Sunday, June 28, 2009
I'm not involved in the Obama-ssiah worship that most of us have succumbed to. I'm also not particularly interested in protecting Michelle Obama. I've never cared for either one of the Obamas. I have actively disliked him, and not cared much for her, from the very beginning of his political career here in Chicago.
My reaction to this hit piece is definitely not about Obama worship or protectionism. For me, this is about opposing the skin shade racism, and wanna-be classism underlying this hit piece. If Michelle Obama was light-skinned, these Negro (and White) bigots would NOT say many of the things they're saying. Faith breaks it all down and sums it all up in her post!
In addition to the above, the following quote from this Negro male's hit piece ticked me off as a native Black Chicagoan:
"Obama is more a man of the people,” says a Vineyarder who’s part of black high society. “He doesn’t seem to identify with affluent black people. His wife definitely doesn’t; she is basically a ghetto girl. That’s what she says—I’m just being sociological. She grew up in the same place Jennifer Hudson did. She hasn’t reached out to the social community of Washington, and people are waiting to see what they’ll do about that.”
Jennifer Hudson is from a southwest Chicago neighborhood called Englewood. Michelle Obama grew up in a southeast neighborhood called South Shore. Englewood is a poor African-American neighborhood. South Shore is a working class/middle class African-American neighborhood. Englewood is MILES away from South Shore. In geographical distance and in neighborhood quality of life. I know this because I grew up in South Shore. And I worked in a police station courtroom in Englewood. [For locals who are in the know, I worked there when Branch 49 was located in a police station-courtroom at 61st and Racine. That was back in the day! LOL!]
[For those who don't know, east-west is another axis of neighborhood division in Chicago in addition to the South Side-North Side axis.]
The anonymous person that this Negro claims to have quoted (I suspect that he made up the quote himself) is doing the same thing that the racist local Chicago media do---conflating these two very different neighborhoods into one giant slum. I hate that. I hate the way local tv news stations deliberately misreport every crime that takes place anywhere south of downtown as happening in "South Shore." They do this when the crimes are in OTHER neighborhoods that are literally MILES away from South Shore.
In the case of the local, racist, White media, it makes me wonder what their ulterior motive is. Young, urban, professional Whites have been in the process of trying to gentrify South Shore for several years now.
And while I'm doing my Chicago-centric rant, let me also point out that South Side does NOT equal poor/slum/ghetto. The Hyde Park neighborhood (where the University of Chicago is located) is on the South Side of Chicago. Several historical Black middle class neighborhoods (such as South Shore, "Pill Hill"---so nicknamed because many Black doctors lived there---and Chatham) are located on the South Side of Chicago.
The foul underpinning of this one small quote is a microcosm of what's wrong with the whole hit piece.
Here's a round of applause and a standing ovation for Faith!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
An Open Letter To African-American Women Who PUBLICLY State That They Would Never Date/Marry Outside Their Race
Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!
Peace and blessings,
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Anyway, what struck me while reading this post was how much my quality of life improved as a result of pondering her essays, and those of other pioneer Black female empowerment bloggers.
One of God's blessings is that He often makes it easy to forget negative circumstances after they have improved. It's a blessing that memories fade. While reading, I was shocked to realize how much stress and strain was lifted off of me after I stopped assuming the responsibility for "saving alla our people." I had forgotten how stressful all of that was.
I used to be the type of African-American woman who was preoccupied with "saving alla our people." What I didn't realize while I was still in my Black Nationalist trance was that "saving alla our people" is a MAN'S role. It's not my function as a woman to rescue men and the community at large. It didn't occur to me that to even make such an attempt was totally out of divine order, with a price to pay as a consequence of being out of order.
After I let go of that "save alla our people" trickbag, I discovered how it's so much more pleasant for a woman to live and function as . . . a . . . woman. As opposed to trying to carry burdens that should be carried by men.
Enjoying the pleasures of the feminine role became my new "norm," and I had totally forgotten how much stress was lifted off of me as a result of thinking about the points Evia and other pioneers raised. Memories fade.
Memories fade but, when reminded, my thankfulness does not. One of the most important lessons my parents taught me is to thank the people who help you. And to thank them again. And to pray for them whenever you remember what they did for you. I sent the following email to Evia. I'm repeating it here to publicly express my thanks for all of the work that she has done over the past few years.
"Hello there, Evia!
This is just a note to say a loud and heartfelt "THANK YOU" for your latest post. I know how your essays helped me at a point of confusion a couple of years ago; and I know that your essays continue to help other disoriented AA women. May God bless you for your work.
I read through the notes you published and shook my head at the level of confusion that exists among so many of us. Like you said, in a minute these same confused AA women will be hating on the African women who don't have our general hangups about marrying WELL with whoever will do the best by them and their future children.
Your words really spoke to me because I used to be one of those "save alla our people" AA women. That is, until I snapped out of my trance a few years back. I've been amazed at how much mental stress and strain I eliminated from my life just by that one decision---the decision to no longer assume responsibility for the fate of our people. As you've said over and over again, that's a man's job. I'm still saddened as any normal human being would be by the atrocious news stories coming out of Black residential areas. But the stories don't linger on my heart or mind anymore.
I'm free of all that. I always had the option to be free of all that. Previously, I was just too confused to see or exercise the option to be free.
I can't thank you and the other pioneers enough for helping me see all of this. Again, THANK YOU and may God bless you and yours!
Peace and blessings,
*Addendum: I ran across another interesting analysis of the situation. I'll post the links here as I come across them.
**2nd Addendum: Here's an example of why we must be extremely cautious of the "mainstream media." The headline to this New York Times story says "Arab States Aligned With U.S. Savor Turmoil in Iran." If they were honest the headline would say "Arab Dictatorships Aligned With U.S. Savor Turmoil in Iran," because that's what these U.S.-aligned states are. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/world/middleeast/25arabs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
The "news" story is careful to only hint at this fact in the last couple of paragraphs when it says:
"The Arab world is ruled by authoritarian leaders, kings and emirs — and its greatest challenge to legitimacy and control is political Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan.
'Opponents of the Islamist movement go far in anticipating the collapse of the Islamic revolution and the end of the Islamist movements and their political project,' said Mohammad Abu Rumman, research editor at the newspaper Al Ghad in Amman. 'Anticipating the failure of the revolution is an anticipation of the failure of political Islam in general.'"
The story is careful to NOT make the connection between these "authoritarian leaders" and the "Arab states aligned with the U.S." It's careful to not point out that these are the same states.
This points out the nuances that those who support justice must keep in mind.
Weakening the brutal, authoritarian Iranian regime also means weakening the only Middle Eastern government that is strong enough to be completely independent of U.S. hegemony. And weakening the only Middle Eastern government that has actively and openly supported the Palestinians' and Lebanese struggles against Israeli aggression and occupation.
In the short-term context, more justice for the Iranian people = less justice for the Palestinians, Lebanese, and others who are directly suffering under Israeli oppression. I don't know what the best balancing of interests is in this situation. I just know that I haven't heard these nuances discussed. Not even among "progressives."
Monday, June 22, 2009
I will say this: Americans in general (and African-Americans in particular) need to learn to become more discerning about the "news" emanating from the so-called mainstream media. We also need to read from a wide variety of news sources that have different editorial postures. In that spirit, I'm republishing an article from STRATFOR. Again, I don't know enough to have an opinion about current events in Iran; and I don't necessarily buy into Stratfor's analysis. However, I do feel that the articles from Stratfor are a good antidote to the uncritical, breathless coverage that passes for mainstream "news" about these events.
Strategic Forecasting, Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, is a private intelligence agency founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas. Barron's once referred to it as "The Shadow CIA". George Friedman is the founder, chief intelligence officer, and CEO of the company. The following article is from http://www.stratfor.com/
"The Iranian Election and the Revolution Test
June 22, 2009
By George Friedman
Successful revolutions have three phases. First, a strategically located single or limited segment of society begins vocally to express resentment, asserting itself in the streets of a major city, usually the capital. This segment is joined by other segments in the city and by segments elsewhere as the demonstration spreads to other cities and becomes more assertive, disruptive and potentially violent. As resistance to the regime spreads, the regime deploys its military and security forces. These forces, drawn from resisting social segments and isolated from the rest of society, turn on the regime, and stop following the regime’s orders. This is what happened to the Shah of Iran in 1979; it is also what happened in Russia in 1917 or in Romania in 1989.
Revolutions fail when no one joins the initial segment, meaning the initial demonstrators are the ones who find themselves socially isolated. When the demonstrations do not spread to other cities, the demonstrations either peter out or the regime brings in the security and military forces — who remain loyal to the regime and frequently personally hostile to the demonstrators — and use force to suppress the rising to the extent necessary. This is what happened in Tiananmen Square in China: The students who rose up were not joined by others. Military forces who were not only loyal to the regime but hostile to the students were brought in, and the students were crushed.
A Question of Support
This is also what happened in Iran this week. The global media, obsessively focused on the initial demonstrators — who were supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opponents — failed to notice that while large, the demonstrations primarily consisted of the same type of people demonstrating. Amid the breathless reporting on the demonstrations, reporters failed to notice that the uprising was not spreading to other classes and to other areas. In constantly interviewing English-speaking demonstrators, they failed to note just how many of the demonstrators spoke English and had smartphones. The media thus did not recognize these as the signs of a failing revolution.
Later, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke Friday and called out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, they failed to understand that the troops — definitely not drawn from what we might call the “Twittering classes,” would remain loyal to the regime for ideological and social reasons. The troops had about as much sympathy for the demonstrators as a small-town boy from Alabama might have for a Harvard postdoc. Failing to understand the social tensions in Iran, the reporters deluded themselves into thinking they were witnessing a general uprising. But this was not St. Petersburg in 1917 or Bucharest in 1989 — it was Tiananmen Square.
In the global discussion last week outside Iran, there was a great deal of confusion about basic facts. For example, it is said that the urban-rural distinction in Iran is not critical any longer because according to the United Nations, 68 percent of Iranians are urbanized. This is an important point because it implies Iran is homogeneous and the demonstrators representative of the country.
The problem is the Iranian definition of urban — and this is quite common around the world — includes very small communities (some with only a few thousand people) as “urban.” But the social difference between someone living in a town with 10,000 people and someone living in Tehran is the difference between someone living in Bastrop, Texas and someone living in New York. We can assure you that that difference is not only vast, but that most of the good people of Bastrop and the fine people of New York would probably not see the world the same way. The failure to understand the dramatic diversity of Iranian society led observers to assume that students at Iran’s elite university somehow spoke for the rest of the country.
Tehran proper has about 8 million inhabitants; its suburbs bring it to about 13 million people out of Iran’s total population of 70.5 million. Tehran accounts for about 20 percent of Iran, but as we know, the cab driver and the construction worker are not socially linked to students at elite universities. There are six cities with populations between 1 million and 2.4 million people and 11 with populations of about 500,000. Including Tehran proper, 15.5 million people live in cities with more than 1 million and 19.7 million in cities greater than 500,000. Iran has 80 cities with more than 100,000. But given that Waco, Texas, has more than 100,000 people, inferences of social similarities between cities with 100,000 and 5 million are tenuous. And with metro Oklahoma City having more than a million people, it becomes plain that urbanization has many faces.
Winning the Election With or Without Fraud
We continue to believe two things: that vote fraud occurred, and that Ahmadinejad likely would have won without it. Very little direct evidence has emerged to establish vote fraud, but several things seem suspect.
For example, the speed of the vote count has been taken as a sign of fraud, as it should have been impossible to count votes that fast. The polls originally were to have closed at 7 p.m. local time, but voting hours were extended until 10 p.m. because of the number of voters in line. By 11:45 p.m. about 20 percent of the vote had been counted. By 5:20 a.m. the next day, with almost all votes counted, the election commission declared Ahmadinejad the winner. The vote count thus took about seven hours. (Remember there were no senators, congressmen, city council members or school board members being counted — just the presidential race.) Intriguingly, this is about the same time in took in 2005, though reformists that claimed fraud back then did not stress the counting time in their allegations.
The counting mechanism is simple: Iran has 47,000 voting stations, plus 14,000 roaming stations that travel from tiny village to tiny village, staying there for a short time before moving on. That creates 61,000 ballot boxes designed to receive roughly the same number of votes. That would mean that each station would have been counting about 500 ballots, or about 70 votes per hour. With counting beginning at 10 p.m., concluding seven hours later does not necessarily indicate fraud or anything else. The Iranian presidential election system is designed for simplicity: one race to count in one time zone, and all counting beginning at the same time in all regions, we would expect the numbers to come in a somewhat linear fashion as rural and urban voting patterns would balance each other out — explaining why voting percentages didn’t change much during the night.
It has been pointed out that some of the candidates didn’t even carry their own provinces or districts. We remember that Al Gore didn’t carry Tennessee in 2000. We also remember Ralph Nader, who also didn’t carry his home precinct in part because people didn’t want to spend their vote on someone unlikely to win — an effect probably felt by the two smaller candidates in the Iranian election.
That Mousavi didn’t carry his own province is more interesting. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett writing in Politico make some interesting points on this. As an ethnic Azeri, it was assumed that Mousavi would carry his Azeri-named and -dominated home province. But they also point out that Ahmadinejad also speaks Azeri, and made multiple campaign appearances in the district. They also point out that Khamenei is Azeri. In sum, winning that district was by no means certain for Mousavi, so losing it does not automatically signal fraud. It raised suspicions, but by no means was a smoking gun.
We do not doubt that fraud occurred during Iranian election. For example, 99.4 percent of potential voters voted in Mazandaran province, a mostly secular area home to the shah’s family. Ahmadinejad carried the province by a 2.2 to 1 ratio. That is one heck of a turnout and level of support for a province that lost everything when the mullahs took over 30 years ago. But even if you take all of the suspect cases and added them together, it would not have changed the outcome.
The fact is that Ahmadinejad’s vote in 2009 was extremely close to his victory percentage in 2005. And while the Western media portrayed Ahmadinejad’s performance in the presidential debates ahead of the election as dismal, embarrassing and indicative of an imminent electoral defeat, many Iranians who viewed those debates — including some of the most hardcore Mousavi supporters — acknowledge that Ahmadinejad outperformed his opponents by a landslide.
Mousavi persuasively detailed his fraud claims Sunday, and they have yet to be rebutted. But if his claims of the extent of fraud were true, the protests should have spread rapidly by social segment and geography to the millions of people who even the central government asserts voted for him. Certainly, Mousavi supporters believed they would win the election based in part on highly flawed polls, and when they didn’t, they assumed they were robbed and took to the streets.
But critically, the protesters were not joined by any of the millions whose votes the protesters alleged were stolen. In a complete hijacking of the election by some 13 million votes by an extremely unpopular candidate, we would have expected to see the core of Mousavi’s supporters joined by others who had been disenfranchised. On last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, when the demonstrations were at their height, the millions of Mousavi voters should have made their appearance. They didn’t. We might assume that the security apparatus intimidated some, but surely more than just the Tehran professional and student classes posses civic courage. While appearing large, the demonstrations actually comprised a small fraction of society.
Tensions Among the Political Elite
All of this not to say there are not tremendous tensions within the Iranian political elite. That no revolution broke out does not mean there isn’t a crisis in the political elite, particularly among the clerics. But that crisis does not cut the way Western common sense would have it. Many of Iran’s religious leaders see Ahmadinejad as hostile to their interests, as threatening their financial prerogatives, and as taking international risks they don’t want to take. Ahmadinejad’s political popularity in fact rests on his populist hostility to what he sees as the corruption of the clerics and their families and his strong stand on Iranian national security issues.
The clerics are divided among themselves, but many wanted to see Ahmadinejad lose to protect their own interests. Khamenei, the supreme leader, faced a difficult choice last Friday. He could demand a major recount or even new elections, or he could validate what happened. Khamenei speaks for a sizable chunk of the ruling elite, but also has had to rule by consensus among both clerical and non-clerical forces.
Many powerful clerics like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wanted Khamenei to reverse the election, and we suspect Khamenei wished he could have found a way to do it. But as the defender of the regime, he was afraid to. Mousavi supporters’ demonstrations would have been nothing compared to the firestorm among Ahmadinejad supporters — both voters and the security forces — had their candidate been denied. Khamenei wasn’t going to flirt with disaster, so he endorsed the outcome.
The Western media misunderstood this because they didn’t understand that Ahmadinejad does not speak for the clerics but against them , that many of the clerics were working for his defeat, and that Ahmadinejad has enormous pull in the country’s security apparatus. The reason Western media missed this is because they bought into the concept of the stolen election, therefore failing to see Ahmadinejad’s support and the widespread dissatisfaction with the old clerical elite. The Western media simply didn’t understand that the most traditional and pious segments of Iranian society support Ahmadinejad because he opposes the old ruling elite. Instead, they assumed this was like Prague or Budapest in 1989, with a broad-based uprising in favor of liberalism against an unpopular regime.
Tehran in 2009, however, was a struggle between two main factions, both of which supported the Islamic republic as it was. There were the clerics, who have dominated the regime since 1979 and had grown wealthy in the process. And there was Ahmadinejad, who felt the ruling clerical elite had betrayed the revolution with their personal excesses. And there also was the small faction the BBC and CNN kept focusing on — the demonstrators in the streets who want to dramatically liberalize the Islamic republic. This faction never stood a chance of taking power, whether by election or revolution.
The two main factions used the third smaller faction in various ways, however. Ahmadinejad used it to make his case that the clerics who supported them, like Rafsanjani, would risk the revolution and play into the hands of the Americans and British to protect their own wealth. Meanwhile, Rafsanjani argued behind the scenes that the unrest was the tip of the iceberg, and that Ahmadinejad had to be replaced. Khamenei, an astute politician, examined the data and supported Ahmadinejad.
Now, as we saw after Tiananmen Square, we will see a reshuffling among the elite. Those who backed Mousavi will be on the defensive. By contrast, those who supported Ahmadinejad are in a powerful position. There is a massive crisis in the elite, but this crisis has nothing to do with liberalization: It has to do with power and prerogatives among the elite. Having been forced by the election and Khamenei to live with Ahmadinejad, some will make deals while some will fight — but Ahmadinejad is well-positioned to win this battle.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to http://www.stratfor.com/"
Another good site for in-depth coverage of the Middle East is Prof. Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment at http://www.juancole.com/
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love. http://www.amazon.com/Break-Into-Fiction-Steps-Building/dp/1605500151 , and
How To Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & The Roller Coaster of Suspense, by Carolyn Wheat. http://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Killer-Fiction-Funhouse/dp/1880284626/
Evia, blog host of Black Female Interracial Marriage Ezine, http://www.blackfemaleinterracialmarriage.com/ mentioned another excellent resource for writers in one of her comments:
http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2009/06/writing-advice-database.html The blog author Nathan Bransford (who is a literary agent) linked to another literary agent blog that has helpful articles. It's at http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/
Read, learn, and Get Busy!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Back when I still bought newspapers, I made a point of reading Mary Mitchell's columns. I've grown disenchanted with most print media over the past few years. I don't read the local papers anymore. I generally don't even read them online. Mary Mitchell came to mind recently, and I decided to see what she was up to at the Chicago Sun-Times. I ran across the following column: http://www.suntimes.com/news/mitchell/1602487,CST-NWS-mitch02.article
My goodness. I'm delighted that she's a survivor. But I'm also alarmed (yet again) at how so many African-American women are beset with various ailments. I recently mentioned to a friend how it feels like every time I turn around I hear of a Black female acquaintance who has been diagnosed with some condition.
I'm tired of hearing these things. We need to do better about protecting our health. Regular check-ups matter. Nutrition matters. Maintaining a healthy weight matters. Fitness matters. These things matter in more ways than most of us realize.
It's never too late. I talked about this in the first Wildest Dreams post ("Have Your Own 'Wildest Dreams' Tour, Part 1: Get Your College Body Back!")http://muslimbushido.blogspot.com/2009/01/have-your-own-wildest-dreams-tour-part.html
Anthony DiLuglio is a personal trainer who has produced a series of kettlebell exercise videos called The Art of Strength. I have one of his kettlebell workout videos. I was surprised to later learn that he was undergoing treatment for cancer while he was shooting the exercise video. http://aosvid.com/media/Surviving_full.pdf
He has also helped other cancer survivors: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/03/27/his_path_to_recovery_paved_with_kettlebells/ I wasn't able to embed the video (I'm having some problems with Blogger), but it's worth watching the video that's part of the "Kettlebells and Cancer" section of this newsletter. http://www.artofstrength.com/MinuteofStrengthENews/MinuteofStrength116/tabid/730/Default.aspx
I haven't been talking much about my workouts since I finished the Wildest Dreams Check-In series of posts, but I'm still exercising. I hope you're getting your exercise too.
Friday, June 12, 2009
It's a good exercise to read the post and consider how our various houses of worship measure up according to these criteria.
Twelve Factors For Determining If Your Church/Mosque Is Simply Unhealthy Or Downright Dangerous
1. Marching Toward the Apocalypse
2. A Theology of Violence
3. The Chosen One
4. Goin' Up To The Country
5. Political Influence
6. Takin' Care of Business
7. Crimes of Intimidation
8. Increasingly violent rhetoric
9. Blaming the government
10. Intensification of illegal activities
11. Shaming the Leader
12. Blundering Authority
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I was even more stunned when I pondered how African-Americans' religious-inspired bigotry helps create the atmosphere that makes these slayings possible. We love to engage in hateful, hypocritical, bigoted talk.
Our fake "holiness talk" isn't about love of God. It's about the pleasure of cracking the whip on other people. We revel in verbally stepping on people who are engaged in sexual activities that we have no interest in participating in, such as the gays. Meanwhile, the majority of our births are out of wedlock. Despite all of our "We want forced births to be the law of the land" rhetoric, we are avid consumers of abortion services.
We are hateful bigots.
We are shameless hypocrites.
We are self-destructive fools.
By our bigoted statements and actions, we are ultimately supporting White, racist politicians who will turn back the clock on all of our (already extremely fragile) advancements.
This is what happened when many confused African-Americans voted for Pres. Bush to have a second term in office. I had many arguments with many confused Blacks who told me that they were voting for Bush because of so-called "moral issues" (translation: their opposition to gays having rights). Many of the Black folks saying these things were shacked up and had illegitimate children. [Translation: "By stepping on gays, I get to feel a rush of holiness without having to engage in any sort of self-discipline."] I noticed that some of this "moral issues" talk dried up after Pres. Bush did a "heckuva job" of ignoring the Black deaths and suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina.
By our bigoted statements and actions, we are ultimately supporting White, racist extremists who will turn their guns on US.
Even worse, I believe that our fake religiosity (which takes the form of bigoted statements and actions) is pushing us further and further away from God! The proof is in our ever-declining collective quality of life.
The Gaudy Carnival of Modern Black Fake Religiosity
All of this has brought to mind some earlier conversations that Pioneer Valley Woman has hosted at her excellent blog Episcopalienne (which is listed on my side blog roll). Through her blog, Pioneer Valley Woman is providing one of the few safe spaces where we can seriously discuss Black religious issues. Thank you, Pioneer Valley Woman!
As I've mentioned in other conversations, I've spent much of my career doing indigent defense (after barely tolerating working as a prosecutor---but that's a tale for another day). In addition to criminal rotations, I did rotations in my area's child welfare and child support courtrooms. It has been extremely eye-opening in many ways.
Friends at work and I have talked about our observations and we can't figure out if the patterns reflect class issues in terms of different denominations or church/mosque misleadership issues. I'm beginning to think that both class issues and religious misleadership are creating these patterns.
I apologize in advance to anyone that I inadvertently offend; but this is what we've seen in our large metropolitan area's criminal, delinquency, child welfare, and child support courtrooms:
The vast majority of the criminal, delinquency, and child-welfare defendants and child support litigants are African-Americans. No surprises there. Public aid requires female recipients to name the "baby daddies" involved in order to recoup some of the welfare money from these men. [Please note that my jurisdiction makes a distinction between child support in the context of divorce, and out-of-wedlock child support. Before the local legal aid society's federal lawsuit, the out of wedlock child support cases were heard in criminal courtrooms housed in police station complexes. There are still separate courtrooms in different types of buildings allocated for these two contexts.]
Among the Black defendants and child support litigants who claim any religious affiliation at all, the VAST majority of them seem to come from "sanctified," "holy roller" churches. Specifically, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is well-represented among the criminal defendant/out-of-wedlock child-support litigant population. My Black co-workers and I have seen VERY FEW Black Catholics, Lutherans, or Episcopalians over the years.
Over the years, I've listened to a lot of clients engage in a lot of talk (lip service) about "anointing," "spirits," etc. The COGIC clients often make a big show of being angry when my Black Christian colleagues won't "touch hands" and pray with them before court appearances. They hear my Muslim name upon introduction, and thankfully don't approach me with that "let's pray" stuff. One child welfare defendant/mother is still angry with her attorney (who, unknown to her, is also a COGIC member) because of this!
There is a large population of what I call "jailhouse" Muslims. The jailhouse Muslims typically have better Arabic pronunciation of religious expressions than me! A client explained to me that he accepted Islam in prison because he didn't have gang affiliations to protect him; and the prison Muslims will fight to defend each other from assault (similar to the protection offered by prison gang membership). From what I've seen, they claim Islam only while in prison. Once released, they get back to their previous (criminal) pursuits.
There is a small, but noticeable, subsection of Negro Muslims among the out of wedlock child support litigants. These are the foolish, usually hijab-wearing colored girls who call themselves involved in plural marriages. Of course, they are on welfare and their "husbands" dutifully collect the proceeds from these public aid checks.
These are the Negro Muslim male clients that I had the most heated exchanges with. I don't wear hijab, and some of these fools thought they were going to "check" me about that. They were shocked when I put them on blast about how it was impossible to distinguish their activities from those of a pimp and his stable of prostitutes.
A noticeable percentage of our Latino coworkers (attorneys and support staff) have become Protestants. Meanwhile, the Latino defendants retain at least nominal affiliation with the Catholic Church. These patterns only become noticeable when you see people in the huge volume that we do at work.
It Wasn't Always Like This
To further set the stage, let me describe the 2 main coworkers I've been discussing this with over the past few years:
Coworker #1 is a COGIC member in her early 50s. Her grandfather founded one of the largest and oldest COGIC churches in the area. She's horrified at all the "Let's pray for Sister So and So's son, who was just sentenced to 80 years!" appeals at her grandfather's church. It wasn't like this when she was growing up. She can't quite pinpoint when the congregation turned into a different sort of population. This is a source of great concern to her.
Coworker #2 is in her early 40s, is originally from a small Black town outside of Macon, Georgia (I can't quite imitate her Southern accent *Smile*), and grew up in the COGIC. Her father is a high-ranking official (bishop?) in the South, and her childhood was filled with attending tent-revivals. She joined the Episcopal church as an adult.
Both of these coworkers are true and sincere "church ladies" that I greatly admire and respect. They actually ARE what many of the clients like to pretend to be. Curiously, they don't run around using religious phrases like "I'm blessed and highly favored" etc. They actually practice their values by their actions. It's quite a contrast from the clients (and I may add some of our coworkers) whose lifestyles have no connection whatsoever to their overt "church jargon."
The same pattern applies to the jailhouse Muslims and other corrupt Muslims I've observed. Prison Muslims love to insert Arabic phrases and words into their speech. Even non-religious words like saying "akhi" instead of "brother."
It seems to me that the worst people are usually the ones who flamboyantly insert religious jargon and slogans into everyday conversations.
Anyway, Coworker #2 has noticed that there are a lot of West Indians and a sprinkling of Africans in her church. They seem to have "inherited" participation in these denominations from "back home." During an earlier conversation at her blog, Pioneer Valley Woman pointed out that class has some connection to all of this. I believe that she's right about this.
Most African-American Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians that I've met are middle class. And grew up in the middle class. However, I think there's something in addition to class and ethnic affiliations going on.
Coworker #2's church is one of the area's oldest Black Episcopal churches. It's located in the middle of what was the city's Black belt when Blacks of all classes were segregated together. The church's neighborhood is now mainly composed of poor African-Americans. Coworker #2's church members are very zealous and sincere in their efforts to assist and do outreach among the local poor residents. But the locals are not responding.
Let me be blunt: I think they're not responding based on their antipathy to: (1) serious church doctrine and (2) the emotional styles of these non-sanctified churches.
I haven't fully formed these thoughts, but here are my half-formed impressions from talking to my coworkers about this. One concern that I heard expressed with these storefront-type churches is the lack of accountability regarding doctrine. For all anybody knows, they could be preaching anything in these places. [In my uninformed opinion, the lack of firm doctrine in a lot of the majority-Black denominations has helped the spread of "prosperity ministries" in the Black community. My coworkers and I feel that these prosperity ministries have really damaged Black spirituality.]
I have no clue what the problem is within the COGIC. Coworker #1 says that it wasn't previously filled with the Black underclass. I can't tell if the problem is that COGIC members in other demographics migrated to other denominations, or what. I just don't know.
The other factor is that the client population is NOT attracted to the emotional climate in the non-"sanctified" denominations. To be candid: the Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal churches are perceived as "too" cerebral by this population. Another attorney coworker who attends a storefront-type church explained to me point blank that "Black people want to be entertained in church." [!!!]
The client population can tolerate Islam (which is also "lacking" in entertainment value) because it offers physical perks---physical protection while one is in prison, and extra wives when one is out of prison.
It Doesn't Have To Be Like This
Something has gone horribly wrong in a lot of African-American houses of worship. We have more churches and mosques per capita than almost anybody else, and yet are collectively living worse than the people my grandmother used to call "heathens." From my vantage point, there is no longer any ethical center in the African-American community. This ethical core has been replaced with slogans: "I'm blessed & highly favored!" "Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatullah!" [I won't bother to translate---since it's often (mostly?) insincere it doesn't matter what it "officially" means].
In Part 2 of this series, we'll talk about solutions.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Postscript to the "Racial Discipline" Discussion: Other Black Harvard Students WANT To Have A Future---Praise God!
Another blogger named Pinky (check her out at http://blackgirlsrockit.blogspot.com/) sent me the link to the news story "Why Black Harvard Won't Speak Up For Chanequa."
All I can say is "Praise God!" As one Black student who was interviewed said, "some of us still want to have a future." Pinky, thanks for sending me the story; it made my day!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!
Peace and blessings,