Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Funny: Donna Simpson, 600 Pound Woman Who Wants to Gain More Weight is Interviewed on Howard Stern

Remember "fat is a journey, not a destination." I think that I may get that slogan put on a t-shirt and make it available for sale from our website.

We discussed Donna Simpson a week or so ago, she is a trailblazer in the world of fat fetishists and wants to grow herself from 600 pounds to 1,000 pounds: what is her 2 minute mile. Thank the god of these Internets--her recent interview with Howard Stern is available for all to hear.

In classic Stern fashion, here are some highlights:
  • She is married to a very handsome African brother. In fact, he went to school with Barack Obama, is very successful, and supports her fattening. He seems to embody every professional black woman in peril unable to find a good black man mythos and narrative in existence.
  • Miss Simpson uses a special device to clean herself in the bathroom.
  • She is a hero in the "feeder" community. In fact, her website has thousands of members who pay to watch her be force fed with a funnel.
  • Miss Simpson's husband is a "belly man." He is very satisfied.
  • And yes, their intimate life with its many joys and pleasures is discussed. Miss Simpson's drives for food are equaled only by her sexual desires.

In all seriousness, is this an abusive relationship? Could this feeder/feeding relationship be akin to some version of the Stockholm syndrome?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Armchair Sociology: New Study Reports that Fat Women Are Sex Starved

If so hungry she can always come over to my spot and get fed, for in the spirit of Christian charity I would never deny a beautiful woman a meal.

Beauty comes in all sizes and shapes. When I am hungry for a petite filet mignon wrapped in bacon I relish it. If I want for a Big Mac with fries and a Coke I do not deny myself. I have been known to eat a Chipotle fajita burrito with double meat--chicken and pork if you are curious. And sometimes I just want a few delicate nibbles of sushi. To break the metaphor, I love women of all sizes and have taken both the waifishly thin as well as plus sized models on a journey to space mountain.

As a social scientist, the recent research finding that larger women are not getting any play strikes me as a bit problematic. In the aggregate it would seem to make sense. However, even then, there are some notable variables of both culture and subculture that are seemingly excluded.

For example, what of the narrative that Hispanic and Latino men prefer gorditas over flacas? What of the seeming fascination in "urban culture" with "thick" nouveau Venus Hottentots like Buffie the Body? To mention the obvious and intuitively true: How do we factor in the taken for granted mutual attraction between (some) black men and obese/thick/BBW white women?

Adding a further complication to the link between body size and sexual activity (conceding that the study used BMI as a measure) are the changing parameters of what constitutes being "fat" or "obese."

For example, in the United States women (and people more generally) are getting bigger and bigger. Apparently, size 14 is the new 8. Across the pond--damn lucky Brits--D cup breasts are now the "average" size. Thinking even more globally, there are certain cultures such as the Bedouins in Mauritania where the forced feeding of young girls is considered a necessary step on the road to a full figure, mandatory if a young woman is to secure a husband

Reversing the gaze, we know that big men can always get play. Always have been. Always will be. Selfishly I may add...Thank god.

Random story: In another life I once watched the late great Big Pun have sex with a beautiful woman on a tour bus. Yes, she was indeed riding the curve. Fame it seems does indeed trump weight.

My thoughts on this issue of body size and love almost always circle back to health. Are young women, young black women in particular, killing themselves to look like the video vixen ideal? On the other end of the spectrum, are young men doing harm by valorizing being "thick"--what to many is a euphemism for "fat"--as an ideal body type for women of color?

The story follows:

Being Obese Raises the Risk of Sexual Problems

Scientists say being fat can be bad for the bedroom, especially if you're a woman.

In a new study, European researchers found obese women had more trouble finding a sexual partner than their normal-weight counterparts, though the same wasn't true for obese men, and were four times as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. Fat men also reported a higher rate of erectile dysfunction.

Experts interviewed more than 12,000 French men and women aged 18 to 69 about their sexual experiences and analyzed the results based on their Body Mass Index.

Obese women were 30 percent less likely than normal-weight women to have had a sexual partner in the last year. In comparison, there was little difference among obese men and normal-weight men as to whether they found a sexual partner.

The results were published online Wednesday in the medical journal BMJ. The study was paid for by several French government agencies.

People with a BMI of 18-24 are considered to have a healthy weight. Those with a BMI of 25 or above are considered overweight and people with a BMI of 30 or more are classified as obese.

Previous studies have found similar trends, but researchers were surprised by the discrepancy they found between the genders as to how excess weight affects peoples' sex lives.

"Maybe women are more tolerant of tubby husbands than men are of tubby wives," said Kaye Wellings, a professor of sexual and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the BMJ study authors.

Experts said the problems faced by obese people were probably due to a combination of physical problems linked to obesity as well as other issues, like low self-esteem and social prejudices.

Obese people are at higher risk anyway for diabetes, depression and urinary stress incontinence, all of which can hinder sex. If people are extremely heavy, they might also have muscular or skeletal problems that make sex challenging.

The researchers found that obese women were less likely to ask for birth control services, and thus, four times more likely to accidentally get pregnant. Pregnant fat women and their babies also faced a higher risk of complications and death than normal-weight women.

Dr. Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, a specialist in psychosexual medicine at a London sexual health clinic, said physicians must talk to obese women about birth control.

"Doctors need to get over their own embarrassment and ask the difficult questions," she said. Goldbeck-Wood was not linked to the study but wrote an accompanying editorial in the BMJ.

Wellings and colleagues found obese men and women with a partner were no different from normal-weight people in terms of how often they had sex.

They also found that women tended to have partners with a similar body shape. Nearly 70 percent of fat women reported having a partner who was also heavy, while only about 40 percent of fat men had a similarly proportioned partner.

Some experts said the growing obesity epidemic in the West would worsen sexual dysfunction problems.

"This is not a heart attack or a stroke...but it's an important quality of life factor and a public health problem," said Dr. Andrew McCullough, an associate professor of clinical urology at New York University School of Medicine and director of male sexual health at NYU's Langone Medical Center.

He said the study's findings should provide another reason for people to trim their waistlines.

"It seems like a no-brainer," he said. "If you lose weight, you will feel more attractive and that could improve your sex life."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Are the Masses Asses? Barack Obama's Oil Speech Rewritten to a Seventh Grade Level

Are the masses asses?

There is a deep tension in American politics between so-called "elites" and "real Americans." As a complement, there is a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American life. The popularity of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the rise of the New Right all in some part speak to this cynicism and disdain--especially among the most populist conservatives--for the educated, "liberal classes."

In connecting the dots, the amateurish assault on higher education by the Texas and Arizona school boards, with their Orwellian whitewashing of American history, is also part of this populist disdain for expert knowledge. As detailed by Lee Harris in The Next American Civil War, much of the faux Right populism of the tea baggers and their enablers is based on some sense that Washington and "the godless liberals" are too far removed from the values and beliefs of "real" "everyday" Americans.

To turn a phrase, it would seem that stupid is the new (old) black and where the Idiocracy want to reign supreme.

The calls for Obama to be "angry" and to "show some emotion" are a cousin to this phenomenon. According to the pundit classes Obama is hamstrung by a crisis in communication. As opposed to being more like Adlai Stevenson, Obama ought to connect with the people as a "regular guy" cut from the same mold as George W. Bush and Joe the Plumber. Ultimately, education is a liability, for as smeared by Sarah Palin, Obama's credentials as a "constitutional lawyer" make him too much of a technocrat--an egghead and nerd of sorts--to relate to "real Americans."

From this worldview, solutions to the challenges faced by America overseas and abroad are best met with moxie, passion, and moral certitude. Not surprisingly, there would seem to be little room here for a nuanced approach to policy making either at home or abroad.

In keeping with this narrative, President Obama's speech on the Gulf Coast oil disaster is being greeted by some as too sophisticated and complicated for the "average" American to understand. As noted by experts featured on CNN, Obama's oil speech was written at a 10th grade level: What is apparently a pitch thrown too high for a public that (perhaps) has been dumbed down by a failed educational system, which views their role as citizens in a manner indistinguishable from that of consumers, and that has embraced a mantra that government is always a problem and never a solution.

It would seem that the public wants simple answers to complex problems. They want moral appeals, heroes and villains, and cut and dry solutions. If Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor is to be believed, the American people would like to be spoken to as though they are in the 7th grade--with few syllables, and in short sentences.

In keeping with his suggestions, what follows is my rewriting of President Barack Obama's speech on the Gulf Coast oil disaster at a grade level appropriate for the American people to understand. In closing, I must ask once more: Are the masses indeed asses?


President Obama's (Now Made Grade Level Appropriate) Oil Speech to the American People


The U.S. is in big trouble right now. People need jobs and more money. We are fighting bad guys who hate us in other countries. Our soldiers are doing a good job killing the bad people.

Now, I want to talk to you about the oil in the ocean down South. On April 20th an oil rig blew up. Too many people were killed. There was a big hole dug deep in the ground by the oil rig people. It started to leak oil out into the water. The water is really deep.

We have never had a hole dug that deep into the ground to get the oil out. BP, the big company that dug the hole doesn't know how to plug it up. I got scared. I then got on the phone and called up some smart people.

One of them is so smart he won a prize for his ideas. His name is Doctor Steven Chu. He works for me. He runs the Department of Energy. He is very bright.

The oil is like a big monster. It is evil. It is hard to cleanup. The oil is killing fish and birds. People who work on boats in the water can't make money. To fight the monster I told the navy to help. The smart people are going to dig another hole in the ground. With the BP folks they are going to soak up the mess like a big paper towel. I hope that the hole in the ocean will stop leaking in a few weeks.

The water is really sick. We may not be able to get it better for a long time. This is very bad for all of us. BP made this mess. They are going to pay to fix it. I am ordering them to give money to people who can't work because of the oil. BP is very bad. They did not act like they cared about making a big mess.

The BP people killed the nice people that worked for them. We need to make sure we know why the oil rig blew up. They dug a deep hole in the ground. They didn't even think about plugging it up. Now, we need to make a rule so that does not happen again. No more messes!

America uses too much oil. This is why BP dug a deep hole in the ground. America needs to get new energy. We will get smart people in a room who can figure out how to do this. I will talk to anyone who will be fair and play nice on this issue. I want good ideas. I do not care where they come from.

Each year the people who fish and live near the messed up water get together to pray for good luck. That is a good idea. The U.S. has God on its side. We will pray that this mess gets fixed.

Remember, we are a great country. We have lots of bad things going on now. But, the U.S. always wins. We will soak up the oil. We will kill the bad guys in those other places where they pray to the wrong God and want to blow us up. The economy will get fixed. God bless America.

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The BP Oil Spill is the Skin of Evil

I liked Obama's speech on the BP oil spill. It wasn't that moving. It wasn't that inspired. Nor, will it enter the pantheons of great speeches such as Churchill's invocation that "we shall fight on the beaches":

But ultimately, Obama is a centrist technocrat in the increasing mold of Adlai Stevenson. But guess what? President Obama (I still get chills typing that by the way...who would have thought?) got at least 20 billion dollars out of a bunch of criminals who should go somewhere and commit seppuku. History will make of that what it will.

As I watch this unending oil spill, lurch, dirty, kill and destroy, I have had two thoughts. The first is imprecise and half-formed, but for the same reason that I use a blackboard and not that damned Powerpoint when I teach, oftentimes half-formed thoughts in progress that we have to work through are far more instructive and powerful than those perfectly formed and presented on an LCD screen. Here, and every time that I watch footage of the oil spill and those poor suffering animals and imagine a lifestyle and economy now destroyed, I keep thinking of disaster capitalism. I know it is not a perfect fit for Naomi Klien's theories, but a big corporation made this mess--as they have others--and another multinational will fix it...for great profit at the American tax payer's expense.

My second thought veers directly to my ghetto nerd credentials. In one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever filmed--close to Spock's Brain in its level of horribleness--Tasha Yar, soft butch, damaged sex pot of The Next Generation was killed by Armus, a "malevolent entity." As anticlimactic as it reads on the screen or page, when I look at that sludge I think of him. 'Nuff said.

Thus my question: What monsters come to your mind as you watch our ecosystem destroyed in a crime of almost incalculable dimensions and consequences?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Make the Call: Seattle Cop Punches Young Black Woman in Face During Altercation

You don't mess with the police. And lest we not forget that I am no fan of the police either. Most importantly, I am also not afraid of them. In fact, one of my earliest memories was my mom yelling at the Hamden police for viciously assaulting a gay couple outside of our house. Often, parents do not realize that they teach lessons even when not intending to do so. My mom doing her best/worst Thurgood Marshall impression yelled at the cops about the Constitution and that they were violating the inalienable rights of the American people. Funny, said police stopped, looked embarrassed, and the two men (guilty only for loving each other) came over and sat on our porch as my mother called 9-11.

In that moment I learned that cops are people too--both good and bad. I also learned that the police have the power of the State to take my life and that I should be weary of them.

I also remember my "don't fight with the cops or else you get killed" talk. My parents, god parents, and even the white fathers of my friends had some version of this teachable moment. They would relay (quite sternly I am may add) in keeping with this rite of passage that inducts young men of color into adulthood--and some white men as well--that you never fight the cops. Never. Ever.

Why? Many police officers are tired, exhausted, poorly trained, and perhaps even racist. Ultimately, and as I am so fond of quoting Morgan Freeman's great movie Nurse Betty, the police are the garbage men of the human condition. Thus, do not trust them to have patience or mercy. That is not their purview, temperament, or intent.

In watching this clip I have mixed feelings. I do not want to give into the official side of the story that exonerates the police and the powers that be. But, as a respectable negro I am dedicated to fighting stupidity wherever I find it. As I noted in this post, there are many reasons to put on the racism chasing shoes where necessary. Here, I do not choose to don them.

Moreover, and this may upset some, I think the police officer in this clip is not entirely wrong. Now, I do think he exercised poor judgment. He is surrounded by a hostile crowd. The offense is likely not worth the potential for violence. A call for backup would be necessary and should have been made from inside the protection of his vehicle. To boot, given the repeated physical assaults by the young women in the video, and the potential that his weapon could have been taken in the struggle and much more violence done, said officer exercised much restraint. Many police, and I would have thought this better than punching his assailant, would deploy either mace or a taser. In my opinion, and please feel free to disagree, that would have been a better tactical choice than what was demonstrated here.

Should said officer lose his job? Absolutely not. But again, that is for his review board to decide.

Ultimately, I have come to the following conclusion (and please tell me if I am arrogant, entitled, "respectable," and/or have social capital that blinds me to the struggles of the "ghetto underclass"): I don't care how this fight started. I don't care if the young black women in question were "right" or "wrong." You never, ever, put your hands on a cop. Why? because you could very well get shot. As my dad, mom, grandma, and others told me, "behave, listen, get the badge number, do what they say, and we will take them to court. Don't die out there."

So then, what explains the behavior of the young black women in the video? Is this a lack of home training? Do the young women in the video have a deep historical memory of slave patrols, white supremacy, and the role of police in the Racial State, and are thus fighting against their historical oppression? What in turn would explain their resistance? Or more cynically, is their behavior proof of a lack of home training amongst the ghetto underclasses, and the rise of some twisted mix of hyper-masculinity, femininity, and violence that fights all things and all people? In total, is this what happens when grandma is 30 years old?

Just being real. Politically incorrect or not. What are your thoughts on the behavior of the police officer in this video? And would this incident have not occurred if said young women acted more like ladies?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

White Newborn Babies to be a Minority in the U.S. or Which "Racial" Group will Earn their Whiteness Next?

I am underwhelmed by "news" stories that herald the decline of the white race and the browning of America. Students of U.S. history know and understand that Whiteness is a malleable category. While heavily policed, Whiteness as a racial grouping is ever expanding.

Why? because whites are by definition the majority group in the United States. Just as the Irish, Italians, Jews, Polish, and others existed on the periphery of Whiteness until they "crossed over" during the 19th and 20th centuries, in the 21st century other groups will be ushered into this always renewing and expansive club. Here, history has repeatedly demonstrated that in a practical calculation of the relative value of in-group and out-group membership, new (and old) arrivals to America clamor to enter Whiteness, the perpetual motion machine that it is, at any cost. As the old joke goes, immigrants learn two words upon arrival to this country: "okay" is first, "nigger" is second.

Here are some interesting data points in support of this hypothesis: According to a 2003 study, the majority of Latino immigrants regardless of origin self-identify as "white"; Blacks are the least desirable marriage partners for whites and immigrants, while black out-marriage has continued to increase; And in a signal to the creation of a "coloured" class and "buffer race," so called "multiracials" are the fastest growing group in the United States.

So what do you think about the racial draft into Whiteness? Which racial minority is most likely to take the leap?

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Nears Racial Milestone

Whites are on the verge of becoming a minority among newborn children in the U.S., marking a demographic shift that is already reshaping the nation's politics and economy.

The Census reported Thursday that nonwhite minorities accounted for 48.6% of the children born in the U.S. between July 2008 and July 2009, gaining ground from 46.8% two years earlier. The trajectory suggests that minority births will soon eclipse births of whites of European ancestry.

"The question is just when," said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He guesses the milestone will be crossed in the next few years, and could happen as early as 2011.

America's changing face has transformed race relations from the traditional divide of black and white to a more complex mix of race, language and religion. There are new strains on schools and social services, while immigration has emerged as one of the nation's most contentious issues—as evidenced by Arizona's recent law that makes illegal immigration a state crime.

A number of forces are pushing the U.S. toward a "majority minority" future. The median age of the white population is older than that of nonwhites, and thus a larger share of minority women are in prime child-bearing years. In addition, white women are having fewer children than nonwhites, while the growth in mixed marriages has led to more multiracial births.

The recession has slowed the transformation by reducing immigration. It also has made people of all races less willing to start families. But births among nonwhites slowed less than those among whites between July 2008 and July 2009. Among the Hispanic population, there were roughly nine births for every one death, compared with a roughly one-to-one ratio for whites.

Minorities made up 35% of the U.S. population between July 2008 and July 2009, up from 31% in 2000, the Census said. While immigration is a touchy political issue, it is not the driving factor behind the nation's growing diversity. Hispanics, for instance, accounted for 54.7% of the total population increase between July 2008 and July 2009, but about two-thirds of that gain came from births.

Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding Mecklenburg County offer a microcosm of the diversifying nation. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands in front of the historic county courthouse, a gift from the Charlotte Asian Heritage Association. Food Lion, a supermarket chain in the Southeast, spent the past year adding thousands of Hispanic food items to 19 Charlotte area stores. In 1990, 70.3% of the county was white. Today, it is 54.6%, and Mecklenburg County's youngest whites are a minority among their peers.

The shifting mix has "changed our definition of diversity," said Ann Clark, chief academic officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. The district, for example, used to put its teachers through training to overcome racial biases that usually cut along black-and-white lines. Now, the district focuses more on reaching kids who live in poverty or don't speak English at home. It has hired four full-time translators and started a program to educate teachers about poverty.

Esselito Solano, a 31-year-old who owns a company that makes stone kitchen counters, said he felt like an outsider when he emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines in the mid-1980s. He remembers being perplexed when an elementary-school teacher made him throw away the remainders of his cafeteria lunch instead of bringing it home, a wasteful move in his native country.

Today, his young daughters are growing up as part of a nonwhite majority. In 2006, the most recent data available, 43% of the babies born in Mecklenburg County were non-Hispanic whites, according to health statistics. "They're not going to have a hard time blending in," said Mr. Solano.

Charlotte's business and social institutions also reflect the change. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce has expanded minority membership via a program that gives discounts to several racial and ethnic chambers. In 2007, the NAACP of North Carolina formed a coalition called Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly, which is made up of 93 North Carolina advocacy groups that represent various races and ethnicities. "With this changing demographic, we had to operate in coalition," said Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP of North Carolina.

America has long been on a path toward becoming a more diverse nation, and several states, including California and Texas, are already "majority minority." But in the past decade or so, the dual forces of assimilation and the housing boom have pushed diversity beyond gateway cities into the suburbs and across states that hadn't traditionally attracted immigrants.

Philip Maung started off in a gateway city, immigrating to Los Angeles from Burma (now Myanmar) in 1989. He moved to Charlotte in 1997 to start Hissho Sushi, now a 400-store company that sells sushi out of kiosks in airports and grocery stores. The company's 50,000-square-foot headquarters has offices, warehousing and a chilled room where a dozen employees begin rolling sushi at 3:30 a.m. "In a bigger city like New York or L.A., I wouldn't have had a shot," said Mr. Maung.

Although he has achieved the American dream, Mr. Maung said he wanted his two boys, both born in Charlotte, to understand where he came from. Two years ago, he sent the kids back to Asia to spend time learning Chinese and living in the developing world. "They'll come back with their eyes open," he said.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vast Mineral Resources Worth 1 Trillion Dollars Discovered in Afghanistan: Will We "Racism Chasers" Discuss this Issue?

Racism chasing shoes are often made of cement. As a confession, I have many pairs of these shoes in varying sizes.

The black blogosphere, for a variety of good reasons, is always ready to respond to incidents of racism and prejudice. But many in the black blogosphere are often blind (like many of us in general) to the macro-level structural changes that impact all Americans across the colorline. Ironically, the seemingly "unsexy" or "unentertaining" stories that are buried on page 6 of the local newspaper and/or have nothing to do with celebrities, sports, and people famous for excelling at being nothing other than stupid and famous (the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world) impact the poor, working classes, and people of color the most.

The discovery of 1 trillion dollars worth of rare minerals in Afghanistan is one of those stories. These minerals are used for superconductors, weapons systems, advanced computers, and other critical areas of a superpower economy (where "superpower" is the mating of the corporate, the military, and the political).

In total, there have been quite a few stories in recent months that should have been more widely discussed by the mainstream media and also on the black blogosphere. The launch of the recoverable space plane and hypersonic cruise missile should have been widely discussed as it ushers in continued U.S. unilateralism, the further militarization of space, "global strike," and full spectrum dominance. The contraction of the U.S. money supply forebodes horrible things for the (not present) U.S. economic recovery. The U.S. is bleeding both blood and treasure in Afghanistan--with 23 dead U.S. soldiers this month alone. Moreover, among those in the know it is a given that the invasion of Afghanistan is going badly. Frighteningly, scientists reprogrammed DNA with the use of computers and created synthetic life.

The 1 trillion dollar prize in Afghanistan is a story that is at least as important as these--it is also equally likely to fly under the radar. Ultimately, the wars of the future (as they have always been...but perhaps moreso in the resource poor world of the 21st century) will be over water, oil, and liveable land. With the rise of China, and as indicated by their rush to secure resources in Africa--Afghanistan will most certainly be a highly contested prize.

Some obligatory questions of realpolitik:

  1. Will this discovery make the invasion worth it?
  2. How will 1 trillion dollars of resources complicate the United States' exiting of that country in 2011?
  3. Will the U.S. give up these minerals?
  4. Will the U.S. force Karzai's hand in order to prevent him from cutting a deal with China to exploit these resources?
  5. Will 1 trillion dollars in minerals be one more step towards an inevitable United States-China conflict?
  6. If the U.S. can exploit these resources does it make the invasion of Afghanistan worth it?
  7. And we must ask the hardest question of them all: What will the benefits of this find be for those of us not in the global power elite?
In thinking through this breaking story, I propose that for one day we hang up the racism chasing shoes. We must not forget that most of our greatest, most respectable negro intellectuals and leaders were cosmopolitan, global citizens. Oftentimes this fact is overlooked as many in the black blogosphere focus on micro-level aggressions in the post-Civil Rights era.

Remember my friends: Black is a nation, one that is local, national, and global. And this discovery, like many of "those stories" that are not explicitly about "us" or "race" are actually more important to our day to day lives and futures than the chronic racism chasers would lead you to believe.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday (Sort of) Funny--South Carolina Senate Candidate Alvin Greene Meets JJ Walker

One day there will be a folk song called The Strange Saga of Alvin Greene. The victory of a near destitute, former GI, accused sex-offender over the party's preferred candidate in a major primary would make for more than a few good lines of rhythmic prose.

Ultimately, until the dust settles and more information comes to light, we are really just theorizing in a black box about Mr. Greene's victory. Here are the three most prominent scenarios, that per tradition, I will leave for you all to sort out.

1. Alvin Greene is a plant, a stooge for the Republican Party who paid him to run.

2. Republican voters acted strategically. In an open primary they voted for the weaker candidate so that in the actual election their preferred candidate would win.

3. Alvin Greene simply got lucky and won. No hijinks or trickery needed.

Regardless of how this all plays out, in sorting through the possibilities I kept thinking of the classic Cosby/Poitier film Let's Do it Again. To me Alvin Greene seems like JJ Walker, a pawn in a bigger con that he is not privy to.

Now the question becomes, is Alvin Greene just playing the okeydoke and pretending to be a bit slow on the uptake, or is Mr. Greene really the vulnerable, naive, and a bit slow (if not disabled) person that he is presenting himself to be?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Can You Feel Their Eyes on You? Rare Photo of Slave Children Found in Attic

Can you feel their eyes on you?

As someone whose research focuses almost exclusively on race and its relationship to power in this society, I have, by necessity, become hardened and numb to certain realities. On one hand, I would hope that this makes me an effective teacher because I want to get the story right, as well as help students understand that emotions matter--but not at the expense of rigor and precision. Thus, the "science" in social science. Reflexively, this tendency to be hardened and not surprised by the realities of white supremacy (and frankly the capacity for human beings to be barbaric and cruel more generally) can also make it difficult to connect to a young student raised in the glee of post-racial, post-Civil Rights America where "race no longer matters." As teachers, we have to shatter their naivete (because ultimately that is what education ought to be), but it brings no joy to do so.

We, those folks who study identity politics--especially where those politics are personal--do indeed learn to wear a mask. But in private, when faced with an image such as these two young boys, caught in the jaws and gears of a cruel system where their humanity was reduced to property, a mere check on a ledger sheet, one cannot help but to be moved.

This photo also makes me think of how shockingly ignorant most Americans are of the day to day realities of chattel slavery in the Americas. Imagine, if we are still negotiating those divisions in the heart of our democracy today, what it must have felt like for those black folk struggling against the slaveocracy when it was a looming present? In turn, can we even begin to comprehend the magnitude of the psychological wage which slavery must have paid the white soul?

That heretofore ambiguous wage is partly revealed in this photo. It must have been grand comfort to know that by simple virtue of color and birth that one's children would never be reduced to chattel or property, their photos and papers of sale to be discovered in some dusty attic centuries later. Ultimately, the Black Freedom Struggle is a triumph. But, that triumph did not come without a great deal of pain and personal tragedy. We often emphasize the former, but for fear of dropping the mask, the latter often goes unacknowledged.

The full story follows courtesy of Salon:

Rare Photo of Slave Children Found in Attic

A haunting 150-year-old photo found in a North Carolina attic shows a young black child named John, barefoot and wearing ragged clothes, perched on a barrel next to another unidentified young boy.

Art historians believe it's an extremely rare Civil War-era photograph of children who were either slaves at the time or recently emancipated.

The photo, which may have been taken in the early 1860s, was a testament to a dark part of American history, said Will Stapp, a photographic historian and founding curator of the National Portrait Gallery's photographs department at the Smithsonian Institution.

"It's a very difficult and poignant piece of American history," he said. "What you are looking at when you look at this photo are two boys who were victims of that history."

In April, the photo was found at a moving sale in Charlotte, accompanied by a document detailing the sale of John for $1,150, not a small sum in 1854.

New York collector Keya Morgan said he paid $30,000 for the photo album including the photo of the young boys and several family pictures and $20,000 for the sale document. Morgan said the deceased owner of the home where the photo was found was thought to be a descendant of John.

A portrait of slave children is rare, Morgan said.

"I buy stuff all the time, but this shocked me," he said.

What makes the picture an even more compelling find is that several art experts said it was created by the photography studio of Mathew Brady, a famous 19th-century photographer known for his portraits of historical figures such as President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Stapp said the photo was probably not taken by Brady himself but by Timothy O'Sullivan, one of Brady's apprentices. O'Sullivan took a multitude of photos depicting the carnage of the Civil War.

In 1862, O'Sullivan famously photographed a group of some of the first slaves liberated after Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Such photos were circulated in the North by abolitionists to garner support for the Union during the Civil War, said Harold Holzer, an author of several books about Lincoln. Holzer works as an administrator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Most of the photos depicted adult slaves who had been beaten or whipped, he said.

The photo of the two boys is more subtle, Holzer said, which may be why it wasn't widely circulated and remained unpublished for so long.

"To me, it's such a moving and astonishing picture," he said.

Ron Soodalter, an author and member of the board of directors at the Abraham Lincoln Institute in Washington, D.C., said the photo depicts the reality of slavery.

"I think this picture shows that the institution of slavery didn't pick or choose," said Soodalter, who has written several books on historic and modern slavery. "This was a generic horror. It victimized the old, the young."

For now, Morgan said, he is keeping the photo in his personal collection, but he said he has had an inquiry to sell the photo to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He said he is considering participating in the creation of a video documentary about John.

"This kid was abused and mistreated and people forgot about him," Morgan said. "He doesn't even exist in history. And to know that there were a million children who were like him. I've never seen another photo like that that speaks so much for children."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Many Ways can Barack Obama be an Angry Black Man?

Barack Obama is facing a challenge from across the political aisle where both liberals and conservatives are calling for him to show anger about the BP oil spill. The groundwork for this critique began during the 2008 campaign, where to some in the media and among the public, Obama seemed too "intellectual" and "distant" to be an effective leader. Metaphorically, Obama was Spock, while John McCain was Captain Kirk--the former cerebral and disciplined; the latter emotional and daring.

Here, Barack Obama is a bound man. On one hand, because of moribund constructions of gender, Obama is unable to show a full range of emotions that go beyond "anger" or "strength." To cry or to be vulnerable are still (even in the 21st century) looked upon by many as traits unbecoming a "real" man. As a Black man, Barack Obama is doubly restrained. If Obama shows any amount of upset he risks easily falling into narrow and stereotyped caricatures of black manhood--especially as when viewed through the white gaze.

The error here is an assumption that black anger is one dimensional. In fact, black anger is complex--with many rooms in its proverbial house. To point: in an effort to help Obama negotiate his "anger" problem I have compiled a helpful list of archetypes from which he can borrow.

Which of the following models are best suited for President Obama? And what types of black anger can be added to our list?

How Many Ways can Barack Obama be an Angry Black Man?

1. Stylized and cartoonish: Sam Jackson.

2. Primal, libidinous, and a force of nature: Mike Tyson.

3. Literati, intellectual, and creative: James Baldwin.

4. Crazy, nonsensical, and self-loathing: Alan Keyes.

5. Rage of a black privileged class: George Jefferson.

6. So smart that he scared white people to death: Malcolm X.

7. 1960's Black nationalist in a leather jacket and a beret: Stokely Carmichael.

8. Hollywood black anger: Spike Lee.

9. Respectable and non-threatening to White people: Sidney Poitier.

10. White liberal black rage: John Brown.

11. Apocalyptic black rage: Nat Turner.

12. Anger in the prophetic tradition: Reverend Wright.

13. Black rage that (most) white people were willfully blind to seeing: Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Would a Black Militant Say About Barack Obama and the BP Oil Spill? Brother X-Squared Returns to Speak the Truth!

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party. Brother X-Squared has become a legendary force on the Internet following his stunning debut on WARNNN last year. In a series of interviews never to be equaled, Brother X-Squared has discussed a range of topics from Barack Obama to the most recent Academy Awards with sharp, penetrating analysis that is uncommon among the pundit classes.

After a several month hiatus, Brother X-Squared has returned to WARNNN in order to update us on his travels, as well as to offer his insights on the many global crises facing President Barack Obama and the United States in these recent months.


WARNNN: How are you Brother X-Squared? It has been too long, with so much going on in the world I must imagine that you have much to say. Our audience is eager for your wisdom and perspective on the many events that seemingly threaten to derail President Obama's first term.

Brother X-Squared: How am I? I am as content as a moon cricket sitting on leaf at one in the morning on the night of the solstice! Oh, yes I am quite happy!

WARNNN: Pardon me? A moon cricket sitting on a leaf?

Brother X-Squared: Again, after our years together you still do not understand our great negro stories and mythologies. I have sent you book upon book, transcribed the ancient wisdom for you in terms that even you, a common negro could understand, and yet you still lag behind. So much work to be done Brother Chauncey. I bet your celestial energies are weakened, your natural melanin receptors down because of the racism chasing that captive Black neo-slaves such as you and your other Internet brethren do. Messing with nonsense like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck will do that to you! Yes, that must be the answer, you need to get some perspective on the evils of the white man and his tricknology! You chase his wickedness when you should be still and studying its madness from a position of rest.

WARNNN: We missed you Brother X-Squared we really did. You are unique.

Brother X-Squared: I am the Alpha and the Omega, I am the point on the line that is the derivative, I am the area of a curve, the integral. I have always been and will always be. I am blackness. I am Brother X-Squared!

WARNNN: So what have you been up to since our last interview around the time of the Oscars?

Brother X-Squared. I went off into the wilderness. The captive Black man is already in a wicked placed, the land stolen by the white European called America--named not ironically after Amerigo Vespucci--a devil the preordained the evil of this place. After watching those Precious and Avatar foul movies win awards I had to commune with my Native American Brothers. Peace be to the four winds and to the nature walkers, our Red and Brown brothers for the Earth will be ours again!

WARNNN: I am surprised. How did you monitor the news? You are a bit of a news junkie. How did you stay on top of things?

Brother X-Squared: There you go again Chauncey! Junkie, news, "on top of." The white man has so poisoned you that you repeat his wickedness even in ostensibly neutral questions. Junkie is what a drug addict is. News is something "new" to people. "On top of" is how those white sex freak tea baggers imagine a man's genitals in their faces! Language is power Brother Chauncey. It is through language that we speak things into being! As always, I have been monitoring all things. And again, if you have listened to any of my wisdom these few years, you will understand that none of this con game is new. It is all the same. It began the same. It will end the same. It will be the same forever until the Natural Black Man reclaims this world! There is nothing you could ask me that I could not answer, nor that I have not predicted!

WARNNN: Okay then. What is your opinion about Obama's handling of the BP oil spill?

Brother X-Squared: Ha! I already have you Brother Chauncey. I will school you just as Yoda did that white devil Luke Skywalker in those hellish white supremacist Star Wars movies with all of their Nazi and white racism imagery! Obama, the white black halfrican that he is, is not a true black man, but he is being played by the forces of the global kleptocracy. What color is oil? It is black. Quite literally black gold! Yes, just like the captive millions of Black Africans were black gold to the evil Europeans! How perfect then that the black gold rushes out of the Earth during the presidency of their faux negro black President! And guess what else Brother Chauncey? The plot is more complicated than it seems. Do you know about onions and Arabs?

WARNNN: Huh? That seems like a non-sequitur. What do you mean? Do both make you cry?

Brother X-Squared: Tear ducts are for the weak, a tool of white women to weaken and distract folk from the truth as one of your white allies Macon D says on his website Stuff white people do. I generally have no use for the white man, but like John Brown he seems "acceptable." No, Brother Chauncey. And again, you are a child before my wisdom so please sit and listen before you ask anymore foolish questions. An onion has many layers! This oil spill is orchestrated by British Petroleum. Those are the heirs to the same wicked white people the British East India Company that sold the slaves! Yes! And guess what? Who sold the first slaves to the evil white man?

WARNNN: Other Africans?

Brother X-Squared: No. It was Arabs! They took the black gold from Africa and introduced it to the white man who become an addict of the strength and power of the Black man! Arabs also control the oil, and then gave its power to a European homosexual named Lawrence of Arabia who rewrote the maps of the Middle East. This history is so deep. Now the Arabs have America by its collective scrotum. The white man's offense is so great. Do you see the symbolism of the oil spill Brother Chauncey?

WARNNN: Nature and the world befouled by technology and greed? How capitalism creates false needs and how we....

Brother X-Squared: Shut up. You sicken me. You truly have studied with the white Europeans in their schools. The Earth, Mother Gaia, is bleeding her blood. Black blood. Into where? The oceans over which tens of millions of Black souls, Nubian gold, were brought across to feed the avarice of the white man in the "New" World. Have you seen the poor animals suffering in the Gulf of Mexico?

WARNNN: It makes me cry. You know we both love animals, especially our canine companions.

Brother X-Squared: Now you are talking truth. God is dog backwards. Never forget it. Those poor birds are dying. Those poor dolphins are suffering. Just like in that book Song of Solomon, the white man is doubly assaulting the Black man with that oil. Those birds represent our ancestors and freedom to fly back to Africa and he is killing us with his greed! And just like they did with Katrina, where the Black man was run out of town by a hurricane and the city rebuilt and "Mexified" they are doing it to the gulf coast! This is ethnic cleansing by way of a man made disaster! But Mother Nature will get her revenge. You will see! God is not to be mocked Brother Chauncey!

WARNNN: So what do you think of Obama's response to the oil spill? His leadership more generally over these last few months?

Brother X-Squared: Do unwashed chitlins served with mayonnaise and head cheese stink? Yes they do! That is what I think of Obama. He is a man-child. The white man has neutered him. Speaking of which, have you seen that Obama action figure? Apparently, it is some super toy that can be positioned in any way imaginable. I guess white sex freaks love these things. And guess what? As accurate as it is, this fetish of Obama, what is really a voodoo doll, has no genitals. The white man hides his evil in plain sight. They have literally castrated their first "black" President. how fitting!

WARNNN: I am aware of the toy. But, how does this all relate together?

Brother X-Squared: So simple minded Brother Chauncey. In my absence you took 3 steps backwards. This is what that white woman Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism. BP makes the mess, Halliburton with that white devil Cheney cleans it up, and Obama can do nothing. The white global elite like in that movie They Live clean up. Those Bilderbergs are actually meeting this week and CNN is covering it. The world's economy is being raped and it gets featured on the evening news as a joke. The white man has lulled you all to sleep, so much so that you don't even fight back. You captive negroes are complicit in your own destruction. I love it! I truly do.

They would never put a real Black man like Brother X-Squared in office. Oh no. Although Obama is a spiritual zero because his powerful zero point energy creating melanin is neutralized by his white momma mating with that African Shaka Zulu daddy of his, the white man still hates him. They mock him everyday. They even release rats to appear when he speaks in that damned White House. What a joke, a sort of black man, living in a white house, with black rats in front of him while he address the nation. Fate is so brilliant. Energy is never destroyed it is conserved. The white man's wickedness is conserving itself and coalescing all the while Obama tries to save this damned country.

WARNNN: What does your association think of banning ethnic studies in Arizona or of the Texas school board's white washing of history? What of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona? Are you and your brothers planning to march in solidarity with Latinos and Hispanics?

Brother X-Squared: You must be joking. Immigrants? Solidarity? Come on Brother Chauncey. The Black man is the first immigrant to this country. Where is our justice? We were here before those bestial European immigrants even arrived. The white man does not even know his own history. I spit on the mythology of Ellis island. You see the real Black man does not need Ethnic Studies. That is a bone the white academics threw you to get in massa's house. I don't need classes to affirm my humanity. My melanin and wisdom do it everyday when I look in the mirror.

And on "Hispanics" and "Latinos" this is so deep Brother Chauncey I don't know if you are ready. Look away because the light may burn your eyes given that the calluses on your mind state have weakened in my absence. Those words used to identify the indigenous people of the Southwest U.S. and those points South of this country, are a lie made up by white Europeans! President Nixon, one of the greatest white devils of all time added that category to the census to divide and conquer Black from Brown. Look it up, the facts speak for themselves! The true Aztec, Chicano, Aztlan brothers don't use those slave names. Those lies were made up by Christopher Columbus, white Spaniards, and Jesuits like that devil Bartoleme de las Casas--the actual demon that said the Black man should be made a slave to protect the Indians. In fact, I am glad that mess is happening to those Hispanics and Latinos right now!

WARNNN: That is pretty controversial. Why would you say that? Given the history of Black people in the United States I would expect more empathy?

Brother X-Squared: Empathy. Empathy is for the weak. Never forget it. You see a lot of those quote unquote Hispanics and Latinos don't want to be associated with Black people. They had a type of Jim Crow in Texas and the Southwest. Signs that said "No Mexicans and No Dogs." A lot of those immigrants forgot that, and to boot they internalized the white man's lies about Black people. So many are desperate to be white and now the white man Republican tea baggers have kicked them in the sombreros! Those Hispanics and Latinos are very color struck--hating on their own dark people. In fact, many of them reverse pass--they pretend to be non-white to get into college and jobs, but they are white every other day of the week! Then when the white man shows them his true face they panic. No Brother Chauncey, the real Brown, indigenous, Mestizo, and Spanish speaking folks, the Caesar Chavez, Brown Beret Brothers always understood the white man's wickedness. It is the others who are now waking up! Ha ha, as Malcolm said history is the greatest teacher! The chickens are coming home to roost!

WARNNN: Wow. You need to come on more often. So much to process. Two quick points. First, given your comments on the Oscars, I must ask: What movies have you seen as of late? And second, tell us something we do not know.

Brother X-Squared. Hmmmm. I will do that in reverse order because I can. The white man loves tricknology. In fact, some evil white scientists have invented artificial life in a laboratory. You see given that Yakub invented the white man in a twisted experiment that was an act against God, he has a natural predilection for using evil science. Man does not have the moral or ethical wisdom to make such things. And given the depths of white evil, these foul custom designed life forms will be the undoing of their creators. You will see. We got duped by the Tuskegee experiments and what happened to Sister Hela, but we are ready now! Bring those nanite racist viruses on! We, the natural Black man, vegetarian, pure of mind and body are ready with strength and honor to repel them.

WARNNN: Damn. I too have followed that story and am very worried as well.

Brother X-Squared: As you should be. I am a warrior. As such, I lead from the front in order to inspire my soldiers. I also know that captive Black Africans in America such as yourself are not ready to do what I do. Thus, I take risks for you Brother Chauncey. To protect you, I saw two movies. The first was this horrible evil thing called The Human Centipede. Dear God. Never have I seen such a movie. But, in its evil this abomination exposed the white European for his sickness. This movie is about a scientist that attaches people one to the other so that they produce feces into the mouths of those below them. I prayed to the four winds while seeing this. But, I drew strength. You see the white man, especially those Republican Glenn Beck Conservative types practice this sickness. It is called coprophagia. The European is naturally depraved and delights in consuming his own waste. The Conservatives, thus their hypocrisy, especially so. These were the same people with a Bible in one hand and a whip in another putting the proud Black man into a slave ship. Their evil is no surprise, nor is their delight in consuming feces. A truly sick race they are!

Just like a perpetual motion machine I draw strength from battle. I then saw an equally wicked race mixing movie called Splice! Again, two white people, evil scientists, conspire and make a hybrid creature. The white woman, such narcissists they are, uses her own DNA to create the thing. Beware this movie all proud Nubians! The moral of the story is that the white man has sex with anything! Even race mixed beasts that are made from their own genetic material! Lesser Nubians like you Brother Chauncey must avoid these films lest you be tempted to race mix and defile what does remain of your Afrocentric consciousness. His lies are so transparent, as in this wicked Splice movie, the evil woman/bird/fish creature has a tail with a black penis attached to it that rapes the white woman and pleases the anal region of the white man! When I left I had to read Diop, Ivan van Sertima, Brother Ben, and DuBois to cleanse my soul. Sick this movie was, so very depraved...just like the white man.

WARNNN: You shared so much. And I do thank you for seeing those movies in order to protect us. Will we be hearing from you again?

Brother X-Squared. A storm is coming! I will be forever vigilante and present like that white woman Sarah Connor in those Terminator films. We shall talk soon. Stay strong Brother Chauncey! Stay strong!

WARNNN: We will Brother X-Squared. Till next time.

Brother X-Squared: Peace.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Funny: Glenn Beck Goes Palpatine in His Best Star Wars Impression

Here is a lesson in life for all of you: be immediately suspicious of any person who brags about giving a commencement speech at Liberty University...

Beck's racism, xenophobia, and all around damn foolishness have earned him much ire. But now, he has gone too far. In the name of all things Star Wars, Glenn Beck must be stopped. Ironically, Beck in his flagrant misunderstanding of the Jungian, historical narrative that is The Trilogy, does not understand that he, not Obama, would be Senator Palpatine--a seditious, duplicitous agitator leading the Republic towards fascism. But again, Beck is anything but self-reflective:

Which of our sacred truths will he assault next? Star Trek? The Three Stooges? Robotech? G-Force?

Could Beck become any crazier? At what point do his followers lower their heads in collective shame and walk off of the plank into the welcome waters of the abyss?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Barack Obama vs. 50 Cent vs. Bill Maher: Who is the "Real" Black Man?

Here is a Friday quicky for you. I love using this clip in my The Politics of Race and Barack Obama class. I am always surprised by how folks are so utterly uncomfortable talking about if Barack Obama is a Black President or a President who happens to be black.

So who is to blame for the crisis in black masculinity? The mass media that depicts black men as hoodlums--in one form or another? Or the black women and men who reinforce these norms?

Most provocatively. Who is more of a black man? Barack Obama or 50 Cent?

This one is yours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Congratulations! For its Botched Raid on the Gaza Aid Flotilla, Israel has Now Earned a Coveted Shit-Huffer Award!

It seems that when all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

I have not awarded the coveted We Are Respectable Negroes Shit-Huffer award in quite some time. An homage to jenkem, a foul drug which is based on the inhalation of the toxic fumes produced by human waste, this award is given for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty. For its actions in the botched raid on the Turkish relief flotilla in international waters during which at least 9 people were killed and many more wounded, Israel has more than earned this prestigious award.

Israel's actions were an unneeded escalation of tensions in the area. And for those unfamiliar with my stances on international relations, I am a bit of a hawk. I believe in the use of State power--military and otherwise--to advance one's interests. I am also a realist. I am suspicious of the "community" of nations' ability to always deter conflict or that abstract ideas maintain the international order.

For example, I have long believed that the U.S. should strike Iran preemptively. I am concerned about the transformation of our military into one oriented to counter-insurgency warfare. Unlike many in the general public I consider China to be a clear military threat that we should be more aggressive in balancing. Finally, I consider the 3 trillion dollar boondoggle in Iraq a waste of treasure and blood--not because of a deep dislike of preemption as a national security policy--but because it took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Iran.

Israel has earned this award, both for this careless act, as well as for a series of selfish deeds that have betrayed America's trust in its "closest" ally in the region. During the Cold War, I was willing to give Israel a pass out of strategic necessity--even after the vicious attack on the USS Liberty. Now, with their overreach in Gaza and Beirut, repeated acts of espionage against this country, refusal to work in good faith on the settlement issue, and transferral of U.S. military secrets to China, something must give.

Contributing to their vaunted shit-huffer status, Israel's raid was both ill planned and poorly executed. I will concede all of Israel's points on this issue. Let us assume that there were weapons aboard. Let us also assume that perhaps some number of provocateurs or infiltrators were aboard the flotilla.

Was the gain to be had by raiding the ship worth the strategic fallout? Moreover, and again to my hawkish views on national defense, if Israel was so concerned about the cargo why not wait until the ship was in its territorial waters and disable the vessel? If need be, I would back destroying the bridge to stop the vessel. If the threat was truly dire, I would even support sinking it.

But, to drop commandos, one by one, into a hostile crowd and then look aghast when things go fubar is both reckless and stupid. You don't send Israel's version of the Navy Seals on a milk run and then get surprised when they do that special thing they do--i.e kill when confronted with a threat. Not to be overlooked, in Israel's rank selfishness they took no consideration for what their attack would do to the United States' relationship with Turkey.

Here, Israel is like the frat boy who wears his dirty white hat to class everyday, gets drunk playing beer pong each weekend, takes liberties with drunken sorority girls (you know they wanted it!) and chews tobacco all the while spitting nasty tobacco juice in an old Coke can. Dude can be a real jerk because he takes your friendship for granted. Ultimately, said dirty white hat wearing frat boy has a real sense of entitlement because he knows that mom and dad will always bail him out.

Borrowing from a more striking visual: In the immortal words of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, Israel would be the guy that would fuck you in the ass and not even give you the courtesy of a reach around.

Israel made this bed and now has to lie in it. But, given the strength of the Israel lobby (yes, I said the phrase that need never be uttered) we know how the U.S. is going to play this one..."nothing to see here, move along:

Sadly it seems that our boy can do no wrong, even as he tarnishes our name and drags us into the muck with him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wrestling with Gifted Classes, Race, and Gender or Confronting the Honors Cabal

One of my favorites.

What now of the gender gap in public education?

Is is not a little commented upon irony that at every level of educational attainment that girls outperform boys. Yet, men somehow grow up to rule the world? It is also little commented upon that there is an informal system of "affirmative action" for men in college. Funny, that point is too infrequently mentioned in our debates on "preferences" and college admissions. Makes one think does it not?

As detailed by The NY Times, this pattern of gendered outcomes is mirrored even in the talented and gifted programs in our public schools.


Educators and experts have long known that boys lag behind girls in measures like high school graduation rates and college enrollment, but they are concerned that the disparity is also turning up at the very beginning of the school experience.

Why more girls than boys enter the programs is unclear, though there are some theories. Among the most popular is the idea that young girls are favored by the standardized tests the city uses to determine admission to gifted programs, because they tend to be more verbal and socially mature at ages 4 and 5 when they sit for the hourlong exam.

“Girls at that age tend to study more, and the boys kind of play more,” said Linda Gratta, a parent at the Anderson School on the Upper West Side, one of the most selective. “But it’s a mixed bag. The day of the test, you could be the smartest boy in the world and just have a bad day.” She said that Timothy, her first-grade son, had approximately 10 boys and 18 girls in his class.

Biases and expectations among adults are often in play when determining which children count as gifted, and fewer boys appear to end up in gifted programs nationally. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that boys were “overrepresented in programs for learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional disturbance, and slightly underrepresented in gifted programs,” said Bruce A. Bracken, a professor at the College of William & Mary who wrote one of the two exams that the city uses to test gifted children. He said the implications of the study were “disturbing.”


The piece is powerful. But, it is also noteworthy for how race and class are omitted from the equation. As is repeatedly documented, take the gender gap in school achievement at large, and then multiply it for young African Americans and Latinos. Black and Latino boys are significantly more likely to be in remedial programs, labeled ADHD, suspended, or be placed on the lowest tracks in their respective schools.

On that point: am I the only one who hates the tracking system, yet would throw a fit if my child were not put in the highest level?

Second on that point: Aren't tracking and the honor roll the biggest rackets of them all? Everyone is on the honor roll be they in the best or the lowest track. This is doubly cruel: I have relatives who children were in remedial classes throughout school. Yet, because they received "honors" each term, said parents were convinced their kids could go to Yale or Harvard. Talk about a setup for inevitable disappointment. This is a cousin to the Trophy generation, snowflakeitis that is currently afflicting our universities--we have raised a generation where everyone is special, talented, and gifted. What will be the consequences for the United States economically, socially, and politically as this entitled class takes the reigns of power?

Some of these outcomes are the result of limited social capital and a lack of resources and parental involvement. Likewise, faulty metrics for determining intelligence and "intellectual ability" explain some other results. Sadly, good old fashioned laziness and racism still account for a good part of these disparate outcomes.

Here, my beef with the talented and gifted programs, as well as tracking, is a personal one. Upon entering the fourth grade, I was initially put into the lowest cohort. I had always been in the highest track, but I was summarily demoted. For the grace of God, and one great (yet really tough) former WAC who was my teacher, I would likely have flunked out of school and become the highly successful criminal mastermind I was always meant to be.

I was bored, finishing my work in 2 minutes, and consequently getting in trouble. This teacher clearly knew something was up and contacted my parents. Together they discovered that I had been put into the wrong track. A simple bureaucratic mix up? No, upon some research it was discovered that a student teacher had done the placements that year. Under time constraints she put all of the black kids in the lowest track. Why? Her explanation under threat of lawsuit: "it seemed efficient given that black kids do badly in school." True story.

I was also not allowed into our school's talented and gifted program. My mother, being a perennial striver, wanted to know why I was not admitted. Once more, social networks, race, and class rule the day. Apparently, although I had met all the criteria for admission, certain spots had been promised to a select group of students and their families. Another threatened lawsuit later I was reluctantly admitted--Black folks love threatening to sue people by the way (I don't know if we ever follow through though). I refused to go on basic principle. You don't want me. I don't want you. Funny thing, to my knowledge not one of those "talented and gifted types" are doing well today.

Interestingly enough, that was not my last run in with the evil gatekeepers of "honors" and "talented and gifted programs." In High School I would eventually break down the barriers and join up. Predictably, I would be run out by an English teacher who stated that my writing and analytical skills were sub par. I vividly remember the paper in dispute--it was an essay on Silas Marner. I had developed a thesis on greed, gender, and white racial identity. I was flatly told those were not elements in the book and that I must not be able to fully comprehend the text. Being the obstinate respectable negro that I am, I left the class (she made it clear I would get an "F") and swore revenge in my best Wrath of Khan impression. Funny thing, I made true on my promise. And yes, she was terrified.

Like many students, I didn't get my full honors, Phi Beta, uppity top of the class awards and bonafides until college. Doubly curious, whenever I sit down with a bunch of respectable negroes from the striving middle and working classes, there is some version of the above story. Moreover and almost to the one, we remember being the only non-white kids in those spaces. I would hate to be so reductionist, but could it be that in many schools "honors" and "talented and gifted" are coded as "Whites Only" spaces?

Wow, this has actually been cathartic.

Do others have similar tales of woe and triumph in the face of the honors cabal? And what does it say about our educational system, that so many who are not judged to be among the best and the brightest in either elementary and secondary school, rise to the top in college and/or leave formal training and become stars on their own?

Is the system that broken?