Friday, September 16, 2005

"...three of them deserved to die."

Have you heard about this?

A Hmong man, deer hunting on private land was confronted by an owner of the property. He was told to leave, then the owner radioed the other members of his hunting party, one of whom was another co-owner and told them he'd kicked a "tree rat" out of one of their stands. The others hopped on their ATVs and intercepted Chai Vang. They reportedly, and admittedly, according to one of the survivors, surrounded him and proceeded to threaten and taunt him with racial epithets and foul language. He shot at them all. He killed six of them.

He was found guilty today of first degree murder. I do not know why this case came to trial. His defense was that he'd felt threatened, and had shot in self defense. I've no comment on what his defense attorney was thinking with that one, the man had already admitted what he'd done & was to be punished either way. However, in light of my visceral reaction to the Katrina imagery & fiasco, I am inclined to share a truth about this incident and my reaction to it.

First, some personal background: my f-i-l, who lives in a region of MN that is/was semi-rural and is home to a hunt/fish contigent that maintains a 6 degrees of separation to everybody else in the region that includes a wide swath of western WI, reported that one of the men shot, the co-owner of the property on which this occured, was a type who would confront, berate, cuss out & threaten an armed man that he did not know. The implication was that the guy was a loud, foul-mouthed hothead who was bound to have it bite him in the ass someday.

My thought is that while mowing down a small crowd of mostly unarmed people is not an appropriate reaction to being called a gook, or whatever & told to get the f*** out or something, as a minority, I understand. I under-effing-stand.

There is only so much one can take, and when you add being outnumbered and surrounded, humiliated & threatened, well, let's just say that somebody had better pray.

I can not imagine that a typical white person, when called a kraut, mic, limey, dago or whatever, feels the same pit-of-the-stomach reaction that a minority feels when being called nigger, chink, kike, beaner or gook. It sucks. It f***ing sucks.

I am beginning to understand, and accept, that the Katrina mess was as much or more a socioeconomic class issue as it was a race issue. Nonetheless, there are huge gulfs between us. Huge. Gulfs of understanding. Gulfs of experience. Gulfs of history.

Those hunters did not deserve to die. But no man deserves what Chai Vang went through, either.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What is wrong with [the] public education [that I, spouse and our kids received].

Thomas Sowell explains it well. I also feel justified for dropping out of teacher college in disillusionment. I thought I was just too idealistic. Turns out my standards were too high.

Unfortunately, the idea of treating the brighter or more serious students as a problem to be dealt with by keeping them busy is not uncommon, and is absolutely pervasive in the public schools.

I had this experience. Gifted teacher's pet. I am grateful for the friends I had then.

One fashionable solution for such "problem" students is to assign them to help the less able or less conscientious students who are having trouble keeping up.

I was terribly embarrassed, and to this day regret, the time in fifth grade when a friend (my then best friend) asked me to read a story she'd written. I misunderstood & took out my red pen. I'd already made marks on her paper when she cried out that she didn't want me to grade it, just read it. Uggh. Stupid gifted teacher's pet. And WTF does "gifted" mean anyway?

High potential will remain only potential unless it is developed.

Hmm. So my failure to achieve the heights of whatever I was supposed to be good at, my failure to finish college until I grew up, got old & decided to go back was not necessarily due to my "lack of motivation," a common phrase on my childhood report cards. Work that even I recognized as busywork & a waste of my time apparently failed to develop my potential. And I've seen the exact same thing happen to our kids.

...teachers in our public schools ...cannot give students what they don't have themselves.

Ok, ok. I have had, and I currently know, some excellent public school teachers. These people have been and are dedicated, creative, tireless and fearless advocates for their students and cultivators of their creativity and intellect. All of the students.
Despite that, another student in my major at college way back when failed her student teacher clinicals. How they'd let that girl get to that point in that major probably factored into my disillusionment. She was not just, how to put this delicately, not the brightest bulb, but she was actually kind of creepy. Her advisor gently suggested that perhaps she consider changing her major. Three years too late, imo.

I've been something of an education rebel at least in my family of origin & family through marriage. I haven't abandoned the public school systems, though. To do so would not accomplish what so many students desperately need. I stay involved and stay engaged and my kids stay enrolled. Besides, a lot of private schools suck as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It's not us. It's them.

Minnesota began to prepare for up to 5,000 evacuees to travel to Fort Ripley where they would be housed, fed, offered medical care and access to federal relief resources. Discussion was held as to how the displaced residents would be housed. Family units together? Men, women and children housed in separate barracks? Couples together, children separate?

Nobody came. State officials reduced the number to 3,500 possible evacuees.

They haven't come either. The hastily formed medical team, proud of themselves for setting up a MASH unit at Ripley, was sent home. Some of them may be called back next week when the, maybe 500 now, evacuees show up. If they decide to do so.

An article in today's Minneapolis StarTribune mused that the displaced residents were really wary of the climate change. And also that they liked to stay close to home, more so than Americans in other locales, even. We are to surmise that it has little to do with assumptions. The assumption that those who essentially have nothing will take anything. That those who had little to begin with will appreciate something. That our generosity, on our terms of course, is and will be welcomed gratefully. Apparently the response of thousands of displaced persons was "Thank you, but no. Appreciate your offer, but it is really too much. And too late."

I, for one, am used to but no less weary of this we know what is best for you attitude. Many think they are being kind. Generous. Christlike.
To others, though, it is an insidious means of infantilization. Belittling. Insulting. Unwelcome.

Just something to think about.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What you've seen is accurate. There's just been a spotlight on it.

I've had several conversations lately about the hurricane aftermath. Most stick with the safe angle, the party "how awful" line. Some have ventured into complaining, blaming, finger-pointing or exclaiming disdain at Barbara Bush's comments. For the most part, though, the people I'm around are pretty careful. Spouse & I are the biggest ranters I know & we pretty much keep it to ourselves & you.

Nonetheless, everybody is missing the point.

This is more than a republican/democrat thing.
More than a liberal/conservative thing.
More than a federal/state thing, or a state/local thing.
It's more than a mayor who lacks leadership. More than a governor who lacks administrative skill. More, even, than a president who lacks the desire to micromanage. More than an incompetent director of a federal agency.

It's not even about the hurricane, not really.

What the hurricane did, above and beyond the loss of life and the economic and natural destruction, was shine a spotlight, under magnification, on the experience of black Americans in every part of this country, every day.

I'm not talking about poverty, or access to social services.

I'm talking about being ignored. Not being heard. Marginalized. Filed. Having to rely on semi-hysterical "newsmen" to draw attention to needs; obvious, treatable, manageable needs, occuring right beneath the noses of those with the means to help, but who apparently lack the vision and the will. Blacks who "succeed" despite the circumstances of life as a racial minority with a sorrowful history of entry into this country, tend to be those who either assimilate, or whose talent or intellect or force of will pulls them into an arena of social, political, or economic status populated by few minorities. "Success" in this case is difficult to define as it means different things to different people. At this time, I tend to think of success as having enough money to have the means to get out of town after your home has been destroyed.

It is popular, among the people I know, the papers I read, the personalities I listen to, to declare that racism is if not dead, much improved. You don't hear "nigger" anymore outside of black comedy clubs and rap albums. You child has a black classmate. Your firm just hired a black associate. Even for most blacks, I suspect, that it is easy to mostly ignore the reality. You've got credit. You drive a nice car, own a laptop and a state of the art cell. Your kids go to good schools and wear nice clothes.

You don't have to think about the blood, the suffering, or the degradation that bought your freedom, your participation in the political process, your kid's access to decent schools. You didn't have to think about it, that is, until this week.

The will to right the wrongs we have all witnessed this past week will not come from the federal government. It will not come from the next president, or the next governor, or the next mayor. It will not come from Habitat for Humanity, or whatever contractor wins the right to rebuild the gulf coast. Not the Red Cross, not whatever-group-of-musicians-aid, not the certain congressional hearings into the matter.

It will come though. Truly, I say to you, it will come...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's this kind of s*** that makes one wonder...

Why does everything have to fall completely apart when known disaster strikes a city with a large population of black persons and poor areas? The mayor advises citizens to abandon the city. The governor is a hand-wringing candyass. Network news shows can get cameras on the ground but hospitals can't get water.

It's this kind of s*** that makes black folk suspicious. It's this kind of s*** that makes black folks distrustful. It's this kind of s*** that makes black folk liberals.

Somebody please prove me wrong.