Hypocritical Hyperbole

The Abomination of Obama's Nation

Slavery By Another Name April 27, 2012

So, I watched a documentary called Slavery by Another name on PBS. I knew of the book and the original Wall Street Journal article, but a 90minute documentary is so much shorter and nicer. The documentary is excellent (like just about all of PBS’ documentaries) and has a bunch of personal touches that you can’t really get without seeing and hearing people. After watching the documentary it really made me want to read the entire book. The book is big though and will take some time to get through. Like most good non fiction texts it requires a lot of critical thought, self examination, and external research to get as much out of it as you can. So it took me over a month to read it, and it was well worth it.

You can (and should) watch the documentary here.

I think this book is absolutely wonderful. It has a lot of things going for it. First and foremost, the writer doesn’t do that thing that too many white writers of books on race and slavery do and capitulate, and make excuses for society, and sugar coat the actual motivations behind slavery. This book is very upfront about white supremacy and the role it played in all this.
So, what’s awesome about this book is that it’s told in the style of a story. It’s the history of one man and his journey through convict leasing. This framework allows for him to delve deeply into specifics of the situations. Not having this super detached look back at everything keeps the impact fresh. It also allows the author show larger ramifications of what was happening.
For instance, it’s interesting to know that someone could get arrested for vagrancy, but it’s more impactful to hear the story of what happens to a person who is arrested for such a frivolous charge and what happens to them. Then it’s even more unsettling when you get the numbers of how many people had this happen to them. Then you get to see the direct impact on the society as a whole. Then you go back to the personal story of the white people who got money for selling people into convict leasing.
This same thing goes for debt slavery peonage and a bunch of other systems. The book sort of works in this way from pre civil war up until the author concludes slavery actually ended around 1943 or so.
I really recommend this book. If you are curious as to where the stereotypes of black criminals came from, this book will tell you. It shows the direct correlation between bad policing (or at that time good policing) and high arrest rate among Afican-Americans. It shows how the country came to view African-Americans as criminals and why the system is as bad as it is today.
This book also shows the social ramifications of slavery politically. It shows how deliberate the PR push against African-Americans was during and after reconstruction. It shows how whites in America weren’t just passive observers to racism, but active participants. There wasn’t this giant wave of ignorance among white populations to what was going on, but an active apathy to how the system was working because they firmly believed that if anything good happened to African Americans that their lives would be made worse. It’s how someone like Woodrow Wilson gets elected, because running on a platform of White Supremacy spoke to a large number of people.
It’s a really good and informative read.

Douglas Blackmon does a great job with this. He acknowledges his privileges and gaps in his knowledge, and the book is better for it. It’s unfortunate, but due to racism this book is going to have more credibility. He won’t be perceived as having an axe to grind, and he uses that to totally sling axes right into the face of post reconstruction white society (including the highly racist north that pretends they had no part in all the bad business of Slavery and Convict Leasing and Peonage). I’m enamored with this book.


Ableism in the dissemination of information on Deaf music cultures April 21, 2012

Filed under: Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 19:33
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1. My apologies if this comes off as some privileged idiot figuring out something disadvantaged people have known about forever now that it’s inconveniencing me. Feel free to yell at me if I make you angry. Or reply politely. Either way is cool with me. Or do something completely different. Don’t let me box you in.

Okay. So I’m working on a short story that sort of revolves around music and also revolves around a deaf character. I was just looking up general information about working deaf musicians and schools and a bunch of other information and, there’s not a whole lot out there. It goes from angelfire sites to yahoo answers to academic papers that I have to pay for. I was looking for information by deaf people or hard of hearing people and wasn’t getting a whole bunch. There are so many first hand accounts of hearing people talking about music and music education and meaningful impact and stuff, why so hard to find deaf musician information. Shoot, even just finding modern deaf musicians is difficult. (then I found a bunch of white people and two black rappers). The few schools I found info on were totally all white, which brings up other issues entirely.

This got me thinking about the networks and avenues of finding information. We know there’s a problem with representation of disabled people in general in our society, but it just kind of stuck me how far reaching the impact of that is. People pay lip service to Beethoven, and it ends there. It’s kind of a joke. Not kind of. It’s actually really awful. I get a little sad in my gut (actually near the kidney area) when I think about all the people who don’t have good opportunities because they can’t hear. Like, if I decided to right now go cut an album I could. All the tools are free and available and designed for my working ears to use. If you didn’t have a background in music and also couldn’t hear you have to put in that much more work in order to be able to accomplish the same things. I know it’s like that with everything for deaf people, but that’s stupid and wrong.

Back to me. Being someone who really enjoys speculative fiction and is loving how there are more and more good books around people of color and LBGTQQIA+ characters and all that. But now that I started looking into this whole disabled thing I’m unsettled again. Yeah, there are often blind characters but they’re often old or troped all the way the hell out. They’re probably an awesome assassin or they’re only daredevil blind (y’know, blind but actually able to see everything through awesome sensory powers that give him sight). [Note: Shoutout to N.K. Jemisin for being super awesome.] I can’t think of the last deaf character I read in a fantasy/sci-fi book. There are some physical handicapped people like Peeta after the first Hunger Games book. Still, not a lot of those. Closest we get are old people who need a walking stick and can’t walk fast. I got up in a huff last year when DC comics decided to take Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair and make her Batgirl again leaving the total number of physically disabled characters at DC at the incredibly high number of zero (0).

So I don’t even know what this post is about anymore. I think it’s about how I’m sure deaf people get along just fine, because they do. I know they do for a fact. I know them in my life. But I also know that there should be a bunch of information and tools and stuff to even out the playing field and such, and there isn’t. And that’s stupid. And there should be more representation, and there isn’t so that’s dumb. And I need more deaf musician blogs to make my life easier, cause this is seriously so about me.


Real Life: Where White People Benefit From Racism April 8, 2012

Filed under: Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 08:01
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I actually wrote this post on tumblr, it’s a mess.

Racism benefits white people in a number of ways. I shall mention some of them briefly. Racism allows white people to keep their history. There’s no “get over slavery it was so long ago” shit going on for white people. We have a holocaust museum so everyone remembers how bad that is. Where’s our big museum for the attempted (and successful genocide of a great number of peoples) genocide of Native Americans? Doesn’t exist, because that would make white people feel bad so as a society we can’t have that. So white people benefit. White people benefited from slavery, and continue to benefit from it to this day. White people benefited from Jim Crow laws and still do. White people benefited from the police being used to reinstitute slavery after reconstruction and still do.

White people benefit by getting the benefit of the doubt in legal proceedings. White children benefit by not having to worry about being charged as an adult at the age of 13 like black children so often are. White people benefit in general society by not being looked upon as criminals. White people don’t have to prove they’re not shoplifters before they walk into a store. White people can bum around and not have that used as proof of their vagrant condition.

White people are beautiful. White people have to go and take time to make themselves unacceptable in appearance to society. I just have to grow my hair a little. The male gaze white women talk about all the time actually kills black women. Kills them. White benefit from being able to look at black people in kindergarten and letting them know how ugly they are without getting even the slightest reprimand. White people benefit because white men can target Native American women for the highest incidents of rape by a stranger and no one talks about that. and White people benefit from never having to deal with the realization that not being white makes your life harder. They don’t have to be told they’re too sensitive when they get mad at classmates in first grade you a nigger. They aren’t told to “solve your own problems” when the white kids at your bus stop decide you’re just not getting on the bus that day and the bus driver does nothing about it. Your chances to succeed in life just by letting your hair do what it does are destroyed if you aren’t blessed with lovely straight hair. Also, white people benefit from not having grubby fellow white people put their grubby hands all in their hair all the time. White people aren’t a social experiment. White people aren’t made to answer for all other white people. White people benefit by not having the near extinction of their culture be mocked on a daily basis by white people who are too cool to stop wearing fucking head dresses. White people don’t have to deal with forced generational poverty at the hands of slavery and genocide. That’s a benefit.

White people get full acknowledgement of their intellectual achievements. Not like those asians who are just naturally good at math. White people get full acknowledgement of their physical achievements. Not like those naturally gifted negroes who were bred in the field to be strong natural athletes. White people get grants to visit people of color and study them to show how weird they are. White people get TV shows where they are allowed to further exoticize exploited people and have it be seen as a good thing. White people can hang out with fucking African Elephants. White people benefit from Apartheid. I certainly haven’t benefited form that. White people get to laugh at ghettos. White women benefit by being able to take the word slut back if they choose. The depth of acceptable cultural misogyny towards black women is absurdly high. White people actively benefit from the portrayal of stereotypes among people of color. White women are classy, not like those big booty black bitches. White women are the norm, not like those hot latina mamas with the fifteen kids but still can get whistled at cause I bet she says spanish shit when she about to come. White women who grew up right down the street aren’t exotic like the asian girl who grew up right down the street. White people benefit by not having to listen to some white dude tell you in college how much he’d love to just fuck a black chick.

White people benefit by not being used as the reason why welfare is bad. Let’s be honest here. No one thinks about poor white people when it’s time to fight against public assistance. It’s the illegal mexicans and the lazy black women who just have kids to get more welfare money. There aren’t signs hanging up saying how the most dangerous place for white kids is in the womb! White people benefit by not to think that having american atheists put up a sign against religion by using images of slavery could ever be even slightly off putting to anyone, let alone really fucking offensive.

Want to be in a movie? Be white. You chance of getting casts as an extra just went up by a billion per cent. Want to star in a movie? Be white. What to have people feel bad for you when you die? Be white. Cause we just saw that mother fuckers don’t give a shit about black people dying. Either real or fictional. Is a character in a book described as anything other than “big black jungle looking mother fucker?” They’ll be white when it comes time to make that movie. Is the main character of your new favorite show a person of color? Don’t worry. It’s entire fanbase will make sure to do nothing but produce fan art correcting that mistake and completely refusing to acknowledge how fucked up that is. (It’s cool Korra, I got your back). White people benefit by being in TV shows where there are nothing but white people and everyone thinking that is normal. White people benefit by being able to set their best selling fantasy series in Chicago (FUCKING CHICAGO) and having it be all white. Then when the author is asked about it say that it’s his fantasy and that doesn’t make him a racist. (fuck jim butcher). White people get to pretend that no one but them existed in Europe so all your epic fantasy books can be appropriately free of anything not fair skinned. White people see themselves on TV all the time. White people can choose all year to not watch one TV show or one movie without an all white cast and not even have to try. No one else here can do that. White people benefit from having their own history portrayed as default and standard. White people benefit from being able to tell people of color about their history, and correct them when they get it wrong.

Oh, back to beauty. White people have fucking FAIR skin. The fuck is that about? Also, when it comes to being sick or injured white people benefit by everyone knowing what colors to look for to see if someone is suffocating or if there’s a bad rash. They didn’t have to sit through health class after health class of everyone looking at you and asking you what color do YOU turn if you stop breathing and then someone making the joke that we should find out and everyone laughing like that shit is funny. White people benefit from being the default for everything. White people benefit from being able to pretend racism doesn’t benefit them. White people benefit from being able to believe that racism only hurts people. Let’s say a white person gets caught on campus with a weapon. White person has many excuses, person of color is a criminal and is dangerous. Tell me that isn’t beneficial. Again, how is it not beneficial to George Zimmerman to not be in jail right now?

OH OH! How is it not beneficial for white people when their children go missing for everyone to put out amber alerts and get time on the evening news? How is it not beneficial for white people when they go to some central american party location on spring break for them to get kidnapped and then everyone in the US being told they should care? That’s not a benefit? Cause let me fucking tell you guys, that shit aint happenin for me. Black kids go missing all the time and no one says shit about that on the news. Nope. It’s not a story. Only missing white children count as news stories.

White people benefit from racism by being able to shoot black people and get away with it. By not getting the full punishment for waking up and saying to themselves “I want to kill a nigger” then going to do it while filming it. Then white people benefit by this not being considered a hate crime. White people get to say they don’t FEEL like they’re benefiting from racism. White people get to FEEL like they’re being persuaded.

God, that’s not even scratching the surface of the ways white people benefit from racism. There’s so much more. Go read some books and study up on some shit. make yourselves all smarter, cause this shit is dishonorable. You cow is so freaking dishonored right now.

White people benefit from racism all day every day. There’s none of this bullshit about not “Truly” benefiting from it. That’s garbage. White people benefit all the damn time from racism. Real and Tangible benefits. White people also benefit subtly from racism. There is no way you can say that white people don’t benefit from racism. None. Not a single one. So don’t say it. Because when you say that, you say that racism isn’t actually a problem, and that racism doesn’t hurt anyone. And if you think racism hasn’t hurt me you can come tell me that to my face. I’ll rip your lungs out, Jim. aoooooo


Fuck Your Sadness: Why Redemption in Indigo works so well for me April 7, 2012

I saw someone post something about how doing something made her cry and this was some deeply great emotional thing. That’s all well and good. What this got me thinking about was how sadness is held up as the pinnacle of emotions. Listen to people talk about books, movies, music, whatever. The way you know something is meaningful and important is if it made them feel. What they mean by that is they felt sad. They talk about these big gut wrenching scenes and the impact they had on them. I get it.  I’m not writing anything that wants to devalue those experiences. I’m writing to say that I just don’t get it.

It is all entirely lost on me. I missed that part of adulthood education that said you didn’t have a meaningful emotional reaction if you smiled. I just don’t live in a world where the highest praise you can give to a work of art is that it ripped your heart out. Well, actually I do, and it bothers me. It actually upsets me that there isn’t a language for validating the emotional reactions that aren’t just sadness and anger.

I just finished reading a book “Redemption In Indigo” and it’s a wonderfully touching book that is super well written. It’s not a fluff book, but all the words that I would use to describe my enjoyment of it are words that would be shared with trivial books. Redemption in Indigo is FUN. Redemption in Indigo takes itself with the appropriate amount of seriousness. The pace of the novel keeps it from doing any one thing for too long. I like all of the characters. Nothing in this book was designed to make me cry.There was some harsh material, but the way it was laid out to me let me feel comfortable in the situation.

What I want to say is that this is an excellent book that is full of emotional depth and will make you feel things. The things it will make you feel are pleasant, and that doesn’t make this book less of a literary value. Just because nothing life destroyingly awful happens to the hero doesn’t mean she isn’t someone worth getting behind emotionally. I am filled with happiness every time we meet her family. Her mother and father are supportive of her and her sister is a pain without being antagonistic or malevolent. The villain of the piece is remarkably well done. The way his story line plays out will provide great pleasure to you, I promise. I laughed so often through this book and that was a good thing. I felt embarrassed (which honestly, is much harder for me to read than being afraid that someone will die or having to sit through their entire village being slaughtered endlessly) a few times, but even those moments were tempered with good times. We got to see our hero act heroically in those moments and it does so much for the growth of the character.

There really isn’t much more to say other than it is awesome that this book exists, and other things that just make you happy exists. Not something that we excuse as purely escapism, but things that are of high quality that make us feel something other than sadness, angst, and upset. I like being intellectually and emotionally engaged with my media, but that doesn’t mean I want to be sad about it. You can do emotional stuff that’s fun. Happiness is an emotion. A song doesn’t have more depth to it because you cried after hearing it. That song that gets into your bones and vibrates excitement and urges your face to produce a smile or your foot to tap along has just as much if not more value and emotional weight.

So really, fuck your sadness. You can keep that shit. I’m going to go emotionally engage with some good fake people that make me feel good about stuff.


Stop It. You Don’t Know Anything.

Filed under: Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 10:41
Tags: ,

For Serious. You don’t. At all. About anything. This is one of the most important things you can learn in life. Not just the stupidly trite sentiment of “the more I know the more I know I don’t know.” That barely touches the surface of the truth, and is often used to make people feel good about themselves or allows them to excuse their ignorance. The truth is it is impossible for you to actually be informed on most things in life. At the most you can be really and truly informed on a few things. There just isn’t time. This isn’t a matter of you being stupid. This is a matter of space and stuff.

There is no area in life where this is more apparent than looking at American politics. The idea is that we have to be informed citizens before making our votes. That’s a reasonable request. In a perfect world the issues at hand would be simple enough for everyone to be able to look at all candidates (this perfect world has more than two parties as well)  and see all of their stances on all the issues and be able to make a decision. Even in this perfect world, though, if you had all the information there wouldn’t be a candidate that did all your things and you’re left compromising. That’s a different topic altogether.

Our perfect world really only has about twenty people in it and they live in a remote location where nothing they do really effects anyone or anything else. In our real world every policy has so many branching effects that unless you dedicate yourself wholly to researching it you really aren’t equipped to have an opinion on it. How much do you really know about economics? Really, be honest. What you have are ideas about economics and how money should be spent and maybe a little bit of information about how certain economic systems work, but your opinion on American Economic Policy means less than jack shit. Seriously, you can take your opinion and go fuck yourself with it. this goes for me too. When I debate it I’m being just as ignorant as everyone else.

That’s just an example but the point holds for just about everything else. Do you really know what will happen if they build a road in your back yard? You know you won’t like it (and that’s a valid reason to vote for not having a road in your back yard), but do you actually understand what it will do for the municipality? Probably not. It’s hard.

Let’s look at the bright side though. There’s probably a topic or two that you’re really interested in and know all about. For me it’s history. Specifically American History. More specifcally race relations in American history and government institutions. I also am pretty well versed in stereotype history as well as sociological effects of media representations of people throughout history. That takes a lot of work in my spare time to do research and stuff on. It’s annoying when ignorant people try to talk to me about this stuff because I know way more than they do. I feel confident in my ability to craft an opinion on what effect different government policies will have on different racial groups in this country.

That’s my thing though. Outside of this area I’m just as lost as everyone else. It’s not because I’m stupid, it’s because to have a wide breadth of knowledge on a topic means that I just absolutely do not have the time or mental space to also be an expert in foreign policy. I have ideas. Israel is a tyrant and needs to back the fuck off Iran. I’ve read a lot of articles from all over the world describing the situation. I have a pretty good notion that going to war with Iran for the sake of Israel is about the worst idea we’ve had since going to Iraq (and is probably going to end way worse for us). Truth is though, I don’t know how to exactly handle the situation. I don’t know what we should do in terms of crafting policy. Don’t have the time.

Shit, I don’t know what to do about corporate discounts for moving into your state. It brings jobs, but maybe you should focus on local jobs and do marketing work to make it work, but there’s a lot of work to be done there too. It is complicated as shit.

We’re losing the point here though. The point of this is that you should really think about what you do and don’t know, and think hard about it. Think about the thing you know the most about. Think about how long it took you to gain that knowledge, think about how much effort it took for you to be able to sort through that information to use it in conversation or just know it. Just always be thinking about that so the next time you get into a debate about something take a step back and ask how much you really know. Ask the person you’re arguing with how much they really know. Chances are neither of you know anything so all the stress you’re going through isn’t worth it.

P.S. This is about broad political topics. It’s about temperance of your own stupidity and ignorance. What this isn’t about is making your argument. “You don’t know” is something that should be used as a building point. You can’t say “You don’t know that every Hispanic person you see is actually a citizen so you have to check them.” That doesn’t fly.