News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Friday, October 01, 2004
News and analysis: Quadriplegic's horror is not humor
There are different ways one can look at the same facts. News media can categorize the same incident as inspiration, humor, straight news or a feature story. CNN played a story about a handicapped man who was hostage to a rampaging bear as humor.
There are humorous aspects to the story. Fat Albert has a gentle touch. Though he has broken into the refrigerator and cabinets, he leaves them unscathed. He is also a sleepy fellow, with unfortunate toilet habits. He has stayed over night at Isaac's place multiple times. Left his business in the bed in the guestroom instead of the commode, though. But, there is another side to the incidents. The bear weighs about 500 pounds and stands six-five. Isaac is a quadriplegic.
The Aspen Timesreports that Isaac has been afraid to stay in his home because of the recurrent invasions by bears. Not that victims of spinal cord injuries have to face hungry bears to feel trapped. As singer Teddy Pendergrass wrote in his autobiography, Truly Blessed, even a trip to the mall can be a challenge. The verbally abusive stranger an able-bodied person would walk away from becomes inescapable for someone in a wheelchair. In addition, handicapped persons of all types are disproportionately victims of crimes. They are easy marks for humans as well as the occassional aggressive animal. There is a tendency to paper over differences in how people experience life in the interest of being pleasant. But, doing so can be a mistake when the differences matter. This is such a situation. What would be a nuisance for someone not in Isaac's situation is a tragedy waiting to happen for him. Sometimes, we use humor to distance ourselves from realities we are uncomfortable with. One of the realities that make many people uncomfortable is disability. Playing this incident as comic does create distance from Isaac's experience. Being harassed by Fat Albert is not funny if the victim cannot run away.posted by J. | 8:00 PM
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Commentary: Oh, those colored criminals!
The first career I became interested in was anthropology. When I was eleven or twelve, I read several books by or about Margaret Mead. I was also curious about how human behavior developed. As a witness to group conflict in the South -- class and racial -- I was already in a culture worthy of study. I still find myself asking: 'What made him (or them) do that?' quite often. Earlier tonight, I was browsing blog entries when I happened across one about singer Chaka Khan's adult son being charged with murder. The blogger, True Focus, had plenty to say about 'bad' celebrities.
The blog entry is poorly reasoned and badly written. But, another aspect of it stands out, as well. All of the celebrities the fellow is taking to the woodshed, with the exception of Britney Spears, are African-American. Considering that most public figures are white, including those who may be guilty of bad behavior, one wonders why he chose to flagellate black celebrities.
The blogger does not stop digging. He goes on to accuse Chaka Khan of having her son kill someone to obtain publicity for her new album.
Blogger Casper, of Chromatic Musings, responded that the charges had already been dropped against Holland because of a lack of evidence. It appears that Holland and the young man killed scuffled over possession of a shotgun. The gun went off.
So, we have a blogger who singled out African-American celebrities for accusations of criminal behavior. He then molded a claim that the black celebrity mother of a biracial man is so depraved she would suborn killing to promote her work. To an unbiased observer, there is no for reasonable basis for his behavior. If he is going to criticize celebrities, he should have a legitimate basis for doing so. And, he should not decide who to criticize based on the color of the person's skin.
I am much too squeamish to be an anthropologist. The first time the indigenes wanted me to eat an insect or I couldn't get a nice, warm shower, that would be all she wrote. But, studying behavior in any microcosm, including the blogosphere, can be enlightening. What made him do that?posted by J. | 11:15 PM
Monday, September 27, 2004
News: Experts say race is not real
Bad news for folks who are deeply invested in the popular conception of race. The most recent national conference on the topic, attended by experts in genetics, history and anthropology, reports that 'race' doesn't exist. Again, people in the know say that what most Americans think of as race is a cultural construct, not supported by biology.
The Washington Post was there.
p>What this means is the bedrock claim promoted by racists -- that people can be divided into biologically exclusive 'families' based on superficial aspects, such as skin color or whether they have epicanthic folds -- is false. For example, a person who shares your height, particularly if you are tall or short, has more in common with you biologically than other people who share your skin color or eye shape.
But, how did the terms most Americans think of as defining race come into being? The term Caucasian originally referred to people who lived in the Caucacus Mountain area near the Black Sea. Oriental meant the direction, East, where the people who would be called Orientals, dwelt. Africans were merely anyone, from Egyptian to Zulu, who resided on the extremely diverse continent. Only with slavery, colonialism and imperialism, did the terms take on the value judgments now associated with them. A hierarchy needed to be established to try to justify the domination and exploitation of some peoples by others.
The conclusion reached by the conferees is not news to me. However, it strikes at the heart of what our racist brethen hold dear -- the belief there is a 'better' race and they are members of it. Harry, the blogger at Little Geneva, is an adherent to Christian Identity ideology. He is not pleased with what the experts at the conference decided.
Members of the Christian Identity movement believe not only that white supremacy is right and proper, but that it is ordained by God.
Do I expect people to start greeting their height mates as members of the same 'race' within my life time? No. But, the work of the National Science Foundation is worthwhile. It will help dispel at least some of the confusion about what 'race' is.
What's the art?
A picture of a child.
In the interest of brotherhood and sisterhood, I have decided to extend the hand of fellowship to all persons who share one of my physical characteristics -- crooked little fingers. Welcome to my 'race.'posted by J. | 9:23 PM