Black Woman Blogging

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sensei Obama's Chill Dojo

At first, I was angry at the protesters who spat on Representative John Lewis and hurled racial epithets (not “epitaphs” as one reporter called them) at Lewis and Representative Emanuel Cleaver II. Seething, mind you. Then I was angry at Lewis and Cleaver for not commenting on the incidents. Then I was angry at President Obama for not calling the protesters on their racism.

And then I chilled.

Consider me a new student in President, or rather, Sensei Obama’s Chill Dojo.

I realized that, like President Obama and Representatives Lewis and Cleaver, I could not allow the N word to have the power over me that those who used it on Lewis and Cleaver wanted it to have. I, like President Obama, needed to focus not on the extraneous and the offensive, but the goal itself – enacting health care legislation.

I know my husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), has heard criticisms of President Obama at his barber shop to the effect that the President needs to be “more black” – and, in this case, I think that meant “more angry.” I know my first inclination when I heard that Representative Lewis, who had literally taken blows in Selma to march for the freedoms I enjoy, had been called the N-word and spat on, was to take up arms. I wanted to show those protesters that I wasn’t part of the non-violent Dr. King civil rights generation, but the “by any means necessary” pre-Hajj Malcolm X generation. And that I wasn’t alone.

And that’s exactly what they would have wanted – that Lewis, Cleaver, and even President Obama – lose focus. That they give power to that most offensive word at the expense of representative democracy and social justice.

So I took my cue from the President. And when the House vote hit 216 Sunday night, I quietly rejoiced and realized that had the President and Representatives Lewis and Cleaver given those racial epithets the power that those who used them thought they had, we might not be talking about a health care victory today, but what could have been had we chilled and remained focused.

I guess that is the first rule of Sensei Obama’s Chill Dojo: Chill and remain focused.


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Congress: Grow A Pair and Reform Health Care

I don't know how much more bluntly to put it: We need health care reform.

I know I get tired of this country always regressing to the mean for industrialized nations in terms of quality of life issues like health care, child care and the like -- for goodness' sake, Cuba has better access to health care AND a higher literacy rate than the U.S. For all the money that this economic engine of a nation generates, you'd think we'd do better than tiny Scandinavian countries in taking care of our own. But we don't.

Like Dennis Kucinich, I, too, was disappointed that the current health care bill doesn't do more. I wanted single payer, was willing to settle for a public option, but at this point, I'm not willing to let the perfect get in the way of the good, especially in a nation that ties access to health care to employment during a time of high unemployment. At this point in history, I'll take what I can get.

I know that many people think that the unemployed are taken care of in terms of access to health care -- that they can get Medicaid or some other form of public health care for the indigent. Assuming that's true, what about the underemployed? What about those Americans who would rather take any job they can get -- even if it pays far less and doesn't provide health care benefits -- than be unemployed? The Americans who work numerous part-time jobs in an effort to cobble together a full-time salary, and still without benefits? What about them?

I know my nation can do better than just doing nothing.

So, to put it bluntly, Congress, grow a pair -- balls, ovaries, whatever it takes -- and reform health care.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Splitting the U.S. of A: An Exercise in Stupidity

My sister, the Writing Diva, received this email from one of her right wingnut friends. It disturbed her deeply. I figured I’d take a shot at responding to it, as it was reportedly authored by a law student. Since I used to get paid to intellectually smack down cocky and uninformed law students, I thought this might be fun:


Of course you will.

American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:We have stuck together since the late 1950's, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce.... I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Indeed. Until you realize you have no economy to speak of. But go ahead, propose away.

Here is a model separation agreement:

Actually, brain surgeon, this would be a property settlement and/or custody agreement, but let’s not split hairs.

Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.

Cool! We’ll take California, Nevada (We wouldn’t want to burden you with those legal brothels, now would we? You can still patronize them, though, as your people are wont to do, by seeking what we’ll call a “fuck visa.” But it will cost you.), Hawai’i (Because, of course, you wouldn’t want to be burdened with the birthplace of President Obama; it’ll take a lot off the plates of your Tea Party People, but then, what else would they have to talk conspiracy theories about?), Oregon (because medical marijuana and assisted suicide offend you so), Washington (and Microsoft), Colorado, Puerto Rico (where you think illegal immigrants come from), Guam, the territories, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C. and Michigan. Good luck with the rest. Oh, and we’ll declare New Orleans a protectorate that belongs to neither of us, since your people did such a splendid job with relief and rebuilding and our people don’t want to own the entire state just to attend Mardi Gras and eat good food. Just like Cubans and former the U.S.A., we’ll give automatic citizenship to gay men from Atlanta because they shouldn’t have to suffer under your regime.

We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them).

Conversely, we gladly and happily cede to you Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the entire Fox News channel, and that blond anorexic-looking conservative chick who won’t STFU. Oh, and Katie Couric, just because. We’ll keep Oprah, Michael and Rosie for the tax benefits alone. And good luck gassing up the Hummer you’ll need to ride Glenn and Rush around, especially if there’s another hurricane in the Gulf Coast.

We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens. We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood.

Uh, slow your roll, homeskillet. You can’t keep capitalism and Wall Street if you don’t keep New York,and Lord knows you wouldn't want to keep the birthplace of hip-hop. And “hot Alaskan hockey moms” is a conflict in terms, since, if you’re talking about Sarah Palin, ignorance can never, ever be “hot.” As for the Bibles, we’ll be keeping those too, the difference being that we’ll at least crack ours open from time to time to make sure we’re actually quoting them correctly and following them. We liberals have this thing for fact checking and accuracy that your people tend to disdain, especially as they pertain to the exercise of government power and Fox News.

You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.

Good luck buying the armaments you’re going to need to “invade and hammer.” And the circuitry that powers those arms – designed in Silicon Valley, which we’ll own. I guess you’ll fly visually. We’ll save our armaments for real, not imagined, threats to national security, not “our way of life.” Lord knows, your “way of life” didn’t include people of color, women or gays for a long time, anyway. Does it now?

We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N. but we will no longer be paying the bill.

Why keep those Judeo-Christian values when you so rarely use them? Lord knows, the only lives you celebrate are in vitro – the in-your-face homeless and poor, well, tough nuggies for them in your new state. Like my momma used to say, if you’re not going to use something, give it to someone who will. We’ll actually use those Judeo-Christian values you speak of, thank you, sir. And since we embrace a diversity of views and beliefs so as to better equip us to deal with nations unlike ourselves in a peaceful manner, we’ll take Islam and raise you Hinduism and Buddhism.

We'll keep the SUVs, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find.

You go right ahead driving those Osama bin Laden-mobiles. What’s good for Hummer and the like is good for . . . Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda.

You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right. We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World.

Funny, doctors seem to like San Francisco and Hawaii, where healthcare is provided to everyone regardless of cost. As for our new anthem, I personally prefer “One Nation Under A Groove,” but since we will be a deliberative democracy and not some dictatorial, neo-con facist state, we’ll vote on it and let your leader know what we decide. Not that he’ll communicate it down to you proles, anyway.

We'll practice trickle down economics and you can give trickle up poverty your best shot. Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.

What’s the point of keeping your history when you so rarely refer to it and regularly revise it to accomplish your current political objectives? And didn’t Bush I refer to “trickle down economics” as “voo doo economics”? Surely you wouldn’t want to embrace an economic approach associated with what you would view as a cult. You might also have difficultly with keeping the flag, too, since you’ll have to actually be able to count the stars you’ll need to delete to reflect the current number of states in your new union and you don’t highly prize public education. You do know what the stars in the flag stand for, right? Oh, my bad -- you’ll just replace the stars you’ll have to delete with bars, since that’s so familiar and comforting to you anyway. I know – heritage, not hate.

Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you Answer which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.

Sure, I’ll take that bet. Oh, and we’ll take the immigrants, too, since we all know that most of the agricultural and entrepreneurial growth will be dependent upon them. Jai ho!

John J. Wall
Law Student and an American


Black Woman Blogging
Lawyer and American

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Avatired of Racial (and other) Cliches

For starters, BMNB wants his money back. All $28 of it, not including what he spent on popcorn and soda (another $12.50).

You see, we went to see "Avatar" to see what the big deal was about. At the end, BMNB just shook his head and said, "I want my money back." I responded, "Hell, I want my time back. I can't get back the time I just wasted on this movie."

If you're just counting the visual effects, Avatar is a major accomplishment indeed, although I don't think the 3D glasses we paid for were necessary to fully appreciate it.

But if you went in hopes of an intelligent, compelling plot, you will have left, as BMNB and I did, feeling like you got jerked around. I was insulted.

Every tired-ass racial and film cliche you could think of was in there -- cowboys versus Indians, noble savages at one with the land versus the evil corporate raiders, the objective, frozen scientist who becomes an advocate for the subjects she's studying, the gung-ho paramilitary types going in to decimate the seemingly ignorant indigenous people who are in the way of profit and progress, the bad-ass woman with weapons, the more-hubris-than-intelligence white guy seeking acceptance from the natives by trying to prove his bona fides to them, and a Pocahontas-type love story to boot thrown on top of this cinematic dung heap. To add to this cesspool of a plot, as if James Cameron could just once allow you to forget his work on the Terminator series and "True Lies," these two-dimensional characters are allowed to pop off trite one-liners a la Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Ahl bee bahck" line from one of those tired-ass Terminator flicks.

It was like "Dances With Wolves" meets "Star Wars" meets "Birth of a Nation."

If you are a thinking person of color -- hell, if you're a thinking person, period -- do not waste your money on this movie. Wait for it to come out on Blu ray or DVD or, better yet, to your local library so you don't spend any money renting it. But do not reward this cinematic shit heap with your hard-earned dollars. Do not, I tell you; do not.

What worries me is that this film is now the biggest earning film of all time, and no one seems to question the racial cliches in it because it champions the environment. Can't we have an intelligent and entertaining film that also champions the environment?

And why the blue people gotta have tails?

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beyond Madea and Mary Jones: My Hope

I can't begin to say how happy I was for Mo'Nique's Best Supporting Actress Oscar win, for the glowing tribute Oprah gave to Gabby Sidibe and the bright future she has, for Sandra Bullock winning for a role that had more depth than she's been able to show in a long, long time. I cheered for Katherine Bigelow and at the same time felt some sorrow that the first woman to win an Oscar for directing wasn't Barbra Streisand, who wasn't even nominated for "Yentl."

Once my euphoria died down, it hit me: Maybe Sandra and Katherine will be presented with a host of challenging projects and wonderful opportunities, but Gabby and Mo'Nique probably won't.

Although we don't have a plethora of black female Oscar winners -- Hattie McDaniel, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, and now Mo'Nique -- it seems that Hollywood just doesn't seem to know quite what to do with black female Oscar winners, or even black female Oscar nominees -- Ruby Dee, Diana Ross (who was robbed for "Lady Sings The Blues"), Diahann Carroll, Angela Bassett, Sophie Okonedo, Taraji P. Henson, Queen Latifah, even Oprah herself. Seems to me that if a black woman isn't playing someone tragic or just tragically cartoonish, she isn't playing much at all on the big screen. Yes, there are more opportunities than ever before, but is that really saying much?

Surely there must be opportunities for black women film actresses beyond the characters of Madea and Mary Jones. And Madea isn't even played by a woman.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not knocking Tyler Perry's Madea or Sapphire's Mary Jones. Although I find Madea to be cartoonish and over-the-top, I'd be lying if I said she didn't remind me of some of the women in my family. And I appreciate that Perry at least tries to include a message, however heavy-handed, in all of his movies. And, truth be told, the Mary Joneses of the world do indeed exist, in all races and both genders.

But there's so much more to the African American female experience than Madea and Mary Jones. Is it because we reward the Madea- and Mary Jones-type roles that Hollywood thinks we won't reward anything else that demonstrates the breadth and depth of the African American female experience? I'd like to believe wider and deeper kinds of roles will be forthcoming for Gabby Sidibe and Mo'Nique, and not just when a best-selling white author is wonderfully and laudibly adept at capturing the breadth and depth of our experiences (Sue Monk Kidd's "The Secret Life of Bees" and, I would imagine, Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"), but when a black author does, too. Can someone tell me why Edward P. Jones' "The Known World" or J. California Cooper's "In Search of Satisfacton" hasn't made it to the big screen yet? Or anything by Octavia Butler or Pearl Cleage?

I understand that Gabby Sidibe has snagged a role on a television show, and Mo'Nique, God bless her, has her own show. My hope for Mo'Nique, Gabby, and all the Oscar-nominated fabulous black actresses who preceded them is that they will be afforded equal and ample opportunities to practice their craft and show the world that there's so much more to us than gun-toting drag grannies and unsympathetic abusers.

Or better yet, I hope they create their own opportunities.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Now?

I don’t know if this message was meant for me or whether it was just included in the signature block of the person who sent me the email, but nonetheless it read:

“Think BIG! There are unseen forces ready to support your dreams.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

I don’t know what the career analog of being transgendered is, but whatever it is, I’m it. My job and my profession don’t really match who I am inside – a creative, witty, profane, arrogant, neurotic, fun woman of letters. For years I’ve tried to make myself fit into the legal profession, to keep myself attached to at the periphery, to tell myself that it’s not that I don’t like the practice of law, it’s just that I haven’t found the right practice area for me. That if I had gotten a position with the NAACP LDF or some similarly intriguing cutting-edge legal organization always fighting the good fight, I’d somehow fit into this profession.

That’s like Elton John thinking, “If only I could find the right woman, I’d be straight.” Yeah, right.

Maybe it’s because I’m closer to fifty than to forty and having a mid-life crisis that I’m thinking longer and harder about the time I have left on this planet and how I want to use it. I’m not absolutely sure I want to spend it making money as a lawyer.

There’s no shortage of things I would want to do or be if money were no object: President of Spelman College, published author, event planner (I actually enjoyed planning my wedding – call me weird), charter school operator, professor of education or African American studies (notwithstanding my lack of a Ph.D), high school civics teacher, filmmaker, owner of my own PR firm, talk show host (Are you reading this, Oprah?), maybe even politics. If I were younger, maybe I would throw myself whole-heartedly into music and aspire to be more than proficient with the instruments I learned to play. I guess what I’ve tired of as a lawyer is constantly having to defend myself – my opinions on what the law is, on legal strategies to be taken, on brief writing, you name it. I rarely get the opportunity to just say, “This is how it should be” and have people fall in line. I’m constantly having to defend myself. Sometimes you get tired of fighting.

Are there other professions where you don’t have to do the equivalent of a mathematical proof justifying your work and opinions to your colleagues? I just don’t know if I want to be arguing over brief writing and legal opinions when I’m in my fifties. Somehow, I don’t think so.

So the encouragement to think big couldn’t have come at a better time, even in these recessionary times.

I scour More magazine seeking examples of women who’ve done 180 degree career changes and still paid the bills. I pour over just about every article in O Magazine about “living your best life” and re-invention. It’s not the dreaming I have problems with; it’s focusing on those dreams and making them come true that I’m having problems with.

And let’s not forget – once you’re married, you don’t have the luxury of making revenue-altering decisions without the advice and, perhaps even, the consent of your spouse. BMNB supports me in just about every wacky thing I do or could imagine doing (bartending school? Yep, he supported it.), but I don’t know how long he’d be happy if he had to pick up the financial slack in our marriage caused by my pursuing my big dream or dreams. But hey, if it ain’t tested, it ain’t really a marriage, right?

I guess I’m just trying to figure out what to do and how to do it now that I’m closer to death than to childhood. And to have faith that those unforeseen forces are indeed standing at the ready to support me.

Any suggestions?

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