Friday, February 11, 2005

I Heart Valentine's Day NOT!

Not because I'm not in love, because I am...
Not because I don't believe in celebrating love, because I do...
but because I can't freakin' stand the saccharinity of it!

Cheezus H. Christmas, it pisses me off to no end that a $3.00 bunch of roses from the Korean joint on the corner will cost me $5 bucks, just for the weekend, and a dinner for 2 that would be $50 bucks, including 3 courses and wine, will be $75 and up. Not to mention that you have to practically commit an unspeakable sex act to get a reservation.

A buddy of mine who is madly in love called in deep anxiety, looking for my recipe for chocolate covered strawberries (if you want to know, it has 2 ingredients: semisweet chocolate, and strawberries) with which to please her lady love. 15 minutes later, she was armed with the necessary info, including hints on selecting chocolate, melting chocolate, storing the strawberries once dipped (she plans to prepare them in advance). I admire her desire to make such a delightful gesture.

I, on the other hand, have no plans. Valentine's Day is significant for Lisa & I; we registered as domestic partners with the City, but it also falls on a Monday, and neither have we taken the day off, nor have we made special plans (part of that is because we're currently feuding, but that's another subject). And, we have rehearsal that night, so we wouldn't have time to do anything anyway. I'll get a card for her; I'd be a cad otherwise. I might even make a nice lunch for her to take to work, but that's probably it.

And why should there be anything special on Valentine's Day? Why have one day set aside for celebrating your love? Don't you do it on February 13? Tell him what a dirty dog he is on February 15? Why give roses, marked up 300% on February 14, only to have to make amends on March 18 for your green beer-induced behavior on March 17? Is sex better on February 14 than on the 15th?

If you can't do the horizontal boogie on January 31, save your money on February 14. Or, if you're a hopeless romantic, stay in on Valentine's Day. Cook together, if you're home. If you're working late, have dessert and a glass of champagne at 9pm (just one glass; after all, you both have to work the next day).

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone with love in their lives. If you're a parent, hug your kids. Siblings? Give a call to say hi. Call your parents. Single? Hang out with your friends. None of the above? Sit quietly somewhere and remember that although you're alone, there are things that connect us that we may never know about. And yes, if you're a couple, kiss. A lot. I plan to.

Racism or Colonialism?

In an article on MSNBC.com, Black speakers mention their growing frustration at peak demand for their services during the month of February, only to have their demand drop to nearly nothing come March 1. It seems that folks are okay discussing race matters in February, but not in April.

Thankfully, the story discusses both sides of the issue; those who appreciate being asked, but resent that it comes when it comes, and those who simply say no except for special circumstances. I support both sides. Race is never easily discussed anyway, so having a built-in opportunity is necessary. However, why should you be more interested in what I think in February than in January? Oh, I know. We think racism doesn't exist any more, affirmative action has made things lovely, Black people don't experience discrimination in the same numbers as before, we've just celebrated the great changes in race relations courtesy of Dr. King. Or, racism just doesn't exist north of Virginia. Oh, how wrong you are, dear reader.

Today's New York Daily News
reports that a Black firefighter, the only Black firefighter at his firehouse, found a noose lying near his fire equipment. He didn't immediately report it because there was an alarm, and he responded to it, along with the house; he did, however, wait until yesterday to report it to the Fire Department's EEO because he wasn't sure what to do. Here are possible scenarios as to how this will get played out:

  1. They'll never find who did it because scum sticks together.
  2. One or more culprits will be fingered, but they'll say it was a joke, and will either be reassigned or forced to take a sensitivity class.
  3. The firefighter himself will be reassigned to a more geographically diverse area.

Either way, a lame apology will be issued. Already, a zero-tolerance statement has been issued from the head office.

Here's the thing. According to comments from the Vulcan Society, the Black firefighters organization, incidents like this one happen because there are so few Black firefighters (3% out of 8700, or 261). Is it really because there are so few Black firefighters or is it because society as a whole doesn't want to deal with racism in a modern context? I would agree that having 261 Black firefighters serving in New York City is appalling, but no more appalling than the number of Black coaches in the NFL or Black quarterbacks, or Black NBA owners, or Black cops. According to the NYPD's information, the Police Cadet Corps, a police bridging program of sorts made up of college-educated people, 42% of the 606 cadets are Black while just 16% are White. Well, of course you'll have such a high number of Black cadets -- recruitment takes place predominantly at CUNY colleges -- schools with high minorty enrollment.

I'm thinking the issue goes further than race, and more into colonialism. I'm thinking that it's understood that racism exists, from the boardroom to local government -- why else would you invite a Black person to come talk to your organization during Black History Month; it's the right thing to do, after all. It's far more difficult to talk about colonialism; the far-more sneaky, more destructive force that slips in like carbon monoxide gas. It's easy to talk about how bad (and good) slavery was for America, but we never really talk about Europe's arrogance in simply setting up shop on a piece of land just because they believed they could (curse of Ham, and all). It's easy to look at the James Byrd case and denounce it for what it was, but not so easy to ask why school vouchers are the answer as opposed to putting that same money in the public school system. Or, why New York City, a city that throughout its history has served as a seminal destination for disenfranchised people, and has always had a survivalist edge to it, long before Frank Sinatra sang about it in "New York, New York," has an ever-growing divide between those who really can afford to live here and those who can't. What makes a Manhattan zip code worth more than a Queens zip code? What makes one Brooklyn neighborhood more affordable than another -- the presence of Starbucks?

I submit to you that colonialism, the setting up of a new state that retains its dependence upon its parent, is the issue. Yes, racism does exist. Yes, my mother told me that as a Black child in a White school, I would have to perform better, look better, and behave better because I wasn't White. I believe, however, that inviting Black speakers, special programming on t.v., newspaper inserts and the like, serves only to reinforce the parent state that White society has set up with its Black colonists. There is a smattering of syndicated Black columnists, but you'll find more op-ed pieces by Blacks during February. Movies with Black themes that don't feature a gangsta, a pimp, a druglord, or a crackhead will get the airtime they've desired. A noose left prominently with a firefighter's tools for his job sends a clear message: you're here because we say you can be, and we'll get rid of you at will. It wasn't a cartoon of a fat Black baby with big white lips, it was an instrument of death.

Carter G. Woodson wanted to set aside a week to mark the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln but hoped the week would eventually be unnecessary. Little did he know that week would expand to a full month. Let's not do away with the month, for the accomplishments of Blacks would probably be ignored otherwise. But, if we really want to learn something, or to teach our children something of worth, let's look at the dysfunctional relationship that is colonialism. I don't need you to share your appreciation of me for 28 days. I need something more. Now that's something to celebrate.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Why Gays Need Marriage -- Reason #480

Reason #480 isn't literal -- it's from a hip hop lyric from A Tribe Called Qwest:
Industry lesson #480: record industry people are shady.


Last week, an elder lesbian and a young gay man were laid to rest. You couldn't meet two sweeter people on God's green earth. I vacillate between anger and sadness, as most people who grieve do, but I'm most blown away by the oddity of it. I'm 38. I didn't expect this to happen. I didn't expect to bury two or three people a year, which had been the average for me in the past ten years.

I know that my dear sister was single, but don't know if she had a will or made provisions for her final rest. And I do know for a fact that my young brother did not have a will, despite being ill for a few years with AIDS, and living his final days in a hospice. His lover, younger than he, and also living with AIDS, barely knew what his husband's wishes were once deceased.

I have witnessed funerals turned into revolting travesties where family members have come out of the woodwork and ignored the spoken, but not set-to-paper, wishes of the dead; suits and ties put on men who wore African robes because they looked too much like dresses, dresses put on lesbians who last wore one when the bus was a nickel; homophobic diatribes wearing the mask of a eulogy. I have heard more times than I care to remember "the wages of sin are death, and this young man was a sinner, just like we all are." I have seen partners seated at the back of the church, not with the family, or referred to as a friend, roommate, or not mentioned at all.

Gays need marriage, or at the very least, a formal legal recognition of their relationships that prevents the aformentioned hate crimes perpetrated. Please don't tell me you're a Christian and ignore the grief of a partner left behind because you don't want to accept their relationship. Please don't call yourself a minister and get in the pulpit and offer that grieving funeral attendees "get right with God, because I see a few of you that need to be saved." While marriage or civil union won't stop idiots from crawling out from under their rocks, it will make sure that a spouse's decision regarding the disposal of the deceased will be honored, including who presides at the funeral. It will make sure that assets, including the house a couple has purchased together during the course of their relationship, will go to the survivor.

Rest in peace, Dorothy and Jaysane. You're loved back here on planet Earth, and never forgotten. And to those of us that are still here, get your house in order. Get insurance, make a will, and make sure someone knows where to find these things before they're needed.