The Outlook

This isn't for the sensitive

Priorities

I was alerted to a disturbing news story today.

A young mother in Atlanta was recently convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of one of her young children. The twist here is that she was not in, let alone driving, the vehicle that was used in this homicide.

(Read the AJC report here)

The prosecutor in her case determined that because she chose to walk her children across the street directly from the bus stop where she was let off instead of walking over a half-mile down the road with hungry and tired little ones so that she might use the crosswalk there (and walk that half-mile back up), she deserves to be in jail for up to 36 months.

The man who hit her son, who admitted that he had been drinking, and was on painkillers and legally blind in one eye and has previous arrests for drunk driving, will most likely serve less time in jail than she will since his charge of vehicular homicide was dropped. This is the part where I call bullshiggity.

Ok, ok. Fine. You want to go by the letter of the law and charge this mother with some crime, ok. That’s crap, but fine. But you want to charge the woman NOT driving with vehicular homicide AND drop the charges of the man who was ACTUALLY driving down to a “hit and run” (because after he plowed into the family, injuring 2 and killing one, he drove off, as he did in 97 when a similar thing happened)? Oh come the eff on.

Meanwhile, Casey Anthony is somewhere writing her memoirs preparing to make some major dough off her life story because they couldn’t manage to figure out how to convict her of SOME crime related to the disappearance and death of her daughter. Does anyone else see a problem?

Many of the blogs I’ve read on this story highlight class and race as an issue. (Read one of them here) They are. I wanted to avoid mentioning them (though one is obvious) because I think some people immediately discount what you say as soon as you bring issues of class and especially race to the surface. But come on already. Raquel Nelson, an African-American single mother, was convicted by a jury of middle class whites who probably never have had to deal with the issues of public transportation with kids in tow. There’s no way that if you’ve EVER had to use public transportation, you’d want to convict this lady of vehicular homicide.

Back in 2010 I was in an accident where the car I was driving struck (but did not kill or seriously injure) another individual. He was ticketed for crossing the street where he should not have. I felt bad for him as the officer wrote him a ticket while he was being loaded into the ambulance. I had not been drinking, was not otherwise distracted and the accident was his fault — but he was also mentally handicapped and THAT was why he ran out into a dark street without looking to see my car coming down the road. I mention this to say I really do empathize with both sides of this story and while I think it disgusting that this man was on the road with all his many ailments, I still can understand that it can be frustrating when people dart out into the road in areas where you’re not expecting them to.

But even with all that out on the table you can’t make me understand why this mother should get 36 months in jail while the jerk who hit her and her kids, killing one of them, won’t. You can’t make me understand why a bus stop is located so far from a crosswalk. You just can’t make me understand why we’re ALWAYS kicking the little guy when he’s down.

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July 23, 2011 Posted by | Could we overreact any more?, News, Ok. That was stupid | Leave a comment

Over Here!

While I was at home with my mom this weekend, I went out with some friends and we spent a portion of our evening outside of a popular bar people watching. At one point so much foolishness was going on that we didn’t know where to look first. One of my friends exclaimed, “y’all focused on the small details over there when it’s a catastrophe right here!”

Couldn’t be a better quote to sum up my feelings lately about our media coverage of events. American media is notorious for burying important things (catastrophe) under frivolous stuff (small details). Great example: back when Anna Nicole Smith died and our media went on and on and on and on for days about her death and the subsequent paternity tests and court dates, our government made some important changes to our immigration laws.

Wednesday of last week brought several — more than 10 — tornadoes through the Southeast region. These storms leveled neighborhoods and cities. Killed hundreds of people and left even more with nothing. Our media, however, decided to cover the Royal Wedding more than these devastating storms. After the wedding was over (and well after even British news quit covering it) we moved to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner

Now, I don’t mean to suggest by what I’m about to say that these recent storms were equal to the devastation of the tsunami in Japan, but it amazes me the way our media will cover foreign issues far more completely than the things that happen in our own country.

::sigh:: Maybe one day somebody’ll pay attention to what’s going on to the people in our country in a manner that matters. Maybe. I won’t hold my breath though.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | News, Ramblings, What in sam hell is going on?! | Leave a comment

No New Orleans

I don’t usually cross-post between blogs, but this post bears re-posting

I guess since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we’ve become desensitized to lower levels of natural disasters in cities.

Or maybe we only care when it looks like you can make a sexy political story out of it.

Last weekend it began raining in Nashville, TN and it didn’t stop. More than 13 inches fell in 2 days. That’s about 30% of Nashville’s annual rain fall in 48 hours. The great city of Nashville sits on the banks of the Cumberland river and the river rose and flooded a lot of downtown Nashville.

Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to release water from 2 dams and this water flooded other areas of the already super-soaked city. There were 20+ deaths in Middle TN (which doesn’t only include Nashville), many families have lost everything as the vast majority didn’t have flood insurance. The city is reporting over $1 Billion in damage.

One might think the national media would have jumped on this. Another major natural disaster in a large city (Nashville has a larger population than Atlanta, and ranks as one of the biggest Southern cities) with almost no recognition from the outside world.

You’d be very wrong if you thought that. Sadly wrong, even.

I don’t expect national coverage to the extent that New Orleans recieved in 2005. For one, this flood wasn’t that big or wide-reaching and for two, there were many other things at play outside of a city being completely under water. I don’t want to get into a situation where we compare this to what happened in New Orleans in 2005, because for the most part they’re not comparable.

But the question remains — who’s going to Volunteer for the Volunteer state?

Ironically, apparently only the state itself. All the stories you hear now are about neighbors helping neighbors. Which is great. And the state is recieving federal funding. The President called the Governor and the both agreed his presence, with all that is required, would take away from the relief efforts, for now.

But where’s the national media coverage? Nashville could use the help of every state in the union, not just every city in the state.

On a larger note, I think the media ignores the South (except for Atlanta) all the time. I think that point has been proven in light of this.

If you go to CNN.com now and search Nashville, all sorts of videos will pop up. But those videos we distinctly remember of Anderson Cooper in New Orleans as the city flooded, CNN doesn’t have because they, like their other major outlet counterparts (and I don’t mean to make it look like only CNN ignored this for almost a week) didn’t pay much more than a footnotes’ worth of attention until now.

I’m sure someone will say, and rightfully so, they’re there now. Yes. They are (interviewing mostly country stars who have been effected — thank God for Kenny Chesney who pointed out that he will be able to replace things, while other families will not). Nashville will come back, it will be fine and that will happen regardless of whether or not major media outlets notice. I’m just put off by what it means when newsworthy things are happening and no one cares.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | News, Politics | , , | 1 Comment

Blackness and Education

What happens to a person’s racial identity when they attend private school? How many black points do you lose when you jump the lane and decide to attend school with the rich white kids who’s parents own things larger than homes and cars? Depending upon who you ask, you might actually lose your soul or at least cease to be black.

Many parents want to get their kids out of failing public schools and into prestigious private schools because they worry their children won’t be able to get into good colleges and they in turn worry how that will effect their lives. Meanwhile, it seems the only thing other parents are worried about is how “black” (or not black) their child will seem if they are afforded the same opportunity.

In a recent issue of The Crisis (a magazine published by the NAACP) I found an article on black parents who are weighing the pros and cons of sending their children to private school. We’re introduced to a handful of families including a mother who makes an hour-long commute so that her child can attend a specific public school. She says,

“I think it was a hard-fought battle back in the 19th century when freed slaves were the first to demand free and public education to all people, and it was a long-fought battle to get those schools integrated. I thought it would just be like a snub to our ancestors.”

This same mother attended a private school herself and the article suggests that her poor experience with private school also influences her choice.

I attended a prestigious private school, myself. I begged my mom not to send me there and she promised me that if at the end of 2 years I still hated the school, she would allow me to re-enroll at my public school. After 2 weeks, I was in love with the school. I’ve had some amazing experiences and some of my closest friends I met there. I don’t begrudge a parent’s right to choose where their child is educated. What I do wonder about is letting one’s own experiences color their expectations for someone else. While I would love it if my child(ren) wanted to go to my high school alma mater I wouldn’t force them. In the same vein, I don’t think it’s fair for this mother to not allow her child to experience private schooling because she had a bad experience.

What really stands out to me, though, is the emphasis on the question about how a child deals with their blackness in a predominantly white setting. One family has a child prodigy and though they can’t afford to send their children to private school they also note that

the school’s lack of socio-economic diversity prompted them to question whether the institution’s values matched their own.

There’s also the couple who visited private schools searching for one to send their 3 children to who say some of their visits,

“also reinforced when I saw the Black students with ‘the look.’ It really looked like a part of their soul was missing. It’s a look I’ve seen, like, ‘I’m here, but I’m kind of not.’ I see that as a price to pay.”

There’s this idea floating around that being black in a predominantly white setting automatically means you lose some blackness. I know because I hear it in the way people ask questions about my time in private schooling (both high school and college). I can’t define blackness. Most people can’t define blackness. So if we can’t define it, at what point are we capable of determining someone is losing it?

I ran into my fair share of black students who obviously didn’t identify as “black” — not in a stereotypical way, not in a conventional way, not in any way. They avoided us so we avoided them. Many of them had, in fact, gone to private school — but then again, so had I so was the culprit really schooling?

Maybe it was — who’s to say — but the end of it is that we shouldn’t automatically assume that sending a black child to a predominantly white environment will somehow strip them of their blackness. It’s like assuming that if your son spends a lot of time with girls, he will cease to be male (as some people do assume) or that if your wife spends a lot of time with single people she will cease to be married. None of these things are true.

This article is careful never to spell out these assumptions. There’s a constant reference to “diversity” which is a lot of hogwash if you ask me. My experience is that black folks have long been skeptical of other black folks who go to private school because, as the stereotype goes, we become stuffy and stuck up; we forget where we’re from; and we look down our noses at everyone. It’s funny how a stereotyped group can often become the stereotypers.

I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to send your child to a good school. Sometimes a good school is public and sometimes it’s private. I know all parents want what’s best for their kids but I would hope that stereotypes, presumptions and personal fears wouldn’t effect those wants.

Anyway… it’s hard to escape a predominantly white setting in America — it’s just the world we live in.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | News | , , | 4 Comments

(Black) Students Not Allowed

CNN is reporting on a story out of Chicago involving seniors from The Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

These seniors planned a trip to Chicago for their class with a culminating party at a bar in downtown, Chicago. They contacted the bar before they arrived, but when they got there, the white students were allowed in, and the black students were not. The bar claimed it was dress code violations that prevented the black students from entering, but the students not only claim they were told that even if they changed they would not be allowed in, but one pair of students two boys, one black, the other white tested the theory by switching their jeans. The white student was still allowed in, despite the fact that being 3 inches shorter than the black student, his new jeans were even more apparently baggy.

The students have contacted numerous organizations such as the ADL, and the Chicago Urban League. The chancellor of Washington University has written a letter to the mayor of Chicago.

I’m not actually surprised that in 2009 these things still happen. These days, I’m surprised that people are surprised by them. Further, it’s disheartening to know that people and organizations feel comfortable committing these blatantly racist acts with almost no apology. Of course the bar denies any wrongdoing and sticks by their “it was a dress code issue” defense, much like that swim club in Philadelphia that turned away a group of minority children but stuck by their “our pool couldn’t accomodate the large number of children” defense, even though the President of the club wrote a letter that included a comment that there was a concern that the children would change the “complexion” of the pool.

Not only do these blatantly racist acts continue to happen, but they insult our intelligence with these lame defenses. Usually the defenses aren’t much better, but they’re short just one requirement of qualifying as a racist act and the perpetrators know this. To keep someone out of your club based on dress code is a regularly used tactic to prevent people of a certain demographic from coming in, all the while keeping everything just right of wrong.

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes required dress is important. It helps an establishment maintain a certain level of clientele. Some restaurants have dress codes, it seems every club in DC has a dress code (regardless of target clientele), hell, even Morehouse is implemeting a dress code for it’s students. But what does it say when your dress code systematically leaves out only one race of people? Does it mean only one race of people have an issue with dress, or does it mean your dress code is problematic?

As a note, the club is claiming that they take these allegations seriously and have already begun revisiting their policies as well as the training of their employees. I hope the students at Washington University also take it seriously to stay on top of this, or it will become yesterday’s news before today is over, like so many other similar situations.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

Black Students Stepping Up For Black Students

I recently read a blog post at Field Negro about a girl named Chanequa Campbell.  I encourage you all to check out his blog, he is always on point. In his post he links to the site he found the information from and from there I found this news article written from the side of the Black Harvard student community. I encourage you to read that article as well, as it’s the basis for my commentary. I’ve also seen other commentary about this story out in the blogosphere through the lens of what happened to Professor Gates a few days ago.

Many individuals are concerned that while Dr. Gates has been able to draw a lot of attention to his situation, Chanequa Campbell and others like her are ignored by the media because they are poor and their story resonates, the media thinks, with very few.

Allow me to sum up her situation: A Harvard student was killed in a drug deal gone wrong. The accused killer was, at the time, dating a girl with whom Chanequa was friends. The Harvard administration, by some accounts, put both Campbell and her friend out of the dorm and prevented them both from graduating. Other accounts say that only Campbell was kicked out and blocked from graduation because her friend came from “the right side” of the tracks and had the clout and support to prevent Harvard from doing that to her, while Chanequa, a black student from a poor neighborhood, was at the administration’s mercy.

If the only thing Chanequa did wrong in this situation was to have the wrong types of friends, then shame on Harvard. However, I have a feeling that’s not the case.

Harvard’s black community has begun to recieve a lot of flack from the general blog community for not standing up for Chanequa. Many feel that the black students should have organized in a fashion similar to what some of Chanequa’s non-Harvard friends have done and petitioned the administration to allow her to graduate. Chanequa herself has criticized them and said that they have shunned and ostracized her because of where she’s from.

I went to a PWI very similar to Harvard (in fact, we say Harvard is the northern version of us…) I know what the black communities at schools like these can be like. Sometimes too quick to call racism when there is none and sometimes not as protective of each other as we should be. I’ve heard stories of what Harvard’s Black community is like and I think in some ways I’m a bit envious. They have major clout with their administration, but I know that’s from a LOT of hard work, a lot of give and take. They have story after story of standing up for their own when an injustice occurred and so I take pause when I see a situation where they don’t.

The article linked above mentions that some of the black students stayed away from Chanequa early on because she involved herself in the drug trade on campus. While no one in this article or elsewhere suggests that Chanequa was the cause of the Harvard student’s death, there seems to be implicit comment that Harvard’s reaction was not off base.

“People are pretty sure she did something, they just don’t know what,” said a Black classmate in Campbell’s graduating class, who requested anonymity. “We can’t rally behind somebody we don’t necessarily believe in.”

Clout is like money. You can spend it or you can hoard it. For the black community to rally behind Chanequa, they would spend some of the clout they’ve earned with Harvard. That would be fine if they all felt she’d been wronged but for them to be uneasy about spending the clout on her speaks volumes.

Some have suggested this is actually a class issue. Chanequa being the first to say that because she came from a poor neighborhood in New York, her fellow black students don’t want anything to do with her. What struck me, however, was the listing of how involved in the black community she was. Black students are shunned at PWIs. It happens all the time. If you are shunned, when someone writes about you, they won’t be able to say you were very involved… black people take the blacklisting very far.

I think the reality is that Chanequa involved herself in some subpar activity that her fellow students knew about. When the murder occurred, I’m sure the rumors began and I’m sure the rumors were based in some facts. When Harvard laid down their punishment the black community looked at what they knew and decided that it was best left alone. I don’t blame them. In schools like these the black community’s relationship with the administration is paramount. That relationship can make things easier or harder for the students that follow.

I don’t want to sound cold-hearted; I actually feel bad for Chanequa. I’m sorry that she worked hard at a school like Harvard and won’t be able to reap the rewards. I’m sorry that the black community didn’t feel comfortable stepping up for her. Ultimately, there’s nothing about this that is good.

July 24, 2009 Posted by | News, Ramblings, What in sam hell is going on?! | 2 Comments

Students Have Rights Too… Right?

Source: Seattle Times 

A Dean of Students at a school in Washington state turned over surveillance video of a student whose parents had asked that they be notified of any “unusual” behavior.

This surveillance video, meant to keep students safe, recorded this female student kissing another girl. The parents promptly removed her from the school when they learned of it.

Parents have the right to parent their children however they feel. So while there are a lot of things wrong with this story (like what constituted her kissing another girl as unusual) I want to focus on this idea of whose responsibility it is to monitor what your children are doing at any given time of the day.

Sure, teachers and babysitters and whomever else of authority that come into contact with your children everyday should be making sure they are safe, by any (generally speaking) means necessary. However, the parents were wrong for asking the school to spy on their daughter and the school was wrong for agreeing to do so. 

What about the student’s right? I’m one of those people that thinks we give children so many rights the parents don’t have any wiggle room to do their job, but come on already. Spying on your child at school via an administrator? What is that?? That’s not helping you be a good parent. A good parent would raise their child so that they could send them off and not have to be worried about what the child is doing when they’re not around, while also realizing that children and teenagers will do crazy things sometimes. What happened to letting kids grow up and learn from their own mistakes? Am I that old school?

Ultimately, I feel bad for this girl. She’s clearly got overprotective parents and that never bodes well in the long run.

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Could we overreact any more?, News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wake Up!

By now we’ve all heard of the foiled skinhead plot to kill Obama. Hopefully, we’ve all also, by now, come to terms with what this means about what lays ahead for Sen. Obama. Whether he is elected President of the United States or not, this man will forever have a target on his back. His wife will be marked as will his children. Why? Because there exists a faction of Americans who don’t think a non-white person, a person of color, is fit to run our country. Nevermind all the great contributions people of color have made, nevermind the fact that this country was more/less built on the backs of these same people of color, nevermind that our current state as a nation is due in LARGE part to the old white men who this faction thinks are the only ones fit to run our country.

However, I won’t focus on the racism. That’s self-explanatory. I want to focus on the relative surprise with which this story was recieved. My home state is Tennessee. I grew up in TN, and went to college in TN. TN is the home of a lot of great things, country music (Music City, USA); the late great singer Bessie Smith was from my hometown; good BBQ (Memphis); great football (TN Titans). The state’s nickname, The Volunteer State, comes from all the Volunteers who went to TX to help with the Battle of the Alamo. Alex Haley spent his first years in TN and is buried here. I could go on and on — but one thing TN is known for that I hate to admit is that the Ku Klux Klan was founded here, not far from where I went to school. So it came as no surprise to me that the skinheads who wanted to assassinate Obama AND murder some 88 black students and behead an additional 14, were from Tennessee.

6 days from today we may very well make history and elect our first African-American President. And when we do that, the target on his back will only grow larger. Black folks know this, we’ve known it since it became clear he would get the Democratic nomination and that he might actually win. It’s the all the white folks with their heads in the sand who worry me. These people who want to kill Obama will not go blabbing their plan to every Tom, Dick and Harry they see, especially if Tom, Dick and Harry are black. But they will share it with other whites who they assume share their feelings. I NEED everyone to be alert and accept that our country is a great place, but there are still people who haven’t moved into 2008 and most likely never will. I’m not concerned with holding up a mirror to their ignorance. I want to make sure that as long as they’re still living in the past we do our best to keep them behind us and not in front of us with guns.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Ramblings, surprise, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

Congress and Scandal

A USA Today article discusses how Ted Stevens (R-AK) is not the only Congressman who’s campaign may be affected by scandal.

I say: surprise, surprise. We all know that for the big show Congress always puts on with tougher laws and cracking down, behind closed doors they’re breaking some of the same laws they helped create. It’s almost the nature of the beast. Powerful people attract manipulative people. You can look to any portion of anyone’s life and see that. Think back to something as simple as who was popular in high school. If they themselves weren’t manipulative, they were surrounded by manipulative people who wanted access to the power and privilege.

I don’t mean to suggest we should pardon lawmakers who think they are above the law. In fact, I think they should have separate, harsher, punishment. There is no reason to break the law “cause you can.” I think Ted Stevens shouldn’t be allowed to run for, let alone return to his Senate seat. In fact, I think that it’s absolutely absurd that he very well may be re-elected. It’s also causing me to wonder what the hell goes on in Alaska.

The real question is what can we the people do about it. The reality is that our democratic system isn’t all that democratic. Some of it is with purpose, some of it is, again, the nature of the beast. But we have all got to get educated on the facts. We have all got to understand where we stand on issues and then make it a point to know where our elected lawmakers stand. We do not vote people into office so that we can call them up and tell them what to do. It’s the other way around. They tell us what they want to do and based on that we send them to represent us. Too often people misconstrue “public servant” for something other than how it really manifests itself in our nation. Get to know who is representing you. In this day and age, you could find out what they did on the day they turned 5 — so the least you can do is make it your business to discover they’re opinions and stances and vote accordingly.

Many will, and do, argue that your vote doesn’t matter. If you believe that, then it doesn’t. But if you get involved the best you can, you write to your representatives, you stay abreast of the issues and you stay on top of how it all effects you, you can make a difference. But step number one is that we can no longer accept the way things have been running. We have either got to start electing officials who will keep it honest or demand our current ones keep it straight. The trial of Ted Stevens (who has become the most recent poster child of corruption on Capitol Hill) only goes to show that the latter plan probably won’t work.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | News, Ok. That was stupid, What in sam hell is going on?! | Leave a comment

Racism between Minorities

Just read a blog that discussed this article. For those of you (like me) who hate having to pause from reading one thing to go read another, let me summarize:

A wealthy Indian businessman named Chiman Rai contracted for $10,000 to have his black daughter-in-law killed. Sparkle Rai was ambushed by men pretending to be dropping off a package (wow, so people really do that) and stabbed to death with her 6-month old daughter in the next room. Police questioned the husband, Ricky, and he said that his family was “a little racist.” Turns out, he had told his wife and her family that his family was dead rather than just deal with the fact that they HATED black people. Oh, and I think my favorite (dripping with sarcasm, for those unaware) part is that now, the Rai’s daughter is being raised by Sparkle’s family because Ricky has gotten re-married to an Indian woman and would rather not deal with his bi-racial child…

I do believe that the more I consider this story and what all had to happen for this to come to fruition, the more I get pissed off — so I hope I can remain articulate through the rest of this…

A) Let’s first deal with Ricky’s decision to LIE about his family. I’ve been in an interracial relationship (IR) and they’re not easy; heck, no relationship is, but in the case of an IR, it is ESPECIALLY difficult when one person keeps something like that a secret. I can deal with dating a guy who’s family doesn’t like me for my race as long as he’s up front about it. I mean, this brings in a whole host of other situations that I’m not dealing with right now, BUT at least he’s honest and at least I can be prepared for whatever might happen should I run into them/have to deal with them. Ricky withheld this important information (and this might have saved Sparkle’s life had she known HOW racist his family was) and as a result, an innocent young mother was brutally murdered. My other concern is that Ricky still seems to be in denial about HOW racist his family is. I mean, your father paid $10,000 to have your wife (whom I assume you love and cherish) and child’s mother killed… and for what? Because it brought shame to the family?

B) If Ricky thought enough to deny his family’s existence (which suggests to me sub-consciously he knew the truth) then how did his father know where his family lived? Why did he never take further precautions to keep his family safe?

(If you can’t tell, I think Ricky should be in jail right alongside his racist father)

C) (and this is the point that INFURIATES me) How DARE Ricky Rai think it’s ok to dump his daughter off on his former in-laws because he’d rather start over in a nice Indian relationship. That’s YOUR DAUGHTER and she has YOU TO THANK for the absence of her mother. You’ve just gotta be kidding me. I mean, I refuse to believe any of this… except it’s 2008 and this madness is still happening on the regular.

This racism between folks of color needs to quit. We get it enough from the outside (and if you’re blessed to be Black then you get it from the inside too) but why are we doing it to one another. Is it not hard enough to just be a minority in America that we have to HATE each other enough to want to kill? This is crazy and all I can think is that this poor 6-month old little girl will grow up with no parent. One was killed through the thoughtless and naive choice of the other. Thanks, but no thanks.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | News, What in sam hell is going on?! | 1 Comment