Monday, April 30, 2007

So little time!

In a conversation with my sister this weekend, she pointed out that I hadn't posted anything to my journal in more than two weeks. I explained that I had good intentions to do so but that I couldn't seem to find the time to follow through on my intentions.

I really like my new job but it is rather time intensive, especially in the past few weeks. North Carolina's state legislature has filed a record number of bills this legislative session, nearly 40% more than in previous sessions. My job is to read a significant number of those bills and write a digest entry that explains how the new bill affects current law and/or what the new bill does.  My written analysis is published in a subscription publication called The Daily Bulletin, distributed by the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bill drafters receive special training in how to write a piece of legislation that bears little or no resemblance to the English language. However, I'm not complaining. If they wrote in plain English, then I wouldn't have a job. Because the bills are written in legalese, the belief is that it takes a lawyer to translate the legalese into standard English.  They pay me well to do this and I have the satisfaction of feeling that I'm doing a public service. The subscribers to our publication include members of local and state government, including state legislators. I take a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I help our elected officials understand the bills that they submit for passage into law. I think that there may be something ironic about my previous sentence.

I also attend committee meetings where a legislator presents a bill that he or she sponsors and other legislators pick the bill apart and make the bill sponsor cry. Okay, I'm exaggerating, no one has cried, so far. However, there is often intense discussion about the issues that arise in the bills that are presented. There was great concern expressed as to whether or not the Collard Festival held in Ayden, NC should be designated as the official state collard festival. After all, it's not the only collard festival in NC and other communities might feel slighted. There has also been concern as to whether or not the bullfrog should be named as our state frog. I'll keep you posted on that one.

As you can tell, I've been busy monitoring great affairs of state and have had to curtail my journal entries. I hope to return to J-Land full force as soon as the state legislature is done with passing laws.  I've tried to keep up with your journals and I apologize for not taking the time to leave comments.  I'm reading your wonderful words even when I don't comment.

Note: This piece is meant to be humorous. The NC state legislature has proposed some solid legislation this session that if passed will aid the economic growth of the state, improve the quality of education, and improve access to health care. Of course, there have also been bills about collard festivals and bull frogs.

Monday, April 9, 2007

ill spoken words

(Background note: Broadcaster Don Imus made a set of insulting remarks on his program about female basketball players at Rutgers. Many are calling for his resignation or that he be fired. I just read about the controversy today and sent an email to my sister and some other friends expressing  my belief at the moment that he deserved to be fired.  My sister called me and gave me her insights into the matter.  This entry is a result of my conversation with her. The details of Imus' comments are included in the entry.  As always, your comments are welcome.)


I just spoke with my sister, Rhonda, about the Imus mess. She had a surprising response to an email that I sent about the Imus controversey, which has given me pause.  Surprising only in that it wasn't what I expected from her.  However, I respect her opinion a great deal, so it has made me pause and reflect.


Rhonda actually listens to Imus' broadcast; I don't.  I used to but grew disgusted with his "in your face, because I insult everyone it's okay brand of journalism." I was introduced to Imus when I was in college, by my friend Rick.  He was from Connecticut and came to NC to attend the law school at UNC.  He was the resident advisor on my floor at Ehringhaus, the south campus dorm where I lived.  I was a freshman and thought Rick, at age 22 was quite sophisticated and he listened to "Imus in the Morning."  For a few years, I was a faithful listener, but never really a fan.  I confess that it has been more than 20 years since I've heard more than a few snippets of his radio show.


My sister says that Imus should be given the benefit of the doubt, that his apology is sincere.  She points out that he is equally irreverent towards all; it's his style as a radio personality. She was surprised that I jumped on the fire Imus bandwagon. She reminded me that I had defended the white teacher who had elected to read a book called "Nappy Edges" to her elementary school class.  I thought that the book, written by a black woman, was a positive affirmation that the natural kinky hair texture of many black people was beautiful. The teacher read the book to her mostly black students because she also believed that it was about promoting a positive self image for young black girls.  The author of the book spoke out in support of the teacher because she felt that the teacher "got" the intent of her book. 


Rhonda, who has beautiful locks, says that she doesn't find the term nappy offensive.  She expressed her frustration with the schizophrenic nature of black people when it comes to hair; controversies like the black sorority a few years back who didn't want to award the first place prize to the young woman who had fairly won, because she had locks. I think that my sister has a point, but I don't think that Imus' remarks added anything positive to the mix.  I don't think that it was his intent to make a positive commentary on the beauty of black women's hair when he referred to the women on Rutgers' basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."


However, as I previously stated, I really respect my sister's opinion and I've been rethinking my original support for firing Imus.  I still don't like what he said; I think it was an ignorant remark.  But when taken in the context of the times, perhaps it is less an indication of any personal racism on Imus' part and more of an indicator of the pervasive disrespect for women, black or otherwise that permeates our culture.  I confess that I am dismayed that all of the criticism of Imus for his remarks tends to focus on his use of the word "nappy" and not on the reference to the women on the team as "hos." Rhonda pointed out that denizens of the rap music world frequently refer to women as hos.  I think that they are also ignorant and I don't buy that it is some sort of artistic expression thing that is supposed to be regarded in a different light. When I read Imus' remarks, I became angry.  I'm still angry.  I'm angry that he would think it acceptable, in the name of humor, to once again belittle and demean black women.  I'm angry that too many men, white and black, publicly speak of women in derogatory terms and call it entertainment.


I decided to try and find the entire interchange between Imus and his producer about the women's basketball game and went to YouTube.  It was there; you can always rely on YouTube to have the latest. The entire context of Imus' remarks was in talking about how rough looking the Rutgers' team members are. In his dialogue with executive producer Bernard McGuirk, Imus said that the Rutgers' team members were rough and had tattoos.  McGuirk responded and said that they were hos; Imus countered with that they were nappy headed hos.  But it didn't end there, Imus goes on to say that the Tennessee players (Rutgers' opponents in the championship game) were cute (when is the last time anyone referred to the cuteness of a championship men's basketball team?). McGuirk concurs and avows that it's kind of like a Spike Lee thing and comments that it's like the jigaboos vs. the wannabees. Imus agrees.(They incorrectly identified the Spike Lee film which they were referencing as "Do the Right Thing."  The film is "School Daze." A central theme in "School Daze" has to do with the internalized color complex among black folks, the light-skinned versus dark-skinned obsession that has beset us since skin color became such an important part of the hierarchy of place in American society.  Jigaboos refers to dark-skinned blacks and wannabees to light-skinned blacks.) Finally, Sid Rosenberg, filling in for an absent sports announcer, comments that the Rutgers' women look like the Toronto Raptors, and then McGuirk chimes in and comments that the team looks more like the Grizzlies (a Memphis team). If you want to watch for yourself:


I confess that after watching the video, I'm finding it hard to understand why all the heat is directed at Imus; Rosenberg and McGuirk should share the hot seat.


Maybe firing Imus is not appropriate.  Maybe it's not reasonable to label him a racist because of his remarks.  Imus has said that he realizes that he pushed the envelope too far; he was just trying to do what he does, be funny.  He acknowledges that his comments went over the line.  I do think that he needs to personally apologize to each of the young women on the Rutgers' team.  In a society where we are continually bombarded with information telling us that we are a nation of couch potatoes, these young women should be commended for their athletic abilities and their team spirit, not publicly insulted with name calling. They played well for an entire season, well enough to play for the championship.  They lost the game to Tennessee and I'm certain that the loss was devastating.  They deserved better than to be publicly insulted in the pursuit of so-called humor.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Internet allows us to maintain a degree of anonymity that ironically, makes us willing to reveal far more of ourselves than if we met at some social event or public outing.  In this journal, I talk about my insecurities, something I rarely do even with my closest friends and certainly not with people that are acquaintances.  I think it is the veil of anonymity that makes so many of us willing to share who we are and that leads to forming bonds with people that we've never met face to face, but whom we count as friends.  I feel fortunate that I've actually had the opportunity to meet two of those people in person, dear Bea and Caroline.  There are others of you that I have not met, but I feel a connection to you nonetheless.

I want to tell you about my friend River.  He is a member of J-Land and I don't know his name, other than River.  It suits him; he runs deep like a river. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket We've never met, but I count him as a friend.  I like visiting his journal because it is full of charity, of love for humankind. River has been absent from J-Land for the past few months and has recently returned.  I didn't want to pry, but I noticed that at the top of his journal there was a count: 79 days homeless.  That was three days ago. Perhaps because the Internet allows us to skip some of the amenities of societal interaction, I sent him an email and asked directly if he was homeless.  Like the gentleman that he is, he promptly responded and confirmed that he was indeed referring to his own homelessness.

Today I visited River's journal and he has chosen to share his story with us.  I admire his bravery in doing so; he is a private person and I am not certain that if were in his shoes that I would be so brave.  River lives in Las Vegas, and he has gained access and insight to the homeless in that city of excess in so many ways, except when it comes to providing for those who need assistance. I hope that you will visit River's journal frequently and follow his story.  He has much to tell us. 

Many of us celebrated Palm Sunday today and next Sunday is Easter. When I was a child, I thought of Easter as a time to get a new outfit. My mother was a very good seamstress and one Easter she made my sister and I matching navy blue capes with a white satin lining. We wore white dresses, little white hats, and white gloves.  I think that I was around eight and my sister was six. We loved the way the capes swirled out when we spun around. I'm not a child any more and I no longer believe that Easter is about wearing new clothes.  I thank River for sharing his story and reminding us what Easter is truly about. We are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers.