Monday, November 29, 2010

Holidays: Know the Truth Before You Participate: Part 1

Well, it’s that time of year again: the leaves have turned beautiful colors of gold, autumn, and burgundy hues; the radio waves offer melodic sounds and carols that transport you to a time reminiscent of the days of your childhood where magic, mystery and the anticipation of gifts from good ol’ Saint Nick fill your heart with excitement; the stores are filled with tons of decorations to prepare for the “traditional” holiday festivities; and that automatic craving and rumbling in your tummy for copious amounts of holiday staples (i.e. turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pies, etc.) has once again returned!

For many, the above images paint that quintessential illustration of moments in your life where the mere thought of the holiday season signify warmth, love, togetherness, and fun. While this may be the “feeling” most people possess, there comes a point in everyone’s life (or there should be) where you ask yourself the question WHY and WHAT?! Why do we celebrate specific holidays? What is the real history behind the creation of these holidays? Most people rest in the “assurance” or “comfort” that they celebrate holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, because they represent elements of “sharing with others,” “giving thanks or showing their appreciation for the things they have,” and my personal favorite, “tradition.” Over the last 9 years or so since my freshman year in college, I’ve searched for the origin and truth behind so many holidays that are widely observed within the United States. Moreover, I’ve been on a personal journey to understand what my feelings and perspective are regarding them. As a result of my intentional self-education and deep introspection about the nature of certain holidays, I’ve come to realize more and more that “holidays,” like the majority of other aspects within our society, are sacred and humanist entities exploited to perpetuate the capitalist, Western/Eurocentric, nationalist ideologies that plague and infect our world! I’m sure that for some people who may read this, they’re thinking, “what kinda crazy woman is this?!” (trust me…..I know from personal/face-to-face experience what many individuals think about my belief system!) If we take a closer look at the root or origin of many of these holidays and more importantly, what they actually “symbolize,” more people would begin to deeply question why they actually participate in certain holidays and why these celebrations are still in existence! Let’s take a closer look at some of the most widely celebrated holidays:

Thanksgiving: History books and other forms of literature, including children’s books, tell us that the holiday we know as “Thanksgiving” is a day in the fall of 1621, where the Pilgrims and the Native Americans came together in “peace” to celebrate the one year anniversary of their time “together” in Plymouth with a feast that lasted 3 days. During this 3 day event, the Natives and Pilgrims shared regional dishes (i.e. venison, turkey, goose, corn, pumpkins, etc.) and joined together in games and sport, like shooting arrows and muskets, solidifying their unity. Since that time, the “message” of Thanksgiving, while altered slightly, has been reinforced through modern-day mediums, such as films and television shows, ad campaigns from MNCs or multinational corporations, and dogmatic/religious sectors. This idyllic vision of harmony among two diverse groups has even infiltrated the most innocent of spaces; our early childhood centers and elementary schools, where children are told fanciful stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, while being indoctrinated to honor the holiday with theatrical productions, drawings of turkeys, and telling the class things that they are thankful for! The idea of Thanksgiving, (i.e. togetherness, unity, being with family, and appreciating what you’ve been given) sounds great! But as we all know, an idea in theory is COMPLETELY different from an idea in practice…like democracy or the constitution or even the declaration of independence! The TRUE idea or messages of Thanksgiving in practice, shows us the following: millions upon millions of Native Americans experienced terrorism in its truest form….. being strategically and forcibly displaced from THEIR lands (i.e. The Trail of Tears,) slaughtered and massacred by violence and diseases (i.e. smallpox) from European terrorists (NOT the meek, God-fearing people history claims they were,) women and children raped, homes reduced to ashes, and their authentic cultural history and identity irrefutably transformed, misrepresented and exploited under a nationalist reign of oppression! (This definitely reminds me of another group of people who’ve endured and still receive this type of tyranny!)If we simply look at the pre-Columbian population demographics of the numerous groups of Native Americans within this nation ALONE and compare that to their percentages today, it’s glaringly apparent that “Thanksgiving” is not as pretty or utopian as the history books and the modern day vessels of oppression would have you to believe! While the accurate data of the total number of Native Americans has been difficult to trace, it is estimated that over 100 million Indigenous Americans once inhabited this vast terrain; NOW, their numbers average .8% or 2.5 million of the US population!!!!!! Furthermore, in many Native American communities, they experience extreme levels of poverty, severely low percentages in educational attainment and achievement, minimal economic security due to low-paying jobs, high levels of alcoholism and substance abuse, high crime and violence, and high rates of health issues, like cholesterol and blood pressure….(sounds STRIKINGLY parallel to that of many African-American communities in what our society coins as “ghettos” or contemporary concentration camps, which were also purposefully designed to marginalize this group!)  Knowing this, does it even seem remotely just that our nation revives this lamentable event of sheer, undeniable genocide and ethnic cleansing year, after year, after, year?! Honoring this holiday would be as disgusting and unacceptable as creating a holiday to remember the millions of Africans that were ripped from their native lands and forced to endure over 500 years of depraved subjugation, while also celebrating the racism, classism, and terror experienced during the Reconstruction period, Jim Crow era, Civil Rights movement, and even the racist remarks made about the current President! I suppose that we should also have holidays that loosely commemorate the hundreds of thousands of LGBT community members that have died and been severely beaten at the hands of homophobic tyrants while concocting a whimsical tale about the “unity” that was shared between the LGBT and heterosexual groups despite their differences! SMH!!!! The real history behind this widely recognized holiday is one of torture, terrorism, corruption, and mainstream “development” in their purest forms; a complete contradiction to the diplomatic and harmonious fable that is all too often recounted to our society: as the compelling African Proverb states, “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

What’s also pathetic about the nature of Thanksgiving is the capitalist and gluttonous manner in which it is celebrated. Again, every single year, people wait in ridiculously long lines at the grocery store to purchase those “staples” that billion-dollar organizations, like Wal-Mart, and fallacious history books instruct consumers (emphasis on consumers) to possess due to “traditional” necessity. Across the nation, agents of capitalism (i.e. grocery stores) begin to display those “hallmarks” of the imminent fall holidays as early as October! This marketing tactic so powerful in nature employs the theories of influence in the visual context to actually create and promote the notion of desire or “need” within the consumer to buy, buy, buy! This “need” becomes further reinforced through flashy advertisements and commercials from businesses encouraging people to “get it now before it’s too late.” A prime example of this capitalist overindulgence, better known as consumerism, is the phenomenon many call Black Friday. Just the day before, (i.e. Thanksgiving) millions of families came together (but surprisingly don’t spend any other time together during the other 364 days of the year) to “take a moment” and “reflect on the things that they’re thankful for” and the VERY NEXT DAY, they run out in excessive droves, often waiting OUTSIDE of stores for hours to purchase a plethora of items that they don’t need and definitely with money that they don’t have! Oh yes, THIS is the way to show what you’re thankful for because after all, THINGS are what make us happy and what sustains us…..SMH!!!!!! Additionally, the Thanksgiving holiday, (as it is endorsed by this capitalist political economy,) strongly suggests to consumers that you should enter into the world of hedonism (or extreme gluttony) by stuffing your faces with a cornucopia a provisions high in fat, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates because “THAT’S WHAT THIS TIME OF YEAR IS ABOUT!” So the lesson here girls and boys: spend tons of money on food and other material entities and eat until you pass out into a diabetic coma because “it’s the American way and the tradition of this holiday!” Disregard the fact the millions of families within this country alone are without the BASIC necessities we as humans need to exist and are starving not because of their own fault, but due to the capitalist-extremist, oppressive, hierarchical, racist and sexist division of labor that substantiates and encourages gross levels of poverty in order for their gluttonous appetites to be filled! When you really deconstruct this holiday, beginning from a historical origin and later through a lens of capitalist sensationalism, which also promotes a culture of depraved self-indulgence, you really start to wonder if this holiday, completely inaccurate in nature, is morally just and representative of your true values for your participation at all! Is it?!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How to Make a Sexist/Homophobic person: The Perfect Recipe!

Have you ever wondered why some people are sexist, homophonic tyrants and bigots? With all of the hateful comments and actions towards, as well as inaccurate portrayals of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community, you have to question what is the process or processes by which some people become insanely or even mildly anti-gay, leading you to further question if this aforementioned prejudice is a product of that age-old paradigmatic tug-of-war, “nature vs. nuture.” While I am in no way omniscient, or all-knowing, I DO know through my life experience and deep self-education that no person is simply born with hate coursing through their veins. A prime example of this comes directly from a truly painful, yet familiar eye-opening experience I had just two days ago while working.
In my “other” profession, one of the many duties I have is conducting screenings with parents/caregivers regarding their child’s early development to detect delays. While speaking with a father about his son’s Fine Motor development, one of the questions I asked him was if his son is able to string small items, such as beads, onto a string or shoelace. What came next from this man’s mouth was so unbelievable and extreme that I knew I had to discuss this further in my blog. His exact words were, “stringing small items on beads is something that a girl does…not my son! I mean, I don’t mean any disrespect to any homosexuals or anything, but I want to teach my son how to be masculine because he’s a boy!” He continued for what seemed like an eternity, with his rant about how because “he’s a man and masculine” he wanted to teach his son the same. Feeling my blood pressure reach levels as high as Mount Everest, I was SOOOOO enraged and disheartened by these comments for many reasons, the most obvious one being that this small child who’s only been in the world for 3 years is ALREADY being conditioned and socialized to believe and behave in ways that are both chauvinistic and prejudiced towards women and the LGBT community. Additionally, due to this small child’s immediate social environment, [which is influenced by larger oppressive and sexist institutions] his adoption and later execution of 13th century antediluvian notions of “hypermasculine” or should I say “pseudomasculine” characteristics is inevitable. Given that this incident was work related, I felt prohibited from “correcting” this man in my customary fashion, however being who I am, I simply could not let this moment pass me by without saying something to this father. I told him with a very serious, yet reserved tone, “Just so you’re aware in the future, this activity [stringing small beads] is in NO WAY gender-based and if you and your wife actually place your child in a child development center or pre-school setting, you would know that ALL children, regardless of their sex/gender, will participate in this activity to further develop their fine motor skills!” Why is it that people attach generalizing gender-specific and/or sexual-orientation onto certain activities?
I’ve realized, in my frequent and often excruciating encounters with people, that the present issue of sexism and homophobia are the result of an intricate process of mental and social conditioning and egregious mis-education! Much like the processes of age, weight, disability and racial prejudice and discrimination, homophobia and sexism are maladies of the mind, constructed by an exclusionary and highly influential group with unmerited economic and social power; their beliefs alone dictate the flow of separatist and nationalist ideologies, which leaves profound impressions or scars in the minds of consumers around the world. Through this separatist group’s [primarily comprised of White/Eurocentric, heterosexual, middle-to-upper class men] control of diverse media, religious, and the political economic spheres, the reinforcement and affirmation of sexist and homophobic belief systems and practices continue. The whole notion of gender-specific activities or “traits” is completely outlandish and perilous to the psyche of our global society. Honestly, if a man/male opens the door, takes out the trash, works on the car, and pays for EVERY SINGLE ACTIVITY, whether meals or other forms of social entertainment, does this REALLY make him a man?!  If he presents a “take no mess” attitude with a heavy, forceful voice and walk to match, does this HONESTLY suggest that he’s a man?!  The same is true for women/females; if a woman/female wears high heeled shoes, dresses, etc., and wears make-up, has long hair, speaks in a dainty, “non-threatening” tone, and presents an attitude of the archetypal “damsel in distress,” does this mean that she’s REALLY a woman?! If she performs “domestic” acts, such as constant cooking, cleaning, ironing, and washing, while behaving in ways that are “nurturing,” does this TRULY CONFIRM THAT SHE’S a woman?!  Let’s just take stock a moment: our minds are inundated with visual imagery through the media that highly supports the ­gender-based illusions as the ones described above. From the time that we are born [conceived even,] we are indoctrinated and conditioned to believe certain schools of thought without questioning their accuracy and act in a manner that has been specified depending on our gender or sex [as in the case of the father enforcing "male-related" or masculine activities. How often do we see a film or a television show where women are preparing dinner, while the men sit down in the living room watching some sports program on television or engaged in a game of cards? How often do we see movies and/or films where there is the quintessential philandering husband who constantly engages in duplicitous behavior with other women, while the “virtuous” wife stays home “nurturing” the family, even if she’s aware of this behavior? And furthermore, how often have we seen inflated and extreme images of "LGBT" behavior and lifestyles in films, television shows, etc.? Gay men are often portrayed as being incredibly effeminate and often the “clown” of the group, while lesbian women are typically highlighted as possessing more “butch” or “traditionally male-like” traits. Why and how has this influx of sexist, homophobic and gender-based imagery in media happened you might ask? The answer is simple: the very same exclusionary group that controls all areas of media, religion, and the political economy came in contact with one, possibly two people that executed behaviors such as those above and assumed that this is how they [meaning women and the LGBT community] all act. Once members of a distinct group have been generalized, the commodification of culture and “novelty”, as well as exoticism quickly ensues!
If we look at gender roles in a global context, we come to realize that the gender-based­ characteristics previously mentioned is NOT a global standard and are therefore, a U.S. or Westernized social creation. The Aka Pygmy community of Central Africa, is one of the numerous groups whose sexual division of labor consists of women as the primary hunters and producers of crops, while their men spend around 47% of their time rearing their children! The Apache community of the Indigenous Americans, while having varying adult-based gender roles, taught both girls and boys to cook, skin leather, follow tracks, use weapons, sew skins, and ride horses. While there are a plethora of other cultural groups that I could present to you, I think that my point of superficially developed gender roles has been illustrated!
An additional issue of the reinforcement of sexist and homophobic beliefs is the persistent use of scientifically distorted gender-based stereotypes and social constructions about how women and men, as well as members of the LGBT community are predetermined or “naturally” inclined to behave in specific ways; this mental malady, historical in nature, has become a global epidemic, afflicting our entire world! Some individuals, keen on the “reliance” of science, love to use biology as an irrefutable entity to confirm why “men are genetically superior to women;” for how can one dispute the most “natural” element of life….DNA?! This use of biology as the “natural order” of things allows the justification of oppressive acts, such as men still receiving higher salaries than women, acquiring substantially better deals when purchasing automobiles and the persistent commodification of women as sexual objects in pornography, marketing advertisements, and music videos, as well as in “perceived non-extreme” scenarios, like shampoo commercials (i.e. Herbal Essence.) In the early 1800s, numerous European philosophers, theorists, and researchers used science to authenticate and institutionalize their personal beliefs and prejudices concerning those of African, Asian, Australian aboriginal and indigenous American descent. This use of “Scientific Racism” also known as “Eugenics” strongly supported beliefs of genetic or hereditary supremacy of Northern European groups, which allowed these European, and later European-American or White communities, to produce “scientific-based” research purporting ideals like, “Africans/African-Americans are intellectually inferior,”  which we all know is the FURTHEST thing from the truth! [I strongly encourage readers to research this issue further in the book, The White Architects of Black Education: Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954]
Given this use of “science” to support one’s extreme bias and subjugation towards groups, such as women and the LGBT community, that fall “outside” of the socially constructed model of the “standard,” anyone with true spiritual openness, knowledge of self, and half of a cerebrum would understand that these ideologies are erroneous, sexually separatist and all in all oppressive! With all the we [hopefully] know from the above discussion, I think that it is safe to say that people become the very sexist and homophobic extremists that oppress others, which answers the question of “nature vs. nurture.” I do, however, believe that because there is spiritual love, beauty, and light inside of everyone, there is the possibility of breaking free from the psychological imprisonment of the isms that plague our society, but this is only achieved through intentional self-education, exposure, and grounded experience! If not, I suppose that our society will continue to follow the "standard" recipe or formula of sexism and homophobia, to continue making "ideal" members of society to advance the nationalist agenda:

How to Make a Sexist/Homophobic Person
Note: Can be used for a Female or Male
Prep time: About the first 15-20 years of life
Cook time: A Lifetime
Makes: 8400 billion servings
16 pounds of domineering patriarchy
2 pounds of gender-specific childhood activities (must repeat daily)
4 hours of mis-educational (i.e. biased) television programs/movies (daily)
3 gallons of hegemonic/oppressive political control of civil rights
5 splashes (equal parts) of sexually separatist religious and biological ideology

1. Mix all ingredients together simultaneously from birth until the person consistently uses sexist and homophobic slurs and behaves in ways that strongly support socially generated ideas of being a “woman” or “man.” Note: Person must use appropriate language and assume "gender-specific" traits to be complete! Now, you're ready to serve!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Empowering Thought of the Day!

Just wanted to plant an empowering thought for today:

Possessing a value system of Material Idolatry is a strategically constructed malady of the mind. Under the spell of Pavlovian ideology, our global society is merely a lab animal salivating on command at the sheer promise of shiny trinkets.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Immigration......"They are taking over!!" Really people?!

On yesterday, I decided to take myself out to some of the Smithsonians to get lost in the art and history held within the walls of these museums. It had been quite a while since I’d spent the day in solitude absorbing the historical and informative energy from these artistic works, so quite naturally, I was very excited! My first stop was to a new exhibit, The Kinsey Collection at the American History Museum, which is comprised of diverse artifacts, like paintings, slave diaries, and insurance claims on slaves from last 400 years. As I entered the exhibit, I was thrilled to be a part of this dichotomous space, where the past and present intersect. Just beginning my personal tour with an intense gaze and study of the pieces, I was approached by an older African-American female security guard who was giving me some information about the Kinsey Collection and upcoming exhibits. We chatted for a bit [I always end up talking to someone anywhere I go] about the importance of the collection and educating the community on our extensive history. All of a sudden, the conversation took a very uncomfortable, but unfortunately familiar turn; the guard talked about how we (meaning African-Americans) need to have our history in museums, but “the Mexicans and Latinos, they are the ones taking over.” “I’m glad that we (meaning the United States) are closing the boarders, ‘cause they are taking all of the jobs!” All I could think was “OH LORD, HERE WE GO!!!” Being who I am, I simply COULD NOT let this truly teachable moment slip away without me correcting her. I immediately said to her, “Now hold on! Let’s just be real, the ORIGINAL people of this land [meaning those that were here LONG BEFORE Columbus and the other forced European expatriates containing criminals, prostitutes, and terrorists landed on present-day America] are those of direct Native American ancestry and African roots…[I’ll come back to this point later as I’m sure many readers are quite ready to refute this statement!] are the present-day Mexicans and other groups of Latino descent.” I continued to tell her that THESE groups are the true natives and rulers of this land and that our corrupt and racist government needs to acknowledge that and turn this land over to its original owners. Of course she looked at me like I was insane, but she also has this smile on her face and look in her eye like “could that be true?” and “I’ve never heard THAT before!”At that moment, I knew deep down inside that I could not escape the emotions that became stirred-up in me and that this would be my next blog topic!
Immigration, like many other topics, such as Pro-Choice/Pro-Life, has always been one of great controversy. Since the massive voluntary influx of people from various European countries to the US during the early 1900s, in addition to the forced uprooting of Africans from their land and displacement of indigenous Americans centuries before, there was [and still is] this constant desire to document where people derive from. Some people may ask the question “Why?” to the above statement and the answer is this: the goal is to ultimately categorize or group people to consequently develop socio-economic policies, [whether official or merely strongly suggested] to either uplift or subjugate the respective groups. Presently, immigration in the United States is one of the hot topics of the day, invading spaces at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as in more private or personal spaces, given my conversation on yesterday! (SMH) Let’s take the case in Arizona regarding “illegal immigration”: in April of this year, virtually every news-based medium publicized the highly racist and might I add blatantly ignorant comments from Brian Bilbray, GOP Rep. on the issue. He believes that the way to quell the excessive numbers of “illegal immigrants” in this country is through their “trained professionals” who “can spot illegal immigrants by the way they dress, from their shoes, attire, but mostly behavior.” When hearing these words uttered and actually realizing that this kind of person is in a position of political power and influence, it’s like being transported back to Germany circa 1933! Additionally, Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, an obvious proponent of the stringent law, brought this xenophobic bill to life with the stroke of her pen; she did, however, find it in herself to make a verbal addendum stating that “she would work to ensure that police have proper training to carry out the law and that racial profiling would not tolerated”; “We have to trust our law enforcement.” Well now I just feel SOOOOO much more at ease with her assurance about this issue because we ALL know that it’s a completely foreign concept for law enforcement to racially profile people….right?!
The thing that really gets me……..I mean REALLY makes me enraged about the entire issue of immigration is that the people in positions of power [albeit completely undeserved] that develop and enforce these neo-Nazi and racial extermination policies ARE NOT THE ORIGINAL INHABITANTS OF THIS LAND and yet somehow are permitted to generate restrictions and regulations on citizenship and ration off pieces of land as though it were bread! Only in this racist, capitalist, and Eurocentric society could flagrant offenses such as this persist!
Taking you back now to the beginning of this entry, I stated that the diverse indigenous groups of the Americas and the Africans were the natives of this land. While many people acknowledge that Native Americans were indigenous to these lands, even though we somehow continue to have Columbus day, our society NEVER recognizes the presence of Africans in ancient/Pre-Columbian America. Great and distinguished scholars, such as Ivan Van Sertima in They Came Before Columbus and Lerone Bennett in Before the Mayflower, have thoroughly explored the historical footprints of Africans from the empires of Mali, Egypt, and Nubia throughout all of the ancient Americas; while there are endless documents and other historical references supporting this fact, this data is consistently excluded from the halls of academia, schools, and museums. Why is it that our global society can, for the most part, acknowledge that Africa is the birthplace of all civilizations, but then in the same breath deny the African presence in ancient America? The answer to this question dear reader is also the answer to why there still remains this ideological Nazism regarding immigration, specifically related to those of Native American ancestry. Therefore, it is no shock that the two native groups of this land are also the most oppressed in every area of life. [Please believe that this is not the result of happenstance, but by design.]
Additionally, what saddens me probably the most is when my own people and others from historically subjugated groups utter racially venomous phrases like those expressed from the security guard at the Smithsonian, highlighting the mental enslavement that plagues those that have been the recipients of hegemony. The great theorist and educator Paulo Friere addresses this very issue of how the oppressed, once "emancipated", become the oppressor of other subjugated groups due to the internalization of malevolent ideologies. We MUST WAKE UP AND FREE OUR MINDS FROM THIS MENTAL IMPRISONMENT AND WESTERN NATIONALISM!!!!!!!!
I challenge our legislative systems, schools, churches, sources of media, inidividual families and political governing bodies to look deep inside and ask yourselves if the decisions that have been and are currently being created and enforced are morally sound and all-encompassing of the philosophies that this nation loves to pride itself on; this cultural rape and genocide of human beings is an absolute abomination and an abberant shift from the true concept of humanity! PLEASE WAKE UP!