Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eating Once a Day?

a week or so ago, i was reading The Final Call (the newspaper for The Nation of Islam), and it had an article about eating once a day. it was an excerpt from Elijah Muhammad's book- How to Eat to Live. and it was saying that you should eat once a day, but in an attempt to ideally eat once every two or three days. reasonings behind this? because the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said was told to him by the Honorable W. Fard Muhammad....and we all know that W. Fard Muhammad is God incarnate. the only individuals excluded from this "diet" are small children, the ill, and some elderly.

Muhammad says that this improves health and give you time to do other things (like pray, i'm sure...), but he does not list any sources for further information, no anecdotes (besides his own), no statistical evidence to support this, and no expert opinion on it. but then again, this is a newspaper for members of the Nation of Islam...not atheists who happen to be interested in the political aspects of the NOI.

i don't think i've ever really heard of this, but its interesting to look into. on one hand, i'm very opposed to ever being interested in it considering the level of dogma he preaches regarding this concept....however, it could actually be a good health tip. while i am non-religious, i do acknowledge that some religious ideas have been ahead of science and popular culture.

many nutritionists have cited the health benefits of fasting recently, while its been a practice in religions like Islam since the 7th century. meditation and yoga happen to be some of the best forms to attain physical health, which has been hyped in American just within the last 2 or so decades, but its been a Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, and Hindu practice since these religions/philosophies were formed. and in reference to eating once a day, buddhist monks eat once a day in the morning, along with rigorous physical activity and meditation. and they happen to be some of the healthiest people on earth that often live to be nonagenarians.

i google searched it, and all i found were a bunch of discussion boards about how to lose weight, but almost none about the health benefits. heres two i found- an article from a former Buddhist Monk

think. comment. discuss. comment.

Harf Zimmerman

Photos around Lake Malawi/Lake Nyasa in Africa. its surrounded by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. these are taken by Harf Zimmerman. check out his other stuff at

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stacey Ann Chin and Chris Brown and Rihanna


i love love love Stacey Ann Chin.
i've posted these videos on my myspace bulletin boards a number of times, and i have to post it here too.
i read a tiny book review about her memoir The Other Side of Paradise in O Magazine.
read it. bought it. and i'm having her babies in May.

anyway, watching these videos made me think about these conversations i've been having with random people at my job about the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident.
i think all of you know what happened between those two, so i won't go into that. theres a female coworker of mine, who talks about Chris Brown every now and then as if he's the child she gave up for adoption twenty years ago, who she still stalks in a motherly/creepy way. she'll say something along the lines of... "did yall see wal-mart trying to jip my boy chris brown? hiding his cd's in the back? yea, my boy had to get someone to go undercover to expose their hatin asses...."
to which i comment about how he deserves it and that other companies should follow suit.
to which she responds by insinuating that i'm some irrational feminist whose all over Rihanna's shit and has donned her with sainthood. conversations that have ended with the later have happened with a number of people, in and outside work. (and by the way, yes, i am a feminist. and no, that is not interchangeable with "man-hater". the definition for the feminist i am/hope to be can be found in bell hooks' Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center).

now, it is true that i'm not listening to, dancing to, buying, downloading, or supporting any shit that chris brown makes, produces, is featured in, or pulls out of his ass. and yes, it has to do with this situation. and it is also true that i'm not negating Rihanna in the same manner. what is NOT true is that i now support Rihanna and have labeled her innocent and want everyone to rally around her.

and i know the polemic. ... a woman who hits a man too many times should be hit back or "know her place" as one co-worker said. they're saying that chris brown was villified in the media, and Rihanna deserves the same treatment considering it was a fight in which both parties received blows and wounds.

heres the thing though, chris brown is a domestic abuser. yes, he may have gotten hit also, but this doesn't change the fact. domestic violence done at the hands of a man is one of the biggest problems in this country, not to mention worldwide. and to me, supporting ANY type of violence against women (even when she hit him, even if she cheated on him, even if she is "disobedient"-in reference to the violence against women permitted in the Quran...) supports ALL violence against women. if we fail to condemn someone like Chris Brown, then we fail to condemn fully the man who has choked his wife to death in front of their children; the man that has stalked, raped and murdered his ex after she's had restraining order set against him; the man that tosses acid on the face of an ex lover as a form of revenge. because Chris is not just another man. he is an idol to many young boys, and an ideal mate to many females. many people (mainly teenagers and young adults) look up to him. and by not condemning him, you're saying "its okay if you have mike tysoned a woman's long as you apologize". really, what type of message is it sending to young men when a man hits a woman and then comes out with an album that everyone's dancing to in the clubs? what message is this sending to the woman that is being abused right now?

i don't own nor ever wanted to own any of Chris Brown's nor Rihanna's albums. however, i'm not going to give Rihanna the same condemnation that i will Chris Brown.
when there are men being doused in acid, men being raped; being gang-raped, men being killed by their wives, and men having to go to work bruised and lie about their home situation on the same level that it is happening to a woman at the hands of a man (i am fully aware that domestic violence including rape happen against men by women), then i will condemn Rihanna. when there are homeless shelters, Houses of Ruth filled by men and their children hiding from their wives, when there are hundreds of programs and organizations directed towards men to help them cope with domestic violnece, when there are THOUSANDS of men being killed due to domestic violence, that is when i will condemn Rihanna on the same level i am Chris Brown.
but we are not at that level. not even close.

the statistics for domestic violence done against women is staggering, and it is even worse for African American Women. statistics
"The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.
Africana Voices Against Violence, Tufts University, Statistics, 2002,"

NCADV statistics
"One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime."

NVRC-OR statistics
"One in five (21%) women reported she had been raped or physically or sexually assaulted in her lifetime."

Find statistics
"Women make up 3/4 of the victims of homicide by an intimate partner. Actually, 33% of all women murdered (of course, only cases which are solved are included) are murdered by an intimate partner. Women make up about 85% of the victims of non-lethal domestic violence. In all, women are victims of intimate partner violence at a rate about 5 times that of males."

and note that i am not condoning violence against men at the hands of a woman in any way. Rihanna was wrong for engaging in it (and/or starting it), absolutely. and sexual abuse done against young males in particular, is something that has not been properly addressed by the media or domestic violence organizations. however, men and women would have to be on the same level, statistically, socially, politically, etc. concerning domestic violence, for me to have the same reaction to either party. but, as i have shown, they are not on the same level. thus, they should not be condemned in the same way.

comment. criticize. think.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Keziah Jones ft. Nneka

love the juxtaposition with the sun.
love her hair.
love the music.
love the vibe.
mmm hmmm.

Alicia P.

peices from an awesome artist- Alicia P..

Hair and Tyra Banks

so...i'm watchin the Tyra Show, and she's talking about hair with Chris Brown (promoting his latest movie Good Hair) in this episode, and i just needed to add my twenty seven cents...even though i just did a post about hair.
she's talking about extensions, weaves, wigs, tracks...and all the other shit black women put on their heads to look good....and, not too long ago she revealed her "real hair" on the show, and everyone praised her for it and she acts as if she did something revolutionary. but she's more like a semi, pseduo, diluted version of a revolution.

heres the problem.
on one hand, Tyra is different and understand that there is a problem with women and their hair, especially black women. she also realizes that she has been influential in maintaining artificial ideals of beauty, seeing as how she's one of the biggest black models in america and has had straightened hair throughout her career (theres 2 other black models on her level- Naomi Campbell and Iman- both having straightened hair). she also realizes that many women and young girls look up to her and try to emulate her hair, even while it is far from their own texture. its evident that she knows these things because she's had a number of shows about this, and she felt the need to start rocking her own hair free from tracks and clip-ins. this is something no other black woman has done or brought attention to. not even Oprah (and i FUCKIN LOVE Oprah, let me just say....).
on the other hand, its clear to me that she doesn't fully understand the reasoning behind the depths at which black women in particular go to change their hair. for one, her hair was wet when she revealed it, making it appear longer and straighter than it would be normally. and second, she continues to rock the Beyonce weave on most of her shows.

she continues to uphold the high maintenance, unrealistic, fictitious, and more importantly, eurocentric status quo. the same is for Oprah, who grew out her natural hair for 2 or 3 years, hiding it under wigs, only to have that natural hair straightened, and be praised for wearing her own hair. ??? neither weaves nor straightened hair is the hair that grew from their heads, so they're equally false.
their message that was branded on us as colonized subjects continues to be branded in the minds of little girls-that you have to look this way, opposite of what you naturally look like, to be successful/attractive/intelligent/accepted by all.

its similar to the backwardness of having a black college, while the students had parties in which the attendees were subjected to the Brown Paper Bag Test; like having a revolution that combats the racism and capitalism of the system we live in, while ignoring or trivializing the patriarchy that dominates our culture.

that is all...comment if you'd like.

Black Orpheus

love this movie.
rented it from the library FOR FREE. hell yea...
its Shakespeare's Orpheus & Eurydice set in Rio de Jinero, Brazil in Portuguese with a lot of Brazilian Music and ridiculous scenery.
makes me wanna go turn on some Astrud Gilberto and eat pineapples...
mmm hmmm....

Saturday, December 26, 2009


soooooo....i've been wanting to do a post about hair for some time now, but i felt like it might superficialize my blog content. no, thats not a word, but u know what i mean. but, for black women, it is so much more than just hair. it can get pretty deep when you think about the way in which its portrayed in the media, the way we as black women think about our hair and our ideals, the way black men react to it, the way non-blacks react to it. the differences in natural and chemically straightened (relaxed) hair). yea, its not JUST hair. February i decided to go natural. and for those of you who don't know what that means i'll explain. my mom started relaxing (a chemical hair straightening process) my hair when i was around 10, and i've been doing it once every 2 or so months ever since. is a chemical process that permanently breaks the shaft of the hair, killing the natural curl pattern, making it straight. in order to get my hair to its natural state, the relaxed hair has to be cut completely off.
some women choosing to go natural do a "big chop" in which they chop all their relaxed hair off, leaving them with an inch or less of hair. others, like myself, choose to gradually transition by cutting off the relaxed hair within 3 or 4 trimmings. (note:the photo is of a woman having her hair hot combed, not relaxed)

now, reading that, one might just say "okay, she changed her hairstyle...and?". but it is much deeper than that. it isn't just a hairstyle change, its a lifestyle change; a change of mindset; a eye-opening experience in itself (this is for most naturals, not all).
for starters, i think many people know that blacks have gone through (and are still going through...) an inferiority complex. what many do not know (including and especially blacks) is that we have manifested it in many outlets, including aesthetics. there still exists this idea that lighter complected blacks are treated better and looked at as the beauty ideal while darker is still seen not as beautiful ("white is right"). this is reiterated in the media, music videos, films, as well as implemented in our communities. so, similarly, thoughts on our natural hair (nappy, kinky, coily, cottony, wooly....whatever u wish to call it....personally, i prefer the term nappy. i like that it has the most negative connotations to it that i attempt to associate positively) are also parallel to those- nappy hair is seen as bad, while straighter, more European hair is seen as good, better, prettier, healthier, cleaner, sexier, etc. many blacks even refer to straighter hair as "good hair", unbeknowst to the fact that it reinforces the inferiority complex we've endured for centuries.

now, where does this come from? well, it comes from an inferiority complex, as i stated, but moreso, the fact that at one point in time in this country, the idea of being white or even indian or Mexican was not only seen as desireable, but also stood for freedom, more rights with voting and owning land amongst other things, citizenship, being counted as a whole human instead of 3/5ths....etc.; it was the difference between being considered a human and being considered a sub-human species. and blacks have been trying to look anything but black ever since. theres a book about this entitled Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps. it goes much into detail about how we have come to hate our hair that does a much better job than i could in my post.

i chose to go natural in february of this year, and its been one of the best decisions i've ever made. i changed my hair mainly because i was tired and bored with having to relax it, and then constantly having to flat iron it. after a while, you have to realize that your hair ain't like your non-black friends who get up and go. its an entire process of flat ironing....staying out of the rain...not sweating (otherwise, the hair will return to its nappy state)...constantly combing it...dreading washing it which takes HOURS. the money and the time put into maintaining relaxed hair is ridiculous (which is why many black women turn to weaves and wigs). thats time i could have been reading an enlightening book, and money i could have bought a few with! i would say i spent $300 a year on relaxers alone, not including the products to care for it. and i was low maintenance, mind you. some black women spend around $200 for one hairstyle, while some wigs can go for $1,000. COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

and why? why am i paying around $300 a year to wind up with chemical scabs on my scalp, damaged hair, and hair that is no less work than it would naturally be? why do mothers feel the need to straighten their daughters' hair as soon as they reach the proper age? why is any natural black hairstyle still seen as "exotic" in a country that was built on our backs? because we've been conditioned; colonized, really.

we have been conditioned to hate ourselves and many of us still do, and theres really nothing else to that. some black women abide by these eurocentric standards of beauty because many black men have equally been conditioned to desire european beauties. other black women simply do it because they have simultaneously conditioned to view straight hair with positive connotations (as i mentioned above-sexiness, cleanliness, sophistication, etc.) and natural/nappy/kinky hair with negative ones.
and these sentiments don't just begin when one starts watching television, or around the time that peer pressure takes hold. its in the home- where the daughter is complimented on her hair after it has been blow dried and flat ironed (or in the case of my generation and prior, hot combed...), while she is given a collection of confused/scared stares, taunts, and supposed "advice" on what to do with her hair when it is in its natural state as an afro.while many people portrayed with afros are often dirty, druggies, or uneducated (like Buckwheat). even if these are directed at a young girl with a hint of humor, it still makes an impression. add on top of that that most black women in the media have straighted hair...add on top of it that she has no idea how to care for her natural hair considering she's been trying so hard to get away from it....and you wind up one day with a $500 lace-front blond wig that goes half-way down your ass that you can swing and shake just like the white women on the television.

now, let me say that none of my statements are absolutes. not ALL women with relaxed hair (or weaved and wigs) are perpetuating European standards of beauty and want to be white. many women feel as though it is easier to manage than natural hair, and do it for maintenance. however, keep in mind though, that most black women's mothers or caretakers straightened their hair when they were too young to recall their natural hair....and if they do, their memories or limited to sitting under a hot ass drier for 3 or 4 hours or occasionally being singed by a hot comb on the someone who had the same thing done to their hair. so,how do they really know which is easier maintenance if they can't even recall being natural? yea...they don't. but if that is their choice, then it is their choice. sometimes it IS just hair. but...most of the time, for black women, it isn't.

think. discuss. take heed. whatever...
here's some websites i've found that can aid in info on natural hair as well as hair politics.
Coily Crowns
Black Girl Long Hair
Nu Kynk
The Coil Review
The Natural Haven
Le Coil

sentiments on death

so i flew home this holiday season from NYC to Montgomery, Alabama, and then an hour and a half from there to Enterprise, Alabama. yes, my hometown-born and raised.
anyway, i've never flown before, and i flew on 3 planes within 8 hours. let me just say, it wasn't the best experience.

i started crying after takeoff..i don't really know why. i was ust kind of scared, and the plateau after the ascent was a weird feeling. i don't really know...and then i spilled my orange juice on my dress, cell phone, ipod, and table. and on my third flight, which was a smaller plane, i was 2 seconds away from barfing up the clam chowder and french fries i ate for lunch. it took an hour for my stomach to resettle.

so, i was thinking, what was the reasoning for me crying (ugh. i don't do that often, and it makes me sound emotional when i say it on here....which is not the case). is it because i'm afraid of death?

i've thought about death and the afterlife (or lack thereof) many a times. maybe this has to do with me being an atheist, maybe its just because questioning everything is a common thing for me. but i've thought about it, and i don't think i'm afraid of death. i would like to think that if death were to come my way in the form of..say...a plane nosediving into the earth below, that my last feeling would be contentment. but does that mean that this is how it will actually happen? i was the only person on any of the planes that i saw looking at the safety manual checking to make sure my neck flotation device was actually under my seat.

so, maybe i am afraid of death on some level. but is this a bad thing? in my opinion, yes. and it isn't that i have some fear that i'm wrong, theologically. i might be wrong, and i'm okay with that. regret about the philosophical, religious, theological, spiritual, etc. decisions i have made is non-existent. its not that i think i'm right about everything, its more so that i'm content with the manner i come to conclusions (if any) about these things.

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” ~Buddha
"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ~Mark Twain
"Live life so completely that when death comes to you like a thief in the night, there will be nothing left for him to steal.”~ Anonymous

from the Buddhist point of view (well, one of them...)is that fearing death does nothing to take away from the suffering in the world, thus it has no place in the mind that wishes to be enlightened. in addition, our idea of death is really only the death of the physical body, not the end all be all of "life" (whatever your definition of that may be...). reincarnation warrants different feelings concerning death.

so what is it that i believe, concerning the afterlife?
i think that there are a spectrum of more likely possibilities and lesser likely possibilities. and thats pretty much it. theres heaven & hell at one end, reincarnation at another, the typical atheist's thoughts somewhere in between, and some others thrown around. i don't really BELIEVE anything. however, reincarnation and the typical atheist's beliefs (that nothing happens. its just the end and we all become worm food) are at the "more likely" end.

what is there to be afraid of other than the regret of an improperly or inadequately lived life?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The People That Anthropologists Do Not Like to Study- Book Review

i wanted to share this really good book that i've been reading.
its entitled The People That Anthropologists Do Not Like to Study by Robert Murray.

the cover of the book looks like it was made in someone's basement, but this is a really good book. the way in which the author presents his information and the way he criticizes other anthropologists is very interesting. i hesitate to say that all these findings make sense and are "true", though, because this is one book by one author. and although his findings make sense to me doesn't mean that it is the reality of the situation.

the way he presents his findings is by saying that the cultures, the people, the "races" of people he studies are societies that most anthropologists choose not to study based on their presuppositions and possibly even racism.
for example, there is a tribe of people that live in northern Japan known as the Ainu. these are people that author says are primitive Caucasians, although they are usually classified as Japanese. he says anthropologists classify them as Japanese, for one because they have "interbred" with the Japanese, and thus look and act Japanese today, however, they were white Caucasians from the Caucasus mountains (i.e. white). he bases this conclusion on the fact that when they were first discovered by Japanese and/or western anthropologists that they had round eyes, dark brown hair, and had rituals, customs and a language unlike any other Asian language.

he insinuates that most anthropologists would rather not classify them as primitive Caucasians because it conflicts with their thoughts of Caucasians being a superior race. while i could argue on either side, i do like that he presents an alternative to the norm. even if he is wrong, i now look at possible presuppositions that anthropologists could make....and i see that as a plus.

he also goes into groups of "mixed race" peoples (i've put that in quotations because saying "mixed race" is implying that race is something that can be mixed...and u can look at my other posts to know how i feel about that...). such as Black Caucasians (blacks living in the Caucasus mountains that have been there for hundreds of years), Australoids and Aborigines (which he says are 2 different groups of people that are indigenous to Australia). he also goes into indigenous Africans with lighter skin such as Pygmies from Central Africa to prove his point that skin color does not necessarily have a correlation with climate.

yea yea...this book is full of stuff that i have never in my life heard before.
read it. buy it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

wildbirds and peacedrums

really really like this group.
aside from the beats that speak to me like hip-hop, i like the lack of inhibitions of the lead singer. its almost like she's a slave to her voice. even notes that seem not to do somehow fit. i love that.


i really really like this group.
their music is infectiously melodic with a lovely '70's Minnie Riperton feel at times...

Kehinde Wiley

i saw some of his stuff in the Brooklyn Museum.
the caption next to his biggest photo there said that he wanted to put black men in a place they seemed to be missing from.
his stuffs pretty dope.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kara Walker

yet another artist i wanted to let people know of that don't know. her name is Kara Walker and her art makes me speechless. really.
and...i'm trying to think of something i can say overall about her artwork, but i can't. my words seem to trivialize it in some way....??
so, just look see...

race revisited...

This is another conversation from the book African American Philosophers. I seriously love this book. It explores the validity (or lack thereof) of the term “race” in ways only philosophers can.
This is a conversation of Yancy interviewing Albert Mosley. In an earlier post referencing this book, I quoted an interview with Lucius T. Outlaw in which he criticized Appiah’s position on the concept of race. This interview is from another philosopher that was present at a conference in which each of their arguments, I’m guessing, were put on the table or vocalized in some way. Mosley goes on to give his thoughts on both of their positions, and then states his.

YANCY: Did you attend the particular African American philosophy conference in 1994 held at Rutger’s University?

MOSLEY: I was there.

YANCY: Would you explore the conceptual rift that occurred there between Anthony Appiah and Lucius T. Outlaw.

MOSLEY: Anthony Appiah has argued that race is a fiction and has spearheaded a movement among philosophers to disavow race as a legitimate and useful concept. He’s made a very strong case for this and I think many African Americans have reacted negatively to his efforts. The fact of the matter is that the majority of African Americans do identify themselves in terms of race. This act of self-identification by race reinforces an important sense of historical continuity. Their parents and grandparents were classified in terms of race and most associate denying their racial identity as an act of self-hatred. But Appiah has argued that the very concept of race is fiction. And within the literature of biology and anthropology this claim has been made by many others. ….Moreover, biologists have shown that there is no such thing as a race gene, something that makes every person who has that particular gene (or constellation of genes) Negro or Caucasian or Oriental. As a result of World War II, there was a concerted attack by scholars against the illegitimate use of racial categories; especially the idea that race determines a peculiar national orientation. Appiah has taken this orientation and applied it to the American situation in his essay “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race.” There, he argues that W.E.B. Du Bois used the notion of race in characterizing African Americans, but was never able to define it adequately because it can’t be adequately defined.

YANCY: What was Outlaw’s response to that?

MOSLEY: …Some biologists believe that there are distinct human populations and other biologists do not believe this. Outlaw has a similar point of view. He argues that you can’t deny that race exists simply because it’s a historical construction. At the conference, Outlaw was bemoaning the fact that he had to continue to comment on commentaries about his and Appiah’s differences, and rather offhandedly characterized Appiah’s position as a form of ethnic cleansing. Given what was happening in Yugoslavia at this time in terms of ethnic cleansing, Appiah was insulted by the analogy, and he walked out of the room. …..the passions generated reflect the importance of the issue. One of the attacks on affirmative action is based on the idea that there is no such thing as an African American. Were we able to get rid of all references to race there would be no basis for affirmative action on the basis of race. Many African Americans believe this is simply a ploy designed to consecrate the status quo and ignore the historical wrongs that have been and continue to be perpetrated against African Americans. Restitution for opportunities denied because of race could not then be corrected on the basis of race.

YANCY: In your essay “Negritude, Nationalism, and Nativism: Racist or Racialist,” you discuss the distinction between a racist and a racialist. Would you briefly define the two terms?

MOSLEY: A racialist position accepts the claim that there are races and that there might be differences between races, both physiological and even behavioral. A racialist wants to allow that possibility. There is physiological evidence of such differences and a racialist would not preclude the possibility of correlated differences in behavioral traits. In the article, I make the analogy between races and varieties of dogs, not in order to taint the notion of races, but in order to point out that if you segregate any population long enough they will develop distinctive traits as a result of assortative mating. This is how people create varieties of dogs. Pit bulls didn’t exist three hundred years ago. ….A racialist would argue the same thing with respect to races. There has been geographical isolation between continents as well as social isolation within continents that has led to the existence of distinct groups of people. Now, this doesn’t mean that those groups have always existed or should be preserved into the future. So a racialist need not believe that races are primordial groups created by God after the blood or the Tower of Babel. But there is no reason to believe that groups cannot legitimately be differentiated into racial varieties.
YANCY: And to that extent, are you a racialist?

MOSLEY: I see no reason to deny racialism. Racism, on the other hand, would not only say that there are different races, but that certain races are superior to other races. That I would deny.

I think that some of the points Mosley makes are valid and sound. However, I think his argument is resting on a separate ethical issue. He’s almost saying that the notion of race has to exist; otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to right the wrongs that have been done to blacks in the past. Which, is….possibly true, but that isn’t a sound argument. Just because a negative consequence may come from a notion, theory, or fact doesn’t mean that that notion, theory or fact is false or wrong. It’s almost like saying “well, god has to exist, otherwise there would be no moral foundation.” While it is arguably true that the lack of a god would render morality baseless, that doesn’t mean that god exists; this doesn’t mean that now morals are objective with a solid foundation, it just means that the consequences of this fact/probability are not that favorable. In the same sense, just because the concept of race would breakdown arguments for affirmative action does not mean that now race exists and is something testable, tangible, and real (whatever that means…). Truth isn’t always favorable or comfortable. But what is “truth” anyway besides something that many credible people accept until something else comes along…?

That being said though, I have for some time now tried to figure out an analogy in the non-human animal kingdom for the differences in race, while showing that race is nothing more than phenotypical variations. I thought about dogs, but dogs do not just vary in their appearance, and this is the problem with his analogy. They also differ in personalities, temperaments, and levels of aggression. Some dogs, like Chows, are known for the loyalty they have for their owners, and their aggression towards children of their owners. Other dogs, like Labs are friendly while Rottweilers and Pitt Bulls are more aggressive. So, unless he wants to continue with that analogy and say that the differences in races are not just external, but also internal (personalities, temperaments, etc.), then he should abandon this analogy. Are we also going to start referring to people of mixed heritage as the human equivalent to mutts?

Although I think it is logically problematic to include the moral consequence of a question about the reality of a concept, I still think he is not fully thinking about the consequences of both findings. If race is found to “exist”, then I feel that the consequences would be worse than if it was found to not exist. If it does exist, then now they have an argument for affirmative action, and blacks will have some type of retribution for the dehumanization that was and is being done to us…..and on the other hand, we would have bigots coming out the woodworks with their arguments about how we’re a sub-human species yet again. “blacks and Latinos fill the prison walls not because there’s any link between poverty and the rate of violence….but solely because they are less human than whites and their affinity for violence is simply…in their blood”. Right? Can’t we all see these “arguments” arising once everyone deems race a reality? So what do you think is the worst outcome? Having a basis for affirmative action or returning to a time in which any non-white is thought of as inferior and thus treated accordingly?

Overall though, I would say that I would still side with Appiah. Outlaw’s arguments had some validity to them, but not enough. I think the anthropologists and scientists of the 1800’s who put too much effort into deciphering what made one a negro….from hair follicles, to the arch of one’s foot, to the color of one’s palm… the way one walks, the way one carries themselves. These people (bigots) had a similar argument for race that was also hinged on what they considered an ethical issue. If race doesn’t exist and there is no separation between the Negro and any other human (or even an argument that said blacks WERE human…), then slavery would be wrong. Therefore, race must exist because that would mean that they were wrong in treating humans like cattle. This was their argument and it is eerily similar to Mosley’s. I see that as a problem.

We should be trying to figure out what is true, what stands against arguments, and what can be logically the end of an argument. Should we be thinking about the consequences of an argument prior to making that argument? I would say no.
Simply put, I don’t think that race is real/factual/truth. However, this does not mean that I excuse or deny in any way degradation and rift that has occurred between humans due to this concept. I am black, I am a product of a slave trade justified by race, I am a descendant of a slave…I am a descendant of people whose ethnicity was used interchangeably with the term “slave”, I am the product of every negative thought of blacks, I am the product of blackness, my identity does have a lot to do with my color, my “race”, by thoughts…my blog, have to do with this concept and its historical actions and current repercussions, I am the product of an inferiority complex branded on my people, I am the product of 400 years of dehumanization based on race, I am the consequence. I cannot deny this even if I wanted to.
But let’s assume that race is not real, as Appiah and I are arguing, then what is the standing for issues like Affirmative Action? I personally am somewhat on the fence about Affirmative Action. I feel as though we, as blacks should learn to advance in this society without a handout from the individuals that have put us in such a position to ask for handouts. It’s like asking the man that has kidnapped you from your home and beat you senselessly for a job. I want blacks to be in a position to where we don’t need handouts, and if we aren’t there yet (which I would agree, we aren’t…), then we need to get there ourselves. Then again, I can completely see Mosley and others’ position that says that we have been wronged in the past, and situations where others have benefitted from the back breaking labor blacks have done in the history of this nation should be leveled, and that affirmative action is one way in which that can be done. But can his point not be argued were race argued to not exist? No. even during the time in which non-whites were being treated like animals, they didn’t have any scientific or realistic idea of race. One was white if they had white skin and straight hair and one was black if they had dark skin and kinky hair. It was that absurdly simple (I’m reading about the trials during this time in a book entitled What Blood Won’t Tell by Ariela J. Gross). The idea of race was never based on anything legitimate, so why should it for affirmative action arguments?

The idea that if race does not exist, then affirmative action would have no grounds, is just assuming. We have affirmative action now; does this mean that the United States government has reason to believe that race is a verifiable concept? Or do they feel that the wrongs of the past need some retribution? Well, the latter would imply that the government or the majority of whites in this country (or even non-whites, for that matter….) actually realize and acknowledge what they have done to minorities. Which is certainly not true, I feel.

Race, I feel, does not exist. But this does not change the fact that most people think it does, and it affects the way people see me, the way others treat me, and thus affects my job prospects, my status in society, by financial standings, and my personal esteem. But that doesn’t mean it exists. …but just to give credence to the polemic, if race effects all these things in my life, and the life of others, then would that make it real?

I think something we need to ask ourselves, especially people of color, is whether or not we would feel the same way about race had it not been for the hierarchy of value placed on it in the past. If my people were never taken from Africa and stripped of their culture, worth, and humanity, then would I even feel the need to refer to myself as African American or black? Would I feel an unspoken connection with those of color? What would it mean to be black in the Americas if there was never a slave trade? What would it mean to be African in a country that was never colonized? What would it mean to be the “other”(as bell hooks would say…) if there never was a “self”?

Give me your comments. I want to know what you think.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Concept of Race

I’m reading this book titled African American Philosophers in which George Yancy interviews seventeen different African Americans that have attained doctorates or Masters degrees in Philosophy, and teach philosophy (or something in the field) at major colleges. He asks general questions about how they got interested in philosophy, which I found interesting and in some cases similar to my own relationship with philosophy, but then he also asks in depth questions about the concept of race, whether there’s a such thing as “African American Philosophy” (and if there were, what its characteristics and limitations consist of), and then personal questions to each philosopher about heir particular philosophical fields of study.

I wanted to talk about the interview Yancy had with Lucius T. Outlaw Jr. (professor of Philosophy at Haverford College with a B.A. from Fisk University and a Ph.D. from Boston College. Areas of specialization are African Philosophy, continental philosophy (phenomenology and hermeneutics), and social and political philosophy (Marx and critical social theory). Outlaw is referring to an argument presented by the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah.

YANCY: Briefly on this issue of race construction, what is the nature of your opposition to Appiah’s position?

OUTLAW: Briefly, it is Appiah’s position that, epistemologically and ontologically, the concept race is very much the same concept as witch: that is, though there are persons who believe that there are witches and use the word “witch” to refer to persons they believe to be witches, realistically (that is to say, on the terms of scientific empiricism or realism) there are no such things as witches. The term “witch” has no real referent, no matter a speaker’s beliefs to the contrary. Likewise, Appiah has argued, “race” as no real referent that fulfills all the conditions-that is, embody all the biological, categorical, psychological, etc. characteristics-that would have to be met in order for a group of persons to be properly called a race.
Now, to an important extent, I agree with Appiah. In other respects, I don’t. I remain convinced that it is important to get clear about deficiencies in older conceptions of race, particularly those that improperly mixed or conflated biological, cultural, and caharachterological characteristics. Having done so, I think it then possible to reconstruct the notion of race such that it refers appropriately to relatively distinct, more or less complex population groups that are also more or less complex cultural groups.

YANCY: With respect to this issue of race, do you see it as a social construction?

OUTLAW: The short answer to that question is “yes”, but it is very important of how we take care in how we understand and speak of social construction. One of the most influential texts that I ever read in graduate school…was Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s ‘The Social Construction of Reality’. …It helped me to understand that human beings must basically construct virtually all of their meaning systems about everything. As a species we don’t have any choice since we don’t come into the world with any pre-established meaning systems repertoires for surviving, adapting, and flourishing. We humans have to construct all that we have. Now there certainly have been long and rich traditions of naturalistic accounts of human species-being, accounts that, in quite important respects, have been different from and opposed to social construction accounts. And there are those who have argued against the viability of concepts of race by holding that there are no natural races (by which they tend to mean race is not a tenable concept by the terms of contemporary biological science), only individuals who have been constructed as races, that is, had an untenable complex of defining characteristics attributed to and imposed on them, most always for pernicious reasons.
Well I think there is much in this argument that is correct, but that there is also a way in which some who take this position become facile and dismissive, particularly when their argument takes the form “Well, so and so is not real, its only a social construction.” I think that in many cases this is a really dumb and inappropriate way to go about making an important distinction: that is, between things that are socially constructed and things that are real.
In so many ways, what is real for us is by way of constructions that have social groundings. Language is a social venture in and through which we designate the real and the unreal. Perhaps if you’re talking about what we might call the materially real, then some of the things of this kind do not owe their reality to social activity. Mountains, for example, don’t tend to come about because you or I, nor any other humans, have wished them into being, or brought them about otherwise. Other materially real things are very much social constructions, such as automobiles produced in factories by way of highly coordinated social labor. A car is not a natural object, it is constructed socially, but it is real.

This interview was interesting because of the commentary on the concept of race. I think many people have this idea that race is something biological, it makes you who you are, it is in your “blood” (like when people say phrases like “African blood” or “Indian blood”). But, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a social construct, and my argument pretty much parallels that of Appiah’s. Comparing just whites and blacks, one might come prematurely come tot he conclusion that it is biological, but when you start to look at groups of people like Phillipinos, or Arabs, Native Americans or Aborigines, the concept gets sketchy, if not completely disintegrates. Many anthropologists have argued that these aforementioned peoples are not distinct races from any other groups of people, but that they fit into 3 main racial categories- Negroid (Negro), Mongoloid (Asian), and Caucasoid (Caucasian).

The typical idea of “race” is something deeper than skin or hair or facial features, but when you take away one’s social upbringing that might make up for distinctions, then you are left with no deeper distinction than ones that are phenotypical. “Race” implies that there is something evident in every individual of that particular “race” that people of other “races” do not possess. But is there anything that every single person in a particular “race” possesses that no other “race” has? No. is there any marker in one’s blood that insists they are any of the three aforementioned groups? I think the best questions that breaks down the concept of race is this- Is it possible for someone with racially ambiguous features, hair texture, and skin color that for some reason knew nothing of their biological parents be able to find out their “race”? and the answer is no. No scientist (no accredited one, anyway…) has been able to do this. I’ve heard arguments that present the fact that there are some diseases, such as Tay-Sachs Disease (which impacts mostly Jews) and Sickle-Cell Anemia (which impacts mostly people with African ancestry), that may show that “races” exist. But, I think this part of an argument ignores human evolution. Using the Jews an example- Jews were/are Caucasians (it really depends on what they prefer to call themselves). After Judaism, they began to live together, worship together, and yes, procreate together. Considering that one must covert to Judaism in order to marry a Jew, it is likely that few Jewish/non-Jewish children have been born. Someone has the disease, continues to pass it around, and over time this disease becomes a disease for Jews. Now, are the followers of Judaism their own “race”? I would say no. Take any genetic disease, isolate a group of people, make them procreate only with each other, and you’ll get the same result in a couple centuries. This doesn’t mean that a “race” exists.

Outlaw’s argument against mine and Appiah’s is basically saying that there is no such thing as reality or the term “real”, so why would one use it in their argument. Nothing and anything can be argued as being “real”, so what does one mean when they say something isn’t “real”? You cannot say ….”Concept A is a social construct/it is not real while the idea of “reality” is not a social construct”. By “real” do we mean “scientifically proven” Do we mean that under scientific and anthropological scrutiny that it does not retain the same concepts as it does in everyday society (referring back to saying “African blood”…). I don’t think the concept of race is “real”, and what do I mean by “real”?

Personally in this case I think I mean that it isn’t real in the sense that it not only does not stand up to scientific scrutiny but also logical scrutiny. For example, let’s look at the indigenous peoples of Australia- The Aborigines. It is up for debate whether they ventured there by sea or walked there when land may have been present between Australia/New Zealand and the Asian continent. I think most anthropologists might categorize them as “Mongoloids”, but they have dark skin, darker than some Africans, broad noses, large lips, and some of them have kinky hair, so then they could also be categorized as Negro. So are they Negroid or Mongoloid? Or are they both? And if they are both, then are they a new/distinct race (considering they have inhabited Australia and New Zealand for millions of years)? If they are a distinct race, then how many years does it take for any group of people to form into a “race”? none of these questions can be sufficiently answered by individuals who believe race is something biological.

Although I think his criticism on using the term “real” in Outlaw's argument is a sound criticism, one of my problems with Outlaw’s criticism, however, would be when he makes the concept of “race” as a social construction analogous to a car being a social construction. For an analogy to work, the two entities, ideas, or objects being compared need to me similar. And in this analogy, they are not. “Race” is a socially constructed idea, it is intangible, and subjective in some cases. A car is simply something that is constructed physically by humans. It took a human mind and arguably some social requirements (such as advancement in technology, financial stability, and a certain level of education) to produce a society /societies to conceptualize a car and then produce it, however, it is no longer an idea. I can buy a car, break a car, crash a car, experiment on it, take it apart and make it into other things. And whether a society calls it an automobile or a car, differentiates between trucks, SUV’s and compact cars, or refers to anything with wheels as one word, they all have basically the same concept of a car. This is not the case for race. Race can be a means of hierarchal power or dehumanizing treatment in some societies, it can be a means of personal identity. It can mean one’s culture, one’s place of origin, one’s ancestor’s place of origin, one’s facial features and skin tone, one’s skin tone & hair, one’s skin tone & eye color, the shape of one’s eyes, the shape of one’s eyes & hair texture or simply what one considers theirself. Outlaw is comparing something that is intangible with something that is; something that is solely an idea (since scientists and anthropologists have never come up with any genetic differences) with something that is an idea as well as a physical object.
I think what he is trying to say in his argument is that if you think it is real, then it is real. Real in some sort of objective sense? No, because there is no objective concept of reality. It is subjectively real because that is the only type of reality there is.

I think one can look at these arguments in the same way someone might look at the arguments and concepts of god/gods. I don’t think there is any “reality” to the concept of god or gods…but there is no such thing as “reality”, so then “god” is real for those who believe in him. People, like me, I think feel the need to dissect and scrutinize these concepts like “god” and “race” because they have impacted humans in such a negative way. Race has divided people in a way I don’t anything else has, even religion. But just like religion, people have been killed over it. Race and/or religion can be argued as being the reasoning for most, if not all of the genocides, mass killings, and sustained oppression and dehumanization of people in all of history. And when it impacts our societies in such a way, it HAS to be scrutinized, dissected, experimented on, broken down, built up and broken back down again so that we can get past these trivial means of separation and progress as a society. This MUST be done. It is imperative, it is necessary, it is vital.

if you would like to comment on something i have said, please feel free. i have enabled it so that people that do not have blogs can post comments, and you can post anonymously if you'd like. i welcome any type of criticism as well as new arguments (just be able to back your shit up...). even if you don't have a criticism, and want to mention some experience you've had or think i think about something it doesn't look like i've considered...then post it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pieter Hugo

a while ago i saw a picture in this magazine and i wrote the name of the artist down without buying the magazine. i went home, googled him, and we've had 3 babies ever since. metaphorically, of course.

his work, mainly the set-up and the subjects are what make his art so ingenious. for one, he uses mainly African people in African rural and city atmospheres. seeing people period in this weird, eery, confusing, and sometimes sexy light is something i haven't seen done in photography or art, and add on top that his subjects are Africans? his stuff is MAD. cosmic.

and socially conscious. on you can see all his pieces. Nollywood is the most recent, and theres one about the Rwandan genocide. its heart wrenching. and i think his photography captured the abhorrence of the situation in ways that i don't think American media has captured.