You’ll need a parent to sign this.

January 19, 2009

After doing a little reading on Star Trek and teh Gay (two of my favorite things), I’ve been thinking a lot about how some of my favorite shows stack up in terms of queer representation.

But then I thought, why stop there?

Thus, I present to you, in no particular order, a report card on issues of sexuality, gender and race for some of my favorite shows.

[Spoiler warning: if you’re not up to date on these series, I might be revealing plot info you didn’t want revealed. You’ve been warned.]

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The results are in

May 20, 2008

…And it turns out girls might Not be to blame for the “boys’ crisis.” Shocker! This is what I’ve been saying for a while, albeit quietly and to no one in particular: the fact that girls and women are outperforming their male peers in schools and colleges doesn’t mean there’s some kind of Male Trouble afoot, particularly since the wage gap is still so very intact.

I look forward to reading the full report and hear thoughts on it, but this statement from Linda Hallman really struck me:

“To have this distracter out there, about the boys’ crisis, took away from our mission, from pushing forward for what we were trying to achieve, which is to be a leader in dealing with the education crisis that affects girls and boys without many resources.”

Indeed! I think “distracter” is a very apt description for the “boys’ crisis.” Focusing attention on the boys both keeps girls’ accomplishments out of the spotlight and also removes race and class from the discussion.

Bell Trial Verdict

April 27, 2008

For those of you who’ve been following the case of the NYPD officers who shot and killed Sean Bell, I thought you might be interested in the full statement of Judge Cooperman in handing down his ruling. (I participated in a shadow jury study of the case, and the experimentors just sent us the verdict.) I’ll have more to say on the case and the study, but right now I’m theoretically writing a service plan for my local high school, so my commentary will have to wait. In the meantime, some related reading:

This is a Feminist Issue Too by Holly at Feministe

Examining the Justice That We Seek by Jack at AngryBrownButch

Officers in Sean Bell shooting acquitted by nojojo at The Angry Black Woman

Here’s the full statement, without comment:

Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. and, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest level of professionalism and skill.

Because establishments known as “strip clubs” often generate criminal activity including prostitution and narcotics, the Police Department club enforcement unit was given the task of infiltrating such places and pursuing violations of law that would lead toward shutting them down.

So it was that the detectives charged in this case found themselves in the vicinity of Club Kalua in the early morning of November 25, 2006.

And as a result of the events of that morning, they are accused of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

Now, after eight weeks of trial, this court has the responsibility of making a determination of guilt or lack of guilt as to each of the charges set forth against each of the defendants.

As the trier of fact, this court must determine what the facts are, apply those facts to the applicable law, and render a verdict.

The court will do so. But before announcing a decision, a brief statement is in order.

In weighing the evidence, the court examined the testimony of the witnesses and the factors to be considered in determining credibility.

An objective consideration of the proof ruled out sympathy and prejudice and any other emotional response to the issues presented. The court did not view the victims or the NYPD as being on trial here.

The burden of proof was on the people to prove each defendant guilty of the crimes of which he was charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. And as with all criminal cases, each defendant was presumed to be innocent.

Because justification was raised as an issue, the people had the burden of proving as an element of each charged crime that each defendant was not justified.

It is important to note that in analyzing what happened here, it was necessary to consider the mind-set of each defendant at the time and place of occurrence, and not the mind-set of the victims. What the victims did was more pertinent to resolving the issues of fact than what may have been in their minds.

Also, carelessness and incompetence are not standards to be applied here, unless the conduct rises to the level of criminal acts, as defined by the law relating to each count charged.

What happened outside the Club Kalua on November 25, 2006, and the ensuing incident that occurred around the corner on Liverpool Street are the two significant events about which proof was elicited.

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed.

However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony.

These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

Yet, it was apparent from the testimony of the participants that the confrontation that took place in front of the club was heated. The SUV owner, Fabio Coicou, gave the impression that he had a gun, causing at least one of the group to threaten to take it away from him.

And, the court finds, another threat was made by Joseph Guzman to retrieve a gun. At that point, nothing of a criminal nature had taken place. But, having witnessed that provocative confrontation between Mr. Coicou and the group, the undercover officers became concerned and followed the group around the corner to Liverpool Street.

Defendant Isnora approached the Nissan Altima into which Mr. Guzman and Sean Bell, two of the more active participants in the heated exchange, entered.

The Altima, which was driven by Mr. Bell, sped away from its parked position, struck defendant Isnora and collided head on with the police van that had entered Liverpool Street. The Altima then went into reverse, backed up on to the sidewalk, struck a gate and then went forward and to the right, striking the police van again.

As this was happening, defendant Isnora — who testified in the grand jury –observed mr. Guzman, the front passenger, move his body as if he were reaching for a weapon. defendant Isnora yelled, “gun” and fired.

Other officers, indicted and unindicted, joined in from different locations on the street.
The court has found that the incident lasted just seconds. The officers responded to perceived criminal conduct; the unfortunate consequences of their conduct were tragic.

The police response with respect to each defendant was not proved to be criminal, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums.
Although there were aspects of defense testimony that were not necessarily credible, the focus must be on the people’s proof to determine whether they have satisfied their burden of proving the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

To the extent that the defense of justification was applicable to the charged crimes, counts 1, 2, 3, 4 in part, 5 in part, 6, 7, and 8, the people have not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each defendant was not justified in the actions that each took.

With respect to counts 4 and 5, Trent Benefield, whose credibility was seriously impeached, testified that he was shot while running down Liverpool Street forensic evidence demonstrated otherwise. Thus, although the justification defense would not have applied to that aspect of counts 4 and 5, it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the court finds each defendant not guilty of each of the respective counts in the indictment of which they were charged.

A good number of Capitalized Things

April 25, 2008

The Angry Black Woman has put out a call for submissions for her Carnival of Allies, and I thought I’d take a crack at it. I know I personally have a lot of work to do when it comes to being an anti-racist ally, and for me that work starts with trying to check my own privilege and recognize the gaps in my education. One good place to begin: no more Dumb Questions.

What’s a Dumb Question? It starts something like this: “Why do black people do/think/act/dress…” (I could, of course, switch that out for Latinos, or Native Americans, or any number of groups.)

Now, I can’t recall actually asking a Dumb Question out loud, but I’ll certainly admit to  thinking up quite a few, and even discussing some among friends. (Because what’s more educational than a bunch of white folks talking about race, right?) We never voiced these Dumb Questions to anyone but ourselves because somehow, in our humble little reptile brains, we suspected this might just have been A Bad Idea. And I think I’ve finally figured out a few reasons why.

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You better be using that giant diploma for something.

December 2, 2007

There’s a good little post up at Afropologe at a recent three-parter in my alma mater’s dumb newspaper. It’s an article ostensibly about “bridging the opportunity gap” (that’s in the sub-headline), about coming to Harvard from a background that isn’t the super white, super rich one many associate with Harvard students. I initially only read the first in the series and found it pretty ho-hum–it seemed kind of like a token “Diversity is swell!” piece, with the requisite This Man Is From A Scary Place setup and Uplifting And Inspirational ending.

Anyway, Kaya really nails a few of the problems with the article (not, she’s clear to point out, with the subject of the article; and, as at least one commenter points out in the discussion thread, the Crimson has a history of misquoting people egregiously and manipulating statements to fit their pre-determined narratives), so you should head over there to see the discussion happening. This is my favorite of Kaya’s points:

the most offensive part of this to me was the part where he implies that those of us who go into public sector work do it because we don’t need money as much as he does, because our families don’t need us, or because we’re just rich. if someone could please tell that to my checkbook, that would be great.

Anyway, here’s one of the things that struck me: whenever a piece like this comes out (“Harvard kids aren’t all pampered preppies! We swear!”) it seems like it’s inevitably about a person of color from a lower socio-economic class, and the piece tries to tackle issues of color and issue of class simultaneously. What about all those Harvard kids from more privileged backgrounds who aren’t white? And what about all those white kids from less privileged backgrounds? Personally, I’d be really interested to hear about them, too.

The other thing that struck a nerve, though, was this comment of Kaya’s:

i am SO offended by the implication that public interest careers are a privilege that people from working-class backgrounds can’t afford. if you really want to help out your community, why don’t you go teach their children? no salary in the world is so high that it’s going to lift your old community out of poverty, so dont kid yourself into thinking you’re “giving back,” when you’re just “giving a bit.”

That last sentence is key. I think she’s right to question the notion that students from less privileged backgrounds are pressured to go into i-banking or whatever, but I’d also be interested to hear what other people think about the feelings of responsibility and guilt that go into the decisions of more privileged graduates who choose to go into the public interest sector. Speaking as one of those graduates myself, I know that I often feel a desire to “give back.” And as I near the end of my master’s program and think about where I’ll end up teaching, I definitely feel a tension between my desire to work somewhere with job security and a supportive parent community and high-achieving students (in other words, a school with money) and my sense that I should be somewhere that “needs me more.” (If I’m not mistaken, this comes up a lot in discussions of Teach for America, and its history of sending idealistic young white people into inner-city schools.)


Walk this way

May 20, 2007

I’ve been seeing (and getting involved in, though I’m not always as coherent as I’d like) a lot of discussions about race lately, many of them directly related to Full Frontal Feminism and the various reviews, critiques, and defenses of it floating around in the blogosphere.

Race hasn’t often been prominent on my radar, and I’m well aware that I’m afforded that luxury because I’m white. I grew up in an extremely homogeneous place, went to extremely white schools, and then went off to college at the ultimate White Boys’ Club, which thankfully is a lot more diverse now than it used to be. (Hence me being able to go, being a lady and all.) But even there I rarely engaged in any hard conversations, which I now realize is such a shame.

Anyway, all of these discussions through The Series of Tubes have left me sort of reeling and experiencing a pretty wild range of emotions. So rather than trying to say anything profound, I’ll direct you to some other people who are already saying wonderful and profound things.

Anti-racism, race traitors, and whiteness, from Plain(s) Feminist.

A Thank-You, an Apology, and a Rant, from Ilyka Damen.

Things You Need to Understand #4, from The Angry Black Woman.

Jessica Valenti rocks.

May 15, 2007

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Simmons last night, Jessica was awesome. (Best line of the evening: “Well, I don’t have a penis, and I don’t rape women. So…”)

If you haven’t already read Full Frontal Feminism, you really should. (Support those local independent bookstores!) Even if you consider yourself an expert on feminist issues you’ll probably still find something new (like the anti-rape device the line above refers to) and it’s a quick read with great resources throughout. I’d also totally recommend sending a copy to a young woman in your life, particularly a high schooler or college student who might not have access to feminism in a way that’s straightforward and fun to read. And, my personal favorite–the book is totally homo-inclusive. Woo!

[Edit: Rereading this more than a year later, I now know that Valenti has taken a lot of flak for not writing a book that is more inclusive of the work of women of color. There’s been a lot of bad behavior on both sides, from critics and supporters, but I still think FFF is a valuable primer. Not the end-all-be-all by any means, but a good step in the right direction. I really hope more women of color can get their foot in the door in the publishing world, because we need more feminist books, and those of us who aspire to be anti-racist allies need to listen more and presume less.]