Tag Archives: class

On the table, 7/28

Today I got to volunteer for a couple of hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  It was really awesome!  Those girls totally schooled me on playing pool!  They also, sadly, were out of ping-pong balls, so I’m going to donate some this week.  If you find yourself taking old board games to Goodwill, take them to your local youth club instead.

I have lots of stuff for you this week!  Here it goes:

Read more:

  • Christie Thompson at Ms. Blog argues that the new ads not only condescendingly argue that “strong women douche” (while adding to the tradition that vaginas are dirty), but also essentialize women by using racial stereotypes.
  • At AdWeek, Stan Richards explains Summer’s Eve’s defense: “After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer’s Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences….” [Read the rest of Tim Nudd’s article here.] 
  • Nudd later reported that in light of bad press, the company decided to pull the online videos: “Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go….” [Read on]

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  • Slut Walks
Slut Walk London

Read more:

  • Raymond Kwan at York Univesity’s student paper Excalibur describes how a Toronto cop told a group of college students women could deter rape by not dressing like a slut.
  • Needless to say, women have responded in droves in the form of Slut Walks – a march to decalre women’s “constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly,” according to Slut Walk Toronto.com.
  • The movement has even expanded transnationally – making a profound impact in India says Nikita Garia at The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some feminists, however, have responded questionably.  Rebecca Traister at the NY Times makes a great argument: “To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling….” [Read on]

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a battery of tests and evaluations to go through before it will again allow gay men to donate blood. As midsummer shortages hit the nation’s blood supply, BBJ health care reporter Julie Donnelly writes that the process should proceed expeditiously.  [Read more here.]

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See the video here, or read the transcript below.

“Every empire in history has either failed or faltered, but for some reason – be it our arrogance, our hubris, or our nationalism disguised as patriotism – we turn a blind eye to the growing chasm between the have gots and the have nots. One percent of the population owning and controlling more wealth than ninety percent of Americans, is both dangerous and unsustainable.  At the heart of the problem is political cowardice….” [Read on]

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A look inside America’s poorest county

So the story is pretty interesting, but head over to the comments and you’ll be AMAZED to see all the classist, racist commentary – over 4000 comments.  People don’t want to admit that poverty is a race, ethnicity, and gender issue as well…
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Where nothing is harder to find than a job: A look inside the poorest county in America – AP

Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press, On Sunday February 13, 2011, 8:54 pm EST

ZIEBACH COUNTY, S.D. (AP) — In the barren grasslands of Ziebach County, there’s almost nothing harder to find in winter than a job. This is America’s poorest county, where more than 60 percent of people live at or below the poverty line.

At a time when the weak economy is squeezing communities across the nation, recently released census figures show that nowhere are the numbers as bad as here — a county with 2,500 residents, most of them Cheyenne River Sioux Indians living on a reservation.

In the coldest months of the year, when seasonal construction work disappears and the South Dakota prairie freezes, unemployment among the Sioux can hit 90 percent.

Poverty has loomed over this land for generations. Repeated attempts to create jobs have run into stubborn obstacles: the isolated location, the area’s crumbling infrastructure, a poorly trained population and a tribe that struggles to work with businesses or attract investors.

Now the tribe — joined by a few entrepreneurs, a development group and a nonprofit — is renewing efforts to create jobs and encourage a downtrodden population to start its own businesses.

“Many, many people make these grand generalizations about our communities and poverty and ‘Why don’t people just do something, and how come they can’t?'” said Eileen Briggs, executive director of Tribal Ventures, a development group started by the tribe. “It’s much more complicated than that.”

The Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, created in 1889, consists almost entirely of agricultural land in Ziebach and neighboring Dewey County. It has no casino and no oil reserves or available natural resources.

Most towns in Ziebach County are just clusters of homes between cattle ranches. Families live in dilapidated houses or run-down trailers. Multicolored patches of siding show where repairs were made as cheaply as possible.

Families fortunate enough to have leases to tribal land can make money by raising cattle. Opportunities are scarce for almost everyone else.

The few people who have jobs usually have to drive up to 80 miles to tribal headquarters. The nearest major population centers are Rapid City and Bismarck, each a trip of 150 miles or more.

Basic services can be vulnerable. The tribe’s primary health clinic doesn’t have a CT scanner or a maternity ward. An ice storm last year knocked out power and water in places for weeks. And in winter, the gravel roads that connect much of the reservation can become impassable with snow and ice.

Nearly six decades after the reservation was created, the federal government began building a dam on the Missouri River, but the project caused flooding that washed away more than 100,000 acres of Indian land. After the flooding, the small town of Eagle Butte became home to the tribal headquarters and the center of the reservation’s economy.

“There are things that have happened to us over many, many generations that you just can’t fix in three or four years,” said Kevin Keckler, the tribe’s chairman. “We were put here by the government, and we had a little piece of land and basically told to succeed here.”

But prosperity never came. The county has been at or near the top of the poverty rankings for at least a decade. In 2009, the census defined poverty as a single person making less than $11,000 a year or a family of four making less than $22,000 a year.

Eagle Butte has few businesses and the handful that do exist struggle to stay afloat. The town has just one major grocery store, the Lakota Thrifty Mart, which is owned by the tribe. There’s also a Dairy Queen, a Taco John’s and a handful of small cafes. There’s no bowling alley, no movie theatre.

But a few entrepreneurs are trying to break the cycle of failure, with mixed results.

Stephanie Davidson and her husband, Gerald, started a plumbing-and-heating business in 2000 with a single pickup truck. Eventually, D&D Plumbing started to grow, and they hired several employees.

But the reservation economy, which was never strong, has been hit hard by the economic slump. Many customers don’t have the money to pay for work upfront, and the Davidsons have struggled to get contracts in new construction, such as a nearly $85 million federal hospital being built to replace the aging clinic.

They’ve laid off employees and filled empty space in their building by adding a bait shop and then a deli. Nothing has worked.

“People think you’re a pillar of the community because you have a business, and that part of it is good,” Stephanie Davidson said. “We don’t feel that way right now because we’re having such a tough time.”

Nicky White Eyes, who owns a flower shop on Main Street, says there are days when she doesn’t sell a single flower. Most of her business comes from families who get help from the tribe to buy flowers for a relative’s funeral.

“We’re getting by with nothing extra,” said White Eyes, who said she hasn’t taken any salary in the months since she quit another job to run the shop full-time. “But no, I have too much heart in it to let it go quite yet.”

The nonprofit Four Bands Community Fund has invested in both businesses and people in Eagle Butte. The group teaches residents basic financial skills — how to open a checking account, how to save money on a budget and how to develop credit.

“You have the most complicated little world here,” said Tanya Fiddler, Four Bands’ executive director.

Without a viable private sector, federal money permeates every part of life here. The federal government pays for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the Indian Health Service, three of the reservation’s largest employers. Businesses rely on the federal money that comes into the reservation.

Federal stimulus dollars are paying for the new hospital, which will create about 150 permanent jobs when it opens this year. Other federal contracts bring sporadic jobs, too.

One tribal success story is Lakota Technologies, which has attracted call-center and data-processing work and trained hundreds of young people since it started more than a decade ago. The company now employs a handful of tribal members on a State Department sub-contract, even though most of its cubicles remain empty.

But other businesses owned by the tribe have run into trouble. Last year, a buffalo-meat processing company was sued by a rancher in federal court. The lawsuit accused the company, Pte Hca Ka Inc., of not delivering on contracts. A federal judge ruled against Pte Hca Ka for $1.1 million when it did not respond to the lawsuit.

Keckler, the newly elected tribal chairman and a former business owner, has pledged to try to fix the problems. He said previous officials have rejected overtures from outside investors because they feared the loss of tribal control or the risk of losing their positions.

“It’s difficult for us to get people to come here and have faith in us as a government,” he said. “We just had a new election, and there was discussion about, ‘Oh, people want to give away things.’ Those are kind of the issues that we have.”

Still, there are small reasons to hope.

Later this year, the tribe will start to receive payments from a $290 million settlement with Congress related to the farmland that was lost to the Missouri River flooding. The tribe will receive annual interest on the settlement money starting this fall. This year’s payment could be as much as $75 million, according to one tribal estimate. A Department of Treasury spokeswoman says the final amount hasn’t been determined yet.

That money can be used for infrastructure improvements, economic development and education.

Raymond Uses The Knife, a rancher and tribal councilman, wants the reservation to be “accessible for other companies to come in and invest their money right here.”

“We have to attract business. Regardless of how much money we have, we can’t set up our own businesses,” he said. “We also have to realize that we’re all not experts.”

Meanwhile, groups like Tribal Ventures and Four Bands continue to look for ways to bring in jobs and help those who are fighting the decades-old obstacles here.

“You can have all the heart you want, but you have to have actual cash and resources,” said Briggs, of Tribal Ventures. “All those things play a part in our being able to basically use our greatest asset, which is our people.”

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Get Schooled Six minutes of segregation a day: Can it help black students?

Ok, so my spiel:

I went to a women’s college for my undergraduate – and I loved it.  I honestly felt that learning in a single-sex environment enabled me to better understand both sexism and feminism.  I wouldn’t trade my education for anything.

But I also wouldn’t force it on anyone.  I chose to go to a women’s college.  Despite the good intentions, these students are not choosing to be segregated, which in turn excludes them, others them, and reinforces how they are the “problem” minority.  Now, if white students were segregated and in their groups discussed white privilege, then mmaaayyybbee I could see how this situation might be beneficial.

But even then you get into identities.  Are we only excluding students by race because what about class?  gender?  sexuality?  religion?  location?  …  I’m all about learning about inequality and multiple identities, and in that consciousness-raising discussion learning about one’s own identity, privileges, and disadvantages, but you can’t force it on people.  What identities do you choose and is everyone else discussing these same issues in their own groups?

So ultimately, while it may help black students find support, recognize injustice, and study harder, is this segregation challenging patriarchy, capitalism, and white privilege?  No.

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By Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal Constitution

A Pennsylvania high school has begun to segregate black students for daily homeroom to address the lower academic achievement, build mentoring relationships and explore stereotypes and challenges unique to African-American students.

Good idea?

Before you judge, take a look at this story about McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa. It is clear that this unique response came out of good intentions — an effort to see whether grouping students homogeneously both by gender and race even for a brief period each morning provides a backdrop to discuss tough issues and give teens personalized attention.

I hate to be wishy-washy for two blogs in a row — I am also torn on the punishment given to the mom who lied about residency  — but this is another story where I have mixed feelings. I first asked myself whether the school could accomplish its goals without resorting to segregating the students. I would think it could.

But I also have to point out that the premise behind the program — that you can talk more honestly to kids and motivate them when they share similar situations and face the same problems — is what has led to the resurgence of single gender schools and classrooms.

But I have to admit queasiness over this idea.

According to Lancasteronline.com

During a recent class period at McCaskey East High School, T’onna Johnson’s class discussed a film, learned about a college-visit trip, talked about designing a class T-shirt and was encouraged to sign up for a seminar on the importance of a good education.

This all happened during homeroom  — that fleeting period when teachers take attendance, principals make announcements and students, usually, don’t do much of anything.

Not at McCaskeyEast. Every junior at the school has been paired with an adult homeroom mentor who tries to squeeze as much information and activities as possible into six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month. The intent of the program, implemented in mid-December, is simple, principal Bill Jimanez said: “Let’s make these guys think for six minutes about their future.”

Every junior was matched with a teacher who already had a relationship with that pupil. But in the case of T’onna’s class, there are other ties that bind the homeroom. Every pupil is a black female. And their mentors are both female African-Americans. Across the hall, two homerooms of black male students are led by black men.

The all-black homerooms are part of an experiment to determine if grouping students homogeneously for a brief period each day will help them socially and academically. “At first I was kind of like iffy because why would we be in homeroom together?” T’onna recalled. “But we work together and we do problems together, so I like it. “Here we learn about how we can basically make a difference and how we don’t have to settle for less.”

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school ’s black students. Only about a third of McCaskey’s African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s PSSAs, compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students. Math scores were even worse, with just 27 percent of black pupils scoring proficient or advanced. {PSSA is the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.}

Research has shown, Tilghman said, that grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self-esteem. She and fellow instructional coach Rhauni Gregory volunteered to mentor the African-American girls, and Michael Mitchell and Willie Thedford each took a homeroom of black males. No other students were divided by race, Jimanez said, although pupils enrolled in the school’s English language learners program were paired with ELL teachers.

Initially, some McCaskey East students and staff objected to separating out black students. Some juniors asked to go back to their old homerooms. Others complained that the experiment ran counter to the culture of McCaskey, long a melting pot of students and staff from many diverse backgrounds. But Jimanez said the academic data dictated the school take a different approach with its black students.

“One of the things we said when we did this was, ‘Let’s look at the data, let’s not run from it,’ ” he said. “Let’s confront it and see what we can do about it.” In all homerooms, teachers are tracking their students’ grades, test scores and attendance and encouraging them to engage in discussions around “goal setting and self-actualization,” Jimanez said.

Tilghman and Gregory’s homeroom, dubbed the Black Diamonds, has discussed books and movies that emphasize strong relationships between black women. Last week, the students hosted a group of female black professionals who talked about the importance of getting a good education. “This isn’t something we’re just trying to preach to you about,” Tilghman told the class. “This is the reality. Black women today need education.”

The mentors also have talked about common stereotypes about black girls — that they’re aggressive, combative, “cackling and confrontational” and more interested in pursuing relationships than academics, Tilghman said. According to research, black students tend to feel disengaged and alienated in school and “act out behaviorally because they don’t perform,” she said.

“Our first theme was sisterhood so we can get them to see that we’re here for each other and they have people they can rely on,” Tilghman said. The mentors also shared with students a detailed analysis of their test scores and grades.

Mitchell doesn’t agree with those who criticize grouping black students together. “I would have a problem if every class period was like that, but it’s six minutes most days and 20 minutes other days,” he said.

He has discussed with his students how the city’s unemployment rate is higher for African-Americans than for other ethnic groups, and Tilghman has talked about how statistics indicate that black males are three times as likely to spend time in jail as to earn a college degree.

“I see all too often when students give up far too easily these days, and parents will allow this to perpetuate itself, and then students think they don’t have to complete anything.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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Mother jailed for sending kids to nicer school district

and fined more than $30,000 and sentenced to probation for 2 years and prevented from ever getting that job she wanted as a teacher.

I’m for serious, this is crazy.

And why would a mother have to send her daughter to a better school district?  Mind you, race is never really mentioned as the issue – it’s class.

This case seemed strikingly similar to another in which a school district is abolishing its integration policy because it believes, “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated.”  Rich people don’t want poorer (non-whites) – like the children of Kelley Williams-Bolar – attending their rich public schools.  Their defense?  They believed that concentrating the problem of impoverished minorities would reveal how big the problem really is.  And when do we realize how bad this problem really is?  When they try to fraudulently send their kids to a better school district and get 10 days in jail for it?

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National Post News Services · Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

An Ohio single mother was released Wednesday after spending 10 days in jail for sending her children to school.

But it was the wrong school, authorities say.

Kelley Williams-Bolar registered her two daughters with the Copley-Fairlawn School District in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio, near her father’s home.

She and the children live in downtown Akron, where the school district has a much lower academic record and the neighborhood is plagued by drugs and crime.

The woman told CNN the family considered her father’s house one of their homes.

“My primary residence was both places. I stayed at both places,” she said in an interview at the Summit County Jail.

Her father, Edward Williams, said the children did live with him so he believed the family was within the law.

In addition, his daughter’s Akron neighborhood — where she lives in government-subsidized housing —isn’t safe.

“She had 12 police reports that her house had been broken in, so what am I supposed to do? Just leave them there?” Mr. Williams said.

“I mean, I can protect them better if they was with me.”

The woman — who is black — was caught after the school district hired a private eye, who videotaped her driving into the predominantly white district to deliver the children to school.

Then officials asked her to pay US$30,000, the estimated cost of the four years of schooling received by her children without her paying taxes.

When she refused, they went to court.

Ms. Williams-Bolar was indicted and convicted of falsifying her residency records.

“It’s overwhelming. I’m exhausted,” she told ABC News.

“I did this for [my children], so there it is. I did this for them.”

Brian Poe, the Copley-Fairlawn superintendent, said the district almost always resolves residency cases without involving the courts, but it couldn’t work out a resolution with Ms. Williams-Bolar.

“The way I look at it is, the bottom line, you need to follow the law,” he said.

“If you choose to step outside of the law, what’s going to happen at that point is you are going to have to face the consequences for that.”

He denied Ms. Williams-Bolar was singled out because she is black.

The case has upset many people in the area, including the judge who sentenced Ms. Williams-Bolar.

Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove said the prosecutor’s office refused to consider reducing the charges to misdemeanors during numerous closed-door talks to resolve the case outside court, the Akron Beacon reported.

National Post news services

Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/world/Mother+jailed+sending+children+better+school/4174718/story.html#ixzz1CFQK1aVQ

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Precious Swan – Ms. Magazine

“Precious Swan” by Janell Hobson

[Spoilers included.] There is a painful scene in the critically acclaimed 2009 movie Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which shows our titular heroine (played by Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe) gazing into a mirror and imagining a slender white girl gazing back at her. In the mind of Precious, a 16-year-old poor, black, obese survivor of abuse, she longs to be someone who is her polar opposite–a figure who is beloved and far removed from the sexual abuse that she suffers.

So imagine, then, watching a more recently acclaimed film–Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, starring Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman–and finding yet another young woman, Nina Sayers, horrified by her own image. Unlike the obese and impoverished Precious Jones, though, Nina is the epitome of beauty and white femininity: an anorexic-thin ballerina, whose chance to shine in the spotlight is nonetheless threatened by darker forces.

Despite their obvious racial, class, physical, and geographic differences (Precious resides in Harlem; Nina lives on the Upper West Side), both women dwell in gloomy apartments heavy with the air of maternal oppression. These heroines could actually be each other’s double–a theme dramatically explored  in Black Swan. See, both Precious and Nina suffer from mother-daughter sex abuse, a topic that few have discussed publicly even though both films received widespread attention when they opened in theaters. How much of our reluctance has to do not only with the subject matter but also with how each film chooses to tell their stories? How do these stories, and our own responses to them, reflect racial constructions around motherhood and family dysfunction?

When Precious opened last year to critical acclaim and big box office, the main debates surrounding the film concerned the demonization of Precious’s mother Mary (played by Oscar-winning Mo’Nique). Black audiences were quick to point out that Mary was a stereotypical distortion of black motherhood, while others chose to view the story through a sociological lens. We could point to the family’s impoverished conditions as the cause for its dysfunction, as well as to the sexist treatment both Precious and Mary received from the absentee father, who took off from the household after twice impregnating Precious and giving her HIV, thus sparking Mary’s envy and resentment toward her own daughter. This is the pathological black family writ large.

But poverty is just part of the problem, as we witness a similar dysfunctional family in Black Swan, in which Nina and her mother Erica (played by Barbara Hershey) live in a relatively spacious and middle-class apartment in New York City. In this story, there is no mention of the absentee father, which might suggest that single-mother-headed households are viewed as deviant across racial and class lines.  However, black dysfunction is often reduced to sociology, while white dysfunction is reduced to psychology.  It’s not surprising that most conversations about Black Swan focus on how “crazy” and “psychotic” Nina became towards the movie’s end, while few have named the source for her mental decline. In other words, few recognize Nina as a victim of incest, the way we immediately recognize Precious’s victimization.

Granted, it’s rather difficult to not talk about Mary as a sexual predator when director Lee Daniels left little to the imagination (depicting Mary in bed pleasuring herself before calling for Precious to “come take care of Mama”), while Aronofsky overwhelmed Black Swan with surrealism, Swan Lake allegories and ambiguous shots. As a result, the abuse that Nina suffers can only be hinted at (such as depicting Erica calling out to her daughter, “Sweetie, are you ready for me?,” right after we witness Nina exploring ways to keep her mother out of her room).  Even here, the racial differences in the heroines are highlighted. Precious is expected to serve as the sexual aggressor while Nina is expected to be passive as she awaits her mother in bed.

Moreover, there is a certain ease in blatantly depicting a black mother as monstrous and depraved, while the pathology of the white mother, whose interaction with her daughter is one of suffocating love rather than outright hatred, can only be suggestive and viewed as “creepy” (as in, she is definitely “not the norm,” even if Aronofsky invokes ethnic stereotypes of “pushy Jewish mothers”).

Even more telling in the conversations we are having about Black Swan is the fetishistic treatment of white women’s bodies, which distracts us from some of the deeper themes explored. For instance, the infamous lesbian sex scene, which had audiences buzzing even before the movie debuted, is a cover for the sex abuse Nina experiences. It’s important to note that, after this scene (which is later revealed to be an Ecstasy-induced fantasy), Nina’s attitude towards her mother changes from fear and resentment to outright disgust,  leaving us to question if she had been having sex not with Lily (played by Mila Kunis)–another dancer whom she views as a rival–but with her own mother. It is this disgust that leads to her mental deterioration, her rage (which I interpret as a “healthy” response to abuse) and her eventual embrace of the passionate and sensuous Black Swan role that she must master in her debut performance as the Swan Queen.

Because Nina’s abuse remains an unspoken and haunting presence in the film, she cannot find healing. And this is where the narratives in Precious and Black Swan diverge.  Even as they tell similar stories of how some daughters suffer unspeakable abuse at the hands of their mothers, we tend to romanticize the story of the black survivor and the white victim. If Precious can find salvation and liberation in an alternative school, where she learns to write and encounters self-empowered women such as her teacher and other students like herself, Nina’s education leads to the exact opposite: She can only find self-destruction in art, similarly abusive authority figures (such as her ballet instructor) and female rivalry versus feminist support and friendship. Lily comes closest to being a friend, except Nina’s paranoid fantasies, which confuse Lily with her mother, turn her into a threat.

While I realize Aronofsky would rather eschew feminist liberation for his nihilistic fixation on death and madness (a recurring theme throughout his movies), I prefer my own imagined alternate ending for Nina. In my story, she survives her deep wounds, seeks psychiatric treatment and eventually joins a New York City survivors group.  There, she might encounter a Precious–both women automatically dismissing each other at first as being too different from themselves. Then they share their stories and realize how easily they could be each other’s double.

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If America were a game of Monopoly

Abagond had a fascinating post recently imagining what the rules would be “If America were a game of Monopoly.”  Read some of the rules below and be sure to check out the rest of the post here.

Questions to think about as you read: What about gender -are there different rules for men and women?  How does the white player’s success depend on the exploitation of non-whites in the even larger game of Monopoly – the world?  What about class?  In the 1950s non-whites were restricted from purchasing property in white neighborhoods; in what types of ways are non-whites or poorer people restricted from purchasing property today? 

Rules:

1. There are four players: one white, one red, one black and one yellow.

2. The white player is the banker.

3. Starting amounts: Before play begins give each player the following amounts to start with:

  • $1500 white
  • $1085 yellow
  • $105 black
  • $75 red

(Based on median household net worth in 2000.)

Go here to read rules 4-8.

9. Jail:

  • Going to jail: Red and black players go to jail if they land on any corner square except for the Just Visiting Jail square. (Blacks are three times more likely to be stopped by the police and have their car searched. Both blacks and Native Americans are way more likely to wind up in prison than whites.)
  • Getting out of jail: To get out of a jail you must pay $1000 or wait five turns. (Prison is way more damaging than in Monopoly. Also, it is way easier for the rich to avoid prison altogether.)

Advice to white players:

If the other players complain that the rules are unfair, say “Get over it!” Point out that the game is fair and democratic: they can always ask for a rule change and put it to a vote. Also point out that the white player does not always win, so if they lose it is their own fault.

Personal observations:

Most white players act as if the same rules and conditions apply to everyone, as if everyone starts with $1500 and gets $200 for passing Go, etc. If anything, they think yellow players get more for passing Go, that black players get more turns and that red players are too noble to care about winning.

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The Plastics at Morehouse

With all of the recent dialogue over homophobia due to the recent teen suicides, we need to have a better discussion about the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality.  In my most recent post on C. J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag, I included a snippet from her section on the racialized contexts of the use of homophobia epithets.

One issue that she didn’t get into is the pressures of heterosexuality within the black community, especially for black men.  After reading Vibe’s article on the new dress code at Morehouse and how it affects transgender students, I felt like I needed to go read some bell hooks.

I initially heard about Morehouse’s changes in its dress code policy when I attended Agnes Scott College – an all women’s college not too far from Morehouse.

In our day and age, traditional femininity is devalued.  (More conservative) Parents expect their daughters to be born fragile, vulnerable, and domestic because they believe these characteristics are biological.  Parents, therefore, encourage girls to be more masculine – more powerful, more engaged in sports, and louder.  Women are lauded for having a balance of both characteristically masculine and feminine traits.

Young boys, on the other hand, are expected to be born masculine, and any hint of femininity is perceived as homosexual, feminine, and therefore weak.  In saying, “Don’t be a sissy, don’t cry!” parents force their boys to continuously “accomplish” their masculinity throughout their lives as they feel that they constantly need to prove it to themselves and others.

Combine this incessant quest for masculinity with the issues of race and you’ve got a hell of an article.

Although it would be great if all Princess Boys could grow up in loving families with supportive schools, Morehouse shows more discussions are needed in how institutions help reinforce heterosexual masculinity.

Here are some excerpts from Vibe’s article “The Mean Girls of Morehouse.”  Read the FASCINATING story in its entirety here.

You should also check out the comments, where you can witness largely black men and women criticizing the actions of these Morehouse students because it reflects badly on the race.  Take, for example, this comment by Desiree, (1 of 234 comments) who stated:

If you dont know about Morehouse College, then you would not understand what the president is coming from… I go to Clark Atlanta University, which is right next door to More house College. What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (who graduateed and tought at Morehouse) say if his school all of a sudden had male students looking like women.
As black people we can not turn our cheek and let foolishness continue. We need to make our ancestors proud and be better for our future. I do not have a problem with gay men because they know what they want, men. I have a problem with Men looking like women claiming to be men and a gay guy looking for a women like man to be his boo, then find a female….
Posted 10-12-2010 01:27 pm
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And finally, some excerpts from the article:

WITHIN THE OPENLY GAY COMMUNITY AT ATLANTA’S MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, THERE’S A SUBGROUP: GENDER BENDERS WHO ROCK MAKEUP, MARC JACOBS TOTE BAGS, SKY-HIGH HEELS AND BEYONCÉ- STYLE HAIR WEAVES. CAN A MAN OF MOREHOUSE BE GAY? ABSOLUTELY. BUT CAN HE BE A WOMAN? MEET THE PLASTICS.

Diamond Martin Poulin, 20, teetering in strappy sandals with three-inch heels, steps into an eclectic clothing boutique in Little Five Points, a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants two and a half miles outside of downtown Atlanta. “Ooooh,” squeals Diamond. “What about this?” Holding up a white floor-skimming skirt with an eyelet hem, he swoons. The proprietor of the store looks up at Diamond, does a double take, and immediately picks up the cordless phone at the register. “There’s a man in here with heels on!” she whispers loudly into the phone. Diamond raises his eyebrows and continues browsing the racks. He shrugs when asked if the comment bothers him. “Isn’t it true?” he says, chuckling. “There is a man in here with heels on.”

Nibbling on sushi later that day, Diamond explains why he left after one year at Morehouse. A bastion for producing leaders in politics, community service and medicine, Morehouse College has long been viewed as the ultimate HBCU for young Black men, who are conferred with the mystique of being “Men of Morehouse.” Established in 1867 in Augusta, Georgia, as the Augusta Institute, the school counts such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr.; financier Reginald E. Davis; School Daze writer/director Spike Lee; the late Keith “Guru” Elam of Gang Starr; and the late Def Jam exec Shakir Stewart among its graduates.

"Diamond"That pedigree is what brought Diamond (pictured left) to Morehouse, but he says the school’s social conservatism drove him out. In October of last year, the Morehouse College administration announced a new “appropriate attire policy.” The dress code stated that students, referred to as “Renaissance Men,” were not allowed to wear caps, do-rags, sunglasses or sagging pants on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events. But what raised most eyebrows was the rule about women’s clothing: no wearing of dresses, tops, tunics, purses or pumps.

The new dress code resulted in a flurry of media coverage, prompting Dr. William Bynum, Jr., vice president for Student Services, to release a statement to several news outlets: “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.” During a recent visit to the campus, the poet Saul Williams wore a skirt in solidarity.

“Morehouse wasn’t ready for me,” says Diamond, who has the word “unbreakable” tattooed on his collarbone and the acronym C.R.E.A.M (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me” coined by rap group Wu Tang Clan) wrapped around his right wrist. “I’m about freedom of expression. I’m about being whomever you truly are inside. I came to Morehouse because of all the historical leaders that attended and impacted the world so heavily. You know, I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. I don’t think Morehouse believes that someone like me—someone who wears heels and dresses—can uphold that reputation. But they’re wrong.”

“We respect the identity and choices of all young men at Morehouse,” Dr. Bynum said via email. “However, the Morehouse leadership development model sets a certain standard of how we expect young men to dress, and this attire does not fit within the model. Our proper attire policy expresses that standard.”

Diamond now attends American InterContinental University, majoring in fashion marketing and design. “I want to, like, teach at Parsons. Or you know, maybe even in London—who knows?”

“I was in the cafeteria, and I had on this cropped hooded sweatshirt. So my stomach was out,” he recalls. “I had on a nice pair of jeans and some sandals. And this boy, a football player, said something that sounded like ‘faggot.’ Before I could even stop myself, I threw my plate of food at him. That’s not even my style. I’m more of a middle-finger kind of person. We ended up yelling at each other for a few minutes, but nothing really came out of it. He could have hit me, but he didn’t. But he didn’t have to. I was already hurt and embarrassed.”

While Diamond insists he’s happier at AIU, his tone and demeanor suggest that he wishes he’d had the opportunity to prove his worth at Morehouse. “I wanted to go to an HBCU,” he says, dipping shrimp tempura into soy sauce. “I wanted the whole African-American experience. I thought it would be a beautiful thing.”

After leaving Morehouse, Diamond would return occasionally to see friends at the school and use the computer lab. Earlier this year, after the new dress code was enacted, he was asked to leave by school security officers. “I had my Nicki Minaj-style Chinese bangs,” says Diamond, a defiant twinkle in his eyes. “I showed them my ID from AIU. I didn’t go to the school, so the dress code should not have applied to me. But they wanted me off campus anyway.”

Kevin Rome, Ph.D., Morehouse class of 1989, is the former vice president for Student Services for the College. He says that people like Diamond are a small minority of the students at the College, and shouldn’t make up such a large percentage of the press the school has received about the appropriate attire policy. “There are nearly 3,000 students at Morehouse, and maybe three that [the ban on women’s attire] applies to. We’re giving such a large influence on a minute population. It’s not representative of the school.”

This is not the first time Morehouse has had to deal with controversy surrounding its gay community. In November, 2002, Morehouse student Gregory Love suffered a fractured skull after being beaten with a baseball bat in a dormitory bathroom shower. A fellow student, Aaron Price, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and served seven for assault and battery. The attack was reportedly prompted by what was thought to be a sexual advance from Love.

Diamond believes he’s a trendsetter. While the population may be small now, he sees the gender benders as a growing group. And as for the future gender benders at Morehouse, Diamond is hopeful. “Even though I’m gone, the Plastics are still represented at Morehouse,” says Diamond. “And I think as time goes on, the administration will have to accept the different types of men enrolled. They need to look to the future. It didn’t work out for me, but I put in the work for people like me to come to Morehouse….”

Read on, friends!

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