Tina K. Russell

July 31, 2009

Beck-ing the question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:47 am

The White House doesn’t want to give Glenn Beck a bigger platform or extra oxygen — especially regarding his remark yesterday that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” — so they won’t comment, even off record. Beck, after all, is a radio DJ who somehow ended up getting a national platform to give his opinion on politics. What’s most amazing about this episode is that what Beck said isn’t a fireable or even a SUSPENDABLE offense by his bosses. There was a time when outrageous rants like this would actually cost the ranters their jobs. But not anymore; if anything, it’s now encouraged. And all of this could turn ACTUAL journalists into the next Howard Beales.

via First thoughts: Losing the message war? – First Read – msnbc.com.

I know that Glenn Beck is an idiot, but what he said really bothers me because I’ve seen it before. Barack Obama is someone who grew up in Hawaii, was raised by a while family, and read Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics as a kid. Yet, somehow he gets pigeonholed as hating whitey. It just doesn’t make sense.

I remember reading something a long time ago where a black woman who was a science-fiction fan called for more people of color in science fiction and fantasy works, and commenters screeched “Why can’t you identify with white people?” The truth is that she wouldn’t ever be a science-fiction fan if she couldn’t identify with white people, because she’d completely out of luck given the dearth of black protagonists in the genre. In fact, as should be obvious, she loved the strong characters and stories that made her a fan in the first place; all she wanted was to see her people represented there, too.

Too often, though, that nuance gets lost whenever race comes into the discussion, making it difficult simply to be proud of who you are. Someday, we’ll take it for granted that a proud black man isn’t automatically out to “get” whites or somesuch, and I wish it were today.

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December 11, 2008

Animal Cussing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:40 am

Remember, the N word is okay, so as long as it ends in an “a,” the “a” has a grave accent, the “N” has a tilde, and it’s being said by an electronic sheep.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do androids dream of foulmouthed electric sheep?
  2. Those accent marks would roughly describe how the word is pronounced by Colonel Stinkmeaner of The Boondocks, wouldn’t they?

August 28, 2008

Tina talks about race, again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 11:17 pm

America Needs To Have A Superficial Conversation About Race | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Like it or not, the U.S. needs a stupid conversation on the issue of race relations. Perhaps more importantly, we need this stupid dialogue to be couched in the most self-righteous, know-it-all attitudes on the part of those involved, as if they have no idea whatsoever of how much more complicated the issue is, and how little their one-dimensional approach to it brings to the table.

It’s our duty to put aside the complexities of cross-cultural communication and focus on the first idea that comes to mind. Then, after we’ve wasted 20 minutes discussing whether the term black is offensive, we can repeat the first idea over and over until we have alienated all listeners who did not already agree with us at the beginning.

I do think we need a national conversation about race, but this op-ed (it’s great! read it) from The Onion, America’s finest news source, has a point. So many of these conversations result in trite sentimentalism and daggers drawn at the first hint of offense. (As someone who–I may explain this later–has been in college for-freaking-ever, I know how this works. Someone who doesn’t mark every one of your ideological check boxes is a racist hypocrite.)

But, I think part of that has to do with our heightened emotions and sensitivity. We have to air our stupid ideas if they’re to be corrected and improved. I worry, sometimes, that anti-racism can bury people’s legitimate concerns, even if they’re ill-informed. You can’t correct an impression that’s unspoken, buried deep in the hearts of Americans.

Bill O’Reilly’s remarks that black people aren’t so bad after all, while hilarious, reflect a preconception that I would guess is fairly common among whites who are only exposed to black people through MTV rap videos and late-night local-news scare stories. On a similar subject, those who try to slip in rumors that Barack Obama is Muslim are not coming out and saying Muslims are bad, but are exploiting a vague unease that non-Muslim Americans often have about the faith; that Muslims must be good people, but what about the head coverings and stonings and such? It’s hard to correct these beliefs if people are too afraid of being branded “racist” to express them. (To be fair, this is a straw-man argument. I suppose I should instead say: never be too quick to vilify someone, and perhaps make a friend by presenting your view as well.)

Then again, I think we’re too often afraid of being branded as “racist” to express what we really mean; and what’s most embarrasing is when people are so defined by this fear that they begin sentences with “well, I’m not a racist, but…” (thus making it clear in everyone’s minds that this person is a racist). I’ve seen people get really mad about the animated version of The Boondocks because the creator, black cartoonist Aaron McGruder, somehow “shouldn’t” be making these bold criticisms (22 min. video) of black people and black culture when writing for a mostly white audience. What, so he shouldn’t be allowed to speak his mind, or he should be socially shunned from doing so? Should white people continue to see a false unified front of black people, a monolithic “voting bloc” with no dissention in its ranks? Should America’s view of “black television” remain one of vulgar comedy routines, ghetto sitcoms, and BET’s gyrating rear ends? Should white people valiantly ride in to save black people from themselves? Will us white people ever have the humility to admit that black people are individuals and may not always need the help of whites? (And can we say this without casting off our responsibility as Americans to repay, solemnly, the debt that black Americans are owed?)

Surely, there are a billion holes in my argument, but these are just random musings. I’m just concerned–and no, I can’t back it up–that people are too afraid to muse like this, and so we’re not able to attack those kinds of prejudices that us liberals are so worried about. (Who can attack the holes in my argument if I’m afraid to make it?) The Onion once had another article on race, saying that our noble efforts to fight racism have resulted in a lethal strain of “super-racism,” a far more powerful strain harder to see and harder to fight. We may have driven it underground… and that’s hardly progress.

So, yes, try not to vilify people you disagree with, or boil an issue down to slogans. That Onion op-ed spends some time making fun of conservative viewpoints, too, but I’m a liberal, so I’ll stick to talking about my crew for now. It’s hard to have a dialogue on issues that are merely simmering below the surface.

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (PDF)

August 13, 2008

Merkley’s crude remarks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:31 pm

Merkley, Wyden offer fuel for thought – Breaking News From Oregon & Portland – Oregonlive.com
Senate candidate Jeff Merkley promised Wednesday to move aggressively against high gas prices, hoping to turn voter anger over $4 gas into votes that will fuel his drive to the U.S. Senate.

“As long as we’re hostage to oil sheiks overseas, we’re mortgaging our future,” Merkley said, standing with Wyden at the Portland gas station.

I’m voting for Merkley, but oh my god. Did he really just say that? Talking about “oil sheiks” would be like saying we’re held hostage by “media rabbis” or something, in that it’s both hateful and inaccurate. The biggest exporter of crude oil to the US (as of 2007) is Canada, followed by Saudi Arabia, then Mexico, then Venezuela, then Nigeria. I wonder if we’ll start hearing about the “Canucks of crude” or the “petroleum padres” any time soon. 20% of our oil is from the Persian Gulf, so it’s true that our oil is disproportionately Middle Eastern, but it’s nowhere near overwhelming.

I’m all for energy independence, I’d just rather not see the “scary Arab” trotted out to sell the policy. (The “scary speculators” thing is similar, though speculators probably aren’t in danger of having their houses firebombed.) Fighting the oil addiction means a change in us, not just railing at those around us.

With Merkley joining him in the Senate Wyden said Oregon would benefit, predicting that the state would “become the Saudia Arabia of renewables.”

I have no doubt about that. 20 years ago Oregon was a state reeling from restrictions on logging (which I should note are, in part, so that the industry doesn’t simply log itself out and put itself out of business), but we invested in high-tech industry and we’re now home to an Intel campus and to Linux creator Linus Torvalds. However, with Abu Dhabi (in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates) investing in clean energy from the bundle they’ve made in dirty energy, we may want to hurry before Saudi Arabia because the Saudi Arabia of renewables.

August 6, 2008

No, really, I’m not

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:46 pm

ABC News: Clinton Exclusive: ‘I Am Not a Racist’
When asked, “Do you personally have any regrets about what you did, campaigning for your wife?” Clinton, at first, answered, “Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about.”

But then he added, “There are things that I wish I’d urged her to do. Things I wish I’d said. Things I wish I hadn’t said.

“But I am not a racist,” he continued. “I’ve never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally.”

Okay, Bill, first rule: never, ever, ever, ever, ever say “I am not a racist.” Ever. Second rule is especially never do it when the other person has not volunteered the word. George Lakoff writes eloquently about this in his book, Don’t Think of an Elephant: as soon as Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook,” the public’s mind was made up. Nixon is hiding something. Oh, and he’s a crook.

Methinks the Bubba doth protest too much. Nobody ever accused Clinton of being racist–just racially insensitive–which is why he really never should have said this. And to think he was once so media-savvy…

June 10, 2008

The Fist of It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:36 pm

I haven’t written about the fist bump yet because I think the whole issue is damned silly, and merely shows how far the pundit-verse is from the normal, human reality that we live in. But I wanted to say this:

I use the fist bump all the time, and I’m as white as they come. It’s not an attempt to look black, nor is it an attempt to mimic an affectation of a favorite rapper (I know jack-squat about rap). I think I’ve been using the fist bump for about five or so years, never consciously. It’s a genuine show of affection and solidarity. I think, in most cases, I would have used a hug or kiss had that been more convenient or acceptable. (Yeah, I’m a touchy-feely type.) When I want to affirm that I love somebody or that they said something that inspires me, I often say “that’s right!” and put up my fist in anticipation of a pleasurable reciprocation.

It’s simple human affection, and I think that’s the way most people saw it. In fact, I have to wonder if it’s simple human affection that these pundits are afraid of, or if they’re simply reaching for material.

A Brief History of the Fist Bump – TIME
For his part, Obama, who once likened himself to NBA star LeBron James, said the fist bump reflects a marriage that keeps him grounded. “It captures what I love about my wife,” he later explained to NBC’s Brian Williams. “That for all the hoopla I’m her husband and sometimes we’ll do silly things.”

May 11, 2008

On Equality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:31 pm

Mildred Loving, Who Battled Ban on Mixed-Race Marriage, Dies at 68 – New York Times

Mildred Loving, a black woman whose anger over being banished from Virginia for marrying a white man led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling overturning state miscegenation laws, died on May 2 at her home in Central Point, Va. She was 68.

By their own widely reported accounts, Mrs. Loving and her husband, Richard, were in bed in their modest house in Central Point in the early morning of July 11, 1958, five weeks after their wedding, when the county sheriff and two deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, burst into their bedroom and shined flashlights in their eyes. A threatening voice demanded, “Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?”

Mrs. Loving answered, “I’m his wife.”

Mr. Loving pointed to the couple’s marriage certificate hung on the bedroom wall. The sheriff responded, “That’s no good here.”

Mrs. Loving stopped giving interviews, but last year issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of the announcement of the Supreme Court ruling, urging that gay men and lesbians be allowed to marry.

April 25, 2008

On Liabilities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 4:11 pm

I never thought I’d say this, but Bill Clinton is starting to sound like Stephen Colbert… in character.

President Bill Clinton says the Obama campaign “played the race card” on him « Y-Decide 2008 (via Political Wire)

“I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign that they planned to do it along.” – President Bill Clinton.

And that’s how President Clinton begins his answer to WHYY’s Susan Phillips who, during a phone interview earlier this evening, asked the President how he feels about one Philadelphia official who says she switched her support after interpreting Clinton’s remarks in South Carolina as an attempt to marginalize Obama as “the black candidate.”

Clinton goes on to say that “you have to really go some to play the race card on me.” He lists a number of his accomplishments on behalf of people of color, inexplicably putting the fact that he has “an office in Harlem” at the top of the list.

Clearly, Clinton seems clearly frustrated by the question or the suggestion by anyone – either the reporter or the Philadelphia official whom she quoted – that he was somehow making a negative statement about Obama (or Jesse Jackson) based on their race. His frustration comes through towards the end of the recording when, apparently unaware that he was still on the line, Clinton asks whoever is with him, “I don’t think I should take any shit from anybody on that, do you?

Holy living–! I don’t want to watch this any more! Bill Clinton has clearly gone from “savvy politician” to “slow-motion train wreck.” I think he feels bad–from my armchair psychologist perspective–that he’s been such a drag on his wife’s campaign and knows no other reaction than to try and compensate, and instead, make it worse.

Would you please stop, Bill? This is painful. You used to have real trust with communities of color, and you’ve thrown it all away. I mean, I want Barack to win, but it hurts when the opponent is being marginalized by an out-of-control spouse. It all seems like a bad sitcom.

Part of the problem with Hillary’s bid for the presidency is that Bill’s campaign was promoted as a “two-for-one deal,” with two remarkable public servants running for the White House. I can’t help but feel–particularly when Bill fails to shut his yap–that it’s all an underhanded, Kirchner-style switcheroo. Bill is undermining Hillary’s image as a calm, measured hand on the Presidential phone, and giving us nightmares of a man who cannot handle his wife running a campaign alone, much less running a Presidency alone.

That’s really an unfair statement; Hillary needs to be judged as her own woman, not as some kind of counterpart to Bill. There is, of course, a fair amount of sexism inherent in the media’s fascination with her husband (as opposed to, say, Michelle Obama, who has gaffed before, but never with Clintonian gusto), as well as with Hillary’s campaign narrative that she has sixteen years of executive experience through osmosis.

Hillary’s her own woman; she’s not an extension of her husband. Unfortunately, the two people most responsible for undermining that message are Bill and Hillary.

April 1, 2008

Mixed-race America

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:26 pm

Who Are We? New Dialogue on Mixed Race – New York Times

Carmen Van Kerckhove, a diversity consultant who runs a blog on race and popular culture, racialicious.com, said she doubted that the uproar that greeted Tiger Woods when he described himself as “Cablinasian” (for heritage that includes Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian) in 1997 would be as strong today.

I was surprised when I read that; I was in elementary school in 1997, and never heard of that uproar, and I guess I grew up with the popular image of Tiger Woods as a syrupy mix of ethnic goodness. (more…)

March 31, 2008

Thirty Percent of Americans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:49 pm

‘With a Few More Brains …’ – New York Times

Ten days ago, I noted the reckless assertion of Barack Obama’s former pastor that the United States government had deliberately engineered AIDS to kill blacks, but I tried to put it in context by citing a poll showing that 30 percent of African-Americans believe such a plot is at least plausible.

White readers expressed shock (and a hint of smugness) at these delusions, but the sad reality is that conspiracy theories and irrationality aren’t a black problem. They are an American problem.

Nicholas Kristof, one of my favorite columnists, defends intelligence and calls for us to confront the odd stigma against intellectualism in America. Thank you! I love my country, but we could all use a few more brains.

(Maybe we could, I don’t know… overhaul our system of education… what do you think? Oh, and “No Child Left Behind” has not been an acceptable answer.)

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