Archive for the 'Worldly matters' Category

03
Jun
13

Has Tim Been Un-Wise Lately? How About the Rest of Us?

So, famous and notable white anti-racist thinker, pundit, commentator, author, blogger, etc. Tim Wise has been getting some heat lately, much of it from people of color, particularly African-Americans.

It seems a lot of the criticism comes down to the following:

  • People of color (especially blacks) who speak out about racism in society get vilified or accused of pulling the race card or guilting whites (even liberal ones) even when they say the exact same things Wise is often praised for saying
  • White anti-racists are a good thing, but why don’t black ones get anywhere near as much attention or as much of the pie in terms of book deals, media recognition, respect, etc.?
  • What has Wise done for non-whites who are victims of discrimination daily in a white-privilege-based society, other than to spread information and awareness among some white people (who are more eager to listen to a white guy saying what black people have been saying all along)?
  • Why won’t Wise publicly debate or discuss differing approaches with non-white anti-racists (instead of choosing to go head-to-head only with people at the other end of the spectrum from him)?

I’m not here to defend or attack Tim Wise.

I think a lot of what he does is good and well-meaning. I also think the criticisms against him have a lot of merit.

But what I will say is that this might be a good time for those of us who hold notions of equality dear (or claim to) and are white to actually check ourselves and do some self-review.

For example, when a person who isn’t white points out something they think is racist, is your first instinct to listen to them and see it from their perspective as much as possible (instead of from a position of white privilege), or do you start looking for flaws in their argument?

I’ve been guilty of the latter at times. Not very often in the past 20 years or so, I think, though my wife (who is black) might disagree. There have been times she’s been furious about a discriminatory slight and told me about it, and there have been times I’ve challenged her. In one case, she was ready to stop shopping at an entire chain of stores because of one checker’s assholery. She got mad when I told her that was irrational, but in that case, I was right, because she hadn’t asked for a manager to complain to, and she’d never been treated that way at any other location of that store.

On the other hand, she once got treated badly at the bank and I was finding the potential flaws in her perception and asking if it might have been “this” happening (something not racist) rather than “that” happening (her version of it).

On the whole, I lean to her perception, because it’s kind of stupid for me to tell her what was happening in a situation that she was involved in and I wasn’t. Also, I don’t live in brown skin every day and carry all the baggage that entails with being a potential target…in fact, I almost never have to think about my race or how people perceive my worth as a human being.

Still, I screw up at times. Some of you might screw up way more often than me and if so, stop it. Do better. In fact, do better than me.

Also, as white people, do we treat non-whites with the same level of respect as we do those with our same or similar skin tone (particularly when we are in positions of authority and have an influence on their ability to achieve what they deserve)? Are we making assumptions about them that are unwarranted? Are we talking down to them? Are we seeing them as humans first, or as color palettes? Etc.

I’ve only once been in a position where I had an influence over hiring. I was a key factor in the hiring of two writers at that magazine at different times: one black and one white.

Now, I’m not looking for a pat on the back about the black woman. But I need to make a point here about hiring.

When the position the black woman got was open, there were other candidates for the job, all of them white. During the interviewing process, however, when all was said and done and I considered all the qualifications of the people, I purposefully gave the black candidate the edge in the end, because of her race.

This is where some of you may scream “reverse racism!” or others (black and white alike) might accuse me of acting out of white guilt or simply hiring the woman because I was involved with a black woman at the time.

Not so. Here is what happened, and what I challenge more people with hiring power to consider:

In the end, no candidate stood out in terms of skills. No one had an edge. However, what I knew we had in our department was a whole lot of white folks. And in the organization as a whole, blacks were concentrated in lower-end positions (secretarial, filing, mail room, etc.). I had a chance to hire a black woman for a reporting and writing position on our magazine, and I pushed hard for her to get the job.

It was the right thing to do because to do otherwise would have been to perpetuate the idea of hiring and working with people who are most like us. That’s a terrible thing, because not everyone in the world is like us. If everyone in our department is, then someone has very likely failed in the recruitment or hiring process at some point, and perhaps multiple points. Sure, most people in the country are white, so the fact that most of our department would be white made sense. But to pass on a chance to make the department more representative of the population at large would have been a failure on my part.

Does this make me some saint? Far from it. I’ve had my moments of being quicker to lock the door when a sketchy looking black person is coming than if a sketchy looking white person is. I’ve done and thought stupid things at times. Not often, but often enough to feel some shame (as I would at any other bad behavior or faulty attitude, racial or otherwise). So, I’m not giving this hiring example as a way of showing how great I am.

But I am lifting it up as an example of the things we need to factor into our decision-making.

In the end, as with Tim Wise, the biggest issue isn’t what’s said but what is actually done.

If we get all excited about someone speaking truth simply because it’s a white person, but we routinely tune out the black people who are just as smart or smarter, then we fail. If we continue to gravitate toward or bring into our circles only people who look like us and come from the same cultural background, then we fail. If we promote equality and fight racism, but don’t often team up with the people we are defending, we fail.

As white people, we often ask non-whites to work hard, try harder and to “be patient” as society evolves.

It’s high time many of us whites stopped acting like we’re working as hard as we should be.

Because, by and large, we aren’t.

08
May
13

Your Cleveland Response Checklist

So, it’s a bit late for most of you now, but I’m going to present a list of what priorities should have been following the rescue early this week of three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade or more, plus a six-year-old girl conceived by one of the victims. With luck, some of you with compassion problems will take this to heart the next time something like this happens (and it will):

#1: Feel a sense of gnawing horror that anyone would abduct three very young women, hold them captive for any amount of time and do God-knows-what to them while they are terrified, helpless and their families think they are dead.

#2: Feel a sense of joy and wonder amidst the horror that a regular guy saw a woman trying to get attention for help from inside the house, broke in to make the escape of the victims possible and called 911…instead of said regular guy simply shrugging and thinking, “I dunno what’s happening there; I shouldn’t get involved.”

#3: Hold your loved ones close and feel gratitude that they are still with you, and hope that nothing horrible happens to them at the hands of a depraved fuckhead.

#4: Resist the urge to look at interviews of the man who was instrumental in the rescue, consider how colorful his words and forthright attitude are, and then turn him into a form of entertainment for the Internet masses by auto-tuning his interview with reporters, laughing at him for his mannerisms, and/or generally joking about shit when three women have spent a decade in slavery inside a house.

Thank you for your attention.

And if you want me to lighten up and want to accuse me of being judgmental with point #4, I have to look at you and wonder how you can be so inured to pain, suffering and horror that you can even think about jokes over this situation when this news is only about a day old (and some people joked about it within hours).

24
Apr
13

Truth vs. Reality

On my Twitter feed today, one of the folks there had retweeted a link to YouTube video of a woman in an abusive relationship who took photos of herself everyday for a year and ran them one after the other like a video timeline.

This is it (and there are some pretty ugly parts, especially the longer it goes on):

Now, in the YouTube comments, there are some who cried “fake!”

Moreover, some who cried fake and then stated or implied that the video was thus pointless.

No, it’s not pointless.

It is real? Quite possibly not. I started wondering myself, thinking, why would someone do something like this, taking selfies as a project to document her abuse and willingly stay in that abusive relationship? I could not fathom how someone would think it important enough to do this and also be willing to risk their health, safety and life to carry it out. So, I myself am dubious. I’m supposed to be cautious and cynical; I’m a journalist and editor.

The bigger question, though, is whether this video is truth.

And, yes, that it most certainly is. What is portrayed is very much the face of abuse (literally and figuratively). This is the kind of thing that happens in these relationships. You’ll have a lot of good days in many of them, followed by very bad ones. And the bad days often begin to occur closer together and get ever more violent.

That is the truth.

Whether the video is real doesn’t matter. It delivers the message very poignantly and effectively.

Sometimes we don’t need reality.

We need a dose of truth instead.

08
Apr
13

So Pretty…and Witty…and Wise…

So, President Barack Obama described California Attorney General Kamala Harris as being “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country” at a public appearance Thursday.

On Friday, he apologized to her, and she apparently took the apology quite pleasantly and had nothing more of significance to say on the matter.

So why was my Twitter timeline all…well, I guess “atwitter” is a good word choice here…with huge levels of snark about the President’s supposedly awful comment all weekend long, with some of it bleeding into today still? True, there were also the “no big deal” defenders, who probably weren’t helping things, but still…

To be honest, I’m kind of irritated that that so much was made of this one comment, particularly given the fact Obama personally apologized to the woman (with whom he’s apparently been friends for a while) the very next day. Since she hasn’t seen fit to be offended or make a big deal out of this, why are so many other people?

Now, I’m not going to say this kind of thing doesn’t matter; I know it does, and this story explains one way in which it can hurt (granted, the story also indicates that the person speaking up for themselves and calling out the behavior can be a big boost for them…also, the story relates directly to election behavior, so this isn’t a perfect parallel). I know that in the workplace, focusing on a woman’s appearance can lead to a whole host of problems, with sexual harassment simply being one of many potential bits of fallout.

However, this shit was milked way too long by people who want to either make Obama look bad, remind us of gender inequities, or both. “Too long,” I say, because this issue was over and done with and solved by both parties within a day. Yet people online kept making it into a hot button issue for days. How many of them spent the same energy on issues that still haven’t gone away yet, like the issue of an oil company’s burst tar sands pipeline destroying an entire town, or North Carolina wanting to make Christianity the state religion, or multiple states pushing through measures to ban abortion?

Also, taken in context, here’s what Obama said of Harris, who is the first woman and first Indian-American to be elected as the Attorney General of California, at the Thursday fundraising event: “She is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake.”

AFTER that, he says, “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country”…and right after that, “It’s true. Come on. She is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”

So, the appearance comment was an afterthought. He spent…what?…four or five times longer saying other things about her, right? Better things. More appropriate and relevant things.

This is way different than, say, Mitt Romney telling a room full of rich people that nearly half of America is on government assistance and is lazy and will never vote for a Republican no matter what because they’re being coddled by the Democrats.

One of these things was an off-hand comment meant to be lighthearted that was ill-advised; the other was an outright lie and a slandering of the people who keep this country going in order to stroke the richest people who are most interested in oppressing 99% of us.

Do you see the difference? Can you perhaps keep that in mind the next time any prominent (or even average) person of any gender, party affiliation, religion or whatever has a slip of the tongue that isn’t representative of their past behavior?

Can we be done with this now?

27
Mar
13

I’m Gonna Need Some’a Y’All to Shut Up

Opponents of same-sex marriage have some arguments they like to fall back on a lot. Never mind that most of them fall into wet, sloppy shreds if you apply even the smallest amount of critical thinking.

marriage-equality-symbolThere’s the famous “slippery slope” theory that tells us gay marriage will lead to legalized pedophilia and bestiality and incestuous marriage between first-order relatives. Of course, because same-sex relationships and marriage are between consenting adults, there is no correlation to pedophilia and bestiality. And also, on the topic of animals, same-sex intimacy is actually pretty common in various species, and rarely do they fuck up fellow members of their species for indulging in such acts. As for legalized incest or incestuous marriage, it also isn’t anywhere near the same thing, as some kind of coercion or control is often in play, making the whole consent thing questionable from the get-go. Also, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any cultures through the ages that smile when incest takes place. It is typically taboo.

Speaking of history, there’s the argument that historically, there is no precedent for same-sex marriage. Hell, I used that one myself in younger years, even though I knew damned well that in various cultures, ancient Greece being the most well-known, there is much history of homosexual liaisons and full-fledged open relationships being not just condoned but often encouraged. Also, I’ve become aware of the fact recently that in the early Christian church, there are documented cases of same-sex marriage ceremonies taking place.

But, when all else fails, there’s the trump card, right? Same-sex marriage shouldn’t exist because marriage exists for the purpose of raising kids.

Now, this is the point where many people, even those who aren’t sure about letting men marry men and women marry women, might point out that many people get married with no intention of having children and many infertile people get married, and same-sex opponents have no problem with that.

That, of course, is because the people spouting that theory of marriage-is-all-about-spawning will tell you that people can change their minds about having kids and infertile people sometimes (though with vanishingly slim odds and a frequency that comes close to “never”) do end up conceiving.

But you know what, even though I think the argument of marriage being only about raising biological kids is stupid, I’m prepared to let the same-sex marriage opponents have it…and back them up on their refusal to allow same-sex marriage…if they make some fundamental(ist) and necessary changes to marriage laws nationwide.

Here’s what has to happen:

  • If you are married but have no children, you cannot get the tax benefits for being married.
  • If you are married but have no children, and your spouse dies without a will in place, the inheritance will go to blood relatives. If none exist, the state gets it all.
  • If you are married but have no children, you will have to go through a much more complex and difficult process to adopt than those with children do, because marriage is for the purpose of actually having kids and you haven’t proven yourself by doing that yet.
  • If you are married but have no children, you must defer to blood relatives of your spouse on any matters like surgical consent, end-of-life decisions and other major health and legal matters.
  • Once you no longer have any minor-aged children, you lose all the benefits of marriage as noted above.
  • Adopted children don’t count, as marriage is for the purpose of spawning families, not acquiring them.

So, once those changes are in place, you same-sex marriage opponents have my backing. Because then, you’ll finally be practicing what you preach about what marriage really is about.

25
Mar
13

Let’s Sit On This Privilege Thing for a Moment

You hear a lot of talk about privilege, and for the most part, I think that talk can be useful. But much like diversity, discrimination, oppression and many others, political correctness and overzealousness risk making the word privilege more and more empty of meaning.

This weekend, there was a piece on NPR—I think it was on “This American Life”—in which one segment talked about a town where many of the struggling people in it had ever even considered the Office Chairpossibility that jobs exist that don’t require you to stand and/or use your hands heavily. Their lives were so caught up in lack of work or jobs that wore them down that many of them hadn’t encountered people who sit at a desk most of the day until they went to a government office to deal with the process of getting disability benefits.

I’m pretty sure I heard the journalist for the segment at one point close to that anecdote refer to the ability to sit and work as a privilege.

Today, my wife posted a tweet that also mentioned the ability to sit while working as being a privilege (maybe the concept is working through her Twitter timeline or maybe she heard the same segment today…I haven’t asked her yet).

And, on this matter, I will have to disagree with “This American Life” and my fantastic wife Black Girl in Maine (if indeed she actually was buying into that theory), even though I usually would side with both.

I’m pretty sure a person in a telemarketing job isn’t feeling very privileged, and they do a hell of a lot of sitting. I’ve seen photos of women in sweat shops sitting at sewing machines, and they don’t look very privileged either. An overworked word processing or software coding person with crippling carpal tunnel syndrome from that work isn’t in a privileged situation either, though probably better off than the previous two.

And you know what? On the other side of the coin (standing), I have relatives who done machinist work where, as they’ve described it, it sounds like most of their time is spent standing. But they made good hourly pay and even better when they did overtime and they had nice benefits. My mom spent a good part of her adult like as a bartender or a barber, both on-your-feet jobs that while they may not have been lucrative, paid her better (and made her happier) than working as a receptionist in a law firm.

I think the point made on NPR about how isolated from the wider world those workers were and how it colored their perceptions of work environments and job opportunities is valuable. It tells us a lot about education, social class and poverty, for example. It does not, however, teach us that sitting is a privileged spot in life.

I’ve seen a lot of homeless people who aren’t well sitting on sidewalks and begging. They aren’t privileged.

There is plenty of privilege in the world. White privilege is real, because whites are pretty much the only people in the United States who don’t go through most of the week being reminded repeatedly they aren’t white by the way people talk about them, talk to them, treat them, react to them and so on. Male privilege is real, because I don’t hear of too many men at risk of being raped unless they’re in prison (unlike women, who are so often told they’re asking for their rapes by the way they dress). Also, women in the 21st century still get to wonder, as did their counterparts in the 20th,  if they’re among the majority of female workers making significantly less wages than what men do for the exact same  jobs.

Hell, being able-bodied is a privilege, as most of us never have to think much about how to navigate stairs and doors or whether we’ll be able to get around a business or someone’s house or even be able to use a small restroom in a diner. Even being right-handed in a privilege in this culture because we can reach for almost any pair of scissors knowing it will fit our hand.

There are all kinds of privilege of which we should be aware, so that we don’t take for granted what we have and don’t assume that everyone can succeed in this society. We need to realize the playing field is rarely level in any case, but we also need to recognize the field is very often particularly slanted in favor of some and against others for no good, logical or moral reason.

But we can’t make everything about privilege. My example of right-handedness? It is a legitimate example of privilege, but a relatively minor one. I’ve known left-handers and they may get annoyed at their inconveniences in a right-handed world, but it won’t hold them back. So it would be unfair for someone to claim that their experience as a left-handed person is anything like being Black or Latino and getting stopped and searched by the police for no good reason.

Let’s be careful about calling out privilege where it doesn’t consistently exist or in places where it is a mere footnote. Let’s not make oppressed groups where they don’t exist, when we have so many legitimate ones we’re already ignoring.

15
Mar
13

Brand New Madness

Attention, world: I am not a brand. Most people aren’t brands. We should stop trying to push this whole, “find out what your brand is and market the hell out of it” approach to life. It’s not healthy, and it will ruin us all if it continues.

Companies and their products are brands. And they have people (sometimes hundreds or thousands of them) to preserve, promote and enhance those brands. But there is a disturbing trend as we’ve become so much more interconnected online—and as a very, very few people even find financial success  there with blogs and such—to tell people that they need to discover their own personal brand or create one, and then market that brand.

It’s a problem because most of us don’t have time to adequately and appropriately market a brand, not even our own personal one. A person who is a success at blogging (financially, that is) probably puts in the equivalent of a full workday most days of the week (and perhaps all of them) to be that kind of success. And for every person like that, there are probably at least 10 others putting in the same hours and effort and getting little or nothing in return. And then hordes of others beyond that who dream of such possibilities but are bogged down by the necessities of going to work, doing housework, cooking, running errands, raising kids, walking the dog, etc.

What’s worse, though, is it isn’t just people seeking a breakthrough online. Increasingly, especially as more people connect through LinkedIn and other social networking venues, we are expected to “brand” ourselves in terms of our careers and potential employment. Or our personal relationships.

But there’s a huge risk in that. Actually, several risks. How you brand yourself may not be how others see you or are willing to accept you. Branding yourself, if successful, may also “typecast” you into a niche and deny you access to other opportunities. Trying to market your brand may use up time you should be devoting elsewhere or, in a related problem, you put a bunch of work into finding out your brand only to realize you don’t have the time, the resources or the skill to market that personal brand.

And those are just a few problems off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

We are people. We are not products. The more we turn ourselves into brands, the more we make ourselves into commodities. You know, the kinds of things businesses buy and trade. Do you want to be a product or do you want to be a person?

Increasingly since the end of World War II, when we entered the heyday of the middle class, we’ve seen things toward the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st continue to chip away at that middle class and give more and more power back to the companies and away from employees. We’ve slowly given up what we fought so hard to gain to be treated right and be treated as humans, only say, “Oh, I guess I should work whatever hours you say so you keep me” or “I guess it’s OK that I don’t get to use vacation time or can’t afford to include my family on the health insurance” or “Yeah, the execs should see their pay increase more and more and more while my pay stagnates or falls behind inflation.” And now, after slowly letting them take away any sense that we have earned the right to be treated well because we work hard, now we willingly prepare to make ourselves into “things.” If we make ourselves brands, then we are fit to be bought and sold, both literally and metaphorically. We risk becoming tied to that brand and forced to maintain it long beyond our comfort zone. We cease to be people. We truly become cogs. To be used until worn out, and then replaced without a thought.

Yes, some people need to brand themselves, or some part of their lives. But for most, that’s foolish.

Deacon Blue is a brand.

Jeff Bouley is not.

I am, in essence, the CEO in charge of shepherding a brand that is Deacon Blue. I am a part of that brand. Who I am influences that brand. But it isn’t who I am. I am not, in the end, Deacon Blue. Nor should I be. I don’t want to become a character or, worse yet, a caricature. I won’t brand myself; I will let the whole spectrum of who I am stand out.

There is nothing wrong with me promoting Deacon Blue. But the fact is, Jeff Bouley will not be a brand that can be pinned down and pigeonholed. I am a human and I am complex, with many skills to offer, many things to give and even many problems to pose. I will not strip away who I am to get down to a core that is false. Too many people think that by branding, they are stripping away the excess and getting down to the core of who they truly are. But if you peel everything away to be just one thing or a just a few things, you have made yourself false.

You may have a brand to market. But if you think that you are a brand, you are deluding yourself, I believe.

Or, even worse, diminishing yourself to fit in to someone else’s mold.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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E-Mail

You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.

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LinkedIn

For my public profile, click here.

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Tales of the Whethermen

My superhero fiction blog, click here

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Raising the Goddess

My parenting blog, click here

Copyright Info and Images

For more about images used on this site, and copyrights regarding them, as well as usage/copyright information about my own writing as posted here, click here.

Deac Tweets

  • ...had to get one politically/socially tweet that might inflame the right wing before I go do the last day of summer with the kiddo and wife 4 hours ago
  • Happy Labor Day! Here's to a US where someday women might earn as much as men & brown people won't lose out on jobs to less qualified whites 4 hours ago
  • But if past experience holds true, my first several weeks' picks will be good and then by mid-season I will fall far behind my competitors 21 hours ago
  • 12 months, that is. Really, I know how long a year is. Apparently my typing fingers don't, though 21 hours ago
  • After, what...a decade give or take of doing this football pool, maybe I can finally win the right to possess the trophy for 13 months. 21 hours ago

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