Monday, October 30, 2006

Not sure what to say...

I have been following the news of the violence taking place in Oaxaca, Mexico. Perhaps not as closely as I should still as a place where I once protested and slept under the arches of the Governor's Palace with dozens of angry campesinos denouncing unfair detentions, it is a place that is near to my heart.
That is why the recent violence has left me unsure of what to say about the situation. According to Mexico Week in Review, the federal goverment has deployed military forces into the area to combat the violence, but this "help" comes weeks, months, even after the original attacks begun. MWR states, "The pretext for the deployment of federal police to Oaxaca was an outbreak of violence on Oct. 27 in which at least three people were killed and more than 23 wounded; one of the wounded died that night, according to some reports. In the morning of Oct. 27 APPO supporters stepped up their protests by blocking Oaxaca city's access to the highway to Mexico City and the road to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. By 10am state police backed by PRI supporters had started violent attacks on protesters. A gang of hooded men tried to attack Radio Universidad, a pro-strike radio station at the local university, while there was shooting on the El Rosario bridge. Five simultaneous attacks on APPO barricades started at about 5 pm. In Santa Lucia del Camino, a municipality a few miles outside Oaxaca city, people began firing on the barricade from inside a house. APPO supporters backed a truck into the house to break down the door, but a group of men, many in red shirts, began firing on them. Oswaldo Ramirez, a photographer for the Mexico City daily Milenio, was grazed on the knee by a bullet while he was covering the incident; the armed men also fired on Raul Estrella, a photographer from the Mexico City daily El Universal but missed him. Brad Will, a freelance journalist and photographer who worked with the Indymedia Center in New York City, was hit twice in the abdomen as he videotaped the shooting. Strikers rushed him to a Red Cross hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival."
It is at the end where I pause, an American journalist killed?
I, like most of the people I know, live in the cyberworld. Knowing he will be interested and appalled I send this information to my partner who is out of the country. He replies at 2am Monday morning. Not only did he know this man from various political collaborations and activist circles in NYC, but I knew this young man.
And then it comes back to me, the baseball cap pushed down over red, unkempt hair. Skinny, tall, laughing over a plate of vegan friendly thai food...and I sit at my desk and cry.
I don't mean to suggest that the life of this man, by virtue of being a citizen of the most powerful country in the world, is more valuable than the many Mexican women and men who have lost their lives or live under the constant threat of death and violence.
All I am saying is that the violence is now at my front door. In my bedroom.
The question is what am I going to do about it?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why I Love Bob Jensen (he's the one on the left!)

Life at the University of Texas can be hard for students of color. As if attending a predominantly white university with an irrefutably racist past wasn't enough-- until the 1950s all of the major buildings on campus were built facing south and statues honoring Confederate heroes grace the main mall-- it can be overwhelming dealing with students and faculty alike who refuse to actively confront racism at this University.
One ne
ed only look to the law school to prove my point.
About a week ago, about 20 first-year law students threw a "ghetto fabulous party" in which participants dressed i
n outfits stereotypically associated with poor, working-class Black and Latinos and flaunted what they considered to be ghetto names such as Jose and LaTonya. Some wore gaudy "bling" jewelry while others thought it'd be cute to don gold grills for the evening.
While this is clearly problematic, the truly disturbing part of this whole story is the response of the law school to the event. The dean of the law school responded by reprimanding the students for being "insensitive" and warned that these thoughtless actions might have negative repercussions for their future careers.
Their careers? What about the fact that this party was racist?
This is where my love for Bob Jensen comes in.
In an editorial in the Daily Texan, Jensen made a point to call the party out for what it was. A demonstration of the reality of white supremacy at this institution. Rather than engage in discussions of cultural sensitivity, which seem to dominate any discourse of diversity in institutions of higher education, Jensen redirected the focus to thinking critically about the institutional and personal practices that reinscribe white supremacy as a normal part of American life.
His article is worth quoting at length as he discusses the real problems with this "ghetto" party:

"But whatever the case, should we be stressing to students that the reason they should not be white supremacists is that it might hurt their careers? What does such a message convey to sudents and to the community?

What’s missing in this official response is a clear statement that these law students -- many of whom go on to join the ranks of the powerful who run society -- have engaged in behavior that is overtly racist. Whatever their motivations in planning or attending the party, they have demonstrated that they have internalized a white-supremacist ideology. When these students are making future decisions in business, government, and education, how will such white supremacy manifest itself? And who will be hurt by that?

Here’s what we should say to students: The problem with a racist “ghetto fabulous” party isn’t that it offends some people or tarnishes the image of UT or may hurt careers. The problem is that it’s racist, and when you engage in such behavior you are deepening the racism of a white-supremacist culture, and that’s wrong. It violates the moral and political principles that we all say we endorse. It supports and strengthens an unjust social system that hurts people."

You can check out the rest of his editorial at

So this is my tribute to one of the few white men on campus who truly keeps it real, with himself and his community. If Bob Jensen is a fountain of undiluted foolishness (as he was once called by former University President Larry Faulkner) may we all be so lucky to be labeled as such and continue to take an unequivocal stand in the fight for racial justice.

(for the record, the photos I am using do not come from the Law School students' party. I did a google image search and found these. I felt that they illustrated the problematic racial politics of these events. As many of you know, these ghetto parties have been happening all over the country at a number of universities in the last 3-5 years.)

Black Panther Party Turns 40

Hello All:
Just got this link. Here are a number of interviews with members of the Black Panther Party who gathered in Oakland, CA this past weekend to commemorate 40 years of racial justice organizing, black self-determination, and fighting to dismantle white supremacy. It is a reassuring reminder to me that the struggle for justice is a lifelong commitment and the women and men who formed the Black Panther Party are an exemplary model of exactly how we might all do that.
You can check out the interviews yourself at: pt 1 pt 2 pt 3

Peace and Blessings to you all...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wow...have I really not posted in 2 months?
Well, I am back now. Sort of and trying to regain my bearings. It's the second year of graduate school ya'll and guess who's getting a Masters' degree in May 2007?
Don't sleep, you knew it was coming. So I've been a bit swamped. This fall has been completely insane. I'm a teaching assistant (TA) at UT so that's been a bit of a rude awakening. Having to come to campus twice a week on days I don't have class is a bit of a drag and keeps me from playing around and procrastinating the way I used to...sigh, I miss the good ol' days of full funding from the University.
In any case, just a note to let you know that I will be blogging again because I have a brand new WanderLust adventure to share with you: Courtney Does Scotland.
That's right Scotland. You thought the fact that there are no Black people in Scotland (except for one of my all-time favorite homegirls) was gonna stop me from blowing it up? Naw man, I went and you know Loch Ness was at the top of my list. Sadly, I didn't see Nessie, but that doesn't matter because Scotland was truly amazing and beautiful and tranquil and wonderful.
So stay tuned, a full on post is on the way.

by the way: check out my homegirl's blog, Adventures in Negroshire. If you have any sense of humor at all and can appreciate somebody taking on chance on love and happiness you'll love this.