Friday, August 31, 2007

"Excuse Me; Did I Bump Your Shoe?": Restroom Etiquette 101

In the early part of June Senator Larry Craig, a 62 year-old Republican senator from Idaho was accused of engaging in lewd behavior in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. Now two months later, the media as well as Republicans are coming down on Sen. Craig and pressuring him to resign for his actions.

Sen. Craig was arrested for moving his foot close to an officer’s foot in a nearby stall as he used the restroom, then rubbing the bottom on his neighbor's stall with his left hand. What has stirred the masses is Sen. Craig's recent denial of the act, and regret for a guilty plea he gave for the "solicitation" just two months ago.

“I sit down to go to the bathroom, and you said our feet bumped,” Craig told an officer. “I believe they did…because I reached down and scooted over and the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says ‘police’.”

Sen. Craig claims he was in the bathroom to fulfill its intended purpose and nothing more. He suggests that he was entrapped by the arresting officer and told police he had “overreacted and made a poor decision” in pleading guilty to the misdemeanor. “I am not gay. I don’t do these kinds of things” stated Sen. Craig in his arrest interview. The Republicans and the people of Idaho have given Sen. Craig the cold shoulder though there was no evidence of any sexual contact.

Therefore, is Sen. Craig really guilty? And if so, for what? The solicitation, or being a gay republican?

I asked a few male friends for their opinion and all of them stated that they never experienced anything close to Sen. Craig’s situation. In fact, they made it clear that it was unlikely for a man to extend his legs that far when using the men’s restroom.

Indeed his foot bumped the person’s foot in the next stall, but maybe that was it. Say “excuse me” and keep it moving. So far, three key Republicans in Congress (including John McCain), the Idaho Statesman newspaper, and more than half of Idaho’s respondents is calling for Craig to resign. So are they mad at what he did, or the fact that what he did is progressing the eight year "humbling" of the nation's republican party?

“The voters of Idaho elected Sen. Craig to represent their state, and will decide his future in 2008 should he fail to resign,” the Michigan congressman said in a statement issued by his office. “However, he also represents the Republican Party, and I believe that he should step down, as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator.”

Sen. Craig has repeatedly declined resignation and stands by his story.

Listen to Sen. Craig’s Interview:

~ Briana Henderson

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Booty Clappin'

It's Labor Day...soon! Three day weekends are always a source of joy. Everyone smiles on a Monday they have off. Celebrations all around.

Speaking of celebrating, it's time once again for the annual West Indian Day Parade in good 'ol, not so slowly being gentrified Brooklyn. I'm down for change but not complete dismissal. I often feel like the attitude of new residents in "up and coming" neighborhoods is focused around just putting up with the discomfort of having the locals present. The approach is similar to steeping tea; you just have to wait until the herb has completely disseminated into the water, then it's aaaall chamomile.

Anywho, that's not even my point.

The Parade holds a lot of fond memories for me. Jumping the barricades to join the dancing with friends and family (note: please only try this if you're resilient and wearing the right shoes), strolls with my parents along the route and, of course, watching people and being a part of a celebration of self are all moments that bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

However, I recently had a discussion with one of my co-workers about the fine line between the celebration and the exploitation of the female body in music and dance. It's something I struggle with often being, at times, a kind of booty-shaker myself and well aware of the issues that can often arise from said behavior.

Growing up with one side of my family from Trinidad and the other African-American there's an amount of gyrating and shaking that just comes naturally. You hear the music and often your lower half is the first part to move. I would argue, though, that there is a difference between that kind of movement and the booty clapping I've seen on un-cut music videos. But, with that judgment arises the question of "What has the right to be classified as culture?"

There's also the question of security. Being female, and specifically, being a female and a minority, there's a constant feeling of having to protect your body as well as assert your right not to be exploited. So, when it comes to expressing yourself in public there is, often, a feeling of not being able to do so freely.

As you can see, I'm still working through it. Regardless, the parade is this weekend in Brooklyn. If you're able, come and celebrate. No worries, joining in the parade is not a requirement. Unfortunately, I would no longer recommend it. The police aren't too fond of the "just jump in" practice anyway. Although the police, and this is just from my own observations and that of friends and associates, don't seem too fond of large groups of minorities gathering in general. Last year at the parade there were a number of unexplainable arrests and detainments...hmmm. Stay positive though and come out to support.

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Jena Six

Here's something for us all to consider. The Jena Six. Yet another reminder that ignorance and hatred never have and never will exist solely in a time period; that there is a lot of work to be done and battles to be fought. So, to all the "soldiers" out there, keep your head up and your eyes open. And remember, discussion is the first step to action. Share your response, make your voice heard.

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ACTION ALERT: 5 minutes for just recovery

Katrina Information Network

Look below the surface.

On the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina many are documenting the continued struggle of residents in the Gulf as they return to the corporate and government mismanagement that has stood in the way.

There is much to be done.

The Katrina Information Network (KIN) is a family of groups in the Gulf and across the country using e-advocacy, grassroots pressure, local actions and resolutions to turn the tide toward fast, equitable rebuilding.

Our network is hundreds of thousands strong, but we need more people to stand with us to building public pressure for a just recovery.

This anniversary, will you join us by asking your supporters to take stand for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?

The 5 minute Campaign
Give us 5 - five minutes a week that is - to make your voice heard for just recovery. Look out for the weekly email and in a few clicks, you will have helped local efforts move national policy.
Join Us Now

Wave a Banner for Just Recovery.
Visit KIN and download one of our banners. Add it to your website or blog and give your readers a chance to join up and learn more about the rebuilding effort.
Get a Banner Here

Local resolution campaign.
Turn up the heat on policymakers and those profiting unfairly from Katrina. A resolution passed this summer in Milwaukee will cost a wasteful company $30 million. Tell your elected official to block corporations from doing business in your city who mismanaged or wasted recovery funds.
Find out how to Hit Them Where It Hurts.

It's Time to Draw the Line.

We need to raise our voices, our votes and our wallets to make a change in one part of our nation that can be a model for others communities we come from and care about.

Join Us!

-Kenyon Farrow for The Coup Magazine 2007 READ MORE

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stress and Your Immune System

You have a lot to do, at home and at work. There are several deadlines to be met, and projects to be completed. In a valiant effort to get it all done you work late into the night, sometimes getting only three to four hours of sleep before the next morning. Perhaps you are suffering from the emotional stress associated with the death or illness of a loved one. Being in bed for a week is the last thing you need. Then it happens… you get sick. A pre-existing condition flares up, your allergies seem more severe, you catch the ‘flu, or worse! Is there a connection with the sudden increase in stress and your illness? Some researchers think that the evidence points to a definite link between severe physical or emotional stress and a malfunctioning immune system.

Our immune system protects us from disease through a series of complex interactions between specialized cells, tissues and chemicals in the body. These interactions enable the human body to fight infection and destroy cancer cells and other foreign invaders. When the immune mechanism breaks down you become more susceptible to tumors and to infectious organisms such as the influenza virus. Several studies have examined the effects of “life stress”, emotional stress, and chronic stress on different aspects of the immune response.

Stress and Immunity

The field of study that examines the link between stress and the immune system is known as psychoneuroimmunology. Several studies in this area indicate that physical and emotional stress can have either good or bad effects on the immune system’s response. There is considerable evidence that mild or moderate physical or emotional stress benefits the immune system; some researchers suggest that mild infections are limited during stressful conditions, however as soon as the stress is alleviated the individual succumbs to the infection. This theory explains the occurrence of weekend colds and other health related problems after stressful week. There is evidence also, that in addition to promoting a feeling of well-being, mild to moderate physical exercise is beneficial to the immune system. Several studies show that after moderate exercise, such as a forty-five minute walk, the cells of the immune system are redistributed, the number of N-K cells in the circulation increase, and the T-cells become more responsive to stimuli. Scientists suggest that the reason for this is in the initial stages of a stressful event, the immune system receives signals that it will be needed for wound healing or to fight infection, and becomes activated in response.

Conversely, research as well as anecdotal evidence indicates that athletes who engage in excessive endurance type activities such as marathons, distance swimming, skiing and professional ballet dancing have a higher incidence of colds and allergies, and decreased wound healing. The results are similar in cases of emotional stress. Medical students have been shown to become more prone to colds and flares of Herpes virus infections (cold sores) during stressful examination periods. Individuals appear more likely to develop type I diabetes mellitus when they have been exposed to stressors either associated with illness or emotional stress, and asthma sufferers and patients with type II diabetes mellitus experience more severe symptoms when they experience stressful situations.

In some individuals the immune system becomes abnormal and instead of performing its protective role against attack from external or abnormal agents, begins to attack and destroy the cells and tissues of the body. The diseases that result from this attack are known as autoimmune diseases; the more commonly occurring examples include systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), Grave’s disease of the thyroid, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are several reports that indicate that individuals who develop these diseases oftentimes experience chronic stress prior to the onset of these conditions. There is also considerable evidence that, in individuals with autoimmune diseases, symptoms are worse during times of stress. Although there are many theories about the causes of autoimmunity, stress appears to play a role. It is also interesting to note that many autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and Grave’s disease, occur more commonly in women than in men.

Other disease conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases also appear to be related to chronic stress. It is an accepted fact that a person’s outlook on life or their psychological state affects recovery from heart attacks and cancer. Studies on breast cancer patients indicate that a positive outlook and active stress reduction practices result in a better response to treatment, a shorter recovery period, and a better long-term outcome. In heart disease it is recognized that constant release of the catecholamine stress hormones affect the diameter of the blood vessels, damage the cells lining the vessels, increase blood pressure and the demand of the tissues for oxygen, and predispose the individual to heart attacks.

Life is stressful! Everyone faces situations on a daily basis that trigger the stress reaction and cause release of the “stress hormones”. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that workplace stress has reached epidemic proportions with a significant economic cost due to lost workdays and stress related disability. In addition there is stress at home, in our relationships with spouses, children, parents, and significant others. In the face of all of this how can we protect our health? Remember that some stress is beneficial. It improves our productivity and temporarily boosts our immune system in the initial response to the stress. However, as we can see, chronic, unremitting stress is harmful. To protect our immune system and other body systems we need to alter our response to these stressful situations. A calmer approach to stressful events, the use of relaxation techniques, moderate exercise and good nutrition all go a long way in reducing chronic stress and preventing the associated diseases.

-Marguerite E. Neita, PhD., MT(ASCP) for The Coup Magazine 2007
*Art provided by Kula Moore for
The Coup Magazine 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Black Entertainment Television

It's so easy to criticize BET. I remember when it was considered a bit more, um, "low-budget" and maybe not the ideal channel to represent Black American culture, but it was still an endearing, if somewhat threadbare, attempt. Tonight, as I sat with my friend Daren and watched BET Presents: The Top 25 Fabulous Freaks of All Time¹ (give us a break, the channel was the topic of our dinner conversation an hour before) we couldn't help but reminisce about the good-ol', "budget" days of hazy Comic View when no matter what, the camera always seemed too close to the stage and the sound would periodically go out. TT25FFOAT was just as ridiculous in execution as its acronym, and it's only one of a slew of BET's "original" programs to parrot the offerings of viacom's other channels. Here was, roughly, a black version of VH1's formulaic countdown shows: the vaguely defined premise; the inexplicably cast, ill-suited celebrity hosts; and like a gazillion snarky commentators for each entry. Except this was much, much worse.

No, it wasn't perfect then either--not by a long shot--but there seemed to be more of an attempt. I remember the outrage when BET canceled Ed Gordons "Lead Story" and then followed up by removing "Teen Summit" from their programming. Both moves followed the sale of the channel by Robert L. Johnson to Viacom Corporation. Anyone who knows the patterns of big business media knows that it's all about the sale. When mom and pop franchises sell their name there's usually more growth in a short amount of time than ma' and/or pa' ever anticipated. Often an entity will grow faster than the people it's said to represent. What happens when the people media is said to represent, are recovering from generations-long displacement? Furthermore, what happens when the product that is supposedly representing the audience is riddled with the very symptoms that have stunted the growth of it's viewers?

There also never seems to be a shortage of "experts" or "hip-hop historians" on these specials glorifying mediocrity. They seem the experts of nothing, their statements are always bold but ulterior; their loyalty to network and station thinly veiled by a very hurtful pseudo-intellectualism. Their words are generally a disservice, both to their audience and to the history of the genre they are supposed to be representing.

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Monday, August 20, 2007

*Sorry! We Don't Have That In Your Color...

Every now and then, I like to pretend that I’m a girlie girl. I get weekly facials. I get pedicures and manicures (despite the fact that I’m a nail biter). And I have become a devoted follower of the late Kevyn Aucoin, one of the best makeup artists of our time. Yes, I, Wendi Muse, am getting into makeup.

My mother never wore much of it, nor did many women in my family or my group of friends, so I had little experience in the art of face painting for adults. I had to do quite a bit of independent studying, educating myself by reading books, magazines, and websites in order to get a handle on a pretty overwhelming step in daily beautification. Once I had become comfortable with eyes and lips, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. But there was just one more step.

I didn’t need foundation or concealer or powder. My virgin skin was still flawless. I had nothing to hide. I had learned, however, that even women with perfect skin needed a little tone-evening here and there, so I set out to find a nice tinted moisturizer by Clinique, whose 3-step cleansing products I swear by.

I checked the website and noticed that the darkest color they had was “BEIGE.”

Not cool.

I didn’t lose hope, however, as I noticed that right next to beige was a listing for “OLIVE DARK.” There was no option to buy online nor did they show a color to correspond with the product title, so I decided to take a trip to Bloomingdale’s in SoHo to see if this elusive color existed at their in-store counters.

I smiled, walked up to the salesman, and told him of my dilemma.
He looked confused. ‘Sorry, hun,’ he answered,’ but we don’t have that in your color.’ My smile faded. ‘The darkest color we have is beige.’ I wanted to ask ‘Well, why is that? Does Clinique think that women don’t come in any other colors?’ but politely held back. I couldn’t shoot the messenger. The sales rep continued, ‘Considering that this,’ he held up the coveted tinted moisturizer, ‘won’t match your skin tone, try the MAC counter, they may have something that’ll work.’

For a moment, I felt like a kid who had found coal in their stocking on Christmas day.
I wondered, “Why didn’t Clinique carry their tinted moisturizer in my color, or for that matter, our color, the color of women who make up the majority of the world’s population? Lots of people are darker than beige, so what gives? What had we done wrong to deserve being ignored by my most favorite skincare company in the beauty market?'
It turns out we had done nothing, nothing at all. That’s probably how Clinique felt as well—that we had done nothing to boost their sales, at least not enough for them to remember us when creating products for their makeup line. The key to good business is all about supply and demand, so maybe the money brown and black women shelled out on cosmetics was not enough to make them notice? But then I thought, that can’t be right.

Cosmetic companies like MAC, Fashion Fair, Bobbi Brown, and the drugstore lines like Iman, CoverGirl (with their Queen Collection), and L’Oreal (with their H.I.P. collection) were proof that there was a market in tailoring products to women with complexions darker than beige. It was more than obvious that we were willing to spend money on beauty products.

Being the optimist that I am, I tried to look on the bright side. I convinced myself that Clinique just felt that women like me with beyond-beige complexions were so beautiful that we didn’t have a need for makeup; that our skin spoke for itself.

Despite my Pollyana-esque mindset, I knew that my presumption was a little off. In actuality, as per usual, women of darker skin tones were simply being ignored, and when the industry remembered us for a moment, our needs were considered to belong to a niche market, calling for a separation of default skincare and makeup products from the ones for “women of color.” I understand the need to highlight a new set of products for a certain population, but at the same time, why aren’t colors that are made for the beyond-beige ladies just a part of the regular lines? Why must we so frequently be singled out, somewhat as a reminder of our phenotypic foreignness in a market that still considers light skin not only the default, but the beauty norm.

Peggy McIntosh had forgotten to include this dilemma in her list on the benefits of white privilege, but maybe in assessing all of her privilege, she simply failed to notice because the challenge had never arisen before. She could walk to any makeup counter or wander into any drug store and find powder, foundation, and, ahem, tinted moisturizer that could match her skin color without thinking twice.

She could also open any fashion or beauty magazine geared simply to “women” and find tips that suited her needs as a white woman. While the magazines clearly state they are for “women,” white womanhood is clearly, once again, the default, which is made all the more evident, ironically, by the creation of magazines like Essence, as an alternative. As one of the few mainstream publications that includes makeup tips for black women of all shades within its pages, Essence, despite its many flaws, at least serves as a reminder on the racks that beauty comes in all colors.

This is, of course, not to say that women’s magazines that don’t explicitly state their target racial demographic have bad intentions. Some are trying . . . kind of. Take Allure magazine. Billing itself as “the beauty expert,” Allure presents the latest trends in health and beauty, with a few fashion tips and pop psychology thrown in that are meant to help you become the best woman you can be, or at least the best consumer you can be until you reach that point. For the most part, I like Allure beacause it helps guide beauty beginners like me who haven’t the foggiest idea about the drastic results a few subtle features on tweezers’ ends or mascara wands can bring about. What I don’t like about Allure, and many women’s beauty magazines, is that while they never say their magazine is meant primarily for a specific group of women, if you can read between the lines, it becomes clear that it is.

To realize this, one need look no further than the makeup and hair sections, which profile the vast diversity among white women and lump women of color into one category: black. Women of East Asian or South American descent are few and far between, and women of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent are non-existent. I can find a zillion makeup tips to match brunette, blonde, and red hair (of course, belonging only to white women, as women of color NEVER have anything but raven hair, nor do they use hair dye). There are also makeup tips for women with fair, medium, or olive skin tones, but these models, once again are all white. In this month’s issue, the “dark” skin section on the makeup tips page features model/actress Gabrielle Union, who is about 3 shades darker than I am and about 3 shades lighter than say, a woman of African or South Asian descent who has very dark skin with bluish undertones. How is there so much distinction between shades of white, but very little distinction between shades of brown?

Ay, and don’t get me started on the hair! Natural hair styles for black women are only seen on women in advertisements (you know, that curly haired, racially ambiguous brown woman look in every stock photo on the planet), and when the magazine does have a hair feature including a black woman, it’s usually a celebrity with hair extensions and weave that the magazine tries to pass off as the real thing. The pictures should come with a caption that reads:

This shampoo may work on the Korean or Indian exported goods sewn in, but don’t kid yourselves, ladies; it certainly won’t do any good for your roots.

I am thrilled to note, however, that their “ask an expert” makeup section features Brit beauty maven Pat McGrath, a runway makeup artist and consultant to the stars who just so happens to be of Jamaican heritage. To have Ms. McGrath telling their readers how to make themselves more beautiful is a good sign that they value the opinions and expertise of a woman of color, but I still wondered why so few of us graced the pages showing off the aftermath of all that beauty-geared hard work.

The sparse presence of models of color on the runway, the absence of women of color in beauty and fashion mags, and the complete lack of regard for the diversity of color in the makeup industry had really gotten to me, and was really discouraging in the infancy of my attempt to beautify, at least in the mainstream sense. But all in all, I learned to get over it, as odd as that sounds, especially coming from me! I decided to stop looking down at the content on magazine pages or department store sales counters, and instead, made a concerted effort to look all around me, to see that beauty, available every day and at every location, did indeed come in my color.

-Wendi Muse**

*author's article originally posted at Racialicious.

**author's note: I encourage you to write magazines and makeup companies if you find yourself in a similar situation as myself. If they hear from enough of us, I think it will make a difference in the future. Thanks!

Mixed Messages in U.S. AIDS Prevention Campaign

Recent studies conducted in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda show that male circumcision, the surgical procedure for removing the foreskin of the penis, decreases the likelihood of HIV contraction by sixty percent. These shocking figures have led U.S. officials, namely President Bush, to reorganize the allotment of recently increased government funding for HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives and research in many Sub-Saharan African nations.

It seems that our government has received a wake-up call that the spread of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa is a serious problem, and thank goodness for that. However, the message that our current administration continues to send to the people it intends to help is troubling in that it is inconsistent and sexist, putting women’s concerns on the backburner.

For one thing, the House of Representatives only recently agreed to disregard the Mexico City Policy, known by opponents as the Global Gag Rule, which banned the allotment of government funding to any organizations that provided abortion as an option of family planning and had a negative effect on many agencies and organizations that also happened to provide significant aid in the fight against HIV/AIDS by way of safe sex education programming and easier access to contraception for both women and men. Though the legislation was introduced in January of 2007 by Nita Lowey, a Democratic Representative for the state of New York, the House voted on the measure in May, and its overall review by the Senate has yet to happen. On top of that, there is the pending doom that awaits the bill once it reaches the hands of the President. Advocates of the bill in addition to many pro-life activists believe that President Bush will veto the bill due to his personal stance on abortion as well as that generally accepted by the Republican Party represents.

The access women have to abortion legally in Sub-Saharan Africa is limited, however, as is access to contraception. It’s a bit of a catch-22. Our government also continues to push the message of abstinence in countries that are most heavily hit by HIV/AIDS, which is unrealistic. Rape, for example, is rampant throughout South Africa, so much so that an anti-rape device has been created in hopes of protecting women who are attacked. There is also so much internal conflict that one easily loses track of how many women are made vulnerable each day by way of national instability that leads to war and ultimately the defilement of women and girls. Prostitution, while illegal, still exists, and due to the economic state of most of Sub-Saharan Africa as well as the lack of quality sex education and access to condoms, many female and male prostitutes engage in anything to make money, including unprotected sex, sometimes without a complete understanding of the risk.

So while I am pleased to report the news of the expansion of male circumcision, I lament the lack of attention paid to women’s needs. While we, on the one hand, seem convinced that no one in Africa is having sex before marriage, there is far too much evidence to the contrary to continue peddling such a message as an actual answer to the problem. There is some recognition that men engage in sexual activity, and our government acknowledges that they may engage in it without protection, hence the funding for the circumcision-based initiatives. Women’s reproductive rights and body autonomy hang in the balance, yet men will more easily undergo a procedure to help prevent the contraction of a life-threatening virus. It posits women as the dangerous ones. Men are metaphorically given a weapon against the virus, whereas women remain unarmed to protect themselves.

For more about the “global gag rule,” go here.

For more information about circumcision and the government funding connected to its use for HIV/AIDS prevention, go here.

-Wendi Muse

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Friday, August 17, 2007

What's Your Favor? Tell Me What's Your Favor?

When it comes to politics there’s always an argument or a decision to be made. According to recent polls, Americans have declared both Bush and the Democratic Congress failures! Yet, Americans still put confidence in the Democrats?

Who does America really favor?

To give some background, Democrats have taken over Congress in last year’s midterm elections with a 30-seat advantage in the House of Representatives and a slim majority in the House of Senate. However, since the November polls the Democrats have yet to change the President’s plans toward the war or any other major issues. Their advantage has done very little to the political/social state of the country.

Congress has made some success over the last year. They’ve passed a lobbying and ethics reform bill, increased funds for the embryonic cell research, raised minimum wage, and secured measures implemented by the 9/11 commission. Congress is even looking to increase student loan reform and health insurance for deprived children by the end of September. So in all, Congress is doing their thang! But I guess it’s not enough for the public eye. I guess everyone expected a democratic advantage in the House to turn the country away from the previous decade of carelessness and regression. Oops.

Who would you trust to deal with the major issues facing America today? Has the democratic advantage really made that much of a difference? What's your favor?

Political Humor for the Analytical Mind:

~ Briana Henderson

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bibliomulas Project

There's a lot of negativity out here and every once in a while I find myself needing a little bit of a lift; something to reassure me that's it's not all bad. Maybe you're an optimist and you rarely need a reminder of the positives. Maybe you're not. Regardless, I was scrolling through and came across The Bibliomulas Project in Venezuela. Whether an optimist, pessimist or anywhere in between I promise this project will induce a smile and inspire a little bit of hope.

"How far can a book go? How far can it take us? The answer is "very far," according to this BBC story about the Bibliomulas Project in Trujillo, Venezuela.

The bibliomulas – mules carrying loads of books, laptops and projectors – trudge for hours over mountain trails to remote village locations, accompanied by human participants from the Universidad Valle del Momboy. When they reach their destinations, children gather to hear stories read aloud by the university students. This is more than a few hours of storytime: project leaders Christina and Juana explain that they're not only spreading the joy of reading, but helping to improve the quality of life in these communities through environmental education and internet access. Student volunteers help the children to plant trees, while adults can utilize the laptops to tap into wireless connections."

Depending on where you're reading this, Venezuela may seem like a far off place and the thought behind Bibliomulas a bit lofty. It's important to remind ourselves though that these things are completed because of the will of the people involved. Ideas and determination are the first and most important steps to creating change.

-Ashleigh Rae

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


News of Melenie "Perpetual Spot Blower Upper" Brown's June wedding to Stephen Belafonte has finally leaked. Supposedly they've been friends for years and were getting jiggy wit it while Mel was still pregnant. They didn't go public with their trist until lil baby Angel was born. Who does she think she is? Heidi Klum?...runnin making life long commitments to dudes who are not the father of the child who happens to still be in your belly.

Big mistake marrying this joker. It's all fun and games until someone files for palamony. This Belafonte dude has been rubbing me the wrong way ever since I first heard about him. He kinda gives you that creepy 'show me on the doll where the bad man touched you' vibe. And now I know why. Apparently Steve was ordered to pay $254 bucks a month in child support for his 3-year-old daughter Giselle back in 2005 and has yet to pay any of it. Mel, let me break down what this means:

1. He's a dead beat dad so if you get knocked up…again…he'll bring nothing to the table. He wants your money.

2. Child support figures are based largely on a man's annual income…if my calculations are correct he's bringing in a little over $25K a year…so, um, yea he's broke. He wants your money.


This Just In!!

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Steve is also wanted for killing a lil baby duck with a brick outside his Point Pleasant, NJ home. He fled to LA before paying the $600 fine and now there's a warrant out for his arrest. So not only is he a dead beat dad but he also smashes in the brains of cute lil fuzzy baby ducks with bricks…what kinda monster is this guy?!?!?!?!?!

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An open casting call will soon be held for the biopic of the life of the Notorious B.I.G. The project has been in the works for years. Listen up big boys! You can begin submitting your audition videos starting this Sunday August 12th at 3pm at or The producers are looking for the following:

"As it relates to the individual Christopher Wallace - his looks, his stature, what he represented, the swagger, the sensibility of the man - all those elements are very difficult to find, no matter where you go,'' Barrow said Thursday. ''In the typical Hollywood world, no one came to mind outside of Forest Whitaker who could capture that essence genuinely."

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Lo thinks the boy from Monster's Ball" should play lil Chris Wallace, no?

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First Curtis tells MTv to suck his di@k because they ranked him #8 on their top ten list. This is coming from the same guy who came up with "I melt in your mouth girl, not in your hands"…talk about a brillian lyricist. Now he's taking out his frustrations on Kanye (who just happened to have ranked higher on MTV's MC list than him at #5). Both of these megalomaniacs will be releasing their albums on September 11th. 50 says that if Kanye sells more albums than him he's going to quit the business. Hmm, I guess this means goodbye 50. It's been nice knowin you my fine little rabbit toothed ape. But seriously, I'm getting sick of Fiddy's ever present temper tantrums. Somebody needs to take a big heaping spoonful of get over yourself.

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So apparently Tyrese's Girlfriend Norma gave birth to a baby girl July 11th. And where the heck was I when this happened? They look awefully loving in these pics so I guess they peaced things up. If you all recall, about 2 months ago Norma called the cops and said that Jody punched the $hit out of her arms and legs in a violent rage. She filed charges and was treated at a nearby hospital and released but then days later she mysteriously withdrew the charges…never to be rehashed again. Next thing you know they're taking these publicity pics days before she gives birth looking…"happy".

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She must not have any male family members worth a damn. Cus trust and believe if ANY man hit me (never mind hit me whilst I was preggers) calls would go out from New York to Cali to disperse the legion of brothers, cousins, and drunken uncles all lead by the Great Reverend Doctor to bust dat a$$!

Random Pics:

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Colored contacts to hide your dialated pupils…$99, Lollipop to keep you from grinding your teeth to smooth stumps…25 cents, leavin' your babies home so you can roll your face off on double stacker E pills at the club…priceless!

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Check out one of the Olsens sporting a bag big enough for her to fit in. My friend Danny often jokes about the ridiculous size and contents of my purse. He's even refered to it as my Go-Go Gadget Purse.


If Lo had this purse she'd make sure to pack it with __________.

The winner gets a container of 'Slap Ya Mama'.

In other news…

* Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) gave birth to a little boy named Beau.
* Tamia had a baby girl named Lael Rose.
* Nicole Richie was rushed to the hospital for bleeding…turns out the baby isn't
getting enough nutrition.
* Chris Noth has signed on to reprise his role as Mr. Big for the "Sex in the City" movie.
* Merv Griffin finally lost his battle with cancer this weekend. Peace out Merv.
* Rush Hour 3 doesn't do so hot at the box office.
* Kim Kardashian will have her own reality show on E! this fall.



Monday, August 13, 2007

This Just In: Nothing Really Changed At All

According to a new study on the U.S. population as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau, non-white minorities now form a majority. But be careful how you read that, as they only mean the majority in "one third of the most populous counties."

What's interesting about the coverage here is that it made news at all. When we drill down on the technicalities, what is being said is that people of color, as a whole, not as specific groups, make up more than 50% of the population in only one third of the largest counties in the nation. That's not that significant. It doesn't mean minorities are anywhere close to being the majority in this country, nor does it mean that the white population is decreasing. However, from coverage of the data, you would think otherwise.

The information I found in the New York Times presented the story in its most objective form, while the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which is where I first read the story while on a brief vacation in my Southern hometown, noted how the increase is leading to a backlash against immigrants. Maybe some of this backlash, however, can be explained by the sensationalism attributed to such minor demographic shifts by the news media, which is still quite hungry for any new piece of information that can be called a hot story. If people feel as if America and its culture could be threatened by the onslaught of a ton of new immigrants and an increase of people of color, it's likely to cause problems, mainly tension between the American-born residents and their new neighbors.

While the NY Times notes that the population shift is a "further sign of the United States' growing diversity," I wonder if it's simply a sign of more significant accounts of "white flight" and a concentration of people of color and/or immigrant populations into a few major cities. It may be a sign that despite an increase of ethnic and racial "diversity," a shallow term in my opinion, there is even greater polarization, which certainly won't do us any good if the expectation is that the presence of "others" will correlate with understanding, progress, and cross-cultural community building.

I am looking forward to how these shifts will play out in the future. Will the increase of immigrant populations, people of color, and, in general, ethnic minorities, mirror the past? Will America cede its superficial multiculturalism for a 21st century melting pot?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Peas In a Pod: Race or Gender, That is the Question

Clinton or Obama? We keep hearing the question and debates as if the two are SO different from each other that the American public is really called to be critical thinkers on this one.

After six long years of war, market inflations, and governmental differences, Americans have become pessimistic and disparaging towards the 2008 presidential elections, and voting as a whole. In fact, people have become perturbed about having a new president all together.

Based on the uncertainty of what’s to come or the effects the next president may have on our lives, most Americans have turned to the Democrats for change. Will they lead us down the path of righteousness or drag us further down into hell?I’ve come to discover when people begin to talk about the presidential election, they resort to a method or philosophy that is contaminated with both fear and hope; race and gender biases.

Some choose Clinton, the more experienced, while others choose Obama, the revolutionist. But both Clinton and Obama have criticized Bush and his actions towards the war in Iraq, they both voted against this year’s Senate Immigration Bill, have raised funds for the people in Darfur, and they even have similiar visions for education reforms. According to their platforms, one could consider Clinton and Obama “two peas in a pod.” Therefore, when it comes down to making a decision, such things as gender and race will play major roles, and the people of the United States will not only separate the two candidates, but the 2008 presidential decision may end up being dependent simply on these differences.

Truth be told, with two candidates so similiar, we will no longer see Clinton as a “master of political tactician” or Obama as a “sign of youthful change.” No! Clinton will be judged according to her gender and Obama according to his race. In all, I truly don’t believe America is debating over the quality or experience of the two candidates. America is really trying to decide if they’re ready for a woman to be president or a black man.

Which one would you choose?

Based on race, I would choose Clinton to be the 2008 president of the United States. Although America feels that they've "allowed" the black community to come so far, they still believe we (as a majority) may still be incompetent, ignorant and unfit to fulfill certain duties. I strongly believe Obama would make a great president. However, I feel as soon as he makes a mistake (which is probable considering the state boy George will likely leave the country in before heading out), many are going to point their fingers and snicker for allowing a “black man” or “Negro” to take control. For this reason, I prefer Clinton.

Based on gender, once again I would still choose Clinton. America needs a change (not only physically, but mentally and idealistically), and a good way to get it is to put someone of a different gender in office. Women uphold both ends of the stick. They say we’re packaged with compassion, understanding, standards, domination, diligence, and structure. And even if the former is false, at least the American public will expect something different. And what if Clinton is faulted for being a woman? After considering the possiblity of America blaming Clinton’s gender for the wrong and probable judgments she'll make (in an attempt to clean up boy George's past 8 years), and how many will point fingers and snicker for allowing a "madamme" or "post-menopause" to run the country, I still think she'd get less slack than Obama.

One year to go. Clinton or Obama. Which this much variation of choice, what is a pre-menopause negro to do?

~ Briana Henderon


Thursday, August 9, 2007

International Day of the World's Indigenous People

I've always been one to acknowledge the obscure "holidays" usually printed in 6pt font in the bottom corner of the boxes of your daily planner. This is one, however, that holds particular importance. From Native Americans to the Aborigines, and a multitude of nations and cultures in between, each has suffered indignities and disrespect of the worst kind.

While we should never let the day define the cause and refresh our knowledge of international situations daily, let's take today in particular to brush up.

Below are a few interesting links.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

As we celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous People on 9 August this year, the focus of attention for many of these most marginalized peoples will be the decision that is due to be taken in the next days by the United Nations General Assembly in relation to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

American Indian Heritage Foundation
Australian Local Government Association
Black Native American Association
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association
Centre for Minority Rights Development
Global Policy Forum: 'Indigenous People Fight for Inclusion'
Index of Native American Organizations on the Internet
Indigenous Peoples Caucus
Latin American Network Information Center
Native American Journalists Association
Rights of Indigenous People, The


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

FlufferNutter is Deelish'

Deelishis now has a video to accompany her single “Rumpshaker”. There are cameos by some of the Flavor of Love alums. My critique:

1. At five minutes its too damn long. This isn’t smooth criminal. Chop that $hit down to three and a half minutes and maybe I can hang.

2. It appears the wardrobe was provided by G+G.

3. Who is this Two Tone character featured on it? Oh wait, I forgot that Deelishis doesn’t carry enough celebrity to have a real rapper on her song.

Overall the song is catchy enough to make me bop my head and bounce what bit of a booty I have. I must also add that it’s hard not to zone out watching Dee make her donkey a$$ jazzercise independently of her body. Sweet! I had to watch it twice just to be able to provide real commentary on it.

I just have a few questions: What’s with the “I Love My Boyfriend” t-shirt? Also, I noticed an engagement ring. Who is she engaged to? We know its not Flava, or Busta... So who’s this fiancĂ© she’s so in love with? Could it be her baby daddy, who by the way, “makes money over money over money” (that quote shall never die)? Hit me up if you know.

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So, this dude named Mark Ontkush wrote an article about how much energy could be saved if Google’s home screen were black instead of white. Apparently 750 watts/hour per year would be saved so a group called Heap Media went ahead and created a black version that they call Blackle ( [Please note that Heap Media is in no way part of Google].

I LOVE this idea and have been using the site since I heard about it. By the way…Blackle is an awesome word. If it were in the dictionary it would be defined as a noun to describe an ashen barnacle-like Negro who is not only rude and inappropriate but also minstrel in character. I’ve decided to find a way to work it into at least one conversation a day. (Thanks for the info Ms. Sharpe)

When searching for a pic that would show exactly what a blackle would look like I typed in ‘negro monster’ into the Blackle search field. This, my friends, is what came up. No need to discuss…just thought I’d share.

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I’m liking this Melanie Brown person more and more each time I see her in the news. Recently she held a press conference. “Why?” you ask. Well, she felt the need to get on TV and blow up Eddie Murphy’s spot some more…as if that’s possible. Now that it’s been confirmed that he knocked her up she’s speaking out on the fact that he hasn’t offered up one red cent to support the newest edition to his tribe of children. Worst yet, he has never laid eye on the cute little chicken mcnugget. But you know who has? His ex-wife!!

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That’s right kids! Nicole and Scary Spice went to lunch with the kids last week. When I first read this I laughed so hard I snotted (Shut up! Don’t act like it’s never happened to you). Nicole brought lil Bella with her and Bella got to play with her half sister Angel for a smidge. Seriously…how maliciously brilliant was this lunch? I love these two broads. I so wanna be them when I grow up.

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“Hold on to your butts! Everyone’s favorite blackle is back with a third season of “Flavor of Love”. I wish I could say I was excited. But I’m actually slightly annoyed. VH1 doesn’t always know when to quit. I love the celebreality block but this must stop!”, says Lo as she logs on to to vote for contestants and sets her DVR to record all new episodes.

Random Pic:

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Looks like she’s been rummaging in my fam’s closets. I see Granny’s costume jewelry, those are no doubt Uncle Alfred’s pants, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t the rouge my mom has had sitting in her dresser since 1974.

- Lo

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gendering the Discourse About Interracial Relationships

"More Black Women Consider 'Dating Out'"

This little Associated Press story has been popping up quite a lot this week. Latoya Peterson over at Racialicious first brought it to my attention via e-mail (and has subsequently written an article about it) and I noticed its heavy presence last night on my Google News page. Why? What about black/white female/male relationships still made them "something new"? Was the presence of interracial relationships involving a black female so limited that it had to be presented as a phenomenon?

Given, it's less frequent coupling than black male/white female relationships, and black men are more likely to marry a partner of a different race than black women. Yet as a community, blacks in America (this includes the black immigrant population as well) in general tend to marry "outside" of their race less than whites, Asian-Americans, and people who identify as Latino/a. Oddly enough, I see relatively NO coverage regarding people who identify as of Arab descent or even South Asian descent (as Asian-American in the United States often refers to people of East Asian heritage), but that's another article.

Going back to my original question, why now? Why so much attention from the media because black women are dating white men?

I think it's all about good timing.

For one thing, we have a white woman and a black man as presidential hopefuls. Their and their spouses positioning on the gender and racial grid is incredibly significant. Barack Obama symbolizes the multi-ethnic/multi-racial future and leadership our country once feared and is living proof that men of African descent can make highly efficient leaders, despite what statistics say. Hillary Clinton is the poster-child for feminism and the emerging power of women in the United States as she debunks of the stereotype of white women being impotent (i.e. less likely to be employed, less financially successful) in comparison to their partners. Michelle Obama is seen as the ultimate black woman, balancing parenting, spousal support, and at one point a full-time career. Bill Clinton is seen as America's first black president. All four, at some point or another, have been seen as a threat for going against cultural and gender-based norms associated with the group to which they respectively belong.

What better a time to write an article about the coupling of blacks and whites when we see it at play on the political stage? In particular, an article about a coupling that is often ignored in media representations of interracial relationships?

Secondly, it seems like media backpedaling to diffuse some of the negative attention often geared toward black male/white female interracial relationships. The last stories I heard about such relationships involved Jessie Marie Davis, a white woman in a relationship with a black man who is presently a suspect in her murder, and black Boise State football player Ian Johnson and his white fiance, both of whom received threats because they are an interracial couple.

Not exactly the best-case-scenarios for black male/white female IRs.

So maybe the press is attempting to overcompensate for these somewhat disheartening portrayals with something a little lighter?

But at the core, I see this article, whether intentional or not, as adding a very interesting spark to the discussion surrounding such relationships: gender.

We often discuss interracial relationships in terms of race, but rarely via the multiple gender dynamics at play, at least not explicitly. I have heard people say on countless occasions that black men date/marry white women as a means of advancing their social mobility. White women are viewed (unfairly, in my opinion) as a simple trophy, a status symbol, a notch in the belt of a black man who has "made it." White women, in turn, are portrayed as weak, one of the prime motivating factors for black men to date them, in order to feel powerful in a society that continuously puts them down. Yet in creating these stereotypes about black male/white female interracial relationships, those who believe could be buying into stereotypes about the other end of the spectrum as well, one that reinforces black women's positions as eternally strong and completely immutable.

Such coverage allows journalists to re-emphasize these stereotypes about black women, black men, and black families, for example, by constantly harping on how black women have a reluctant attitude toward change (we apparently REFUSE, en masse, to date non-black men), how black families prohibit black women from dating non-black men (ahem, how many times have we heard the argument "well, white men raped black women on the plantations, so black families are protective of black women and critical of interracial relationships involving black women"?), and that black women are dating "outside" their race because they have no other choice (black men are at the bottom of the barrel, right?). Mind you, these all have a kernel of truth, but for the most part, their meaning is distorted and blown far beyond reasonable proportion, resulting in a polarization of the opinions of their readers.

Gender plays a huge role in the coverage of black female/white male interracial relationships because the assumptions many of the articles make highlight perceived sexism within the black community. By limiting black women's sexual and romantic partners by way of sheltering them from racist fetishization and a re-living of antebellum gender-based oppression, black families and black society as a whole is portrayed as sexist and regressive, especially in light of the fact that black women are constantly shown as the model minority in comparison to black men. By making a spectacle of black female/white male relationships, the press is ultimately bolstering this stereotype. See black men? Black women have outgrown you. They can do better, and better means getting a white partner.

Imagine if articles were written in the same way about black male/white female relationships. While the message in relation to these relationships is more implicit, an explicit articulation of such an argument would cause outrage. Yet as associating with whiteness and relationships with whites are still seen as an opportunity to elevate one's status, I wonder if discussing black female/white male IRs in the popular media will allow for a more complete discussion of stereotypes about black women and why we are not considered desirable partners in terms of beauty norms and even behavioral expectations. Will the fact that the press realizes that some white men like us change the way we are portrayed? Will it soften us? Is that even so important, and why are white men the enabler of such a change (at least, for the press)?

It's a complicated situation for which I am not offering any answers. I myself am in favor of people dating whoever treats them well, no matter the person's race/ethnic background/gender, etc. It's a personal decision that we should be allowed to make on as individuals, not facing external pressure or disapproval solely because of one aspect of our partner's identity. But I can't help but be suspicious of the media's treatment of relationship types that fall a bit outside the margins. They make them appear as oddities in a sea of normalcy, a fad if you wish, and I don't think that's going in the right direction.

- Wendi Muse


Friday, August 3, 2007

My Reply to "Regarding your anti-white, racist comments"

Earlier this week, I posted a letter that I had received from quite an angry reader. I decided to post it because I felt it was important display evidence of one of our biggest challenges as people who are working to educate the public about experiences that are not always covered by the mainstream media (and when they are, often unfairly so). The challenge? Countering thoughts that go on in the privacy of the mind. Now that racism and hatred are far more hidden than they were in the past, somewhat as a result of the social contract we call political correctness in conjunction with the power of legal system to prohibit discrimination as well to prosecute those who actively engage in its continuation, racism is more difficult to detect. Like the children of well-intentioned parents, people curb their behavior in order to avoid being chastised, ultimately relegating racism (and sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, lookism, xenophobia, and the list goes on) to an internal place, bearing smiles on their faces, but hatred and prejudice in their hearts and minds.

I recognize that racism is a learned behavior, though the instructor is not always clear. People take in racist messages and imagery on a daily basis, often times without even realizing it. Un-doing the racism learned is a long process that requires an extensive amount of critical thinking and a very open mind. It is a challenging and sometimes self-deprecating endeavor, especially considering that one must question the biases within oneself before assessing external influences.

I am certainly one undergoing that very process and it's one of the motivating factors for my writing. It is my way of asking questions as I search for answers. It also happens to be a way of sharing this process with others and inviting them to engage in it by way of discussion.

My idea of discussion, however, does not include an anonymous e-mail that not only insults my intelligence, but that also accuses me of being many things I am not and resorts to generalizations and non-sequiturs in the guise of a coherent argument. This is not discussion. This is not constructive criticism. This is sensationalism in the form of hate mail, hate mail that even in itself seems completely un-original and that reads more like spam than a valid grievance geared toward anti-racist writers such as myself.

Some may ask why I even chose to give the author the time of day by bringing attention to the letter by posting it here and providing my reply. But at the end of the day, the content of the letter is someone’s idea of truth, no matter how inaccurate, and I was compelled to use this blog as a forum for discussion about the power of racism and how it blinds us from seeing anything else.

Here is my reply. Though I never sent it to the author, I suppose that if he or she had the ability to find my email address, then he or she certainly won’t have any difficulty finding this blog and work therein. My comments are in bold, the author’s in italics.

This presumption that America is racist, that whites are bigots and that white America controls the media and uses that control to diminish and oppress minorities in general and black people in particular is a monstrous lie (and anyone who has thought about it for two seconds, knows it). Yet black racists like yourself and liberal racists are somehow part of the mainstream conversation about race in America today. If women and people of color are being oppressed, why isn't there an exodus? Why do you live here? Why are Haitians and Mexicans and everybody else dying to come here? To be oppressed?

That America is racist is not a presumption at all. It’s true, at least for those who experience it. America, like many nations, was created with racism as its first building block. Without race-based dehumanization, the enslavement of Native Americans and black Africans, as well as the indentured servitude of Asians, all of which enabled the progress our nation made despite its infancy as a competing world power, would never have happened. The remnants of this dehumanizing remain very much alive, though of course, it’s coupled with other –isms that result in the demeaning of certain groups of people based on facets of their identity and place in society (i.e. sexism, poverty, religion-based hatred). The media is certainly a good example, though I have never once said it was controlled by whites. I think that racism toward ethnic and racial minorities is such an immense part of our society that even people of color have internalized its effects and often express prejudice and commit acts of discrimination toward other and their own ethnic/racial groups as well. No one group is devoid of this fault, and I have never said otherwise. We all have work to do. However, sometimes as a result of not having experienced racism, some people have an inability to empathize or even see it at all. If one has never experienced something, especially if it’s not tangible or necessarily easy to replicate, the process of denying its existence or calling those who do experience its effects liars in need of attention is made all the more easy. Women and people of color, the examples you chose to highlight, are members of this country as well. One thing that politicians often tout as America’s most cherished asset is its sense of and commitment to democracy. And as anyone who has ever taken a history class should know, one key aspect to a democratic nation is the voice of its citizens. What makes America great is the ability for its inhabitants to make it even better. Instead of pondering why people who fight racism don’t just leave, it’s important to consider why they continue to speak out when they experience something that is clearly inconsistent with the image the United States would like to project, one that is unabashedly marketed toward people in other countries, many of whom are “dying to come here” not only because that very image is so powerful, but also because they may be facing extreme poverty, injustice, or political unrest that makes life below acceptable standards for any human being. They’re “dying” to come here, because any alternative is better than the conditions they face. Even when they arrive, the reality is not always as pictured, and oppression can certainly occur. Have you never heard of sweatshop labor or sexual slavery or work without pay, just to name a few problems many immigrants, legal or otherwise, often face? America is sometimes a last resort, sure, but that doesn’t, by any means, make it perfect or mean that racism that people experience here should be excused simply because the situation of living here (for most of us) isn’t as (overtly) bad as it is in other countries.

In fact liberalism — if you want to call it that — has become a form of political extremism. It is conspiratorial-minded, blind to the obvious and filled with a venomous, unthinking bias against people whose skin colors include whiter shades of pale. Do black males abandon their children and commit five times the violent crime that males from other ethnic groups do? White racism is responsible. Do black mobs tear up a city like Cincinnati because violent criminals are shot by police? Progressives know that the problem is really slavery, segregation and institutional racism, and cheer the rioters on.

With regard to liberalism/leftism, I have never once said that as a form of political expression it cannot veer into the realm of extremism. In fact, I often find myself disagreeing with leftists as much as conservatives, and instead have chosen to allow my words to define me as opposed to a political affiliation. As far as crimes committed by black people are concerned, you will never hear/see me blame whites, so I am not sure why you even included that in your letter. However, black people and other non-white groups (in addition to whites involved in subcultures like skaters, punks, and other scenes that involve a manner of dress that counters traditional norms) are often profiled unfairly by law enforcement officials and many crimes committed by the aforementioned yield harsher sentencing, which is an important fact to note here. We are all under the same laws, but experience them in drastically different ways. With regard to your statistics about black criminals, I find them to be a simple distraction, a rhetorical device you have employed in order to hide your letter’s total lack of substance and the weakness of your argument, which I have yet to pinpoint in its entirety. Your statistics about black males or black criminals have little bearing on what I write, why I write, or my personal identity. Would you have brought them up if I weren’t black? Afterall, I write about many different groups of people, not just blacks, so why you chose to focus exclusively on them in your letter is beyond me. . . unless of course you chose this group as your focal point because you saw my skin color before you read my words.

The facts of American life roundly refute the prejudices of liberal extremism, but to little effect. America is not racist. If anything, the social establishment and the media exhibit far more concern for the fate of black Americans than they do for any other racial or ethnic group. A three quarters white actress declares herself black to gain status in Hollywood. And everybody knows she’s smart to do it. The predisposition of the media is far more likely to believe the worst about whites and to bend over backwards to legitimize racial paranoia among blacks. How else could an inciter of racial hatred, convicted liar, wannabe drug dealer, paid snitch and shakedown artist like Al Sharpton become a "civil rights leader" and Democratic Party presidential candidate? Does an LA prosecutor indict O.J. Simpson for killing his wife because he beat and threatened her, skipped town and tried to flee the country after the crime was committed and was tied to the victim through blood and DNA samples? He must have been framed by racist whites on the Los Angeles police force. The reader is correct in recalling that the media didn’t draw this conclusion; but, then again, the media treats with respect the Johnnie Cochrans who did.

Regarding your third paragraph, I agree that there is an immense amount of coverage regarding black Americans expressing grievances toward representations that they find to be skewed and unjust. They are right to do so—once again, this is their right as Americans. Other groups bear a similar ire with regard to the issue of racism, but they are often silenced because their issues are considered tangential in a society that only thinks in black and white. Polarity allows for more simple media coverage, plain and simple. God forbid they challenge their audiences by introducing new topics. So while blacks may seem more vocal about the issues they face, even this outspoken-ness is sometimes disproportionately represented in the media while others are ignored. Not only that, but when anti-racist activists of non-black backgrounds attempt to speak up on behalf of blacks and vice-versa, there is little coverage. Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans made significant contributions to the civil rights movement, but in order to keep it simple, and arguably to divide groups of color, we learn our history via bi-colored lenses: black and white. This is a matter of distorted representation, not black attention hunger as you allege. Also, I am insulted by your assumption that Al Sharpton, OJ Simpson, and Johnnie Cochran represent blacks just because they are black men you have seen on television. That assumption in itself is a clear accusation that ALL blacks are victims of groupthink. We are individuals. We each have our own thoughts, opinions, ideas, and concerns, despite our shared history, so please respect that.

On January 19th of this year, a white man named Ken Tillery was lynched by four blacks in Jasper Texas — the very same, small Texas town where James Byrd was lynched by whites four years earlier. The Byrd lynching was on the front page of every American newspaper. The president made speeches about him. The nation hated his killers. Ken Tillery disappeared without a trace. You think you will write a column about that? Or will you ever talk about this story reported in the NYT (4/23/03) Although blacks are 12% of the population in reality it is just 2% of the blacks that commit 50% of the murders and a greater percentage of other crimes. Consider: black females - 6%. Blacks from zero yrs. to 12yrs. and black males from 50-100 years commit an infinitesimal percentage of the crimes. Therefore we are left with two percent. If we eliminate crimes committed by this two percent from the U.S. statistics our country compares very favorably with all Western countries. Fact -- blacks kill 7 times more than whites kill. Fact -- blacks kill whites 20 times more than whites kill blacks. Fact -- blacks mug or commit group crime against whites 50 times more than whites commit against blacks. Fact -- blacks rape white women 2000 (yes 2000) times more than whites rape black women. In New York City, about 300 white women are raped by blacks every year BUT there has not been a black woman raped by a white male in anybody’s memory (going back over 20 yrs.) Consider: Al Sharpton had to go upstate New York to find a hoax and that was over 10 years ago.

Your last paragraph is, by far, the one I find the most irrelevant. So you list crime statistics. Given, your representation of those statistics, much like your withering argument, is muddled, inaccurate, inconclusive, and misleading. What resolution are you suggesting? Are you saying that people should no longer talk about racism or race at all because some black people commit crimes? I wonder how your statistics would function when class, education levels, and home environment are thrown in. Not that these are excuses, but they certainly correlate with criminal activity. Your inclusion of occurrences of rape also fails to account for the amount of rapes that go unreported every year, rendering rape statistics, for the most part, null and void as a hope of supporting your statements on the subject as it relates to race.

Race does not dictate behavior, but I guess since I’m such a racist, how could I ever realize that? Race, in itself, is a figment of our imagination. Experiences that result from human internalization of this scientific myth, however, are not, and I will continue to write about them until our society somehow avoids allowing a cultural experiment in codification gone horribly wrong from governing our behavior towards and thoughts of people different from ourselves.

P.S. a little background:
I received the letter after having made a post on Racialicious regarding MTV's mishandling of diversity on its show The Real World. However, I was not the only person to receive such mail. Other writers for Racialicious have received venomous e-mails from the same author. Wayetu Moore, editor-in-chief here at The Coup Magazine has, in the past, also received hate mail from people working to silence people who are working diligently to give a voice to those whose concerns are distorted or disregarded all together. However, receiving letters like this only motivates me in my mission to provide work to my readership that challenges them and that encourages open minds and social change.

- Wendi Muse READ MORE