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Showing posts with label race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label race. Show all posts

16 March 2017

Call for Proposals: Race/Gender/Class/Media 4.0: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers

Proposals are sought from scholars across all disciplines for the fourth edition of Race/Gender/Class/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers (Routledge, 2019). Edited by Rebecca Ann Lind, University of Illinois at Chicago (rebecca@uic.edu), the book will examine the consequences, implications, or opportunities associated with issues of diversity (socially constructed differences such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, etc.) in media. The fourth edition should be at least as wide-ranging in scope as prior editions. Most accepted pieces will present original scholarship.

There are three main sections: content, audience, and production.  Content focuses most closely on texts created by media  organizations. Audience includes media usage, effects of media, audience  interpretations of media content, and studies of user-generated content. Production includes studies of media organizations and the creation of content, as well as media activism, access, policy,  and regulation.   The book is designed primarily for undergraduates, although it has been used in graduate courses and in high schools. Final manuscripts will be about 4000 words, including pedagogical activities, and must be written in an accessible fashion. Contributors who meet the deadline will receive $100 payment upon publication. More details are available online , or email rebecca@uic.eduFor more information and to submit proposals, visit  http://go.uic.edu/rgcm .

The priority deadline for proposals is June 1, 2017; decisions will be announced by July 1, 2017. Completed readings are due January 5, 2018, with editing and revision through May 2018. Additional copyediting should take place in fall, 2018.

17 February 2016

Review: Race

EDITED 2.23.2016:
There was something about the film that kept poking at me over the weekend. It took a lot of stewing in my head and reading of other reviews to realize what it was. We rarely hear from Jesse himself. We get a lot of scenes where Jesse is the center of conflict, but other people in the movie resolve it or explaining it. This movie is still beautifully shot and can be the start of a larger conversation. My daughter and I had a good chat about whether or not the Olympics should had been held at all. We also talked about the choices that athletes need to make sometimes, about their social responsibility. I think it was having these conversations that I realized I did not really know what Jesse was thinking, outside of a few dramatic scenes. This leads me to be very conflicted about the film. 

I took Ella to see Race tonight. I won a pair of passes to the Chicago sneak preview and thankfully she did not have a lot of homework. Now while I am a sports fan and I knew Jesse Owens, I did not know details of his story. Sure, I knew that he went to the Berlin Olympics and kicked Nazi butt, but that was about it. I saw that to say I have no deep historical record to compare this beautiful film to.

Owens was the world's fastest man during a time when most of the world would rather not acknowledge the existence, much less the accomplishments of a Black man. The movie picks up a few years before World War II, meaning that the US is still stuck in the Great Depression. Owens' father has been out of work for a long time and that clearly weighs on both of them. When we meet Jesse he is on his way to Ohio State University to start his college career. At one point his brother makes a comment about him being a college boy - but not in a supportive way either. Ugh...

There is so much conflict in this film that it made my heart hurt. Owens is torn about leaving his family, including his girlfriend and toddler daughter at home while he heads off to college. Racism runs amok on the OSU campus including the locker room the integrated track team shares with the apparently all-white football team. Of course then we have the build up to the Berlin Olympics. Should the US boycott or not? The politics of this decision seems to be fairly well depicted, including the pressure that Owens later receives from the NAACP to not compete. There is an obligatory "there are no politics in sports!" moment that is there to make it clear that sports is all about politics.

Overall I enjoyed the film. As a politically minded sports fan, I always love a movie that does a good job at depicting especially hot political moments.

RACE stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Shanice Banton, and William Hurt, in the incredible true story of Gold Medal Champion Jesse Owens opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, February 19th!

19 May 2014

Book Review: This is Not a Test by José Vilson

My family is privileged, especially in terms of education. We live in Chicago, home to the much-maligned Chicago Public School system. She has caring teachers who push her to be her best, encourage her when she is still learning a skill and remember us by name (at least first, some still fail to remember my daughter & I don’t share a last name). Outside of the weight of her backpack, we have little to complain about. For her.

Yet we understand that where we are privileged, we know it is not an even distribution across the city.

When I was pregnant and even throughout the first years of Ella’s life, we would field the question, “So you’re going to move to the suburbs right?” No. As a kid who grew up in the suburbs, I dreamt of moving to “the big city” of Chicago when I was old enough. And I did. I love Chicago and the fact that despite the economic segregation we live under, we still manage to have a diverse group of people in our lives. My husband and I are also committed to public education. For me it is an easy commitment. I went to a good elementary school that funneled us into a college prep public high school. Throughout my 13 years in public school, I found mostly supportive teachers who went out of their way to get to know me, push me, and support my dreams. My husband was not as lucky as I was, but we agreed that Ella would go to public school. We would fully invest in the system. We simply lucked out that Ella scored well enough on her entrance exam, at the age of 4, to earn a spot in the selective enrollment arm of CPS.

Teachers have always been my champions and that is why I requested a copy of “This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education” by José Vilson for review. I have followed José’s banter on Twitter for some years now. He has said things that I have agreed with and other things that challenged how I view our education system. The same thing happened as I read his edu-memoir.

Clearly something is wrong with our collective public education system. Rather, as Vilson points out, the way we manage our public education system is deeply flawed. Like an onion, there are many layers to “the problem.” Where Vilson shines is, obviously by the subtitle of the book, peeling back the layers to the race and class challenges our public school system faces.

Far too many people still believe that the biggest problem with inner city students of color is that they are headed by a single mother and/or parents are not engaged. Vilson deftly points out that by seeing these as challenges, we are imposing middle-class values on working class or poor families. And the problem with this is that we then ignore the values the students and families bring to the classroom. “When we assume poor kids behave as they do just because of their poverty and not as a manifestation of their frustration with poverty, we do an injustice to their humanity (p 86).” Ever been grouchy when you have to skip breakfast? Imagine if you had little to eat for dinner and then breakfast? No wonder some of our kids are hellions by the time they get to their desks.

Now don't take that analysis as an excuse, because Vilson does not. He wants every child to excel in school and do their best. But he challenges us to look beyond the acting out to dive into the why a child acts out. Our current policies are set up in a manner that punishes and attempts to put the child "back in line" versus getting to know them and why they are acting out. Vilson shows us that sometimes acting out truly is a cry for help.

And this is where Vilson struggles. He knows so many of the kids that come into his life, especially those who are “bad kids” just need more attention, love and support, but he can’t save them all. There is a touching chapter where he discusses the 10% who will always fall through the cracks despite his attempt to catch them all.

Vilson's grasp of the racism that is inherent in our public school policy may blow your mind - especially his discussion of microaggressions. Microaggressions are those tiny everyday things that happen that are racist or classist, but because they are so small, some people will ignore them, shrug them off, or be told "it's just a joke!" They happen not just our every day encounters with people, but also then written into laws and policies. CPS has a policy that parents must pick up report cards twice a year. The hours for this are about 12 pm - 6 pm. One would think that parents can plan well ahead to be there, but one neglects the fact that some parents work in jobs where they may not be in control of their schedule or know it until the week before. Our daughter attends school 45 minutes away from home, what if we relied on public transportation to get us there and back? I am sure the policy is in place to "ensure that parents are engaged" with their children's education and to see their teachers twice a year. But I know parents, mostly parents of color, who are racing around the city during those 6 hours because there is no guarantee that all of your kids are in one school. Some schools hold back up to one full classroom to accommodate sibling requests.

But "This is Not a Test" is not just a book about our broken public school policy, but also a tale of his journey from a young person who allowed doubt to stand in the way of his innovative thinking to a veteran teacher who will not be silenced. Vilson's self-discovery should be inspiration to any of us who struggle to meet our expectations. Social media is flooded with "no excuses" memes as inspiration to run a marathon or finally start that small business, Vilson's tale explains how challenges are real and our struggle to overcome them are not excuses, but our reality.

If you have ever doubted the commitment of teachers or taken as evidence of the many, a story of a teacher who can't do simple math, but because of the unions cannot be fired, this book is for you. A simple tale of one man who gets up every day to teach our youth, but also fight for a system that does not test them to boredom, values them as humans, respects their heritage instead of stripping it from the history books, and above all wants every child to not just race to the top, but grasp their dreams and be happy.

As Vilson points out time and again, teachers are not simply complaining, they are not complaining that they have to do something new, rather most teachers complain when they feel their voices are not valued in a national debate over education. They are the ones with education degrees and we continue to ignore them. What other career do you here that as a solution to a problem? Instead of shutting teachers out, we should be listening to them as they implement innovative education policy. They are the ones implementing and witnessing how well it is or is not going. Why not listen to them?

And that is the question you will want answered when you are done with this book. So grab your favorite micro brew and dive in.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I requested a copy of the book from the publisher. 

14 May 2014

Sterling and Racism in the USA

My mouth dropped when I heard NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, announce that he was suspending indefinitely, the owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, over his racist remarks which were recorded. At first I was happy that he would no longer be able to conduct business with the team, but then I realized that this was the worst outcome for the anti-racism conversation.

No, I do not want to see his smug face on the sidelines with whomever he happens to be dating this week. But let us step back and examine what has happened. Truly examine what message this explusion from the NBA says about racism in America. It means keep your mouth shut.

Mike Florio thinks that this is a big signal to sports owners across the country. You are on notice! Your racism will not be tolerated. But he is wrong. Racism is tolerated. Racist remarks recorded on a phone is not tolerated. We must be honest and forthright about the difference.

And this difference is why we see Sterling trying to apologize his way back into control of the Clippers.  Of course, he can't even manage a decent apology. How else would someone think they can say what they said, do what they did and think an apology will make it all better? Because Sterling was only sanctioned when he was caught on a recording saying racist things.

From all accounts, Sterling has been an open racist. From his slumlord actions to plantatation mentality, I do not believe Commissioner Silver when he responded to a question at his press conference that he had no idea Sterling was vying for racist of the year. I believe Elgin Baylor when he says Sterling wanted white coaches and black players. Racism within sports is not a new conversation. The NFL has a rule that a team must interview at least one minority candidate. MLB does not automatically offer translators to their Spanish-speaking players, despite the fact they make up at quarter of the players in the league. Not to mention the number of racist team names we still have embroidered on jerseys and hats (psst...Washington DC is not the only team either).

No, the actions the NBA took were decidely not anti-racist, rather it was an act to sweep racism under the rug. And the reactions of "good riddance!" just confirm my judgement. The purging of one bad apple does not mean the rest of the barrel is clean. Sterling exhibited racism and sexism over the course of many years. The NBA and other big sports need to take this moment to truly address their global racist and sexist actions.

Big sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) need to chart out a method to investigate ethical questions that is independent of the powers that be. Let's look at the NFL and their attempt to whitewash concussion research. Instead of working with medical professionals to understand the issue and find solutions, they hired medical professionals to release poor scientific papers and wooed mom bloggers with safety tips. The next time (and we know there will be!) a professional athlete is accused of rape, bring out the independent investigator. Heck, we don't need four, just one mega independent investigator to sort things out.

If Commissioner Silver is truly commited to heading a league that reflects high morals and values, he will have zero tolerance for rape, sexual harassment, and racism on and off the court. With or without a recording. Yes, with real evidence, but we don't need a smoking digital file to take action.

If we are truly disgusted by Sterling's comments, we should be equally disgusted by his off court actions - even if a court cleared him of wrong-doing. And we should not let this be about one conversation, but rather a series of events and actions that Sterling and others like him do every day. We need to continue to pressure every team to remove racist mascots from their franchises, hats and baby onesies.

We cannot let the conversation about race in sports end when Sterling cashes out.

06 June 2010

I'm still not White, but am I American Indian?

A few months ago when a bunch of us Latinas and Latinos were discussing which box to check on the Census we came up with a good way to express our desire to be seen as Latino to the government. Not white. Latino. We would check yes for Hispanic/Latino and then write in Latino for other.

The Department of Education ain't gonna play that game.

Last month my daughter came home with a note asking us to re-identify her (our) ethnicity for school records [Link is not to her school, just an example]. There was no "other" option (see below). OK, I"ll just leave the second question blank and check the yes for Hispanic/Latino. Then I read further on that if I did that, someone at her school would check a box for us. WTF? The U.S. Department of Education is requiring this of all students, staff, faculty/teachers across the country. As someone who works in education, I had to do this for myself.

Part One: Is this person Hispanic or Latino? (Must choose one)
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Not Hispanic or Latino
Part Two: Select one or more of the following categories that apply to this person.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White
See how in part two, one can be any or all of these, but none of them reflect my heritage as a Mexican-American. The lack of Hispanic/Latino in part two is moving researchers to look into how we see ourselves. Yet, I fear that the researchers aren't quite getting it either. In a recent article about Latinos seeing themselves as White they said:

However, in the New Immigrant Survey used in this study, participants were not given the option of choosing “some other race.” 
As a result, in the New Immigrant Survey, more than three-quarters of respondents (79 percent) identified themselves as white, regardless of their skin color.

“This shows that Latino immigrants do recognize the advantages of a white racial identity. Most are attempting to push the boundaries of whiteness to include them, even if their skin color is darker,” Frank said.

About 14 percent of the sample refused to identify with any of the listed races, even though this was not an official option in the survey. (emphasis mine)

Excuse me? Really? As someone who had to fill out a survey just like the one studied, lemme tell ya how I thought my way thru it. Definitions come from the sidebar on this page. My judgment is in bold & italics.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native:: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. Close...
  • Asian:: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. No.
  • Black or African American:: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Um, technically we all do, right? But no.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander:: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. No.
  • White:: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. No.
I'm left with reaching waaaay back into Conquistador history to check off white. I've also been told that somewhere on my maternal side, a stubborn and in love Spanish girl ran off to Mexico (now Texas) to marry her beloved and start a ranch. Still have to verify this logical* part of my family history. But I kept going back to the American Indian definition. Yes, I have origins in the original peoples of North America, specifically the mountains of Durango and Baja. Many of my family elders look a lot more like Navajo than Spanish or European.

My decision? I marked American Indian. And I feel terrible.

I feel terrible because I believe that American Indian should be reserved for American Indians...Navajo, Cherokee and Alaskan Natives. I was not going to let someone chose my heritage for me. I don't think that White reflects my history either. But there isn't a straight up Latino box!

So going back to the study that said Latinos chose White for the advantages. No. I'd gather to say that Latinos chose White (when other isn't available) because we are practically forced to choose it. For those of us who don't have Hawaiian, Black or Asian ancestors, what else are we supposed to do? Either option I was left with wasn't authentic. I also know that these counts feed into policy. Do I up the Native numbers or the White numbers? What's the implications for that?

I'd love to hear from other Latinos who have had to make this DOEd decision. I'd also welcome comments from the Native community, even if you want to tell me I screwed up.

*This would cement my line about raising the latest in a long line of stubborn women.

01 April 2010

Happy Census Day! AKA Day of decision for Latinos...

I knew it was coming. I love the Census, I think it’s an amazing thing that our country takes to counting everyone every 10 years. I love that some of us, so far not my household, get to tell the government how we live by answering more than just “How many people live here.” But I was dreading this year’s form for one simple reason – Latinos are no longer a race.

This change happened in 1997 and thus was on the 2000 Census form. I was pissed about it then too, but back then I really believed that a Latino or Hispanic organization would rise up to fight to put us back in the race column. But it didn’t happen. Now the buzz in Latino & Hispanic circles is “What do I check?” I’m asking, I’m getting asked, but I haven’t a clue. You really should read that 1997 memo as it also covers the naming of all race and ethnic categories including our invisible Arab/Middle Eastern sisters & brothers.

The history seems a bit hazy to me. The government did a study about how we fill out ethnicity and race on forms in anticipation for the 2000 Census. One thing they realized is that you have to ask if someone is Hispanic or Latino as a separate question and first. But one thing that also realized is that most Latinos will check “White” if Latino isn’t an option.

Obviously I have an issue with that.

It’s not that I am offended to be considered white, I just don't consider myself white. It’s one of those “It just is,” things in life. Looking at the form, I check yes for Hispanic/Latino. But I’m not Black, I’m not Asian and I’m not White.

American Indian. I’ve considered checking this box and writing down Aztec for my tribe. I’ve also considered writing down one of the many tribes that did live in Texas. My maternal part of my family tree is Tejano, in other words, they were living in Texas when it was Mexico. If we go back far enough, we find a rebellious young woman who ran away from her family in Spain to follow her true love to Mexico. But they settled in what we now call Texas. And may I point out that those of Spanish descent are also under Hispanic/Latino? So that got us nowhere. Also, I feel that claiming American Indian is disingenuous, ya know?

Other. Someone on Twitter said to write human. I get that. I’ve heard it before. But we’re not at that stage of humanity where we can say “there’s no race except the human race…” I wish we were. I want to represent. So perhaps writing Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American there?

Someone else on Twitter said that LA Mayor Villaregosa had marked white. Of course I can’t find a citation, but it led to ponder why. In a campaign to get more Latinos to fill out the Census – it’s money ya know – he said that Latinos were underreported in the 2000 census. Could it be because we didn’t know which freaking box to check? Maybe someone could have surveyed Latinos to find out why we didn’t fill out the census. I know, I know, immigration status plays a HUGE part in that aspect, but perhaps some of us just didn’t know how to respond and didn’t. Althou 47% of Hispanics/Latinos do consider themselves white.

Latinos have always been in this weird middle ground when it comes to race in the USA. We aren’t black, but we aren’t white. Race relations are often said to be about black versus white. Um, what about us?
 We share a lot of common history with our African-American brothers and sisters. Then again, because we’re not Black, sometimes we’ve gotten a pass. Sometimes we battle for what appears to be the same piece of pie.

I’ve decided that I’m writing in Mexican-American on the Census form. We need to straighten out this confusion before 2020. If we truly are the fastest growing ethnic community in the country, we need the numbers too.

04 February 2010

Want to adopt a Haitian orphan? WAIT!

This post was written right after American missionaries were arrested and originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 

I admit that my husband and I had "the talk." The "Can we adopt a child from Haiti?" talk. Of course it was out of sheer love for the children who need help, but we quickly snapped back to reality: Now is not the time to get in line for a child.

Apparently some people think otherwise. Ten Americans were arrested over the weekend for child trafficking out of Haiti. Of course they say they were just trying to help by scooping up children and taking them across the border to an orphanage, but hey, I think that is the definition of child trafficking.

I get it. I also want to jump on a plane and bring a bunch of kids home with me. I want to clothe them, feed them and love them. But I know that they are Haitian and Haiti is their home. I also know that people have been displaced. Children were at school when the earthquake hit. How do we know if their mother was one of the people flown out of the country for medical help? Or is in the refugee camp on the other side of the city? We can't know all of the facts. The Independent has a good Q&A on the ethics of disaster adoption.

When we've had conversations about adoption, I've found myself focusing on whether or not I have the emotional strength to guide a child along the path. A newborn or an older child will question their adoption at some point. I can only imagine the emotional wounds that will need to be addressed for all the people of Haiti, much less a child airlifted from their homeland and extended family.

But I continue to reject the notion that I know how to provide a "better life" for a child. I think that once you start to believe that you can overlook the formalities that go with international adoption, like, say making sure that no one in their biological family can care for them. Airlifts of children have happened before, such as Operation Peter Pan, and some of those children are grown now and mad as hell about the thought of the same thing happening to Haitian children.

Instead of running out to adopt a Haitian child, I suggest giving to an organization that is focusing on helping to rebuild Haiti and reuniting families. There will be a time when adoptions will be the answer for some children. Until then, let's wait.

28 November 2009

Fat Bitch

I promise a much better review when I get time to write it up, but for Chicagoans, TONIGHT is the last night to catch Erica Watson and you had better not miss her. 

Last night I got to watch an amazing show. Watson is genius at critiquing our weight & beauty-obsessed society (as she says, ugly fat bitches who lose weight just turn into ugly skinny bitches) as well as patriarchy. OK, she doesn't use the word patriarchy and that is where her genius lies. 

Watson is able to do what PhD students do in an entire thesis, but she makes you laugh the entire time and without academic speak. For someone who flunked out of UIUC with Ds and Fs, she should type up that routine and get handed the PhD. Dr. Fat Bitch!

And her use of the word bitch is partially empowering, partially not so much. But it's used well. 

While the audience was overwhelmingly African-American, us lighter skinned peeps were laughing just as loud with the jokes. She critiques race issues without resorting to stereotypes like other comics. 

TONIGHT's show has many specials attached:

1. Two for one tickets at the box office. That's two people for $15. Can't beat that deal in Chicago!
2. There will be a raffle for a pair of Bulls tickets versus the Charlotte Bobcats - 6 tickets for $5 was last night's prices. 
3. The after-party is at Funky Buddha!

Seriously, if you can make this show, do it. 

I got to see if on a media pass after Watson's agent contacted me after a friend in NYC sent her to me. But if I didn't almost pee my pants from laughing so hard, I would NOT tell you to go. 

I do have to warn you that the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts had some major heating problems last night. Wear an extra sweater if you want to take off your coat. It was COLD in there last night.

Erica Watson's Fat Bitch is playing at: 
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St., Chicago (handicapped access)
Some street parking one block west of Halsted (off Chicago Ave.)
$8 parking lot directly across Green Street next to Thalia restaurant
CTA Buses - #66 Chicago and #8 Halsted. CTA El - Red Line Chicago/State; Brown Line
Chicago/Franklin; Blue Line Chicago/Milwaukee/Ogden

17 November 2009

There will never be closure in the Nicarico case

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

There will never be closure in the Nicarico case as long as Jim Ryan continues to run for public office.

The Nicarico family never missed a court date. For years they sat in courtroom after courtroom listening to the lies from Attorney Jim Ryan's team as they refused to admit their mistakes and consider Brian Dugan as a suspect. Instead, Ryan kept the case rolling along to wrongfully convict two innocent men and send them to death row.

Jim Ryan is now running for Illinois Governor and "spent a decade as DuPage state's attorney, previously had said he based his case against Cruz and Hernandez on the best information available at the time, though Dugan had long been a suspect in the crime." As I have said before in this space, the Nicarico case made a significant impact on my life. As a child it taught me to make sure the doors are locked. As a teen it taught me the harsh realities of racism in our judicial system.

Now that Brian Dugan has confessed and been sentenced to death, Ryan is apologizing. Not to Rolando Cruz, not to the Nicaricos, but to the voting public. Will we accept it? I can't. I simply can't accept his apology, especially since he has never given one to Cruz.

The fact that Ryan continues to run for public office only reminds us of the miscarriage of justice that occurred. The pain that he put not just the Nicaricos through, but an entire generation of Chicagoans. And it's not over. This case will be an issue throughout the primary election. Dugan still has one automatic appeal owed to him: Illinois has a moratorium on the death penalty. Amazingly, the huge flaws seen in this case alone are still not enough to convince people that we need to abolish the death penalty.

According to Amnesty International "ninety three percent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA." I think that says a lot about the United States as a country. As our moms have said, we are judged by the company we keep.

I am opposed to the death penalty because it drags out court proceedings (thus wasting money), it is racist, but most importantly because we are flawed as human beings. The Nicarico case screams with our flaws. I don't believe any set of checks and balances can ensure that we won't make a mistake, especially in a country where we are still debating whether people have a right to NOT be framed or a right to DNA testing to prove innocence.

And sorry Jim Ryan, but no apology can make up for all of that.

03 November 2009

Want diversity? Start with diversity.

Don't ask me to bring diversity to your organization, ask me to join your organization for my skills, my knowledge or because you just love me. Don't think that I'm the pepper to your bland mashed potatoes. I am the garlic to those potatoes - the first thing you put on the skillet after you start to boil the water. Where you dash on pepper, throw in some onion and make me a vital part of the dish....Not the afterthought. 


Media itself is changing rapidly and in Chicago we have a new player in the game, the Chicago News Cooperative. Laura Washington gave them a tongue lashing for the total lack of diversity they are starting out with:
Nearly every staff member they have named so far is white -- and male. The co-op's board is white, all but one male. I would venture there are vast swaths of the city they don't know and rarely traverse....

If these reporters and editors check with the U.S. Census, they will discover that Chicago's racial and ethnic base is majority-minority. There are far more people of color than whites. Latinos are Illinois' fastest-growing minority group. A good half of the Chicago region is female.

Some might call it arrogance, hubris or just plain racism. I don't know about that, but to me it's just plain folly.
But wait! The Co-op responds:
Jim O'Shea, the former Chicago Tribune managing editor who last week announced the Chicago News Cooperative...says he intends to have a diverse staff and board of directors....O'Shea envisioned eventually having 20 to 25 staffers. "I am interviewing a candidate as we speak who will bring to us some diversity," he said.
As I wrote on a listserv about this topic, are they going to be hiring a Wiccan lesbian of color? A candidate? Come on...If this is the response that the Co-Op is going to send out after getting called out on their almost-all-dude, but still all white club, then I doubt that much will come from the Co-Op in terms of stories that truly reflect the diversity of Chicago.

That said, I know many under or unemployed journalists in this windy city who can bring a world of difference to your project Jim. So once you're done hiring that one candidate who will bring you diversity, get to work on bringing in a whole team of diverse candidates.Then maybe I'll read what your team brings to the table. And believe me, I'm hungry.

29 September 2009

Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States - From Awearness

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog.

I'm not usually an art person. It's not that I don't like art -- it's that I don't usually get it. But last week I went to the last day of Rickie Solinger's Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States: A Traveling Public Art Exhibition. Almost immediately I was in tears.

The first piece I stood in front of was a list of rules that incarcerated women must adhere to during visitation or else their visitation rights will be revoked. It was breathtaking to see all the rules etched into glass in black and white. It was overwhelming. And I knew this is why I waited until the last minute to see the exhibit. If I had gone earlier, I might have found myself obsessing over the pieces day after day.

Read the rest over at AWEARNESS...

14 September 2009

Book Review: On the Line by Serena Williams

I love everything about the U.S. Open except the line calls.

I experienced this past weekend's U.S. Open upset for Serena Williams with a different perspective than if I hadn't read her memoir On the Line. The book is written in Serena's voice. It's personal, it's conversational, and that's why I like it. I enjoyed her reflection on her life thus far.

I have to say that Serena is a spoiled brat, but that observation comes from her directly. She tells stories that curled this big sister's toes of scheming to get her way, cheating, and destroying her sisters' property. In looking back at all that peeking thru her fingers, I respect Serena for her honesty and self-criticism, and I agree with her judgment that she was a horrible little sister!

Serena spends a lot of time defending her father from the criticism he still receives about his coaching style. While her mom was pregnant with Venus, Serena admits her father decided that they would raise two tennis champions, and well, they did. He and Serena's mom taught themselves the game by playing and watching videos then he taught his daughters while they were living in Compton by playing on public courts. Even if the man is a controlling jerk, as some said early in the Williams Sisters career, you have to admit there's no country club pedigree here!

Serena digs deep to tackle the class and racial privilege they smacked into when Venus hit the tennis scene in a chapter on the 2001 Indian Wells tournament. Clearly, the girls were raised with a keen sense of history, especially civil rights history, and I've always admired Venus and Serena both for the way they play and for their tip of the hat to those who came before them.

Serena has a clear sense of racial and gender justice. Not only does Serena spend time discussing race and class, but she addresses all the fat comments she has received over the years. Positive body image is big with her. She understands that, as an internationally known tennis player and someone with more money than most of us will ever know, she has a responsibility to others on many fronts. I didn't follow all the Oprah criticism when the star built a school in Africa, but Serena gives the best response to that criticism I've ever seen by wrapping her justification around a touching story of visiting difference countries in Africa and wanting to do something.

She also lets us in on how much fashion has always played a key part of her and Venus' game. They weren't strong women athletes who "discovered" fashion as a way to sell themselves to the media or fans. They are savvy business women who aren't afraid of taking chances. Along with her sister, Serena will continue to blaze a path for herself and for others.

Even if you aren't a tennis fan or even someone who follows the players closely, we all know that there are some players who make a splash and then disappear or even worse, publicly self-destruct. Pressure and age are often pointed to as the factors as well as pushy parents. It's clear from this memoir that Serena and Venus couldn't have been "The Williams Sisters" without each other. Serena Williams has it all and survives. She did it despite a battle with depression, which she outlines with grace.

Serena haters won't like this book at all, but if you are truly interested in finding out what makes this powerful woman tick, pick up this memoir. It reminds me that Serena's been counted out far too many times and has always come back. She dug herself a hole this weekend, but I have faith that she'll redeem herself and silence the critics... again.

You can get a copy for yourself at an indie bookstore or Powells.com. In these trying economic times, if you have an indie bookstore near you, scoot on over and get it from them, please.

TV APPEARANCES: Hachette Books let me know that Serena has the following TV appearances scheduled for this week. Considering that she did the VMAs last night, hopefully these are still on: Good Morning America on 9/15; Live with Regis & Kelly on 9/16; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on 11/10; Tyra Banks Show on 9/15; Your World with Neil Cavuto/Fox News Channel on 9/14; On the Record with Greta Van Sustren/Fox News Channel on 9/14; Martha Stewart Show on 9/16

DISCLOSURE: I have a relationship with Hachette Books where they pitch me books to review and when I accept they send me a book for free. So far they have been pretty good at pitching me books that I really do like. Can't say that for everyone who pitches books to me.

29 August 2009

Racism at Wrigley

I do admit that it's hard to take allegations of racism seriously when they are brought up by a player whom I think isn't playing his best and compares a blow-out to one of the most well-known incidents of police brutality. I take my baseball seriously and any lolly-gagging on the field puts you on my shit list. But when Milton Bradley let loose last week, I needed little time to come to the conclusion that I believe him.

As a die-hard Cubs fan, I don't think we're all racists - check that, I do think all people are racist to some degree. Think back to the last time you double checked that your car doors were locked or double clutched your purse. Yeah, I'm guilty too. But are we Cub Nation a bunch of hate-filled racists? No. Do we take our baseball seriously and act without thinking? Yes. We say things at the ball park we might not say in our living rooms, we throw cups of beer on the field and sometimes at players, and we boo as if Charlie Brown is playing all 9 positions. Do we ever take it too far? I'd say yes. Are the hate comments Bradley coming from a very small percentage of Cub "fans" that aren't representative of us as a whole? Hell yes. But it doesn't mean that it isn't happening and isn't something that needs to be addressed.

I do think that incidents are fewer than Bradley suggests, yet far more than most of the Chicago sports media wants to admit. And I get that. First of all Wrigley is a destination. It tries to play off as family friendly and racist comments don't fit into that picture. And I believe this is why we have Billy Williams and Lou Pinella telling Bradley to just ignore the comments. Thankfully Neil Hayes admits that we have a problem at Wrigley:
Sixty-two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, it would be nice to think we have moved beyond the hateful and ignorant words that occasionally still spill out of the stands. Evidently, we haven't. Sadly enough, Bradley's home ballpark has a reputation for such ugliness, leaving him with little choice but to do what Robinson did and turn the ugly utterances into motivation. Bradley can honor the great man by distilling the taunts into a propellant that will lift his game to a level that will silence racists and win over critics.

But is silencing racists by playing hard the real answer? No. It's just a band-aid. I don't think that Wrigley is the only place to find racist sport fans. But the theory that if Bradley just plays harder will alleviate racist or hate filled remarks just admits that it's happening. Because once there is a slump Bradley will go from being our fan fave to just another n*****.

I also think that some of us have a hard time with this because Cub fans like to think that we're better than that. We're smarter than that. We're educated people...Educated people aren't racist! Um, no.

Monday night CubbieJulie is having a special podcast to discuss the racism issue. Sadly I'll miss it since I'll be at that night's game with my plate of nachos and depending on the weather a beer. Oh yes, I still love my Cubbies despite the jerks who keep coming to the park and the ones who play on the field.

14 August 2009

Is it racist to want a Mexican chef to make my Mexican food?

I tweeted that question yesterday because I seriously wanted a good discussion about it. Teresa Puente had posted at Chicago Now about being tired of hearing about Rick Bayless being this expert on Mexican food. The comments immediately went into calling her a racist. I wanted a higher level of discussion. Thankfully Amy gave me one. I wasn't calling Teresa a racist and I apologize if my tweet came off as that.

Teresa asked:
Something just bugged me that a white guy was gaining so much fame for his Mexican cuisine. I'm sure his love of Mexico is genuine and he does good charity work. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, and he is a great chef. But why does the media make him the spokesman for Mexican food in the United States?
And hear are my thoughts. I haven't watched many of Rick's shows and I've caught a few of Anthony Bourdain's show (especially the Chicago episode where you can catch Cinnamon in one scene).

*deep breath*

I can't shake the feeling when watching them wander through Mexico and far off countries that these sophisticated white dudes are trying to tell us what is authentic and what isn't. As if they are Marco Polo's of food searching for the most authentic food to bring back to the States.

I've heard or read comments classifying Bourdain as a food anthropologist. I kinda get that.

Honestly I'm torn.

As I tweeted to Amy, I'm not a foodie. I like my food fairly simple, thus the idea of gourmet Mexican food makes me itch. And maybe I just don't understand what Bayless and Bourdain are trying to do with their shows. There are few areas where I feel totally lacking in knowledge to comment on and food is one of them.

So I'm still torn about how I feel about all of this. It's all a mental exercise for me at this point. Stretching my brain to figure it all out.

09 May 2009

Why diversity matters

I can't remember who said it but I agree: Why should women, especially feminists, give a damn that newspapers & magazines are failing?

Should we mourn Time, the magazine that sounded feminism's death knell too many times for me to recall? Should I subscribe to the NYTimes so I can get the latest opt-out or mommy wars crap story on my front step? Should I strategize how to save the Chicago Tribune who cut a ghettoized but fab Women News section?

Women are underrepresented on the op-ed pages. Our stories are not being told in the paper unless it fits in the Style section. Forget about quality women of color stories unless it's about whatever sweater Michelle Obama is wearing today.

And yet panel after panel on how to save old media is chock full of white dudes.

Now my obligatory 'I love white dudes' statement: I learned so much about politics from Bob Fertik, a white dude. He was the bleeding edge of new media & politics. He brought me into this online politics stuff.

But most white dudes simply cannot or don't want to see why it really makes a difference between having a panel of all white dudes & having 2 people of color &/or women on board.

Most fail to see their own privileges. They fail to see the head start they had by having mom & dad pay for college, give them an allowance after college or even help with landing a job. For too many of us women & people of color we lack those networks to tap into. That is privilege.
- Hide quoted text -

That is why a diverse panel is needed when discussing any issue. For the most part white dudes have a similar story & thus have similar ideas. If we are going to find new & innovative solutions to saving old media we need more of us at the table.

I know it's hard to find new people for panels. Believe me I know. It's hard but I've found the conversations to be better with different voices.

But don't expect us to do all the work either. I'm sure you must know another [fill in the blank].

Bottomline: If you want us to fight we need to be heard as well.

25 February 2009

Guest Post:: It Takes a Nation of Cowards to Prove Eric Holder Right

With permission from Rinku Sen (ok, her agent) I am reposting her fab post on race & America:

Attorney General Eric Holder's speech to Justice Department employees urging the country to suck it up and have those hard conversations about race generated the predictable accusations from the pundit crowd, both conservative and liberal. Why is he still trying to make white people feel guilty?! We just elected his boss! The media reaction largely proves Holder's point. Rather than actually talking about the causes and consequences of our racial divide, the story has been that this speech has created the latest "controversy" for the Obama administration, starting with the AP article highlighting the "nation of cowards" quote. Apparently, there's only room for one black man at the highest levels of government taking the nation to task on race, and that man can do it once a year at most.

Smartly, Holder noted that our goal should not be to move beyond our racial past, and for the press to turn a blind eye to racial realities is the wrong way to go. He focused instead on raising the question of whether the nation's attitude toward its diversity will give us strength or take us down. I especially loved his note about how we manage to get along in the workplaces, but as soon as we can, we retreat to our racial corners on the weekends. That's because the diverse people of this country hold unequal power, which often dictates where and how we live.

The word 'coward' is a strong one, but the reality is that because we have such wildly different perspectives on why racial disparities exist, and because they continue to exist long after explicit racism has been outlawed, discussion of racial issues requires a high degree of tolerance for conflict, both intellectual and emotional. In my work reporting on the lives of everyday people and the institutions that shape their lives, I can see how our current rules and structures continue to produce disparities, even when no one intends that outcome. Understanding how the structures work - which has little to do with whether individuals intend to be racist - helps to lower the heat level significantly when these conversations do take place.

The flipside of cowardice is courage - something we all could use a little more of if we truly want to deal with our past and present racism, while we create a future that works for all of us.

Rinku Sen is the President of the Applied Research Center and the publisher of ColorLines, the magazine on race and politics. AND a member of the 2009 Progressive Women's Voices program. I am seriously glad that I got in when I did. No way I could have competed with her!

11 February 2009

Guest Post:: What stimulus could mean if it included the formerly incarcerated

By Seth Wessler

Fourteen months ago, Vincent, a slim 46-year-old Black man with a youngish face and a pressed plaid shirt, worked as a maintenance technician in Detroit. He’d been with the company for almost three months, but five days before he would have become eligible for full-time hire and benefits, his employer ran a criminal background check, and told Vincent to pack up.

“A lot of times, they cut you out of the job before they hire you in [full time],” Vincent said, sitting at a diner near the temporary worker center where he waits for work from 8 am to 6 pm every day.

Vincent has had a few temporary jobs since but hasn’t found even a day of work in recent weeks. A breaking and entering conviction from 25 years ago follows him everywhere. “It’s real hurtful to know that your chances are so broke down to zero,” he said.

I met Vincent last month while traveling the country to explore the hidden impacts of the recession for my job at a racial justice think tank. Dozens of people told me how criminal background checks punish them indefinitely by imposing life-long barriers to successful employment and housing. The policies make reentry an uphill battle, negating the criminal justice system’s putative aim of rehabilitating prisoners. They also block our collective need to get people working in this economic crisis. Inequitable rates of joblessness and poverty are bad for all of us.

Millions of people leave jails and prisons every year and that number is about to grow. Citing unconstitutional health conditions, a panel of federal judges on Monday told the state of California to reduce prison overcrowding by 55,000 people, about a third of the total state prison population, over the next three years.

If the ruling holds up to appeal, tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Black and Latino, could return to their communities. But, like Vincent, these men and women will find themselves with no real chance of getting a job, having a place to live and supporting themselves – in short, the situation that Vincent is in.

The White House has appropriately put creating and saving jobs at the center of the stimulus plan. But for people with criminal records, the prospects of inclusion in the national recovery are dismal. It’s not enough to create a job when a quick criminal background check will result in so many people losing it or not getting it at all. Those with prior convictions will be excluded from the game before the starting whistle sounds.

Communities of color experience higher rates of joblessness. This is due in part to the damning mix of the stigma of having a criminal record, the assumption that ex-prisoners can never redeem themselves, the ensuing ban on public employment for people with felony convictions and the practice of employers doing background checks.

According to Princeton sociologist Devah Pager, joblessness among former prisoners after a year is somewhere around 75 percent -- three times the level among the same population before incarceration. The trend toward never-ending punishment, even after people have served their time, infects communities of color, especially Black people, with particular venom.

So why does it matter to white people in places like Orange County, California or Flint, Michigan that three quarters of formerly incarcerated people in places like Oakland or Detroit can’t get a job a year after prison?

Because racial inequity eventually hurts us all.

Consider, for example, the subprime mortgage crisis. It could not have occurred without a whole population of people of color whose economic and political vulnerability made them easy targets for exploitative loan products, which eventually spread out to other homeowners and took down the entire mortgage industry. And that kind of inequity is growing. In January Black and Latino unemployment was 12.6 and 9.7 percent respectively, compared to 6.9 percent for whites. Black and Latino poverty is close to 3 times that of whites. To get this economy moving again, we need people working, spending and paying taxes.

Fixing inequity is a prerequisite for constructing a healthy and just economy. As historians tell us, massive inequity preceded and contributed to the Great Depression. Removing concrete barriers to employment is one step in that direction. As we are implementing this stimulus plan, we should at the very least expunge the records of people with non-violent convictions, as the state of Illinois did in 2005. We should also severely limit employers’ rights to conduct criminal background checks, especially in situations like Vincent’s, whose employer routinely used them to keep the workforce temporary and insecure.

At the diner in Detroit, as the waitress dropped our check, Vincent said, “I look at myself every day that I get up and I actually wonder if it’s going to be the day that things totally fall apart.” It’s up to us to prevent that, starting with changing the rules that now sentence people to a lifetime of punishment.

Seth Wessler is a research associate at the Applied Research Center. Cross-posted from RaceWire.

If you are interested in guest posting at Viva la Feminista, please feel free to contact me!

31 January 2009

On being a token

As any good WOC feminist, I am quite familiar with being a token.

In grade school I was the token:
  • On sports teams because I pushed & shoved my way there;
  • In the gifted program for my grade because I guess I was the only gifted girl & person of color;
In high school I was the token:
  • Poor chick in class - while some of my fellow C'villers made it into the honors and AP classes, I don't recall many of my other C'ville chicks making it there despite I knew quite a few of them were pretty smart. There was also a dilution factor that kept many of us apart;
  • Poor chick in my group of friends - this came about due to the above factor. You start to socialize with the peeps in your class;
  • Latina in my class - Again, not too many Latinas in the honors classes & it didn't hit me until in my later years. Honestly I didn't mind so much. There is a bit of glory in being the token...or so I thought.
But not every instance of being a token is laden with guilt or tokenness...Monday I'll be speaking that the Feminism 2.0 conference in DC. I got a very late call to be on the plenary Monday morning - This after I've already organized a panel on feminists & the media and was asked to sit on the "Breaking the Waves" panel. The organizer was quite honest with me in that she had a few last minute cancellations and that by including me she got not just ethnic diversity, but also age. I also trust her enough thru our past communications that she's not tokenizing me. My only response to her was "People are going to get tired of seeing me!" and "I'm so going to get a reputation about this," of course meaing people are going to think me a bit of a spotlight hog.

Of course there is still some issues us feministas need to deal with when it comes to conferences. How many other Latinas will be present? Will our numbers be decreased due to lack of travel funds, child care or even knowledge of the conference? I guess we'll see.

But participation hopefully will be increased by the plans to stream the plenaries and maybe the panels. I'll be bringing my laptop & webcam to help out with that. There should also be people liveblogging, so be on the look out for links popping up on the Feminism 2.0 website Monday. If you have a chance, I hope that you'll join us live. If not, I'm sure there will be videos, pics & blogs posted later on to continue the conversation.

And now off to pack!

15 December 2008

EVENT:: Roe vs. The Real World

Join the Our Voices, Our Choices reproductive justice coalition and Chicago Foundation for Women

for a special event marking the

36th Anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade decision.

Roe vs. The Real World: An evening of spoken word and conversation about

women’s unequal access to reproductive health care services

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Center on Halsted

Hoover-Leppen Theater

3656 N. Halsted St.

Chicago, IL 60613

6:30 – 8:30 pm

Suggested donation of $5 at the door

11 December 2008

Would living next to the POTUS make you feel safer?

Apparently the real estate market near the Obamas Chicago home is heating up:

The first house to sell in “Obama-Wood” since the presidential election was a 12-room, three-story Georgian that closed on December 3rd with a sale price of $1.25 million. (That was also the asking price—and the house sold in under a week.) Built in 1924 and owned for the past three decades by a University of Chicago professor and his lawyer wife, the house sits just 50 feet outside the barricades that have gone up around the Obamas’ block.

It's not just the idea of living in the same 'hood as the POTUS that may be driving this baby. It might also be the idea of living in the safest place in Chicago.

They didn’t come to Kenwood because of Obama—Coe grew up in Hyde Park and has several family members still living nearby—but they already appreciate the presence of the president-elect’s family. “There’s so much security in the neighborhood, I feel like our three-year-old could go out and dance in the middle of the street,” says Coe. “Security issues have always been a problem in Hyde Park and Kenwood. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that for a while now.”

I was chatting with someone who has been living near the Obamas for quite some time a few weeks ago. I joked that she lives in the safest place and she gave me the look - You have no idea. She went on to spew a series of complaints about living in the 'safest place' in Chicago.

She has seen young men being harassed not to mention the very idea of so many police & security forces is unnerving for many young people, especially young people of color. I immediately realized the error I had made. I assumed that all people feel safe near police.

While I grew up in a working poor suburb with plenty of other Latin@s around me, but I never felt scared of the police. I was raised to obey. I dunno if it was a girl thing, a Latino thing or even an assimilation thing.I remember once uttering the "P" word in front of my late mom and woo boy did she lay into me. It reminded me of how as a grown Latina raising a Latina in Chicago, that I see the police is a different way. This is of course after moving to Chicago from the suburbs and seeing how some police have treated POC in my presence. I don't want to go into details, but I've seen things that I thought was only for movies to a naive suburban chick. I think of a post la Mala wrote earlier this year about teaching her own daughter about the police & the subway.

I am conflicted about the police. But I know it would be too much of a pain in the ass to live near the Obamas. I hate giving my ID when I attend meetings downtown much less having to give my ID to go home.


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