Saturday, August 9, 2008

Blog Voices

I thought I'd revive my tour around the diversosphere this week because I've run across some pretty interesting stuff lately. Lets jump right in and I'll tell you what I've found.

The first one is more about a process than a particular story. A few months ago, I wrote about the coming together of bloggers to form The Sanctuary. Other than being a one-stop-shop on the issue of immigration reform, these bloggers have organized in some pretty effective ways.

Recently they put together a questionnaire that was sent to all the candidates running for President. Obama responded and McCain did not. They have not yet released Obama's answers, but this kind of organizing has gotten a good bit of media attention. For example, Kety Esquivel, one of The Sanctuary founders, has been on CNN twice to discuss their efforts. Here's video of her second appearance.

This is a wonderful example of what bloggers can do when they are focused and organized!!! Check out kyledeb's recent essay for a summary of what they've been able to accomplish in a few short months and keep an eye on The Sanctuary to watch how it all unfolds.

Recently I've found an interesting site called The Root. There are lots of great writers there, but two articles stood out to me. The first is by Saaret E. Yoseph and is titled Gen Y and the Colorblind Lie.

Knowing every line of a Lil' Wayne song does not mean you know the black experience. The black experience cannot be defined one-dimensionally, especially not in the lyrics of a single track. Neither can the Latino experience, or the Asian experience or the white experience. Yet, somehow my peers and I feel more comfortable skimming the surface rather than sitting down for an honest discussion about race.

Our predecessors are no less at fault for the confusion. Depicting Gen Y as colorblind is essentially placing all the proverbial eggs in our basket. Not fair and definitely not plausible. Our youthful perspective may be wide-eyed and techno-colored, but it has also been affected by the perspectives of past generations.


Yes, white kids listen to hip-hop and black boys rock Polo shirts, but race has not yet reached the point of being a non-issue. The elephant is still very much in the room...So, please—Gen X, Baby Boomers, all you generations before, after and in-between—stop dubbing us as the colorblind generation. We see race. We may reference it more without truly understanding it. We may color outside the lines. But we do see. Our eyes are open, and our vision is clear. It's we who are blurry.

The second is by David Swerdlick and is titled The Audacity of Taupe. This one's a bit of a tongue-in-cheek statement about what it means to have a man whose father is black and mother is white on the cusp of becoming President of the United States.

The other day I pulled up to the Starbucks drive-through window, ordered an iced coffee, and naturally I asked the barista to add half-and-half. When she asked how much I wanted, I couldn't resist telling her to "make it 'Obama,'" and I'm happy to report that she got it just right. With any luck, a craze for venti, half-caff, low-fat Obama coffees will sweep the nation. This could be the breakthrough we've been waiting for. It's a nice, safe way for everybody, regardless of race, creed, color or roast to show their solidarity with Generation M.

You and I might not be around long enough to see it, but we're slowly getting closer to the day when we'll all be the same rich, creamy shade. And we don't know yet if Obama will win, but either way 2009 is destined be our year—the year of the M-word.

As most folks are focused on the 2008 Olympics in China, Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican takes us on a trip down memory lane to the slaughter of student protesters just prior to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico and draws some parallels for us.

Anywhere the people gather to express their voice, their government — be it communist, democratic or otherwise — will be infiltrating and disturbing the cohesion and strength of that voice, ultimately using violence with no hesitancy or remorse. The unsettling juxtaposition of profit, spotlight, and ignored oppressions will always cause this confluence of energy and tumult. This is our modern-day Olympic Games Carnival settling down uneasily into a world where war and class divides are hurting so many.

The Field Negro tells a tale about The Reality of Hopelessness. Seems he's a lawyer and occasionally has conversations like this one with a young man who knows what its like to grow up hungry.

"Well you not hungry anymore right?" "Naw, Mr. Lawyer man, I can eat now. And I got a young jawn (That's Philly speak for any pronoun you want it to be. In this case he was talking about his child) I gotta feed too. I ain't trying to go to child support court." I knew what the answer was going to be but I asked the question anyway: "Do you have a job?" "Naw Mr. Lawyer, not no nine to five jawn, but I do alright." At this point he was laughing with me , but I didn't feel like laughing back. "You know you are probably going to be calling me one day right." "Naw lawyer man, not unless you do federal work." I couldn't resist. "Oh that's the kind of weight you moving around here?" "Naw not yet, but soon. I mean you cool and all lawyer man, but when I go down it will be for some big chumpy (another one of those Philly words) type shit. I will need a lawyer that stays up in federal court."


Amazing, his ambition in life was to get a lawyer who specializes in federal cases, because he plans to move enough drugs to get the federal government on his case. But he was hungry once, and he doesn't ever want to feel that way again. To him, selling drugs and living a life on the street is the only way to keep money in his pocket. Most of us know that it won't last, and he probably does too. But to him, tomorrow doesn't matter. There is no future. And that little "jawn" he just brought into the world, will have to live the vicious cycle all over again.

I'll leave you with the words of Kai at Zuky from an essay titled The White Liberal Conundrum. He wrote this almost a year ago, but I just finally got around to reading it. Kai doesn't pull any punches, so if you're ready for some "straight talk" about racism, I'd suggest you read the whole piece.

Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as either "divisive rhetoric" or "flaming"; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren't necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

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