Thursday, December 01, 2005

Betty and me on race

Good evening, we'll start off with Democracy Now!

Pelosi Backs Murtha Call for Withdrawal
Calls for a troop withdrawal have been bolstered by the stance taken by hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha. On Wednesday, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi became the first congressional leader to endorse Congressman Murtha’s position. Pelosi and other top Democrats had initially distanced themselves from Murtha’s call to end the deployment in Iraq to and maintain rapid reaction force in the region. But Pelosi told the Washington Post: "clearly a majority of the [Democratic] caucus supports Mr. Murtha" in his call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

She took her time but she found her voice which is more than anyone can say about General Hillary who's got the war lust so bad you worry about her being caught in the oval office not with an intern but a missile.

Do you think Hillary watched the last Democratic primaries and told herself, "I know what I'm going to do, I'm going to be the next Joe Lieberman!" That's what it seems like.

Dec. 1st Marks 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day
And today marks the 25th anniversary of World AIDS day. Since 1981, AIDS has claimed the lives of more than an estimated 20 million people. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 million Americans are now living with HIV, with at least 35,000 new infections occurring a year. In the southern African country of Malawi, UNICEF estimates over half a million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS. In India, at least 4.5 million people live with HIV, the most in any country outside of South Africa.

25 years is more years than I am old. It's weird to realize that there was a time without AIDS because in my life, it's always been around.

I know it's somewhere at The Common Ills lots of times and probably at The Third Estate Sunday Review too. I'd provide a link if I could find it, but I agree with C.I. that Bully Boy has really damaged the fight against AIDS. He's injected his personal beliefs into a scientific discussion. Doing that confuses the message.

So if you're stressing a condom one year and the next year you're saying "Just say no to sex" you're confusing the message. Science money should go for science. It should teach how to prevent the transmission of AIDS. Instead it's been diverting into teaching someone's religion. It's not reasonable to expect people to just wait until marriage to avoid AIDS. What happens is you may say, "Okay, I'll wait a bit." Then you tell yourself, "Okay, this is one time and we will get married." Then you break up and pretty soon it's back to saying "This one time . . ."

Can people wait until marriage to have sex? Some can. (But some people will never get married.) (And some people might like to be married but can't because only 5 countries have gay marriage if I'm remembering Democracy Now! right.) Better to teach people what to do if they do have sex and leave the religious teachings to a church.

Instead Bully Boy's putting money into stuff that's not going to work and has no science backing up that "I will wait" pledges work.

C.I. noted this today:

At Corrente Wire, Leah's asking everyone to "Help Make Thursday, December 1st 'Blog Against Racism Day.'"

We're supposed to write about race or racism. Wally already did his part on this today. He focused on Florida's 2000 election and the media not caring about the disenfranchisment of African-American voters. Today's also the 50th anniversary of Rosa Park's brave stand as Betty just pointed out. These are our thoughts on race because at her site, she has to stay in character but she wanted to weigh in.

Race is an issue that's come up a lot in the community. Like when John H. Johnson died and all anyone (media or bloggers) wanted to talk about was Peter Jennings.

Was that racism? Was it just people focusing on the obvious?

Democracy Now! covered John H. Johnson's death. Some people think that Oprah had to be strong armed into covering it and, when she did cover it, my sister says it was like a three minute tribute that mainly showed celebrities on the cover of Ebony. Oprah goes for the obvious. Democracy Now! tries to shine a light where no one else does.

That matters. Grace Lee Boggs is a voice we never knew about until Liang noted her for women's history month. A lot of voices are left out of the mainstream media period but it's even more obvious when it comes to people of color. How often does Tim Russert have a person of color on? If you leave out Condi the number's even lower. There's a tendency to just go for the obvious voices and if we do that we just end up with white voices because that's what we get on the airwaves and in print.

Oprah was supposed to be a big breakthrough and for awhile there were a lot of copycat shows but in the end there's really just Oprah. And the shows she does on whatever Hollywood couple is in love or whatever big budget movie has come out don't really challenge much. Betty's old enough that she can remember Phil Donahue's daytime show and she talks about how she wishes Oprah would try to be a little less inspirational and a little more practical by informing people. But Betty and I both wonder how fair it is to just pin that on Oprah?

She's not the only person in the mainstream with a TV show. And she did get taken to court when she did her mad cow show. Ma says if Oprah's a breakthrough that it's the people of all color who need to build the roads now that Oprah's opened the door. That's probably a better take than Betty or I have on it. (Betty also said it was a kinder take than our take.)

But where is the mainstream's interest with non-whites? In entertainment or in news, they really don't seem that concerned that they basically present all whites.

We've seen three African-Americans win best acting Oscars (Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx) but what's shocking is that the Oscars are older are than me and those were the first three African-Americans to win.

And when it's time to replace white male anchors, we get white males.

Is there a reason that the networks refuse to go beyond that?

I think it's because racism is institutional and self-perpuates.

The mainstream says "These are the important voices" and we all nod along.

It can be hard to go beyond the mainstream but if the world's going to change, we're going to have to. Think about The Daily Jerk Off and how it's all white all the time.

On the left the problem is that we're already shut out of the mainstream. That's all of us. But think about how much more difficult it must be to be left and a person of a color.

Margaret Kimberley has a funny essay today called "Republican Sex Freaks." And I know her voice because of The Common Ills. Salim Muwakkil is another voice I've learned of due to The Common Ills. He is a senior editor and columnist for In These Times. When C.I. gripes about the fact that Patricia J. Williams' columns at The Nation are hardly ever made available to anyone other than subscribers, that's because she's missing an audience that others get. Eric Alterman has his own weblog. If they don't want to make the whole issue available to nonsubscribers, they should do some sort of rotation because Williams is a law professor and a really strong voice.

When we review books at The Third Estate Sunday Review, we've got a lot of people with a lot of ideas (and readers suggest things too). I think that's why we've had a pretty good mix. Like Cedric said in the last book discussion, we try to go for something besides the obvious. If every big paper in the world's talking a book, we probably aren't interested. That's how we ended up with a book of Bayard Rustin's writings last time.

I think that's the only real answer, going for the less obvious. It's probably easier to give shout outs to an all white cast all the time because that's what the mainstream media does but if the net's going to be any different than the mainstream media, fundamentally different, we need to work to make the range of voices wider.

Everyone's got time constraints and is rushing to do what they can. But if there's not a real effort made to enlarge the landscape now, the internet's going to end up exactly like the mainstream.

I'd already decided to highlight something and then decided against it but Betty said to go with it because the topic's important and she likes sports as much as me. So here's Dave Zirin's "The Fight to Save Stan Tookie Williams" (The Nation):

"Years ago, I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth.... While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." --Eugene V. Debs
These words of the fabled social activist also define the life of NFL hall of famer and actor Jim Brown. He has mediated truces between the toughest gangs in Los Angeles and fought racism from South Central to Soweto. But today he is involved in a different kind of fight: the race to save
Stan Tookie Williams, who now awaits execution on California's death row. Williams is due to be executed December 13, and Brown has linked arms with a motley crew of activists from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg demanding that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spare his life. Schwarzenegger, who has set a clemency hearing for December 8, recently told reporters he is "dreading" the decision he is about to make.
The clemency hearing comes at a critical time. On December 2, North Carolina death row inmate Kenneth Lee Boyd is expected to be the 1,000th person to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Boyd' scheduled execution comes days after Virginia Gov. Mike Warner granted clemency to Robin Lovitts, who was originally slated for that spot. After the California Supreme Court decided this week to refuse to re-open the Williams case, the race is on to persuade Schwarzenegger to follow Warner's lead.

Now I'm adding for everyone to be sure and check out Betty's "Hell is your house-bound husband on house arrest with you serving the sentence."

Remember the motto: The Common Ills community is important and the Common Ills community is important to me. So I'll do my part for the Common Ills community.