Monday, October 31, 2005

Homeschooling Teaches What?

I'm not a parent. I've helped raise two kids while involved with a parent. I've taught loads of kids, and will probably work with kids again. I'm troubled by the growing trend in homeshcooling. A spoiler: You'll be mildly pissed off by what I'm going to say, so be forewarned.

Thousands of children are being homeschooled. Browse the web to hear why parents have chosen to teach their kids at home, and you'll find that most of them have either moral objections to what is being taught (read: their kids are learning that some things like evolution and homosexuality are okay, and they don't want their kids to learn that) or that they fear for their children's safety, either from teachers or from bad influences coming from other kids. Still, other parents argue that their kids are smarter and performing better because they're receiving one-on-one attention, and therefore excelling. And, some parents appreciate the increased time spent with their children, making them more well-adjusted and emotionally healthier.

Opponents of homeschooling have as a primary argument a lack of socialization; children who are homeschooled don't spend extended periods of time with other children. Parents of homeschooled kids say they make a point of creating opportunities for their children to spend time with other children through playdates and organized outings; playdates being the infantile version of the cocktail party. Opponents also argue that no matter how much an intended home-teacher learns, they can't possibly be expert enough to fully teach all subjects to their children.

Here in Brooklyn, New York, a candidate for New York City Council, is a homeschooling parent. Some of the best public schools in Brooklyn are in her neighborhood, but she chose to take her children out of school. According to her definition of the most pressing issue in her district is the creation of parent organizations to share information and making educational choice a priority. But how can you speak for educational choice when your choice is, essentially no choice? You're running on a Republican/Conservative ticket, it's no secret that Conservatives are big proponents of not just homeschooling, but private schools and public funding for private schools, so what choice are you supporting and why should I vote for you? How can I be convinced you'll support public schools when you don't think public schools are good enough for your kids?

I've had a cast on my leg for almost two months now, with no pain, and I'm ready to cut my cast off myself. That doesn't make me an orthopedic surgeon, nor would reading about my procedure, with a medical dictionary next to me, make me qualified to have performed it on myself. And, as much as I enjoy spending time alone, having hours on end with my computer, phone and television to keep me company, probably won't make me a well-rounded person. Homeschooled kids are taught what parents want them to learn, which isn't necessarily what they need to learn, and they're allowed to spend time with kids that parents find acceptable. Before you jump on me, think about this.

Kids who go to school outside of the home spend anywhere from eight to ten hours, depending on the distance from the home, extra-curricular activities, and age, with other kids; kids of different ethnicities, class, abilities, kids who speak languages other than English, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, you get the picture. Schools are, arguably, microcosms of the real world. No matter how many playdates you set up, the fact is that you pick and choose the kids of kids you expose your kids to. That doesn't happen in the real world, unless you're the parents of these kids.

The problem with homeschooling is that it's the new way of avoiding what Brown v. Board of Ed was supposed to have done. Unfortunately, the wording of Brown orders desegregation done "with all deliberate speed;" translated roughly as take your time and think about what the impact would be. In many parts of the South and Midwest, where segregated schools flourished, religious schools popped up to provide a desegregation-free alternative. Unfortunately, with a suffering economy, not all parents can afford to put their kids in these private religious schools, and homeschooling take kids out of undesirably mixed, allegedly unsafe environments.

Listen, stop forcing me to believe you're doing the right thing for your kids. Tell the truth -- you're doing the right thing for you. You're ensuring that your kids never meet real people with real problems, and never learn how to deal with those real problems. I'm not convinced you're teaching your kids the right lesson.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

TV -- It's Good For What Ails You

Let's have some fun, shall we? It's been almost two months of medically-ordered house arrest, and I've discovered some guilty pleasures.

DVR
Yes, I could invest my money in the stock market, or something more practical, but I love the idea of pausing a live t.v. show, rewinding back to what I missed, and when you're on crutches struggling to get to the bathroom, you definitely miss something, and replaying the good bits. And, DVR lets me catch some of the best shows that, unfortunately, are too impolite to air during normal people's time, such as:

The Oblongs -- if you liked Ren & Stimpy (the originals from John K., not the cleaned-up stuff), you'll love The Oblongs. They are a loving, but, well, mutant (literally) family. Living at the foot of a valley, the town is the recipient of toxic waste, so the occupants end up with the, uh, consequences of toxic waste poisoning, including three butt cheeks, a warty, phallic protrusion, no jaw and one breast. And speaking of odd-numbered breasts...

Tripping the Rift -- I think I have a thing for mutants. Sci-Fi Channel's adult animated comedy had to have been thought up by pimply-faced nerds who spent most of their dateless teen years coming up with the least screwable woman in the world, and her opposite. No, it's not a cinematic tour-de-fource, but I pity heterosexual women who don't have a male counterpart to the show's hottie, Six, and she's really what makes the show watchable. Oh, and it's kinda funny too.

College Football -- I went to a CUNY school, after attending an arts & science high school, which means I didn't have an early exposure to football. Yeah, my father watched it, but usually on a teeny black & white in the basement. And, given a choice between a game I didn't understand, and Saturday afternoon martial arts flicks, I chose the latter. Now, married to a former high school cheerleader, and avid football fan, I've sinced grown quite fond of the game, looking forward to the cooler days of fall. Mostly, I love the raw adrenaline and youthful vigor of the game. With multiple touchdowns taking place within the first five minutes of the game, how can you not be excited about it? Scores like 28-0? 44-6? College football games are four-year auditions for the NFL, another of my guilty pleasures.

Makes Me Feel Okay About Being Fat
Have you looked at defensive players? It's like their coaches tell them to get off that bike and eat something. Sure, I'm not a guy, and I'll never play football, unless it's for the NY Sharks, which believe me, the wife would never let me do, I can still have hope for putting fat and athlete in the same sentence.

And, of course, you can't have guilty t.v. pleasures without my previously mentioned "Cops" and court shows like Judge Mathis, Divorce Court, Judge Joe Brown (protecting womanhood and encouraging manhood), and The People's Court, presided over by Judge Marilyn Milian, whose occasional Spanglish witticisms (his eggs needed salting is just one gem) are hilarious.

Enough ranting. Go watch some t.v.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Swoopes Follow-Up

Got a reply or two on my post on Sheryl Swoopes' outing, but one was pretty interesting. The author made some references I removed because they may point to him, and outed a couple of folks, which I won't do, because I won't do it. If they out themselves, then I'll make direct reference.


"Solomon" wrote:

I’d like to clear up a few things concerning the Liberty. I’ve been around the team since 1997. Carol Blazejowski, is also gay. It was time for Teresa to move on and make way for someone younger. Teresa had some great years with the Liberty and came close to leading them to a championship several times. You must admit that Rebecca Hammon is as good a player as Weatherspoon and equally as exciting. ...When Becky reaches her 36th birthday, Carol Blazejowski will also offer her a non-player contract.

Tari Phillips ... was not resigned by Blazejowski before this past season. I think that was a bad mistake on Blazejowski’s part. With Tari on the squad this past season the Liberty would have made the WNBA Finals.

Here’s something that may or may not surprise you:

The Full Story

These sort of things happen when a woman can’t have the man she really wants.

King Solomon

King Solomon(his signature, not a pseudonym I assigned to him):

Thanks for writing and for the info on the Liberty. If Blaze hadn't made a decision that she might have regretted, even slightly, and if the fans hadn't reacted, she never would have issued a letter to the fans explaining her actions, which is a typical public relations cleanup move. I too know someone who worked closely with Spoon, and I was aware of what happened.

If, as you say, non-player contracts will automatically be issued to players who reach a certain age, it is a sad thing indeed that players who feel they're conditioned and skilled enough to play will be shackled to a team that doesn't really want them; shackled because they don't have the option to play for another team. Even more senior players like Jerry Rice and Rodney Peete get to stay and play, however limited their field time may be, until they are ready to quit.

I can only assess from your message that you are particularly interested in dwelling on a player's sexuality, either by downplaying or upselling and exploiting, which was the point of my post. You made it a point to out players which I did not, and ended your interestingly-signed message with a dubious reference to what happens when a woman doesn't get a man she wants.

Thanks again for writing.

Ordinarily, I don't respond like this to comments, but I was struck by what started out as a decent defense of the Liberty's player transactions, that ended with a creepy she's-a-lesbian-because-she-didn't-or-couldn't-find-a-good-man kind of thing that homophobes usually give. And, the "king" thing makes me think he believes he was supposed to be the successor to the aforementioned throne.

Then, I received two emails reminding me of a comment I made on a blog saying Swoopes was homophobic. I publicly apologize for a really bad judgment call in saying that. Back in the early years of the league, I heard a piece of gossip attributed to Swoopes, claiming she didn't want lesbians on her team or looking at her in the locker room. I have no proof of her saying that, nor could I tell you where I heard it from. To anyone who may have been offended by what I said, I deeply apologize.

Flamers, be warned. Intelligent dialogue will be respected, and quite possibly indulged. Everything else will be flushed along with the other detritus in the bowl.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Quickies

Been a while since I've taken the quick hits route, so let's get it goin'.

Miers is Outta Here
What else is there to say? She knew she wasn't qualified. Bush knew she wasn't qualified. Taxpayer money and congressional time shouldn't have been spent on a lost cause. Oh, that's already happening in Iraq, where the American military death toll has reached 2000. Does anybody in Washington have a clue? Anybody? Anybody?

Congratulations, Chicago
I'm not a baseball fan, but an accomplishment is an accomplishment. Enjoy it.

What was Bloomberg Thinking?
This one is for New Yorkers, but anyone can appreciate the nuttiness of this. In the newest commercial for Bloomberg's re-election bid, an affluent White couple talks about how their son, who has cerebral palsy, was helped by the Mayor. While the son is shown working at a computer, they tell how they've taken the boy's therapist to dinner, and he tells them no school in the city will take him in for kindergarten. In walks Bloomy, they rush him and tell him about this, and Bloomy ASSEMBLES A TEAM THAT GETS THE KID IN A SCHOOL! Here's what pisses me off about this commercial. First, the child is working on a computer, something many city kids don't have access to. Second, the wife's hand is blinging. Third, the child has a therapist -- how many city kids with special needs have their own therapist? Fourth, the parents are having dinner in a restaurant expensive enough that Bloomberg would go to -- he's not eating at Applebee's. Fifth, a team of people waves some pixie dust, moves heaven and earth, essentially what would have to happen to get a child into an already overcrowded public school, for this kid whose parents can afford to have a computer for him, put a fat rock on Mommy's hand, and hire a private therapist for him who gets wined and dined in a restaurant. Sorry, but they get no sympathy from me when there are parents who work full time and can't get government help for their special needs children because they make just a little too much money. Bad move, Mike, bad move. Thanks for reminding us who your real constituents are. Can anyone else say "Nets Arena in Brooklyn"?

Martha Stewart is Fierce!
So, as you know, I'm home recovering from surgery, and I watch a lot of t.v., including daytime t.v. and I've discovered that Martha Stewart is a fierce bitch (take that however you want to). Let's start with today, and work backward. She's chatting with Rosie O'Donnell, and in talking about her stint in the pen, she shares how she discovered Palmer's Cocoa Butter. Girl, where have you been? Girls in the 'hood have been rockin' the Palmer's since dirt was new. And speaking of girls in the 'hood, Ms. Martha was telling a story about a day in the prison gym. The manager, who she chose to call "Sheniqua" -- no, I'm not kidding, and she even said the girl had a name equally as lovely (take that however you want) -- decided to blast some hip hop, much to Martha's chagrin. When she asked "Sheniqua" to turn it down, she said hell to tha naw. Martha tried to give girlfriend the customer service, when you get out in the workforce, you'll need to be more sensitive, speech. Then, Martha continues the smashfest with how "Sheniqua" hadn't, until prison, read anything other than a novel, but has since began reading other books and has improved her life. The REAL question is, Martha, honey, is "Sheniqua" out yet, and have you offered her a job so she doesn't find her way back to the joint, since you're so interested in giving back?

And speaking of jobs and giving back, on last night's "Martha Stewart Apprentice," she decides to pay a surprise visit to the loft where the apprentices live. Fierce on its own (I don't care if you're paying for me to be here, it's still none of your business how I live, even in temporariy digs), she asks how they apprentices like living in a semi-open space, saying "You have no privacy. It's like being in Alderson." Was she a gay man in a last life?

Until later.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Swoopes' Slam Dunk

WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes has come out as a lesbian in a soon to be published article in ESPN magazine. Read a snippet here.

I must have been the only former WNBA fan to have been in the dark. The rumor mill has been churning for months about her relationship with Alisa Scott, former Old Dominion coach.

Don't look for too many gossip stories here at From Where I Stand. In general, gossip does more harm than good, causes people to move their focus from improving their own lives to getting involved in others, and encourages obssession with personal lives other than our own.

I'm mentioning Swoopes' revelation because one of my criticisms of the WNBA and professional sports in general, is that if a woman is athletic, she is somehow not really a woman. Or, to prove just how much of a woman she is, her marriage and children become a major part of her marketing, as it was with Swoopes. Pregnant with son Jordan, she was a regular fan in the stands, and interviewed whenever possible, both during her pregnancy, and after the baby's birth. Similarly, a female player's beauty, as with WNBA marquee player Lisa Leslie, becomes a major marketing push. In an effort to attract major sponsorship, and keep its NBA bankrollers happy, Title IX provisions be damned. The game, the skill, the athleticism is never as important as how womanly the players are. The really talented players who are a little too butch don't get to be out in front. They don't get the big sponsorships, and don't become marquee players. In fact, they may even get dumped if deemed just not marketable.


Take the case of former Los Angeles Sparks player Latasha Byears. Cut from the team shortly after allegations of sexual assault against a teammate, Byears sued the Lakers, the big brother of the Sparks, of bias because of the organization's support of Kobe Bryant during his rape trial. Butch-appearing Byears led her team to the championships, but got no support during the LAPD's investigations. Meanwhile, Bryant was given time away from team practices, and use of the team plane to commute between L.A. and Colorado. The standards clearly are different.

One of the reasons my partner and I gave up our season tickets for the New York Liberty was the eventual trading of popular and talented team captain, Teresa Weatherspoon. From the league's inception, and New York is one of the original teams, totally straight-appearing former University of Connecticut player Rebecca Lobo was the team's marquee player. Lobo's performance in the first two seasons was dismal, followed by season-ending knee injuries, and eventual trading to the Connecticut Sun. Weatherspoon, not-so-obviously straight looking (and I've been in social situations where she was present) provided seven seasons of leadership, helping the team get to five playoffs. Prior to the 2003 season, she was offered a non-player contract, while Becky Hammon, a newer, younger, and more marketable player, was moved to the front of the point guard position on the team. As part of Weatherspoon's contract, she wouldn't be an active player, but because she was under contract, she couldn't play for anyone else until waived. Eventually, she, and strongman Tamika Whitmore, went to the Sparks.

I don't have much to say about Swoopes' assertion that she doesn't believe she was born gay. I think that's not really relevant. Some would say her belief gives fodder to the reparative movement. The reparative moevent stands on its own in dumbness. Swoopes' revelation is important in that she's one of the most powerful professional female athletes, and arguably the most visible Black female athletes ever to come out. Once the face of the WNBA, she even had her own Nike shoe.

Rumor has it that she'll be the new spokesperson for Olivia travel, the premier travel company for women, with a primarily lesbian clientele. Not exactly a Nike endorsement, but not a small thing either.

As I've said in the past, I don't support outing of celebrities, but I do support creating environments that encourage people to come out. I'm also not a fan of assimilation, but it's the perception that lesbian and gay people are extraordinary, as in not ordinary, that scares seemingly ordinary people; there are none so queer as folk. Courage be yours, Sheryl. You face loss of income, amped-up invasion of privacy, and even harsh criticism. Play this like you play ball -- till the final buzzer sounds.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ordinary People and Extraordinary Lives

There is a gospel song called "Ordinary People." The song says God uses ordinary people, people like you, people like me. Today, we mourn the passing of one ordinary person, Rosa Parks.

Nearly fifty years ago, a tired woman took a seat on a city bus. Worn out after a full day's work, the law said she had to move to the back in order to give up her seat to a White man. Like anyone who is simply worn out, she said no. And she went to jail for it. That act is said to have been the spark for the modern civil rights movement.

Some have argued, in earnest (two Black women had been arrested for the same charge earlier that year) and in jest (see "Barbershop") that it wasn't as extraordinary as history has made it out to be. But, it was the boycott that followed that was extraordinary. For 381 days, Blacks, heavy users of the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to take the bus. Walking and carpooling took thousands of dollars away from the city, and took a match to Jim Crow laws. The Supreme Court's ruling that separate was not equal, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the dynamite.

The chorus to "Ordinary People" ends with:

Little becomes much when you place it in the Master's hand.


Many little acts added together become much. And, Mrs. Parks' little act, added to all the acts before, became one great act. Rest peacefully in the Master's hand, Mrs. Parks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In America?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Passed in 1965, during the turbulent Black civil rights era, to paraphrase, the Voting Rights Act made it easier for people of color to vote without unnecessary conditions including literacy tests, being able to speak English, and paying a poll tax.

Parts of the bill, the stuff of substance, expire in 2007, and so, Congress will begin to debate extending those items, including requiring states with a history of large-scale racial discrimination to have federal approval before changing election laws, requiring states to make election information and assistance available in the language or languages of the non-English speakers in an election district, and prohibiting election practices that discriminate on the basis of race or English-speaking status. For an accessible (one of those things that often keeps people from understanding how political issues affect them) look at the items being discussed, click here to read MSNBC's analysis.

The extension of these items will only be for 25 years. A lot can happen in 25 years, just as much as happened in 40 years. It wasn't until 1968, when Barry Goldwater ran for President on an ultra-conservative platform, that this country really began to shift to the right. Don't let the decadent 70's and greedy 80's fool you. Things were changing while we played around. And once again, things are changing while we play around.

Is anyone else as stunned as I am that in 2005, we are still debating the value of keeping protections in place to ensure that all people can vote? In America?

I recently had the chance to guest lecture two writing classes on race. I shared the platform with my best friend, who is White. The classes were made up of mostly White students. One class was made up of mostly engineering and business students, the other of liberal arts students. The discussion was similar in both classes. I asked what their ethnic background was; mostly Italian and Irish (it was a private Catholic college, after all). My friend shared how she could walk through a store without being followed, where I couldn't; she was less likely to be pulled over while driving, I was more likely to; she could easily hail a taxi, and I routinely have Whites offer to hail taxis for me. We went on to offer concepts for them to think about, including a sociological definition of racism (race plus power equals racism, therefor White people, as the dominant race were inherently racist, even if they weren't actively racist, and Blacks could be discriminatory or predjudiced but couldn't be racist), and the classes were left with questions that became a writing assignment. The classes' assessment of our visit? The two of us were too sensitive about race.

But, in America, it is remarkable that not only did we need to create laws to provide and protect rights, but those rights have to be renewed, and they are being debated. Am I really being sensitive when Congress is debating whether or not to allow states to reinstitute a poll tax? Last week I wrote about Oprah's show on poverty in America, and her visit to a town less than two hours outside of Chicago, a town so poor it doesn't have running water. Should the mostly Black inhabitants of this town be forced to pay a poll tax so they can vote? What does that do? If forced to choose between food for your kids and casting a vote, which will win? Am I still being sensitive?

If you express your unhappiness with the government, you're branded un-American. But wasn't America founded by a group of people who were unhappy with the government they were living under? And didn't they build in the right to express that unhappiness into our laws? What kind of America have we created? And what kind of America will we end up with?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Integrity: A Real Family Value

Recently, a high school in a suburb of New York canceled this year's spring prom after receiving word of plans for a bacchanalian after-prom party, which would follow the pre-prom cocktail party. The fete was to take place at a Hamptons house rented for $10,000, and as a bonus, there would be a booze cruise (famous in the Caribbean, these are cruises pretty much to nowhere where you can drink all the cheap booze your liver can safely process while on board) paid for by a parent.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Underage drinking supported, literally and figurateively, by a parent. So, in response to the storied decadence, the school decided to cancel the prom to eliminate the occasion for the, er, celebration.

Not that long ago, Westchester County, another suburb of New York, decided not to prosecute a group of high schoolers who, after a night of binge drinking at the home of one of the students, tried to cover up the death of one of the teen partiers. The young man died during the night, but his death wasn't reported until the next morning. And, he didn't have to die. The other kids could have called 911, and the kid's life might have been saved, but they chose to save their own pathetic, overprivileged asses instead because they were rich and "promising" and the boy wasn't. Oh, if I have any New York residents reading, the District Attorney who decided not to piss off her constituency by doing the right thing is running against Senator Hilary Clinton. Jeanine Pirro. Remember that name. Her husband went to jail for stealing, and she's as morally bankrupt as he is. But I digress.

Yesterday, another promising teen was sentenced to six months in jail for throwing a frozen turkey from a moving car. The frozen boulder hit another car, and injured the occupant, breaking every bone in her face and severly injuring her brain. After hitting the car, the teens pulling the prank drove off without calling 911.

Although I don't agree that all students attending the aforementioned prom would be part of after-prom mayhem, I understand the school's position. What happened to sneaking a little bottle of Boone's Farm in to spike the punch?

Why would you not see that justice is done for a young man who died needlessly at the hands of selfish, spoiled, corrupt kids (and their parents)? What is amusing about throwing a frozen turkey, or any object, for that matter, from a moving vehicle at another vehicle?

These kids are the future of our country, which has already marched straight into the hands of White, middle class and higher men who think nothing of stripping civil rights, emptying the coffers of corporations to feed their own greed, and unashamed cronyism in the form of no-bid contracts and the official support of eminent domain, which is nothing more than a tragic game of he-who-has-the-most-friends-wins. Prom nights have turned into thousand-dollar balls, attended by miniature adult girls in low-cut, slinky gowns, and boys idolizing the pimp life, while their parents stand by and watch, or worse, write a check.

No, I don't have kids. But I know plenty of parents who know the difference between being friendly to their kids and being friends with them. Raise your kids, people. Teach your children more than how to live the good life. And get friends of your own age.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Marching?

The Millions More Movement has come and gone. Some of the speakers were interesting. Some offered good ideas. Some were a total waste of time. And, not surprisingly, Minister Louis Farrakhan offered several good suggestions that will probably not happen, but were a welcome injection of practicality in a slightly disjointed event rife with rumors, division, and blah blah-ism.

As I previously mentioned, Keith Boykin's potentially powerful remarks about the Black gay experience didn't find their way onto the program. Cleo Manago, founder of the Black Men's Exchange, a group that recognizes and embraces a "diversity of sexual expression between me," did get to express the gay or same-gender loving (in his words) presence. Sadly, his short, rushed remarks went almost unnoticed.

I'm less interested in the content of Saturday's events as much as the money and energy in putting it together. Yes, the mass gathering gave America a broad-stroked look into Black America, but did it really? There is an African proverb that says you must eat the baobab tree (an enormous tree) one bite at a time. Could the resources invested in this gathering not have been better spent on regional gatherings?

As exciting as it is to look out onto a sea of like-minded people, I don't know how much these marches actually do. It's not like the feds are in their offices. If we can't get them to pay attention to us when we do something as inexpensive as voting for them, what does trampling on the Mall do?

I don't like feeling hopeless, so I'm going to reflect on something else as important. Recently, I had the chance to hear Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, to speak. Soulforce is, among many things, an organization that seeks to undo the spiritual damage that religious organizations have done to lesbians and gays. White was a ghostwriter for, and part of the inner circle of leading religious leaders, including Jerry Falwell. He didn't come out until the early 90's, and his journey is an interesting one, so I hope you'll visit the Soulforce site.

I'm not sure I don't want to march, but I want something to march for. It's not about visibility anymore, for if we, whoever "we" are, question whether or not we're visible, look at pop culture. From the adoption of urban slang, hip hop and hip hop apparel by White people, to the supposed metrosexual, marginalized communities have made themselves seen. I want to be more than seen, and even more than heard. How do "we" (women, the poor, immigrants, the disabled, people of color, queers) get respect and get to be taken seriously? That I'll march for.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Read It Here

If you thought I was kidding, here is the Associated Press report.

So Much for Unity

According to a late-breaking announcement from Keith Boykin, the opnly Black gay man asked to be a featured speaker at today's Millions More Movement, he was un-invited to speak, just as he was about to ascend the speakers' platform. The chair of the event, Rev. Willie Wilson, whose deeply offensive, heterosexist remarks from the pulpit were exposed this summer, was allegedly the one to make the call.

Sounding like that same ol' same ol' to me. We, Black lesbians and gays, are accepted, but not really. By the way, if you plan to flame me with your anti-gay, abomination nonsense, save your precious Internet time. You'll be immediately deleted. Your abuse will be reported to your ISP. I'm much too angry right now to suffer fools, and believe me, you'll suffer.

Really, What One Thing...

I was premature in my use of the title "What One Thing." When we talk about difference, we're forced to ask what one thing separates us.

Today's Millions More March commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Unlike the Million Man March, the Millions More March includes women, not just as support but in partnership. And, unlike the Million Man March, we've actually heard the words gay and sexual orientation used as part of the rhetoric.

One of the speakers said that the hopes that unite us are stronger than the differences that divide us. But how many of those differences are really important? Even if the differences are ideological, are these ideologies not simply the things that undergird beliefs of difference, but not the differences themselves?

Sweet Honey in The Rock does a song called "No Mirrors." Here are just a sample of the lyrics:

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
no mirrors in my Nana's house
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
no mirrors in my Nana's house
So, I never knew that my skin was too Black,
and I never knew that my nose was too flat,
and I never knew that my clothes didn't fit,
and I never knew there were things that I missed,
and the beauty that I saw in everything was in her eyes

The voice or storyteller of the song says there were no mirrors in her Nana's house, and so all that she knows about herself, including how she looks and what she has, which speaks to how poor she is, came from what her Nana shares with her. Her Nana doesn't even tell her that she's Black, because she's simply who she is.

In an open letter to those interested in the Millions More Movement, Minister Louis Farrakhan says:

The Millions More Movement is challenging all of us to rise above the things that have kept us divided in the past, by focusing us on the agenda of the Millions More Movement to see how all of us, with all of our varied differences, can come together and direct our energy, not at each other, but at the condition of the reality of the suffering of our people, that we might use all of our skills, gifts and talents to create a better world for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Is this a form of reconciliation? Is this finally a reach-out to the entire Black community, and I do mean the entire community? Is this the first step in acknowledging that none of us are "too Black" or that our clothes don't fit? I'm perfectly willing to accept that what we know is shaped by what we've learned, which is what someone else knows. I'm also willing to accept that what you know has the potential to hurt me physically, financially, spiritually. You're sharing and acting on what you know, given to you by someone else, who shared what they knew. But, at what point do we accept that what we know to be right is wrong, and what we know to be wrong is right? Is that not the one thing that makes us different?

If we can accept that racism, even that which supposedly has Biblical support, is wrong, if we can accept that sexism, even that which supposedly has Biblical roots, is wrong, if we can accept that Biblical support for slavery, dietary laws, revenge and war-mongering, directions for mating, industry, the participation of religious people in a non-religious society, and yes, even consensual psycho-sexual behavior between adults just doesn't make sense for modern times based on ancient practices, then what one thing really divides us?

I once heard a Black lesbian who was a part of the Black Panther Party talk about a disagreement she had with a heterosexual male member of the Party. He suggested that being a lesbian was a betrayal of her Blackness, and that she couldn't make a good Party member. She asked him if she had the ability to work with him, and protect him from the Klan, would he refuse her help because she was a lesbian? And, would he refuse to protect her because she was a lesbian or save her because she was Black?

From Farrakhan's letter:

I cannot fault a Christian pastor for standing on his platform to preach what he believes, nor a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or a member of any religious or political party. All of us must be true to what we earnestly believe. I cannot fault a gay or lesbian person who stands on their platform to preach what they believe of self and how the world should view them. Although what we say on our platform may, in some way, be offensive to others, we must not allow painful utterances of the past or present, based on sincere belief, or based on our ignorance, or based on our ideology or philosophy to cripple a movement that deserves and needs all of us—and, when I say all, I mean all of us. We must begin to work together to lift our people out of the miserable and wretched condition in which we find ourselves.


What is the one thing that separates us? Is there really something that makes us different? Is there?

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's Friday at Noah's Place

Eight straight days of rain. Parts of the NY metro area have so much water that residents are using rowboats to get around. As for me, I've spent the last three days between my bedroom and bathroom because I can't go anywhere else.

It's been five weeks since my surgery, and I'm ready to cut my cast off myself. Fuck physical therapy. I'll just walk around until either my leg goes numb and I can't feel anything, or until it just gets better. Isn't that what our foreparents did anyway? None of this namby-pamby cast bullshit.

And, thanks to whatever, we have mice in the building, and at least one in the apartment. Great. The wife hates mice more than I do, and thanks to my immobility, she's the one to have to deal with them. Nonviolence be damned, I hope the gross little fuckers drop dead, but not in my apartment.

I once moved out of an apartment after seeing one mouse, and I'm not above doing it again as soon as my leg is better. Because the fuckers are nocturnal, I sleep with earplugs so I don't hear anything at night.

So, since I'm home with daytime t.v., let me share my daytime faves:

Cops -- sorry, White people, but nothing beats the sweet schadenfreude of seeing y'all act a fool on national t.v. The moment you mix White people and alcohol, it's on.

Ellen -- it's sweeter than pancakes with syrup. Her more-than-slightly goofy not-really-interviewing guests is a nice way to start the day. Plus, she's the only White person I know that can make middle America comfortable dancing to "Drop It Like It's Hot" and yelling "holla!"

Martha -- she's a tight-assed marketing genius who not only turned homemaking into a multi-million dollar industry, but she is working the hell outta the whole "I've been to jail, so quitcherbitchin" angle.

Court shows -- it used to be that the Jerry Springer show was the only game in town for airing the dirtiest of laundry, but when you add money to the wash, you end up with one helluva rinse.

Anyway, happy Friday. Somebody please send me a cast cutter.

What One Thing...

One of the blessings in being home on medical leave is watching television and being forced to think, two concepts not always joined together, especially when talking about daytime t.v.

Wednesday's Oprah show looked at America's poor. We were forced to look at the realities of poverty in America when we saw the faces of those who were stuck in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Yes, Hurricane Rita did its own share of damage to coastal cities in Texas, but we didn't see the absolute devastation of poverty and helplessness that we were exposed to in New Orleans. The show sent CNN's Anderson Cooper, Maria Shriver, Gayle King, and Oprah out to several small towns, and one city, to talk to people who are living well below the poverty line. Yeah, one could view the show and see it as heavy-handed, but you couldn't walk away with previously held assumptions about what sends someone into poverty or that every poor person is comfortable being poor.

In each profile, the common thread was that one event spiraled into several events that led to being poor and/or homeless. From the town of Pembroke, Illinois, 70 miles outside of Chicago, a town with no infrastructure such as paved roads and running water, or even its own zip code (which would entitle them to direct state and federal aid), to the Appalachians, where a mother of five has to take her children down to the valley on an ATV to drop them off at a school bus stop, to a mother of three who, after being abandoned by her husband of 15-plus years spiraled into depression, unemployment and living in her minivan with her family, we learn these are real people, "good" people. The majority of the homeless and poor in the U.S. aren't drug addicts or alcoholics; certainly, a percentage are simply because of an intense need to dull the pain, they aren't all mentally ill, but depression is rampant among them. It took one event, one factor; illness, unemployment, an unplanned pregnancy, to send a family provider down into a pool of poverty. And it takes one thing, one opportunity, to start to surface.

According to economists and financial talking heads, most Americans are two paychecks away from being poor. What one thing protects us from poverty? And what one thing would send us straight into poverty?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Coming Out Again & Again

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. NCOD was created to help bring visibility to the gay & lesbian community through coming out; middle America gets a chance to meet someone gay, find out that gays aren't so odd, after all, and perhaps find gays acceptable.

Gays & lesbians kept silent and invisible until the 1969 Stonewall riots, and ensuing public outings like Pride celebrations. We marched in the streets when our gay brothers and lesbian sisters were attacked or discriminated against, and still do. We pushed politicians to create laws that protected our lives, our jobs, our homes. We forced the billion-dollar healthcare and pharmaceutical industry to treat people with AIDS with decency, and stop gouging us with the price of medication. Gays & lesbians have kicked down the doors of city hall and the White House, and although things are far from perfect for us, they're a damn sight better than they might have been.

Why, we even have gay celebrities. My favorites are the celesbians, celebrity lesbians. Celesbians, like daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres, and her grilfriend, "Arrested Development" actress Portia De Rossi, continue to enjoy success in mainstream America. Melissa Etheridge's battle with breast cancer, her Grammy appearance, complete with chemo-denuded head, and her visit to the Oprah show, officially made her an everywoman. Showtime's "Queer As Folk" and "The L Word" found huge non-gay audiences, and cable t.v. now has 24-hour gay programming on Logo. We are everywhere, but are all of us everywhere?

Where are Black gays and lesbians? Sure, Logo has aired "The Ski Trip," which features an all-Black cast, and will air a new Black gay series, "Noah's Arc" later this month. But, other than Keith Boykin, former Clinton aide, writer and activist, and the only Black gay candidate on Showtime's "The American Candidate," a reality series that featured a cross section of Americans to run for President, we don't have Black gays or lesbians that can be immediately named, except by, well, other Black gays and lesbians (and not necessarily by all of us).

Where are butch lesbians? Even if our gaydar tells us a celesbian is butch, she'll never let it show. k.d. lang and Lea DeLaria are the only butch butches we see, but where are their careers in relation to Ellen's -- hell, all I have to say is "Ellen" and you know who I'm talking about.

I have the distinction of being a butch Black lesbian. Blacks who criticize comparisons between the capital-letter Civil Rights movement and the lower case gay & lesbian civil rights movement argue (and quite aggressively) that you can't compare the two; one can hide one's sexuality, but not their skin color. What about me? I can't help my very obvious lack of femininity. I can't walk in heels, and I tried for most of my teenage years. My hair suffered from years of abuse from heat and chemicals in an attempt to prettify it. I don't have legs that beg to be shown off by a skirt. And, although I could probably learn how to be girly, I don't want to be. I've found my natural fit, and have no desire to change it. Am I less Black because I'm a lesbian or less vital, interesting, or visible as a lesbian because I'm Black?

As cliche as it seems, coming out is a constant for someone like me. Coming Out Day is nice, and I encourage people to come out, for you never know what courage you've given to someone, or example you've set for some troubled young person. Keep coming out, again and again and again.