Archive for December, 2008

traveling is humbling

24.December.08

as i sit here in terminal E (gate E9 to be exact) of the Philadelphia International Airport with many many other exhausted and frustrated travelers, I really can only just sit back and take everything all in as it is.  I would say that I stopped stressing out about traveling a couple of years ago. This also may be due to the fact that I only fly one to two times per year, tops. my flight was supposed to leave at 3:15 pm EST, and right now we are “scheduled” to leave at 6:15-6:30 EST. It may sound strange, but I kind of like the delays. It gives me time to relax before getting on the plane; I can read, get something to eat/drink, listen to some jams, or pay $7.99 for 24 hours of wifi connection (thanks, AT&T). If I were at Newark airport, I would probably have gotten about 2 massages by now at the massage bar (its totally worth it). I love to people watch and just make up little stories of their lives in my head, though this can be dangerous, the whole judging others on only their appearance thing. For the first time ever, I also visited the airport bar/pub..and she didn’t card me! hooray for not looking like I am 15, anymore. I had a glass of Riesling while I started reading Ms. Tricia Rose’s new masterpiece (well, I cannot personally call it a masterpiece, but because it is written by her, I’m pretty confident it is) The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop-and Why It Matters.  It has been on my amazon.com wish list and I saw it in the bookstore during some last minute christmas shopping, so I bought it. Even though I have yet to read a stack of other books I have bought for myself within the past year or so. Rose is known for her monumental piece in hip hop studies, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America ,which I have to say I have not yet read. I actually found the book in the library of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers, waiting to talk with one of my professors about a paper. Here is a review on Black Noise, just to get the gist of Tricia Rose:

This ethnographic study is the first detailed exploration of rap music within its social, cultural, and artistic contexts. Rose (history/Africana studies, NYU) carefully analyzes each defining element of the genre. For example, her study of the cultural and technological implications of sampling-a pillar of rap-is both impressive and unprecedented. Further, Rose’s hermeneutics extend beyond the music itself to such corollary expressions of hiphop style as rap music videos and breakdancing. Rose constructs a solid bridge between hiphop and academe: she explains the former in the language of the latter and does so splendidly. However, even the most powerful words cannot recreate music. Since academicians may be unfamiliar with the works discussed, an accompanying CD or cassette would have been helpful. While Brian Cross’s less-rigorous It’s Not About a Salary (LJ 2/15/94) remains a better choice for public libraries, Black Noise belongs on the shelves of almost every academic collection.

But back to why traveling is a humbling experience. Way to veer off of the real purpose of this post. On my long train ride from Central NJ to the Philly airport, I sat next to this very nice woman. We chatted about where she was headed to, her grandchildren, her life (she had her first child at the age of 12 and her parents told her that it was a tumor…), and that she recently received her masters in social work from NYU and she works with drug addicts. I actually really enjoy talking to and getting to know random strangers I meet during my travels.  Also, during really stressful times (holiday traveling), you see people’s real colors come out. Some turn inward, angry, and negative. Some try to help others and stay positive. I have learned that taking everything with a grain of salt and attempting to think positive can really make a difference in your stress level and how you treat others around you. This may sound a bit hypocritical to some who know me, for I can often be very cynical and negative. I suppose while traveling, though, I really do make an effort to take everything lightly.

And if your family is anything like mine, and I’m sure it is (for no family is “normal” and we all have our different issues), I found this little article on WebMD about overcoming holiday anxiety and stress.

Someecards really knows how to say happy holidays the right way

chris_41

linkage

17.December.08

i just back from bowling with my co-workers for our christmas…and it is about 2 hours past my bedtime. so this is a quick but awesome post.

My friend from high school posted on her facebook something about supporting the dismantling of the non-profit industrial complex, and to support Left Turn magazine, and left media in general. What is the non-profit industrial complex, you say? Read on, my friends:

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Review of THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE FUNDED: BEYOND THE NON-PROFIT INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
South End Press, 2007

Following the Ford Foundation’s reversal of its decision to award INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence a $100,000 grant after reviewing their position on Palestine, the radical feminist organization sponsored the 2004 conference, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, where most of the essays in this collection were presented. This resulting anthology offers some of the best analysis of the government and the corporate elite’s attempts to co-opt social movements in the US. It answers an urgent call to confront the normalization of what has come to be known as the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC)—the corporatization of progressive and radical social movements.

For those who work in the non-profit sector, the insights offered by this diverse array of activists can be enlightening, but also sobering. Perhaps the most disheartening fact is the NPIC’s power to shape our approaches and tactics for social change. As Dylan Rodriguez points out, “[m]ore insidious than the…constraints exerted by the foundation/state/non-profit nexus is the way in which [it]…grounds an epistemology—literally, a way of knowing social change and resistance praxis—that is difficult to escape or rupture.” This epistemology is responsible for the belief that activists must conform to 501(c)(3) status for legitimacy and funding and that social services serve a greater need and purpose than the arduous task of social change….

Collaboration is stifled when fierce competition for funding and stringent, narrow grant guidelines divide groups that are working towards the same goal. Worse yet, in many cases, non-profits are formed by individuals with the primary intention of creating jobs for themselves. These groups have no interest in true collaboration, but thrive on dominating the non-profit sector and maintaining the status quo. Post-Katrina, an alarming number of new NGOs were established by non-local, non-profit opportunists in response to the proliferation of foundation and government grants for “relief” and “rebuilding” efforts, while long-standing, displaced and struggling local organizations were squeezed out of the funding grab.

Tiffany Lethabo King and Ewuare Osayande warn that “philanthropy never intends to fund revolutionary struggle that demands the just seizure of wealth, resources, and power that has been gained by exploiting the bodies, lives and land of people of color worldwide.” The NPIC’s tentacles reach far beyond the US. Movements in the Global South are already under the threat of becoming non-profitized and co-opted. As activists in the US, we have an obligation to continue this discourse, learn from one another’s mistakes and organize beyond the NPIC.

very interesting. as one who is looking to work in the legal field of this NPIC, it is enlightening to see the critiques mad against the very establishments..

and a GREAT post (though a few months late) for all of my white feminist sisters out there. I know you are there, and reading this. This piece really hits upon many things I struggle with as a class-privileged white feminist. It is a bit long (not really, though), so I just picked out some of my favorite sections. It is originally from make/shift mag: feminisms in motion (from the media links page at leftturn.org):

On Prisons, Borders, Safety and Privilege: An Open Letter to White Feminists

There is no role for the white liberal [in social change]; he is our affliction. -James Baldwin, 1963.

In 1983, when I was in kindergarten, white (Jewish) lesbian feminist Adrienne Rich implored a white-led feminist movement: “Without addressing the whiteness of white feminism, our movement will turn in on itself and collapse.” Twenty-five years later, I’m dubious about a movement — “ours” or otherwise — that has not only failed to honestly and consistently address its whiteness but has also, in so doing, become something far less than a movement for social change.[1]…..

I thought about calling this an open letter to liberal feminists, or to mainstream feminists, or some other things, but I finally decided on the adjective white — not because race is the only defining difference between the liberal/reformist so-called feminism I’m critiquing and more radical social-change-oriented feminisms, but because I see many of the strains of this argument threading together around whiteness — if by whiteness I can mean not only skin privilege but also straightness,[6] liberalism[7], a sense of entitlement to safety (especially within existing social structures), and other markers of an identity and worldview shaped by assimilation to power. Because, of course, whiteness is no essential fact; it is a construct, a lumping together of different people and practices into a dominant, powerful whole.

I’m using whiteness here to talk broadly about assimilated identities and assimilationist politics, which undermine movements for social change. As white people in the twenty-first century, we can’t undo or deny the skin privilege we have been granted via generations of erasure of cultural differences and assimilation to power. But as white feminists, if we are working toward profound social change, we can choose not to engage in political work that is about assimilation to and achieving “safety” or “empowerment” or “freedom” of movement within existing power structures — especially when those structures (e.g., militaristically enforced national borders, the prison industrial complex) are designed to make others unsafe, and unfree.

I wonder again: What is your feminism for? If it is for disruption and redistribution of power across society (i.e., not just for women like you), it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants’ rights movements — not only because marginalized women are involved in and affected by those struggles, but because they are where some of the most significant challenges to power are being made today.

Privilege is a kind of poison — insidious, it obscures, misleads, confuses — and this is part of how power is maintained, as well-meaning privileged people miss the mark, can’t clearly see what’s going on and how we’re implicated, are able to comfortably see ourselves as not responsible. Liberalism and assimilationist politics are safe ways for privileged people to believe they are fighting the good fight; liberalism and assimilation, I think, are privilege’s — power’s — instruments….

If feminism is about social change, it is about recognizing that safety in this society is a fantasy afforded only by assimilation to power, and the cost of that fake safety is the safety of those who cannot, or will not, access it. If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds.

If feminism is about social change, white feminism — a feminism of assimilation, of gentle reform and/or strengthening of institutions that are instrumental to economic exploitation and white supremacy, of ignorance and/or appropriation of the work of feminists of color — is an oxymoron. And it is not a thing of some bygone era before everyone read bell hooks in college. It is happening now; you might be part of it.

Yeah. Just let that soak in for a second.

and another gem from Macon. this is seriously one of my BIGGEST pet peeves, and I oftentimes have difficulty explaining to people why. he pretty much sums it all up for me here:

use “ghetto” as an adjective

“Dudes, that’s so ghetto!
Okay, now, just a sec, don’t start smiling . . . “

One bit of slang that I find annoying, and that I’m hearing more and more often from white folks these days, is the conversion of a particular noun, “ghetto,” into an adjective. I’m not a grammar cop, so it’s not the “incorrect” usage of “ghetto” as an adjective that bothers me. I just think that since the noun brings to most American minds stereotypical images of exclusively non-white urban areas, the white use of it as an adjective is racist. And since the noun also denotes an impoverished urban area, and the people I hear using it as an adjective are mostly middle- and upper-middle class white folks, it’s also classist.

I also find the word irksome because for white people, it has a “Get-out-of-jail-free card” quality to it. To illustrate what I mean by that, ask yourself why, when white folks use the word “ghetto” to describe another person’s clothing or accessories, or their car or something about the way they’re acting–why don’t they use the words “trashy” or “trailer park” instead?

It’s true that those words, which bring to mind classist notions of “white trash” or “rednecks,” sometimes don’t fit, because what’s being described conjures up for the speaker certain stereotypes about black people, instead of stereotypes about poor white people. But that specifically “black” connection is often only there in what’s being described because the speaker is using the word “ghetto,” instead of “trashy” or “trailer park.” There’s nothing especially black about fixing things with duct tape, for instance, or eating inexpensive foods, or otherwise saving or stretching a buck. So why say “ghetto” for such things, instead of something else?

I think that for a lot of white people, using the word “ghetto” as an adjective has an extra element of daring and hipness to it, and also an air of knowingness, about the noun that is, the actual places called “ghettos.” It’s almost as if the white person is claiming (in a way that’s nearly always unwarranted) that they really know what “the ghetto” is like because they’ve been daring enough to actually go there. And it has a “Get-out-of-jail-free card” quality to it because although the speaker is conjuring up and basically uttering racist stereotypes, that’s supposed to be okay because there’s something hip about saying “ghetto” like that.

But then, this piece of slang is becoming so common that it’s already losing that kind of edge, as well as much of any connection to the places and people brought to mind by the word “ghetto.” Kind of like the word “gay,” which so many white kids use to describe something they think is wrong, or awkward, or “stupid.” I’ve called kids on this usage of “gay,” and then asked if they know what “homophobic” means, but they acted like they’d temporarily forgotten that the word they were using means “homosexual.”

For an example of how “ghetto” is also moving away from its original meaning, listen to this one-minute video that a guy made about his lawn mower; notice how (from what I can tell) he uses “ghetto” and “redneck” interchangeably:

A lot of slang gains currency precisely because it’s inappropriate. Many of the elders still do not approve of racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, and sacrilegious language, so the rebellious young ones still use and abuse it. But slang also gains currency from novelty; new words and phrases get old fast, and then move into the realm of cliché. As slang words get old, many of them also lose their forbidden edge by drifting away, for their users at least, from their inappropriate racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on.
As for the racism of the adjectival “ghetto,” I looked up the word at Urban Dictionary, which describes itself as “the slang dictionary you wrote.” I don’t know how “urban” this popular, user-written site really is, and you also usually can’t tell who’s contributing a definition. A white person’s casual use of “ghetto” is certainly different from that of a non-white person’s, as is a white person saying it to white versus non-white people. Still, the debates that develop at Urban Dictionary over certain words and terms can give a good overall sense of what they mean, and as an added bonus, the poetry that slang has always had is often on display (okay, it’s sometimes on display).

Readers there have contributed dozens of suggested definitions for “ghetto.” Some insist that the word is a noun and should stay that way, while others recognize that it’s now widely used and understood as an adjective, and insisting that it remain a noun isn’t going to change that.

What do you think? Should people, white or otherwise, stop using ghetto as an adjective? Are there good or bad ways of using it? Do other objectionable words or phrases like this one come to mind?

For the uninitiated, I’ve copied below some of the contributors’ examples, where “ghetto” is used the way I’ve been hearing it. (Note to grammar cops–I haven’t edited these sentences . . . so I hope they don’t make you [sic].)


Marcus’s South Pole jeans that sag down past his knees are very ghetto when paired with a doorag.

Replacing a broken window with a trashbag and ducttape is ghetto.

“Look how ghetto I look!” Muffy said as she put on her gucci sunglasses.

Jane hid her head in embarrasment as her mom shamelessly committed the ghetto act of stuffing the restaurant’s bread rolls, sugar packets, and silverware in her purse.

You might be ghetto if your car has rims which cost more than the car itself.

Yo Koolaid got so much sugar in it, that it’s Ghetto.

Your Cd player has dents in it. It’s so ghetto.

Word. That backpack is so ghetto! Where did you get it? At the Ghap?

greatness. it reminds me of an article I read last year about the ghetto culture machine

ok, i could post a million other articles, but i’m falling asleep as we speak.

i leave you with a video that made me laugh so hard i almost cried:

guy is actually really good at all of the dance moves, too.

prison numbers

11.December.08

some reasons the United States needs serious prison reform:

from Alternet

the real and bk

10.December.08

oftentimes when i am going through my blogs, i watch these hilarious videos made by the guys over at The Real. they are f-ing awesome. and i have thoroughly enjoyed every video they have released thus far. and following up with my previous hipster post, i give you their video: A Message from the Brooklyn Tourism Board (props to eskay)

Vodpod videos no longer available.


hipsters in D-town

6.December.08

I’m in Denver right now, visiting my sister and brother. or “D-Town”, as my brother calls it. But every time I hear D-town, I can’t help but think of It’s Cold Out Here in the D.

I have noticed a helluva lot of “hipsters” here. Especially at the bar we went to last night. It was pretty much hipster heaven. And the music was too. This morning I found a pretty awesome article from Macon about whiteness and hipsters. I was searching for a commentary on OJ’s recent conviction. But it just happened, so I haven’t found much yet. Enjoy this article:

Stuff White People Do: Never Admit to Being a Hipster

I’ve been wondering lately about the whiteness of hipsters. I’d like to interview some white, self-declared hipsters about just what their racial status means to them. However, while I do know some people who clearly fit the profile, none of them are willing to admit to being hipsters. I have trouble deciding whether someone really is a hipster, because one defining characteristic seems to be the adamant refusal of the hipster label. That paradox of identity further intrigues me, because it so closely parallels a similar denial of a seemingly self-evident label, “white,” that white people in general commonly perform.

The following video helps me think through this conundrum. It features Jessie Cantrell, of “Black20 News,” talking to people about what the word “hipster” means; almost all of them seem to fit the hipster profile, yet none will admit to being a hipster. So this video brings a question into sharper focus–why is the term “hipster” so thoroughly rejected by the people it seems to fit? I think part of the answer might lie in the largely unexamined racial status of most hipsters, who together form what can be usefully labeled a white youth “movement.”

I find this video annoying in several ways, including some flashes of lazy profanity, but you’ll get more out of this blog post if you watch it:

All of the people interviewed by Jessie seem like hipsters to me, in part because they reject that label. They’re almost all white too. Why are so many hipsters white? And what in particular is white about them, and about what they do?

I hereby offer tentative stabs at some answers.

Like earlier young white folks who ran away from their ordinary backgrounds in distinct, labeled waves, hipsters seem to feel a certain emptiness in the self they’re leaving behind, an emptiness they fill up with adornments from other romanticized, seemingly preferable identities. In the 1950s, for instance, the Beats appropriated the romanticized blackness of jazz, and the supposedly free-spirited wandering of hobos and Mexican migrant workers. The Hippies of the 1960s borrowed from both American and Asian “Indians,” and in the 1980s, many American Punks adopted what they saw as the authentically downtrodden existence of inner-city residents.

Hipsters don’t seem all that interested in direct cultural appropriation across racial lines (aside from the keffiyeh), but the taste many of them have for cheap beer, retro cigarettes, white t-shirts and so on does constitute a reach across a gap in terms of social class, especially for those who come from wealthier backgrounds.

One thing that hipsters also like to adorn themselves with is retro stuff–stuff that used to be cool that they revive and make cool again, like Ray Bans from the Fifties and plaid flannel shirts from the Nineties, all of which they adopt while trying to look like they’re not trying to be cool. In a way, as author Benjamin Nugent sort of points out in the above video, the term “hipster” itself could be considered retro, since it was used back in the Fifties to refer to the Beat Generation.

So it might make sense for today’s young white anti-conformists to embrace the “hipster” label because it’s retro, but again, they resist being categorized that way. And also, it seems, in any other way–they seem to reject the word “retro” too. In their haphazard mixing and sort-of matching from earlier styles, and in their refusal to commit to much of anything collective beyond irony, apathy, and a vaguely anti-consumerist, anti-conformist idealism, they’re staunch individualists. Kinda like those falsely individualized white conformists that many of them like to think they’ve left behind.

Hipsters are often the target of satiric derision, and it’s all too easy to point a condescending finger at the hypocrisy of a claim to individuality that involves looking and acting like other hipsters, living in the same types of urban areas, going to the same parties, and listening to the same kinds of music, mostly performed or DJ-ed by more hipster lookalikes. I think it’s worth spelling out, though, how much that hypocrisy, if that’s what it is, resembles a more general white claim to individuality.

In terms of identity, whiteness can be paradoxical; one of the whitest things a white person can do is fail to grasp the significance of their racial group membership. White people don’t normally go as far as “hipsters” do, by flat-out denying that the term “white” applies to them. They do know they’re white, but they rarely think about it, much less understand it. To the extent that they don’t think about it, they remain oblivious about what it means to their own lives, and more to the point, they falsely think of themselves as merely autonomous, free-floating individuals instead. White hipsters probably do have the term “hipster” in mind much of the time, as can be seen by how readily they run away from it. But how often do they have their own whiteness in mind as well?

I wonder, then, if one reason that white folks who pretty much fit the hipster profile refuse to embrace that group membership is because they’ve already been inclined by a largely unconscious training into whiteness toward a falsely individualized sense of themselves. This is not to say that all hipsters are white. It seems likely, though, that those who aren’t white are more often aware of their racial status and all that it means than their fellow white hipsters are of theirs.

So as in previous, more cohesive white youth movements, including Beats, hippies, Punks, Goths, and maybe even flappers, many hipsters are fleeing from their more conventionally white backgrounds toward that which represents the opposite. And since that’s a common thing for white youth to do, they’re still dragging their whiteness along with them as they do so.

However, compared to members of previous youth movements, white hipsters might be even whiter, in that they steadily refuse a group-bound label that others see as clearly suitable for them. If there is such a thing as a hipster “movement,” it’s another, familiar attempt to move away from a more conventional mode of whiteness, and yet, a further movement away as well, from identification with the new group (or “movement”). This further movement further evinces a failure to leave behind a white identity, particularly its illusory inducements toward individualism.

I should also point out that the metaphor of movement, in terms of motion, helps to pinpoint the whiteness of hipsters in one other way as well. From what I’ve gathered, hipsters in urban areas are largely from elsewhere, especially suburban areas. My friend Dave, for instance, moved from a suburb in the Midwest to Brooklyn, where he’s trying to get a career going, on his own terms, with his creative talents.

Dave is white, single, and in his mid-twenties. He has scruffy hair and a tattoo, he wears big sunglasses, and his wardrobe is a studiously casual mix of thrift-store gleanings and American Apparel. He buys the latter reluctantly, because of their sexist advertising and classist labor policies.

It’s no surprise that Dave refuses the label of hipster for himself. He does admit that he’s white, and he says that he’s thought about it, because when he goes into Brooklyn “bodegas,” he usually gets a cold shoulder.

“I see this one Puerto Rican bodega-owner guy almost every day, and I always greet him and so on, but he still acts like he doesn’t recognize me.”

“Why do you suppose that is?”

“I don’t know! Maybe he thinks I’m like, just one of the other white people in his neighborhood, invading the place, you know? But I’m not, I’m not a gentrifier! I’m just trying to get by, and I moved to Brooklyn because it was a more affordable place to live.”

“Right. Which is probably why those other young white people moved there. Which is probably increasing the rent in Brooklyn.”

“Right. But no, that’s not right, because I’m not like those other ‘young white people,’ if that’s what you want to call them. I’m not out there partying all the time, living off of mom and dad’s trust fund or whatever, taking a break in life before heading back to where I came from. I’m working hard in New York, trying to get a life going. I’m not like, taking a break from my life.”

We talked some more about his life, but I didn’t tell Dave that I think he’s been acting white in at least two ways. For one thing, he’s resisting a category that seems to fit him well–“hipster”–and for another, he doesn’t think he’s part of a reverse white-flight movement, but he is.

A lot of the people who were living in Brooklyn before he came probably do resent the increasing numbers of people like him. As in other instances of gentrification, the hipster ability and willingness to pay higher rent drives up rental rates, thereby driving out those who can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods. This geographical dynamic amounts to an invasive “movement,” with effects that are both racist and classist.

As one of Jessie Cantrell’s interviewees says, perhaps with a level of self-aware irony, hipster is “a term that you use to offend people that are gentrifying your neighborhood.” And this kind of hipster gentrification isn’t only happening in New York. Hipster clusters can be found in most American cities, and thanks to the commodifying reach of corporatized American culture, in cities around the world as well.

Again, not all hipsters are white, but the numerical preponderance of whites among them makes it fair to identify hipsterdom as another in a long series of white youth movements. For many individuals, it’s also a movement away from more conventional, unremarkably “white” places and modes of being, a former existence that encourages individuality in white people by continually suggesting that their whiteness is insignificant. If that’s true, then in terms of their racial identity, these white birds have flown right back to where they started.

alright, im going to go now.

its that time again

2.December.08

for me to torture you with photos of adorable animals.

Douglas the French Bulldog

Douglas the French Bulldog

courtesy of the Daily Puppy

Strummer the pup..with a hat on and a deer doll next to it

Strummer the pup..with a hat on and a deer doll next to it

thanks to the cutitude of cute overload

Read the rest of this entry »

rainy sunday/monday

1.December.08

as i watch some Brits in their attempt to be half-way decent dog owners (its me or the dog….Victoria has killer bangs) and wait for my wash to dry, i present you with some more thanksgiving wisdom.

From The Progressive, Mark Anthony Rolo, an American Indian, shares his view on the day:

Thanksgiving without the history, please?

If ever there was an American holiday where history ought to be left off the menu it is Thanksgiving.

As an American Indian, I can’t think of anything more depressing than sitting around the dinner table tracing the legacy of a holiday that began with a questionable decision to save a band of starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

Almost immediately after the Indians’ rescue feast, the pilgrims and their European successors began a ceaseless campaign of colonization – raiding Indian villages, murdering inhabitants, stealing land and spreading infectious diseases that nearly wiped out whole tribal populations on the entire East Coast.

Excuse me, but I thought Indians were supposed to be the savages.

And the pups have made NPR news! they leave it 1 week….:(

and I need to tag surf more often. I find myself watching dope videos from blogs like compton.kickboxing:

did phife just reference roe vs. wade? yes. yes he did. and ?uestlove looks 15 years old.