Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hard Part Isn't That They Leave You

Today is the 11th anniversary of my mother's passing. And right now, a friend of mine is dealing with losing a parent to cancer as I did on this day eleven years ago. I've given all the usual advice about giving your loved one permission to let go and how parents will hang on even while suffering if they are afraid for the children or spouse they're leaving behind. What I didn't say was this:

The hard part isn't that they leave you; it's that they leave you behind.

Losing a parent is like having a hole ripped in your heart. And more likely than not, the person you would have looked to most to help you through such grief is the very parent who left you behind. The sage advice, the comfort, even the comfort food -- gone. You're on your own to pick up the pieces of your life and carry on.

It's funny -- as I've gotten older, I realize that there is no one on the planet that I hate so much that I would wish upon them the death of a parent. Even when people I don't particularly care for lose a parent, I become all mushy and supportive. Other than the loss of a child or a spouse, I can't imagine a more profound grief.

I remember saying to my mother in my mind shortly after her passing, "I understand that you have to go. Just don't leave me behind. Take me with you so I don't have to go through what I know I can't handle."

But it wasn't to be. Because it wasn't meant to be.

My mother used to always say that no one brings a child into the world to have them suffer; you bring them into the world that they may live their lives to the fullest. She was big on us children living a bigger and more full life than hers -- traveling, going to college, aspiring to big things. She always wanted more for us than what she had for herself. So the best that I can do -- that any child can do, for that matter -- to honor the passing of a parent is to live the life they gave you to the fullest.

Rest in peace, SWIE.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Find Mitrice Richardson Search Party 9/26 8:00 am

I could get all into the press reports about the circumstances of Mitrice Richardson's disappearance after being released from custody from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. I could go all ballistic about Matt Lauer calling her parents by their first names and asking whether Mitrice was "street smart," which I doubt he would have asked of Elizabeth Smart's parents or any white parents for that matter. I could go all out talking about how the authorities' search for Mitrice pales in comparison to the search for Natalee Holloway by American authorities, and Natalee wasn't even lost in America.

I could, but it doesn't matter right now. Mitrice has been missing for a week. She's somebody's daughter, somebody's grandchild, and whatever the circumstances are surrounding her disappearance, she needs to be found. Now.

A search party for Mitrice Richardson has been organized for 8:00 am today. For more information, please see

http://www.findmitrice.info/search-team-info

Please share this information far and wide, especially with folks in the Los Angeles area. If you can't be part of the search, you can spread the word to those who can. Let's bring this young woman home to her family.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

No More Vanity Candidates

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has declared her candidacy for governor of California.

Whoopdee shit.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina may declare her run for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Whoopdee freakin' doo.

Maybe it's because I was born and raised here, maybe it's because I'm a fifth generation Californian, but I've decided that given the desperate straits California is in, I'm done with vanity candidates.

What is a vanity candidate, you say? A vanity candidate is a candidate who has no government experience whatsoever and assumes they can not only succeed in an elected position, but succeed in one of the highest elected positions possible, to wit, Governor Ronald Reagan and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The problem I have with vanity candidates for governor is this: If you have no experience working in or with a deliberative body, how are you going to get the two-thirds votes needed every year to pass a budget in California?

As much as I respect the accomplishments of Meg Whitman, IMHO, her experience does not translate. Hell, eBay doesn't even have inventory, a supply chain, or stores to manage. It does not have a vast sales force. eBay freakin' sells other people's shit -- over the Internet, no less. Has Meg Whitman ever had to get a majority or two-thirds of 120 ideological yahoos to agree on legislation? If she hasn't, why should she get to have on-the-job training at the expense of millions of Californians? The stakes are just too high to have someone without some form of legislative experience sitting in the governor's office. When a CEO misses earnings targets, shareholders and board members are affected, maybe even employees. When the governor can't get a budget passed on time and the government shuts down because it runs out of money, in-home caregivers, small businesses that contract with the government, and millions dependent on the smooth functioning of this now dysfunctional state are affected.

The stakes are too high.

And did I miss something, but wasn't Carly Fiorina fired? Now, I've "mutually agreed to part" with a job or two, but I didn't then try to run for the U.S. Senate or Governor. Again, the problem I have with Meg Whitman is the same problem I have with Fiorina -- lack of legislative experience, either in trying to get something through a legislature or being part of one. The stakes aren't as high with this position, but I don't think Fiorina's experience translates any more than Whitman's.

If Whitman and Fiorina really want to serve the public, why don't the do as Clint Eastwood did and start small -- run for mayor, city council, school board, etc. Why don't they get their government experience somewhere where they can do the least amount of damage if they fail. Earn our respect for their new accomplishments in government, then run for governor or the U.S. Senate.

The stakes are just too high.

And if you think I'm being political, for the record, I'm not feeling Gavin Newsom for governor, either. Schtupping your friend's wife? I can't get past the eeeewwwww factor. It's not quite John Phillips or Woody Allen-esque, but it's kinda close.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Things That Are Just Plain Wrong . . . .

"Project Runway" in Los Angeles. Why would you film a show about fashion in L.A. when you could film it in the fashion capital of the world -- New York?

Elderly people on Medicare protesting against a public option for health care reform. Duh! You already have the public option and you just don't want to share. Haters.

Even more wrong: Elderly people on Medicare, on scooters with oxygen tanks, protesting against a public option for health care. My tax dollars more than likely paid for their public option to get a scooter and an oxygen tank.

NeNe Leakes on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." She's entertaining to watch, but she stirs the pot. All drama leads back to her. And Kim just can't catch a break.

California's Legislature and Governor. Tore up from the floor up. One of the world's largest economies and its government had to issue IOU's. Hell, I don't even accept IOU's from family anymore.

Little people prostitutes. I'm not making this up. My niece saw one on Watt Avenue. Perhaps I've been watching too much "Little People, Big World," but life is hard enough, no pun intended, for little people without having to do that for a living. But, as one of my siblings remarked, "Well, at least she doesn't have to kneel."

Platform stiletto heels. When are we women going to say "no" to the fashion industry and its vast conspiracy to hobble women's feet? Nothing says "Me love you long time" like a pair of platform stiletto heels. Why not go all out and make them clear heels, throw a goldfish and some water in them, and slide down the stripper pole? Any woman who actually has to be on her feet for any length of time should just stop with this madness.

Even more wrong: Peep-toe platform stiletto heels worn by a woman with a bunion. Haven't you done enough damage already? Don't you think we can see that big toe of yours pointing 15 degrees to the right? Just stop the madness. Enough already. You know who you are.

Kyra Sedgwick without an Emmy for "The Closer." I mean, Glenn Close is good and all, but this is just wrong. I've never seen a lackluster performance from this woman on this show.

Health care reform without a public option. Anything else is just B.S. Health care reform should lower costs and cover everyone. I just don't see the other options doing this. The market has already screwed health care up, so the government can't do any worse.

President Obama calling Kanye West a jackass. Yes, Kanye showed his behind. But it wasn't worthy of presidential comment or piling on. Plus, it violated the Barber Shop Rule: Thou shalt not dog another brother out except in the barber shop.

Burying Michael Jackson more than two months after his death. Hell, even a good roast will get freezer burn after two months. What were they waiting for? It's not like he was going to come back if they waited long enough.

Birthers. Ignorance + access to art and sign supplies at the Dollar Tree = Birthers. If ever there were a case for making college free, they are it.

Old men wearing hip-hop clothing. All the Buddha bellies out there, wave your hands like you just don't care . . .and grow up and buy a grown-ass suit. You no longer get to wear a hoodie after 30.

Margaret and Helen and Doubting My Racial Identity

When I come across something really cool, I can't help but share it. I recently came across two really cool blogs -- Margaret and Helen and Stuff White People Like. The first has me LMAO, the second has me doubting how black Black Woman Blogging really is.

I was told about Margaret and Helen by my niece, the Single Parent Goddess. Margaret and Helen are in their eighties and have been friends for over sixty years. Margaret writes more of the blog than Helen, and their blog entries include, "Sarah Palin Called a Family Meeting and the Rabbit Lived", "Pat Buchanan Is A Cracker" and "Life's a Bitch . . . and So Is Dick Cheney." I hope they don't mind me linking to their blog, but I've been LMAO reading it and I just had to share.

I came across Stuff White People Like by doing a Google search of blogs that have been turned into books. This is one of them -- it has a list of about 128 things white people like, like coffee, Barack Obama, yoga, breakfast places, public radio, study abroad, farmer's markets, and writer's workshops. The problem is, yours truly likes those things, too.

Maybe I'm really White Woman Blogging?

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

To Patrick Swayze, Thanks for Everything! BWB

Let me just say right off the bat: I adore drag queens. Adore them. I adore men who appreciate the difficulty women go through trying to embody the idea of what femininity is, what with all the hair removal, foundational undergarments, hair gyrations, makeup application, etc., and not only embrace these tribulations but make them art and take them to a higher level. They make me feel like I have no excuse for being the beauty slacker that I am, except that they seem to enjoy all that preparation way more than I do. RuPaul, The Lady Chablis, Miss J. Alexander, God bless 'em.

I am reminded of drag queens because of the passing of Patrick Swayze. Most remember him for his turns in "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," but, being the drag queen fan that I am, I remember him most for his role of Vida Boheme in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar." In it, Swayze portrayed one of the most stunning drag queens I'd ever seen, even to this day. It wasn't that his makeup or hair were stunning -- they were -- it was his mannerisms. He seemed to capture femininity in a way that wasn't campy or overdone. It was like he understood women -- how we walk, how we hold our hands when we're talking, how we move. Like he got us.

And I'd like to think the part of Vida Boheme was in some way representative of the kind of person he was: Someone who stands up for others when he has little to gain for doing so. In "Wong Foo," Vida Boheme, along with her drag queen pal Noxeema (played by Wesley Snipes), and drag princess Chi-Chi (played by John Leguizamo), are stranded in a rural town waiting for a car part to arrive for their broken-down old-school Cadillac convertible. At the climax of the movie, the proprietress of the bed and breakfast where the drag queens are staying (played by Stockard Channing, who has the most beautiful eyes in the business second to Liz Taylor and just above Terrence Howard), is yet again being beaten by her abusive spouse. Vida, who herself had been abused, is no longer able to stand hearing the beating, intervenes on the woman's half, drops her voice into a manly range, and beats the crap out of the abusive husband. I'd like to think there are more people out there who would intervene when a man is beating the crap out of his wife. My heroes are people who reach out and help others, especially folks who can't stand up for themselves, when there's nothing for them to gain but the glory of giving. I don't own many movies, but "Wong Foo" is one of them for that reason. Oh, and the costumes.

Whoopi Goldberg credits Swazye for her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in "Ghost." I don't doubt it. Swayze could have easily gone all Hollywood and said and did nothing in support of Goldberg getting the part of Oda May in "Ghost" and getting the Oscar nomination. In what I would like to believe was his true nature, he stood up for and behind her even though he had absolutely nothing to gain. We all know that Whoopi should have won the Oscar for "The Color Purple." But the fact that this fellow actor threw the weight of his celebrity behind an actor he obviously felt was deserving of the movie industry's highest accolade when he had nothing to gain is what put Swayze in the hero category for me.

It might have been in his DNA. I was watching "Good Morning America" this week, and Debbie Allen appeared to publicize the remake of "Fame." She mentioned the loss of Patrick Swayze and how his mother gave her dance classes as a child when she couldn't afford them. I can't perfectly recall the story, but it was something to the effect of Allen staring in the window at Mrs. Swayze's dance studio in Houston and Mrs. Swayze asking Allen, "Little girl, what are you doing?" Allen replied that she couldn't take dance classes. "Little girl, can you dance?" Patrick's mother asked. "Yes, ma'am, I can dance." Patrick's mother told Allen to come back with her dance shoes for dance classes.

People who extend themselves to others with no hope of gain whatsoever. What a wonderful gene pool to be part of.

I enjoyed "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing," but "Wong Foo" is the movie I want to remember Patrick Swayze by because I'd like to think that, even without the drag, he was the kind of person who would stand up for someone else less fortunate or less able to stand up for themselves.

What a wonderful life, a wonderful example.

To Patrick Swayze, thanks for everything! BWB

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taylor, Welcome to Serena's World

I’m not even going to try to defend it: What Kanye West said to Taylor Swift was wrong, just plain ol’ wrong, wrong as two left shoes. I doubt he would have behaved in the same manner toward any similar up-and-coming black female singer like Ciara or Jazmine Sullivan. I am of the humble opinion that race had something to do with it. Maybe you disagree. Had he tried the same mess with Alicia Keys, though, I bet she would have beat him with a Moon Man like he had stolen something. New Yorkers roll hard. I don’t mess with them.

In my humble opinion, Kanye’s use of Beyonce’s excellence to throw shade on Taylor Swift’s accomplishment is an all-too-common act: Someone diminishing or stealing your achievement because of your race. This type of behavior plays itself out on playgrounds, in classrooms, conference rooms, cubicles and cafeterias, on ball fields and on assembly lines all across America. That said, what Taylor Swift experienced was not any more wrong merely because she experienced it. This time, the shoe was on the other foot. But it was still the wrong shoe no matter what.

In other words: Taylor Swift, welcome to Serena Williams’ world.

I don’t think Serena Williams’ outburst was acceptable either, but was far more understandable than Kanye’s. The tennis world has been less than welcoming and accepting of the Williams sisters, and Lord knows they have endured far more than they’ve responded to or retaliated against. They’ve had their victories reduced to nothing more than the product of brute-like mannish strength, a parallel I’ve yet to see be drawn to white women in tennis, instead of a mixture of power, finesse, and strategy that they represent. Even John McEnroe has had the gall to criticize their behavior despite the fact that his misbehavior, although also criticized at the time, earned him the somewhat-adoring moniker, “Bad Boy of Tennis.” The sisters have been unfairly criticized as looking less than feminine, and I’ve recently seen comments on the internet calling them “monkeys.” Now, I remember when Serena rocked that black catsuit at the U.S. Open, it elicited the collective “Dayum!” heard from brothers ‘round the world. Even my brother, who is old enough to be Serena’s father, remarked that Serena “wasn’t no little girl anymore,” and he was particularly happy that she wasn’t HIS little girl, if you get my drift. Black folks’ definition of feminine does not exclude dark, large, shapely, or muscular. But I digress.

The world of tennis has had a hard time accepting that the Williams sisters are that good just because, well, they’re that good and they’re black. If they could find a way to Williams-proof the game of tennis the way the PGA has started Tiger-proofing golf courses, I’m sure they would. And, by the way, what’s up with that? I don’t recall the PGA “Golden Bear-proofing” or “Shark-proofing” golf courses before Tiger’s ascent to the top of the game. But for the fact that the NBA is over 70% black, they might have tried to Jordan-proof basketball, although I don’t think they could have given that Jordan could dunk from half-court. And look good doing it, I might add.

Well, as my parents, and many black parents, would put it, “Black folks cain’t have shit.” Now I know I’m not the only one with black parents who grew up hearing this turn of phrase. “Black folks cain’t have shit” refers to the idea that when we succeed, our successes are diminished, denied, or straight-out taken from us for no reason other than race. Now, if you grew up like I did with black parents who came up during the Great Depression, that phrase was usually followed by a litany of black achievements diminished or stolen by white folks: jazz, my grandfather’s property, credit for discovering the North Pole, rock and roll, Jackie Robinson from the Negro Leagues, the ironing board, the light bulb, you name it. I would hear that phrase, but I never thought it applied to me until I hit high school.

I was accepted to Stanford University in the spring of my senior year. I was particularly proud because I knew that Stanford was hard to get into. To my knowledge, I was the only student from my high school who had been accepted to Stanford that year, or in many years, for that matter. As word got out, many of my classmates came up to congratulate me, even one of our six valedictorians. As we sat down for lunch in the cafeteria, this valedictorian, a white girl, let me know what one of the other valedictorians, also a white girl, said about my achievement: “You only got in because you’re black.”

I was floored. This was from someone I actually liked, even though we weren’t close. This hater valedictorian, for lack of a better term, had a father who was a Stanford alum, and I think she assumed she had a lock on being admitted. I didn’t even see it coming. I had that, well, Taylor Swift look on my face. I couldn’t understand what instigated this animus. Everybody knew my record – I had already received a full ride to U.C. Berkeley and would later be admitted to the University of Chicago and Harvard, was ranked 11th in my class of over 300 students with a 3.89 GPA and straight A’s my junior year, had been student body president, played in the orchestra, band, and the all-city orchestra, had won numerous awards for my writing and academics, had scholarships up the yang, interned with the California State Assembly . . . .

And at the end of it all, the unexpected words of one very jealous white girl reduced all my achievements to nothing more than my race. Nothing but my race. It’s a good thing I had parents who told me otherwise, who lifted me up and told me that I had worked hard and earned all that I had achieved and deserved it.

Black folks cain’t have shit.

I know how Taylor Swift felt. I know how Serena Williams probably feels all the time. I know how that Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team felt after being called “nappy headed hos.” To have your accomplishments diminished or denied because of race is patently unfair, but it’s not any more unfair when it happens to pretty blond white girls.

I would imagine that, with each botched and unfair call, Serena Williams probably thought to herself, “I may lose this match on my own, but I’m damn sure not going to let you steal it from me. Not this time.”

Because black folks can have shit. And white folks can, too.

Oh, and memo to President Obama: The only friend you have in the media is Oprah. There is no “off the record” for you. You don’t have to comment on everything involving black people, even if asked. Lord knows, if President Bush had commented on everything involving white folks, he would have exhausted his limited vocabulary (“deciders,” anyone?). Some comments are best left expressed in the barber shop, if you know what I mean.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thanks, Happy Birthday, and How About a Book?

I haven't yet posted on the Serena Williams and Kanye West dust-ups, but I will. But first, a word of thanks to the LA Progressive for reposting my entry on the heckling of President Obama. I'm flattered beyond words that my thought were deemed worthy of republication.

Second, today is my sister The Writing Diva's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is -- that's her business. But I will say that this blog wouldn't have existed but for her encouragement that I "write, write, and then write some more." Thanks also to the folks who continue to encourage me now that I've started -- my siblings, Lei-Chala Wilson, and Roger Duncan. And, last but far from least, thanks to Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) for listening to me read each and every blog post, usually in the car on our way home from work, and telling me I'm fabulous. Sometimes I actually believe him.

Maybe it's because I saw "Julie and Julia" this weekend, but I'm thinking about publishing some of my posts in a book tentatively entitled, "Black Woman Blogging: Dangerous Thoughts of an Uppity Negress." Now, here's where the fun comes in: You all get to tell me which posts should make it into the book. The first person to guess which of my posts is my favorite gets a free copy, assuming I ever finish the dang thing.

Finally, I've started a birthday tradition of penning really, really bad songs for my siblings' birthdays. My second oldest sister's song was, "All I Could Afford," since I couldn't afford to buy her much of anything for her birthday. My oldest sister's song was, "Don't Be A Hater," since it was obvious she was hating on my second oldest sister because I wrote a birthday song for her. The Writing Diva's birthday song? "Baby Boomer Middle Child," because she was born in '59 (oops, gave away her age), and, at this rate, by the time she reaches 62, there won't be any Social Security for her. Since I'm younger than her, I have no expectations whatsoever that I'll draw on Social Security. That's why I'm hanging on to my Google stock in my 401K for dear life.

Thanks to all of you who encourage me and support me, and Happy Birthday, Writing Diva! The lyrics to her birthday song are below.


Baby Boomer Middle Child

(Chorus)
Baby boomer middle child
No Social Security for you
Baby boomer middle child
When you qualify, it will be through

Baby boomer middle child
Cut your coupons, stockpile Depends
Baby boomer middle child
You’ll be eatin’ cat food in the end

(Verse)
You were born in ‘59
15 years too late, 15 years in line
The Baby Boomers, they are a retirin’
Filling up the cemeteries, lighting funeral pyres

When you reach retirement age
You’re gonna have to go back out and work for minimum wage
Put on that bullseye or that smiley-faced vest
Say, “Welcome to Wal-Mart” and give your Baby Boomer best

(chorus)
Baby boomer middle child
No Social Security for you
Baby boomer middle child
When you qualify, it will be through

Baby boomer middle child
Cut your coupons, stockpile Depends
Baby boomer middle child
You’ll be eatin’ cat food in the end

(Verse)

You came of age in the ‘70’s
Disco, Members Only, and Famolare’s
But disco sucks and so does old age
Aricept, Boniva, statins, Medicare co-pays

The Boomers born before ‘52
Are sucking up the resources, won’t be none left for you
So Baby Boomer, don’t be shy
Get some medical marijuana and stay high until you die . . . .

(chorus)
Baby boomer middle child
No Social Security for you
Baby boomer middle child
When you qualify, it will be through

Baby boomer middle child
Cut your coupons, stockpile Depends
Baby boomer middle child
You’ll be eatin’ cat food in the end

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Friday, September 11, 2009

If I Let You Smack My Behind, Can I Be A Lobbyist?

Talk about flying one's freak flag. California Assemblymember Mike Duvall recently resigned after his discussion about spanking one of his two mistresses was picked up by a hot mic in an Assembly hearing room. He went on about how this one mistress, reportedly an energy industry lobbyist, wore "eyepatch underwear" and liked being spanked because she was a "bad girl."

Well, hell, I'm a bad girl. I don't know what eyepatch underwear looks like, but if it's pretty, well, I think I'm qualified to be a lobbyist.

First, let me say that I've never quite understood how lobbyists do what they do. How do you persuade people to support something they're opposed to unless you bribe them, which is illegal? Mind you, I worked for a lobbyist once, a lobbyist who started out as an environmental lobbyist. Talk about a tough tour of duty -- your constituents -- trees, rivers, bears, etc. -- don't vote, don't have money to contribute. Hell, they don't even talk. But somehow she successfully lobbied on behalf of legislation saving some of California's rivers. Somehow I don't think she did it with eyepatch panties and getting her behind smacked.

But I digress. If all it takes nowadays to be a successful lobbyist is getting one's behind smacked and wearing pretty underwear, I'm your girl. Register me as a lobbyist. It definitely pays more than what a furloughed state worker attorney makes.

See, I've been wearing pretty underwear since I was a teenager. MATCHING pretty underwear, no less. My late mother, She Who Is Exalted (SWIE), believed that women should always wear pretty underwear and that that underwear should match. She believed this so much that she would buy all four of us girls matching, lacy Maidenform bras and panties at great expense to herself. At fourteen, I was wearing underwear prettier than what my own mother wore. And she didn't care. She didn't want her girls going out wearing ratty underwear. To this day, I am such a fanatic about this that I have embarrassed my adult nieces who wear unmatched underwear by pulling up my shirt and pulling down the top of my pants in public and saying to them, "SEE! THEY MATCH! And if a forty-something year-old woman can wear pretty, matching underwear, you have NO EXCUSE for not wearing pretty, matching underwear!" If ever something happened to one of my sisters and I had to ID one of them from the neck down, I could tell if she were my sister just by her underwear. "No, officer, that's not my sister. She wouldn't be caught dead in a bra that didn't match her panties!" I even have two sets of underwear -- pretty underwear for work and pretty underwear just for BMNB. But that's MY business.

So, the pretty underwear thing? I got that.

Now, for the behind smacking.

You see, I've had a big behind most of my life. Mind you, it's not a Janet Jackson "onion" -- Arsenio Hall defined an "onion" as a "butt so round it makes you want to cry," -- but it ain't flat either. And I've been getting it smacked or touched most of my adult life. It's been rubbed up against by strange men on the dance floor (not to my liking), smacked by a boyfriend or two, brushed up against by old men, and even smacked by an older male relative who is now dead and beyond the shooting range of my father, who would have killed him if I had said anything. BMNB won't let me discuss his personal predilection when it comes to my behind, but let's just say he appreciates it. That's HIS business. Needless to say, my behind is not a virgin when it comes to being smacked, fondled, rubbed up against, etc. I've always assumed that came with the territory, no pun intended.

So, the behind smacking thing? I got that.

If that's all it takes to be a lobbyist working in the California Assembly, well, then, sign me up. I could use the pay raise, since the state can't furlough lobbyists.

But I won't call you "daddy," though. My father's still alive, and that's just, well, creepy.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

First, Heckling; Then, Throwing Shoes. What Next -- The N Word?

I have been on vacay this week, trying to dig myself and BMNB out of our garage full of twenty years' worth of crap in time for a neighborhood garage sale. I'd been avoiding the Internet, avoiding anything related to work, and not reading the newspaper. I was doing well until I tuned in to watch President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress on health care reform. I was multi-tasking, I admit, trying to listen and load the dishwasher and sort clothes that had been in storage for five years when I heard the following in response to the President's statement that illegal immigrants would not be covered under health care reform:

"You lie."

WTF? I knew I didn't hear what I thought I'd heard. Considering the audience was, or should have been, members of Congress and high-ranking officials associated with the President, who would dare to call the President of the United States a liar in the Capitol building, on the floor of the House? What idiot would dare?

That idiot would be GOP Representative Joe Wilson, courtesy of South Carolina, the same state whose governor is intent on not only flying, but flaunting, his freak flag AND staying in office.

Mind you, Black Woman Blogging is not a role model when it comes to decorum. I've blogged about throwing shoes at President George W. Bush. But I wouldn't have really done it. He was, after all, the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World. And I wasn't an elected representative held to a higher standard, nor will I ever be, given this blog.

But calling the President a liar in the nation's Capitol? That's going way too far. Representative Wilson wasn't alone in his breach of decorum, however. What we out in television land couldn't see were the members of Congress who held up signs like they were at a party convention instead of a joint session of Congress. What we did hear was the mocking laughter when the President said that some specifics of his plan remained to be ironed out. I think Representative Joe Wilson, along with some conservative members of Congress, the Tea Party people, the conservative shock jocks, and the Birthers, are, as we say, "smelling themselves." Now that Rep. Wilson has broken the decorum ceiling and heckled the President in the House chambers, what's next? Throwing shoes? Dare I say it -- the "N-word"?

There's a strange dynamic going on here that no one seems to want to talk about, including President Obama: Some, but not all, of the disrespect and disagreement shown him is the product of racism. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel noted that no president has ever been treated like this by Congress, ever. Hmmm . . . I wonder why? What makes this president different than all the rest that he would be treated so rudely?

Race. Let's just tell the truth and shame the devil, or devils, as it were.

Ask yourself: Do you think President Obama would be treated as poorly as he has been by those who disagree with him if he were white? Somehow, I don't think so. That's not to say that some who disagree with his policies and plans aren't rational or well-reasoned, even if they express their disagreement in a fever-pitched and shrill manner. But the rational and well-reasoned folks seem to be in the oppositional minority, and, unlike John McCain, they aren't checking their whackjob and sometimes racist compatriots. I just don't recall the disagreement rising to such a level of disrepect under the Bush Administration -- at least not on American soil -- or under previous administrations, but let me know if I'm wrong. And those aspiring assassins like John Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme don't count, since they were plain crazy.

I bet President Obama probably thinks that by drawing attention to the veiled racism in all this, he will ultimately lose the battle for the ideas and programs he believes in because the race discussion will become a distraction. I get that. What I don't get is why the rest of us -- of all races, mind you -- who can and should call attention to the role of racism in the opposition politics aren't saying more about it.

Is it fair to ask those who oppose President Obama's policies in such strident and rude ways, "Would you have heckled President Clinton? Do you contend that Senator McCain, who was born on a U.S. military base in Panama, is not a citizen?" I think it is incumbent upon those of us who see the covert racism involved in some of the fanatical opposition to expose it for what it is. I bet that most of those who oppose health care reform on the grounds that it's socialism can't spell socialism or don't know the difference between socialism, communism, and capitalism. You can usually get to the bottom of the racism at work when you ask, "What about President Obama's policies don't you like?" and the only response you get is something on the order of, "I just don't like him at all."


And I'm just waiting for a member of Congress or some other elected official to forget their mic is "hot" and say the word they've probably been using all along about President Obama: The N-word.

Think about it -- what else could unite people who, on paper, have interests that could not be more divergent? How is it that working class and poor whites -- do you see wealthy whites at the Tea Parties or among the Birthers? -- would line up with big Pharma, the insurance industry (on the DL), and other corporate interests against health care reform when, given their proportion of the population, working class and poor whites have more to gain from health care reform than any other group?

In the meantime, I think it's time for the President to stop taking strategic communications advice from Axelrod and Gibbs and start taking it from Williams and Iverson -- Katt and Allen, to be precise. I think the time has come for him to stop being so magnanimous with his opponents and stop assuming that wise and reasoned discussion will prevail. It's time for some presidential swagger as only a black man and Bill Clinton can provide. He needs to stop being so articulate and reasoned and start throwing some 'bows like Iverson and smacking around those blue-dog Democrats, like they were, well, you know, to get the votes he needs to get the job done. He needs to go all out with the votes he has and with the votes he's entitled to --yes, I said entitled to I -- merely because he is the leader of his party. He needs to act like he won't get a second term. Hell, he won't even get a second half of his first term if the mid-term elections turn ugly, so he has nothing to lose by acting up.

I'd suggest he signal the beginning of this race-conscious and less magnanimous Obama adminstration with a private meeting with Representative Wilson in the Oval Office behind closed doors that begins with his head slightly cocked, his eyes slightly squinted, and the greeting, "What did you call me? I know you didn't call me a liar . . . . "

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