Sans Cilice

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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

On the potential of color talk

“Why you and Ms. Shannon both light-skinned?” asked Alicia (not her real name) last Wednesday. Shannon is one of my employees. I’m white and she’s black. Not only that, I’m about as white as white can be– Irish descent, fair skin that sunburns in minutes, bright blue eyes, dirty blond hair (currently dyed brunette). Shannon has light/medium brown skin and dark brown African American hair. I think some would say she’s light-skinned and others wouldn’t. But, there’s really no need to examine our skin shades further; the point is that while Shannon and I may have any number of things in common, skin color is just not one of them.

—Long post! Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: education, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, Society, , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Arrest Has Been Made!

An arrest has been made in relation to the Walmart Racism even discussed below.

All things considered, I doubt this incident will become important historically. As stupid and base as I’m sure the speaker is, and as rightfully offended as so many are, I don’t think the impact of this event will be strong or far-reaching. Nonetheless, it’s my moral duty to prolong the bad publicity for Walmart.

Filed under: Current Events, Philadelphia News, , , , ,

Racism at Gloucester County Walmart


Overt indisputable racist intimidation is alleged to have happened at a Gloucester County, NJ Walmart. Obviously this act has not been condoned by the company, but I’m totally fine with hastily (re)judging Walmart’s forest for this tree.

If you aren’t sure about your feelings towards Walmart, give “Walmart:The High Cost of Low Prices” a chance. I wonder if Walmart will aggressively silence this issue like they have charges of sexual discrimination.

Filed under: Current Events, Society, , , , , ,

Texas Public Intoxication Laws

Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones unearths the racist and homophobic uses of Texas’s public intoxication law which permits the arrest of anyone for public intoxication, even in a restaurant or bar:

Since 2006, when Texas overtook California as the state with the most drunk-driving fatalities, cops and a beefed-up task force from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission have used a 1993 law as a pretext to enter any bar and arrest its patrons on the spot. The public intoxication standard, backed by the Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is so broad that you can be arrested on just a police officer’s hunch, without being given a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test.

Despite the law’s aim against drunk driving, Weinstein and others point out that it is mostly used as an outlet for racism and homophobia, or to quickly fulfill arrest quotas. While I am VERY against drunk driving, the logic behind this “anti-drunk driving law” is absurd; drunk driving is illegal and police don’t need any other law to legitimate the arrest of a drunk driver. Weinstein quotes Dallas defense attorney Robert Guest who says that “Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI,…If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior.”

My husband and I are going to his little brother’s bar mitzvah in Houston in August. I will drink my champagne in a semi-sober awareness of what a privilege it is to not be arrested.

Filed under: Current Events, Politics, , , , , ,

Dear Mr. President– Yes, You Can!

Ms. Hamedah Hasan’s official plea website.

Filed under: activism, Current Events, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Support Hameda Hasan

From Ms. Hamedah HasanHuffingtonPost comes Hameda Hasan’s impassioned plea for clemency from President Obama. She is now serving the 17th year of her 27 (!!!) year sentence for a non-violent, first time, drug-related offense involving crack cocaine which she never used or dealt. As Hasan rightly points out “Had I been convicted of a powder cocaine offense, I would be home with my three daughters and two grandchildren by now.”

Please read Hasan’s whole letter. It is an amazing personal story, one which has moved many organizations, including the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative and the ACLU, to act on her behalf. I hope President Obama is compelled. My one fear is that her Muslim name will make clemency a politically unpopular move. Obama and his team (and media outlets other than Fox News) have finally quieted most of the racist and anti-Muslim shit spewed by Tea-Baggers and the like. At this point I’d be surprised if the “secret Muslim/socialist/racist” memes regained strength, but I hope that Obama’s memory of such malicious lies doesn’t interfere with his consideration of Hasan’s clemency plea.

For some background on the issue: Systemic racism is perpetuated by the unequal prosecution of crack and cocaine cases.

Filed under: activism, Current Events, News, Politics, , , , , , , ,

NJ Department of Transportation sued for race-based discrimination

Very interesting article here about African American owned bus companies suing the NJ Dept of Transportation for allegedly treating the companies with excessive harshness in the frequency, level of scrutiny and consequences of inspections. By the end of the month it will be decided whether or not the case will go to the US District Court, reports Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News.

I’ll be very interested to see where this goes!

It seems like there is a lot of evidence of excessively harsh treatment on record. The proceedings also include the NJDT’s lead inspector admitting to making VERY racist comments on the job and saying that “he had used racial slurs on ‘bad days’ ” and that “We all do it once in awhile…I’m not an angel… If someone says they didn’t, they’d be a liar.” [oh really?!?] The inspector is alleged to have said “N*****s run junk” a comment that is not just a racist slur, but a judgment about a peoples’ ability to perform successfully on the job which, to me makes it much more of a problem. How will this sort of hateful speech be judged in court. Is it illegal to say such hurtful things at work? (An actual, not rhetorical, question. Better informed legal insight, anyone?)

Filed under: Philadelphia News, Politics, , , , , , ,

63 year old grandmother charged for staying on exercise bike.

Yes, I think race is a factor here. No, I don’t know all of the details.

Read the full story here.

Carol Shannon, a 63 yr old black grandmom, was violently arrested on February 1st for riding an exercise bike she paid for at a fitness club of which she was a member, and refusing to leave when she was told the bike reservation rules had been changed. The police were called. During her arrest, she was hit with a baton (has bruises to prove it) and threatened with a taser. She is being charged for “aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.”

I wish I could find some follow up on how this case is being handled. I want more from David Gambacorta at the Philadelphia Daily News! Also, WTF, Bally’s Total Fitness? No comment?!?

Filed under: Philadelphia News, , , , , , , ,

I Forgot Chris Matthews Was (__adjective__) For a Year

In the 24 hours since Chris Matthews claimed to have forgotten that President Obama was black for an hour during the State of the Union Address, a general concensus has been reached that the term ‘post-racial’ should only be used by those who pride them selves for their ignorance.

I like TNC’s assessment of Matthews’ statements overall– it’s an excellent breakdown. However, I feel it is lacking in one respect.¬† In short, his assessment is that Matthews tried to compliment the President while making incredibly offensive implications, and his conclusion is that the real issue with Matthews’s statement is about persevering white ignorance and not black success. Despite TNC’s thorough discussion of why it is offensive to position blackness and success/greatness as mutually exclusive properties, and why whites are prone to such ignorance, I was disappointed that nothing has been said about the fact that black people and white people are STILL really fucking proud that the country finally elected a black president. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: News, On TV, Politics, , , , , ,

My New Job

Zoe and I caught up the other night over dinner. I had been almost completely out of touch with my friends for the past few weeks because I was between cell phones and because I was adjusting to my new job. It was great to talk about my new job with Zoe because she hadn’t already heard about it and because I value her opinion. She asked me if the start of this blog was directly related to the start of my new job. It is definitely coincidental, but the blog really happened because I had a nice amount of free time between jobs than because I explicitly intend(ed) to blog about my new job. That said, both the start of my job and of my blog are definitely related to my realization that social injustice pre-occupies my thoughts and that I am most compelled to respond to injustice that feels close to home. For me, as a white female citizen of Philadelphia (which as of 2000 was 43% black, 42%white, 5%Asian, 5%other, 3%mixed race) the type of injustice that is most frequently and immediately visible is the centuries old anti-black white-supremacist American racism.

After working at the Academy of Natural Sciences for a few years I became confident that a.) the thing I liked most about work was communicating successfully with a wide variety of people and that b.) I spend more time thinking about race than any other issue I consider important because race issues seem to have a more immediate bearing on my life than any other sort of social issue. Looking to leave the museum career path and hoping to get my foot in the door with a community oriented non-profit in Philly, I applied to an administrative assistant job at a non-profit that runs charter schools in the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Personal, , , , , , , ,

Mumia’s 2008 ‘win’ reversed by Supreme Court

From Huffington Post

Having lived in Philadelphia all my life, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take an objective stance on this case. Any thoughts on Mumia’s case being compared to the precedent neo-Nazi killer case mentioned in the article? I’ll post more later, but have to go to work!!

Filed under: News, Philadelphia News, Politics, , , , , , , ,

M.L.K as Atheists’ Kryptonite

From my perspective as an atheist, I have been dumb-struck and awed by Martin Luther King Jr more than by any other religious leader. I will argue against religious faith when it is clearly used for evil (interesting comments in Coates blog about how Pat Robertson’s various bigotries all stem from his religious bigotry). I will argue against religious faith when it is employed with benign intentions, but has pernicious effects (take your pick from European colonial motivations, Catholicism’s condemnation of sexuality, contemporary evangelical Christian attempts to ‘straighten’ gays, the list goes on…). I even tend to take issue with–though I do not necessarily argue against–perfectly benign¬† individuals (some close family members) who seem to be religious primarily for self-satisfying reasons because I think that’s disingenuous and that greater satisfaction could be reached in other ways. Point is, when considering religion and deist beliefs, ESPECIALLY when they are employed unabashedly (as King did) as a means to an end (a very worthy end in this case) I approach skeptically 98% of the time.

The life and invaluable accomplishments of Dr. King leave me in awe and at a complete loss for criticism. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: activism, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, , , , , ,