Long Form Links – 2008-05-02 – Feminism, the IMF, Sean Bell

Excepted by Latoya Peterson

Afrobella – Out in the Streets, They Call it Murder

[Note: Ms. Bella is the only beauty blogger I read on a regular basis for her political opinions. Love, love, love!]

They say that Detective Michael Oliver wept at the defense table. I wonder if those were guilty tears — after all, he did fire his weapon 31 times at the unarmed husband-to-be — or if they were simply tears of relief that he wasn’t going to be sent to jail for his actions.


The Angry Black Woman – On Feminism, part 2

And these recent blow-ups not only make me angry because of what these white feminist bloggers are doing to women of color, but because it makes me angry at feminism itself. As Aminah put it way back when, feminism just isn’t made for us women of color. And as someone else (I can’t remember who, but someone please tell me in comments if you know) said recently, it seems like what white feminists want is to become white men. They want what white men have going on, up to and including privilege and the ability to ignore voices of color unless it suits them.

Some of you may feel this is an unfair generalization. And others of you are sitting at your computers right now shaking your head and saying, “Nuh uh, not me!” Maybe so not you, and maybe so I am being harsh. But you take a look around the blogs right now and tell me that the view from where I’m standing doesn’t bear that out. And take a good look at yourselves. Think about if you can honestly say that you’ve considered your own privilege when dealing with the issues of feminism and race lately. Some of you have, of course, but some of you absolutely have not.

Seeking Avalon – Open Letter

Dear Tamora Pierce, (and others),

I’ve been black since the doctor smacked my butt and I took my first breath.

I’ve been black while teachers tried to figure out how to keep me behind but send kids far less bright than I into specialized advance placement tracks.

I’ve been black while teachers told me to sit down and shut up about slavery being wrong because black people in Africa had slaves too. [...]

So I’m so sorry if my identifying with being black, an immigrant and gay, before identifying with a cause that promotes itself as by/for American middle class white women, whose lives are already filled with CHOICE, reads to you as stupid.

And I’m sorry if you don’t get it.


Ragnell – A Tale of Two Communities

Yes, these two incidents turned into discussions about individuals and not the larger issues. The thing is, the individuals behavior can only be taken into account with taking the larger issues into account. Calling out these individuals proves that the community at large is willing to try and stop things from getting worse at the very least, by setting boundaries and examples to newer community members. By making people who think along the same lines as those individuals rethink their positions, or at least their willingness to act on those positions. How we treat individuals when they fuck up is what defines what is socially acceptable.

There’s a long history of sexism and racism in the geek and nerd community. We are all aware of this, and we work on this. And if something happens that threatens to cause a mass exodus of women from the nerd community, apparently the men in the community are willing to stand up and show that the idiot does not speak for them. They went on the attack. They pushed the individual and those who agreed with him out into the cold for the sake of maintaining a diverse community. This week, the geek community–a community dedicated to leisure and entertainment–proved that it was willing to police itself.

When a white feminist was called on her bullshit, the mainstream members of the community rallied around her and pushed several demographics out into the cold. When tensions had reached the point that it threatened a mass exodus of people from the feminist community, they let it happen. They made it worse. That community sacrificed a whole group of women in order to preserve one (white) individual’s ego. Business as usual. This month, the mainstream feminist community–a community supposedly dedicated to bettering society–proved that it was not willing to police itself.


Model Minority – Thank You Hillary for Having a Spine

Do you know HOW MANY families would be positively
impacted by allowing parents to receive Public Assistance
while they are enrolled in school?

We don’t know if we want mothers to go to school or go
to work. The bottom line is that the need support
if they are going to do either.

Have you ever thought about how with public
assistance mommas its, “your lazy, go to work, you
aren’t supporting your family”. However, with middle class
and affluent mommas its, “stay home, your kid is failing in
school because you work too much outside the home”.

How about support for all families?


RH Reality Check – Oh Baby: “Baby Mama Misses the Mark”

This week, a discussion on Feministing.com centered around the film’s title itself. A commenter called it a “blackface” title, because the humor comes from the concept of a bourgeois white woman finding herself in a so-called “ghetto” situation. The title is given its own little explanatory scene when Fey’s amiable black doorman, played by the talented and underutilized Romany Malco, tells her that if another woman is having her child and she (Fey) is paying the bills, than that woman is her “baby mama.” “Ask any black man in Philadelphia,” he says.

Malco’s character’s unending font of wise and wacky advice throughout the film, and the way he exists in an undefined space between servant and friend without a life of his own, is an old-school archetype that reinforces rather than undermining the problems raised by the title. The film is a product of SNL inc, and there’s a longstanding tradition of racial insensitivity in the SNL ranks (even as it has helped launch the careers of a few notable nonwhite comedians).

The film’s relationship with class issues is also irritatingly one-sided. Amy Poehler’s character, a proverbial “working girl,” doesn’t work, nor does she seem to have any kind of background or personality beyond crass immaturity. Her speech patterns range from hip-hop inflected, to country drawl, to surprisingly accent-less and articulate — all without explanation.


Pop and Politics – Voting, Burma Style

First, the government handpicks the delegates who write the new constitution. Second, it adds a clause that forbids the national hero and Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, from ever running for office.

The junta then makes amendments impossible; harasses, assaults and arrests pro-democracy activists; forbids criticism of the draft constitution; and bombards the state media with a campaign to promote the referendum. It prevents media outlets inside the country from publishing the views of anyone against the referendum. The junta doesn’t tell people what the draft constitution actually says. Then it insists that all civil servants and their families must vote and must vote “yes” – or lose their jobs.

Think that’s enough? Nope. The junta also prints some ballots with the “yes” box already filled in. An anonymous source told the Irrawaddy, a magazine based in Thailand and run by Burmese exiles: “I was given the ballot already marked—my duty was just to put it in the ballot box.”

And finally, just in case the above tactics fail, the junta writes the constitution ensuring that the military government will remain in power.


Alternet – The IMF’s Going Down — Is that a Bad Thing?

Some of these mistakes were because of incompetence; others were driven by ideological or special interests. But the result was that developing countries began voting with their feet, piling up international reserves so that they would never have to borrow again from the IMF cartel.

The IMF-supervised Argentine disaster from 1998 to 2002, which pushed the majority of Argentines below the official poverty line in a country that was previously one of the richest in the region, further sullied the fund’s reputation. Argentina then defied the IMF, refused its conditions, got no international help and rapidly transformed itself into the fastest-growing economy in the hemisphere. This too was noticed.

The collapse of the IMF creditors cartel has been a huge blow to U.S. influence. It was most pronounced in Latin America, where most of a region that used to be referred to as the United States’ “backyard” is now governed by states that are more independent of Washington than Europe is.

The problem is that poorer developing countries, especially in Africa, remain dependent on foreign aid from the IMF (and the World Bank and other sources) to fund their basic budget and import needs. This can be harmful to their development and their people. In recent years, the IMF — insisting that such measures are necessary to hold down inflation — has imposed conditions that limit their public spending and, according to the fund’s own internal evaluation, have prevented these countries from spending aid money on urgent needs, such as healthcare and education.

Pop and Politics – Philanthropy Doesn’t Require an Army or a Fortune

Sherman says, “When I was in the Peace Corps in Kedougou, I saw that the main problems were diarrheal diseases and malaria.” But water problems, as Matthews puts it, are “harder to get your arms around” than malaria. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Sherman recruited a troupe of non-performers from his village to perform a theatrical presentation on the cause and effect of malaria and take it around to neighboring villages. Everyone, Sherman said, had the same question. “How do we prevent this?” After educating the villagers on how to best prevent malaria, he had no way of helping them obtain the nets which at that time in 2002 were about $10 each, roughly double their current cost. Sherman “was stuck with one hand tied behind my back.” It was this feeling he says, and the fact that the price of LLIN’s was dropping, that made him want to go back to Senegal during his “last summer.” “I wanted to do something,” he says. “I didn’t want to go back as a tourist.” So he teamed up with fellow medical student Jesse Matthews and Net Life Africa was born.

Their method is simple and efficient. Sherman and Matthews (who incidentally look so much alike they could easily be mistaken for twins) fly to Dakar where they pick up the LLIN’s, rent a minibus and drive the sixteen hours to Kedougou where the nets are stored in rented rooms under lock and key. There they work with a local health official to identify which villages are at most risk, a determination made on the basis of access to health care, amount of stagnant water and high incidences of positive malaria testing in the past. In each village, they work with a community health agent to make up a list of recipients, prioritizing married women and children first. Sherman, who is fluent in Pulaar, the local language, and Matthews who is becoming proficient, greet the villagers, and give an educational talk on the nets and how they should be used.

Everyone wants a net. They are hard to come by. When a local police officer attempts to bribe Sherman and Matthews on the roads, for example, he wants a net, not money. As they hand out each LLIN, Sherman and Matthews write down each recipient’s ID card number in order to keep the distribution organized and to track their coverage for future visits. The normal price of a LLIN, at about five American dollars, is far beyond the reach of most rural Senegalese, but the .20 cents that Sherman and Matthews charge is a minimal, symbolic amount that they say helps give a sense of ownership. Net Life Africa then donates the proceeds to a group called Senegad that works to educate adolescent girls in Senegal. Once the distribution is complete, there is singing and dancing, Sherman and Matthews are fed and, once they have slept, they pack up, get on their bikes and do it all over again. The process is physically punishing (Matthews lost 25 pounds in one month in 2007), but the reward keeps them going. The people receiving the LLIN’s are extremely thankful, and the impact is obvious and immediate. Matthews likens the trip to backpacking. “It’s satisfying because it’s hard,” he says.

While the response to Net Life Africa both in Senegal and here in the United States has been almost entirely positive, resistance has come from the most unlikely corners. Some Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal have been unwilling to work with Matthews and Sherman, subscribing as they do to a more free-market enterprise approach to humanitarian work. They believe that LLIN’s should not be given away for free (.20 cents is negligible) and that money is better spent paying for ads that encourage people to buy them. The opposing view is that the urgency of malaria is akin to that of a famine or a natural disaster, both instances in which the Peace Corps routinely gives handouts. “There is a fence within the Peace Corps,” explains Sherman, “and Peace Corps volunteers fall on either side of that fence.” Sherman explains his position this way: “These are people who are below the first rung on the ladder of poverty. They need a little help.” Health problems as persistent and devastating as malaria help keep poverty’s oppressive grip on the population he works with. “They need a boost in health to reach the first rung.” Nevertheless, Sherman says he was asked by a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal not to distribute the LLIN’s in her village, an encounter that left him in tears.

Huffington Post – Is Coverage of Arabs, Muslims Good? Western Media Under Scruntiny

There have been countless assumptions that Arabs are Muslims, and vice versa, not taking into account that the largest Muslim country is Indonesia, which is not Arab. Or that Christianity didn’t begin in the Midwest or Deep South of the United States, but in the Middle East.

How can journalists be so ignorant, callous and irresponsible about such geographic and historical facts?

Laziness, deadlines, budgets and ill intent, sometimes all rolled into one. [...]

What also worries me is the editorializing, pseudo-expert pontificating by TV “talking heads” and so-called reporting by journalists covering a region about which they may know very little and don’t have the time or desire to learn about.

Foreign correspondents covering Arab and/or Muslim countries often lack knowledge on issues they report. But perhaps equally at fault are Arabs and Muslims who have failed to provide adequate, correct and reliable information to promote their cause.