If not, it is not only not believable, but actually harmful.

IF WE WANT TO UNITE, it cannot be by overlooking differences that stab at people and stick in their throats and veins and bellies. This unity must come about by connecting ourselves through struggle; by working together to fight the iniquities that pit brown against black against gay against indigenous against secular against Trans against Asian against Disabled (and so on) and all so that one or two types of persons can ascend unfettered, to the top of the heap (of riches and power and bodies and lives and lost chances). We must band together and abdicate those hateful systems already in place (and there are more than I can link), and we must fight against those who would work to keep them in place.

Anything else is just a joke.

A Great Rejoicing Across the Land [AAP#8]

November 16th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

WE WRAP UP our week of the African American Perspective at UMX feature with depth and soul and power and I thank Alexis for capping things off so. I want to thank all the writers who were generous enough to help me make this feature work and share their thoughts, feelings and experience with the UMX audience. I have found all the various viewpoints extremely helpful even in arranging my own thoughts. I also owe big thanks to Sylvia, my admin. asst. at XOLAGRAFIK for coordinating much of the effort. Tomorrow we return to your normal Nezrantium terrarium. Hasta entonces!

—Nezua
art by XOLAGRAFIK

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is the founder of BrokenBeautiful Press. She is also a PhD candidate in English, Africana Studies and Women’s Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

A Great Rejoicing Across the Land.

The night before election day this November, Durham’s Youth Noise Network (YNN) presented a poetic audio presentation of June Jordan’s insightful and prophetic essay “On the Night of November 3rd 1992.” Jordan wrote that piece about end of the Bush era, about an exuberant election party celebrating the victory of a candidate who had campaigned on hope and change, about the giddy belief that a diverse groups of people we able to have for a moment in the United States of America. Jordan was writing at the end of the first Bush era, celebrating the election of Bill Clinton, and Jordan’s belief was never in Bill Clinton himself, but in the potential power of a majority that voiced it’s rejection of the status quo and it’s belief in change that day.

The night before election day this November, Durham’s Youth Noise Network, most of whom were born around 1992, most of whom cannot vote, read that essay like it was scripture or news, and said we do not trust or expect politicians to create the world we want and need. We do not believe that one person will make a world worthy for us to live in. We know that we are the people, nonvoters though we may be. And we know that it takes all the people doing more than voting to create a change worth living for.

And at home, having just left YNN I had a semblance of the moment I saw so many have the next night when the election results were announced. The night before, I stood up screaming, I clapped, I danced around the room, I was near tears. I said YES! over and over again. I was hearing a change I could believe in. The youth in my city were claiming their futures and our world. I am tearing up again even as I write this. I live in a city (and if you ask you will find that each of us do) where the young people know what power is and what it isn’t. And they know that you don’t trust a politician, you can only trust your own movement. I stood on a chair and sent frantic celebratory text messages. A great rejoicing.

The month before November (aka October) I was on the Grassroots Media Justice Tour
sponsored by Left Turn Magazine, Free Speech Radio News, Make/Shift Magazine, Spread Magazine and Bitch Magazine that went across the SouthEast in a beautifully bootleg and breakneck manner. Once we were even in the same city (Asheville) as the president-elect on the same day. (And astonishingly people still came to our workshops.) In most of the cities I led a workshop called “Pressed for Knowledge” in which a group of stranger came together to create radical publications in 2 hours. Watching groups in different southern cities agree and disagree on matters of messaging, content, audiences and division of labor, watching people create community by creating art stregnthened my deep belief in direct democratic practice.

And every night as I facilitated a poetic exercise called “Dig” which asked everyone to fill in the blank “If you dig here you will find __________.” I found myself making church in my own mouth, filling myself with mmhmms, and yeses at the startling depth of every statement, at each communities newly articulated recognition of it’s roots and cracks, at the hope in the faces of the people in the next cities as they listened to our growing sound collage. I found myself believing in places, Valdosta, Georgia…Pensacola, Florida that I had never considered important parts of my world. A great rejoicing. Across the land.

So, after a very important month, and a very important night there came that other moment, that I had not been waiting my whole life. Call me impatient. Say I jumped the gun, but like most of the people I know, love and respect, I have not been content to wait my whole life to find traces of home, identification and affirmation in the place that I live. I have been digging for those things all along, in the days spent writing, reading and listening with young people, and elders, in the hundreds of poetic exercises I’ve imposed on unexpecting and brilliant audiences, by putting my hands in the dirt of our community garden, by searching the archives for hidden histories that affirm a radical existence here in this place.

The election of a particular American President cannot, must not be the determining factor of my joy, or of my ability to be inspired in this place that I live.

In her essay, “On the Night of November 3rd 1992,” June Jordan says that upon the of Bill Clinton, at her election party, full of a multicultural group of friends and loved ones, she felt more at home than she had ever felt. And I understand why so many people, especially black people, keep saying that they feel proud of their country for the first time in lifetimes, and why we identify with the ascent of this particular family. I get it. My dad is a well-spoken charismatic light skinned guy who is very convincing when he speaks (even and especially in front of white people), my sister and I used to wear our hair like those beautiful little girls. I understand why looking at that family on stage, and imagining them in the white house makes some of us imagine that we might finally be at home.

But I have to resist that feeling. This is not the Cosby show. I cannot imagine that I am home when my chosen family is still under attack from the INS, when the president-elect can come out of his mouth and support an apartheid Israeli state, when all of the Republican AND Democratic candidates in my state ran on anti-immigrant platforms.

If I accept this election as the foundation of my home, I am sacrificing the home I actually want, the home I am collecting and saving out of the faces of every poetic collaborator, every workshop participant, every morning, afternoon and evening with the youth visionaries of Durham. If I pretend that home is something that the state can give me in the form of a good-looking “first family”, without stopping any of its economic, invasive, nativist violence, then I deny us all the home in the making that I believe in today and every day. And the day before and the month before, and always as long as you live here with me.

love,
alexis

*note: the title comes from June Jordan’s “On the Night of November 3rd 1992″ in her collection of essays Affirmative Acts.

The Cross Road. [AAP#7]

November 15th, 2008 § 4 comments § permalink

FOR TU SABADO, in the African American Perspective at UMX feature we have a post by a blogmigo known as The Thin Black Duke, or more commonly “Kevin.” Today’s fine sampling includes a musical touch and doesn’t shy away from history either. Very tasty, so dig in without hesitation.

(For those just tuning in, this special feature at UMX runs through to Sunday the 16th of November—mañana.)

—Nezua


art by XOLAGRAFIK

Kevin is a former graduate student in English literature and language and an Americanist specializing in poetry and poetics. He also spends a lot of time studying trickster narratives, linguistics, and rhetoric. Kevin is a life-long, hardcore music devotee and a tech hobiest as well. If you can imagine a dude sitting around reading Hart Crane or Emily Dickinson while listening to My Bloody Valentine or A Tribe Called Quest and compiling a Linux program from the source code on his home built-computer all at once, you’ve got him figured out.

The Cross Road.

Blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson famously sang of “The Cross Road Blues” a song which is often interpreted as being his telling of meeting the Devil and selling his soul in order to play the blues as well as he did. A less known interpretation of the song, however, is that of Johnson singing about the dangers of being Black in the Deep South.

Historian Leon Litwack has suggested that the song refers to the common fear felt by blacks who were discovered out alone after dark. As late as 1930s in parts of the South, the well-known expression, “Nigger, don’t let the sun go down on you here,” was, according to Litwack, “understood and vigorously enforced.” In an era when lynchings were still common, Johnson was likely singing about the desperation of finding his way home from an unfamiliar place as quickly as possible because, as the song says, “the sun goin’ down, boy/ dark gon’ catch me here.” This interpretation also makes sense of the closing line “You can run/ tell my friend poor Willie Brown/ that I’m standing at the crossroads” as Johnson’s appeal for help from a real-life fellow musician.”[2]. Furthermore, it is said that Johnson requested that Willie Brown be informed in the event of his death.

The Cross Road has been on my mind lately.

Not because I feel that our President-Elect, Barack Obama, is at the cross road in the sense of selling his soul to become President, or that he is “out alone after dark” in his new role as leader of the United States. Both possibilities are there, to be sure, but that is not what concerns me now.

I am, however, thinking of Robert Johnson, Papa Legba, and Eshu Elegua, and the Yoruban and other myths that spurned these figures that linger at The Cross Road, figures of transformation and freedom, and why they might be necessary for understanding where we are right now in our national consciousness.

We are, my friends, at The Cross Road.

It is, perhaps, not Barack Obama that signifies Papa Legba or Elegua. Perhaps it is us. We are the ones that are opening the doors to our future. We are the elocution, the voices that shall ring loudly and proudly as we determine what the future will be. As the song goes, it is “we” that shall one day overcome.

I know, you’ve heard it before: “we are the change…blah, blah, blah…” It’s almost corny and played-out to say it anymore. Truth be told, I could never hear the word “change” again and be quite happy with that. But there’s something in the air, nonetheless. There’s something about seeing Obama “brush his shoulder” off and laughing at the folks that think Jay-Z is the originator of that gesture. For me, the gesture is not relevant because a pop culture icon appropriated it in a song. It is relevant because it points back to our stories, our songs, our ancestors. Like any good transformational figure, Obama is moving both forward and backwards at the same time; and like any good transformational figure, he is bringing us along for the ride, even if we don’t fully recognize it. Obama’s ascent makes perfect sense to me in the framework of black, African, folklore and the stories that have carried us this far along.

What struck me on election night the most happened as I was heading home from work. I heard noise. A lot of noise coming from the college nearby. At first, I couldn’t tell what people were yelling, but it quickly became apparent that the noise I heard was chants of “Obama! USA!” This was my first clue that Obama did, in fact, have it in the bag. You see, this isn’t New York City, or Chicago, where it was expected that people would take to the streets and celebrate (or riot). This is small town, private college, upstate New York. To hear these young voices, the voices of kids who, quite frankly, would be just fine regardless of who was elected President or what happens to the economy, so exuberantly yelling Obama’s name in the streets…well, it was jarring. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. These were the same kids that often display their privilege and entitlement to me daily at my work. These were the same kids that see nothing wrong with throwing a “pimps and hoes” party and inviting me, and then wondering why I’m offended. And then it hit me.

Yes, we are at The Cross Road, and The Cross Road can be a dangerous and scary place. There are things that must be accounted for, but we don’t have to be afraid to be “out after dark” anymore.

Being at The Cross Road isn’t about heroes or heroines, instead, it is about us. Papa Legba is a symbol showing us our potential–allowing or denying us the right to move to a higher level as we see fit. So it is with the first Black President of the United States. I don’t write this to try and diminish the amazing accomplishment that Barack Obama has achieved. Nor do I wish to suggest that Barack Obama is nothing more than “a symbol.” I, like most of you, am proud and excited beyond belief at Obama’s victory. That the most predominant figures of Black people in the United States are intelligent, responsible, good people rather than some wannabe gangsta with weak rhyme skills is something I’ve longed to see for some time now. President-Elect Obama, however, is simply showing us a new path. It is us that must walk it.

Where am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for November, 2008 at UMX | EL MACHETE.