What if you prefer your monsters fictional? (On violence, war, hate crime, etc as more human than monster…)

(This post originally ran at Womanist Musings. It has since been updated to reflect the comment thread from the original posting and my subsequent rethinking of this topic. As always, I am thankful for those who take the time to comment, to open up the dialogue, and to help me question/refine my own thoughts.)

I am beginning to wonder – have we become less like Frankenstein’s monster, who was horrified by his own monstrous reflection, and more like traditional vampires, who could not see their own reflection? I am in hopes the monstrous acts of violence, war, hate crime, etc will  lead us to contemplate our collective reflection in that largest of mirrors – our society – and to become horrified by our own monstrous acts (as well as our monstrous inaction).

As pointed out in a comment from Sparky (of Spark in Darkness), designating people as monsters and their acts as monstrous allows a distancing — as if what she/he/they did is profoundly Other, not human, not us, not a reflection of our society.  As Sparky points out, this shuts down analysis and allows for the writing off of certain acts as an aberration. “I hate it when we describe criminals as monsters. Because I think it is used to AVOID showing and AVOID examining. It is used as a simple closing word, a dismissal, and avoidance,” he writes. We certainly saw this phenomenon with the Abu Ghraib torture and the writing off of Lindsey England as a “bad apple,” a monstrous women.

We also see it in the labeling of Sarah Palin as a monster (as many pundits do and as one comment in the thread named her). While I am no fan of Palin, I think labeling her as a monster demonstrates Sparky’s argument. Palin is a product of U.S. culture and politics — in fact a creation that mirrors in many senses what is expected of a powerful woman. It is our society that is monstrous, evil, greedy, sexist, racist, etc — humans like Palin are the products of this, the modern Frankenstein “monsters” that SHOULD reveal to us our insanities and injustices. By labeling her a monster we instead Otherize her, discounting how she is a logical product of U.S. empire.

When I posted a few weeks back at my Seduced by Twilight blog on “What does a monster look like? someone commented as follows in the thread:

“I think REAL monsters are those that don’t look like monsters at all. The most innocent looking, quiet ones that wait in the shadows and kill young women are today’s monsters. Monsters are violent and relentless but not always obvious.”

While I agree that real monsters are scarier than fictional ones, I am intrigued about the way we use the word monster both to designate creatures of the imagination – vampires, zombies, dragons, etc – as well as to designate people who act in ways defined as monstrous, cruel, and evil.

The etymological roots of the term monster come from “monere” (to warn), “monstrum” (that which teaches), and “monstrare” (to show). As noted in this essay on monsters, “The theme of teaching or guiding is thus implicit in the etymology, with the English word ‘demonstrate’ turning out to be a cousin of ‘monster’ in that the Latin ‘demonstratum’ is a past participle of ‘demonstrare’, which means ‘to point out, indicate, show or prove’.”

These etymological roots indicate that monsters (both those we create in our fictional worlds AND those that inhabit our societies) teach, warn, show, prove, and indicate.

Though I agree with Sparky’s points that labelling some as monsters can lead to a lack of analysis, I do think that the etymological roots of the word provide us with a critical lens with which to examine today’s “REAL monsters” (as they are referred to in the above comment). The daily acts of rape and murder should WARN us that our society condones and perpetuates violence. These monstrosities of war should TEACH as that war is not the answer. The prevalence of hate crime should SHOW as that we are not in a post-racial, post-feminist, or post-heterosexist world. All of these different acts of human monstrosity DEMONSTRATE, INDICATE, and PROVE that our corporate capitalist heteronormative patriarchy breeds monsters at an alarming rate.

Those we generally consider monsters – those that kill/torture/abuse indiscriminately and repeatedly – do serve as a warning – a warning that our society not only allows such monsters, but actively creates them. Are not such monster indicating that our world breeds violence? Do they not point out that the main modes of societal organization – patriarchy, corporate capitalism, militarism – is perhaps the perfect conditions for monsters to thrive? Does not their existence – in exorbitant numbers and in all branches of society – priesthoods, schools, sports, government, media, etc – PROVE that we may be creating more monsters than we can slay or contain, let alone eradicate?

I am focused on such so-called REAL monsters for reasons close to home. Last month, a 17-year-old female from my town was raped and murdered while jogging alone in a local park. This past weekend, on Easter Sunday, the attendance secretary from my son’s school was shot in her home, as was her husband, by a disgruntled neighbor who decided the best way to solve their long-standing disputes over a parking space was with a shotgun.

I am also focused on such REAL monsters due to a slew of hate crimes on the campus where I teach – crimes that have largely been ignored by campus administrators as well as the local media.

I know that such incidents are far from unique. I know such monsters lurk in every neighborhood, on every campus, in every corner of the globe, and certainly in many governments, religious organizations, and law enforcement teams. But, somehow, the warning seems more urgent when such monstrous acts become so common as to be expected – as if daily violence, rape, murder, and hatred – not to mention never-ending war – is par for the course.

What if that Pebble Becomes a Boulder?: Racism and Sexism on Campus and in Everyday Life

The theme of one of the common complaints I often get from students in my women’s studies classes is “feminism is so depressing.” Students, young and fresh-faced, though eager to dissect and critique the world around them, also seem to yearn to look through the world through rose-colored glasses. They generally dive into analyzing privilege and oppression historically, happy to give examples of the injustices our world has doled out for centuries. However, when asked to hold up a mirror to their contemporary moment, they often like to focus on the positive changes, suggesting that somehow all the rumors of a “post-racial” and “post-feminist” society are true. It is partially my job to place large cracks in such a rosey-eyed view, revealing that, yes, racism, sexism, homophobia and all those other ugly –isms are still going strong.

On the campus where I teach, this was in shocking evidence today on, of all places, a bathroom wall. The picture above, sent to me by a student, was taken last night in one of the main campus buildings. Placed there on the eve of the statewide day of action defending education budgets, it is surely a modern-day exhortation to “keep your mouth shut,” a threat to those of us on the side of history that seek to progress society towards justice rather than conserve the longstanding privileges that the maker of this sign unabashedly seeks to maintain. (And don’t you just love how there is a heart above the ‘i’ on this message?!?)

While I had planned to post something upbeat today about my daughter turning eleven this week, detailing positive changes in culture compared to when I turned eleven in 1982, my own rosey-eyed view of feminist accomplishments has suffered a brutal beating in the past few days. Locally, just in this past week, there has been news of a high school senior sexually assaulted and murdered, there has been a spate of racist attacks at local college campuses (with the picture above only one of many incidents), there was, just yesterday, another young woman attacked by two men at a local park.

On a more personal level, I was told by my son’s principal that a teacher’s P.E. commentary, consisting of “you throw like a girl” and “don’t use the girly weights” are meant to be “humorous.” “She is a very strong woman,” he assured me, “a role model.” On the one hand, I am proud my thirteen-year-old son sees the sexism his principal fails to, on the other hand, I am deeply disturbed that such sexism is still passed off as “just a joke” and excused by claims that it’s ok because she is a “strong woman.”

To top it off, I have somehow received a plethora of emails of late that either assume I am a man (due to the “Dr.” title I imagine) or that address me as “Mrs. So and So.” This last annoyance is so slight in comparison to all the other horrors of this week, yet it somehow rankles me– it seems, in short, like a virtual but constant reminder, knocking at my in-box, reminding me “keep your mouth shut…you are only a woman…who are you to try and change the world?”  This “little thing” reminds me of Jewelle Gomez’s realization that “Sexism could be like a pebble that needs to be removed from a shoe; a tiny thing that throws off a woman’s gait, causing her to limp, sometimes unconsciously, to avoid pain every day.”

This week, it seems it is not only pebbles, but huge boulders, and I am indeed limping from the resounding evidence that no, we are not living in a post-racial, post-feminist society. However, despite those who wish to “get rid of” people like us, the people who want to change the world for the better, I will keep limping along, teaching my “depressing feminism” and endeavoring to remove pebbles and boulders out of the path of those who march towards justice.

What if your white voice can(t?) help? (Ruminations on The Help, by Kathryn Stockett)

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, has not escaped controversy of the “can a white person write about black experience” variety.  This “who can write what” question has plagued literary study as well as the popular imagination for a long time. I remember all the talk regarding the white female professor who specialized in African-American literature when I was doing my M.A.

As suggested here, I think it’s absurd to suggest writers can only write about their own experiences or from the point of their own social positioning. However, all this is complicated by the fact that white voices (especially white male voices) have been privileged in literary (and other) worlds. We must be wary that our privileged voices don’t drown out or silence those also trying to speak.

In the case of Stockett’s novel, I found it to be a beautifully written, page-turning narrative that, at its core, intends to break down the privilege/oppression web. Yes, she is a white woman, but does this mean she cannot write fiction aimed at eradicating racism and employ black characters to do so?

She has been criticized for the dialects she uses for some of her black characters. For example, Erin Aubry Kaplan, “Why must blacks speak dialect to be authentic? Why are Stockett’s white characters free of the linguistic quirks that white Southerners certainly have?” While the “linguistic quirks” of white characters didn’t play a huge role in the narrative, I felt the novel portrayed a number of “white quirks” that revealed how whiteness is constructed and maintained not only via language, but via dress codes, social activities, schooling, and storytelling.

This last one – storytelling – was one strand of the novel that I fell in love with, and that is particularly pertinent on this three-day  Martin Luther King, Jr weekend.  Aibileen, one of two black female protagonists who voices the narrative (the third narrator is a white female), tells stories to Mae Mobley in hopes she can inoculate this little white girl from growing up racist. As “She just loves hearing about peoples from outer space,” Aibileen tells her about he day “Martian Luther King” came to Earth and even though he “Looked like us, nose, mouth, hair up on his head” people treated him differently “Cause he was green” (296).

This story within a story speaks volumes about the intent at the heart of The Help – yes, it’s by a white woman, but can white women not use their voices to try and dismantle privilege and eradicate racism? As a white woman myself, I understand that how and when to speak/write is a very complicated matter – that just because one CAN speak/write, doesn’t always mean one should – that having a privileged voice can make it hard to quell the impetus to speak in order to make space for Othered voices. (And, as an opinionated POWP, I find it hard to keep my damn mouth shut!)

I hope, just once in awhile, I might say or write something that helps to eradicate injustice – I hope that I might be of help in the way I see Stockett’s novel helping the actively anti-racist cause.

What if you’re in love with a beast?

Thanks to His Golden Eyes I was alerted to this spoof of New Moon recast as Beauty and the Beast:

(cross-posted at Seduced by Twilight)

This mash-up seems particularly fitting given the message of B&B – that if your love is strong enough, good enough, you can tame the beast. As argued in the excellent documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, this Disney film teaches young girls (and others) that “beasts” can be turned into “princes” if only WOMEN will love them enough. Twilight, as well, has this message in spades.

As Dr. Carloyn Newberger, who specializes in family violence argues, when you view Beauty and the Beast as an allegory depicting domestic violence, the beast’s “behavior is, without question…abusive.”  The same can be said of Gaston (or Edward in the above mash-up). I think we can also safely say the same of Edward and Jacob. Yet, the New Moon spoof above does not seem to be critiquing these dudes as violent parntners. (There are many posts addressing Edward’s violence, for ex see here, here, or here. There is even a Facebook page entitled Edward Cullen: Abusive Boyfriend.)

I don’t get a sense from the spoof that portraying Jacob as the beast was meant to highlight the racialized replaying of men of color as beastly either. (For once, couldn’t we have people of color NOT associated with animals? Yes, I am thinking of you Avatar.)

So, I enjoyed this spoof, but I longed for an indication that the filmmaker was critical of the violent masculinity the saga romanticizes, as well as of Jacob’s depiction as beast. And, if you ask me, Edward is portrayed as the real “beauty” in the text – though, since he is male, he does not have to “tame” Bella, he merely has to use those golden eyes to transfix her into the simpering, love-struck girl worshipping at the altar of his beautiful bod. Ugh.

What if Homophobia was Resisted Twilight style?

The following piece is cross-posted here. As it argues, Twilight is a rampantly heteronormative series. Yet, given its concurrent rampant popularity, why not seize the opportunity to consider the ways  the Twilight cultural phenomonon can be used to furtheer discussion about gender, sexuality, racism, classism, etc? This is the aim of my forthcomign book, Seduced by Twilght (which, by the way, I just secured an agent for yesterday — woo-hooo!)

Ah, more proof that the U.S. is still a homophobic nation. Just what we don’t need. Maine’s rejection of a same sex marriage law earlier this week means that  attempts to legalize gay marriage have now been shot down in 31 states. As such, I thought it fitting to post a few thoughts about heteronomativity, homophobia, and Twilight.

Poking around Google, I found almost no posts that consider the heteronormativity of the series. One exception is Emily Rutherford’s “Heteteronormativity, Again; or, the Experience of Reading Twilight.” As Rutherford writes, “…there is no homosexuality in Twilight. Despite the obvious ambiguity of Edward’s sexual appeal, there are no gay couples in Forks, WA. There are no explicitly gay vampires. Bella herself doesn’t experience same-sex attraction.” As she further argues, “For all that it confuses clear-cut sexualities; for all that it builds upon and complicates our traditional notion of the innocent love story, it is still profoundly and aggressively heteronormative.”

As for the widespread heteronormativity the book upholds, all characters are represented as heterosexual and hetero-monogamous marriage is presented as ideal. Amongst other types of diversity depicted in the series – race, class, age, (dis)ability – there is not one single non-hetero character nor even a nod to the fact that not everyone on the planet is hetero. Given that Meyer’s is Mormon, a belief system that is notoriously heteronormative, it is hardly surprising that heterosexuality is represented as the unquestioned norm.

In addition to the series’ seething heteronormativity, the practice of buying the books and related products results in profits for those institutions that want to bolster heterosexism. Profits from the series are funneled to the Mormon church through the practice of tithing – such funds are used in various ways, but one of them is to prevent same sex marriage laws from passing (as with California’s prop 8). Here are some relevant portions of a piece I wrote on this topic:

Meyer has on multiple occasions stated that, in accordance with her Mormon belief, 10% of all  her profits for all things Twilight go to the Mormon church. (See, for example, The Advocate).

While she has not made any public statement regarding Prop 8, her tithing to the church supports institutionalizing discrimination against those who are not heterosexual. By extension, a percentage of the multi-billion dollar Twilight industry went towards the Mormon Church, an institution that played a huge funding role in initially getting Prop 8 on the ballot, and then kept the funding in plentiful supply in order to grow support for the Yes on 8 camp. The success of this campaign, which relied on dollars and dogma, would not have been possible without the big money that came from the Mormon Church and other religious donors.


Meyer’s silence about the issue of homophobia in her church in general, and Prop 8 in particular, comes across as deafeningly loud –it speaks volumes, showing support for discrimination via economic buttressing of an institution that helped California, the state I live in, to etch inequality into law. So much for the sunshine state – so much for dazzling, sensitive vampires…Guess it’s ok for a lion to love a lamb, but not for a man to love another man.

Unfortunately,  such homophobia does not only exist in the USA, but plagues the globe. As evidenced by a Twi Crack Addict piece posted last week, Wales is one such place. The piece, “Wolfpack Poster Removed from South Wales Cinema for being Homoerotic,” reports that a theatre in Cwmbran, South Wales, removed the wolfpack poster because it was “too homoerotic.” Given the rampant heteronormativity of the series, this accusation seems a bit ironic, especially given that the wolf characters are the only ones to give voice to their homophobia in the texts.

For example, in Breaking Dawn when Quil says to Jacob “I don’t notice girls anymore,” Jacob jokes ““Put that together with the tiara and makeup, and maybe Claire will have a different kind of competition to worry about.” Here, Jacob insinuates that Quil’s tiara-wearing antics might lead to some non-hetero ‘competition.’ Quil laughs in response, making kissing noises at Jacob and asking, “You available this Friday, Jacob?” Ah yes, homosexuality is SO FUNNY – especially in a book that presents heterosexuality as the ONLY option with a message that screams “Be hetero! Get married and have babies!”

In Breaking Dawn Leah also teases Jacob about his heartfelt goodbye to Quil, snickering “Thought you were going to make out with him.” Yeah, cuz it’s so homo-esque for a male to care about his guy friends. Leah might as well have said, “Hey, wolf boy, grow some hetero balls and put your focus where it should be – on the ladies!”

The inclusion of various homophobic sentiments from the Native American characters seems to go above and beyond Meyer’s staying true to her Mormon roots into the territory of actually mocking and deriding homosexuality. Further, the fact that the Quileute characters are the only characters to voice their homophobia is ironic given that native culture is historically far more accepting of diverse expressions of gender and sexuality. Such sentiments would be far more realistic out of the mouths of Meyer’s demi-god Mormon-esque vampires.

I am wondering if the above poster would have been removed if it featured shirtless white men instead — if it depicted the Carlisle, Edward, Jasper, Emmett pack? (Who are of course not referred to as a pack – think about the racial implications of that!) I would venture a guess that the poster would be less likely to be accused of homoeroticism if those pictured were white – partly because hegemonic, normative masculinity is linked  to whiteness, and partly because (due to a global system of racism) it’s easier (and more common) to discriminate against non-white men.

The ubiquitous shirt-lessness of the “wolf pack” (written about in my earlier post here) is linked to this notion of hegemonic masculinity and whiteness. White males, more often associated with mental activities and acumen, are often less sexualized (as explored by scholars such as Jackson Katz). Raced, or non-white men, and working class men, are more associated with their bodies and bodily activities. The fact that the male Quileute, as both raced and working class, are often depicted without clothes accords to this sexualization of males who are deemed as “lesser” – either due to race or class. Yes, I know they “run hot” in the books because of their wolf identity, but this alone does not explain why all the actors portraying them are photographed shirtless far more often than their white actor counterparts…

Finally, the removal of this poster due to its “homoerotic” message is ridiculous and repugnant. It smacks not only of homophobia, but of sexism (if those pictured were half naked women, there would not be a problem) and racism (speaking to the fear of the “Other” and of women or men finding raced Others attractive). As you go about being repeatedly seduced by the series and its offshoots, I hope you will once in awhile pause and think about these more troubling aspects. By voicing our discontent about those aspects of the book, the fandom, and the franchise that trouble us, we can bring homophobia (and other discriminatory ideologies) out of the closet. And, by discussing such regulatory ideals often and vociferously we can bring some progressive sparkle to the Twilight table.

This is partly my intent with the parodies from Twi Kids Trio – many who wrote to me thus far about the first skit noted their favorite scene was Jacob sitting on Edward’s lap (and, by the way, if you watch the skit, please leave comments or feedback on You Tube!). Future parodies will continue to mock the cult of masculinity and nod to the latent homoeroticism that heteronormativity attempts to deny. As per the theories of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, homoerotic elements pervade the majority of literary texts. They may be deeply hidden and denied in Twilight, but often that which is most strenuously resisted is also ardently, if shamefully, desired. Don’t know about you, but I find it quite fascinating to ponder a queer version of Twilight… doing so makes the hand-holding abstinence and virginal purity message seem all the more antiquated, and, yes, discriminatory.

What if we made the incorrect and imprecise use of “illegal immigrant” illegal?

As Mirta Ojito argues in “No Human Being is ‘Illegal,'” the use of the term “illegal” is not only a crime against the craft of writing, it is also wildly imprecise, incorrect, and racist. As Ojito notes, the term “has become a strictly anti-Hispanic immigration battle cry. And nothing rallies this nation quicker and more efficiently than the presence of an alien. Particularly one who is also considered ‘illegal.'”

Lyle. E Davis relies on this anti-Latino, anti-human  battle cry in his front page story published February 5, 2009 in The Paper (a San Diego publication). I use the term “anti-human”  here because that is what the so-called “anti-illegal” stance is. Humans are not illegal; “illegal” describes the action of doing something against the law, NOT the person breaking the law. Are people driving 100 in the school zone illegals? Are rapists illegals? Why is it we only use this dehumanizing language in relation to (im)migrants?

The lead to “Illegal Immigrants Go Home!” reads as follows:


If you are a legal immigrant to the United States of America, we extend our hand in welcome. If you are illegal, you have broken the law and you need to go back to wherever you came from. You are not welcome here.”

Using a pompous tone to underscore his war cry (“We are very puzzled at the inability of otherwise intelligent people to grasp this common sense statement of facts”), Davis exudes blatant racism that is (not surprisingly) accompanied by amazingly bad writing (for instance, immigration laws are referred to as “goofy” repeatedly).

Oozing misinformation throughout, the article is so appallingly under-theorized and so thoroughly saturated with hate-mongering that I entreat you to write a letter to the editor here (who is, in fact, Davis himself) and also to voice your protest to the businesses that carry this atrocious waste of paper (for the full list, see below).

Every paragraph drips with prejudiced cant, forwarding tired notions such as only “taxpayers” deserve to be in the US. This taxpayer argument is filled with holes. It goes like this: “if you don’t contribute taxes to the economy, you shouldn’t get citizen benefits such as education, health care, social services, etc. Well, guess what? Immigrants DO pay taxes! I am puzzled by the inability of the author to grasp this basic fact.

According to the ACLU, “on average, immigrants generate public revenue that exceeds their public costs over time-approximately $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in state, federal and local benefits over their life times.”

Justice for Immigrants similarly reports:

“Between one half and three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes.  They also contribute to Medicare and provide as much as 7 billion dollars a year to the Social Security Fund.  Further still, undocumented workers pay sales taxes where applicable and property taxes-directly if they own and indirectly if they rent.

The immigrant community is not a drain on the U.S. economy but, in fact, proves to be a net benefit.  Research reported by both the CATO Institute and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors reveals that the average immigrant pays a net 80,000 dollars more in taxes than they collect in government services. For immigrants with college degrees the net fiscal return is $198,000.  Furthermore, The American Farm Bureau asserts that without guest workers the U.S. economy would lose as much as $9 billion a year in agricultural production and 20 percent of current production would go overseas.”

The article by Davis also covers what it terms “The Economic Impact on Schools of Illegal Aliens,” suggesting that “children of illegal aliens” are “draining” the system. Yeah, cuz only white kids of Western European descent deserve an education. How about the human rights notion that ALL children deserve to be educated? Is the author, with his obsession with legality, concerned about the children of rapists and murderers? Should they too be barred from an education? How about the children of bigots like himself? The humane answer is that ALL children, regardless of who their parents are or what they do, deserve equal opportunities and equal access to education.

Davis then claims that “It is likely that the single biggest cost to the county (but not to the county government) of undocumented immigrants is unreimbursed emergency medical care.” Costs, costs, costs – but where is the discussion of the BENEFITS migrants bring to the county/state/country? Where is the assessment of the contributions?  Ever eat lettuce or tomatoes Mr. Davis? How about fruit? Who do you think picks that vegetation? Do you drink wine? Any concept of how many migrants DIED this summer due to inhumane labor practices in California grape fields?

And, speaking of glaring omissions, where is the analysis of corporate globalization? Heard of NAFTA? Any idea of what drives migration?

The article also attempts to paint all migrants as gang members in a long section entitled “Illegal Aliens and Crime.” Nowhere does the article share that (im)migrants do not increase the crime rate and, in fact, commit FEWER crimes than native born Americans (see Justice for Immigrants here). The real crime is the fact that this claptrap was published in the first place. The real tragedy is that many will read this and nod in agreement, easily swallowing lies they have been force-fed for so long.

To ramp up the fear-mongering a bit more, the article notes “We do not know what they carry in their bodies,” depicting migrants as dripping with infectious diseases and just waiting to “cleverly” exploit the US health care  system. The author suggests the solution is to “Raise hell. Often.”  Yes, because addressing the bigger politics of domination that make migration a necessity such as corporate capitalism, globalization, and empire would be a bit of a stretch for someone who sums up the immigration system with the ever so-intellectual sentiment “it’s goofy.”

Lastly, the author has the audacity to end with the claim that he is NOT anti-Latino, claiming “It’s only illegal immigrants I reject.” He then lists a number of awards and recognitions that supposedly prove he isn’t racist, noting he is “close friends with many Latino families.” Yeah, just like Sarah Palin has a gay friend. Please.

I am dismayed such a sorry excuse of journalism made the light of day in San Diego last week. I hope you will be angered enough to write the editor and to boy/girlcott the businesses that refuse to stop circulating this paper (see the list below). Those of us who believe ALL humans deserve an equal chance on this planet of ours need to raise hell by loudly voicing our discontent when such bigotry tries to pass itself off as a voice of reason.

As for you, Mr. Davis, do us all a favor and stop marring journalistic integrity. Perhaps it should be illegal for someone such as yourself to be an editor.

And, just for good measure, here is a sampling of immigration myths verses facts from the ACLU website:

MYTH: Immigrants are a drain on our social services.
FACT: By paying taxes and Social Security, immigrants contribute far more to government coffers than they use in social services.

MYTH: Immigrants have a negative impact on the economy and the wages of citizens and take jobs away from citizens.
FACT: Immigration has a positive effect on the American economy as a whole and on the income of native-born workers.

MYTH: Immigrants-particularly Latino immigrants-don’t want to learn English.
FACT: Immigrants, including Latino immigrants, believe they need to learn English in order to succeed in the United States, and the majority uses at least some English at work.

MYTH: Immigrants don’t want to become citizens.
FACT: Many immigrants to the United States seek citizenship, even in the face of difficult requirements and huge backlogs that can delay the process for years.

MYTH: Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
FACT: Almost all immigrants pay income taxes even though they can’t benefit from most federal and state local assistance programs and all immigrants pay sales and property taxes.

MYTH: Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries instead of spending money here.
FACT: Immigrants do send money to family members, making it possible for more people to stay in their home countries rather than migrating to the United States. Importantly, sending remittances home does not keep immigrants from spending money in the United States.

MYTH: Immigrants bring crime to our cities and towns.
FACT: Immigrants are actually far less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts. Even as the undocumented population has increased in the United States, crime rates have decreased significantly.

Businesses in San Diego County that carry this sad waste of paper:


Carefree MHP Citrus Ave., south of E. Valley Parkway
Truly Yours Restaurant E. Valley Parkway at Midway
Midway Mobil E. Valley Parkway at Midway
East Valley Parkway Community Center Library
Downey Savings & Loan E. Valley Parkway at Citrus
Town & Country MHP 2280 E. Valley Parkway
Rancho Satellite 1980 B E. Valley Pkwy
Big Ernie’s Rib Shack 1815 E. Valley Pkwy
Farmer Brothers 1350 E. Valley Parkway
Postal Depot 1341 E. Valley Parkway
Submarina 1300 E. Valley Parkway
Marte’s Donuts 1131 E. Washington
Videotown 1131 E. Washington
Villa del Rey Retirement 1351 E. Washington/Hickory
Mega Tom’s Restaurant Elm & E. Valley Pkway
Palomar Hospital 550 E. Valley Parkway
Palomar Emergency room 550 E. Valley Parkway
Redwood Town Court E. Valley Pkwy
Charlie’s Restaurant Ivy & Valley Parkway
S.D. Credit Union Broadway & Valley Pkwy
Joes Glass Shack 228 N. Broadway
George Burgers 350 N. Broadway
Jalapeno Grill 503 W. Grand
Escondido Library 2nd & Kalmia
The Blue Mug 122 S. Kalmia
Continental Deli 201 E. Grand
Taste of Florence 340 E. Grand
Fillipi’s. 114 W. Grand
Downtown Deli 138 W. Grand
Bank of Escondido 200 W. Grand
Dominic’s Restaurant Regal Theatre Centre
La Tapatia 340 W. Grand
Champions Restaurant W. Grand
Discount Tire 209 S. Escondido Blvd
Escondido Lumber 310 S. Quince
Gems n’ Loans 340 2nd Avenue
Westside Cafe Redwood at 9th Ave
Redwood Terrace 710 Thirteen Ave
Redwood Elderlink 13th & Redwood
Major Market S. Center City at Felicita
Centre City Cafe 2680 S. Escondido Blvd
Animal Urgent Care 2430 S. Esconidido Blvd.
Hot Shot Burgers 2250 S. Escondido Blvd
Mohnacky Animal Hospital 2250 S. Escondido Blvd
Brigantine Restaurant S. Center City at Felicita
Escondido Workout S. Center City at Felicita
Jimbo’s 1633 South Centre City Parkway
Pho Hong Cali 330 W. Felicita
Discover Infiniti 9th & Terrazza
Mercedes Benz 9th & Terrazza
Escondido Chamber of Commerce 720 N. Broadway
Joslyn Senior Center Escondido
American Legion
Kaiser Permanente Primary Care N. Bdwy & Mission
Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy
Kaiser Permanente Laboratory
Kaiser Permanente Nurse Stn
Kaiser Permanente Primary/2nd floor
Discount Tire 550 N. Broadway
Dominic’s Regal Theatre Complex
Witt Lincoln/Mercury 728 N. Esc. Blvd.
Holiday Wine Cellar 301 W. Mission
Golden Egg Omelet House Corner Center City Pkwy & Mission
Comstock Bar & Grill 316 W. Mission
Bob’s Gems 250 W. Crest, Suite A
Beauty Shop (next door)
Dr. Lim’s Chiropractic Office 205 W. Mission – “P”
Old Mission Jewelry 343 W. Mission
Chicken’s Plus Greek Restaurant 309 W. Mission
Wagon Wheel Restaurant Mission/Center City Pkwy
Koko Loco Centre City Pkwy
Coco’s/Serby’s Lounge 501 W. Washington
Young Cadillac 1515 Auto Park Wy North
Escondido Audi Auto Park Way
Escondido Mazda Auto Park Way
Brecht BMW Service 1555 Auto Park Way N
Heller Ford 1717 Auto Park Way
Heller Ford Hyundai/Suzuki 1717 Auto Park Way South
Heller Auto Group 1717 Auto Park Way
Jack Powell Chrysler/Plymouth 1625 Auto Park Way S
Mossy Nissan 1551 Auto Park Way N
Grangettos 1105 W. Mission
Pine Tree Lumber 707 N. Andreason
Farmer’s Brothers Restaurant 937 W. Mission
Cocina del Charro 525 N. Quince
El Norte Medical Grp 306 W. El Norte Pkwy
Dairy Queen 310 W. El Norte Pkwy
CVS Drugs 318 W. El Norte Pkwy
UPS Store W. El Norte Pkwy
El Norte Gas & Car Wash El Norte Pkwy at I-15
7/11 Store W Valley at I-15
Toyota Scion 231 E. Lincoln Ave
Toyota Trucks 231 E. Lincoln Ave
Toyota Used Cars 231 E. Lincoln Ave.
Escondido Country Club
Blue Mug 1882 W. El Norte
Madrid Manor 1401 El Norte Pkwy
Rancho Escondido 525 W El Norte Pkwy
Escondido Workoug 17th & Juniper

San Marcos

The Engraving Place RSF Road/Palomar Airport Rd
UPS Store 663 S. RSF Rd.
Debbie’s Pie Shop 740 Nordahl
Concentra Medical 740 Nordahl #117
Agusa’s Super Sandwich 740 Nordahl Rd. #118
Starbucks 751 Center Dr #111
Dalton’s Road House 751 Center Drive
Stater Bros Grocery 1330 E. Mission
#1 Nails 1300 E. Mission
Kinalay Thai Restaurant 1252 E. Mission
Smoke Shop 1250 E. Mission
Yum Yum Donuts 1240 E. Mission
Albertson’s 151 Woodland Pkwy
Postal Annex 197 Woodland Pkwy #104
San Marcos Family Restaurant 576 E. Mission Road
Dr. Mark Cafagna 456 E. Mission
San Marcos Community Center Civic Center
San Marcos City Hall Civic Center
LA Fitness Civic Center
Subway 7664 Concerto Lane
Sombrero Mexican Restaurant 7664 Concerto Lane #103
Supreme Donuts 108 Pico
San Marcos Senior Center 111 Richmar Ave.
Supreme Donuts 108 Pico
Tina’s Deli 760 N. Twin Oaks Valley Rd.
Hampton Inn 123 Carmel St
Ralph’s Pharmacy College Center
Prestige Nails 313 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road #113
Campus Dental 314 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road #112
Longs Drugs 320 S Twin Oaks Valley Rd
Sports Legend 328 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road
Mr. Taco 342 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd
Starbucks 344 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd. #145
Subway 344 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd #344
Kaiser Medical Craven Road
San Marcos Care Center 120 Craven Rd.
Denny’s San Marcos Blvd
Subway 727 San Marcos Blvd #727
Sansai Japanese Grill 575 Grand Avenue
Janbu’s Juice 100 Grand
Quiznos 575 Grand Avenue
Ramada Hotel 517 W. San Marcos Blvd
Camping World 200 Travelers Way
Alberto’s Tacos Home Depot Center/SM Blvd #103
Starbucks 126 Knoll Road
Panda Express 696 W. SM Blvd
Evans Tire 736 San Marcos Blvd
San Diego Credit Union 790 San Marcos Blvd
Acapulco Restaurant
55 Yard Line Restaurant Row
Cocina del Charro Restaurant Row
Papa Bambino’s
George’s Burgers 217 N. Las Posas
Corner Liquor 1660 Capalina
Sorrento’s Italian 1450 W. Mission Road
Churchill English 887 W. San Marcos Blvd
Graybill Clinic 1595 Grand Avenue
Panda Garden
Starbucks 131 Las Posas
Senor Pancho’s Mex Grill 1909 W. SM Blvd
Washington Mutual 130 Las Posas
Leann’s Café 1045 San Marino Dr. #334
The Quails Restaurant 1035 La Bonita Drive
Brookdale Senior 1590 Security Place
Silvergate Senior 1550 Security Place
SM Car Wash 355 S. Rancho Santa Fe
John Smylies Law 3643 Grand Avenue
Graybill Clinic 1595 Grand Avenue
Rite Aid Drug 121 S. Rancho Santa Fe
RSF Gas 105 S. Rancho Santa Fe Road
Corner Liquor 1660 Capalina
George’s Burgers 217 N. Las Posas
Martinizing 172 Las Posas
Sprout’s 149 Las Posas
Pat & Oscars 153 Las Posas
Starbucks 100 San Marcos Blvd
Juice It Up 153 Las Posas #144
The Love Boat 121 S. Las Posas #122
California Coast Credit Union 140 Knoll Road
The Computer Factory 847 W. SM Blvd.
Dr. Zarnowitz Orthodontics 800 W. SM Blvd
Tony’s Barber Shop 940 C San Marcos Blvd
Mama Kat’s 950 K. W. San Marcos Blvd.
Fish House Vera Cruz 360 Via Vera Cruz
Churchill English Pub 887 W. San Marcos Blvd
Ranchos Vallecitos MHP 3535 Linda Vista
Palomar Estates West 1930 W. San Marcos Blvd
Albertson’s 1929 W. SM Blvd
Tom’s Restaurant 1205 W. SM Blvd
Parisa Dental W. San Marcos Blvd
E-Food Stores 997 W. SM Blvd
Citibank 740 S. Rcho Santa Fe
Foster’s Donuts 627 S. Rcho Santa Fe
24 Hour Fitness 641 S. Rancho Santa Fe
Arby’s 1280 W. SM Blvd
IHOP 1020 W. SM Blvd #160
Old California Mining 1020 W. SM Blvd #118
Bruno’s 1020 W. SM Blvd #138
China Wokery Restaurant Row #142
Katsu Restaurant 1020 W. San Marcos
Market Street Café 1080 W. San Marcos Blvd
Maui Bistro              ”
Discovery Bank 338 Via Vera Cruz
Social Security 367 Via Vera Cruz
Tom’s Restaurant
Santana’s Mexican Grill


Shadowridge Country Club 1980 Shadow Ridge Dr
La Quinta Inn 630 Sycamore Ave.
IHOP 632 Eucalyptus
Diamond Donuts 730 Sycamore Ave.
Stater Brothers Sycamore Ave.
Subway 2440 S. Melrose
Kaiser 780 Shadowrdige
Kaiser Permanente (2nd Floor)
Kaiser Permanente (3rd Floor)
Tom’s #24 1116 Sycamore & Green Oaks Rd
Albertson’s Buena Vista and Melrose
CVS 1631 Melrose
Papa John’s 485 S. Melrose
Original Pancake House 425 S. Melrose
Inside Vista Court House 325 Melrose
Juror’s Lounge 325 Melrose
Pick Up Stix 251 S. Melrose Dr.
Rancho Vista Car Wash 600 Hacienda Dr.
Ohana Hawaiian BBQ 620 Hacienda Dr. 256
Pam’s Donuts 510 Hacienda Dr #109
Gems & Loans 925 S. Santa Fe
Mission Federal Credit Union 985 Escondido
Picket Fence Restaurant 953 S. Santa Fe Rd.
Vista City Hall 600 Eucalyptus Ave.
Vista Community Center 642 Vista Village Dr.
Frazier Farms Foods 225 Vista Village Dr.
North County Ford 450 E. Vista Way
Denny’s 540 W. Vista Way
Vista Way Cafe 868 E. Vista Way
7-11 895 E. Vista Way
Smile Care 1010 E. Vista Way #8
Community Clinic 900 Vale Terrace
Senior Center 1400 Vale Terrace
Post, Pack and Ship 1035 E. Vista Way
Hair Country Beauty Salon 1025 E. Vista Way
Albertson’s 1301 E. Vista Way
Rite Aid 1363 E. Vista Way
Guajome Park Academy 2000 N. Santa Fe Ave.
Vista HS Bobier Dr.
Vista Adult School ROP 305 Bobier
Stater Bro’s (inside Left) 1461 N. Santa Fe ave.
CVS 1441 N. Santa Fe.
Danish Donuts 1450 N. Santa Fe
Walgreens 1510 N. Santa Fe
San Diego Workout 1010 S. Santa Fe.
CVS Pharmacy 883 S. Santa Fe
Walgreens 802 S. Santa Fe
Melrose Trailer Park 510 N. Melrose
Tri City Hospital ER
Tri City Hospital Lobby
Tri City Hospital Laboratory
Tri City Hospital Restaurant
Tri City Cardiology Wait Room
Tri City Hospital Women’s Ctr


Tip Top Meats 6118 Paseo Del Norte
7/11 901 Palomar Airport Rd
TGIF Paseo del Norte
Lanikai Lane 6550 Ponto Drive
Lakeshore GardensMH 7201 Avenida Encinas
Chevron Station Avenida Encinas
Coin Laundry Avenida Encinas
Kaiser Permenente Avenida Encinas
Kaiser Pharmacy Avenida Encinas
Wish’s Deli 5365 Avenida Encinas
Inns of America 5010 Avenida Encinas
Westmart 4990 Avenida Encinas/Cannon Rd.
West Inns & Suites Hotel Avenida Encinas
AM / PM Tamarack & Hwy 5
Coin Laundry 973 Tamarack
Dinis Restaurant 3290 Carlsbad Blvd
Tamarack Bch. Resort 3200 Carlsbad Blvd.
Surf Motel 3136 Carlsbad Blvd.
Senior Grub Restaurant 377 Carlsbad Village Dr.
Vinaka Coffee 300 Carlsbad Village D. Suite 211
Submarina 300 Carlsbad Village D.
Ocean House Restaurant 2978 Carlsbad Blvd.
Danish Bakery 2805 Roosevelt St
Don’s Country Kitchen 2885 Roosevelt St
Vigilucci’s 2943 State St.
CK Beanz 2775 State St.
Coaster Station
Carlsbad By The Sea 2855 Carlsbad Blvd.
Ocean Palms Resort 2950 Ocean St.
Carlsbad Inn 3075 Carlsbad Blvd
Daily News Cafe 3001-A Carlsbad Blvd.
Circle K 201 Oak Avenue
Boys and Girls Club 3115 Roosevelt St.
Carlsbad Senior Center 799 Pine
Polls Mexican Restaurant 3055 Harding St.
Brighton Gardens 3140 El Camino Real
Vons inside Vons by Starbucks
Top of the Bagel 2540 El Camino Real
Borders Books 1905 Calle Barsallona
Jimbo’s 1935 Calle Barsallona
AM/PM Expo center
Vons 7720 El Camino Real
Albertsons 7660 El Camino Real
Circle K Gas Station El Camino Real
La Costa Coffee 6981 El Camino Real
New York Pizza El Camino Real
Rancho Carlsbad 5200 El Camino Real
Bobby’s Cafe 4901 El Camino Real
Rutherford Cafe 2262 Rutherford Rd.
Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club 7805 Centella
Carlsbad Chamber of Comm. 5934 Priestly
Le Place Deli 5950 La Place Ct
Courtyard/Marriott 5835 Owens Ave.
Ramada Hotel 751 Macadamia Dr
La Quinta Hotel 760 Macadamia Drive
Motel 6 750 Raintree Dr
Quality Inn 751 Raintree Dr
Chevron Station 1044 Carlsbad Village Dr

Car Country Carlsbad

Carlsbad Volvo 6830 Avenida Encinas
Hoehn Acura 5556 Paseo del Norte
Ken Grody Ford 5555 Paseo del Norte
Lexus Carlsbad 5444 Paseo del Norte
Rorick Buick Cadillac 5334 Paseo del Norte
Honda Paseo del Norte
Toyota Carlsbad 5424 Paseo del Norte
Weseloh Chevrolet 5335 Paseo del Norte
Worthington Dodge 5548 Paseo del Norte
Discover Hyundai 5285 Car Country Dr.
Hoehn Infiniti 5245 Car Country Dr.
Hoehn Motors 5475 Car Country Dr.
Hoehn Used Cars Car Country Dr.
Volvo Car Country Dr.


Einstein Bagels 2183 Vista Way
Coast Hwy Launderland 1904 Coast Hwy
Oceanside Beauty School 1575 S. Coast Hwy
Coast Car Wash 1621 Coast Hwy
SK’s Donuts 1129 S. Coast Hwy
Church’s Chicken 518 S. Coast Hiway #102
Laundromat 1110 S. Coast Hiway
31 Flavors 1112 S. Coast Hiway
Grubby’s Diner 1034 S. Coast Hwy
Inside Greyhnd Depot 213 S. Tremont
Hill St. Café 500 Coast Hwy
Coastal Liquor 432 Coast Hwy
AMTRAK Ticket Office 213 S. Tremont
Bessie’s Café 232 S. Coast Hiway
Anita’s Cafe 1908 Coast Hiway
Quick Korner 102 S. Coast Hiway
Pier View Coffee 300 Pier View Way
Best Barber 412 Pier View Way
Jean’s Gifts 307A Coast Hwy
Oceanside Library 330 N. Coast Hiway
Alfredo’s Mexican Food 502 Coast Hiway
Harbor House Cafe 714 N. Coast Hiway
O’side Yacht Club 1950 N. Harbor Drive
Jolly Roger 1900 N. Harbor Dr.
Monterey Bay Canners 1325 Harbor Drive (inside rt table)
Joe’s Crab Shack 314 Harbor Dr., South
Robin’s Nest 280 S. Harbor Drive
Marina Condos 1210 Harbor Dr.
Angelo’s Burgers 621 N. Coast Hiway
Bank of America 700 Mission
N. Cty Transit District 810 Mission
Oceanside High School
Mission Donut House 1502 S. Mission
Mission Square Laundry
Oceanside Boys & Girls Club
Launderland 1527 B. S. Mission
Scripps Medical Center 2201 S. Mission
Oceanside School Dist. 2111 Mission
El Mundo de Mariscos 3110 San Luis Rey Rd
Z Market 3200 Mission
Amador’s 260 Airport
Carlito’s Chicken 158 Roymar Rd.
Fire Station #7 3350 Mission
Delberto’s 3375 S. Mission
Tam’s Donuts 3375 S. Mission #A
Oceanside Car Wash 3655 S. Mission
Gems n’ Loans 3753 Mission Ave & El Camino Real
Bank of America 3772 Mission
Killer Pizza 3772 Mission #124
Fiesta Restaurant 3784 Mission
Laundromat 3784 Mission Ste 134
Ocean Rainbow Ice Cream 3772 Mission #147
Great Clips 3772 Mission #11
Library 3861 Mission
Oceanside Police Department 3055 Oceanside Blvd
Little Caesar’s Pizza 3852 Mission
5 Star Discount Market 5106 N. River Road
CVS 3925 N. River Road
Lamplighter MHP 4660 N. River Road
Grandma BB’s Cafe 539 Vista Bella (off El Camino)
Oceana Clubhouse 550 Vista Bella
VIP Car Wash 1980 Oceanside Blvd
Delia’s Mexican Food 1950 Oceanside Blvd Suite R
Ken’s Donuts 1950 Oceanside Blvd Suite 6
Fire Station #3′ El Camino & Oceanside Blvd
Rancho Del Oro Car Wash 4093 Oceanside Blvd
Pasto Buick 4121 Oceanside Blvd #201
Enzo’s BBQ 4121 Oceanside, #101
Juice It Up 4121 Oceanside #100
Knock Out Pizza 4121 Oceanside #203
White Dragon Kung Fu 4171 Oceanside Blvd #100A
Bruegger’s Bagels 4171 Oceanside Blvd Suite 109
Donut House 4171 Oceanside Blvd #105
Happy Noodle House 4760 Oceanside Blvd A15
Papa John’s Pizza 4225C Oceanside Blvd
Blendz 4225 Oceanside Blvd #B
Temple Hts School
Two Brothers Pizza 4760 Oceanside Blvd B1
Silver Star Beauty Salon 4790 Oceanside A-4
Montessori 2770 Oceanside Blvd
Barber 2770 Oceanside Blvd #A-7
El Asador Mex. Food 2770 Oceanside Blvd A-7
Oceanside Tire 499 College
College Coin Laundry 475-7 College Blvd
Victoria’s Mexican Food 495-C College
Oceanside Chinese Food 495 B College
United Physicians Group 475 I College
Dentist 467-I College
Nail 2001 467-4 College
Trupianos Italian Rest. 467-3 College
Roundtable Pizza 459-10 College
Pepper Tree Montessori 427 College
GiGi’s Cafe 2204 El Camino Real #125
Rookies Restaurant 2204 El Camino #105

Rancho Bernardo

Casa de la Campana
Taco Patron Grill 15817 Bernardo Center Dr.
Seven Eleven 15883 Bernardo Center Dr.
Saffron Cuisine 15817 Bernardo Center Dr.
NY Giant Pizza 15817 Bernardo Center Dr.
El Torito 16375 Bernardo Center Dr.
Passage to India 16425 Bernardo Center Dr
PHO Hoacali Express 16425 Bernardo Center Dr
Thai Cafe 16441 Bernardo Center Dr
Robek’s Juice 15888 Bernardo Center Dr. #120
New York Bagels & Cafe 16588 Bernardo Center Dr. #170
Borelli’s 16588 Bernardo Center Dr.
7/11 16703 Bernardo Center Dr.
RB Donuts 16713 Bernardo Center Dr.
CVS 16773 Bernardo Center Dr
Panda Buffet 16785 Bernardo Center Dr.
Kaiser Permanente 11939 Rancho Bernardo Road
Submarina 17090 Bernardo Center Dr
Incredible Café 11828 Rancho Bernardo Rd. #105
Mission Federal Credit Union 11868 Rancho Bernardo Rd #B
Taco Shop 11868 Rancho Bernardo Rd.
Surgical Centers of America 17190 Bernardo Center Dr. Suite 100
24 Hour Fitness 17170 Bernardo Center Dr
RB Library 17110 Bernardo Center Dr
Hooters 16911 W. Bernardo Drive.
Elephant Bar 17051 W. Bernardo Drive
Long Drugs 11655 Duenda Rd.
Barber Shop Duenda Rd.
Laundry Land 11631 Duenda Rd.
Village Mall 12463 Rancho Bernardo
Ogden’s Cleaners 12461 Rancho Bernardo Rd.
Albertsons 12475 Rancho Bernardo Dr.
Bernardo Restaurtant 12457 Rancho Bernardo Rd
Ogden’s Cleaners 15721 Bernardo Hieghts Pkwy
SavMart Pharmacies 15721 Bernardo Heights Pkwy
Golden Nails 15721 Bernardo Heights Pkwy
Henry’s 15727 Bernardo Heights Parkway
Von’s 11986 Bernardo Plaza
Terrace Gardens 1025 Morningview Drive/Esc.

What if our silence indicates our life is ending? (In honor of Martin Luther King, Junior on the eve of Barak Obama’s inauguration)

A poster with the following quote hangs in my campus office:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

When I consider this quote, I usually consider it in reverse as well, or via the concept that our lives BEGIN the day we become vocal and engaged with things that matter. Looked at in this way, the quote is one many of my students convey, albeit in different words, once they are awakened to feminism and/or working for social justice.

Coretta Scott King, whom I think should share this holiday along with Martin Luther King due to her lifelong commitment to social justice and to her many activist contributions, notes that “Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day.”

MLK’s insistence on “walking the walk” led to 29 jail sentences and various violent attacks against his person, yet he refused to become silent. Moreover, in spite of the violence and hatred directed against him, he refused to use his voice as an instrument of hate. He believed, as Coretta Scott King summarizes, “that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.”

Today, unfortunately, we have not taken this lesson to heart. Oppressed groups struggling for liberation often resort to violence in attempts to bring about change. Likewise, those in power use violence as a first choice rather than a last resort. The US, for example, continues to act as if violence is they way to bring about change, that “freedom is on the march” due to our imperialist actions in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

If MLK was alive today, he would decry those pundits who claim that we have achieved the dream of a post-racist world, he would certainly be against the US occupation of Iraq, and he most definitely would speak about the enduring injustice of an anti-Palestine war/media machine that, through its lies, frames the oppressed as the oppressor.

MLK said that we must decide if we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Well, the US, and Israel, and many other global centers of power, are certainly walking in the darkness of destructive selfishness. In so doing, they are marching the world closer to its death.

Further, on this, the eve of a historic inauguration, many are remaining silent about things that matter. Even more disturbing, many are voicing comparisons between MLK and Obama while failing to discuss the very important ways in which their differences matter. Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, wrote an excellent piece, “Who is Black America’s Moral Emissary to the World?” which analyzes these erroneous comparisons.

As Ford argues:

It is true that there could have been no Obama presidency had Dr. King and the movement he sprang from not existed, but that simple fact of history does not amount to a King benediction from the grave for Obama’s moral character and political policies. Indeed, Dr. King’s life and words are indelible evidence that he and Obama represent opposing moral and political camps.

Yet, rather than examining the ways in which they differ in their visions, what we are supposed to see is the similar color of their skin. This melanin based ‘sameness’ is supposed to comfort the progressives and social justice workers among us. Many have indeed latched onto this only skin deep hope for change.

However, Obama’s bailout record thus far, his choices for his administration (Bush’s defense guy, the head of the Fed running the treasury?!?), his pandering to bankers, his hawkish support of EXPANDED military intervention, his alliance to AIPAC and the Center for Foreign Relations, all of these are proof, that, as Ford argues, comparisons to MLK are misguided. As Ford notes, “the fact that one of these men fought his whole life against the forces of militarism and economic exploitation, while the other empowers, and is empowered by, bankers and militarists” should be raising serious alarm bells for “Obama-ites.”

Using the Vietnam War as an example of MLK’s refusal to become silent on things that matter, Ford further writes:

If the Obamites had more presence of mind, they would avoid comparisons with Dr. King, which can only redound to Obama’s great detriment. King’s break with his onetime ally, President Lyndon Johnson, set the standard for both political and moral behavior. When it became clear that the War on Poverty was doomed by the war in Vietnam, which acted “like some demonic destructive suction tube,” devouring all available resources, King publicly declared against the war. In doing so, he severed what had been the most productive relationship between an American president and a Black leader in U.S. history. But the war gave him no choice, since military expenditures made “rehabilitation” of the American poor impossible. Both morality and politics led to the same conclusion: the Movement could not coexist with war.

The lesson is directly applicable today, but Americans, Black and white, find it difficult to recognize the characters. Obama is Lyndon Johnson. National revitalization, including redress of historical African American grievances, is impossible unless military expenditures are dramatically reduced. But Obama is committed to putting 100,000 new pairs of Marine and Army “boots on the ground,” an expanded war in Afghanistan/Pakistan, a beefed up AFRICOM, and a generally bigger U.S. military footprint on the planet. This, in the midst of global economic collapse.

To compare Obama to MLK is insulting to the King legacy – yet, many remain silent when these comparisons (and other similar fawnings) occur. Obama does share some attributes with MLK – most obviously, both are excellent orators. Both are brilliant. Both have more understanding of racial injustice and white privilege in their little toe than G.W. has in his entire body. Yet, Obama IS not the champion for peace, non-violence, and equity that MLK was. Ironically, we are going against MLK’s call for a “color-blind” society when we act as if he is. What we are doing instead is acting as if his color makes him all the things so many of us hope he is. Further, the “touchy” issue of race is keeping many silent in fear a critical stance towards Obama would lead to accusations they are racist. Sadly, this fear is true.

We have become so wrapped up in the euphoria of Obama’s win and its symbolic meaning that we have forgot to take a harsh look at what really matters – NOT the win, but what he will do as president, NOT the color of his skin, but the character of his heart and mind. So far, I am troubled by what seems to be an extreme disconnect between his words and acts- he is charming, brilliant, passionate, and many other good things, but he is not the anti-empire progressive leader I crave. He is no MLK. He is no Coretta.

While I realize these assertions may anger many, I can’t remain silent about this. A colleague of mine shared that she is not critical of Obama in front of students as she fears she will be labeled racist, especially as a white woman. Yet, if progressive academics remain silent along with others working for social justice, our lives will continue to end at the hands of the imperialist corporatist war machine.

On this day, in honor of Martin Luther King, Junior and Coretta Scott King, I hope that you will find something that matters to NOT be silent about. I hope, more specifically, that people will speak their concerns about Obama’s worrying collusions with all those things that our marching the planet, and humanity, towards death.

What if you’re “secretly” sexist, racist, and homophobic?

Sorry for the interruption in the “What if you could buy social justice?” series, but I have had this PostSecret post percolating in my head for awhile. After viewing this week’s “secrets,” I couldn’t wait any longer to brew my discontent into words. (All quotes are taken from the book Blogging Heroes by Michael A. Banks and exact pages numbers are footnoted below.)

PostSecret was born as a community art project in 2004. Frank Warren handed out blank postcards addressed to himself around D.C. and asked random strangers to anonymously post their secrets to him, decorating their cards however they wished.  This initial project was displayed in a DC art gallery for four weeks, but, as Warren kept receiving hundreds of postcards, the website PostSecret was born. In addition to garnering worldwide acclaim, Warren’s concept has spawned 4 real world books.[i]

An “online exhibit” of sorts, PostSecret “hangs” 20 new pieces of postcard art each Sunday, most of which function as “confessional secrets,” or, in other words, revelations people keep secret in the ‘real world.’ While there are many funny, heart-wrenching, erotic, and sentimental secrets, there are also a number of secrets that reveal the sexism, racism, homophobia, and anti-feminism of not only the sender, but the wider culture. While individual postcards might seem to be just that – individual – the fact that Warren admittedly tries to tap into zeitgeists, and the fact that the interactive PostSecret community comments on the secrets in droves, indicates that many of the cards represent cultural, rather than merely individual, ‘secrets.’

Warren, noting that “I really feel as though these new modes of communication, and these new kinds of conversations, can uncover hidden elements of our common humanity,” nods to this cultural narrative function of the secrets.[ii] Worryingly, but not surprisingly, many of the “hidden elements” reveal that our “common humanity” is rife with sexism, racism, and homophobia, not to mention ableism, ageism, anti-feminism and many, many other world views that not-so-secretly act as if only certain bodies matter.

Yet, while Warren argues that, “When I put secrets on the blog, they are living secrets. When you visit the blog and read a secret, you know that somebody is carrying that burden or dealing with that issue in real time,” I think many of the postcards don’t deal with carrying burdens so much as unloading them.[iii] The notion of “carrying a burden” indicates one has some sense of remorse, or some intention to try and change. However, I would argue many of the “secrets” function as confessionals that “erase” or “forgive” the burden once it is confessed.

Taking this analogy further, how fitting that the posts renew each Sunday and offer a weekly clearinghouse of confessions, allowing the site to function as a quasi-Sunday confessional where “sins” can be forgiven. Just at the priest will assign so many Hail Mary’s as penance so that one’s slate can be wiped clean of sin, so to does the cite allow “sinners” the be absolved each Sunday. The penance (that functions more like a reward) is online recognition of their “sin.”

Further, many postcards don’t indicate “dealing” with issues so much as offloading them so they don’t have to be dealt with. Using an “airing dirty laundry” schema, the site allows “secrets” to be purged, making it “ok” to be racist, unfaithful, uncaring, mean, or whatever, as long as one has “dealt” with it via crafty postcard confessional.

While I find the site and the concept fascinating, many recent postcards have led me to question some of the wider messages that the site is sending. In particular, a number of recent postcards indicate that it’s NO SECRET we live in  a society mired in sexism and racism – and, problematically, that this ‘secret’ is part of out “common humanity.”

This postcard, from 12/13/2008,  promotes the idea that females can “makes up for” supposed “abnormal sexual acts” via scrubbing their roomies dishes (and also by being “hot”). In so doing, I would say it doesn’t so much “offload burdens” as perpetuate the idea that only certain sexual behaviors are normal.

In addition to perpetuating sexist stereotypes and objectifying the female body, many post-cards trade in racism. One from this week’s selection links racism to losing one’s virginity, suggesting that virginity is to big a prize to squander away on ‘racial others’:

A similar postcard from last week’s selection, frames women as racialized commodities to “choose” from:

Many postcards deal with the control of the female body, especially via secrets about nude pictures. The following postcard, “Pussy Galore,” reads “I have naked images of my ex-girlfriend and am getting more tempted to make them public.”

Other postcards deal with rape and sexual assault, sometimes in though-provoking, critical ways. Others, though, subtly send homophobic messages of the “No Entry” variety.

Here, the choice of image and the copy “No Entry” does not so much serve to condemn rape as to condemn certain types of sexual activity as abnormal. As anal sex is coded as gay and wrong, the postcard thus purports to be about rape but nevertheless sends a homophobic message. That the message is not overt in effect makes it all the worse – the viewer is encouraged to condemn rape but NOT encouraged to question the homophobic message of the card itself.

I am certainly not the only one who has noticed that the “common humanity” PostSecret often reflects (and, in doing so, condones) involved a humanity defined by sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. A while back Angry Asian Man alerted readers to this postcard:

Similarly, as this postcard flagged at Racialicious, indicates, it’s ok to “resent black people”:

Or, from another card flagged at Racialicious, we see that one can be a loving racist parent:

And, we wouldn’t want to leave out the anti-feminist messages. With this card, flagged at Feministing, all the MRA’s and feminist haters out there had their dreams fulfilled:

Warren, referring to the thousands of postcards he receives, notes “some are funny, some are haunting, and some are inspirational.”[iv] He does not, I notice, say, “some are sexist, some are hateful, and some are downright horrifically racist.”

Moreover, as he reveals, the postcards to not come out of a vacuum but build upon one another each week, touching into a sort of cultural groupthink…

As Warren reveals, “The secrets I post every Sunday influence the secrets that I receive the next week. For example, if I posted all pornographic secrets, that’s what I’d be getting.” [v] With this quote Warren indicates his publication choices influence what he will have to choose from to publish in the next week in a sort of revolving door fashion. I am wondering what some of these recent choices indicate about what he would like to be getting… Do these postcards not scream “Send me more sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-feminist secrets!”? I think it is no secret that they do.

(The buying social justice series will continue in a day or two…)

[i] Banks, Michael A. Blogging Heroes. Wiley Publishing, Indianapolis, 2008. 63-4

[ii]I 66-7

[iii] 67

[iv] 67

[v] 70

What if you’re not sure whether you’re sexist and racist or just prejudiced and bigoted?

This post was inspired by a comment I received on my “What if you were Obama? What Cabinet would you build?” post.

In that post, I purposefully did not point out that my cabinet choices were all female, nor that they were racially and otherwise diverse, as I wanted to see how readers would react to this. As expected, one reader commented “wow such a racist and sexist post!! where are the men!?!??!?!?!”

Now, if someone had suggested an ALL MALE, ALL WHITE cabinet, would readers such as these react in a similar manner? NO WAY!!!!

All white male cabinets and supreme courts and juries and school boards and city councils and committees and etc, etc were the name of the game (without much dissent) until quite recently. Yet, when suggestions are made to make things all female, or all POC, people start screaming about racism and sexism. And, typically, it’s the same people who thought letting white males run the world was A-OK who cry “sexism!” or “racism!” when those in power begin to reflect the diversity of the world’s populace.

I have a real problem with these “reverse” ideas of -isms (such as reverse racism) as they discount the power dynamics and the institutionalized nature of socially sanctioned inequalities. In fact, I am of the camp that believes you cannot be “racist” against whites. You can be prejudice or discriminatory, but not racist. As explained so well in the following excerpt from Revealing Histories, racism is equal to prejudice plus power:

“An important alternative view is that, while anyone can have prejudices against anyone else and then discriminate against that person, such behaviour can only be racist if it comes from the ‘race’ which over the years has been placed as superior and use their power to strengthen and enforce their prejudices. Many have argued that racism, then, equals racial prejudice plus power. According to this definition, while a Black person might be prejudiced against a White person on the basis of race, perhaps violently and unjustly, but this may not strictly be racism because the Black person does not have the assumed support of institutions such as the police or the media behind them. This idea of racism says that there are many parts of society and the major organisations that run it which in either loud or subtle ways support racism, and these support what was declared to be the ‘superior’ race.”

Now, one of the most common counter arguments to this argument tends to run like this:

“Well, what about Jesse Jackson. He has power as a black man. Why can’t he be a racist?” (For a post that argues that ALL people can be racist with this analogy, see here.)

Obviously, individual members of oppressed groups can have power – in fact this works to keep the system in place. By granting a FEW blacks power, a FEW woman powers, a FEW Latinos power, etc, people are able to point to a black woman in power and claim “See, our society really is post-racist and post-sexist! Look at Condi! Look at Oprah!” Yet, even though there are individuals in power who are not white or male, the SYSTEM of white male privilege is still in place – and racism and sexism are about this system, not about individuals.

Eric Zorn distinguishes between such differences in his article “Prejudice, bigotry and racism: Is there a difference.” He defines prejudice as thought based, bigotry as action based, and racism as systematic and institutionalized:

“I think of racial prejudice as a private thought — a personal response to an individual or situation that is based, fairly or unfairly, on experience and observation. It’s usually but not always a negative response; an invidious pre-judgment.

I think of bigotry as an act that is motivated by a negative prejudice —  those thoughts turned into deeds.

And I think of racism as a systemic application of bigotry and prejudice — the use of such sentiments to deprive group members of opportunity, dignity, safety and certain other rights based on their membership in that group and an inner belief that this group is inferior.

  • It’s prejudice when Mr. Smith feels unhappy when Mr. Johnson moves in next door because he doesn’t like Mr. Johnson’s skin color or ethnic identity.
  • It’s bigotry when Mr. Smith refuses to invite Mr. Johnson into his home or offer him friendly waves of greeting.
  • It’s racism when Mr. Smith uses threats and intimidation to attempt to drive Mr. Johnson and his family out of the neighborhood.”

Using these definitions, Zorn elucidates why one can be prejudice against whites, or carry out bigoted acts against us, but CANNOT be racist against us:

“Politically, institutionally, culturally and historically, bigoted acts motivated by prejudice against white people  have not been and are not significant roadblocks to the advancement, dignity and quality of life of white people.”

Zorn further points out that “any discussion of the problem of how to alleviate the problem of racism gets off on the wrong foot when it tries to start from the trivializing premise that we’re all guilty of it.” I agree with this sentiment – in fact, only white people can be racist according to this argument. POC can be sexist, bigoted, discriminatory, and prejudiced, but NOT racist.

Analogously, women can be prejudiced, bigoted, discriminatory towards men (or other women), but they cannot be sexist. To be sexist, one must be a male. Sexism, just like racism, is prejudice plus power. In order to elucidate, I will alter the paragraph cited above from Revealing Histories in order to make it specific to sex/gender rather than to race:

While anyone can have prejudices against anyone else and then discriminate against that person, such behaviour can only be sexist if it comes from the ‘sex‘ which over the years has been placed as superior and uses their power to strengthen and enforce their prejudices…While a female person might be prejudiced against a male person on the basis of sex/gender, perhaps violently and unjustly, this may not strictly be sexism because the female person does not have the assumed support of institutions such as the police or the media behind them. This idea of sexism says that there are many parts of society and the major organisations that run it which in either loud or subtle ways support sexism, and these support what was declared to be the ‘superior’ sex/gender.

And, you can accuse me of splitting hairs, but I believe the difference between terms such as prejudice, racism, sexism, and bigotry is important. When we act as if ANYONE can be racist or sexist, we deny the systematic, institutionalized arrangement of our society and act as if these attitudes and inequalities are coming out of a vacuum. In sum, anyone can be a bigot, or prejudiced, but racism and sexism are the PRIVILEGES (and, yes, they are privileges, although very horrible, insidious, damaging ones) of the white and the male.

What if “traditional” wasn’t used as a catch all term meaning ‘good’ or ‘natural’? (Or, what ‘traditions’ should we vote to perpetuate come Tuesday…?)

If you have been on this planet long enough to learn how to read, you have likely come across phrases such as “It’s tradition” or “We’ve always done it this way, it’s a family/community/religious tradition” or “traditional family.”  In sayings such as these, the word ‘tradition’ is used to indicate something is good, right, natural, worth doing, etc. People say things like, “I will go to my mother’s for the holiday, it’s tradition” or “traditional recipe” or “American tradition.”

While there are many bad traditions, we don’t tend to talk about these things as traditional. For example, it’s quite traditional for many whites to raise their children to be racist and/or deny white privilege. Yet, we don’t tend to speak of the “white racist tradition.” It’s also tradition for boys and men to learn to degrade and objectify women — sometimes they learn this from their fathers, sometimes from their friends, and certainly from popular culture. Yet, we don’t speak of “sexist tradition.” It’s also tradition for the USA to rely on an exploitive labor system and an economic set-up that favors the very rich. Yet, we don’t say “the USA’s traditional to use slave labor” or “the tradition of keeping all the wealth in the hands of white male elites.” We don’t say these things because traditions are assumed to be good, to be things worth keeping.

Lately, the word ‘tradition’ is being thrown around a lot in relation to heteronormative concepts of family and marriage. Here in California, the “Yes on 8” camp (or, in other words, the we support homophobic hate crew) use lines such as “protect the traditional family” or “protect the tradition of marriage.” Here, ‘traditional’ is used as a synomym for “the right kind,” as in, “protect the right kind of marriage, not that crazy gay kind.” Notice that the Yes on 8 crew does not uses phrases such as “support homophobia, it’s tradition” or “it’s traditional to hate and exclude others who are not like us,” or, “save traditional marriage – keep the man in charge and the woman as property.” No, none of these “traditions” are named as such.

And, as a post at Straight Not Narrow notes, the Yes on 8 crowd seems to interpret the need to “keep traditions” quite differently than how Jesus might have characterized tradition. As the post notes, in the book of Mark, Jesus contrasts “the traditions of men” from “the commands of God,” and, not surprisingly, suggests that God’s rules are the ones to follow, not human traditions. Here is the quote from Mark 7:8-9:

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”

Now, I don’t personally believe in the bible, but for those that do, doesn’t the way Jesus characterizes tradition here not jibe with how the Yes on 8 crew is using the word? Tradition in the above is characterized as bad, as willful, as going against God. Huh, I may be on to something there. If “the traditions of men” are going against “the commands of God,” then upholding “traditional marriage” (as the Yes on 8 crew is doing) is actually hubris – it is taking the stance that “my tradition” or “my belief” is better than everyone else’s – including that of God, Jesus, etc.

A story about a ballot measure introduced in Olympia, Washington puts the hypocrisy surrounding the “traditional marriage” in stark relief. As reported at the SeattlePI back in 2007:

“Proponents of same-sex marriage have introduced an initiative that would put a whole new twist on traditional unions between men and women: It would require heterosexual couples to have children within three years or else have their marriages annulled.”

Gregory Gadow, who filed the I-957 proposition, claimed the initiative was filed “in the spirit of political street theater” with no real intention to actually put this into law, but rather  “to get this on the ballot and cause people to talk about it.” (See the full story here.)

Such “political street theatre” makes it abundantly clear that “traditional marriage” is touted as a good thing without much analysis as to what this really means. While it is ‘traditional’ for most marriages to result in children, does this mean that marriages which don’t are no longer real or valid?

Ideas surrounding “tradition” also circulate around California’s Prop 4 initiative. The Yes on 4 camp, that would like to limit reproductive rights, uses the platform of protecting “traditional family values.” However, as anyone who doesn’t live with their head stuck up their backsides knows, the ‘traditional nuclear family’ model in the US is rife with heinous and hypocritical ‘traditions.’ For example, the tradition of seeing the women in the family as servants, as property, as items to barter or ‘give away’ to men/future husbands. Or, the tradition of valuing sons more, of putting male’s education/goals etc first. While these traditions are thankfully waning, they are by no means under threat of extinction. If Prop 4 passes (and if the even more draconian Prop 11 in South Dakota passes(see here for more on Prop 11)), the ‘tradition’ of controlling women’s bodies and their reproductive capacities will be strengthened – or, in other words, we will be moving BACKWARDS in terms of equality, social justice, and reproductive freedom.

“Tradition” has also been used in the presidential campaign to promote racism and sexism. As Obama threatens the ‘tradition’ of white male rule, he has been targeted in extremely racist ways that feed on the tradition of white supremacist views that are still prevalent in this ‘free’ country. And, as the sexist coverage of both Clinton and Palin reveals, any woman, even when she is a right-to-lifer, weapon/oil/war loving darling of the right, is framed as a threat to the tradition of male/power privilege.

While some traditions are good, (like calling your dad on father’s day, or eating meals together as a family, or voting!) others, (like sexism, racism, homophobia) are abhorrent. While all people should have equal rights and privileges, equal opportunities, the right to marry if they choose, the right to control their own reproductive capacity, the right to run for office without being targeted by racist/sexist campaign propaganda, all traditions are certainly NOT equally good or right.

Thus, when something is touted as good because it is ‘traditional,’ let us all pause and think about what traditions we want to perpetuate and what traditions need to be axed. The ‘traditional family,’ ‘traditional marriage,’ and ‘traditional leaders,’  are not actually altogether good traditions, but traditions that work to limit access to privilege and power and that disenfranchise women, people of color, and non-heterosexuals.

Up with feminist, progressive traditions and down with traditions of hate! And, please, please consider what traditions you would like to perpetuate when you vote come Tuesday…