An Open Letter to President Obama: Too Many Black Churches Have Been Attacked

Dear President Obama, 

As we all know, sadly, the SEVENTH Black Church caught on fire tonight since the Charleston, South Carolina, tragedy. This is far too many, and likely does not include some tragedies.

As a possible starting preventive measure, I suggest you set up some kind of emergency federal/FBI/Justice Department hotline for Black people to call when their life or property, their churches are under attack. I have heard again and again, and read again and again, that it is not safe for Black people to call the police. I was imagining a situation where a group of church members decided to take shifts, guarding their church 24/7 looking for any signs of attackers, only to be worried that they–as Black United Statesians–would “mistakenly” be murdered if they called for help upon signs of violent activity.

We need extremely urgent and prompt attention. Black Lives Matter.

Thank you for your time. 

Sincerely,

Andrew Joseph PegodaScreen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.11.58 PM 

  

An Open Letter to Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson of RoadSnacks: Please Remember People Have Feelings

Dear Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson,

A week or two ago your article, “These Are, Undeniably, The 10 Worst Places To Live In Texas” caught my attention.

Initially, it caught my attention because I teach Texas History, and I always look for various lists like this to get student to discuss present-day Texas and all of the ways in which it is viewed, studied, and classified.

Then, it caught my attention because Freeport is 10 minutes from where I live. Some of your information resonated with things I know to be true. Freeport is far underfunded by the state.

Then I kind of forgot about the article, until I saw a link, something to the effect that Freeport responds to being labeled worst place to live, a couple of days ago. (I have not read this article, thus far.)

Then I went back and read your article and realized you have made “The 10 Worst Places to Live” articles for a number of places.

Presently, I am left disturbed by your article.

Please allow me to explain: 

I have known and still know a number of people who live and work in Freeport. People in Freeport are good people. Just like people everywhere else. Sure, Freeport has its problems, like any town, but Freeport is in no way automatically better or worse than anywhere else. People don’t need to be in a big town or in a big home to give and receive love. People make homes, not buildings and money and stats.

How would you feel if your hometown or present home came up on a viral list as among the worst places to live? Especially, if you didn’t have the means to relocate or make things “better” (a subjective state)? Imagine the 5 year-old or the 45 year-old sitting in front of the television or computer hearing that their home is among “the worst” places in Texas? 

Where and when people are born is an accident of time and place.

Don’t confuse geopolitics with real problems. There are certainly a number of places in Houston (a gigantic geopolitical area), for example, far “worse” than Freeport in terms of crime, food deserts, and underfunded, overcrowded schools. 

Additionally, your list, likely not intentionally but the effect is the same nonetheless, embodies and perpetuates racism. It could cause business to avoid areas where such business could really be needed in terms of jobs and services provided. 

Instead of attacking and demonizing the people who live in Freeport, why not attack the structures–the institutional structures–that keep those racialized as Hispanic, Black, Asian, etc and those without the same access to wealth from having the same opportunities and support via state and federal monies as those racialized as White? The Heteronormative Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy is what needs to be called out. 

I also find the rhetoric of your images and stats important and worthy of comment. Below is the image and information from your article: 

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Clearly, this is just one small section of a much larger city, but you picked a specific image, and it embodies it own messages. From this picture, Freeport looks small, semi-abandoned, with older buildings. A one-second Google Image search, shows a variety of other images (example here) with a very different idea of what Freeport is. Other images could show children happy playing football at a crowded swimming pool or football field. 

Also, please note that Freeport is largely the home of chemical industries, such as DOW and BASF, and a spot for people wanting to play at the beach or dine at sea food restaurants. Where is this information in your blurb of stats?  

Your research and information is important, absolutely and thank you for caring about the world, but how its framed is most important.

And, yes, we need lists of rankings because they help us know how to improve, but again its about frame and delivery. And a list saying the United States is ranked so-and-so below x number of countries (a very abstract idea) is very different than saying your city is “the worst.” 

And once more, please do remember that people have feelings. Freeport is home to people. And has a rich history. 

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, 

AJP 

Toward an Explanation of Fundamentalism and Freaking Out over Equality

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Religious fundamentalism was born, as was the contemporary Republican Party (although not conservatism – we can’t mix the two), in opposition to reforms during the Liberal Consensus. Most, if not all, of this opposition was directed at opposing equality for those racialized as Black.

The contemporary church and its leaders, with at least some important exceptions and the number of exceptions has been growing (see Mark Sandlin’s blog, for example), has long opposed various notions of equality, science and intellectualism, various points of view, and true adherence to separation of church and state.

I saw one comment where someone said, it was never about getting religion out of the government, only government out of religion. Meaning that Fundamentalist Christianity should influence the State, but not the other way around. Separating the two is, for sure, hard.

Regarding marriage equality in particular, at least a handful of vocal Fundamentalist Christians are being very vocal about so-named “religious liberty laws.” Texas has just today decreed that clerks or judges who “sincerely disagree” with equality, can break the law. This line of thinking doesn’t make sense, of course. People cannot use their religion and beliefs to prohibit women or not pay their taxes, for example. And it ignores the rights, the sincerely held rights, of those who wish to marry, to be treated equally. Once again, the “religious liberty laws” only apply if you are in the status quo.

What about my sincerely held belief that equality should be the law and people who oppose it have to dance in the street until they are happy?? :) 

So why the hate? Why the opposition to equality and freedom, again and again and again when it enters the national spotlight? 

While it is easy to analyze such opposition in terms of willful ignorance or aggressive ignorance, it’s much more complex. People are largely products of their society, even parts of their biology and DNA are products of society. 

Perhaps a few reasons help explain the hate. 

Some are that Fundamentalist Christians are raised in a culture, in a church where:

1) “every” action they take will determine whether they go to Heaven or Hell forever;

2) “every” action they take or their society takes (etc) could affect whether their children and grandchildren go to Heaven or Hell forever;

3) they live in a “dangerous” world where they have to look out for themselves and their family far before anyone else;

4) as “saved” individuals they are told they are part of an elite group of humans among all the billions who have lived;

5) that they can be punished for the “sins” of others, “sins” that could bring about the destruction of the Universe (I mean “Earth”);

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6) “eating” from the the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (read: learning, thinking, questioning) is what brought about the worst punishment on humanity ever; 

7) almost everything is a “sin,” especially human nature; 

8) LGBT people were deliberately painted as the lowest of low for much of the mid-to-late 1900s, see, e.g., Boys Beware and CBS Reports The Homosexuals. In most cases, this was done by churches and the media and the government knowing they were only promoting unfounded fear. Thus, some of today’s adults were brainwashed as children. (Is religion child abuse?)

In sum, learning, changing, accepting difference, accepting that you’ve been lied to makes it hard, if not impossible, to internalize and overcome hate. 

Thoughts? 

 (Added 6/28/15, 9:57 pm, for a somewhat parallel perspective, see, “The Supreme Court Just Gave American Evangelicals a Gift“)  

9 Different Textual Readings of a Makeup Advertisement

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Approaching Dillards at Baybrook Mall the other day my eyes immediately came across the above advertisement before I could even walk in the store.

There are several possible ways to interpret this advertisement. As a thought exercise (H/T to Aaron and Andrés for the challenge to look for and articulate more POVs occasionally), I am going to offer a variety of interpretations of this advertisement, all based on different perspectives of the same social constructions. Please comment with other possible readings of this text! My own personal opinion, informed by feminism, history, sociology, psychology, critical race theory, etc., revolves around the possible damage it does and how it perpetuates the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy, but there are, naturally and of course, other readings possible. Which one is most valid, per se? Depends a lot on your perspective and place in the world.   

  • This ad is offensive with its suggestion that (White) Women do not look “amazing” and do not have agency and need said product to look “amazing” and that they can only look “amazing” with the help of said product. Said ad suggests that aging, dark circles, and fatigue–all natural biological occurrences–are wrong and to be avoided. This is one example of countless in our world today that promotes particular and rigid rules for how women (and men) should look. 
  • This ad offers encouragement to (White) Women. What woman wouldn’t want to look “amazing,” especially if said product is free (initially!!) and only takes five minutes? Given the pressures in today’s world, a new look or some product can do a great deal to give women a psychological boost. 
  • This is one of many such ads in a capitalistic world. Women can select to use this product or not based on experience, trial and error, cost, and availability. No harm is done by a sign alone. 
  • The authors’ intent, of course, is to sell products. They use what works to make a living, given our world requires money to eat and live, and to make a profit. Given these factors and the ad, obviously such factors work, are needed, and serve to make a productive economy. 
  • People have long, long been concerned about how they look. The world is still moving along. A poster such is this will not do any harm and will actually do good. 
  • This ad is exclusionary. From a Queer reading, this advertisement assumes and suggests we live in a world where all “females” identify as “women” and all of them use makeup, and it assumes we live in a world where are “males” identify as “men” and do not use (and shouldn’t use) makeup. The world, social contractions of sex and gender, and who desires to use makeup or not is far more complex and diverse. 
  • This ad is exclusionary. Only a White woman, “the ideal of beauty” in US cultural history, is featured, as is so often the case. This also relates to that makeup and film and photography were designed to project and emphasize White people as beautiful.
  • This ad is exclusionary. Similar to most such ads, this ad assumes that every one can see (and see in a color-normative way -colorblind people exist, too).
  • This ad is exclusionary. Only women who already have enough time and enough money will have the chance to “look amazing.” Classism and racism have no place in public places. 

Again, please comment with other possible interpretations of this text and which one most resonates with you. Doing this exercise was fun, for sure. While I do not think all of these readings are equally valid, e.g., we know from studies that makeup and sexualized/genderized mores causes hard, I came up with interesting readings and ideas that I would not have thought of if I had just posted a critique about the ad’s sexism, as originally planned. 

Thank you for reading. 

Bella: A Beautiful SPCA Rescue and Lover of Fighting the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy

In a break from my usual serious posts, I wanted to first share a picture of Bella (named after bell hooks) from early this morning. Bella came from the local SPCA in February 2015. She was surrendered by her first family. She is a lot of trouble but extremely sweet. 

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And to my delight, yesterday I discovered that she and Maggie get extremely excited when I say, “Do you want to help fight the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy?” She hasn’t gotten as hyper since I decided to record her. Sigh. I still got two funny videos. Email subscribers might need to visit this actual webpage. 

Thanks for reading. Serious blog post coming shortly. 

“The-Confederate-Flag-Is-Down-The-Rainbow-Flag-Is-Up” Meme and Philosophy is Dangerous and Inaccurate

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The above meme has been going close to viral on social media today. Somewhat surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center shared it, where it has received a fairly positive reception. While the meme hopefully intends to celebrate positive steps, Dr. Jo Davis-McElligatt’s comments on Facebook got me thinking about this meme. This blog post is happening because of her critical reading of this meme. 

She said, in part: 

If you posted with sincerity that cartoon of the Confederate flag being lowered and the rainbow flag being raised, I encourage you to think twice about the way that cartoon makes trivial the suffering of black queer folk, especially trans PoC, several of whom have lost their lives recently in vicious hate crimes. That image also makes trivial the deaths of those nine people, including Clementa Pickney, who was laid to rest today. You can’t tell me that this ruling IN ANY WAY impacts structural or systemic racism.

Please consider that marriage equality DOES NOT impact white supremacy. This cartoon, if anything, is an extension of a privileged view that does not make a distinction between various modes of structural oppression.
In other words: it’s an offensive image you might want to delete from your feed. If you want to keep it up, consider posting a message challenging its false and harmful equivalency.

Basically, this cartoon makes several misleading assumptions and/or assertions.

First, it suggests that the Confederate flag has been completely taken town in public and private domains and thus that racism is over. This relates to why I made this blog about things I’d rather seen happen than the Confederate flag removed (and taken off shelves and auction websites). Just because the flag is down does not mean anything has actually changed. This meme also promotes notions that we have finally moved passed the point of needing to talk about the flag or related issues of racism, enslavement, murder, etc. As Jo said, this is especially disrespectful on the day of Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral. (BTW, you’ve got to hear President Obama sing Amazing Grace.)

Additionally, this meme suggests that there is a liner progression from one event to the next and that they are connected. The timeline of these events, beyond connections possible because of hermeneutical readings and general context of our era, is purely an accident of time and place and individual differences and individual behaviors. This perpetuates fundamental, wide-spread misunderstandings about the nature of history, historical moments, and how historians work. Worse, it suggests that en masse institutional, systemic change is as simple, easy, and everyday as raising and lowering different flags. And by extension, suggests that every one will go along with said changes and that such changes are universally “good.” 

Equally concerning, this meme suggests today’s SCOTUS ruling is the ultimate, end achievement for us LGBT folks and our allies (the flag is at the top). This ignores that a deep and important tradition for some LGBT folks is to avoid marriage and all such similar things at all costs because of its roots in the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy. Most, of course, deeply and dearly have wanted the right to marry. More importantly for the immediate future, this meme ignores, as one headline put it, that LGBT people married today, can be fired Monday. LGBT discrimination is still legal in most places.

This meme also neglects to recognize intersectionality. People of Color who fall into LGBT/non-heteronormative categories exists, and they are going to have a harder time, due to the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy, than White LGBTs. And the “LGBT” grouping is far from a homogenous group. (See this excellent article.)

Another possible and problematic reading of the meme, is that the Confederate and Rainbow flags are “equal” in some ways: equal in terms of their power, the imagined communities represented, etc. Such is inaccurate, offensive, problematic, and potentially unpatriotic at the same time. I could see someone reading this meme and come to the conclusion that the Rainbow Flag is as disrespectful and hateful as the Confederate flag and/or that LGBTs are really going to take over the nation and force everyone to convert and/or that LGBT rights are more important than anything else now and we can forget about Black rights and/or other rhetorics that would set the progression of rights back. 

Jo also said: 

It’s so disturbing to see that Confederate flag disappear and the rainbow flag appear, when we all know that the world is just as racist, homophobic, patriarchal, and transphobic as it was yesterday, and that the consequences of that hate are unevenly meted out.

Today is a day to celebrate and a day to mourn.  

Our celebrations for marriage equality must only be very brief. The fight for freedom, for all people, from the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy is more important and more urgent and more intense and more opposed all the time.

As bell hooks says, those who fight for freedom cannot rest.  

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