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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

American Conversions to Islam

A week or so ago, I began to write about how converting to Islam sometimes presents African Americans a way to create a more specific non-American ethnicity and/or a way to rebel against the oppressive European Christian society thus further solidifying their identities as black. So, starting from the point that converting to Islam can in someway present black Americans the opportunity to be less a part of white society and therefore more or more distinctly black, what can be said about the unusual case of Jihad Jane?Understandably, many reports of this story have emphasized the idea that our stereotypes of what a terrorist looks like have finally been disproved. But not so many stories have examined Jihad Jane’s whiteness in comparison to other instances of domestic terrorism, as Renee Martin of Ms. Blog does here. As Martin writes:

But when LaRose took the name Jihad Jane–thus identifying herself with Islam, a religion many westerners view as violent despite its core teachings and the behavior of most followers–she disassociated herself from Whiteness. And that made it impossible for commentators to once again apologize for a White American who commits domestic terrorism.

Martin’s thoughts about J Jane and whiteness prompt me to examine how white conversions to Islam compare to black conversions. However, I think it’s unfair to the many white people who convert and do not embark on violent jihads. Also, I’m not sure that I want J Jane’s race to be emphasized more– I think she deserves to be treated as harshly as the others involved in the terrorist plot. While agree with Martin that it’s problematic that American culture views Islam as antithetical to whiteness, I don’t want J Jane to benefit from the insanity explanation given to other white domestic terrorists.

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Reconsidering Content of Earlier Post Re: Desmond Tutu’s Decoded Genome

It’s such a complex issue! So many questions are raised by the motivations of the research, the scientific results and the media’s reporting of it.

The one thing I am absolutely confident about, is that this research will encourage positive health outcomes for people of African descent in the future. With the addition of Archbishop Tutu and the Bushmen, the human genome project includes 5 of European descent (two of whom are James Watson and Craig Venter– both prominent geneticists), 3 of Asian descent (2 Korean, 1 Chinease) and 3 of African descent (Desmond Tutu, Bushman, Yoruban) plus another three partially decoded Bushman genomes. This distribution is not reflective of the actual percentage breakdown of the global population. VERY importantly, it is not representative of the indigenous populations of the Americas or the Pacific Islands.

Read these for background: 1.  Time– “What Secrets Lie in Archbishop Tutu’s Genome?” 2. Sydney Morning Herald– Cracking an ancient code: Scientist believes Africa can unlock the secrets of disease. (what a headline!) 3. LA Times– Scientists find great genetic differences among southern Africans 4. Newsweek Blog–Desmond Tutu’s Sequenced Genes: How Increased Diversity Helps Doctors Heal

More thoughts to come!

Filed under: Current Events, Journalism, News, Philosophy & Theory, , , , , ,

Race and Obesity in Philly

Soda, Candy, Hoagies!

Nia-Malika Henderson of Politico reports on Michelle Obama’s appearance in Philadelphia yesterday to discuss the national obesity epidemic as it is manifested in Philadelphia.

Though I know childhood obesity is a problem for Americans of all races, my localized experiences  have lead me to associate the issues of race and obesity. Whites are not the majority in my city (most estimates as of 2000 say 41% of Philadelphians are white though others say up to 45%) but–not surprisingly–they enjoy better housing, employment, education and health than others. Blacks are approximately 43% (44% if the mixed race population is added) of the city’s population and account for about 40% of the city’s workforce. Despite the essential contributions the black population makes to the city, it experiences twice the unemployment rate of whites and considerably worse health.

Philadelphia has a long history of obesity. Its longstanding position on Top 10 Fattest City lists (#1 in 1999!) is usually explained by excessive consumption of cheese steaks and soft pretzels. These ‘delicacies’ originated in South Philly, originally a melting pot of Irish, Italian and other European immigrants. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Dear Mr. President– Yes, You Can!

Ms. Hamedah Hasan’s official plea website.

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

Symbolic Reconciliation Between Mother Bethel AME and St. George’s UM

After centuries of separation the congregations of Mother Bethel AME and St. George’s United Methodist will worship together once again as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, at Sixth and Pine, is one of the most historically pregnant places in Philly. I’ve been atheist for a long time now, but I still value the history that I learned through my experiences of the city’s religious institutions. Though we never attended AME on a regular basis (my family went to Old St. Joseph’s Jesuit Church), friends of mine did and a few times I attended with my mom. I’m pretty sure we also attended St. George’s a few times, but I don’t remember it well. My grade school and its church, St. Peter’s Episcopal, was two blocks away from all of these religious institutions and this proximity allowed for great field trips in which we learned about how religious tensions shaped Philadelphia history despite freedom of religion being the law.

Like many other nine year old girls of the early 1990’s, I was obsessed with the American Girls doll collection and their corresponding book series. I had Felicity, the Colonial/Revolutionary War red-headed doll– probably because my mom thought she was the most tastefully styled. Felicity’s books were ok, but Addy’s were captivating. Addy was the runaway slave American girl doll. Her books tell the riveting story of her escape with her mother from the plantation all the way to Philadelphia. When they finally arrived in the city, their mentors took them to AME where they received a warm welcome and were helped to find an apartment, clothes and schooling. This pre-adolescent reading experience was highly formative and is definitely a part of why I love of Philadelphia and its historically progressive institutions, one of which is AME.

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

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, , , , , , ,

Sans Hood Pass: John Mayer

Has difficulty closing his mouth.

I’m interested in the way some young white people on TV and mass media have started to talk casually about racial stuff– and black people in particular–without eschewing their own whiteness. Obviously white political commentators and culture critics have always had the go-ahead to  talk about race in the context of news and art, but I think the phenomenon of whites talking about race and black people in a more personal context with less titration is much newer. I think John Mayer (in his couple of startlingly unfiltered interviews) and Daniel Tosh (of Comedy Central’s hilarious Tosh.0) are the best examples of this. Perhaps Stephen Colbert is a predecessor to this newly emerging casual racial discourse, though I think the fact that his show is thoroughly contrived satire makes his media impact considerably different.

Mayer’s blissfully frank, nearly manic sex-obsessed comments have been a hot topic on celebrity blogs for weeks now. Upon first read, all of his comments rub me the wrong way. It’s gross how sex-obsessed his interviews have been (but then again one of them was in Playboy). Hearing about his quest for “the Joshua Tree of vaginas,” one on which he might “pitch a tent on and just camp out on for, like, a weekend,” and his eternal love of Jennifer Aniston despite their (unremarkable) age difference makes me even less likely to give his make-out session blues a second listen. But, aside from his downright racist comment about Kerry Washington and his use of the n-word while discussing his ‘hood pass’, I can’t say that I am offended by the content of his personal statements. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Current Events, Media & Culture, Pop Culture, , , , ,

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, , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , ,

MLK: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Huffington Post’s headline for Martin Luther King Day, 2010, is the MLK quote above. It is a headline which links to a listicle about the myriad ways you can (and should!) contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti. I am embarrased to say that, due to my current lack of funds, and an old cell phone that is so broken that it would be a waste of time to donate, I have done no more for the people of Haiti than to encourage Ben to donate more. He did. And that’s great. But it felt easy. I do not feel as though I have actually DONE anything for the people of Haiti, and I think I will feel this way once I do have funds to donate. In this case though, our own satisfaction with our actions is really not relevant and should not be used as the metric by which the value of effort is determined. It is the money that matters.

However, I think it’s time that I address this most persistent and urgent question in terms of my life as whole. After all, my stance in life as an anti-racist and explicitly in this blog is that actually helping the people whose subjugation we decry is FAR superior to merely cultivating a guilt-ridden awareness of the many ways in which we, merely for being white, have benefited from undue privilege. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: for a white anti-racist to focus primarily on white-privilege issues is to disengage from the ongoing problem of racism.

So, here goes! This will be a series of posts, for brevity’s sake. (Sorry I’m long winded sometimes!)

I must say, I fear that the forthcoming posts will seem horribly self-congratulatory and will be of only minimal encouragement to others. I think this process is necessary though, seeing as I only have a few vagueries in mind of what I actually do that could conceivably make a difference. I would love to be challenged. I know I could do more; every person could do more. But, I don’t think that every person needs to be an overt activist for society to be changed. I don’t think that ‘walking the walk’ is only defined by large, easily identifiable, singular actions. It is my hope that the actions I take and the choices I make outside of the blogosphere are up to snuff with the beliefs I express here.

Filed under: activism, Personal, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

2010 Census creates controversy, prompts hilarity

While all other online articles on this very very interesting topic prompt an onslaught of horribly misguided, uneducated and racist dribble from readers of all races, Ta-Nehisi Coates spurs the most hilarious discussion of political correctness I’ve ever read. The comments are a must read, as are the one’s in the follow-up post titled “I’m Offended.”

Filed under: News, Politics, Uncategorized, , , ,