Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cat Calls

About half of the people I follow on Twitter are women. One of the great things about Twitter is that I get to hear women speak about their experiences in a less filtered way than most of us [men] would otherwise. For the most part the insight is quite informative and by and large I don't opine on anything I hear. Shocking, I know. On occasion the discussions, particularly on the phenomenon of cat calling, come up and the commentary surrounding it can veer into some troubling ground. Today I ran across a blog post which I think highlights some of my concerns.

The blog The Intersection of Madness and Reality has a piece entitled "Street Meet: Black Women, Black Men, & Everyday Sexual Harassment" in which I found a couple of interesting points. Let me state outright that I don't take the matter of sexual harassment lightly and personally have a "no cat call" policy. So this is not a defense of those who engage in such behavior so I don't want to hear it.

I have a few problems with the piece so I'll start off with those. First:

“Good Morn’en”, says the toothless alcoholic who lives on the curb as I make my way to the bus during my morning commute.

This particular point came out as the first example of harassment. It bothered me most of all because despite the man being drunk (an issue I will address later) exactly how is "Good morning", slurred or not, harassment? It's not. fortunately (or not) we live in a society where people can and do greet each other in public. In many places in the south it is impolite to not greet someone on the street regardless of whether you actually know the person. Up north (and generally in urban settings) this form of politeness is not generally practiced and people have an attitude that if you don't know me, don't speak. This is purely personal and I cannot in good conscience label someone who says good morning (in whatever way he or she is motivated to do so) as harassment. I recall some 9 months ago writing that there were actually women out there who thought the mere speaking to them uninvited was harassment. Some blogger who saw that comment made a sarcastic remark about how I made it up. Well here's exhibit A.

Lastly, with respect to the described situation why is an alcoholic being used as an example of "Black men"? That would be like me saying that since a prostitute is a ho, and she's female, then all females are ho's. Silly isn't it?

continuing with the 'don't even speak" issue we have exhibit B:

Next time you have the urge to break your neck to speak to a woman in the street ask yourself would you put the same effort into greeting a male? If not, chances are your attempt at displaying ‘manners’ is a thinly veiled opportunity to show a strange women that you noticed she had a vagina rather than a gesture of common courtesy. Let’s call it what it is.

Of course a straight male is NOT going to "break his neck" to show 'interest" in another male. Of course he noticed you have a vagina (or should have one) and probably breasts as well. Welcome to the wonderful world of heterosexual sexual display.
Unlike some of our mammalian friends who have breeding cycles that come once a year or few months, humans are always "on the hunt". No amount of bitching (ahhhh, you like that?) is going to change that. And asking men to NOT approach women on the street or in a club or whatever is like asking a bee not to mess around with a Stamen. Not happening.

But of course there's more. Exhibit C:

I don’t owe you shit, not a response, not a smile, not eye contact and definitely not a chance to gain access into my personal life. I’m a person and I deserve to be treated like a human. That’s your prerogative if you insist on playing the role of untamed animal but you will not claim me as your piece of meat.

Well technically that's true. She doesn't owe anyone a response to anything. Of course taken to it's logical extreme this would be called anti-social behavior. However; anyone with half a brain knows that most of us would not be here if our father's had not attempted to "gain access" to our mother's personal life. And as indicated earlier, really anyone has the right to initiate a conversation with anyone else. It is form that ought to be discussed.

And lastly Exhibit D:

I don’t give a fuck if your ignorant ass grandmother, momma or favorite auntie told you it was ‘polite’ to speak to a woman; you’re words aren’t wanted or appreciated.

The above serves two points. First it re-iterates the flat out wrong notion that a man cannot initiate a conversation with a woman for the purposes of "getting to know her". The second point leads to the second part of this commentary. You'll note that the author has noted the alleged "women" in the man's life who allegedly informed him that he can "politely" speak to a woman. You'll notice the complete lack of male references. The latter point is in my opinion very important.

The next set of examples of harassment are more on point but are marred by, well you'll see:

“Hey Pretty Lady”, says the dirty day laborer as he rubs his dick, “You got a hus-ban?”

“Dam, you got a fat ass, Ma!” says the under age drug dealer as I escort my 11 year old daughter from martial arts class.

"“Fuck you then! What? You think you’re better than me?!” says the random Nigger on the corner in some urban hood that could be in any urban town anywhere in America."

What was that?



I was enjoying the piece until I ran across that. Why was "Nigger" necessary? Here I was thinking that we (black men and women) were trying to get away from the name calling. I can put down a large wager that had I written a piece about various women who had done me wrong or acted trifling and decided to write "Bitches' this and that, I'd have people writing me off as some misogynist. I base that on the responses I've had on Twitter after referring to two females as bitches when they had it coming.

But alas for the rest of this piece it's Nigger this and "random nigger" that. Really? Is the writer white? No, actually she states:

I’m ‘light skinned’

I'll let Kola Boof deal with that 'cause really I have to question the motives of a so called "black" woman who rants about "random niggers".

Seriously though I don't know where Tracy grew up or with whom she associates with but making a point about black males using "nigger" is bad form. It is even worse form because honestly harassment from males is not just a black thing. Just ask the women in various countries that have special buses and trains for them. So this racialization of harassment doesn't sit well with me.

But let me get to the meat of her discussion because aside from the points above she does bring up a serious issue. The author talks about having things thrown at her and the like. Anyone who reads this and much of the other accounts of harassment will see a pattern emerge. What kind of men have the time to hang around en-masse drinking in public places where they throw bottles at women?

Who are these men who are hanging around on the street with nothing better to do with their time but comment too passing women?

What kind of men make sexual remarks (or advances) to girls?

No doubt they resemble the boys who live downstairs from me who don't work, aren't studying or have little to no responsibilities with which to spend their time and energy.

What many women fail to understand is that men with proper manners and etiquette do not simply show up fully formed out of nowhere. There is no hormonal queue for "treat women like this". There is no biological process that teaches a male the roles of manhood. It irks me to no end to hear and read women talk about men as if manhood grew on trees and the "men" they encounter simply decided to avoid eating that particular fruit.

As the recent allegations again Eddie Long shows, manhood generally does not flow from mothers. I know this is an unpopular sentiment but take it from a man who was raised by a single mother. While I certainly learned things from her, MUCH of my concepts of manhood came from observations and conversations with elder men whom I was impressed with. I would wager that many of the males that the author of the piece encountered not only did not have respectable fathers in their homes (if any father at all) but that male figures who made an impression on them exhibited the same behaviors.

And do understand that for the vast majority of these males, having a woman berate them over their behavior is ineffective. Why? Males, particularly those raised in female headed households have taken female berating for their entire lives. Their ascension to adulthood is marked partially by the ability to ignore the negative "outbursts" of women.

I was recently watching a video by Amos Wilson who was discussing the Samburu. When the males are going into manhood they are required to state publicly to their mothers that they will no longer be served by her, live in her house, etc. His separation from his mother is symbolic of his manhood. He is no longer a taker but has entered the role of provider and protector. Generally speaking boys are socialized into manhood by their fathers and/or community of accepted males. I say accepted because in these societies males who have not gone through rites of passage are not considered men, regardless to age. But what happens when fathers are absent from the home? What happens to a community is which manhood is conferred by age and not accomplishment? What happens when the media which is accessible by impressionable young men push musicians with "pretty boy swag" or "gangsterism" as THE markers of manliness? What happens when young men see the "honorable" men who are garbage collectors, bus drivers and other non-white collar, non "glam" jobs, who "window shop" are spoken of negatively by his female peers? When the females that he is most attracted to seem to fall over themselves for the "rough" guys?

For a large portion of these boys they take those media images and the fellas on the corner as examples of real manhood. And those are the "men" who throw bottles, bitch call, grab their dicks at passing women. Not a few of these boys have witnessed their mothers talk very negatively about their fathers and/or the men in her life. So we are to think that somehow these experiences have not shaped a large proportion of boys?

So what we have are groups of boys (mentally) who have never been taught the proper ways of dealing with women. A boy who has proper male role models and mentors will be taught how to read a woman (or any other person for that matter) to discern when she's giving off the "don't bother me" signs and when she's giving signs that it is OK to approach. He would be taught what to and not to say as a cold start to a woman. He will be taught what to do to let her know that he means her no harm and that a "no" will not lead to actual harassment. He would be taught what behavior is unacceptable to be directed at him by women and how to deal with such behavior. Women/mothers generally do not teach these things to their sons. In fact a son is more likely to ask his mother about how women think and what he can do to get their approval. Understand that sons by and large are socialized by their mothers to seek out female approval. When they enter pre-adulthood and their brains get a taste of testosterone and the biological imperative to attract a mate kicks in, Such socialization leads to double trouble. Those untutored in manhood, will grow into adult males still seeking female approval and will act out when such approval is not met because such approval is part and parcel of how we values himself. Men who have been tutored in the ways of manhood do not have female approval at the heart of their self-esteem. There is a twisted version of this that goes into woman hating as compensation. Here the male seeks to dominate females as a means of dealing with his issues of inadequacy. That is not we are discussing here. If I were to meet a female on the street who I said good morning to without response I move along. I am not threatened by such rejection (or rudeness). I do not need to call her names or throw anything at her, because I do not have a visceral reaction to her lack of acknowledgement. My self-esteem is not bound up in the acknowledgement or approval of random females. My value is not in my dick so I don't need to grab it (or has been the case, display it) in order to get approval.

Generally then we must come to understand that men with "class" do not just "show up". There is no magic button that gets turned on once puberty hits. Manhood is socialized. When you see a man that habitually acts in a disrespectful manner towards women it is a sign of failed socialization. Calling these men names does not address the problem. Asserting bullshit harassment claims for public speaking is also not helpful. Unless we as a community take on the issue of the proper raising of black boys and the proper understanding and valuation of manhood these situations will continue unabated.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Freedom of Speech for Everybody. Including Idiots.

A few weeks ago a pastor out in Gainesville Florida announced his plans to burn a number of Qurans. As expected there was a lot of hand wringing about what Muslims in the US and abroad would do when they saw this. Most pointed out that such an action would inflame the Muslim world and complicate the current military expeditions in places such as Afghanistan. While I agreed that such events had a high likelihood of happening, they were ultimately irrelevant to the issue at hand. They are irrelevant because in the US, where there is a secular constitutional government this pastor and everyone else [still] has the right to do and say things that others find offensive. That right cannot be abridged for the sake of non-citizens or threats of violence by those citizens that are offended. In short, one does not negate the right of someone with threats of or actual use of violence. Furthermore; I argued that the president and others representing the country ought to be making it clear that in the US we [still] allow for all manner of speech including that which would be seen as blasphemous and sacrilegious and that a democratic society must do so in order to protect everyone. That is what the troops that so many claim to support are supposed to be fighting for.

Some persons argued that the pastor's threat to burn his private property is akin to shouting "Fire" in a theatre. The problem with this argument is two fold:

1) The shouting of "fire!" in a theatre (regardless to whether a fire exists) is not free speech because doing so induces people to carry out a lawful activity that may result in their own harm. Getting up and running out of a building is a legal action. It is the mass confusion that would result in the possible deaths of people by trampling (which again is not something a person can be prosecuted for) is what is being avoided. This leads to point two.

2) The violence that would be directed either at the pastor or anyone else is illegal activity. Protesters cannot assault someone they dislike. They cannot legally assault someone who says or does something they dislike. They may not threaten to kill a person or groups of people. They may not threaten to destroy private or public property of others either. Therefore if any Muslim or non-Muslim who would be offended by the pastor's action had decided to have revenge by illegal means it is they and only they that have broken the law and who would be responsible for any loss of life or property. They have no existential threat to defend against which is in clear contrast to the patrons of the theatre who are lead to believe their very lives are in danger.

Ultimately my support of the Florida pastor was not about his stupid behavior. It was a defense of his right to do behavior which I do not personally approve of. Understand that this is purely a selfish thing. I defend his right to be an idiot because at some point in time I may engage in behavior that someone else thinks is completely abhorent and I would not like for my right to do whatever it is to be abridged by that persons sensitivities. I warned people that if they took their eyes off of the constitution because they are so self centered, then the government would eventually abuse their power.

As if on cue, news came that a NJ state employee was fired because he burnt pages of the Quran during the Sept. 11 memorial event.

There are a number of important problems with the firing of this fellow. Firstly Fenton works for the state. One of the state's primary functions is to protect the rights of its citizens. It must do so regardless of race, creed, color and yes political and religious leanings. The state cannot pre-empt it's employees constitutional rights so long as the actions of that employee were not done during his or her hours of employment, while representing the state or acting in a capacity in which the public can construe that his actions are on behalf of the state.

On September 11th Mr. Fenton went to the site of the current and supposedly soon to be remodeled mosque at Park 51. He was on his own time exercising his constitutional right of free assembly by joining a protest against said mosque. During that protest Mr. Fenton burned a copy of (or pages of) a Koran, which we must assume was his personal private property. Such actions, including the burning of the state or national flag, cigarettes, toilet paper, effigies of past or present presidents are all constitutionally protected speech. There is no legal controversy about this. The SCOTUS has laid this issue to rest.

Mr. Fenton was "ushered" from the scene by NYPD who found no grounds to charge him (a shock I know). So as it stands Mr. Fenton broke no laws and was exercising his right to freely assemble and freely speak while off the clock and out of uniform and no one at the scene or reading about the incident would have thought that Mr. Fenton was acting on behalf of the state of New Jersey. You would think that the highest elected official in NJ who is charged with protecting it's citizens constitutional rights on both state and federal would have come to his defense. No a chance. Gov. Christie decided to defend the state's decision to fire Mr. Fenton for exercising his rights.

"Mr. Fenton's public actions violated New Jersey Transit's code of ethics," an agency statement said.

"NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed."

Ahh the infamous NJ Code of ethics. I am familiar with the NJ code of ethics. Much of it is on the level but a number of its codes fall afoul of prior restraint. Prior restraint is when a state attempts to abridge the rights of it's employees by claiming that certain activities must have the prior approval of the state. Those codes remain on the books because the citizens: 1) usually do not have the resources to challenge these rules to the supreme court.
2) Do not have representatives who are looking out for the citizenry.

What exactly is the "trust as a state employee"? Exactly what was he "entrusted" with that was paramount to his constitutional rights? NJ and the Federal government are not religious authorities. They do not have the right under any law of the land to determine what Mr. Fenton can say or do with his personal property on his time. The state MAY require employees from refrain from certain religious speech on state grounds by state employees. It may, for example, deny the display of the Ten Commandments on it's property. It cannot stop any of it's employees from posting them on their front lawn and it certainly cannot fire an employee for doing so.

Ultimately the firing of Mr. Fenton was a political move to pander to the group du jour. It is also a dangerous move that threatens the constitutional rights of every resident of New Jersey. Who gets to decide what "trust as a state employee" means? Who in the state get's to draw the line on what legal activity is off limits to state employees? Will it be a twitter post? A facebook update? Attending the wrong meeting? Your sex life? Perhaps support for the wrong political candidate? It is a slippery slope when we carve these so-called exceptions to constitutional rights.

I don't expect the usual suspects who fill my twitter time line with rants about unfair immigration laws in Arizona or about the right of Muslims to build mosques where they please (within' zoning laws) or who defended the attacks on the 14th amendment to the Constitution to come out against this blatant civil rights violation because who wants to defend a so called "Islamophobe"?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Precursor to H.I.V. Was in Monkeys for Millennia

NY Times via Science Magazine

scientists have found evidence that the ancestor to the virus that causes the disease has been in monkeys and apes for at least 32,000 years — not just a few hundred years, as had been previously thought.

That means humans have presumably been exposed many times to S.I.V., the simian immunodeficiency virus, since people have been hunting monkeys for millennia, risking infection every time they butcher one for food.

And that assumption in turn complicates a question that has bedeviled AIDS scientists for years: What happened in Africa in the early 20th century that let a mild monkey disease move into humans, mutate to become highly transmissible and then explode into one of history’s great killers, one that has claimed 25 million lives so far? [My emphasis]

I will recall the reader's attention to this

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The Koch brothers on why they give:

David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”


Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Linkage

Long time no post. Some links to people putting it down on the internet.

1) Given the controversy around the aborted (probably never would have happened) Quran burning Alexander Cockburn puts it down:

For their part, Afghans demonstrated in Kabul in anticipatory protest at Pastor Jones’ plan. They denounced disrespect for the Koran. But we also learn from earnest proponents of religious tolerance and interconfessonal amity that the Koran promotes respect for the Bible, (though not, of course, the Christian claim of the divinity of Christ – a view also held by followers of Judaism, whose Talmud locates Christ in hell for all eternity, boiling in excrement). What did the indignant Afghans say when, in early August of this year ten members of a Christian medical team – six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton, three women among them – were gunned down by the Taliban who claimed they were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The gunmen spared an Afghan driver, who screamed he was a Muslim and babbled some verses from the Koran. The group were members of the International Assistance Mission, one of the longest serving nongovernmental organizations operating in Afghanistan, registered as a nonprofit Christian organization, apparently not proselytizing. So, what if they were?

Today we also remember the passing of Tupac. Our friend the Red Clay Scholar writes:

'd argue that Shakur's life and influence in contemporary black culture serves as the metanarrative (master narrative) of Hip Hop post those stories waxed after 1996. What is most striking about Shakur's narrative is his desire to openly connect audience to his innermost battles, critiquing the same temptations and corruptions that he embraces as a young African American man. While exposing his insecurities and shortcomings, Shakur maintains control of his stories, both in reality and imagined mediums like his movie roles. He borrowed from difficult situations (i.e. the relationship with his mother or his rape case in 1994) to serve as the undercurrent for much of his creativity.

And our friend Isaac Perry also comments on 'Pac:

Where once Tupac posed with middle fingers raised high, vehemently singing, “Fuck the system,” today’s mainstream line of rap chorus singers blatantly pledge their allegiance to the system, bowing and praying before the gods of their own cultural demise.