Thursday, May 31, 2007

i'm not a g but i move like they move, with a head full of smarts...

That, if you didn't know, is a line from one of my favorite Little Brother songs Lovin' It off their The Minstrel Show cd. Just some context for you. Want to listen to it? Here you go!

Anyway, I just wanted to ramble at length a little bit about the development of my own personal music tastes, and just some thoughts I've had about hip hop as a genre and even as a movement. I will admit that I didn't have much respect for MCs in the past- especially around the time I started developing a taste for music and popular culture (around high school) because, though the tracks were always danceable, I just didn't feel like the artists themselves were really saying anything that I wanted to hear. I couldn't relate. I could sit and chill with Rob Thomas as he and MB20 cranked out tunes about the anxiety of getting older and starting a new life or the thrill and simultaneous terror that comes with finding someone to love. The Backstreet Boys represented everything about youth to me and even Blink 182 made me laugh about the awkwardness that is adolescence and young adulthood. But Juvenile? Puff Daddy? Foxy Brown? As much as I knew I should have been close to them, should have supported, defended and enjoyed their music I couldn't. Even though there were people like Nas, Outkast and countless other underground/not as mainstream artists that I didn't know about, they weren't the ones really in the forefront, they weren't the ones that I, as a young girl living in Central Ohio, could really have exposure to.

And then Ludacris came along.

Okay, so yeah, maybe he isn't the long ago foreseen prophet of hip hop, but you have to admit dude is nice on the mic. The summer that Southern Hospitality came out I began to actually see rap for the amazing and diverse genre that it is. It's like when you grow up next to some gangly looking kid who you're pretty sure has never even seen a noxema (yeah, throwback to the 90's!) commercial let alone ever been acquainted with their product. But then you graduate high school, and you see him in that cap and gown, smiling, coming into the man that he really is and has always been and you notice that his skin is more clear, his shoulders are more broad, and his smile is captivating- and you fall in love. Well yeah, it wasn't all of that at once for me, but he definitely opened the door. What hooked me on Luda wasn't necessarily what he was saying, but the wit that he used and the clever way that he laced his lines together (hand-me-down socks then hand-me-down rocks? Come on, y'all know that is hilarious and hot).

So I got into mainstream rap and started to like artists not just for the tracks that their producers created but for the lyrical skill that they employed. Ludacris remained my favorite, but then I started to be a little more impressed with Fabolous, a little bit of Li'l Wayne and Jay-Z. And it was cool, it was real cool. I found that rap had a pretty warm home and it invited me in to stay a while, so I did. Rap became my connection to the world, whenever an MC called out the midwest they were calling out my city, my home, my name. But for some reason I just couldn't fight the feeling that something was just slightly amiss.

It's pretty obvious that Black people, and in my case Black Americans, are a small, very marginalized and often invisible community in the racially stratified society that makes up the U.S.A. But here were these MCs, these men and sometimes women who were placed at the forefront of popular culture- they transcended the barriers that keep so many Black people hidden and became visible and vocal. But damn, the messages that some of them were putting out there weren't always so hot, you know? Even though they try to escape it, however much they scream "I am not a role model!" it can't be denied that the nature of their status in American society makes their success a double-edged sword; they can have all the things that they probably never thought could possibly be available to them, but being forced into the limelight makes them a part of a very small amount of representations of Black people. And they need to do a good job, right?

Yeah, so therein lies the rub. And again, that all-consuming blackness. Just when you think you may have escaped it, there it is, smothering everything you touch and coating all of your accomplishments with its pain, its joy and the implications that those things have for you and your people.

After I started realizing this it was just like.. well damn. How can I enjoy this track now that I know that it creates a negative image of Black people, of me? How can I dance to a song that, on the surface level subjugates Black women? Having these questions made me angry, but they also made me thoughtful. I began to do more research on hip hop- its beginnings, its founders, all that stuff. I had to figure out where it went wrong (and shit, if it was wrong) and why...

Okay, so this is really long. I'm going to finish it later on today or tomorrow since it got so rambly. But until then I'll leave you with a few songs/videos that I particularly enjoy from the kind of hip hop that I began to enjoy and will talk about in my next blog post...

This video is hilarious..

So yeah, I'll be back soon!

two words, tenure track, two professors, coming back?

oh snap. that was clever.

but i digress. word on the street is that Marcyliena Morgan, the professor who was denied tenure a few years ago and left with husband Lawrence Bobo for Stanford, has been offered a tenured position here. Morgan and Bobo's departure was a pretty big blow for the department, and coming shortly after the departures of Cornel West and K. Anthony Appiah, and shortly before the departure of Michael Dawson, i for one was beginning to lose all hope. i swear. not a day goes by when i don't kick myself for not taking Dawson's class freshman year. if only i had known.

but i digress again. the point is that many of us seniors had to live through what i'd call the dark ages of Harvard as far as af-am goes. West left right before we got here, and many of us took Af-Am 10 when it was in it's abandoned child phase, before it got picked up this year by Skip Gates and Evelyn Higginbotham (i audited it even though i had already taken it, so i wouldn't feel robbed). But now i'm feeling hopeful again. not for myself, it's too late for me. but for all the young'uns out there. The Af-Am department has made a tremendous comeback on a number of fronts, and this news about Morgan and Bobo is the icing on the cake.

i'll just take a moment to drool over how much i would have loved to take a class with Morgan. she is the founder of the hiphop archive, author of Language, Discourse and Power in African American Culture, and is currently working on a book entitled The Real Hiphop - Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the Underground . damn. like seriously. she studies discourse and power within hip-hop, race, class, and gender, identity, media representations... *wistful sigh*

anyways, i guess that's all. i hope they come back. it sort of amazes me that there aren't more people studying hip-hop in academia today. i could write like, 10 books on it and i haven't even done any research. its fascinating.

so i'll leave you with this parting thought: if you didn't catch the reference in the title of this post, that's cool because now you have a great song to listen to. and if you did catch the reference, my question for you is have you seen the VIDEO? i think this is one of the more clever video's i've seen in a while. i have a special place in my heart for kanye. :-)

Monday, May 28, 2007

"welcome to physics 101: negroes not allowed."

so a good friend over on quench was clever enough to pick up on something really awkward during the whole crimson/quad/racism fiasco. that something was that one of the more offensive posters (who i do have to give some respect to for not posting anonymously) is actually a professor of physics here at harvard. Lubos Motl has posted several comments on the crimson website, including this one:

Dear Lucy,

I agree with you and admire your courage. Many reactions above make it very clear that your courage is highly non-trivial.

Someone said that there was racism because it was assumed that the people couldn't have been students. I think that it is indeed sensible to think that people who behave a little bit like animals could be someone else than Harvard students, after all. While this assumption may occasionally fail, it is still more reasonable than to assume that someone must be a Harvard student just because he or she is black.

If the party were white and the noise were similar, police would arrive, too. The intercultural foundation would complain that it is a proof of apartheid that the white people were not instantly dismissed from Harvard.

Keep on smiling and writing so well,
Lubos Motl

Posted by Lubos Motl | 5/21/2007 3:42:22 PM |

he also posted THIS on his own blog about the incident:

Wow. If someone makes a huge mess in front of the buildings where some of the smartest young people on the planet are supposed to study, it is illegitimate to call police because it is a black people's party and everyone - the whole community of Harvard students - is instantly accused of racism and the director of the "intercultural foundation" is black, too.

Counter's "foundation" is clearly meant to be a tool to intimidate students and other members of the community, politicize all questions, and make sure that a pathetic hypocritical ideology is more important than a tolerable atmosphere during the reading period and other values that used to be associated with the world of Academia.

and on the quench post about him, he left these gems:

Don't worry. I couldn't live with far left-wing pseudointellectual garbage like yourself for more time so I will be leaving.

You know, I have lived in a country where this ideological trash has intimidated people for 45 years. It has transformed the 10th most prosperous country in the world to a country that was nearly outside the really developed world. It has destroyed the economy and people's moral values.

I know how people like you think, how complete power over the society people like you want to have, I know why people like you are so dangerous, and I don't want to live in a society where scum like yourself is intimidating fair people on a daily basis.

Let me say that I think that your mode of thinking is identical to the Gestapo informers. If it were up to you, you would be instantly trying to create personal problems for someone because he or she disagrees with your idiotic ideology.

Informing departments, Gestapo, or PC police at all levels - that's what you like to do, isn't it?

Sorry but I have always considered people like that to be moral trash, I still consider them to be moral trash, and I will always consider such people to be moral trash.

This is not just about your believing an idiotic ideology. It is also about the methods you choose to defend it.


whew. alright, there's a lot there to take in, i know. i mainly just wanted to blog this to get the word out, because i think this is a little bit preposterous. aside from the fact that his comments are wildly offensive, ignorant, racist, etc. etc., his posts are also extremely unprofessional. as a harvard PROFESSOR, it seems like a fairly terrible move to post such strong views on common community forums for a couple of reasons.
1. any black, female, or otherwise minority students in his classes will no doubt feel very unwelcome (more unwelcome than they already do) after reading the things he's written here.
2. as a professor, you are expected to hold yourself to a higher standard of professionality than students. just as dr. counter responded to the article about the foundation in a carefully thought out op-ed, any other professor or administrator at harvard wishing to express his/her opinions about the subject has avenues other than the anonymous comments section of the crimson, and should use them

ok now on to a couple of quick comments about what he actually SAID

so a) i cannot BELIEVE that a harvard professor just claimed that a group of black students he has never met nor interacted with "behaved like animals." like honestly, i just can't even believe it. this goes WELL beyond unprofessional into the "horribly offensive" "criminally racist" "extremely damaging" sort of categories. would you want this man teaching you?!?

b) (if you haven't noticed by now, i'm a fan of lists) little did i know that a "tolerable atmosphere during reading period" was higher on the list of Academia (with a capital A)'s values than intercultural and race relations. well damn. let's just cancel all the social sciences and turn william james into a library for physics majors. why dont we also cut out everyone's voiceboxes so as not to disturb the math. i assume tolerable atmosphere is also more important than human rights, yes?

c) ooooh. a Gestapo reference. how original. now all of a sudden i see that i am so wrong i'm practically a nazi, whereas you are right. oh wait...

d) the whole "i've experienced the oppressive forces of the left because of communism" argument is like, really old and really ridiculous. i'd like to think that intellectuals at one of the most esteemed universities in the world would be able to think critically enough to know that being against racism is not the same thing as being for dictatorship. but um...clearly that would be expecting too much.

ok this post is going on too long. so in conclusion, i am wildly pissed at how much racism has been going on at harvard lately, i find it ridiculous that a harvard professor would think it was appropriate to act in this manner, and i think that regardless of your field, if you accept the position of professor at ANY university, you need to hold yourself to certain standards in terms of how you present yourself to the public. that includes respect for your students and peers and respect for the other disciplines within the university.

ADDENDUM: upon further research, it seems (although i don't know that this is confirmed) that he has "resigned" slash been asked to resign from harvard because of unprofessional attacks on other professor's writing. so that's awkward for him. but gives me a little more faith that harvard DOES in fact hold its faculty to some standards of respect.

i'm frazzled

Ok y'all, so I'm really super sorry that it's taken me forever and a freaking day to have something to write in here- and yes, that is going to have to continue (for now). I finally finished my finals and as I look back on my college career and start to realize that yes, it's over and no, I don't have to take anymore finals or write anymore papers I'm also realizing that yes- my brain is a bit fried and it's getting a little more difficult for me to write.
Since it's 4am (and I really need to start focusing on doing this whole "adult" schedule thing) I'm not going to write much (I'll save that for tomorrow) but I will say that today I spent a good chunk of the day watching 90's videos on youtube with Tiff (don't judge, please) and wanted to share some that I thought were particularly "meta."
So.. here goes!

Madonna - Don't Tell Me

Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
(p.s. I just noticed that the little cheesy elevator-esque music in the beginning is totally "Everlong.." hilarious. I freaking love the Foo Fighters)

And just for fun..

K, that's it for now. I'll be back tomorrow. ;)

Monday, May 21, 2007

"i hate black people." - anonymous

why is it that racism always sort of sneaks up on you, even when you're expecting it?

i was just checking my email today because you know, that's what i do when i want to waste 5 to 1,000 minutes of my life, and i noticed an excessively high number of emails over the black community lists. curious, i began to read the chains and met with an unpleasant surprise: two new articles on the crimson online, both horrendous, were being discussed over the lists. I immediately went to the crimson website and read both articles, which was bad enough. then i made the mistake of reading all the comments.

ok so let me actually split this post into two sections. i was going to only talk about the comments, but first i'll take a brief moment to rage about some of the most offensive parts about the articles today.

first, lucy caldwell's ridiculous piece of drivel, entitled "dishonest discourse:"
ok so aside from the fact that in the time i've been reading her columns, ms caldwell has yet to construct one intelligent sentence, or even one unintelligent and also unoffensive sentence, i had some major problems with this piece.
- first of all, she continually calls on the idea of "intellectual honesty" as somehow antithetical to whatever it is that we as black people are doing in trying to shed some light on race relations at harvard and in america. i'm not sure when the last time was that ms caldwell looked at a dictionary, but "intellectual" is not a word she needs to be throwing around as if she understands it. "intellectual honesty" would be something along the lines of the ability to think critically about the issues of race, power, and privilege surrounding the "quad incident" and other issues. it would not be the surprisingly prevalent ability to completely dismiss an entire history of racial oppression within this country as irrelevant to "intellectual" discussion.
- second of all, pulling up the most recent Harvard Foundation controversy in the crimson articles and using it to support your claim that the Foundation is worthless is not journalism. it's some kind of combination of laziness and idiocy. 'nuff said.
- third of all, her claim that as a "upper middle class white daughter of Harvard graduates who has endured relatively little hardship," she is disenfranchised because her opinion on this subject is not valued highly enough. oh my god, lucy. this is not about you. rage. i don't even want to talk about this any more. moving on to the next article...

Adam Goldenberg and Sahil Mahtani have written an article entitled "Dr. Counter Must Apologize." this article quotes Dr. Counter comparing the treatment of black people on Harvard campus by HUPD to "South African apartheid techniques." i seem to be running long and haven't even gotten to the main point of this post yet, so i will just say very quickly that while it is very clever to use the whole "oh HE'S the one being racist because he doesn't understand how serious apartheid was and I do," it is just that. clever. it is not in any way true, and this is another case of the type of twisting of words and "spinning" of ideas in the media that makes me so upset. the article goes on to recall a 1992 controversy in which Dr. Counter was accused of anti-semitism. in my opinion, this takes the article from a somewhat legitimate if offensively-argued voicing of concern to a underhanded smear campaign. ugh.

ok so now that i've gotten that somewhat off my chest, let's move on. here is where my REAL problem lies: the comments section. some of the comments on both articles were SO offensive they actually made me sick to my stomach. i'll copy and paste a few gems for you just to give you an idea of the kind of tone that has been set here. These are taken from the comments sections of the two articles discussed above, as well as from Ashton Lattimore's op-ed and Lumumba Seegars's op-ed earlier in the week.

**"but you can't say something like this in public, since then you'd be called a racist etc... that's the self-protection PC mechanisms of these people - talk to our former president about the bullshit prof's hip hop 'research'."**

**"If I were to join a group called the White Men's Forum I would do it knowing that I couldn't possibly be joining for the right reasons.

Why would anyone expect good behavior from a group founded upon as asinine an idea of solidarity as skin color? It might as well be a gang of hoodlums who join ranks based only upon the color of their shirts and the fact that they live on the same drug dealing turf.

Is it intellectually honest of anyone to not call the police on the Black Men's Forum?"**

**" If there were a white men's forum and they were being loud and obnoxious, I'd call the cops on them. Bunch of little pimps."**

**"I would be surprised if the overall language and comportment of the individuals in the Quad didn't contribute as much to HUPD's being called as the skin tone of those involved.

I had the pleasure of meeting a very-thoughtful young black Harvard student a few months ago, but I couldn't get past his profanity. All he did was butcher the English language, perpetuating an inarticulate stereotype of blacks, which was rather ironic as he was otherwise effectively criticizing the stereotypical portrayal of blacks in the media.

I don't care what his skin tone is, his manner of speech was offensive to me, and I would not have expected it from an educated person. If I overheard a group of people on Harvard property who were comporting themselves like he had, I would call HUPD, too.

Of course, not having been there, it is impossible for me to say that this is the case. I have known many intelligent member of the BMF and ABHW, but I have also encountered those like I described above, I just wonder if we're always too quick to jump to skin tone as a reason."**

**"Black people don't belong at Harvard"**

**"if the black kids on campus didn't walk around with an idiotic "pimp stroll" that makes them feel they are thugged out, then maybe the rest of us on campus would believe that they actually go to Harvard. Many of the black kids I see on campus consciously try to "not look like a Harvard student", that is, they dress like a gang member in Compton - who are they trying to fool?

If you want people to not see you as thugs, stop trying to play the part. Thats not racism, thats just life - stop crying about it."**

**"It is late at night somewhere in Boston or Cambridge. I am a white female walking alone on an almost empty street. On my side of the street, there is a black man walking 10-15 paces behind me -- let's say he's wearing pretty non-descript clothes, nothing out of the ordinary. On the other side of the street, there is a white man, also wearing non-descript clothes -- that is, I don't really notice them or infer anything about class/income from them.

Is it racist for me to think that the other side of the street is safer? Is it racist for me to cross to the other side of the street? What if my feelings correspond to probabilities? What are people's thoughts on this? "**

and these are just a few of my favorites. i'm not even going to address what was actually said in the comments, because they are all ridiculous and not worthy of debate, however i think this points to a serious problem in the crimson, and on the internet in general: anonymous posting. it seems that when people can post as "anonymous" or with some clever pseudonym they thought up for themselves, they think they can just say whatever the hell they want with no repercussions. well they can. and that's the whole problem. more than any of the offensive claims that were made in the articles themselves, the rapant racism, sexism, and homophobia that seems to prevail in the anonymous comments section of the crimson is what creates such an unfriendly and antagonistic environment for those of us who already feel somewhat unwelcome at this university. a look at the comments section on any race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. etc. related clip on youtube will show that this is not a harvard crimson-specific problem. the difference is, the harvard crimson is supposed to be a reputable news source. there is no reason for the crimson to allow anonymous posting on their website when we've seen time and time again the kind of ignorant, insensitive trash that ends up being posted anonymously. if we're looking for positive changes to make, that's one easy step to take to make this campus just a tiny bit less accepting of intolerance.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

is Bobby Brown on crack? or are we all?

as i was wandering around the internet this morning (surprisingly enough, thousands of people are not trying to check out books on zoology today, so i have some free time on my hands at work), i discovered an interesting fact. apparently today is international day against homophobia. who knew? definitely not me. but now that i DO know, it seems like as appropriate a time as any to share some reflections on homophobia in the black community.

obviously this is something we'll have a lot more to say about as this blog continues, but to start us off, i wanted to share an email i got the other day that disturbed me. it was sent out over the ABHW list, and it was a clip of bobby brown being crazy on that 24 hours british show where apparently they lock you in a room with the host, Jamie Campbell, for 24 hours. i'm not completely "sure" how to put the video in here, and brittany is not awake yet for me to ask, so if this doesn't work out, sorry in advance. but here's the clip:

the full transcript, which i may or may not quote from depending on how i feel towards the end of this post, is available on towleroad.

anyways, aside from the fact that bobby brown is completely insane, here's what really bothered me about this:

people seem to find it hilarious. yeah its kiiinda funny how crazy he is, but when i watched this mainly i was horrified/frightened. i mean first off, jokes about prison rape aren't funny to begin with, so Campbell probably shoulda got slapped in the face once for that, but second of all, threatening to fuck another man up because you think he might possibly be gay is like, not really funny at all either. when i got this email, i expected people to reply being like, "dear lord he's crazy," but instead i got amusement. then i made the mistake of looking at some of the comments posted on youtube and on concrete loop. bad idea. the things people were saying were ridiculous. two themes in particular really rubbed me the wrong way.

1. about one million variations of "he must be hiding something." oh ok, so the problem here is not that bobby brown is wildly homophobic and advocating violence against gay people, the problem is that he must secretly be gay and that's funny because it makes him less of a man. great. way to take away a positive message.
2. another million variations of "i would have done that too" or "he did the right thing." the fact that so many people (and on concrete loop that usually translates to a lot of black people) think that the way he acted is in any way acceptable is horrifying to me.

so i mean, we'll talk about this more later i'm sure, but what i'm trying to say is basically what the fuck is wrong with the black community that anyone (albeit one of the craziest ones) would think it was ok to act that way on television, and that he could say something like this and be greeted with amusement rather than horror? it seems like for the amount of time we spend talking about the problems with portrayals of black male masculinity, we aren't trying very hard to change.

Support what's right- stand for security!

Unfortunately I have a final tomorrow that will prohibit me from attending the event below (but it's my last final ever as an undergraduate- isn't that exciting?) but I wanted to put up a note just to reiterate what Kaya has already said..

STAND UP with Allied-Barton Security Officers in their fight for a fair contract.

This campaign is so important- like many have said before, Harvard needs to start showing the same respect that it shows to its students to all of its faculty (and yes, I use the word faculty to include all dining hall/custodial/landscaping/security staff). This is a really important issue, so if you can make it out, please do. I'll try to swing by before my 2:15pm final to take a picture or two, but I can't make any promises so please go and take me with you in spirit!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Another P.S.- so really a P.P.P.S.-

I will not write on this (see below) particular subject anymore, at least I will not waste an entire post on it. There are other things (ironically, less angry) that I'm anxious to write about and need a written statement from myself so I can get to writing them!

Malakim, back in action!

**NOTE: I wrote an entire freaking post and then my crazy computer shut down! As a result, this will be shorter and less eloquent. But I guess you wouldn't even have known that unless I pointed it out. Sigh. Anyways-HP, I WILL be coming after you, soon, you can count on it!! *angry face* **

I'll start this by saying that normally I'm really glad when a person chooses to engage with a difficult issue (in this case race) that most other people shy away from. Good job! However, I really hope that they didn't think they could just blast my/our methods without getting a reply. :)
So, here are a few excerpts from Mal's (I like that nickname, don't you? It's so splendidly gender-neutral) latest reply to my reply to the reply to Kaya:
"Look, I’m angry too. I’m angry that as a white person you can’t see this from my perspective. I’m angry because I don’t think you have the slightest clue of what 95% of white people think when they read your blog post...
Did you stop and think that maybe whites and so-called “model minorities” will look upon your words and go, “Oh god, another angry black person"? Did you stop and think that the vast majority of whites will look upon the content of your blog and use it to reinforce all the damaging and subjugating stereotypes that they have internalized about black people—that many of them are angry, loud, prone to violence and have a stick up their ass?
...I’m angry that every time I try to convince my woefully ignorant white friends that they’re being irrational, insensitive, and just plain dumb, they allude to blogs like this one to affirm why they are right and I am wrong.
It’s time for you two to get over yourselves and really confront this topic, instead of merely continuing to validate your own feelings. I am on your side here, dammit, and this is NOT the way to make headway on this issue."
Okay, so I would normally probably try to make a really long response to this, one that's incredibly well thought out and full of references to different theorists or authors/artists/intellectuals whose words I find particularly stirring, but I think I'll err on the brief side of writing for several reasons: 1) I just got off of work and am tired, 2) I have a final to study for, 3) The Simpsons is on, which I will gladly watch as a means of procrastinating from studying for said final. As a result, I will simply be writing how I felt as I read this most recent comment, as well as the kinds of people it reminded me of. Alrighty, so let's get into it..
The first thing I want to say is that I find it somewhat disturbing that those "damaging and subjugating stereotypes" to which you allude that we (our blog and subsequent way of thinking) promote, fly off of your fingertips with such ease. I will admit that this blog definitely has a theme of anger, but being Prone to violence? Loud? Having a stick up [our] asses? I find it very interesting that you were able to pick these particular stereotypes. Any reference to violence is clearly not serious (and often unrealistic, I don't think you'll see any actual advocation of real, hurtful violence), we cannot be loud because you are reading our text (though I suppose if the entire blog was TYPED LIKE THIS YOU COULD GET SOME SORT OF FEELING OF LOUD, even though that's a bit silly), and having a stick up our asses? Well, I'm sorry if voicing my opinions makes me have a stick up my ass. Wait, no I'm not- what does having a stick up my ass do in terms of validating or invalidating my feelings or my points? Whether or not I present my feelings in a sugary song or in a five-page paper complete with bullet points and bibliography, the facts and experiences that have created those feelings all remain constant.
You are angry that I do not understand how you, as a white person, view my blog and my feelings? Well, I'm sorry, but quite frankly I do not care how you view my feelings, nor do I find any pressing reason to care if I rustle your feathers. As Gaya said in a comment, it is often through disturbance and unsettling methods or messages that change is inspired or, at the very least, can find its roots.
What seems most ridiculous to me is that you claim that I have neither an idea about nor concern for your perspective as a white person in America. I hate to present you with this newflash- but all I have ever done and ever do is consider, reconsider and consider again the perspective of white people. I was educated in public schools based around Western thought, I learned little in the way of Black History (MLK, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman were sentences in chapters or footnotes under pictures in my history and Social Studies books) before I arrived at Harvard, as a child I grew up thinking that America was the best place to be and that capitalism was the only possible form of social structure under which humanity could flourish- in short, my entire way of thinking has been molded by a "white perspective," a particularly troublesome mode of existence for a black girl living in these United States.
It has taken most everything in me to try and break away from this. Even so, I still factor the way white people see me, think about me and speak about me into my everyday life. The way I dress, the way I do (or do not do) my hair, the way I speak, the way I carry myself, the food that I eat (as a teenager- and up until this year- I shyed away from the delicious, crisp sweetness of a ripe red watermelon, because I was too afraid to eat it in front of white people and re-create some grotesque mulatto minstrel image for the world to see).. everything that I do is influenced by how I think white people think, so do not dare to tell me that I simply do not try to consider your perspective.
You say that it pains you to have to make attempts to re-educate your "ignorant" white friends, to help them shed the stereotypes which you so readily listed from their way of thinking- to see black people as docile, friendly, non-threatening figures who they should listen to. Perhaps it is more pertinent for you to instead re-consider your friends. Or better yet, perhaps it is even more important for you, yourself, to attempt to see where this anger, this loudness, this unwillingness to compromise or to simply smile and cooperate comes from. As startling as it might seem, I have been upset for most of my conscious life. When I was very young I learned that my skin, that my existence as a brown person (let us not forget that yes, I am biracial and therefore cannot completely understand the struggle of my darker sisters and brothers) was a signifier of my alleged incapacity to be a productive member of society. I held this knowledge deep in my mind, in my heart, and it burdened me. With every step, every breath, every word I uttered my blackness seeped from my pores and consumed my very being. I was suffocating in it. My understanding blanketed me in a deep shame, and this shame made me depressed- I was sad that I was black. As a result, I would often shy away from social issues pertaining to race. Before knowing what it was I denounced affirmative action and I created some irrational aversion to activists (which I am still trying to shed today).
It wasn't until I finally learned something, until I learned that there was nothing wrong with being black, that my people have a rich, beautiful history here in America as well as in all areas where the African diaspora resides.. that I finally began to allow myself to understand that I had just cause for being angry. In embracing this anger, I was able to free myself from the shame, from the sadness that had so strongly embraced me before. In speaking out I unlock my voice and hear the richness of its tones. In raising my fist I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and I am not ashamed. In opening my eyes I see that my thick, curly hair is a labyrinth of wonder and just as visually stunning as a straight blond coif could ever be. In short my anger is what has helped me to become who I am, and to understand where I lie in regard to my people, and where my people stand in regard to this society.
Who are you to tell me that this anger, that this feeling, is wrong?
I understand and appreciate the fact that you want to help us out. It's wonderful that you, as a white person, see the need to understand our situation, to try and help by educating yourself and your white peers. However, it is also important to understand that a white liberal, when under the impression that their philosophy is best or that they know what is best for black people, can be just as dangerous and damaging as a white conservative.

So while I appreciate where you are coming from, I cannot in good conscience silence myself once more. I will never again be complicit in my own oppression in this way. I hope you can understand. And if you cannot, I do not blame you. After all, I have no idea what it's like to be white in America nor could I ever, for I am not white, just as you are not black.
Though, if I'm honest with myself, I don't mind this all too much.

P.S. I think it's a little aggravating that a person could come to this blog (which is just that, a blog) and try to tell us how to express ourselves. Isn't it a bit problematic that one would assume that Kaya & I must bear the burden of representing every single black person in America when we are just trying to show how we feel as black people?
P.P.S. I guess this was long, after all. Sorry. :\

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stand Up!

when i move, you move. just like that.

ok that was a shaky connection at best, i just really wanted to throw ludacris in there somewhere. we'll move on. what i'm trying to say is that I am planning on going somewhere on Thursday, and i really hope that you will be there too. Feel free to skip further down in this post if you're just dying to know where that place will be.

so the whole debate over the Stand4Security campaign was at a peak before this glorious blog was technically created. however luckily for us, the campaign is nowhere near over. To summarize all the hubbub, security guards at Harvard are organizing around four main issues: fair wages and real parity, steady full-time work, fair grievances procedures, and recognition. For more information on the entire campaign and history, i'd recommend their website, linked above. this past friday marked the end of a 9 day hunger strike by students supporting the security guards, and dear lord but was THAT ever a controversy. I don't want to go into the whole thing now because if i do, i'll get all mad. and then you'll think i'm being irrational. but to summarize, a lot of people thought the hunger strike was stupid, and an almost equal amount of people seem to think that security guards don't even deserve a living wage. that was devastating.

anyways, the point of this post is not to get back into that again, because i think we can all agree that the entire discussion was pretty irritating. the point is to inform you all that just because the hunger strike is over doesn't mean the campaign is. everyone who was "for the cause but against the methods," its time to put your money where your mouth is. and everyone who was just "for the cause" in general, it's time to not get lazy. also known as not the time to get lazy. take your pick. anyways...

STAND UP with Allied-Barton Security Officers in their fight for a fair contract.

Student support is crucial in this campaign, and I can't even begin to tell you how heartbreaking it would be to see support for the security guards fall off now that the hunger strike is over. this has always been about the security guards, not about us. let's keep it that way and let's all come out to support them this thursday and let harvard know that we mean business.

wait, i don't actually think that was convincing enough. what i mean is that i absolutely EXPECT all of you to be there, and if you're not, i'm gonna be pretty pissed, because everyone talked a whole lot of talk about this whole campaign, and not coming out when it really matters would be some bullshit.

Monday, May 14, 2007

To Malakim

I saw this comment on Kaya's post:

You're angry and that's understandable and perfectly legitimate. Be angry.
But be angry to yourself and to your friends, not to the people you're trying to convince that Harvard is a racist school and that racism is still a reality.
Anger begets anger, do we really need a reminder of that? All of the elements of this blog post--rage, swearing, flippant comments--well, let's just say I hope none of your "racist" friends in Cabot see this. This is not a resolution-oriented post, but will only fuel the flames and convince people that you really are exaggerating things and psychotic and playing the victim. Which I know are not true.
Here's to hoping your next post has more logic and less rage. Because everything you said is right on, but you sure don't give whites much reason to believe you."
..and wanted to take a little time to respond, not only to this Malakim person, but to those who share his line of thought..

Oh Malakim, if you had read both Kaya's post and my own and looked at it, a big part is the fact that yes, we are angry about what has happened and that, surprisingly enough, we have a right to be. The only injustice is not what has happened, but the fact that we, as black Harvard students, are expected to sit idly and politely by while the feelings of hurt, violation and discrimination that we have just continue to fester inside of us.

Sorry if this sort of show of emotions will not convince people that we are "right." Unfortunately the "right"ness in many situations like this is not very clear- I shouldn't have to create a post filled with some (probably western) idea of logic in order to convince those who I feel are in some way oppressing me that they are, in fact, oppressive. Because guess what? I would have to use logic that makes sense to them, logic that is steeped in Western (often imperialist) thought, riddled with ideas about how and why society is structured.

You say that our anger is perfectly justifiable and legitimate, but that we should keep it to ourselves and our friends, and hide it from the sight of those we should be soothingly convincing to stop their racist behaviors. Well sorry, Malakim, that is just not acceptable. This line of thinking perpetuates the silence that stifles social movements and supports discrimination. There all sorts of forms of social protest, and anger (and showing real human emotion and vulnerability, because after all, I am a person, a human with real feelings and I should not have to hide that in a mechanical show of academic logic) is a perfectly reasonable one.

I, for one, prefer to keep my anger public.

can't be gettin' mad?

So it seems only fitting that my first real post on this blog be about whatever it is that is filling me with rage at this particular minute. And that, in case you haven’t heard, is racism. Turns out it’s everywhere, but most recently, it’s in the Quad. Brittany already posted about this, but didn't really give the background, so just in case you were wondering, here's the scoop: Yesterday was the ABHW/BMF challenge, so the two groups reserved the courtyard outside of Cabot House for a fun-filled day of capture the flag, relay races, spades, and taboo. Unfortunately, many quad residents were apparently unaware of the planned festivities, and awkwardness ensued. An email was sent out over Cabot-Open inquiring about the trespassers:

"Why did a group of random people come and take down the barriers protecting the newly seeded part of the Quad? Seems a little presumptuous for a group of people - especially a group that isn't Harvard students (they seem too young, at least from here) - to take that barrier down so they can use OUR Quad.... Now what if the grass never grows in and the senior have to graduate in the middle of a big muddy...

Seriously some girl is drawing a field in the dirt using her heel...that is crazy! Can we call HUPD?"

although a response was posted not long afterwards explaining that this was a black community event, list discussion continued to center around the "non-harvard students" invading the quad, and HUPD was actually called! now if we were all polite, subdued negroes, perhaps that would have been that. however understandably, several people were upset, and some emails were sent. one email that seems to have upset a lot of the non-black participants in the Cabot-Open discussion said simply,

"y'all freakin out cuz there are a lot of black people in the quad??

sheesh. calling hupd, really... wow."

oh no, someone played the race card. all of a sudden everyone is up in arms. and by that, i mean that white people are freaking out. the accusation of racism has spurred the traditional complete and total panic/denial. Everyone immediately went on the defensive, and a flurry of emails flew back and forth debating whether or not the calling of HUPD was racism. Out of those emails came, surprise surprise, more racism. I'm paraphrasing, of course. For a much more detailed summary of what happened, I'd look to Katie's post on cambridgecommon. But I think you have enough information now for me to move on.

So what bothers me here are SEVERAL things:
1. the initial racism. I think it's ridiculous that we are even questioning this. From a fourth-floor window, a student looks out on the courtyard and sees a group of black people playing games. Most of them are wearing either ABHW or BMF t-shirts. Is it possible to tell how old they are? I kind of doubt it. Is it possible that the student is really completely color-blind and did not even notice their black skin? hah. From what I know of the student who sent the initial email, I don't doubt that there was no malice or conscious racism at all in his actions. He simply looked out, saw a group of people that he doubted were harvard students, and got pissed because let's face it - there are always people all up on the quad with their children and dogs, and after a while you just want to live. But come on, people. the fact that a group of black students were immediately assumed to be "non-harvard" is a problem. let's not try and pretend no one noticed they were black.

2. the subsequent e-racism. first of all, i consider denial of racism to be a form of racism. People like to think they're being neutral and fair by saying "well maybe there's no connection." that's not neutral. who was it that said...ah yes, martin luther king jr., i believe. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." if you don't speak out AGAINST racism, you are speaking for it.
"I think people would've questioned whether or not they were affiliated with Harvard regardless of race."
really? because there are white people on the quad every day. and as far as i can tell, HUPD isn't thinking about hiring more police for quad patrol.

"have a little faith that your classmates aren't racist."
where exactly should that faith come from? experience? oh yeah. like the several times the police have been called on black male students simply because they were "looking sketchy" by a dorm, or maybe the time a friend of mine was warned about a "pack of black guys" standing outside of Eliot House. Or maybe yesterday when THIS gem was posted to Cabot-Open...

"I don't participate in cabot open discussions usually...
because they're SO RACIST! all you white people - you scare me! can't you understand... it's hard to be black!!! ITS SO HARD!!! and if you think this is a joke it's cuz you have a racist sense of humor.
oh yeah. when my inbox is filled with shit like this, i have TOTAL faith that my classmates are not racists. and don't even get me STARTED on the offensive bullshit i had to listen to during the list discussions in my own living hell known as Eliot House about the Stand4Security campaign (apparently security guards are lazy and don't deserve a living wage) or the infamous house dues debacle of 2006 (why DON'T i just go get a job at subway and shut the fuck up?). Newsflash: we live in a racist society, and harvard university is one of the most racist places i've ever had the pleasure of encountering. No, i don't have faith in you. sorry.

3. and this post is getting long, so i will try to wrap it up, but what has bothered me perhaps the most is the way that time and time again, in this incident and in others, the burden seems to fall entirely on black people to resolve the conflict. Now that we've accused you of racism, it seems that your feelings are hurt, and we're to blame. Every time something like this happens, white people get upset at the "unfair accusations" being hurled at them. Black people are asked to react calmly and politely, to "educate" the white people on why exactly they're upset. maybe to hold a discussion in which 40 black people show up and only 7 white people. and the 7 who do show up are not the ones who were being racist over email 2 hours earlier. So yeah. i'm fucking pissed. And i don't think i should have to explain to you WHY this is racism, and i really don't think i should have to apologize for swearing just now because you wanna know what? swearing is a way of expressing rage, and that is how i'm feeling. i don't see how it's in any way fair that someone can imply over email that black people are lazy, that poor people steal, that women who get raped are just "asking for it," and then I am the unreasonable one for being impolite? no. fuck you. i think it's high time black people stopped trying to act "reasonable" when we're living in this den of racism. fuck that, let's riot.

For the sake of repetition.

This whole situation and post made me think of this song...

So, if you are involved in the Black community here at Harvard then in the past few days you've either heard of, been asked about, sent raging e-mails concerning or gotten a migraine over the Cabot Yard debacle. To save breath (or in this case, I suppose, potential carpal tunnel syndrome) I will not discuss the incident itself, but the backlash and the feelings that I have had myself.

As ironic as it is to write here, I'm going to have to go ahead and reflect on the evil that is the commenting system the internet. Why did Cabot residents feel so smug in their justifications? Why do idiots post annoying comments on often entertaining or insightful youtube videos? Why do assholes think it's okay to chastise Crimson editorial authors? All because they sit, comfortably wrapped in the warm blanket of anonymity that the internet provides. It's just like the grade school logic of the kid who has everything to say about you behind your back but doesn't dare confront you because they are too afraid of what a punch could feel like. I used to feel sad or defensive after reading things like the e-mails on Cabot-Open, but as I and the internet generation grow older I've become more hardened to this sort of insensitivity, immune to the broadcasting and wide acceptance of ignorance that seems to have pervaded our e-mail lists, forums and communities. What's most funny about this entire thing is the fact that, when a meeting was held to discuss the issue, to talk openly about feelings, to confront accusations of racism or justified stereotyping... the people who showed up were the ones slighted. Want to know why? Because most of the people who had something remotely racist to say or support were too cowardly to come say the shit that they proclaimed so bravely on the internet in person. Too afraid or ashamed to say what they had to say to black faces.


"It isn't fair that you label me a racist, you don't know me and you don't know anything about me, I live in a community of black people/grew up around black people/my best friend or girlfriend or boyfriend is black.. how dare you judge me without knowing me."
This bull is some of what a lot of people had to say at being called out on the fact that their reactions to the presence of ABHW & BMF on Cabot Yard had anything at all to do with race. And you know what? They're probably right. It was wrong of us to call them out of their names, to assume that they had racist intents or undertones in their e-mails or actions. To me it sounds like you, my poor distressed Cabot resident, were pre-judged by the whole of the Black community, without them knowing anything at all about you.
That sounds like prejudice to me, and you are justified in being angry about it.
Hooray. Welcome to one tiny fraction of what it is to be Black in America, let alone Black at Harvard.

And despite all of that ignorance and denial, what makes me the most upset about Harvard is the fact that, like JLee said in one of his e-mails, people here like to act like everything is in a perpetual state of harmony, that everyone gets along and that each person thinks that their House is their home. Clearly this is not the case. Unfortunately, whenever anyone tries to report otherwise, authority figures (who tend to shy away from their responsibilities as leaders on this campus when it comes to protecting some students but like to jump in when things get out of hand) are sure to quickly stifle these outcries. Instead of contemplating punishments or discussing why a person is justified in their anger (especially in this case) the move is instead to placate all parties with some useless e-mail or a crappy "everybody is right" analogy.

No, everybody is NOT right and if you say that to me one more time I might have to punch somebody.
But I'm black, so if I do, I might not graduate.

Them's the breaks, I guess.

well this is exciting

i think i need to learn some things about technology. can i link to a picture? apparently not yet. its a work in progress.


Just a test!