Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the last one

perhaps you saw my status update if you follow me on facebook and/or twitter. i had my last ever episode of my radio show "the movement regression" on WRFN last wednesday. i've had this show since April 2005, when WRFN 1st opened itself to the airwaves.

i played a lot of songs that mean a lot to me, that have some sort of connection for me. the show started off with "alive & awake" by mortal. this is the song that i point to that started the whole musical addiction for me way back in high school. also on the playlist that night were the prayer chain's "sky high", mew's "snow brigade", "graveyard girl" by m83 and songs by explosions in the sky, stavesacre, mogwai, and a bunch of others. it was fun putting together a string of songs that connect to my heart like that.

the people at WRFN were kind enough to let me do an extra hour for my last show, which was nice because it allowed me to fit in more songs that mean a lot to me. i found myself feeling nostalgic & melancholy during those 3 hours, remembering all the memories that i've had in that studio over the past 4.5 years. memories like having my friends in the band ide (now the antennas) play a few songs during one of my 1st shows there. another was when my friends jeff d. and josh s. from philadelphia came to visit, resulting in them hanging out in the studio with me one night.

i also remember doing some shows when julie & i started dating. she would often listen online, and listen to my "sexy voice" (her words, not mine) while we would IM back & forth to each other. she, of course, went to the studio a few times too.

part of the point of this post is to thank those of you who have listened over the years. it was incredible when i would get feedback & song requests from people as the show rolled on.

i was able to record my show, thanks to a wonderful program called radiolover that records online streams to your computer as they play. i have the past few months of shows on my macbook thanks to that program.

so for now i'm saying "good-bye" to radio. i may have another opportunity to do it after julie & i move to phoenix in a few weeks. until that happens, i can definitely say i appreciated the hours i spent playing music i love over the air.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tim Wise and Black in America

Commentary below was from Tim Wise's facebook post about Henry Louis Gates Jr. It was written on July 21, 2009. I continue to be amazed at how people can act like racism and white privilege don't exist.

What concerns me most is that this happened to an educated, probably affluent African-American man. How are lower-class, uneducated young black men able to prove themselves in this sort of system? The odds seem automatically stacked against them.

A while ago Brian and I were able to watch a series by CNN called Black in America. Tonight and tomorrow night, there will be another 2 part series called Black in America 2. The first show was extremely thought provoking and touched a special place in my heart bcz of my younger brother. I anticipate that tonight and tomorrow's show will do the same.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite

I am sad at the passing of this legend of journalism. Although I was not a arduous fan, I did admire the quality of reporting that he brought to the American public. I found this blog post to be a great tribute. I also am proud to be a Sun Devil as Arizona State University has the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at its Downtown campus. It's great to see the way they are honoring his legacy. Below is a clip of Cronkite announcing JFK's death. There is some footage included that I had not seen before.

Sotomayor and the Fundamentals of Diversity and Affirmative Action

This is a recent blog post by Jim Wallis. You can view the blogpost online or I've copied the text below. I like that he quotes Toobin's book "The Nine". A good read! I also like Brian McLaren's comments (which are linked) as well.

"The confirmation hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor this week again brings up the fundamental issues of diversity and affirmative action. Regardless of what we think of the good judge – I like her, and was honored to be at the White House for the announcement of the first Latina for the Supreme Court by the first African-American president, something that I actually did find very moving – it is worth reflecting theologically and politically on the issues involved.

The story of creation in Genesis provides a great depth of insight into the being and nature of God. In those first chapters of scripture we see that the image of God is best reflected not through sameness but through the breadth that exists within the grand diversity of creation. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the U.K., argues in his book, The Dignity of Difference, that the Tower of Babel stands as a warning against the hubris of humans who try to impose uniformity where God has created diversity. The doctrine of the Trinity holds that God, while perfect in unity, is at the same time diverse as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our country is always at its best when diversity is not viewed as a problem to be overcome but as a strength to be celebrated. The challenge diversity presents is not for the country to become colorblind but for us all to be able to recognize and celebrate our differences while maintaining the proposition our country was founded upon, that all are created equal. While all are equal, we are not all the same — and that is a very good thing.

This principle was affirmed in the 1978 case of Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, when the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a strict quota system for admissions into medical school. But it was in the opinion of Justice Lewis Powell that another precedent was established. Justice Powell affirmed the role of well-designed affirmative action policies because of the benefits for society as a whole. Jeffery Toobin describes and quotes from the opinion as follows in his book The Nine:

…Powell justified affirmative action because of what it did for everyone, not just for its immediate beneficiaries. In his view, diversity — a buzzword that came into wide use only after Bakke -- helped all students of all races. “The nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples,” Powell wrote, so “race or ethnic background may be deemed a ‘plus’ in a particular applicant’s file.” … In the subsequent 25 years, Powell’s rationale had become the dominant intellectual justification for affirmative action — not as a handout to the downtrodden but as a net benefit to the society as a whole.

In the 2003 cases against the University of Michigan (Gratz vs. Bollinger) and the university’s law school (Grutter vs. Bolinger), the principle of taking race into consideration as one factor of admission to achieve the goal of diversity was again affirmed. In those cases, the law school’s affirmative action policy was considered to be set up in a way that promoted this principle while it was determined that the undergraduate system was not. Of special concern in the case was a brief signed by top retired military officers who argued that affirmative action programs in place for officer training was vital to the quality, effectiveness, and cohesiveness of our armed forces.

One of the great benefits of diversity is that whether in regards to life in general or the particulars of a court case, our background, life stories, and identities all afford us different perspectives and unique insights. A diverse class, officer training program, community, or Supreme Court is going to have a broader and deeper wealth of knowledge and experience to interpret the world around them or a plaintiff’s grievance. This is the value of empathy that the president laid out as one of his requirements for a judge. Empathy allows us to rightly consider our emotions in the process of making a decision and to view the facts within more than just one framework. David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, said it like this:

It is incoherent to say that a judge should base an opinion on reason and not emotion because emotions are an inherent part of decision-making. Emotions are the processes we use to assign value to different possibilities. Emotions move us toward things and ideas that produce pleasure and away from things and ideas that produce pain. People without emotions cannot make sensible decisions because they don’t know how much anything is worth. People without social emotions like empathy are not objective decision-makers. They are sociopaths who sometimes end up on death row.

The belief that diversity is a goal worth pursuing because it is a benefit to all of us is not a conservative belief or a progressive belief, but a deeply held moral value and American proposition. As Brian McLaren wrote, this is not racism. It is from this foundation that our country has overcome the sins of slavery and legalized segregation — and it is from this foundation that our country will continue to make strides in overcoming racial inequality through the courts, legislation, and the transformation of society."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sotomayor Part 2

I continue to watch the Sotomayor hearings and I am intrigued by the questioning of Senator Lindsay Graham (R. South Carolina). I think that the demeanor and approach to his questioning was much more diplomatic and graceful than Senator Kyl's. Or perhaps, they were just sugar coated with southern charm. I'm not sure and I know I'm not qualified to make character judgments on someone I don't know.

But, here are some things that I noticed which seemed to hold a different tone:

- His admiration of Sotomayor and his questioning of her temperment on the second circuit. I think he raised some good points about her character and challenged her to examine it.
- His pointing out of her record of judgement
- His challenging of Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment and how if the tables were turned he would be in the hot seat and how he recognized and affirmed the fact that we all should have a second chance for the things in which we say
- His ability to help see the human side of Sotomayor when asking questions about her reaction to the attacks of 9/11/01.
- His encouragement for Sotomayor to think about and entertain certain concepts and thoughts

However, I do think that he raised hot button issues (abortion, war, death penalty) in a subtle manner and I thought there was a very slight tone of condescension at some points - but very slight. I wonder if some would see his southern charm holding the ability to seem nice and yet pull out the big issues...

I'm not saying that he's my new hero but I do see a different tone to his questioning than I have yet seen thus far. I think his delivery method was an intelligent approach.

Supreme Ct Nominee Sotomayor

I've been watching the nomination hearings for the past two days and I've been struck by the matter of how race, ethnicity and gender has been a point of attack on her perspective.

And frankly, I am embarassed and ashamed by the attack on Sotomayor from Sen. Jon Kyle (R. Arizona). I think he's one of the white males that is threatened by a strong, powerful woman who is very much in touch with and proud of her ethnicity and her support of the importance of women and people of color. I understand that his concern is that he's afraid that race and gender will become determining factors in the judgements that she may rule upon. I think that she is a strong advocate for more women and people of color to be in leadership positions, perhaps on the Court itself. I think she's fallen under attack for supporting diversity in a Court and judicial system that has for a majority of the time held mainly white males. In a society that has dominant white privilege, Kyle should recognize that yes, the speeches that she gave at various commencements were empowering but that in action and in judgements, she will be as impartial as possible, as any other white supreme court judge could be as well.

I think as a woman of color, she is coming under attack for the fact that her decision making skills as a supreme ct judge should be questioned because of her biases. I think it's ridiculous to assume that simply because she is not a white male that she will be easily swayed by her racial and gender biases.

Perhaps some think that at this level of judging, there should not be mistakes or errors in judgement. But when I think over the course of the judges, many of them seem to have made mistakes of which the American people have not agreed with decisions. I also think that other recent supreme ct nominees, now judges, have received much more lienancy in their judging. For that matter, I think that presidents past and even the current president has made mistakes and will make mistakes.

Sotomayor has said and will continue to say, "I do not believe that any ethnic, gender or race group has an advantage in sound judging." And I think CNN's commentator Maria Echaveste captured the heart of my issue with these lines of questioning when she said, "If you are a minority and you're a conservative, you're independent minded. If you're a minority and sort of to the left, somehow you're going to be biased and in favor of minorities. There's a double standard here and that's ultimately what's problematic about this. The fact is, would we be asking about her bias in the Richie case if she were anything BUT a minority."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson's Funeral

Ok, so yes, I'm one of the millions of persons who watched the funeral. Here are the things I appreciated about the funeral.

- Al Sharpton's bold claims about MJ's breaking of the color barrier

- MLK III's quoting his father when he quoted this poem:


If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a shrub in the valley---but be
The best little shrub at the side of the hill;
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.
We can't all be captains,
We've got to be crew.
There's something for all of us here;
There is big work to do, and there's lesser to do
And the task we must do is the near.
If you can't be a highway, then just be a trail,
If you can't be the sun, be a star;
It isn't the size that you win or you fail---
Be the best of whatever you are.

- Brooke Shields' tearful memorial

But my favorite was Jennifer Hudson's performance of "Will You Be There". Simply Beautiful.

MJ was a great icon and an incredible entertainer.

Incident at a Philly Pool

In recent days, this story has unfolded. Here is one person's take on it all. I'd love to hear your responses. p.s. I'm keeping mine to myself at this point...

Off the Deep End:
Reflections on Private Clubs, Public Prejudice and Racism 2.0
By Tim Wise
July 9, 2009

On the one hand, racism is so deeply embedded in the history and structure of the United States, that it shouldn't be particularly surprising when a story emerges, indicating that indeed, that racism has bubbled to the surface yet again.

But on the other hand, sometimes a story finds its way into the public realm, which is of such a profoundly disturbing nature, that you can't help but do a double-take: the kind of story that makes you go, huh? What the hell did I just read? Like for sure you must have seen that headline wrong. Like you must have been teleported back in time fifty years or more, to a period when folks didn't even feel the need to pretend they were racially enlightened. Like you must be hallucinating, or perhaps this is a satire you're reading, maybe something from The Onion? And then you realize, nope, it's for real.

And so it was yesterday, when a swim club on the outskirts of Philadelphia made the news after expelling from their pool a summer camp group of approximately sixty kids of color from the city. Not because they had done anything wrong--no bad behavior, no inappropriate conduct, nothing like that, as they had just arrived and most of the children hadn't even had a chance to enter the pool yet--and not because they had crashed the private environs uninvited (the camp had paid over $1900 for the right to swim there once a week), but because, as club president, John Duesler explained in a letter: the kids would "change the complexion and atmosphere" of the club. Got that? The complexion.

Of course, Duesler, about whom I'll have more to say in a minute, insists that the decision wasn't racial. Yet several of the youth denied access to the pool overheard a white club member openly complaining about the arrival of the "black kids," and all but a few of the white children swimming when they arrived were yanked from the pool by their parents, in a move reminiscent of the 1950s, suggesting that the club's racism is not some inanimate institutional force, but a lived reality for many of its white members as well. One woman at the club, for instance, fretted openly that the black kids might "do something" to her child. Of course, because that's what fifth graders from the 'hood do: they roll out to the 'burbs, pretending to be interested in swimming, when really, the plan is to find some white kids and cut 'em the hell up, in some kinda pee-wee gang initiation ritual. Of course.

That the expulsion was racial is beyond dispute, or at least should be. The club knew how many kids were going to be there when they accepted the membership fee, so they can't claim they were overwhelmed by the size of the group, although they seem to be offering that as their excuse now that the story has gone public. Yet to read the comments left underneath the story at the Philly area NBC affiliate's webpage, which was first to break the news, leaves one with the distinct impression that for a lot of white folks, there is no need for the club to devise a cover story. Rather, a disturbing number of white posters seem positively exultant that these children--who had done nothing wrong except, apparently, to be born and to live in North Philadelphia--were booted from the club.

To wit, among these postings, one finds regular and repeated reference to the "animals" from the city, others who claim that blacks don't care for their own neighborhoods, and so, presumably, a group of black children shouldn't be let into a white one, and comments to the effect that if blacks want to be respected (and not discriminated against) they must first "clean up their act." In other words, whites are entitled to view all black people, even 8 year olds, through the lens of presumed group pathology, all because some in the black community engage in undesirable behavior. By which logic, of course, we should also presume that all whites are corporate criminals, because of the actions of Ken Lay, or Bernie Madoff, or the Savings and Loan bandits from the 80s.

Or perhaps that all white men should be presumed serial killers because of Manson, Bundy, Gacy, or dozens of others, or pederasts, like the sick-ass high ranking staffer at Duke University who was advertising for people to come and rape his 5-year old adopted black child, as he had already done repeatedly.

Perhaps it would be fair to think all whites to be semi-illiterate, because of, say, George W. Bush, or Sarah Palin, or to insinuate that white boys are all sociopathic animal mutilators because, as with a recent case in South Florida, most of the whack jobs who butcher kittens end up being, well, ya know, white boys. Or perhaps that whites are inherently predisposed to cannibalism or that white females should be banned from teaching because of the threat they pose to their students: after all, well over a hundred white female teachers have been busted for preying upon underage kids in recent years, and indeed the perps have been white in over 93 percent of all known cases.

But of course, none of those who would defend their racism in the swim club case--and who would assure us it is "rational" to fear black kids--would find any of the above examples nearly as logical. This, despite the statistical and anecdotal evidence that could be brought to bear in each case to make sense of crass generalizations in those instances too. No, they reserve their "rational discrimination" for the dark-skinned. Indeed, to read their messages is to see racism in the raw. The kind of thing so many pundits have assured us is no longer a problem in America, now that we've entered the "post-racial" era of Barack Obama.

Oh, and speaking of which, here's the kicker: remember the above-mentioned club President? The one concerned about how the black kids might change the complexion of the place? John Duesler? Yeah, well, turns out, Duesler is no knuckle-dragging right winger. He's no Klansman. Actually, he was a supporter of President Obama, and helped coordinate a blood drive in town to celebrate the Presidential inauguration. Even worse, he's the chairman of Peace-Action Philadelphia: a collection of presumably progressive and even leftist types. This is what I speak of as Racism 2.0 in my book, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama: the kind of racism that allows some whites to vote for Obama, and to carve out exceptions for those black and brown folks who make us comfortable, but to maintain fundamentally hostile views towards the larger communities of color from which these exceptions come. In other words, the kind of racism that says, black folks are fine, so long as they went to Harvard Law, speak a certain way, dress a certain way, and pander to our tastes. But for the rest of y'all, oh hell no.

In light of this latest incident, let me make the following points, and let me make them in the clearest terms possible:

1. I bet'not hear one more Northerner lecture me, ever about the South again. We know perfectly well our history down here. 'Bout time you get clear on yours. This wasn't Philadelphia, Mississippi partner, it was the city of brotherly-frickin'-love, so you and Rocky had best go figure it out, while the rest of us watch for a while. And for y'all in Boston, and Bensonhurst, and Greenwich-damn-Village, feel free to join in. Let us know what you learn about yourself. We got phones down here now, and even, occasionally, internet access, so give us a holler when you come up with something noteworthy.

2. I bet'not hear one more white liberal act like racism is the province of the right. Yes, racism itself is a decidedly reactionary philosophy, but it's one that has long been embedded in the white psyche, and white folks' worldview. As Joe Feagin explains in his newest book, the white racial frame has long influenced how white Americans, irrespective of broader political views, view black and brown folks, and this latest incident only demonstrates that with a vengeance. It is the white racial frame that frames, pun very much intended, blacks--even children--as pathological, socially dysfunctional, likely to misbehave, and unworthy of the opportunities enjoyed by whites. It is the white racial frame that serves to rationalize every injustice done to persons of color, no matter how blatant.

And is that white racial frame which must be thoroughly challenged, exploded, destroyed, eradicated, before this nation can ever hope to achieve racial equity, or even the most rudimentary levels of social justice. So for those nice white liberals who thought voting for Barack Obama was gonna be their get-out-of-jail-free card the next time somebody brought up the subject of racism--sorta like a modern day version of "some of my best friends are black"--think again.

Oh, and finally, for those who insist on changing the subject with regard to this pool story, and insisting that "well, ya know, it is a private club and so they can do whatever they want," you miss the point, and miss it quite badly. First, if a private club advertises memberships to the public, as the Valley Club did, there is an open question as to just how private it actually is. It may indeed be far less so than many claim, and may be bound by civil rights laws just as surely as a municipally owned facility would be. But more to the point, it doesn't matter. This is not an issue about the right of the club to be racist. It is a question about whether it is right for them to be such. One may have the right to do lots of things. I have the right to stand on a corner and shout racial slurs at passersby of color, I suppose. I have a right to publish hate literature. I have a right to join the Klan. In short, I have a "right" to be as racist as I wanna be. But if I decide to do any of those things, you have the right, and more--the obligation--to call me an asshole. And a racist asshole at that. And to make my life miserable.

So let us exercise our rights, and do just that to the folks at The Valley Club. You can reach them via e-mail at: Or you can call them at: 215-947-0700. Their voice mail was full last time I checked (for reasons I think I can imagine), but at some point they'll clear it out, at which point we should fill it up again. Or, if you're white and feeling really creative, perhaps you can pay for a temporary membership and then go swimming. Just make sure to drink a lot of water before you go, and all go together. And then get in the pool, and then, well, I think you know the rest. It would be the world's first piss-in,* and it would serve them right.

* I cannot take credit for the piss-in idea. This concept is borrowed, lovingly, from long-time social justice and antiracist activist/educator, Sharon Martinas, to whom all praise is due for her creativity and sense of humor in the face of injustice: a critical virtue in difficult times.

Tim Wise is the author of four books on race and racism. His website is He blogs at and can be reached via e-mail at