June 30, 2010

Oh noes, they’re taking our jobs! Hey, wait…

Posted in Current events, Poetry, Politics, Racial issues at 4:29 pm by The Lizard Queen

A few years ago I posted a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca entitled “So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans,” and that post remains one of the most-viewed posts on this blog. I like that, because the poet is a favorite of mine, and I think the poem is an excellent example of the power of poetry: it establishes and illustrates an argument in such a lovely and succinct way. I also like the fact that I can tell from the search terms people have used when they click on the post that there are many people who come across the post who do indeed believe that Mexicans are taking Americans’ jobs away, because I hope perhaps they read the poem, and it makes them think, makes them consider a viewpoint that hadn’t occurred to them before.

Unfortunately, if one looks at the comments on that post, one will see that there are several people who enter the search terms, come across the post, read the title of the poem, then head for the comments section. As a result, for better or for worse, those folks believe that I am alleging that Mexicans really are taking jobs from Americans. This morning someone posted a comment that basically agreed with that idea, and groused about everything from affirmative action (“You may see that someone who has a Spanish surname was chosen for the job over someone who did not”) to having to press 1 to receive instructions in English. “Yep,” I thought (while rolling my eyes), “it’s hard out here for a gringa.”

Therefore, because it’s still such a prevalent mindset that immigrants are taking jobs that hard-working [white, non-Latin@, etc.] Americans would happily do if they only had the chance, I thought I’d point to an interesting campaign led by the United Farm Workers called Take Our Jobs:

Take Our Jobs is a national campaign led by United Farm Workers aimed at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers. The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.

In response to the campaign, Grist notes:

Because really, forget Census taking — what American doesn’t want a back-breaking, hot, dangerous (workers get enslaved, poisoned by pesticides, and die from heat stroke) job with no health benefits, paid vacation, or even a living wage?


Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the aforementioned Baca poem was published in 1977.  Three decades, and we still can’t get past the rhetoric of “they took our jobs!!”?  Ugh…


May 14, 2010

The 40th anniversary of the shootings at Jackson State

Posted in History, Racial issues at 2:46 pm by The Lizard Queen

I write this post in memory of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs (c. 1949-1970) and James Earl Green (c. 1953-1970).  They were killed forty years ago tonight, when police opened fire on a crowd of protesters on the campus of Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Mississippi.  You can read about the shootings at this site, the text of which is reproduced in the post I wrote on the subject a year ago.  I also appreciated seeing that NPR recently covered the event.

I know it’s generally considered bad form to quote oneself, but I can’t think of anything to add to what I said last year:

The spring of 1970 was a dark period in our nation’s history, and it needs to be remembered, and I say that not because I’m a right-wing caricature of a left-wing anti-American pinko hippie*, but because I believe that our country needs to learn from events like the May 1970 campus shootings in order to move in the direction of living up to its moniker of “sweet land of liberty.”

(*indeed, one might argue that the attitude that protesting the actions of the US government and/or dissenting in other ways makes one anti-American is part of what led to the Jackson State and Kent State shootings in the first place…)

Seriously, the idea that if a person has anything negative to say about actions the government has taken, socio-political conditions in the US, etc., then it automatically means they don’t love or even hate this country (“if you hate it so much here, why don’t you move somewhere else, huh?!”) cannot die a quick enough death, as far as I’m concerned.  (Don’t even get me started on the folks who seem to think that believing the President is Kenyan means you’re a patriot, and wanting your fellow citizens to have medical coverage means you should move to Europe.)  I love my country; I just think we can do better than killing protesters and passers-by.

August 24, 2009

Monday read-ems

Posted in Current events, Feminism, Gender issues, GLBT issues, Health care, Racial issues, Trans issues at 5:00 pm by The Lizard Queen

Perhaps my favorite discussion of the current debacle that is the health care debate is Michael Bérubé’s Chávezian Airspace exclusive interview with “the whole entire American mass media!”  It’s mostly my favorite because it made me laugh as I beat my head against the desk, as opposed to other discussions, which just made me beat my head against the desk.

TransGriot discusses the sexism and racism inherent in the discussion of whether or not Caster Semenya is “really” a woman, and Cara takes Germaine Greer to task for the transphobia in her discussion of Semenya and gender.

And speaking of transphobia, I was jazzed to see that city leaders in Lawrence, KS are debating “whether to approve a new city ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity.”  The comments on the article are, sadly, full of fail, and I was ready to write them off entirely after skimming the first few, until I came to this gem:

I hope they pass this so women have to pay as much as men do for car insurance.

Women only get 70 cents for every dollar a man gets which is unfair because now the man only has 30 cents.

Equality now.

My train of thought went something like this: Oh jeez, another “what about the menz” guy who… wait, what?  No, dude, see, the 70 cents is… you can’t be seriously saying… spluh?  I mean, surely this is a disingenuous argument, not someone genuinely misunderstanding the “women make 70 cents for every dollar men make” talking point, right?

On a cheerier note, for those who may be looking at attending a college or university in the near future, Campus Pride has put together an LGBT-friendly campus climate index.  I haven’t yet checked to see how my alma maters scored, but I’m definitely curious.

Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start!

May 15, 2009

Jackson State anniversary

Posted in History, Racial issues at 3:15 pm by The Lizard Queen

Late last night/early this morning (at approximately 12:05 am) marked the 39th anniversary of the shootings at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University). I first learned about this event when I was in high school; it was given about as much attention as the Kent State shootings (which is not to say very much; the 20th century, or at least the post-WWII era, was shoehorned into the last few weeks of school). If this thread over at Crooks & Liars is any indication, however, it seems I’m in the minority insofar as having heard about the Jackson State shootings is concerned, so I wanted to take some time to discuss the event.  You can get a thumbnail sketch of what happened from Wikipedia, through which I came across this archived site, which appears to originally have been on the JSU website (please note that there’s at least one paragraph and one photo in there that are potentially triggering).

In a nutshell, what happened is that escalating tensions relating to the Vietnam war and the invasion of Cambodia, race relations in the US and especially in the South, and the shootings at Kent State University led to protests, then to a riot on the Jackson State campus on the night of May 14, 1970.  At approximately 12:05 am, police opened fire on a knot of students gathered in front of a dormitory.  Two young men — Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a Jackson State junior and the father of an 18-month-old son, and James Earl Green, 17, a student at nearby Jim Hill High School — were killed, and twelve other Jackson State students were injured.  No police officers were injured.  The students claim that the officers were not provoked.  The event was investigated, but no arrests were made in connection with the two young men’s deaths.

In all honesty, it’s hard not to feel like a big part of why people remember the tragedy at Kent State and not the one at Jackson State is simple racism — perhaps unconscious racism, but racism nonetheless.  Phillip Gibbs and James Green deserve to be remembered just as much as Alison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder do.  The spring of 1970 was a dark period in our nation’s history, and it needs to be remembered, and I say that not because I’m a right-wing caricature of a left-wing anti-American pinko hippie*, but because I believe that our country needs to learn from events like the May 1970 campus shootings in order to move in the direction of living up to its moniker of “sweet land of liberty.”

(*indeed, one might argue that the attitude that protesting the actions of the US government and/or dissenting in other ways makes one anti-American is part of what led to the Jackson State and Kent State shootings in the first place…)

A more detailed account, from the archived site referenced above, is below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »

April 19, 2009

Tell it WOC Speak: Women of Color and allies carnival

Posted in Blogging, Current events, Gender issues, Racial issues at 8:46 pm by The Lizard Queen

Just a brief heads-up that the third installment of the WOC and Ally Blog Carnival, put together by Renee of Womanist Musings, is up, and it is — of course — chock full of good reading. Go check it out!

December 3, 2008

Read-ems from the last week or so

Posted in Censorship, Civil rights, GLBT issues, Health care, History, Human rights, Medicine, Racial issues at 12:53 pm by The Lizard Queen

(How is it December already?)

Recent must-reads:

On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings

On World AIDS Day: It’s World AIDS Day by Jill at Feministe and I Have No Words by Jay at Two Women Blogging

On Harvey Milk: What I’m Thankful For: Harvey Milk by theantidesi101 at Pam’s House Blend and Harvey Milk Lives by Christie at Dogged Blog

On the LGBTQ rights movement being a civil rights movement: Own Up to Your Bigotry by Mustang Bobby at Shakesville and Don’t Call it a Culture War by Ann (of Feministing) at The American Prospect

On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé

On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman

It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!

September 24, 2008

Troy Davis and the death penalty

Posted in Current events, Human rights, News, Racial issues at 5:05 pm by The Lizard Queen

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Troy Davis, two hours before he was to be put to death. (Background here.) Davis’s case encapsulates so much of why I object to the death penalty:

  • It affects people of color and poor people disproportionately.  (I realize that the link doesn’t actually have anything to do with Troy Davis; it’s simply an illustration.)
  • There’s no guarantee that the person being put to death is actually the person responsible for the crime. Yes, sometimes it’s obvious, an open-and-shut case, etc. Other times, however, it’s much more complicated. In Troy Davis’s case, “There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.”
  • It’s inhumane. Can you imagine having your death scheduled, knowing it’s coming, then having the execution postponed within hours of when it’s supposed to happen? Can you imagine having that happen to you twice, as it has now happened to Troy Davis? I imagine it’s a relief, to be sure, but at the same time, your execution has not been called off, merely postponed.

On Monday, the Supreme Court will “decide whether to hear Davis’ appeal of a ruling issued by the Georgia Supreme Court in March.”  I hope they will agree with the Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court,  Leah Ward Sears:

“If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically,” she wrote.

June 30, 2008

How to respond to “But what about me?”

Posted in GLBT issues, Musings, Racial issues at 1:09 pm by The Lizard Queen

Pride weekend brings up a related thought: what’s a good response when people who are straight and/or white complain about how they can’t go around claiming pride in their race or sexuality?

The thing is, when GLBTQ people hold Pride events, or when people of color celebrate their identities as people of color, it’s an attempt to carve out a space in which it’s acceptable for them to be who they are – and not only are their identities accepted, but they’re celebrated.  People of the dominant culture crying for White Pride or Straight Pride events or recognition are missing the point, as it’s already perfectly acceptable in our society to be white and/or straight.

Of course, people who say things like “How come they get to have a Gay Pride parade but I can’t have a Straight Pride parade?” or “Nobody cares that those people have a Brown Pride sticker on their truck, but if I put a White Pride sticker on my car, I’d get called a racist” aren’t generally interested in engaging in a conversation about why a celebration of one’s identity as a minority might be necessary in a way that it isn’t for those in the majority.  Still, I’m curious if anyone ‘round here has any tried-and-true responses to such statements, since mine is often essentially shifting uncomfortably in my chair and mentally shutting down.

June 12, 2008

Read-ems for June thus far

Posted in Animals, Consumer info, Feminism, Medicine, News, Racial issues, Reproduction, Sex at 3:13 pm by The Lizard Queen

Hello my lovelies!  Here are some links for you, since I haven’t been writing.  I started a new job on the 2nd, and it’s currently sapping nearly all of my energy.  Here’s hoping that changes once I adjust to the new schedule.

Happy reading!

April 14, 2008

Thinking, talking, blogging about race

Posted in Musings, Racial issues at 4:59 pm by The Lizard Queen

Required pre-reading for this post: Cara’s post (where I first heard about this issue), Holly’s post, the letter at Shakesville.

I don’t know what to say about, as Melissa put it, “the fissure happening in the feminist blogosphere right now between some prominent white feminists and feminists/womanists of color.”  I read Pandagon and had just recently started reading La Chola (Brownfemipower’s blog), but fell behind in my blog reading in general over the past few months (personal stuff), and ended up not learning about the events that triggered this fissure until well after they’d happened (at least in blog-time), and in general I just feel really ill-equipped to comment on those events in specific.

However, I did want to address some of the issues that this fissure points to.  I’d like to think of myself as I want to be an ally to women of color (and people of color in general).  I read posts like the Angry Black Woman’s “Thank You, White People” (follow. the. links.) and agree with the whole damn thing, and want to bang my head against the desk when the Nice Whites (à la Nice Guys) show up in the comments and go, “But I’m not a racist!  And my family totally never owned slaves!  Why do you hate me so much?”  I hear celebrities of color say things like “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,”* and think “too damn true.”  I look at the way my friends and colleagues of color are treated, the casual racism and essentialism they have to face every single day, and it hurts me.  It makes me angry.  I want to do what I can to combat that racism.

But knowing that I have indeed benefited from racism gives me pause when the issue of race comes up, at least insofar as blogging is concerned.  I worry about being thought a hypocrite.  That time when I overheard my landlord telling the person with whom I lived at the time that he was glad we weren’t like the other people in the neighborhood — in fact, I think he specifically said something about being glad that, with us around, his wasn’t the only white face in the building, something like that — I didn’t rush out of the bathroom, pants around my ankles, to chastise him.  Indeed, had he said it to my face, I don’t know what I’d have done.  What do you say when your landlord, someone in a position of authority over you, says something so blatantly racist?  I guess maybe you move out, which we did, but for other reasons.  I was less aware then, less active, but still.

And then I think sometimes there’s a fuzzy line, or maybe some people just perceive the line to be fuzzy, between, as Holly put it, “stand[ing] by those who aren’t called on” and appropriation, or at least pretending one understands another’s pain when that’s simply not possible.  I remember seeing, a few days or maybe weeks after the Katrina fundraiser, a woman — pale white skin, red hair — wearing a shirt proclaiming “Kanye was right.”  I wondered about her motivation for buying and wearing that shirt.  And then I wondered about my wondering.

I haven’t come to any conclusions.  I do, however, think the resolutions in the letter at Shakesville are a good place to start.  I can “write about, discuss, advocate, and recognize as integral to the central tenets of feminism/womanism issues our sisters of color bring to our attention.”  I can link to women of color.  I can “endeavor always to be aware of [my] privilege, and, in moments of failure, …remain open to criticisms and suggestions, resolve to think twice before responding defensively, and apologize when [I] fuck up.”

And I can listen.

*And I think it’s telling that that one phrase is all people remember about what Kanye West said that night.  “Nevermind all that other stuff he said — he called the President a racist!!  ZOMG!!!11!”

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