Clueless White Woman

August 1, 2008

I miss living in a blue state

Filed under: history,homophobia,racism,South Carolina — by clueless @ 12:59 pm

I went to school in Boston and lived there for three years after graduating. After that we moved to Indiana, then most recently South Carolina. While I really hated the traffic and cost of living, I desperately miss the politics — and things like overturning the no-marriage-here-if-you-can’t-marry-there law just make me miss it more.

I’d probably actually be happier in San Francisco (better environmental programs and legislation out there), but I sure ain’t fittin’ in down here

Mournful moaning aside, it is interesting to explore the history of the original law a little bit.

The law specifically barred out-of-state residents from marrying here if the marriage would be considered void in their home state. The origins of the law could be traced to the national backlash over the interracial marriage of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. At the time, 30 of 48 states banned interracial marriage, and many other states, including Massachusetts, enacted provisions that would keep interracial couples from crossing borders to marry in their jurisdiction.

It is important to remember that The North, while not as institutionally racist as The South, certainly wasn’t perfect. Supporting the discrimination of another state, even if not directly practicing it yourself, encourages the practice elsewhere.

Also worth noting is that a law originally discriminating against race ended up discriminating against sexual orientation. Translation: just because YOU are not the one being negatively affected today, doesn’t mean YOU won’t be negatively affected in 95 years. Equal rights are in everybody’s interest.

July 28, 2008

read the fine print…

Excerpt from Executive Order 9066:

…I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War… to prescribe military areas… from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary… to accomplish the purpose of this order.

I don’t think I ever realized just how innocuous-sounding the initial stage of “put every Japanese-American in prison” was. I knew it happened, and knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was written so incredibly vaguely.

Mixed Race America draws a strong parallel between the 1942 Executive Branch overreach and the 200x Executive Branch overreach. The ability to “legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians” was wrong then, so why is it right now?

originally found via What Tami Said

July 22, 2008

Can a fortune-telling ban discriminate?

Filed under: cluelessness,stereotypes — by clueless @ 6:51 pm
Tags: ,

A man wants to set up a business, but can’t because of a law in the county that prohibits that kind of business: fortune telling. So he’s suing.

Attorneys for Nick Nefedro, previously of Key West, Fla., say county officials violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and discriminated against his “Roma,” or Gypsy, culture when they refused to give him a business license. Montgomery code dating back to the early 1950s prohibits collecting cash for predicting the future.

“The underlying purpose is to prevent people from being taken advantage of, because it’s a scam,” Clifford Royalty, a lawyer in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, said….

“This legislation, this policy is focused really on the Gypsies,” [Nefedro’s attorney] Amourgis said. “How is what he’s doing different than running a horoscope? Who are they to say that is not fraudulent but my client is?”

I’m not entirely sure what to think.

Part of me is saying, “maybe we should listen to the guy who claims he’s being discriminated against.”

Another part is saying, “psychics are total baloney no matter their ethnicity and he’s playing bullshit” — supported by the allegation that this ban violates his right to free speech (since he can stand about telling the future as much as much as he wants, he just can’t get paid for it). And last time I checked, most psychics (e.g. the 1-900’s, the lady down the block who does palm reading in her house, Sylvia Browne, and so many others) aren’t Gypsies anyway 😛

July 19, 2008

More South Carolina homophobia

Filed under: homophobia,South Carolina — by clueless @ 9:52 pm
Tags: ,

The article

On Sunday an 18-year-old man returned to his home from a gay pride parade and was assaulted by his father with a baseball bat… During the assault, the teen’s 49-year-old father yelled, cursed, swung a bat, prayed and tried to “cast the demon of homosexuality out of him,” according to the teen’s version of events…

Found via Box Turtle Bulletin

Y’know, I’m just mentally exhausted today. All I’ve got is weary indignation over the ignorance. Plus a bit of curiosity whether there’s a demon for everything… demon of homosexuality, demon of bad parenting, demon of sour milk (THREE CARTONS this week!), demon of mental exhaustion… there are patron saints, why not patron demons?

Sorry — that’s more than enough weirdness, and humor isn’t a very appropriate reaction. To digress from the digression:

It will be interesting to see whether this is appropriately investigated — and, more importantly, prosecuted. Or will small-town justice lead to a son’s beating being swept under the rug? I guess it depends on who knows who(m?), as well as whether the people in the justice system consider that the gay kid simply got what was coming to him. Maybe this will turn into a “political agenda” (like, the kid reported his beating because he’s furthering the homosexual agenda, or somethin’). More likely it will just be another statistic in a long line of discrimination.

I think it’s time to stop reading blogs and go take a nap… see if I can be a little less pessimistic tomorrow 🙂

July 18, 2008

Imagine not having running water in your house

Filed under: institutional discrimination — by clueless @ 3:39 pm
Tags:

via Racialicious on Alternet

The US District Court jury found that the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority violated state and federal civil rights laws by failing to provide Coal Run residents with access to public water, a service that was provided to white residents in surrounding areas.

They only got pipes in 2003. Good freaking night.

religious intolerance: not just for religions anymore…

Filed under: bigotry — by clueless @ 12:54 am
Tags:

I don’t know what the readership overlap is between anti-racist and pro-science blogs is. I mean, there must be some, because I read them both…

But, on the chance that you’re not the same unusual as I, here’s a bit of background: A student in Florida went to Catholic Mass and was given a wafer during communion. Instead of swallowing it, he held it in his mouth and took it home with him. Who knows why, but he did. The local Catholic community reacted furiously, including with some death threats (although I doubt those were either sanctioned or requested by the church hierarchy), and the student eventually returned the Eucharist.

P.Z. Myers, a well-known atheist, called the Catholic response an overreaction, then vigorously upped the ante:

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?… I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage … but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.

I’m sure reader will be totally shocked to learn that a call for further violence against a sacred symbol of a religion has resulted in — wait for it — an angry, defensive response, including death threats. (Surprise!)

A peaceable resolution seems highly unlikely. In a July 14 interview with the Minnesota Independent, Myers stated at the end:

The response has done nothing but confirm it: I have to do something. I’m not going to just let this disappear. It’s just so darned weird that they’re demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won’t be gross. It won’t be totally tasteless, but yeah, I’ll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.

Weird to want respect? While he shouldn’t be forced to worship transubstantiation, there’s a vast gap between that and actively seeking a way to disrespect it. By declaring that Catholics shouldn’t be offended by his proposed action, he’s become the self-declared arbiter of what is and is not offensive; echoes of a person convinced of his own superiority and cheerfully willing to insult inferiors. Add in completely unwilling to consider an alternative way of thinking, and you’ve got a self-important attention-seeking bigot. Rational discourse is the way to bridge gaps, not desecration of every sacred symbol you can find.

On the plus side, it’s helping me weed out some skepticism blogs that I don’t really want to be reading on one simple qualification: do they think that Myers is being counterproductive? Thankfully, some do.

July 13, 2008

South Carolina is absolutely not gay

South Carolina Tourism Ad

South Carolina Tourism Ad


South Carolina is absolutely not gay. Indeed, it’s downright depressing.

Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, said using tax money to support a social or political agenda is inappropriate.

“Our state tourism dollars should be talking about the beaches and attractions of South Carolina,” Sawyer said.

Social or political agenda?!? Since when is gay tourism an agenda? Is the money of the British gay community tainted? Of course, you can’t come right out and say you hope those damn homos don’t come here, you have to make it about taxpayer money?!? Ugh, I can’t come up with any other words except “UGH!”… I’d encourage gay tourists to come to South Carolina and enjoy its lovely beaches, except I have a nasty feeling that they would NOT enjoy their trip due to the locals making total jackasses of themselves.

As Professor Bartow at USC says about it,

Once again South Carolina’s homophobes in power have inflicted damage on the economy of this state. In addition to driving away not only gay tourists, but also straight tourists who don’t want to vacation in a climate of bigotry, high tech investors will be alienated by this. And so will a lot of other desirable people – see generally.

My high-tech engineer self and USC professor spouse probably qualify as “desirable”. Indeed, USC seemed pretty happy that they’d landed him. BUT, while I may live here now, I can not wait to move. Part of this is just discomfort at being in a new place… but I don’t want to vacation in a climate of bigotry, and I want even less to live in one. I may like sweet tea, but I can damn well make my own anywhere else.

I am trying for my own sake to confront, adjust, and if necessary ignore my preconceptions. And I had all these preconceptions about The South being, well, you know, THE SOUTH, fully of bigots — but I said, no, that’s just a preconception I have since I’m a Damn Yankee, I’m sure it’s a lovely place. But fuck, here it goes proving my preconceptions right.

I’m trying, South Carolina, I really am. Why aren’t you?

July 9, 2008

AMA and institutional discrimination

Heard on NPR this afternoon: AMA To Apologize For Past Discrimination

The American Medical Association plans to apologize for past discrimination against minority physicians. The group did not take a stand against discrimination by state medical societies — including the exclusion of African-Americans — until the 1960s.

Apparently the audio will be available online in a few hours. I can’t find any press release on the AMA’s website confirming this, although I don’t mean to cast doubt on NPR’s reporting by saying that UPDATE July 10: the AMA press release is now available on their website.

This is a story to which the clueless person — by which I mean me — says, “Holy crap, that was recent! How could it possibly have gone on that long?”

Yes, I know, I’m really fucking clueless.

In practice, apparently, this wasn’t actively stating that black physicians were not eligible for membership; the central AMA left such “policy” decisions up to local branches. And despite my shock at discrimination being so recent, I was not particularly surprised to learn that the Southern branches were the ones who continued to insist on “autonomy” in such decisions. (How very neo-Confederate. What a shame they don’t believe in such autonomy when it comes to subsidizing religion on license places.)

The complete chronology of “Race and the AMA” is available at at their own site. This part seems a textbook example of historical patterns of discrimination having long-term effects:

Demographic survey results [from 2000]: House of Delegates: 88 percent male, 84 percent White, 2 percent Black, 1 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian, 0 percent Native American, 11 percent Unknown All physicians and medical students: 75 percent male, 51 percent White, 2 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic, 7.9 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Native American, 33 percent Unknown.

Note not only the racial disparity in the overall population of physicians, but also the disparity between those statistics and the percentages which make up the AMA itself. No white privilege there… o_O

July 4, 2008

German toy maker is ultra-clueless

No, really, it\'s Obama

No, really, it's Obama


Präsidentschaftskandidaten Barack Obama has a new commemorative doll. Made in Germany. And this is what it looks like.

Feel free to exclaim, “Wait, what?!?

It’s not just the skin tone. It’s the combination of skin tone with the childish fat cheeks. Put dark skin with a baby face and “pickaninny” is what will come to mind for a lot of Americans. (Even if they don’t know what a pickaninny is, which I actually didn’t until recently, they’ll recognize it as how black people were caricatured for years and years…)

And he gave it a flag pin.

A good friend of mine is a political scientist in Germany who specializes in analyzing neo-Nazi groups and looking at bigotry trends. So I figured, hey, who better to ask about German racism than a German who studies racists? His response:

You know, first I read only the article and thought, huh, what is the fuss about? I mean, some guy is making money with selling stupid stuff, and he wasn’t able for whatever reason to get the colour right. Who cares? But then I actually had a look at the pictures and thought, well, now I can understand why someone could find this quite offensive.

I dunno, I’d say that this is primarily cluelessness, but one would have to talk to this guy to really find out. I think racism against black people is not really a hot topic amongst german bigots anyway. They’ll tell you that blacks can dance so well and that they admire that and stuff, but leave it at that, as black people are not something they are really interested in. The colonial past of this country is more or less forgotten, since Germany lost all of it’s colonies (and it never had many colonies anyway) already in WWI – and as a result there are only few black people living in Germany, unlike in France or the UK, which had kept their colonies longer.

So it’s possible that Offermann was being a snickering bigot. And it’s possible that he was being clueless and bumbling. Looking at the other dolls he’s made, I think it’s the latter. Try to guess who this one is…

Guess Who

Guess Who


Give up?

It’s Lady Diana. Blond and Caucasian and in a white dress equals Princess Di.

He’s just really bad — or not bothering — to create a resemblance. He’s dressing stuff up in symbolic clothes and calling it commemorative. (Ratsinger, for example, is identifiable only because he’s dressed in papal regalia and is labelled “Pope”.)

All the kerfuffle and intricacies shown in American media is apparently absent in Germany. What they know there is that a black man is running for President. And how do you show that? A pickaninny in a suit with a flag on his lapel. Obviously.

At least he didn’t show Obama breakdancing.

Melting pot problem

Filed under: cluelessness,confusion,white privilege — by clueless @ 1:29 am
Tags: , ,

Yesterday I was reading Diversity Inc’s “Why Whites Can’t Get Over Color“, a response to a letter they received. It’s very educational; the letter writer gave the laundry list of what I hear from thinking-they-mean-well white people at work — and Visconti concisely and politely rebutted each point. I’ll shamelessly borrow from it whenever I next have to endure a conversation about how the special BET channel is so racist because if whites did it (yada yada yada)…

The portion I’m going to discuss in detail today, however, was a sentence that I initially passed over as not terribly central. The letter writer said:

I love the fact that America is a big melting pot, full of color and different cultures. Why not embrace that instead of constantly bickering over it.

And the response:

You close with an illuminating contradiction. You can’t celebrate “color and different cultures” and embrace the “melting pot” at the same time. The “melting pot” is about subjugating your culture and forcing a person to “melt” into the white culture.

Melting who you are into a pot is not what makes a person American. What makes a person an American is embracing our Constitution, which empowers and protects our individual ability to remain ourselves.

My husband, who was reading over my shoulder, snorted. “That’s not what the melting pot is supposed to mean. Why are people upset about the term ‘melting pot’?” So, we had a good discussion contrasting the two interpretations: (1) the “melting pot” has lots of ingredients put into it and is tastier as a result, versus (2) the “melting pot” dilutes its various components, thus tending to marginalize minority “ingredients”.

I don’t think the first interpretation is completely invalid. I like having diverse cultures around, especially when they open restaurants near me 🙂 However, “melting pot” is almost never used on its own; it’s used in sentences like “this country is a melting pot, why are you being different”. And that is a huge contradiction. You can’t pick and choose the things you like about different cultures (in my case, usually food) and then say the rest is “just being difficult” or something.

Part of me feels like there’s a labeling problem. The simple definition of “melting pot” (lots of cultures in one space) is rather like the simple definition of “racist” (somebody who hates other races) — it gives a vague idea, but completely misses out on a lot of subtleties. Exploring the problem of racism nowadays is often about subtleties, little things that add up to big problems. Getting into a healthy, productive discussion can be hard because people get defensive. In my husband’s case, it was more that he’d never really given the alternative interpretation any thought. Both defensiveness and cluelessness are barriers.

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