Reduce the Rate

So, after a strange series of events that included Jesse Jackson kissing me on the forehead (twice!) and being in a press conference (airing this evening on Chicago stations) I’m apparently handling the viral marketing for Reduce The Rate. I’ll be pestering you all to plaster info all over creation about this movement to:

* Reduce the interest rate on all student loans to 1%.
If banks can borrow at 1% or less, then so should our students.
* Extend the grace period before loan repayment begins from 6 months to 18 months for students who graduate.
In these tough economic times, it takes a college graduate an average of 6 months to 1 year to find a job. The rules should reflect this reality.
* End the penalties assessed to schools for student loan defaults.
Schools should not be held accountable for students who don’t pay back their loans.
* Increase Pell Grants to cover the average yearly cost of a public
4 year institution instead of the amounts in the current stimulus package–$5,350 starting July 1 and $5,550 in 2010-2011

Also, if you’re in Chicago you should come out to the Town Hall meeting at Operation Push Headquarters at 6 pm this Friday. I’ll be there and you can meet all sorts of nifty folks.

Moving Day!

Heads up fans and friends! The Angry Black Blog is moving!  Not a big move — it’s still going to be at theangryblackwoman.com, but the blog will no longer be hosted at WordPress.com. I’m putting it on my own server, instead.  I’m going to do the physical move Friday, the DNS will probably be propagating Saturday and Sunday. Monday everything should be back to normal.

Sometime this weekend you may notice changes – the theme/template will likely change a lot, you may see a few ads appear, suddenly there will be little pictures at the tops of posts. But it will still be us doing what we do.

If you could please take a moment to check and see if you have any links on your sidebars or heavily trafficked posts to URLs beginning with theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com. If so, please take out .wordpress since now those links will not automatically redirect to theangryblackwoman.com.

Also, I would hold off commenting after Friday evening, just in case you’re not seeing the correct version of the blog.

That is all.  Monday begins a spate of much more regular blogging!

Going to a con? Own a bookstore? Know a writer?

Willing to advertise for Verb Noire? Great! Please print this and hand it to people. Thanks everyone. You guys are the best.

Verb Noire Announcement (Call for Submissions)

So, as some of you may have noticed I haven’t been around overly much lately. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just that I’m in the middle of starting a small press with a friend. Verb Noire is intended to be a platform for all those stories that have been hidden for so long because the protagonist didn’t fit the mainstream mold. What does that mean?

Submission Guidelines Ahead!!

It means we are looking for original works of genre fiction (science fiction/fantasy/mystery/romance) that feature a person of color and/or LGBT as the central character. Book-length manuscripts must be at least 250 pages, and short stories cannot be over 100 pages. All manuscripts must be double-spaced, in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courier, etc) in black text, and must be a Word/Open Office compatible document. We ask that you insert a header with your name and the first two words of the title at the top of each page. Please do not send them as read-only files as that will make any editing more difficult.

We are also accepting poems in traditional and experimental styles with a maximum of 10 pages. The same formatting rules will apply.

Personal and critical essays are also welcome as long as they are within the aforementioned themes. Poetry, essays, and short stories may be subject to inclusion in anthologies depending upon the number of submissions fitting a specific theme.

There will be (approximately) a 6-8 week turnaround time in which submissions will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether or not we will be publishing your manuscript. Payment will be dependent upon sales, as each published author will received a percentage of the sales price.

There is no need to submit a query letter, nor do we require you to have an agent, but we do want a brief synopsis of the plot for longer manuscripts. We will accept works from white authors as long as the the central characters are of color and/or LGBT. Please send all submissions to verb.noire@gmail.com.

We’ve been raising money to defray start up costs and the response has been fabulous. Feel free to come check out us out on LJ as well.

Well, at least it’s not racial. Sorta.

Saw this article today, about an “emergency” rape law passed in Italy:

Italy’s government has rushed through a decree to crack down on sexual violence and illegal immigration after a spate of rapes blamed on foreigners.

What’s “a spate”? Must be quite a few, to justify the swift passage of a new law, I’m thinking. A virtual epidemic. But no. It’s three. They happened in one weekend, but still. Three.

The decree sets a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is killed.

Well, that sounds good to me. Harsh sentences for rape are exactly as they should be. And further along in the article it mentions that trials for rapists will be speeded up, and more resources will be focused towards helping the victims. All good, in my book.

But then I saw this…

It also establishes rules for citizen street patrols to be conducted by unarmed and unpaid volunteers.

Wait just a damn minute.
Continue reading

The New York Post cartoon: this is my unsurprised face.

By now most of you have heard about the racist cartoon published in The New York Post. There’s a lot of good commentary out there on this already, and some calls to action, which I strongly urge all of you to heed.

That said, I haven’t said much about this before today because my feelings pretty much match Ta-Nehisi Coates’: meh. Maybe it helps to provide some “local context” here, because I think a lot of people don’t get what most New Yorkers do: the Post is crap. It’s a step above the National Enquirer in terms of quality, and that’s only because it doesn’t talk about aliens and its inanity has a focus — which is to be the voice of the substantial contingent of conservatives in this famously liberal city. It’s the paper version of Fox News, which isn’t surprising because it’s owned by the same guy. And because of this, I do not believe for one moment that the editor who approved that cartoon didn’t know exactly how it would be received. I think the Post is getting exactly what it wanted here.

Think about it. These are hard times for the Republicans right now. They’re struggling to find a way to reformat themselves in the wake of the backhand slap they received on November 4th. While the party’s leaders flounder in search of a vision/purpose/direction, however, the party’s ideologues don’t have this problem; they’re still repeating the same message they’ve been parroting for the past 20+ years. But with the leadership gone silent, the ideologues’ broken record is suddenly much more audible than it has been for the past couple of (campaign) years. Which is why we’ve heard so much lately from Rush “Crackhead” Limbaugh. He hasn’t been in rehab all this time, as I had naively assumed; he’s just popular again, largely because many Republican voters are desperate to hear someone, anyone, speak up for their side.

Likewise Fox News and, now, the Post. These media entities are jockeying for control of the party’s soul, in hopes of pushing back the darkness — pun intended — that might, just might, cause the Republican party to reform into something a little more representative of America and less representative of the angry white men who’ve been the party’s guiding light. So naturally we can expect some blatant appeals to the paradigms that have proven so effective for this group in the past. They’re gambling that this “back to basics” strategy will work. And it might. Despite all the slightly creepy “post-racial” camaraderie we’ve been seeing in the nation since Election Day, most of us know full well that racism isn’t dead and that a substantial percentage of the 46% who voted against Obama did so because they hate black people (even the ones who are half white). How does one rally this group in the wake of a national defeat, and let them know that somebody in Republican Land still loves them? This cartoon is one rallying cry. Expect more.

That said, I’m not certain this strategy will still work the way that Rush and the gang think. Sure, there are plenty of folks out there who will respond positively to this appeal to their baser nature. But there are also a lot of Republicans who are taking a hard look at themselves right now, and asking some hard questions about the tried-and-true ways of doing things. Already we’re seeing signs of an unheard-of revolt by some Post staffers in the wake of this cartoon. The Republican base might be OK with it, but the base is still the minority within the party, and it’s growing smaller as time passes. The rest of the Republicans, I’m guessing, are starting to read the writing on the wall: the old ways of doing things have got to change.

Before they do, though, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more dead monkeys.

Return of the revenge of the daughter of the Welfare Queen

I’ve been following this whole octuplet controversy with mixed feelings. A part of me very much groks the anger being directed at Nadya Suleman. No single person can give 14 children the care and attention they all need; hell, I’m not sure a couple could manage it. If “it takes a village” to raise one child, this woman’s going to need five boroughs, and Yonkers too.

But that didn’t account for the vehemence I’ve been seeing in the media and elsewhere about Suleman. Sure, some of it is clearly rooted in the revelation that the state will be paying for these kids’ care, and the creepy possibility that she may have blown some of that state-provided money on plastic surgery to look like Angelina Jolie. But there’s far worse examples out there of unhealthily large families, narcissistic parents, and exploitation of public resources. Why’s this one got people so riled?

Then I read this analysis of the situation, which I think does a good job of explaining the outrage.

The great storm of public fury that has been kicked up by these octuplets is more than an annoyance at the water cooler. It is a vivid demonstration of the price that our country pays every day for the comforting moral clarity of the “right to life,” a fragile construct that has always been partly about not letting pregnant women “escape responsibility” for their actions. If a mother’s life goes to hell because she can’t afford to raise a child, well, she should have thought of that when she let herself get knocked up. The child becomes a sort of righteous punishment, not a person — and, in similar fashion, those “outraged” by Suleman’s story clearly hope that she (and, inevitably, her children) will have a rough time of it. It is the worship of motherhood, and the hatred of mothers.

This analysis feels intuitively on-track to me. But I think it’s missing two additional layers of meaning.

First, I think this is not just the worship of motherhood, but worship of ideal motherhood — ideal only if it’s within the strictures of traditional marriage and patriarchial religion, and therefore controlled one way or another by men. Uncontrolled (or female-controlled, which is the same thing in some of these people’s eyes) motherhood is never desirable. Most media outlets are reporting that the father of Suleman’s children has been caught by surprise by this, and is “a bit overwhelmed”. I think the anti-abortion movement will hold up Suleman not as a heroine, but as a cautionary tale: men, control your womenfolk, or they’ll have babies as they see fit, and see what happens then?

Second, it didn’t escape my notice, when I saw clips of her on TV, that Suleman is a bit on the brown side. And I could be wrong about this, but her name seems like a derivation of a common Arabic name, Suleiman — common enough that I, a garden-variety American with about as much knowledge of Arabic culture as I have of nuclear physics, recognized it as such. I could be totally spinning in the wind here; she might be Swedish for all I know. But I can’t help wondering how much of the rage I’m seeing — not merely outrage, but murderous incandescent fury — is because the Welfare Queen specter has been raised in Americans’ minds, perhaps conflated in some weird-ass way with The Arab Threat and maybe even The Brown Conspiracy To Outbreed White People? (Suleman’s fertility doctor appears to be Indian, see. We’re all in on it!)

You remember the Welfare Queen, don’t you? Ronald Reagan created her to get elected 20 years ago, as columnist Paul Krugman notes:

As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, “Chain Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics,” “Reagan paralleled Nixon’s success in constructing a politics and a strategy of governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along racial lines.”

Thus, Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.

So even though the vast majority of welfare recipients in the US are rural whites forced into poverty by the destruction of America’s industrial economy, the association of welfare with greedy, lazy, urban brown women has become indelible in the American subconscious. And even though the pendulum seems to have swung back since Reagan’s time, and we’re now in a vaguely liberal phase, my suspicion is that this linkage still exists, hair-triggered in our national zeitgeist, ready to fire at the first sign of dusky skin and fertile ovaries. That Suleman may be of Arab ethnicity — the zeitgeist’s latest boogeywoman — just compounds the issue. Now instead of black wombs destroying America for selfish gain, we’ve got Arab wombs destroying America in order to imitate and replace white women. It’s like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers without the giant beanpods.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Suleman’s case trotted out again in about 18 months, when the Republicans start campaigning for the midterm elections. After all, if Reagan’s Cadillac-driving mystery woman could be so effective, how much more effective the collagen-injecting octuplet mom, who at least has a name?

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