Sunday, April 30, 2006

Searching for Truth - Pt. 2

I was so fired up the other day, that I kept writing and ended up several different themes. So I'm publishing them as a series. I am posting the first two this evening/early morning, and hopefully will post more by Tuesday.

Another angle on the Duke sex scandal - Notions of hypocrisy and betrayal

The caller on the aforementioned radio show last week touched a raw nerve for me when she implied that a lack of support for this young woman was tantamount to betrayal. But by whom? Could she have meant the men in the young woman's life, and how their lack of responsibility made her seriously consider stripping as a career option?

Of course not, that irate caller was making a larger case about collective shame in our community, but she missed the mark. However, upon further consideration I think the caller has a valid point. This young woman was betrayed by our community, but not because some of us questioned her choices. She was betrayed when we accepted sexual exploitation as an integral aspect of black culture.

Remember “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”…

When we allowed the pimp to be resurrected as an icon of black manhood, then we betrayed every young black woman. Pimps are in the business of pimpin’ and the currency of that enterprise is the ho, a.k.a. the black woman. So when that song won an Oscar, it was not our proudest moment. If anything, it was an acknowledgment of how shameful we have allowed our culture to become.

When we accept the explanation provided by some rappers that they are only referring to certain women when they pepper their lyrics with the terms bitches and hoes, then we betray every young black woman. When we dismiss rap videos full of under-dressed young woman as overly stylized fantasies, then we betray every young black woman. When we dance to the beat but fail to listen to the lyrics, then we betray every young black woman. When we allow music executives to claim that this is what we want because we eagerly buy their products, then we betray every young black woman.

And this is larger than hip hop, because other so-called beloved entertainers have contributed to this betrayal. We embrace R. Kelly, even though he is accused of urinating on a thirteen year old child. I’ve heard people defend him on the theory that he was seduced—by a thirteen year old child! As for his annulled marriage to late singer Aaliyah when she was only fifteen: “Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number”. Here is someone who is clearly sick, yet we celebrate him by selling out his concerts and buying his trashy music. But to bash him in public is to air dirty laundry that is best kept “In the Closet”…

We’ve looked the other way when black public figures disregard their black wives and engage in infidelity. Jesse Jackson spent less than two weeks in exile after it was revealed that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. His wife stood by him, but I wonder if she felt betrayed by the way the community ignored her pain. Countless other political wives probably endure similar humiliation. Our forgiveness of black preachers is legendary and best summarized in the oft-repeated refrain, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

We apparently have a soft spot when it comes to our sports heroes and their sins against women. When these guys father children from one end of the country to the next, why do we overlook their irresponsibility in sleeping around and aim our accusations at the women? When Allen Iverson put his naked wife out on the street in an incident that clearly indicated domestic abuse, why did we ignore it as personal drama and cheer him on at his next game? And why did we do the same thing for Jason Kidd and Warren Moon? Is Jim Brown viewed as an abusive brute, or is he still regarded as a sports icon? Do we really believe that O.J. Simpson never hit his black wife, and are we ready to believe that he probably killed his white wife?

If we forgive black entertainers, religious leaders, political figures, and athletes accused of behaving badly toward black women, then why should we be any less forgiving of white men similarly accused? If we don't hold the men in our community accountable for their behavior, then what do we expect?

I bet that question is on the mind of every Duke athlete on the lacrosse team.

Searching for Truth - Pt. 1

I have no idea what happened at that party involving the Duke Lacrosse Team and the stripper. She says things got out of control and that she was raped and sodomized; they say it was just a party and that she was angry about not getting enough money for her services. Seems like a classic cut-and-dry case of she said vs. they said, but that assumes that this is case is only about a stripper in a room full of drunken athletes. This case is of David and Goliath proportions with regard not only to race and gender, but also to class and privilege.

It could serve as an important teaching moment for our society. But I doubt it. We have already taken sides, and few of us are willing to deal with the complexities. We just want to settle old scores.

Last week a caller on a radio show complained bitterly about what she viewed as a “lack of racial solidarity with this young woman.” Apparently, several previous callers, mostly male, had suggested that because of the woman’s profession, she put herself in a position to be exploited. The caller went on to declare that this crime occurred precisely because of the victim’s race, and that fact had emboldened the lacrosse players in disrespecting her. The caller finished her tirade by suggesting that if the victim were white, none of this would ever have occurred. As the host of the program offered her amen to everything the caller said, I was completely mystified.

I understand the outrage of the black community in Durham. For decades, when a black woman was raped by a white man or mob, the community was powerless in the face of Jim Crow “justice”. Under regimes of state-sponsored terrorism, black husbands, fathers, sons and brothers could do little to protect their black wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. So when leaders of the local NAACP and clergy demanded action, they are responding to years of un-prosecuted rape and mayhem.

But that only scratches the surface as there are other implications of this incident beyond race of the victim and the perpetrators. Whenever drunken men get around half-naked women, someone is bound to take things too far. So where was her protection? Where was the black community that night? Why did this young, black, single mother have to strip for a living?

If we would dare to answer those questions, then we might see that our anger is misplaced. In overlooking certain nuances implicit in her life choices, we have again failed to address some painful truths.

Where was the father of her child? If he was paying child support, would that have led this young woman to become a stripper?

Ok, let’s assume that the answer to the second question is yes. Then, if she willingly chose this profession, then does she not also have the responsibility to accept the consequences of that choice? If that question blames the victim, then I will state here and now that I do not believe that any woman deserves to be sexually abused.

At the same time, no woman should have to engage in a profession wherein chief among the hazards is the possibility of sexual exploitation and abuse in order to support a child.

So while Jesse Jackson and others publicly form a hedge of protection around this woman now, they need to use this opportunity to publicly address the circumstances that lead this mother and other small-town black single mothers to make similar poor career choices because of absent fathers. For if she had an involved co-parent (and not another absent baby daddy), then she would never have been at that party that night. No self-respecting man would allow the mother of his child--whether he liked her or not--to work as a stripper for hire. He would care too much about the welfare of his child to allow that. And I’ve seen the darkened silhouette of her daddy in numerous TV interviews, so I’m wondering if he is hiding to protect her identity or in shame because his daughter had to pursue this lifestyle to support his grandchild.

Where was he when she needed him?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Allergies, Insomnia, Carpal Tunnel and other Maladies

Oh how I love Spring. I love it so much it's sickening! Really.

I have spring allergies. Every April around this time, I have to barricade myself indoors, or I have take allergy medication. When all of these new prescriptions came out a few years ago, I was estatic. I could finally take something that would not put me to sleep. Only, these medications have the worst side effects. One year I had back pain and flu-like symptoms. Last year, I got earaches and a sore throat. This year, I have the earaches and sore throat, and I can't sleep at night.

So, I stopped taking the medication, but now I can't go outside. To pass the time I have been working on my novel, blogging on a semi-regular basis, grading papers, doing some internet research for my class, and journaling. I would say that I have been rather productive lately.

Except now, I'm been experiencing numbness in my right arm. It was so bad last night that I was convinced I had some unspeakable neurological disorder. Now that the panic has subsided, I've settled on carpal tunnel syndrome. I used to laugh at people who claimed they were disabled by this. Now I'm not so sure that it's so funny anymore.

The insomnia has been with me consistently for weeks, so I can't blame that on the month of April. I had a rough February, and a ultra-busy March which leads me to think that there might be more to this because I should be exhausted. I forget things, I've lost interest in some of my activities, I never go to church, my house is a terminal mess, and I am more disorganized than ever. Maybe I have depression?

Nah...I just need a new bed, and a vacation. And a million dollars...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Writing Blues

So my computer ate my first chapter. That is my excuse for not finishing the writing sample and submitting it for the Writers' Workshop last week. And it happens to be the gospel truth.

Last Saturday, I got on the computer to edit the first chapter of my long-awaited-unwritten-as-of-yet-first-novel. My intention was to submit an initial draft of the first few chapters for a local writers' workshop application. Everything was going fine until I switched gears to complain about a the pathetic MLK day parade that I just saw on TV (a piece I plan to back-date and post very soon). After an hour or so, I wanted to get off the computer for a bit, so when I went to save both documents, I got this weird error message that my MS Word was not responding. After several tries, I had to exit the program, but since there is a little miracle called auto-save, I crossed my fingers in hopes that I could retrieve my documents.

This is where the whole story gets crazy. As I suspected, the auto-save had indeed retrieved both documents, and even though it was an earlier version of the chapter, I was not worried, because all I needed to do was to save the changes and then exit out of the program as I had initally intended. Simple, right?

WRONG!!! The same error message kept popping up, and then I started to panic. After an hour, I still could not save my documents. And I could not open any of my other documents. And my web browser would only direct me to Microsoft sites. And I was losing my mind.

I called tech support, and lets just say that I am really unhappy that these jobs continue to get exported out of the country...I gave up after being placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. I turned the computer off again and resolved to try again the next day.

Same scenario. This time, three hours down the drain. But at least a successful call to the Microsoft tech support and a promise that they would follow up.

Which they did several times, only I had to make other plans and spent most of the week on campus. When I finally spoke to the tech support people, it was Thursday and I had not turned on the computer in days. Of course, when I did turn it on, it was as if the whole thing never happened. The program did not freeze up, I could open and save my documents, and I was able to use the internet.

Alas I was not able to finish my draft. The guidelines requested 10 to 15 pages. Last Thursday, the day before the entry was due, I had only completed 4 pages. As of today, I'm up to 7.

So that is how the computer ate my chapter, chewed it up a bit and spat it back at me. It was all too convenient given the fact that I was working against a clear deadline and had resolved to make it. In the end, I could not make up for the days I lost. I was disappointed because I really wanted to get this done. However, the one bright spot in this little story is that I am still working on the piece. I am committed to working on the novel until it is completed.

No matter how long it takes.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Death, Taxes and Passwords

There are three things that this life guarantees:

  1. We will all die someday.
  2. We have to pay taxes every year at the same time, but people like me will always wait until the very last minute.
  3. At the most inconvenient time, you will forget your username or password. If you don't forget, the website you are trying to log into will.

I had to log into my blog, again, because I assume that after 10 days or so, Blogger decides to automatically reset the cookies on my computer. Why not just make me log in every time, instead of getting me to check that box that says "remember me" only for the site not to remember me?

But Blogger is not the reason for my foul mood. I am trying to file my taxes, it is after 6pm on April 14, and there is one teensy bit of information I need to make this process less painful. But the website that contains the said information is denying me access. TO MY OWN DAMN ACCOUNT WITH MY MONEY IN IT!!!

Add to this annoyance the fact that I just received one of those generic auto-response emails informing me that they will address my concerns on Monday, after I've just spent over an hour trying to get access to this information today...which is too late to do me any good for filing my taxes tonight.


I blame it all on computer passwords. Life would be much simpler if there were no computer passwords to remember. I propose that there should be one universal password, given to all of us at birth, that never got rejected. I know, it is called the SSN, but this one universal password would satisfy the different requirements of every website that demanded a word that is either case-sensitive, has both numbers and letters, or is otherwise "unique" in some way.

Mine would be TallGirl5
(legal disclaimer: that was totally made up for the purposes of this post only).
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The only thing I did accomplish today is to finally finish the first chapter of the book I've been to writing for three years now. Yup, only the first damn chapter...

I really love to write, but I can never devote the amount of time needed. I barely get enough time to blog. I keep wishing for a clear schedule, but then I waste the time with crossword puzzles, Brit-coms, and other people's problems. Finally, today I decided that enough was enough and I banged out that first chapter. Of course, the only reason why that happened is because I want to get accepted into a writers' workshop and it would help to have a work in progress...
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More on my pathetic writing output:

My Blogger counter says that I have written 98 posts. That is technically inaccurate. At least ten of those posts have never been published. Have they changed the rules and I was not informed?

If people read my profile and start reading my old posts, will they feel short-changed when they realize that the counter is wrong? Does anyone even care? Yes, I am descending back into self-absorbed panic--that no one reads my writing and couldn't give a damn if I filled this space with names copied the from the phone book.
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I saw the movie "Closer" and it is so hard-core that I forgot that I had to teach that night and watched the whole thing in the middle of the day. Why can't I write a story that intense? I know that I don't think on that level (sex is not my writing forte) but damn, it was so deep and I was so involved. In the words of a young teenager I once knew, "That movie went hard!"

Gheesh, I sound like a 10th grader.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What a Crafty Mess!

I saw an article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago and it has sparked another obsession--t-shirt reconstruction! I altered three old t-shirts and I have several more waiting for their chance to become something new. I feel like a teenager again.

Except, when I was a teenager, this is probably the last thing I would have done. I had very little interest in being unique--we were all too busy trying to look like each other. I won't even go into detail except to mention that I was a teen in the late 80s and very early 90s...basically the style nadir of the 20th Century.

I got the itch to get more creative with my clothing back in November after I saw "Flashdance" again and got inspired emulate Jennifer Beals. I have so many big shirts, leftover from the days when everything was worn baggy and boxy, so I had several candidates for alteration. To make sure that my vision was properly realized, I experimented with some of Rick's old undershirts. After two attemps I got the look I wanted, and then put the scissors to one of my old Cat In the Hat shirts.

I wear it all the time now. Before, it was at the back of the drawer.

There was also an episode of What Not to Wear that got me thinking about cutting my tees a few years back. There was this woman who had nothing in her closet but old tees and jeans that she wore to work everyday. Stacey and Clinton dumped her entire wardrobe, and she cried the blues. Then they surprised her by saving a few of the cooler t-shirts and altered them for her. They took a very boxy one and made it into a sexy baby tee.

So this Washington Post article rekindled my interest in this little craft, but now I can't find the paper or the article anywhere. I found some other cool designs on the internet, but none of that has satisfied me. I am on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt alteration. I need something that will allow me to look young and carefree, but not so much so that I look like a woman trying to act and look younger than she really is. I also need some ideas that will minimize the amount of sewing I need to do (afterall, I am not that crafty).

Of course, my fear is that this will go the way of scrap-booking, quilt-making, gardening and many of the other crafts that I've attempted to cultivate. I abandoned scrap-booking because it felt silly to set aside time to cut and paste like a kindergartner. I realized quilting was another temporary interest because I was just not that into sewing. And as for gardening--well I still haven't given up on that yet, although my disastrous attempt at blogging about it only made me more indifferent to the weeds and wild animals that were taking over my yard. The result of all these attempts is the ever-growing clutter that has consumed my house.

I've gotta go. Now I feel the need to do some housework. Ciao!