links for 2011-06-30

  • "Taken more broadly, more social sensitivity (whether female or male) and overall diversity may increase group collaboration and make teams perform better. For teamwork and group intelligence, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts—depending on the parts."
  • "If you don’t like the choices a woman makes about whom she sleeps with and when, you are more than welcome not to sleep with her. But to continue to judge single women for having the audacity to sleep with who they want to—something that single men are generally congratulated for—is to perpetuate an antagonistic dynamic between the sexes that has seen its day."
  • "Men are supposed to have ultimate power over all things sexual and intimate. Women are supposed to be submissive enough to allow a man to lead in the bedroom, unless of course he leads us to having sex on the first date. In that moment, we are supposed to gain the power to resist, then give in, then wait to be called sluts afterword. What fresh hell is this? There are at least 376 mixed messages that one can document in such an interaction. As with “dressing appropriately,” women who have sex are essentially considered sluts regardless of what they do or say, so they may as well climax at the end, right? "

Race, Class, and DCPS

School Segregation

The public school system in DC has fallen out of the national conversation since the departure of Michelle Rhee.

But locally, the debate rages on.

The Washington Post just posted a profile of Bill Kerlina, a young principal initially lured to DC from Montgomery County who has now resigned to open a gourmet cupcake shop.

If anyone had a shot at making it in DCPS, it was Kerlina. He was placed at one of the few high performing elementary schools in the system. In stark contrast to most of DCPS, Hearst Elementary School is beloved by parents and the majority of students are proficient in math and reading. (DCPS averages are dismal, with about 50% of kids in any given school meeting proficiency.)

After enticing Kerlina with promises of a promotion (Montgomery County has low turnover rates for principals) and dangling the mission to close the black-white achievement gap, the transition proved to be rough. While Kerlina loved the students and parents, the lack of support for teachers combined with a school reform that was more hype that action proved to be too much. Compensation factored into his decision. However, Kerlina also shared one more fascinating detail:

A few days before he quit, Kerlina received his annual evaluation from Instructional Superintendent Amanda Alexander. It was a positive appraisal, school officials confirmed, and Henderson sent Kerlina a letter of reappointment. But Alexander raised a concern, he said: Why were there not more white families at Hearst? Continue reading

Quoted: Jeff Chang on Libraries and “Our Collective Imagination”

I love libraries and I vote

Enter the collectors, the hipsters, and the DJs. Their rediscovery of musical heritage is a cyclical phenomenon made possible by the deletion of massive amounts of culture. A process we seen repeatedly occurring in Black music, for instance, from the blues to free jazz to funk to disco to hip-hop.

Revivals are what happen at the point where the margin of the marketplace meets the bleeding-edge of hipsterism. It’s lots of fun, but it can also lead to decontextualization and erasure. Where do sagging jeans come from, right? In the cultural economy, in other words, history itself can be deleted.

So on the one hand, you have the market failure that occurs when companies choose to delete records or stop circulating records that have historical or creative importance, music that embodies our human story or music that helps seed new creativity.

Because of market failure, you can’t get De La Soul’s first four albums on iTunes. Nor can you get most of Biz Markie’s albums. You can’t get the complete Def Jam-era Public Enemy boxset Chuck D and the crew put together almost a decade ago. [...]

When I go into a library, I don’t have to worry about who is holding whose copyrights, why this book didn’t sell enough to continue to be available in any marketplace, how many other stories there are out there that I am missing because the storytellers don’t have the money or the property rights to tell them.

In the library, I am in a space beyond the marketplace, beyond consumption, beyond the money censors, beyond the noise. I am in a place where librarians have accumulated the knowledge and the stories important to me and my community.

The library is the embodiment and the refuge of our collective imagination. In the library, we learn just how big and full of possibility the world is and we build the kindling to fuel our creative fires and to change our culture.

—Jeff Chang, “In Defense of Libraries,” a talk given at a rally to save Oakland’s Public Libraries

links for 2011-06-29

Introducing: The Octavia Butler Book Club

From Seed to Harvest Cover

Octavia Butler was Racialicious before we even existed.

The late author is a cult icon, being a boundry breaking black woman in Science Fiction who infused her writing with rich societal commentary on race, gender, dominance, and much much more.

Last year, the University Press of Mississippi was kind enough to send me a review copy of Conversations with Octavia Butler, a collection of her interviews, edited by Consuela Francis. The interviews (some of which I will excerpt in later posts) were illuminating, revealing Butler’s damn near prophetic grasp of the underlying challenges facing our society. Quite a few of these interviews are from the 1980s and 1990s – her words still apply in 2011.

I savored the book as long as I could, but when I finally finished, I felt a deep and profound sense of loss. As just a casual reader before, I was suddenly confronted with the magnitude of exactly what went with Octavia Butler when she departed from this earth.

So I decided the best tribute would be to read, share, and enjoy her work.

Readers, welcome to the book club. Continue reading

America, the Scapegoat [Youth Correspondent Tryout]

by Guest Contributor Sonita Moss

I’m back, America.

I have been home, on U.S. soil, for the past 3 weeks, and it has given me some time to reflect on being a black woman in U.S. vs. being a black American woman in France. Living in France for the second time was rather colder than the first but a bit more illuminating in terms of race. That can be attributed to the fact that while Aix-en-Provence, the first city that introduced me to the entrancing world of French culture, is an international student-city in the sunny south, Vannes is situated in Bretagne, in the rainy north-west of the country. Aside from the nonstop rain, Vannes was whiter than white. Not to say I didn’t see black people – indeed, I noticed black women on my daily bus route to work, but many public spaces, like the port, the library, and the grocery store were lacking in color. Admittedly, there were actually two black hair stores and a café Afrique that shut down while I was there, but that was about it.

Binta, the young Senegalese woman who did my hair, broke it down for me one day, “There’s no black people here because it’s too small because there are no jobs. But a lot of them marry French.” By “French”, she meant white men, and her sister, the owner of Ebene Cosmetique, was one such example. I noticed, with a certain amount of chagrin, that many Europeans of color refer to their privileged compatriots as the standard of that country, while they are specifically marked by their race. “English” are white, but English blacks are, well, black. The same goes for conversations I have had with German blacks. I suppose we hold the same standard in America, but because of our sordid misdealings with the social construction, although blacks may not be considered true “Americans” we do not refer to our white counterparts as simply “Americans”. Indeed, we are obsessed with race but rarely given the proper tools to talk about, much less acknowledge, our race problems. And white Europeans know it, effectively allowing them to ignore their own issues, I discovered.

When I first arrived in Vannes, I befriended a couple of local boys, and we often went out to bars since there is little else to do in the city. Amazed at the utter whiteness of the venue, one night I asked my friend, “Do you ever notice that there are essentially no black people here – why is that?” and he said, “There are some, just not many. But it’s very different in France, we are much less conscience of race in France than Americans.” He smoothly side-stepped my question and turned the focus to America’s racism. Because America is a popular topic in the media, the nightly French news frequently reported breaking American news. Thus, the world beyond our borders is informed of how race issues are part and parcel to American culture. Continue reading

I Have Met The Black Zooey Deschanel, and She Is Not Zoe Kravitz…

Zoe Kravitz

…but she might be at Zoe’s show.

Monday night, I headed down to Black Cat to check out the J*Davey show. In the back room, sans air conditioning, an entire room full of alternablack folks waited for Jack and Brook to hit the stage. While I was waiting, I noticed the sheer diversity of black womanhood represented. Afros, braids, wigs, weaves, relaxers, dreads. Heels, Chucks, ballet flats, Birkenstocks. Women dressed like Jack Davey spoke to women dressed like Nicole Ritchie. Women in wrap dresses and heels swayed uncomfortably on the hard cement floor.

The first opening act was a lost cause, so Boyfriend and I ducked out for a burrito break. But we made it back in time to enjoy the second opening act, Elevator Fight.

Since the only glimpse of Zoe I’ve had is her screen sulking through X-Men: First Class, I was interested in seeing her persona as a frontwoman.  Most of the pics of Kravitz have her associated with this ethereal, elven queen, semi-bohemian, flowy 70s glam.  At first glance, it is totally possible to assume she’s on that same train as Zooey.  Come on –  she even lives in Williamsburg, which is the Holy City of Hipster Madness.  But there’s still a few things that seperate the Zoes of the world from the Zooeys. Kravitz appeared on stage wearing a black knit cap over messy hair and a shirt about seventeen sizes too large – her other stage outfits have ranged from conventional to rocker chic.  At twenty-two years of age, it’s clear that the kid is still trying on her personas.  As Jack Davey blew bubbles from the side of the stage, Zoe screamed out her triumph about gay marriage passing in New York, pledged to marry Jack, took shots with her band, and babbled her way through song intros.  She came off as anything but whimsical, and her rich vocals complemented songs titled “Post Empire” and “New Pussy.”  There was not a ukelele to be seen, but she did do an impressive headbang with one of her bandmates.

By the time she started yelling lewd comments when Jack Davey mentioned the fan was “blowing into [her] mouth,” I figured that if Zoe ever was mistaken for a manic pixie dream girl, she’d probably punch that guy in the head and make off with his jacket. Kravitz can pull off the look like a champion, but the trope – and what the idea implies about who she will and will not be publicly – is far too limiting.

Earlier: Who Is the Black Zooey Deschanel?

links for 2011-06-28

  • "It seems ironic that despite a series of laws enacted years ago to prevent these kinds of practices that in 2011, some of America’s lenders seem to be thumbing their noses to fair lending for all Americans. Million-dollar settlements are not enough to compensate communities of color for all the devastating financial harm that their illegal practices have wrought.

    "According to the recently-released 2011 State of the Nation’s Housing by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, nearly half of foreclosure auctions in 2010 were located in just 10 percent of the nation’s 65,000 census tracts. According to the new report, homeownership rate declines for African-Americans (3.8 percent) and Latinos (2.1 percent) have outpaced those for white households (1.5 percent). As a result, these homeownership declines have erased the homeownership gains of the past two decades."

  • "Not only is BiDil not a 'black' drug, it can actually be more harmful for some blacks because one of its components, hydralazine, is associated with an increased risk of lupus, which strikes black women at four times the rate of whites.

    "BiDil is no isolated exception. Some journal articles have been manipulated by the $310 billion pharmaceutical industry. The journals are financially dependent on drug-company advertising, which is often deceptive and is sometimes used to induce journals to publish favorable reports of advertised drugs."

  • "The 'school choice' movement was conceived by those who did not want to desegregate, as George H.W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch claims in her best-selling book The Life and Death of the American School System: 'For someone like me, raised in the South and opposed to racism and segregation, the word ‘choice’ and the term ‘freedom of choice’ became tainted by their use as a conscious strategy to maintain state-sponsored segregation.' In other words, Ravitch, a renowned educational historian, contends that 'school choice' was originally intended as an end-run around desegregation, a means to legally keep African-Americans out of white schools, under the guise of 'freedom of choice.'

    While Ravitch’s point may seem extreme to some, especially in this media climate which is so favorable of charter schools, CRP has found that the current 'school choice' movement has increased racial segregation, and that charter schools tend to be racially segregated…"

  • "About two-thirds of the cases involving Islam stem from Islamophobia, the report says. These incidents of Islamophobia are mostly characterized by propaganda being disseminated through email and pressure in the workplace. The workplace-related cases of discrimination include exclusion and verbal provocation of Muslims. The report notes these instances are a result of workplace administrations believing that 'religion has no place in the workplace.' The tension arising from Islamophobic attitudes in the workplace is mostly eliminated 'by transferring the Muslim employee involved to another department or laying her/him off.'”
  • "Ranjana Kumari, of the Centre for Social Research and one of India's leading campaigners against female foeticide, said the surgical transformation of girls into boys without their informed consent was a sign of India's growing 'social madness'.

    "She said she despaired that education had failed to stop the growing rejection of baby girls in India."

  • Just in case you missed it in Chris Rock's "Good Hair."–AJP

    "'Indian hair is the most sought after for the only reason that it belongs to the same Caucasian race to start with,' said Cherian.

    “'And the natural color black matches the hair color of the Africans as well as, when bleached… the color of the Europeans or the Americans.'”