Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's just hair... or not.

I've been thinking about this since I first read Will Smith's comments about his daughter's hair.  Now that mom Jada Pinkett-Smith's has weighed in, I'll share my thoughts as well.  Here's what I posted on a friend's fb page about it:

I'm almost entirely there. Almost. I encouraged my daughter to cut her hair shorter than it was because it took too much time to care for. She cut about 10 inches off. And she has learned to care for it a little more (long natural black hair can be a lot of work).If she wanted to shave her head, I'd grab the razor for her. Color it pink (blue, green, or black), and I'll drive her to the store and give her the money. But.... if she wanted to color her hair blond (from the dark brown that it is) or permanently straighten it... I'd have a problem. To me that would feel like she were killing (or suppressing) a little bit of the blackness that makes up a part of who she is. Yes, that is my insecurity, but she is a child. I have a responsibility to guide her, not just to let her do whatever she feels like doing.  
Just as she is required to eat vegetables and is prohibited from getting tattoos (at the moment), there are some limits to what I will allow her to do to her hair or body while she is still a child.

I figured no one would care one way or the other about my parenting style, but one woman wrote:

@ Brian- I get really insulted when people imply that straightening hair is suppressing or "killing" blackness. Am I somehow LESS black because I have long straight hair? No. I am not my hair. Also, you can't PERMANENTLY straighten hair.

To which I responded:

@  (commenter's name) - you aren't my daughter. I am not commenting on your hair. You may or may not agree with my reading of our society, but I see that there is enormous pressure on black girls to confirm to white ideals of beauty. My daughter is in an almost entirely white and asian school. She had expressed frustration with her hair when she was little. The one time we flat ironed it, I watched her avoid physical exertion to avoid sweating out her do (she's very athletic, and that almost made me cry). She's also very light, so one of the few things that identifies her as black is her kinky curly nappy happy hair. So what you do with your hair and why is your business. What my daughter does with her hair when she is out of my house, spending her own money and her own time, is her business. But while she lives in my house and spends my money, I am going to teach her that she is perfect, just as she was made. And that includes her big curly kinky nappy mop of difficult frustrating wonderful hair. Hopefully when she is grown, she'll rejoice in it. If not, I'll love her just the same.

I wasn't trying to offend or cast aspersions on anyone else's personal or parenting choices.  That said, I have to parent my kids.  That means making choices, sometimes for them.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Is the NYT Trying to Kill Black Women?

This article in the NYT really pisses me off. I avoided reading any of it for a few days because I knew how it would make me feel, and I was enjoying my brief vacation. I read a few lines, and I was right, it did piss me off. My anger started from the title and progressed from there. A friend thought that the title served its purpose of getting people talking about the issue, and therefore the author (or editor who wrote the title) didn't "get it wrong." Here's my response to that.
Yes, she did get it wrong. We are talking about the article, but we are not talking about solutions to the black health care crisis. We are fighting with people who are making us the problem. That causes stress. Which leads to heart disease (and other health problems). So not only did she get it wrong, she's trying to kill us. How about "why is the corporate media trying to kill black people?" That would generate lots of readers too.

But really, putting a picture of Josephine Baker as the lead pic in an article about black female obesity? Are you f'ing kidding me? That is irresponsible. That is hateful. There are young black girls, perhaps living in the kind of upper middle class black household that subscribes to the NYT and values education enough to make the sacrifice to live in a place like Piedmont (an almost all white suburb of Oakland that has great schools), who will see that picture in the context of the article and hate their perfectly healthy, curvy, athletic bodies.

I know the mom of one such girl. The girl is a star athlete, plays soccer and runs track. She is curvier than her peers (mom ran track and could have been on that relay team I mentioned, and tells me that her daughter has a similar shape). She gets flack for being "big" all of the time. She's not. But that peer pressure affects what she eats and it affects her mood. It causes her to not want to live in her body. You can't be healthy if you don't love yourself. It's hard to love yourself if the media is making sport out of saying that you're fat, you're lazy, you're stupid. And if they are gonna put up a picture of one of the most beautiful women who ever walked the earth as an example of a "fat black woman." they can go straight to hell. Because they are a huge part of the problem that black women face as they struggle to simply be in this society.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Closed Mind

Normally I don't write a takedown piece, where the writer analyzes the arguments of another with the goal of dissecting them. And normally I don't make public the facebook writings of anyone else. But this interaction on my wall was so over the top, that I'll make an exception.

Original Post:
Me: This article is old, but points out that in a civilized society, less crime should mean fewer prisoners. Yet we have much less crime in our country and vastly more prisoners. That is a natural result of privatizing the prison industry.

A couple of friends commented initially, but I'm only including those whose comments are required for this post. All comments are shown in their entirety, misspellings and all.

Smart Friend: Another possible explanation for this is that in the Netherlands, almost nothing is illegal.

Confrontational Friend (CF): Isn't that the point of the prison system? They keep bad people from committing crimes. Death penalties in other countries are more efficient as well. ie. Less crime less prisoners.

Me: That's exactly my point. Who lobbies to make private behavior criminal? Why do these super tough sentencing laws get passed. An unholy alliance between law enforcement (gets more funding if there is more "crime), prison guard unions (more overtime better job security with full prisons) and private companies which profit from prison construction and operation. Throw in the slimy companies which get cheap prison labor and you have a disgusting group which extorts money from tax payers to steal the liberty of citizens.

Up to this point, things were going along as normal. I post links to articles which point out some of the public policy failings in our country, friends of different ideological stripes make comments which reflect either their disagreement with my assertion (e.g how I interpret the article) or disagreement with the ideology.

CF: By private behavior you mean: drinking and driving, selling drugs, doing drugs, stealing, fraud and tax evasion?
Yup those are totally victimless crimes! Set them all free! I've got my poster board and bull horn let's do this! (note the sarcasm)
What is a private behavioral crime?

CF: I have the end all be all answer! Stop commuting crimes!
It's really not that hard. When some has the urge to rap and Pillage. They should step back and say "hey I might just go to jail for this!" then not do it.
If you blame the justice system for how many prisoners are in the system, then I am going to blame my pencil for all my misspelled words!

Normally I don't mind the back and forth. I enjoy it actually. But I do not like to have my words intentionally mischaracterized. CF is not one who is classically trained in debate, philosophy or rhetoric, so I give him some leeway when he makes commits logical fallacies. But the stealing fraud and tax evasion comment was nonsensical even by the low standards that I usually hold him to, and I was uncharacteristically annoyed by that. So I was perhaps a little nasty in my response.

Me: CF - don't be an idiot. Seriously, it's beneath you. Stealing, fraud, tax evasion are not victimless. Recklessly endangering others (drinking and driving) is a huge public safety risk. I will do zero research and bet money that those are all illegal in the Netherlands.
Doing and sellin drugs are victimless. Which is why Phillip Morris and Anheiser Busch are billion dollar companies. The harm from consuming and selling drugs which are illegal is created by the illegality, not the substance.

CF: When did Phillip morris come out with crack and extasy? I did see it on the shelf last time I was at Safeway.
You tell a mother who's child OD'd or got shot by a stray bullet from a gang fight over drug turf.
Pull your head out of you fucking collective ass's and put the Blane on those that break the law.
You mean to tell me you would have your kids ride in a car with their friends parent if you know they were high? What if they wrecked and killed your kids as well as another family. Would smoking weed be a victimless crime?!?!?! Would it?
You just made my blood boil with such an arrogant comment.

Don't you love the straw man he sets up in his arguments? A child OD's on something (crack or ecstasy?) should mean that crack or ecstasy should be illegal? But thousands of young people die every year from alcohol. Tens of thousands of you count people of all ages. A kid gets shot by people in a gang fighting over turf and the fault is the drug? Not the fact that the drug is illegal? When was the last time you saw alcohol dealers shooting at each other in the streets? Oh yeah, when (and where) it was last illegal to sell alcohol. Of course nothing I have said in this argument or any argument ever has indicated that I advocate to allow people to drive while impaired. Although, I have pointed out that impairment from cannabis has not been shown to make people more dangerous drivers (unless they are also impaired with alcohol) and even then I do not advocate that they be allowed to drive while high.

CF: I'm done with this. I don't want to say something I will regret. Good day sir!

He should have regretted making himself look stupid with his nonsensical arguments.

Me: I have some work to do, I'll get back to this in a minute. I'll address you points more gently then.

Yeah, that was a little snarky. I said "don't be an idiot, it's beneath you," by which I meant, I respect your intelligence, please use it. And in that last comment I was implying that he was being a petulant little child with his temper tantrum.

CF: No need to be gentle.
I just feel you should stop pointing fingers at everyone else.
It's funny how you try and use the points of they imprison people for cheap labor, job security and higher pay. Sounds like you want to be a prison guard for minimum wage!
Also that coming from a person saying that the average person can't support a family on $60-70k a year. Yet bitch about jailers making too much to deal with dangerous dirtbags!
It is beyond me the logic you use whilst backing all these conspiracy theories. You are an enabler nothing more. I really have nothing else to say to you. I really used to respect you. But you are constantly spewing this shit all over. And the sad thing is that the sheep with no ideals of their own will blindly follow you and others that think like you. You think you are fighting for a greater cause cause but all I hear is white devil this white devil that. The man is keeping us down! You go hold the hands of these so called wrongly imprisoned people you are bleeding your heart out over and tell them they did nothing wrong. While I tell my niece and nephew that for rich or poor being and good person and respecting the law and those that uphold it will keep you out of trouble and jail.
No need to respond I won't read it.

This is too incoherent to even make any sense of. I say that the prison guards union lobbies for tougher sentences and he takes that to mean to mean I think that they should guard for minimum wage? This from a guy who routinely argues against all manner of public employee unions and their "lavish" pay packages. No dummy, I do not think that prison guards should be paid less. They should probably be paid more.... but there are too many of them because we have too many prisoners. We have too many prisoners because the people who profit from the prison industry lobby for very long sentences. Is that hard for your tiny Fox News addled brain to understand?

Conspiracy Theories? Really? Do prison guard unions support longer prison sentences? A quick google search yields the answer. Does Corrections Corp of America (prison construction and operation company) do the same? Well of course they do. By the way I picked that link because it has no political agenda at all and it points out that CCA is lobbying the government on immigration reform. Not to go all conspiracy theorist on you, but how much you wanna bet that they are seeking detention for as many immigrants as possible for as long as possible?

White devil? White devil?!? At least he owns his fear with the statement "all I hear is white devil this and white devil that." I'm not even gonna address that it's so stupid and inflammatory. Oh wait, yes I will. The reason why that's what he's hearing is because that was his ears are tuned to hear. How? Well without knowing this for a fact (because I don't recall asking, and he hasn't responded to my request to have a conversation) he listens to Fox. Fox sells fear and racism. Period. They want honest hard working, under-educated white people to be afraid that the darkies are coming to get their hard earned stuff, to make their big pick up trucks more expensive to own (he has at least one), to take away their guns (he's an avid shooter), to have sex with their women and to make them marry other dudes.

I thought this was going to be fun... pointing out the logical inconsistencies and complicated mental gymnastics required for a normal American guy, to go off on such a stupid rant. But it wasn't fun. It made me sad. CF is a guy who used to work for me. He worked hard, he was honest, he did his job well. I ribbed him a bit because of his conservative politics, and took special joy when, for good business reasons, I had to send him to work in Berkeley for a while. But honestly, I liked him. I overlooked many of the racist things that he said because I wanted to educate him a bit about privilege. I figured that if I could get to him, a self described red-neck, then I would have helped the cause of justice because he could spread the word in places that I do not have access to. On previous threads, he would typically post stuff that started from an ill-informed place, but asked questions that indicated that he had at least an open mind. His last words "No need to respond I won't read it" were what made me the saddest. A closed mind turns a person into a pre-programmed robot. And his current programming, which I was trying to help him change, is odious.

Oh well... can't save em all I guess.