Slant Eyes

I’m musing over how to “handle”, if I handle it at all, discussing with my children the whole Spanish Basketball Team making slant-eyes for an advertisement thing.

I have nothing really insightful to say about this yet, except that I’m not really interested in some deconstruction of power and privilege as it relates to race.  That’s grad-school intellectual wanking, and, as enjoyable as that might be, such thinking is not helpful when you have the immediate situation of a child looking to you for guidance.  I have to put away youthful introspection – it’s time to be a grownup.

Middle school is approaching.  As I recall, if middle school students can’t find something about you to make fun of, they’ll just make something up.  The chances that my kids will have ‘slant eyes’ made at them are, IMHO, pretty good within the next few years.

I realize that most likely I will be teaching my kids to react to ‘racial’ things the way a white male thinks a person of color should react.  But, I don’t see how I could do anything else – I bring who I am and my own experience to the table.  Some might say that this is a good argument against interracial or international adoption, but to Hades with that.

This even ties in with still larger issues.  We want to raise healthy, happy children (like everyone else), but Lintilla and I must do that in the context of a fallen world.  There are dangers, toils and snares everywhere, and, as much as we’d like to only teach the kids how to navigate the clear waters, we would be doing them no favors if we didn’t cover thoroughly the dangerous, rough seas.  And most importantly, how to discern between the two.

It’s a fine line; I want them to be strong and confident in who they are, not taking crap from anyone.  Yet, I don’t want them to be knee-jerk, overly sensitive  jackasses, either.

So, I guess I need to think some more about this.  But not too long – time’s a’wastin’.

Posted in Kids, Race. 2 Comments »

About The Great Debaters (and a little about race)

We did get to see The Great Debaters on Saturday, and it was just as good as I thought it would be.   It was, at its heart, a formulaic sports movie (more on that in a minute), but its predictability was overcome by some incredible acting performances.  Denzel Washington’s direction was, I thought, very well paced, and he shrewdly allowed his character to fade somewhat as the movie went along, because Washington is so electric onscreen it takes away from other performances.

Even though it was based on true events, the movie very closely mirrored another underdog story, Hoosiers, even going so far as including a scene where the members of the small school team look in awe at the arena they’ll be fighting Goliath in.  (BTW, I’m pretty sure Sylvester Stallone invented this device, in Rocky).

The debate scenes (and there were few actual debate scenes), were true to life, and pretty much how I remember things, except in our public high school debate tournaments, we only had judges present when we debated.  The scenes when the debaters are researching before the big debate really rang true to me (especially arguments about approach).  It occurred to me on the way home that things have REALLY changed in respect to debate research since I last debated in 1982.  They have the internet now, and it changed everything.

As an aside, in Nashville, the part played by the Harvard debate team would be that of Montgomery Bell Academy’s team.  They have always been the gold standard.  I will never forget when my partner Darren and I had our own Rocky moment.  We defeated a team from MBA, and everyone in the room knew it.  The judge gave the round to MBA anyway, but we walked away knowing we had beaten the best, even though we didn’t get the first place ribbons.

It would have been nice if the Wiley college team would have been shown arguing the negative on an issue for which they really wanted to argue the affirmative.  This is the magic, and the greatest teaching tool, in debate.  You don’t get to choose which side you argue, and have to be ready to defend either side.  It really makes you seriously think about all arguments about an issue, and makes you a better advocate for the side in which you really believe.  It would do us all good to try it once in a while.  Could Aunt B write an argument for outlawing abortion that wasn’t a caricature?  Could Kat compose a compelling argument against the death penalty (or in favor of using PCs over Macs)?

Those who can only write compelling arguments for issues they are passionate about have an Achilles heel that can be exploited.  Debate makes you see the flaws in your own arguments, the strongest arguments of the other side, and makes your arguments that much stronger in the end. 

Of course, we had long discussions with our kids about the Jim Crow south, both before the movie, and afterward.  One thing really stood out to me as I heard their questions: their personal pronouns were all in the third person.

Let me take a step back.  In the US, and especially in the American south, discussions of race are always, always,always  implied to be about black and white.  This is perfectly natural of course, considering our history.  And, let’s face it, this isn’t San Fransisco.  As of the last census, Asians made up a little under 1% of Nashville’s population.  Asians are almost always an afterthought in these discussions.  I’m not saying they should be in the forefront, it’s just the way it is.

But it struck me as we spoke about these things: they haven’t picked a “side”.  There is no “we”, when they ask questions about race.  Did you have any idea the opportunity Lintilla and I have here?  There are no centuries-held hatreds, no generational grudges, no automatic racial defensiveness.  Based upon the questions they asked, and how they asked them, it is obvious that their views are not poisoned with the personal baggage that we whites and blacks carry (and lately, Hispanics). 

This is when I knew that our experiment in living our lives as cross-racially as possible without pointing out that doing so was any big deal, or even pointing out that we were doing it, is starting to pay off.  We will continue to do so, no matter how much criticism we receive for it.

 I do not discuss race directly on blogs anymore,  because I’m tired of people who do not know me questioning my motives, or claiming that their life experience should carry more weight than my own, simply because of the color of my skin.  There are too many people who live for the fight, then get angry when you do not give it to them.

It took a long time to retrain my mind, but now, every time I see an interracial couple, I smile.  It will not happen in my lifetime, but eventually there will be enough “inter” marrying and parenting, that one day the entire population of the United States will be a nice shade of light brown.

Then y’all are going to have to find something else to hate each other about.

Too Rich

Mack has an interesting post about an incident where somebody left their minivan running for over 60 minutes at WalMart.  Lots has been said about this at his place and at MCB. But everybody (including Mack, interestingly) is ignoring the subtext of the post, and the conclusions drawn. He links to an article that lambasts “suburban sprawl”, suburbia, and suburbanites.  Mack seems to agree with the original article.

The irony is so rich you could almost cut it with a knife.

I am a suburbanite. The suburban life is all I’ve ever known.

I have been reading about this subject for years.  Now, the article Mack linked to was high-brow, and lacked some of the usual invective we see aimed toward suburbia and suburbanites.  Yet the subtext is there for all to see:

Suburbanites are to the far left what illegal immigrants are to the far right. 

  • Instead of streaming across the border, we are spreading into the countryside.
  • We are ruining the American (and world’s) way of life.
  • Instead of the right complaining about 12 to a house, the left complains about 1 to a car.
  • Both groups are described like spreading vermin.
  • We (suburbanites) must turn aside from our own culture, and adopt the “right” culture to save America.
  • The left looks down upon our stores, our restaurants, our entertainment, our purchases, our voting patterns. We need to be more like them, and then maybe we’ll be accepted.
  • The left sees this country as their birthright, and “we” are taking it away, and must be stopped.
  • We are generally unclean (driving SUVs) and make a mess of things (global warming).
  • Instead of a wall, “smart planning”, restrictionist coding, etc are what’s advocated to keep “us” from advancing.

I was raised in suburbia.  It’s all I’ve ever known.  The commute, the multiplex, the mall, WalMart are all part of my “culture”.  Many of the left consider themselves multiculturalists; we must accept others as they are, the argument goes, and not make anyone feel bad because they are different.  Demands of assimilation are totally out of  bounds.

I wish they’d apply their own standard to suburbanites.  After all, our strength is our diversity.

Edited to Add: In no way do I wish to convey that Mack, personally, has made these arguments.  This post is a refutation of many arguments I have heard through the years.  Mack’s post just got me going.  Except for being like, a liberal, Mack is an all-around cool dude.  Sorry I gave the wrong impression

To The Man In The Treadmill Room

You remember that scene early in Philadelphia, when the lawyers are in the steam room, making jokes about homosexuals, having no idea that Andrew Beckett was, himself a homosexual? 

You just recreated that moment.

I’m sure I looked “safe” to you.  Even when you asked if the shooter at Va Tech was in the country illegally, I let it slide.  Stupid, but harmless.  I have no quarrel with you.

I realise that the reports are now that a South Korean national committed the atrocities at Virginia Tech.  I know we’re trying to make sense of it all.

I sure don’t look Korean, because I’m not.

Yet, when you disparage a whole nationality, a whole race of people, you are disparaging my children.  Now, we have a quarrel.

I let you know how stupid your comment was, and your embarrassment showed me that I hit the mark.  Yet, if I were a better man, we would have taken it outside.  As it is, I wish I had not been so polite to you; I wish I had a little more Aunt B in me, then I really would have told you how I felt.

And no, the Chinese and the Koreans are not just alike.  Many in China look down on Koreans, so they share your bigotry.  At least get the nuances right, OK?

I’ve wasted enough time with this.  My company is having its own memorial service, with a simulcast of the one in Blacksburg.  We work for a good company, no matter what anyone says.

I will pray and mourn, and you will be a forgotten memory.


Bob, I Understand, But HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???

Bob Krumm has decided that it’s important that we know the name of the accuser in the Duke Rape CaseChris Wage is appropriately outraged (but for the wrong reasons). 

Few people in the Nashville area know more about this case than me.  It’s been an obsession of mine since the charges were first leveled, and I was privy to much evidence that was known in Durham, but went under the radar here in Nashville.  I had close contact with someone in the court system in NC, and she told me what she legally could.  I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this case.

Now, I commented at Bob’s place, gently rebuking both Krumm and Wage, and giving my own thoughts.  But, Bob’s off doing Bob-Krumm-Work-Thingy-Stuff, and the comment is awaiting moderation.  I post it here in full, because I think there’s a very important middle ground between Bob’s Fry Her  attitude, and Chris’ It probably did happen, there just isn’t evidence attitude (OK, I exaggerate):

One clarification. The AG in North Carolina went out of his way to value-add his statement. He did NOT say “there is insufficient evidence”, he said specifically “no crime was committed”. He even emphasised and repeated those words. If you’d like, I’ll link to his statement. He wanted to make it clear that “no crime was committed”. It’s an important distinction.

I’ve known her name for over a year. (I think I know more about this case than is healthy). That being said, I do not like the idea of vindictively throwing her name out there, for two reasons. One, she’s mentally ill (this has been documented, and confirmed by her family).

And two, she may have lied, but by being so vindictive toward her, we might be discouraging future [real] victims.It’s kind of like the first amendment: yes, we have to suffer idiots, but it’s for the greater good. So, let her hide behind the rape shield laws. The larger issue is too important.

She has her own demons to deal with. Mike Nifong is going to get his just desserts. The biggest injustice here is that Duke’s president still has his job, Nancy Grace has not publicly apologised, nor have the “community” leaders, or the students, academics, and columnists who made the players’ lives a living hell.

What we had here (and I’ve known this for a long time), was a dispute over payment, a mentally ill girl who cried rape to avoid the drunk tank, a prosecutor running for reelection in a minority district, and the usual biases inherent on college campuses in your various “studies” departments. The perfect storm.

I know it seems weird, but I find the accuser to be way down on the blame scale. Everybody saw what they wanted to see.

Leave her alone.

He Stole Home!

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League baseball.  If you haven’t learned about the life of this great man, there a myriad books you can read.  I’m sure there will be television specials.  Educate yourself.

Robinson was a great man: he held his tongue, he held his temper, and he changed the world.  The civil rights movement got an incredible jump-start through Robinson’s bravery.  All Americans owe him a debt of gratitude for his courage and class.

He was also, as we easily forget, a GREAT baseball player.  There may have never been a better technician in the craft of stealing home than Robinson.  Think about it.  It’s the most difficult play in baseball (save the triple play).   No other player since World War II has stolen home more than Robinson.  That’s incredible.

Do yourself a favor.  Check out one of the resources listed on Robinson’s wikipedia page.  Educate yourself about this quiet Giant of American history.

As a postlude, I’ll add the fact that Robinson was a Republican.  That little factoid tweaks all the right noses. 🙂

More Harm Than Good

Oh, what “group” based politics hath wrought!

A cautionary tale:

When you see a potential rapist in every person with a penis, and potential racists in every white face, well, let’s just say you see what you want to see, facts be damned. 

Where are the womyn pan-bangers who posted “Wanted” signs and marched shouting “come clean”?  Where are the “community” leaders who proclaimed guilt and even shouted “dead man walking” at a preliminary hearing?  Why does the president of Duke University still have a his prominent position? 

They all saw what they wanted to see.  Their group-based glasses clouded their vision.

Whatever good comes from group-based politics, it is far outweighed by the harm it does.

It is far better to judge every person based on the facts about them, personally.  From the linked article:

Too many commentators and academics who didn’t know the facts were hasty to believe the “privileged jocks gone wild” scenario. Too many civil rights leaders seemed to draw the wrong lessons from the days when young black men in the South were convicted or lynched based on flimsy rape accusations from white women. Due process and the presumption of innocence got lost in the uproar.

One day, we’ll get past all this race crap.  Are you going to stand for brotherhood and reconciliation, or are you on the side of strife?