The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Best I’ve Read

I don’t seem to be able to write anything lately that doesn’t require a day or so of research, and that doesn’t come in under five paragraphs. That leads to less frequent posting around here. Which, in turn, leads to… Well you get the idea.

So, I’m going to try and get back to some shorter, more frequent posting. (But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop the long analytical stuff either.) In the meantime, I’ve come across some great blogging in the course of my reading and research. So, it’s time for another roundup.

In keeping with yesterday’s post (the follow-up is in progress, btw), Storm Bear is posting a great black history series (complete with illustrations) at several different blogs. I came across it at the Independent Bloggers’ Alliance, and enjoyed reading:

This bit from the disclaimer is also informative.

This series of cartoons will review Black history as told from a Black mother to an interracial child. This series will be ugly, course, horrific and truthful. I will mostly abandon the commentary for an article on Black history.

This series is not about Obama or Hillary. I want to you to try to imagine how Black families tell their children of the atrocities their ancestors, all of them, suffered because of the color of their skin. Try to imagine how Black families counsel their children when someone calls them “nigger” for the first time. Can you imagine the bone crushing emotion that must well up? Can you imagine the agony, frustration and anger?

Can you imagine being the Black preacher who tries to paint a picture of a just God every Sunday? Especially in a country that claims where the notion of racism is a thing of the past, the job is difficult.

Along the same lines, one of my favorite writers — Alice Walker — offers an interesting perspective on the Democratic presidential race.

It is hard to relate what it feels like to see Mrs Clinton (I wish she felt self-assured enough to use her own name) referred to as “a woman” while Barack Obama is always referred to as “a black man”. One would think she is just any woman, but she is not. She carries all the history of white womanhood in the US in her person; it would be a miracle if we, and the world, did not react to this fact. How dishonest it is, to try to make her innocent of her racial inheritance.

And, as long as we’re on the subject of Obama, I want to pause for a moment and recognize Prometheus. I don’t know how he does it, but he is probably one of the best bloggers I’ve seen when it comes to fisking. With laser-like precision he hones in on the most egregious statements in the media and in the blogosphere and answers them effectively, or cuts them to ribbons.

His take on a Wall Street Journal writer wonder how Obama could actually sit and listen to one of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons is, a fine example.

WSJ:

But when Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright’s pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question. And it reveals a continuing crisis in racial leadership.

Prometheus:

Darth, you slander Jesus.

Jesus hung out with all the problem people of his day. And he, unlike your Conservative brethren and decorative female supporters, would act based on an understanding of the present, rather than a longing for times long past.

And he took on two writers at Talking Points Memo recently, of which my favorite is this one.

John Skrentny:

The first we can call the Fallacy of Racial Continuity. This is the idea that because races–or what Americans call races–exist unceasingly over time, then the injustices that one race can be said to commit or have committed against another in the past can be attributed to the component individuals who make up that race today. This is the basis of an idea that lies behind much race conversation in America: whites dominated, exploited and committed atrocities against nonwhites, especially blacks, and thus owe reparations, affirmative action, or some other compensation.

Prometheus:

…is a piss-poor description of things.

This is better: if I punch you in the face today, seven years from now after every cell in both our bodies have died and been replaced, you will still hate me because I punched you in the face.

Better still: if I invest the money you pay me for my protection racket, make scads of money while your business fails for lack of capital, when we both die does my estate owe your estate anything?

If you can understand the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry you should have no trouble understanding why a lot of Black folks believe the whole “sins of the father” thing. Though it would be a good thing for everyone to be clear on the difference between collective and individual responsibility.

Professor Kim posts an amazing letter from a white father with an African American daughter.

I am a white man with an African-American daughter. And I have never really had much hope that I would ever be able to walk through my neighborhood without someone assuming either that she was my housekeeper or my experiment in jungle fever.

I know that Obama’s raw speech is no magic elixir. But he opened a door that cautious and cowardly politicians for decades – afraid of the perilous racial divide and afraid of offending – have never opened before.

I just wonder. Is America ready for these kinds of raw and naked emotions? Do they (we) want to face the racial ugliness and jokes and stereotypes that still thrive at our dinner tables, in locker rooms, or at family reunions. I just don’t know. This was a challenge to walk with him down a very perilous and scary

Chris makes an interesting point about gays and Democrats.

That’s a common belief among not just party leaders like Dean, but many gay Democrats as well. Unfortunately, that assumption has real political consequences, primarily undermining whatever influence GLBT issues might be given within the party. Why take political risks on hot-button issues for a group that has nowhere to go?

Therein lies the primary criticism I’ve made against the Human Rights Campaign over the years because the gay Dems who run it work to reinforce the assumption that our movement is destined to be just another special interest captive within the Democratic Party. HRC’s Joe Solmonese has actually said that’s his goal.

Part of fixing that means pushing the Democratic Party to do better. The other part is improving the Republicans on gay issues, so Dean’s arrogant assumption is challenged. Enter the Log Cabin Republicans, who issued a statement understandably taking umbrage at having their sanity questioned, especially in such drive-by fashion — as if the question wasn’t one for serious debate.

But I don’t know how we get there. I hope I’m part of pushing the Democrats to do better, but how much hope is there that Republicans will do better? How effective has Log Cabin been? How effective has the Republican Unity Coalition been? (Here’s a hint. The group that was going to make sexual orientation a “non-issue” in the Republican party has itself become a “non-issue.”)

I will say this. Casting aspersions about the sanity of gay Republicans is probably less than constructive. I’m sure they are Republicans because of deeply held beliefs, just as with gay Democrats. As frustrated as I get the Democrats, I can imagine how exasperated gay Republicans must be. I have a bit more respect for out gay Republicans, because I imagine they at least have a shot at changing their party.

One thing I’ve heard, and I can’t find the link now, from some gay conservatives is that gay liberals or gay Democrats are somehow responsible for pushing the Republican party further to the right. Maybe it has to do with pointing out contradictions that tend to rile the Dobsons of the world. But what I don’t understand is how gay Democrats are supposed to help gay Republican change their party with Make up Organiser?

Over at Jack and Jill Politics, Baratune takes issue with CNN’s treatment of black bloggers, and explains why some are asking superdelegates to change their allegiance.

No, the more serious issue that we’ve repeatedly been all over here at JJP is that black superdelegates who continue to support Clinton also support her nasty, divisive, race-baiting campaign tactics. By continuing to stand by her despite these repeated offenses against Obama, against the very black churches that keep many of these people in office, they are complicit in defining a roadmap that will be used to undermine future black candidates.

This is not just about supporting Obama. It’s about the future of black politics. It’s about holding the line on unacceptable behavior. It’s about taking a stand against tactics that would pit blacks against Latinos or would try to define any candidate like Obama as just black or would try to stoke the fears of Islam among a clearly-fearful populace.

It’s a point similar to the one Chris raises about gays and Democrats, and the pitfalls of being a “captive constituency,” with nowhere else to go, in a party that knows (and behaves as if) there are no consequences for offending this constituency. Because there are no consequences.

Much has been made of Obama being biracial and his parents interracial marriage. Pieces like this one from National Review make it clear why interracial love is still hard.

One of the hardest struggles for interracial couples is the fact that the topic itself is still one of the most debated “taboos” in our country — a country that, at its heart, is still very nervous about the idea of races, cultures, and classes mixing. (Consider ongoing immigration debates, an imbalanced criminal justice system, and the fact that we can’t stop obsessing about the degree of blackness of our mixed-race presidential candidate.)

It also doesn’t help that happy, healthy interracial couples are still a novelty in Hollywood. Movies and TV — especially standard, primetime adult fare — are largely whitewashed, and when minorities are represented in relationships, they have to stick to their own kind (The George Lopez Show and Tyler Perry movies, for example). Even when there’s the chance for a legitimate interracial relationship, scripts are shifted to keep things “safe.” The biggest no-no seems to be black/white pairings. Denzel Washington can mack on Eva Mendez in Training Day, but in both The Pelican Brief and The Bone Collector, the hottest black actor in Hollywood didn’t have a chance in hell at getting hot and heavy with co-stars Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie. What a shame.

“There are no complex sociological reasons for the taboo still attached to interracial romance in movies. It’s racism, pure and simple,” says Charles Taylor, in an article about the lack of such relationships in pop culture. “Perhaps these attitudes are sometimes connected to an executive’s fear that audiences will be turned off by the sight of black and white together, but a decision that bows to racism must bear the mark of racism itself.”

Changing gears for a minute, I wrote about Billy Wolfe’s story, but I didn’t see the interview with Matt Lauer.

The following day Matt Lauer interviewed Billy on the Today Show. After watching a series of video clips: Billy being beaten up at the bus stop, Billy being beaten in the school bus, Billy being humiliated on a Facebook page called, “Everyone that Hates Billy,” Lauer posed the following question:

“Anybody who just watched that piece has to be sitting at home asking the same questions: Why this young man? What is it about Billy Wolfe that gets the kids to pick on him, these bullies to target him?”

“I’m not completely sure,” Billy replied, and stammered something about moving to a new neighborhood and being the new kid in the class.

“Are you doing anything?” Lauer pressed him. “Are you a wise guy… the kind of guy who makes comments to kids as they pass by? Are you provoking this in any way?”

One is reminded of the prosecutor who asks the young lady what she did to get herself raped. Was it the short skirt, the provocative walk, the heavy makeup?

Boy, does that bring back memories. I didn’t draw the parallel above, but I remember often being asked “Well, what are you doing? Are you doing something to draw attention to yourself?”

There’s a very simple answer.

So Matt Lauer asks, what is it about Billy Wolfe that gets the kids to pick on him?

The answer is: Because they can.

Which brings me to this Advocate column about Lawrence King’s murder.

…each LGBT child at Casa Pacifica [a group home for abused, neglected, and emotionally troubled children where King lived] is given a “Know Your Rights Guide” provided by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a legal advocacy group. “Queer and Trans Youth in California Foster Care Have Rights!” declares the pamphlet’s cover. Inside is a description of the state’s Foster Care Nondiscrimination Act, along with a list of entitlements for queer children like safe bathrooms and dating. Included on the list—below an illustration of a teenager in overalls and high heels—is the right for kids to wear clothes and hairstyles that fit their gender identity. King clearly took that freedom to heart in the last weeks of his life.

As wonderful as this encouragement sounds, did it put Larry in harm’s way by sending him out in a world not ready for him? It may be beyond the capacity of kids to reconcile a tolerant atmosphere like Casa Pacifica with the xenophobic, conformist nature of school. Children like Brandon McInerney are products of their society, one that simply does not know what to do with a boy in heels.

To which Stephen Miller adds this:

think Broverman was altogether correct in pointing out that 15-year-old King, as a transgendered minor, might have been better served by adults who imparted the message that the world can be a dangerous place and unless one is able, willing and prepared to defend oneself (or makes an informed decision to accept the risks or even to court martyrdom) it may be prudent to place discretion over self-expressiveness—at least until one is able to escape entrapment in the public school system.

I’m not sure, though, what that changes. I mean, I was probably not as flamboyant as Larry King — I may have had burgundy hair and wore a flaming red shirt that reached down to my knees, with a matching beret, but I never wore high heels to school — and I was warned against my self-expression. I refused because it felt like knuckling under. Growing up an skinny, effeminate, non-athletic, black gay boy in the south, during the Reagan era was suffocating. It felt, in some ways, like being buried. Not having even that outlet, though I suffered some for it, would have made it even worse.

It’s not enough to just tell kids the world is a dangerous place. As adults, it’s also our job to make it safer, or at least to try. If school isn’t a safe place, then efforts to make it safe are in order. In the meantime, if school isn’t safe enough right now, kids like Larry King still deserve a place that is safe, where they can be themselves without consequences.

Otherwise, the bullies win.

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