Monday, September 26, 2011

Mr. President, I Don't Appreciate Your Tone

Rep. Maxine Waters wasn't the only person who found the president's parting language in his address to the Congressional Black Caucus "curious." When I heard his summation, I looked at my husband with a "Oh, no he didn't" look on my face.

WTF?

For those of you who missed it, I'm going to include a link to the text of the president's speech at the end of the post. The speech in its entirety was a very positive speech. Suffice it to say, the language that caught my attention was this:

I expect all of you to march with me. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do, CBC.

With all due respect, Mr. President, you're the one with the work to do.

The end of your speech implies that: 1) CBC members and black folks have been complaining, grumbling and crying; and 2) We're sitting around in our "bedroom slippers" instead of working on the challenges that face us. My family and I have faced the same recession-related challenges as the rest of America and black folks in particular -- unemployment, underemployment, wage cuts, foreclosures, lack of health insurance, you name it. But we haven't all been sitting around complaining, grumbling, and crying. We've picked ourselves up, and we've picked up those in our family who wanted to complain, grumble and cry and reminded them of who we are and what we're made of.

If any group of Americans would have the right to complain, grumble and cry, it would be African Americans. As you are well aware, we've suffered the highest unemployment rates and the greatest loss of personal wealth due to this recession. We've stood by and watched while you let Wall Street get away with its shenanigans. And all along, despite your detractors, we've defended you, telling naysayers that it took more than four years to get into this mess and it would take any president, black, white or otherwise, more than four years to get us out of it.

More curious, however, is your choice of this language for this particular audience. My husband, Black Man Not Blogging, said after hearing the end of your speech, "Yeah, it's okay to talk to us like that as long as he's telling the white folks the same thing."

Mr. President, are you telling white folks the same thing? Somehow I doubt it.

Finally, I would think that a Black president would be more sensitive to black stereotypes than to invoke language that suggests indolence and inertia on the part of Black people, especially Black leaders. I can't help but think that if you had been raised by an African American parent -- not African, but African American -- you would have chosen your words more wisely or not have allowed someone else to choose those words for you.

Mr. President, although your speech in its entirety was positive, I don't appreciate the tone of the last lines of your speech.

Here's the link to text of the speech.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Georgia and Troy Davis on My Mind

Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer, will be executed tomorrow in Georgia at 7 pm.

His case has become a cause highlighting the problems with the death penalty. Seven of nine key witnesses who testified to his detriment have recanted their stories, no DNA evidence linked him to the crime, and no weapon was found despite the fact that shell casings from the murder matched shell casings from an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution for the purposes of having a federal court judge hear the matter, and the judge did not believe the witnesses who recanted. There appears to be a maelstrom of doubt.

Today, the Georgia Pardons Board has denied Davis clemency, and Georgia's governor has no power to grant it. Efforts to get the Chatham District Attorney Larry Chisholm to stop the execution appear to be to no avail, as Chisholm states he has no power to withdraw a death warrant. It looks like Davis' execution will proceed.

I'm not in favor of the death penalty, but I'm not fond of cop killers, either. That said, I would rather let a guilty man live than execute an innocent one. It's not like we don't have time to figure this thing out or stop the gears if there is this much reasonable doubt. The problem is the standard of review for Davis' case is that he would have had to have shown with clear and convincing evidence that no jury would have convicted him had they had the new evidence before them. Why should we require clear and convincing evidence NOT to execute someone when we only require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt TO execute someone? Why don't we require clear and convincing evidence to execute someone in the first place?

I've signed the petition to stop Davis' execution, posted it on my Facebook page, sent emails. Even if Davis is executed, that doesn't mean that the issues of the procedural hurdles and the Georgia governor's inability to grant clemency should die with him. No matter what happens, perhaps the way forward is to get rid of the death penalty altogether or reform how we convict people and sentence them to death. Maybe the way to start is to boycott those states that have executed people whose convictions leave room for reasonable doubt. I hate to say it, but maybe folks of conscience need to stop spending money in Georgia until it reforms its criminal justice system.

I pray for a just resolution and mercy for Troy Davis. I pray for courage for those who have the power to stop this execution, if they exist.

Give It Up, Turn It Loose: Fear of a Statin

Yours truly has been on vacation. The time away from work has been good for me and given me a new perspective and greater focus. Thanks, dear readers, for your patience with my absence. I also wanted to continue to use my little postage stamp of cyberspace here to promote the Angie Stone "Black is Beautiful" concert this Friday in Atlanta that will be supporting the 100 Black Men's "Project Success" to get more underserved kids to college.

That said, I had somewhat of a health shake-up while on vacation, and I figured I would share it with you in hopes that you might have your own health epiphany.

While on vacation, I finally got some blood work done that I needed to complete for my annual physical. My doctor emailed me and said that my results were "spectacular" except for one thing:

My cholesterol level.

Seems it's been on the rise for years now, and for the second time, she has suggested that I start a light dose of statins.

And for the second time, I resisted. "No, please, " I responded. "Once you start taking high blood pressure medication or statins, you're stuck taking that stuff for the rest of your life. Give me the chance to reduce it through diet and exercise. I've already lost 14 pounds this year, " I pleaded in an email. My doctor informed me that taking statins doesn't always last forever, and taking them is a faster way to reduce one's cholesterol than just diet and exercise, although improvements in diet and exercise are highly recommended, too.

I know she's a scientist, but my experience has taught me this: No one in my family has ever gotten off statins.

On my maternal grandmother's side, every woman of my mother's generation to whom I am biologically related had a heart attack. My mother had two, starting in her early fifties, both my maternal aunts died of heart attacks, and even my maternal grandmother had a heart attack. Now, there are some caveats. My mom and her sisters were all smokers. My maternal grandmother, however, was not.

Simply put, heart disease runs in my family, and it is an assassin of women.

But my cholesterol level wasn't always high. In fact, in my late twenties and early thirties, my cholesterol level AND my blood pressure were abnormally low. Even my doctor couldn't understand it given my family history. I could.

When my mother had her first heart attack in her early fifties, it jolted me into making lifestyle changes quick, fast, and in a hurry. I was in my twenties and I quickly gave up red meat and caffeine. I also got in the habit of running on a semi-regular basis. I didn't drink a lot of soda, and I did a lot of heart-healthy cooking instead of eating out. By my early thirties, when I was living in Oakland, I took up running around Lake Merritt for my health and -- I'll admit it -- to ogle hot black men in short shorts. Call me hopelessly heterosexual, but I was a healthy heterosexual. It was at this time when I had abnormally low cholesterol and blood pressure. Even when I later moved to Mississippi, I engaged in a failed attempt to give up meat altogether and tried being a vegetarian. In Mississippi, no less, where even the corn is fried. Yeah, call me stupid, but I was still healthier back then.

Fast forward to my late thirties through my forties. Not only did I start eating meat, but I started eating red meat. I loved me some In-N-Out Burger, The Habit, and any burger barbecued on an outdoor grill during the summer. My affection for dairy got out of hand to the point that I preferred cheese to chocolate and couldn't imagine a mocha without whipped cream. And the only running I had been doing had been to beat my local baristas from locking the doors at Starbucks at closing times.

Even without being a smoker, genetics are not on my side. After my email conversation with my doctor, I realized that there were some things I was going to have give up and turn loose if I didn't want to suffer the fate of my mom, her sisters, and her mother.

So I've given up red meat, milk, and cheese. I eat scrambled egg whites, not whole eggs, for breakfast. I've reduced my consumption of simple carbs -- waffles, breads, and the buttermilk pancakes that my nieces and nephews adore me for -- for whole grains, oatmeal in particular. I was already taking a multivitamin, fish oil pills, calcium with vitamin D, and iron. I've given up caffeine. I've almost eliminated fried foods. I'd already been walking for a half hour daily during lunch hour at work, but I know I've got to increase my activity level, too. I've got to get back to basics and do what used to work for me when I was healthier if I want to be healthy again.

I've learned to embrace low-fat vanilla soy milk in my oatmeal and in my decaffeinated coffee spiked with Splenda. I snack on almonds and apples. And when I treat myself, it's a soy decaf Caramel Macchiato.

In six months I will be re-tested. If my cholesterol level hasn't dropped or hasn't dropped sufficiently, I will give in and start the statins, but not without a fight. The fate of my maternal grandmother, maternal aunts and mother doesn't have to be my fate. Diet and exercise are within my control.

My doctor gave me one piece of advice that I want to share with everyone: If you do only one thing to improve your health and decrease your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it's exercise. Her recommendation is walking because it's the safest exercise and you can do it anywhere. Just 30 minutes of walking at least three to five times a week will pay dividends because of the consistency with which you do it. Her advice is any exercise is better than none at all.

So I'll let you know six months from now how this has all turned out. I share this with you, dear readers, to encourage you to make whatever changes you need to make in your lifestyle so that you may have a healthy future ahead of you. Let's make a liar of genetics, shall we?

To your health, dear readers. And to mine.