Monday, February 25, 2008

my armor

i realized today that i haven't written a post on just ponderings in general in quite some time. it also just so happens that a dude said something today at work that got me to thinking. so...

as brief background information, i work at a non-profit. so we were in a meeting today with this guy who was kind enough to give us some advice on a project we're working on, and he was telling a story about a justice reform he was on a committee for back in the day. he wrote a dissenting opinion to their final recommendations. "of course," he said, "nothing came of the recommendations. or my dissent." he paused for a moment, and then laughed a bit and said, "moral victory is a part of my armor."

now maybe i'm giving him a lot of credit for something that probably just came out of his mouth without a whole lot of thought first, but i thought this was really deep, and also sort of a very interesting and perhaps too-close-to-home insight into the psyche of the typical non-profit/NGO employee. out of that sentence what *I* got was "i've been working in this field all my life and it's even more fucked up now than it was when i set out to try and fix it, but facing that reality is a bit too much for me to try and wrap my head around, so i just try to take a symbolic moral stand. that way, if nothing else, i can say its not my fault."

i don't know, i don't really feel like going into a whole huge "unpacking" of this concept, but i do feel like this is one of the reasons i don't want to stay in non-profit work forever. It just feels a bit like running up against a brick wall over and over again until finally you stop even trying to get past the wall, you just try not to look like an idiot when you hit it.

then again, sometimes if you hit a wall hard enough, you bust through. these are the conundrums we face in life. feel free to ponder and discuss.

reimagining the coloreds

If you know me then you probably know that I really enjoy fashion, not in the sense of "oh I look so good" but in watching the industry's trends, consumption patterns and news and such (also sometimes I look good ;). I'm not as on top of it as I'd like to be, but I keep up with the generally informed, and sometimes I stay ahead of the game, as I was with one of the season's newest trends- 'ethnic-inspired' prints and silhouettes.
So why am I mentioning this, and why didn't I mention it before? I was trying to not be nit-picky-because you know that's something I tend to do- and just be quiet about it. Let's face it- fashion is one of the most superficial, frivolous industries in existence, and part of why I like it is that it's straight up with that, and has no qualms about not saving lives on a daily basis (although sometimes unique ways to help others are found). But this is where that had to stop, for me.
I'm sure I'm not the only person of color who cringes when the word "ethnic" is used in design- a two-syllable shortcut for piling all the nameless cultures east of the pacific into one amorphous blob. "Chunky bangles," "bold geometric patterns," and "rich colors" are a few of the descriptors used for this, and designers and editors are eating the shizz up. And I know it probably isn't something to really get myself worked up about, but I can't help but be annoyed when designers rip off styles of dress and pattern from people and places that they rarely make an effort to actually see or understand, not to mention the fact that these aesthetics were rarely recognized as universally beautiful before white designers "adapted" them for their own collections. What's more annoying? The fact that the runways filling up with these dresses, accessories and, yes much to our dismay, headdresses, are overwhelmingly filled with lily-white models. Of course it'd be problematic to have only Black/Asian models in only these fashions, but you'd think that the one industry that to this day remains primarily segregated would try a we are the world approach during this particularly colorful season.
I guess you can't give people too much credit, though.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


So I was up way too late one work night when I saw the video I'm posting below and thought it was so sweet. I told myself I'd remember the name and group so I could watch it later and maybe download it onto my iPod. Of course I forgot and just spent like an hour trying to find this crap on the internet. anyway, watch the video and then I'll come back at you w/some words and such.

So after watching it I was like.. what's the big deal? Why did I want to find this so bad and why did I feel so connected to it? I mean, after all it's just another 'emo' chill out song. And didn't we have enough of that in the 90's between Enya and Dido? But then I paid a little more attention to the video itself and realized that it speaks so much to my feelings in this city sometimes. Not necessarily the romantic voyeurism, but the at times irrational sense of isolation. I know that if you live here, you've probably felt sad about dealing with something you had going on, and wandered the streets, looking at everybody go to wherever they're going with the people they're with and thought "why do I feel lonely right now?" I mean, there are so many things and so many people constantly surrounding us that we have no real right to feel lonely or unoccupied or disconnected. Or maybe it's just me..
Anyway I was thinking about this, and just wondered if anybody else ever felt this way, and if this was just a NYC thing, or a big city thing.. or hell, just a angst-y 20-something thing. Lemme know your thoughts.
Also, enjoy the video. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

check this out

If you haven't had the chance, don't know of Quench or don't write for it (which I am convinced that probably 80% of our readership do lol) then PLEASE check this out, an excellent post on a great subject.
For those of you who read this and went to Harvard- and to a more minute level of detail- those who took Ec10, this (Michelle Tea's block quote) is exactly how I felt throughout all the sections on lower class households and public education.

(P.S. Kaya, I just made "hegemony" a tag in our little tag box... can you believe we didn't have that crap on there already? Weirded out.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a random (and sad) thought

I was in a cab today coming back from one meeting to go to another, and on Taxi-Vision or Cab-Cube or whatever that taxicab network is, I saw this (or at least something like it) go across the news ticker on the bottom of the screen just below the weather:
"Cab driver commits sex assault on two passengers. Including exotic dancer."
I had two reactions to this.

1) Terrifying. Thanks for that taxi-tv, I am in a cab.
2) Why did you have to mention the profession of one of the victims? Because she was an exotic dancer? Why should that have any bearing on the fact that she was the victim of a very violating crime?

It just makes me so annoyed when people act as though sex crimes are justified when committed on sex workers or those whose occupations deal with the sexual. Why should a sex worker have less rights, access to protection or respect from fellow human beings because of his or her occupation? Not to say that I condone or denounce sex work (I will make no official stance on this blog, my feelings on this are personal and will remain that way) but America is so full of prudes. You'd think for a country/social system that breaks everything else (including the body in some ways, hello patented human DNA strands) we could accept the genitals as property and the acts they can do/services they can provide as real services (arms and hands for massages..?) and respect them as such.
Things are sad.

Oh and for any morons who want to say something stupid like "do you know the situations poor prostitutes have to go through.. unwilling sex workers... blah blah blah" I am aware of this and am not an idiot. Also I know that life is nuanced, but since conservatives like to isolate incidents and situations to discuss and disect, I will do the same for this!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

beating a dead horse

sometimes you beat a dead horse when you don't really have to. sometimes its because you're locked in a room with nothing but a stick and a dead horse. this is kind of how the new york times is making me feel. i don't WANT to post again about the barack-hillary epic duel, but apparently thats the only thing worth printing in the news, so who am i to try and think of something else to blog about?

anyways, maureen dowd had an op-ed about this in the times today. now i don't know if i've mentioned recently that she's not the kind of person i ever want to find myself forced into conversation with, but maybe now's not the time to go into the multitude of reasons maureen dowd and i will never be friends. suffice it to say that although i thought her op-ed was shitty per usual, it had a lot of great quotes. which i will now pick up and use to promote MY opinion instead of hers.

example one:

"Elaine Sirkis, 77, an Obama supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a woman president. Betty Conway, 83, a Hillary supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a black president.

As Conway walked away, Sirkis smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” she told Berman sweetly about her friend. 'She’s a bigot.'"

i can't believe someone would use this quote in an op-ed and then not even "unpack that," as i love to say when i'm feeling pretentious. So i feel like this quote basically sums up how i feel about this race, and america in general right now. Its funny because i was always the first to jump up and get mad when people tried to say that its not fair how anytime someone says anything that might be construed as slightly racist, they're a bigot. and now i sort of get what they mean. don't get me wrong. if you say something racist, i still think you're a racist. but how come when you say something sexist, you're not a sexist? thats a bit hypocritical of us "liberals," no? not being ready for a black president is bigoted, but not being ready for a woman is just par for the course? it would be funny if it weren't so ridiculously true.

Dowd writes that "It’s not yet clear which prejudice will infect the presidential contest more — misogyny or racism." Its possible she just needed a nice transition between the previous paragraph and the next one. but if she really meant that, i guess "clarity" is not really her strong point. every day it seems to become more and more clear that misogyny is running away with this race. its almost no contest at this point, as evidenced by a joke she quotes just sentences later saying that february is black history month, and that unfortunately for hillary there's no "white bitch month." and of course there's the hillary nutcracker, and the new axe body spray ad. yeah, you're right maureen. its totally unclear whether sexism or racism is more rampant in this debate. why just last week i heard someone call barack a nigger while purchasing an obama sambo figurine. oh wait... that would not be acceptable behavior, would it?

now just to set the record straight, i'm not trying to say racism is NOT happening. i'm just trying to say people need to wake up from this "obama-mania" and at the very least recognize their own bigotry. it seems like more and more everyone seems to be rallying around obama, condemning any black person that might not support him as a "house negro" (because of course obama is SUCH a field negro, and because of course that metaphor is in no way overplayed), and just generally going buck-wild for obama like he's actually something new. you know, he's aiight. and if he's the nominee, i'll totally vote for him. but when you start to see things like "cult of personality" get thrown around in the papers, you have to start to wonder whether it might be time for everyone to take a deep breath and do some exercises in rational, independent thought. i'm just sayin. in my opinion hillary and barack are pretty dead even as far as policy goes, so i'd vote for either one and be satisfied with neither. but if this race gets any more disrespectful to women OR black people, i at least am going to be pissed. as it is, this entire year is already leaving a bad taste in my mouth. way to go, america. i love you too.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

i love upeople

so last night I went over to Solomon's Porch in bedstuy and saw Hanifah Walidah and Olive Demetrius's documentary, U People. you can check out their website here, if you're so inclined - they also do a fabulous podcast.

the basic premise - while shooting the music video for Hanifah's "Make a Move," they also shot a lot of footage of all the women in the house interacting, talking about life, and just generally getting deep. Then they made that footage into a film.

so this post is not going to be long, I just really wanted to urge people to check out the site and see the movie when it starts going to film festivals. It really felt to me like I was sitting in my own living room, talking to my own friends. I felt like every conversation I saw on that movie was one i've had thousands of times before, but just the experience of seeing it on screen, of hearing those words come out of someone else's mouth, was intensely validating. Hanifah and Olive spoke about how these types of conversations about race, gender, and sexuality are conversations that we as black women and queer black women often have among ourselves, but they are not conversations that often make it into the public sphere. This movie is their attempt to bring some of those conversations out of the living room and into other people's living rooms, and I think that's sort of great. I just wanted to give a shout out to them and to all the beautiful people in their movie. I think its the kind of movie everyone can get something different out of, but for me, it was just great to see myself reflected in so many other people.

so yeah. this post was a bit full of feelings, but that's probably a stunning recommendation for a movie, no? see it. love it. check out their podcast. its great.

Friday, February 1, 2008

spare change?

So, in case you hadn't heard, the the economy isn't doing so hot. At all. According to the NYT this morning the job market just slimmed down to the tune of 17,000 jobs. This, along with the staggering housing market (now is a good-ass time to refinance your mortgage. But I guess if you're reading this you don't have any sort of mortgage. And if you do, huzzah, we have for reals grown-up readers!) and the lack of consumer confidence (the retail market did pretty sh!tty during this past holiday shopping season, if you hadn't heard) spells one thing very clear-

Yeah. So here we are, the great big U.S. in a recession. Now, while I'm not an economist, I took one year of Ec10 (which admittedly was one of the worst classes of my entire Harvard career- sorry, Marty) and am pretty much a reasonably smart American, things that make it no surprise to me that the economy always has and, as long as we keep capitalism, probably always will be an ebb and flow of growth and recession. It's just the way things are. What sucks and is slightly new about this is the context in which we're receeding now. For one of the first times in popularly-known history, we are receeding in the midst of a war- you know typically a country going to war was a sure bet for giving the economy a nice little booster shot- industrial jobs here and there, general state of fear that would manifest itself in increased patriotism and sentiments of "buy American" and "support American businesses." Now, however, we're in the middle of a war that half of this country never supported and the other half doesn't even understand, with no real jobs being created to support the efforts and the jobs that COULD be created out-sourced by greedy-ass corporations (thanks, Haliburton). If that weren't enough to knock patriotism and general morale down a few steps, mishaps like Katrina aren't doing much to help.
But it's election year- we'll get a new leader and certainly that will help! Well no, no it won't.
And that part really just sucks to me. The one historical time in American history where it's actually viable for a woman of any race or a Black person (nevermind how flawed their platforms or politics are) has a chance to be a strong contestant and perhaps winner in the race for the presidency and we're facing a potentially large economic crises and some of the biggest, most complex problems this country has had to deal with.
And you know what sucks the most? This lagging economy isn't going to affect anybody as bad as it's going to affect the dying middle class and the burgeoning lower-middle class. But, as they have proved time and time again, they'll vote for someone on socially conservative issues that marginalize half of the people in their own communities before considering the ways in which fiscally conservative politics can (and often do) give the little man the shaft. The rough end of it, too.