This Land…

11 05 2010

[As a precursor to my forthcoming thesis on Whiteness, this is a blog post I never published from last summer. I was preparing the material for my thesis and working on Stanford Summer Theater when these conversations came up. Enjoy!]

God blessed me with an adversary recently, a friend really, who I work with and whose company I’ve enjoyed very much over the last six months. He’s a nice enough guy, self-identified liberal, frat boy, from a privileged white background in Seattle, though he went to an urban public high school in the area, which he says was predominantly people of color. Certainly there are other identifiers of interest, but I choose these because I think they are significant in forming his view of the world.

A series of disdainful sighs and shaking of head at culturally insensitive jokes or references, and I was labeled hypersensitive of all things P.C. This is not an uncommon occurrence with my white friends. I think my argument for why white people are ill-disposed to make snide cultural references or joke about stereotypes should be self evident by now. Regardless, I acknowledge that many from my background find it perfectly acceptable to make “edgy” statements or push the envelope of the politically correct in order to demonstrate how educated and progressive they think they are. That being said, as unpopular as my voice may be in such cases, it has become an almost knee jerk reaction for me to question the effects of the privileged class making such culturally stereotyped comments, humorous or otherwise, however progressively informed or ironic they may seem. I say this very conscious of my own position in the matter.

So, my foil and I have spent the better part of a week hotly debating such issues as cultural and racial sovereignty, nation-state legitimacy, and white privilege, particularly as they manifest themselves at Stanford. Suffice to say, I find his views in all three areas problematically apologetic, the challenges of which are paralleled only by his adamance that my views are unrealistically radical (my wording, not his. He said “illogical,” but i take the liberty of interpretation). For example, in a discussion pertaining to the legitimacy or efficacy of Stanford’s Ethnic Theme Dorms (itself a problematic premise for a discussion), he argued that the self-secluded nature of Stanford’s communities of color precluded sufficient racial integration of the campus, such that it allowed those communities to persist in a fashion that did not reflect the realities outside of Stanford, namely an integrated society (…right). Furthermore, rebuttals including the right for sovereignty over non-normative (read: non-white) histories collected in a community outside the colonial elements of mainstream culture were attacked as segregationist (!). “Like, they should have a separate, but equal, culture?” he said, arms crossed, eyes wide with a satisfying feigned surprise. “I just think it’s ridiculous. I had so many black friends in high school, and when we got to Stanford, I almost invariably lost touch with them because they were suddenly sucked into this black-centrist community that I couldn’t be a part of. Plus, if you’re a white kid put in Uj, it’s totally unlikely you’ll be accepted unless you go way out of your way,” he continued. When I questioned the possible experience of a person of color being forced into an otherwise white dominated culture or community, I was told, “but that’s different. Mainstream isn’t necessarily white. It’s just American.” Indeed the argument continues that constant comment (like mine) on issues of so-called political correctness fuels and reinforces racial tensions rather than disassembles them. I, as you may guess, respectfully disagree and you see where it goes from there.

It’s clearly not for me to represent the views of any community, on campus or otherwise, and I don’t intend to. I can only speak to my own experience, having been recently exposed to many of the histories that the American experiment has attempted to bury over the last 500 years. These histories are not held by text books or the academy, but by the decedents who have survived and opposed the (spoken and) unspoken policies of American enculturation and its associated mechanisms.  Indeed, the communities of color at Stanford play a vital role in preserving and continuing non-normative/non-white histories that might otherwise fade into the amnesic abyss of American cultural memory. As playwright and poet Cherríe Moraga wrote in her 2005 essay, Indígena as Scribe, “I believe the United States intends to disappear its colored inhabitants and our non-western ways of knowing,” a process that is most efficaciously carried out by destroying histories and identities. Bonfil Batalla’s seminal work, México Profundo, strikingly recounts the national project of literally fabricating a Mexican identity in place of the numerous indigenous identities present in that part of Mesoamerica for centuries and the relative minority of Spanish blooded decedents, while the latter maintained almost complete cultural dominance.

I am dubious to even say the words slavery, Jim Crow, la frontera, conquest, internment camps, boarding schools, deportation, or any of the other inadequate devices we use to describe the ways in which we have threatened and betrayed this nation’s people of color with death or ejection. Most insidious perhaps in this (ongoing) process of attempted extermination is its conspicuous absence from the consciousness of White America. Most of us will concede some portion of the social inequality dialectic citing race as a persistent factor of America’s power and resource strata, but few of us can fathom that our country really has it out for its people of color – “But I don’t want America’s people of color to disappear,” the cry of defense usually goes, “I have black friends!”

I was challenged by my friend/adversary to give an example of a nation that has offered just rule better than the United States (this was in response to my comment about the illegitimacy of the modern nation state). He pressed me, as any good liberal would, to acknowledge, at least, the freedoms and democracy afforded us by espousing an umbrella allegiance to an American Identity. At least, he might say, this isn’t genocidal Rwanda or Nazi Germany or fascist North Korea. My only response is that an absence of perfectly functional or just governance from any nation cannot be an excuse for its status quo, nor is it a defacto justification for its existance. America is a nation built on stolen land by slave labor but, as my friend suggested, the statute of limitations for returning the land has expired. Send the white people back to Europe? The black people back to Africa? The sheer ridiculousness of the proposal sends most of us into a frenzy wherein the only possible solution we can see is to saddle down and look to the future. “It wasn’t me, after all, who stole the land, right?” that apologist story goes.

This collapse in the consciousness of White America, the sudden inability to hold difficult and, at times, conflicting realities is perhaps the single largest exacerbator in the ongoing narrative of American racism. Political Correctness (which, according to my friend, is my actual course of study) is now relegated to the land of pastiche, so absurd in its minutiae that we are safer in its transgression than in its dialogue. Those who consider thoughtfulness in their speech, mindfulness in the context of their conversations are, at best, the squares of the day; at worst, communists out to dismantle our God-given freedom of speech. Besides, political correctness, obviously comes down to opinion, so why defend it?

Why is Bill Maher making incisive observations?

15 07 2009

Not sure who the commentator is; he’s kind of weak, but Bill Maher talks truth talk.

Gender-Neutral Housing and Dominant Discourse

6 05 2009

Sometimes I get that sick, mushy fire feeling in my stomach when I read about gender politics, especially from the older christian-right. Probably serves me right for reading, but the masochistic side of me likes to know the opposition’s thinking. I felt the gurgle churn when Brian forwarded me monday’s National Review article with the fear-mongering title “Caveat Perens,” a loosley veiled hate-narrative of one mother’s objection to her daughter’s co-ed living situation at Stanford. The article was quickly picked up Jacques Steinberg at the New York Times, in “A Co-ed Dorm? That Wasn’t Mentioned on the College Tour.” In a matter of hours, the article was viral across the blogosphere, in countless forums and comment threads (not to mention my inbox) with contributions from students, educators, and similarly gender-frightened parents.

While my vitriol is bubbling as I read the comments on these forums, finding myself in some horrific Twilight Zone-esque medieval conception of gender constructions, I remind myself that this conversation is not new. My friends and I in the co-op community are pissed, because for the first time in a while, the fight is on our doorstep (literally), no longer the impersonal academic topic we discuss at the dinner table. We have a fierce, albeit problematic, entitlement to the freedom of gender-neutral rooming in coops, as we do with all things in “co-op culture.” As I look through my inbox, the responses range from humourous quotations of forum comments to panic over the future of co-op autonomy. The daughter of the article’s author even sent out an email filling in the contextual gaps in her mother’s diatribe.

Then, as I’m reading some of the forum comments and blog syndications, I notice this dominant binary present between “high moral standard” Christians and degenerate liberal heathens (identified in one post as university administrators, lol), and it feels like such an old story. I feel myself being surreptitiously placed into the latter category, my agency in free-thinking stripped from me as I begin to mouth the progressive post-gender discourse. My oppositional mind is activated and the deluge of criticism begins my deconstruction of the author’s in context. In the paragraphs edited out of this post, I talked about Stanford’s co-op scene in detail, defended it’s role in campus gender politics and queer “safe spaces” while noting the problematics of a white-washed hetero-dominant progressive community. I briefly mentioned my disappointment in a fellow Bostonians narrow-minded, thinly veiled hate speech. My burgeoning radical politic piped in and commented on the economy of gender normativity, the vested interest our country has in maintaining this liberal-conservative binary as the dominant discourse in gender and sexuality and the role this discourse plays in the continued oppression and marginalization of queer and trans people. I railed against the comodification of gender identity in popular culture and made subversive comments about anthropology’s neo-colonialial academizing of trans-identities and scientific studies of queerness.  I wrote about the white-christian-privilege class, extensively, over and over (it’s what i do), my eyes blurring as I seethed at the audacity of ignorance, frustrated by our seeming inability to gain perspective outside the center. I even googled the author’s name, intent on enumerating her short comings as a human and lambasting her pro-life/catholic/domineering-parent/Harvard/Yale elitism. I had a pretty decent analysis of the situation too. I even forecast  how it would pan out in Stanford’s administration and in the communities involved, insinuating by association its relevance in the broader American discourse. I included an acknowledgment of my own sites of privilege as a white, upper-middle class male and the self-indulgent nature of such a post given those sites, just for good measure.

In the end, all of this felt unnecessary, even damaging, like kerosene on an already out of control burning car, headed down a street going no where. Everyone’s watching it, throwing their own piece of garbage as it rolls past them, adding to the flames and feeding the tension. No one talks about the people in the car, the people who have been burning for centuries for their crime of being born themselves. We like the spectacle of it, even feel courageous, proud for throwing our this-will-finally-put-the-fire-out/settle-the-issue piece of trash at the blaze.

It occurs to me that submitting to this discourse in essence validates its existence, approves the terms of engagement, and we do it simply because it’s the flavor of conversation most people in America are having related to gender and queer identity; “to (allow) trans or not to (allow) trans? To (allow) queer or not to (allow) queer?” the masses seem to ask. And then the “whys,” “hows,” and “to what limits,”. Everyone feels entitled to weigh in on the politics, especially those hunkered down in the center of normativity, fortifying their bastions of safety as best they can.

Like I said: old conversation. One not in service to anyone’s freedom or liberation, center or marginal.

Just as a plug, I want to direct everyone to Dean Spade, Asst. Prof. of Law at Seattle University and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project who has wonderful analysis that I recommend. Check out his blog and his (sadly unattented to) zine, which is a bit difficult to navigate, but well worth it.

Also, to bring things full circle, the National Student Genderblind Campaign has some interesting resources for students looking to include gender-neutral housing as an option on their campuses, and for parent’s freaked out by their childrens’ wanton liberal ways. This page in particular makes a fair attempt at re-framing the rhetoric of the so-called “New Era of Gender Relations.”

How to Solve Illigeal Immigration

10 04 2009


Living in a Post-Racial world is great…

5 02 2009

Driving home last night from the city, I relapsed and flicked on NPR, ending a joyful  and much needed hiatus post inauguration. I almost vomited in my mouth though, as I listened to bloggers on News and Notes talk about Rev. Joseph Lowry’s apology for his inaugural benediction, in the wake of white peoples’ upset over the line “When white will embrace what is right” saying things like it had “tainted the moment,” “left a sour taste,” and “inappropriately undermined the victory of the day.” Ugh.

What’s more, these were black writers commentating, not even the silly racist right pundits you’d expect. I find it troubling that the rhetoric of living “post-race” espoused by so many white liberals is beginning to infect black bloggership, but that it goes so far as to condemn and undermine the entirety of Lowry’s benediction is heart-breaking, infuriating, and terrifying if you consider the implications. God forbid we talk real talk amidst the warm and fuzzies of electing a black man president. God forbid white folks don’t get a pat on the back every time they say or do something “progressive;” someone might forget to keep score.

Let’s be honest: the demand that we start living in a post-racial world and any accompanying posture to that effect is proof that we’re not even close.  Example: the repeated lauding of Obama as exemplary of our post-racial progress is proof no such progress has been made. Example: the continued white dominance in main-stream journalism, which incessantly and grossly frames Obama as the messiah, finally come to wipe our memories clean of our traumatic past is proof our delusions of social progress are strong, entrenched, and maintained by a heavily biased system of rhetoric. These movements of media are little more than tokenism en maquillage.

Jill Nelson‘s article in Monday’s Huffington Post is a wonderful and incisive analysis of the emerging racial gag-order present in today’s journalism and public discourse. It underscores just these points:

For two years I’d managed, along with most black people, to go along with one of the unspoken shibboleths to the election of Barack Obama and kept my mouth closed about racial issues, fearing that such a discussion would be harmful to Obama. This in spite of Bill Clinton showing his ass in South Carolina; Hillary’s absurd suggestion that Obama wouldn’t know what to do when the phone rang at 3 AM; and John McCain’s barely veiled white supremacist campaign. Yet the failure of much of the media to recognize the words of the Negro National Anthem as the first words of Reverend Joseph Lowery’s benediction at the inauguration was truly pitiful. That, followed by the general incomprehension of the rhyme at the end of Lowery’s remarks — “When black will not be asked to get in back/When brown can stick around…” — and then its erroneous attribution by a CNN employee to a civil rights song, rather than rooted in African American folk and oral tradition and the dozens — a game of verbal insult and one-upmanship — made it impossible to maintain silence.

I recommend reading the whole article, aptly named “The Audacity of Whiteness.”Audacious is exactly the word to describe the propaganda of post-racialism, but ‘offensive,’ ‘unsettling,’ ‘patronizing,’ and ‘downright ridiculous’ also come to mind.

But that’s about par for the course in the experience of marginalized people who live in a white-constructed social order that’s just frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the time when white people can enjoy their privilege comfortably again. The Utopian vision of a post-racial world is one where we talk about race, but we don’t talk about white people, because we helped elect a black president, which clearly means we’re over it.

The sooner white people accept that it’s not going down like that, the better. A post-racial America, in the way they mean it where we stop talking about bigotry, we stop talking about privilege, we stop talking about (not so) historical transgressions literally is not on the schedule. That’s still racism, not post-racism! As long as that desire and/or expectation is at all part of the conversation, consider us at a standstill.

Nelson wraps up her piece this way, which I love:

As candidate and President Obama has made clear, change we need requires sacrifice from all of us. It’s not just about black kids pulling up their pants, or working harder in school, or more parental involvement. Nor is it just the overt racists and skinheads who need to get it together. The less obvious and likely more difficult change must come from the chattering class, many of them entrenched liberals and progressives to whom it has never occurred that they are the beneficiaries of white skin privilege.

I’m considering myself called out. You should too.

But just to go back to Rev. Lowry’s benediction for a sec, I’m upset he apologized, because for me it was the most moving and, more importantly, honest part the ceremony. It provided a context for an otherwise vapidly decorous event; yes, celebratory; no, not complete. Here it is again, in case you missed it:

That’s called real talk, people. It doesn’t get better. He succinctly situates Obama’s election and the current social/economic/religious mire in the continnuum of justice for which we are all always responsible. And he uses more beautiful prose than you can shake a stick at. The man is a pro  and for anyone to get their pantys in a bunch just because he insinuated that we have more work to do is ridiculous, but not unxepected.

A Greater Love

19 12 2008

I have, at times, felt critical of cheerful people, especially during holiday seasons. That demographic of the population who pleasantly float through life unencumbered by the harsher realities of the world is a little too zealous in their sugary smiles for me to really tolerate. I don’t mean to minimize their (problematic) holiday charity, (almost) good family relations or even challenge their (sort of) good intentions. Most people have good intentions, and most people also get defensive when you qualify their good intentions by their affluence or their necessity to assuage guilt. Good intentions, as I have learned, really aren’t everything anyway.

I sat at a café (Au Bon Pain, to be precise) this morning, discussing my utter dislike of Christmas songs with my mother, particularly pop and/or jazz renditions of already hackneyed Christmas classics. We were en route to Florida for a family vacation, (the first in years I will be taking with both my mother and brother) and the blaring holiday anthems, covered perhaps for the millionth time by such and such a pop singer, were jarring at 7am, and I felt justifiably vexed while eating my bagel. The scene of an empty airport terminal covered in Christmas (not holiday) regalia with Hannah Montana or who ever singing “You Better Watch Out” to a *devastatingly* saccharine backing track was enough to unsettle my already compromised appetite. My distaste for Christmas is not adamant; I do not intend to rob children of holiday spirit or destabilize the system by exposing the hypocrisy of commercialized religious festivities. I honestly just don’t like Christmas music, but other than that I’m comfortable allowing the charade of Christmas to continue, as it will (until such time as I see fit…). Mum asked me in between sips of tea, “What about the Reggae Christmas album you gave me a few years ago?”
Oh, the history we (try to) block from our innocent childhood memories!

Our conversation turned, oddly enough, to pharmaceutical companies and the health care system in the United States (feel free to skip this section of rant). I noted how my friend’s acupuncture education had precipitated an utter rejection of the allopathic paradigm; the reliance on surgery and medication, the absurd conflict of interest in HMO healthcare and pharmaceutical lobbying, as if either had anything at all to do with healthcare (they don’t). I was familiar with such a resistance to (modern/western) conventional medical practices, having grown up in a household with two “alternative” physicians as parents: a Naturopath and a Behavioral Therapist who uses hypnosis for pain management. Both of my parents are brilliant doctors, and while neither spent much time laboring over the absurdity of the system I knew from a young age that what much of the West considered modern scientific miracles could just as often serve as profound hindrances to real healing. It is the expansion of the have-a-headache-take-an-advil way of thinking. But I digress. My point is not to indulge my “fight the power” predilections, much as we should (and will/do) fight the power, particularly the medical industrial complex of oppression.


At the gate, Mum asked me about a friend who is in the midst of healing from breast cancer. I say healing instead of “battling” or “fighting” because I don’t want to give energy to the ethos of war. Cancer, like all disease, is an energy with wisdom of its own, which my friend knows and utilizes in her healing. To antagonize cancer as an evil is to diminish the human body’s capacity to thrive amidst adversity. My friend is a brilliant woman and from the beginning of this journey, she addressed her cancer with a broad mind, seeking the consultation of earth-based healers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, nutritionists, and oncologists who could treat the totality of her experience with an integrated approach, rather than simply barraging her cancer with radiation and chemotherapy (though this has been a part). The process of cancer treatment is by no means simple or straightforward, but neither is it passive and rote. It is the denial of creativity, intuition, so called “integration” that I take issue with in the allopathic paradigm, which my friend is challenging with her breast cancer treatment (inspirationally, I might add).

I was feeling riled up from our talk and I think my mum, as a physician who prescribed medications regularly, was somewhat incredulous at my ideas of mass propaganda and corruption in the health care system. For me, these notions don’t even seem that radical, much less in need of justification. She described how helpful Purdue (oxycodone not chicken) reps were, how much they loved their jobs, and how efficient they were in providing support and educational materials for her and her patients. She acknowledged conflicts of interest, but insisted that these drugs had saved countless peoples’ lives, providing reprieve from debilitating pain and suffering. She also noted that prescription opiates cause more deaths and suicides than street opiates like heroin, which is an interesting observation. While I can’t argue with the many positive affects of some modern medications, the tyranny and corruption of pharma-businesses is difficult for me to ignore.

As we get on the plane, she asks me about my writing at school, about patriarchy, privilege and identity (my thesis topic). She says, “Isn’t it great how much progress we’ve made though? I mean, when I was in medical school, 15% of my class were women; now its more than fifty!” I consider my options, not wanting to get on any high horse and lecture my (extraordinarily brilliant) mother about social conditioning. And yet, I feel challenged to expose the problems inherent in identifying (any) metrics of progress. She asks me about breakthroughs of Barack Oabama and my (dark skinned Semitic) uncle who married my aunt, a black woman from Alabama, almost thirty years ago. Aren’t instances of inter-racial marriage indicative of progress, she asks? And what about making incremental dents in the system and gaining small concessions over time? She gives me examples, which I try to validate, while explaining how they are exceptions, rather than the rule. I say equality is not something that needs to be achieved; equality is innate in all people. Achievement presupposes that marginalized people somehow improved or became equal and made it to the white level, which is a rhetoric that white people have been using for too long to make themselves feel better about their own overwhelming privilege. This is the consciousness of racism. It is the system that denies equal treatment that is symptomatic of a collective consciousness that does not believe in equal as fundamental. You cannot simply pass some laws, elect a leader, or increase compensation and say, “great, now you’re equal!” These statements are themselves indicative of how little consciousness in America has actually shifted. Let’s be honest: the system was not built for equality; it was built for progress towards equal and I say the rhetoric of progress is an anesthetic that lulls us into accepting a status quo that maintains disproportionate access to opportunity and power for white people. It is inherent to the system and while things (rights, leaders, jobs, marriage etc.) may look different, I don’t think the consciousness has really changed that much. And neither has the power structure. For people marginalized because of their class, skin color, or gender, this is an old conversation. For white people, it’s one we’ve been ignoring for a long time.

To be honest, I feel a little bad saying this to anyone much less my mother. She’s easily one of the sweetest, most generous individuals I will ever meet. And yet, I feel like I am supposed to feel gleeful that Barack Obama is our president, because it is “historic” for a (half white) Black man to be president (which it is) and because it is a victory for “all Americans” (…I hear the pundits and bloggers all shout with admiration). Trust me, I would LOVE to be jumping for joy (and I might have, for a quick minute there), but I can’t betray the deep skepticism that tells me change is elusive and rhetoric is easy to fall for and the (sad) truth is Obama is politically moderate at best, and the system that oppresses and denies true freedom for all is going strong, not much harmed by history’s recent turnings. This isn’t me being a cynic; this is me loving myself and loving my family and loving people enough to be honest. Love is not always comfortable, and it is not always pretty. This country has been sustaining a manufactured affection for itself for generations.

Look around. If you open your eyes, it is not difficult to see; we’re just running in place.

Imagined America

21 11 2008

Though it has always been a fractured hodgepodge nation of immigrant decedents, political and religious exiles, and racial captives, America was always imagined to be the place where the height of freedom and liberty could not just be sought after, but achieved on an unprecedented scale. Now, 250 years after independence from England, many of those liberties have been demanded, fought for, died for, and indeed achieved for an incredible number of Americans, and it has served as a model for how the world might better stand for freedom and not tyranny. However, it should be acknowledged that in the fervor of American Patriotism (that wonderful abstract celebration of citizenship) we not forget how much work their remains in order to truly achieve an American greatness and an American liberty commensurate with its imagining.

Often during this election cycle pundits and candidates have discussed the “unprecedented” in terms of cracked or broken ceilings, analogizing a hitherto status quo that had precluded a black man from ascending the presidency or a woman from making a competitive bid. What seemed missing from these dialogues was a parallel and purposeful imagining of what further ceilings there are to break in American society. That is to say, 50 years ago the possibility of a black president or a female president was a dream maintained in the hearts of marginalized peoples, but not at all one that was widely held as an inevitability during the course of American history. But in a very real sense, America is built on dreams that are held to be so noble, so important, so very vital to the essence of our humanity that they are fostered and grown into realities over time, fabricated from the force of sheer will and solidarity. What at once seems impossible is in fact possible and perhaps even inevitable, though the circumstances under which the transformation is made are elusive and difficult to replicate. Probably it has something to do with hard work and as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, a just and moral arc to the Universe.

As the shards of Barack Obama’s broken ceiling sparkle and glisten on the ground below us, we should not be so awed by his (and our) achievement that we forget to look up and acknowledge the thickness of ceiling which remains for us to break; the ceiling of a just and equitable economic structure; the ceiling of equal rights for same-sex couples; the ceiling of religious tolerance for all creeds and doctrines that promote peace; the ceiling of legal and economic justice for immigrant families; the ceiling of true and equal opportunity in the work place; the ceiling of a just and sustainable ecosystem that does not place corporate pollution into the air and water of marginalized communities (or anywhere for that matter), and so on. These ceilings are real, unbroken, and just as incredibly imagined and dreamed as any America has held throughout the course of history. Their possibility for achievement lies perhaps in the very ridiculousness and unlikelihood with which they are viewed at this moment. Environmental integrity in the face of global warming, rising sea levels, and mass extinction? Economic justice in a time when the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression is shocking the entirety of the Globe’s economic structures? A Black president in the Oval Office? Justice has and always will be a simple matter of time.

One of the most troubling aspects of this election was the unadulterated and un-apologetic bigotry that was seen throughout America; an on-going rumor and conspiracy perpetuated about Barack Obama’s Muslim heritage, probably militaristic, probably terrorist affiliated, probably Arab; an egregious, borderline slander-ridden assessment of Hillary Clinton’s femininity or lack there of and an equally egregious misogyny of Sarah Palin, her over-sexualized, under-educated, evangelistic representation in the media, as well as countless other negative threads both reported in the media and viral on the web.

Most troubling for me is the flagrant unabashed racism expressed by many citizens of the country who have not irregularly expressed their dismay at having a black president. Indeed, in the weeks since Obama’s election, racially related hate crimes and assaults have increased significantly across the country, according to Hannah Strange and the UK’s TimesOnline article “Obama win prompts wave of Hate Crimes”. Even before Obama’s election, there were horrible threats and an increase in bigotry; the plot to assassinate Obama and execute 88 people of color in the process as a symbolic act of jingoistic white supremacy, for example. It is clear that while some ceilings have been broken, others remain diligently intact.

This persistence is in the face of a truly unprecedented global celebration of Obama’s election, something no other election has seen, save perhaps for that of President Nelson Mandela. Unprecedented celebrations in the streets across America and the world; video footage of celebrations in Japan, Kenya, France, England, Australia, and all the other countries who see what an Obama presidency represents. Of course, there is an important distinction between the symbolic nature of his election and its actuality. In the coming months, we will see if his term in office will truly bring about radical change, but the vital internal change that has happened in the hearts of this involved in his campaign, in those who campaigned and in those who prayed and wept is a change not yet quantifiable by scientific or academic standards. It is a felt change and it is as meaningful, if not more so, than anything he will achieve in office.

As a point of interest, it is worth noting that three of the four most critical players in this election were from under-represented backgrounds (I do not include Joe Biden in this count because he had relatively little sway in the course of the campaign as compared with the influence of Sarah Palin and I do include Hillary Clinton because her presence in the campaign persisted even after Obama’s nomination to the democratic ticket). As Shanto Iyengar discussed in the October 20th lecture, these backgrounds were use strategically, though not always appropriately, by the McCain-Palin campaign. He noted the examples of Obama’s ever darkening skin complexion in McCain’s attack ads. This racialization of Obama (of which Obama himself very rarely spoke) was echoed in the slanderous Palin speeches implicating Obama with terrorism. John McCain himself spoke little of Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, but Palin unrelentingly made note of their affiliation in speech after fear-mongering speech. The assumption, of course, was entirely gendered, presupposing Palin’s “right,” as a woman to criticize a man of color, though she was still a privileged white woman speaking to almost exclusively white crowds. This is in clear contravention to Valerie Smith’s opening comment at the same lecture, “Conventional wisdom would have it that in integrated context, members of subordinated groups stick together; like follows like.” While her comment was intended to draw a correlation between specific groups (black voters supporting black candidates), there is an obvious link in cross-demographic support, which Palin, as a women, transgressed, and, as a white person of privilege, simply ignored.

As a political progressive, I would hope that Sarah Palin never be involved in American politics again. Her ideology viscerally terrifies me and the support she seemed to cull from the most radical conservative base in America makes me extremely uneasy. Of course, “conservative,” as Johnathan Rauch points out in his Atlantic OpEd article “Mr. Conservative,” is not what it once meant. The Republican Party, and indeed the Palinite “conservatives” have betrayed the original Burkean philosophy of balanced individual liberties and social order. In many ways, I respect John McCain and his political stances, but Sarah Palin isn’t a politician; she is a gimmick. Throughout the campaign, her role was merely to re-language John McCain’s own policies in a way that more radically conservative (and often more evangelical) voters could understand as in-line with their rigid ideologies. In the process, however, she gained incredible support and admiration, which, though it was most often in deference and service to John McCain, did raise the bar for her participation in the political discourse as a woman.

In no way do I condone her fear mongering during her campaign nor do I think her own political stances have even the slightest bit of rationale. However, I must acknowledge the role her candidacy has played in bringing women’s issues into the fore of American consciousness. Her relative lack of celebrity prior to her vice presidential nomination and her very accelerated rise to fame over the course of their campaign is overshadowed in importance only by the fact that the race was so close. Had things gone slightly differently during the electoral process, John McCain would have been elected president, which would have meant Sarah Palin would have had an incredible likelihood of becoming president, given John McCain’s age and poor health (several bouts of cancer throughout the 90s into recent years). If one pauses for just a moment to consider how close this country was to a Sarah Palin presidency, especially on the heels of such a competitive race on the part of Hillary Clinton, there can be no denying that this race has had an impact on the progress of women’s participation in politics.

That being said, one wonders if this progress is for the right reason. Is there such a thing as bad progress or ill-begotten progress? It is clear to me that this race has opened and will continue to open many doors for the participation of women presidential politics, but why and at what cost? The criticism handed to Hillary Clinton during her campaign far out weighed the acknowledgment she received for her tenacity and brilliance as a politician. Conversely, Sarah Palin received an inordinate amount of praise for her poise, gentility, and good looks. Simply as a matter of political record and qualification, the two cannot be considered in the same political league, and yet it was Sarah Palin that came the closest to achieving presidential victory. So, what does this say about the American electoral process, that the greatest progress for women so far within the political sphere was not achieved by political merit, but rhetorically fashioned minstrelsy? That may sound hyperbolic, but the dangers of a $150,000 wardrobe’s influence over political discourse cannot be overlooked. Is it really progress then if achievement is based not on political savvy but a talented stylist and some fear-based rhetoric?

These questions will be answered by the next generation of female politicians. My hope is that an great number of radically brilliant women will be inspired to challenge the precedent that Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton set, and in doing so, continue to challenge the negative stereotypes that plagued both women during this election cycle. My hope is that the celebration and the discontent with the outcome of this election will create and foster new dreams that imagine greater depths of justice for our society to live up to. Some things are inevitable. Some things are only achievable if audaciously imagined. Hope for justice is not ignorance, but courage to dream into the future for a time when justice can no longer be held in the hearts of dreamers. Something is awakening in the world.

The Struggle for Civil Rights Continues

5 11 2008

By Shantelle Williams:


I feel like I need to write down what’s going being going through my mind since the mind-blowing, earth-shaking, and long-awaited results from last night.  Last night at about 8:00pm I was overwhelmed with joy.  I couldn’t stop crying and staring at the television, in disbelief. “Really?” I asked myself, “Do we REALLY have a black president?”  I called my mom, she couldn’t believe it either.  I called my 87-year-old grandmother who has seen how hatred tainted the history of this country; she was overjoyed.  After centuries of disenfranchisement against our people, the people have spoken and chosen a qualified black candidate over a pretty qualified white candidate.  If America can elect a black president, I thought to myself, what’s next?  A Latino president? An Asian President? A Native president?!! I was soooo happy just at the implications of those results, the possibilities to come,  and how people from so many different backgrounds had come together to choose the best candidate based on “the content of his character”.  When I left the Black House last night, I was walking on air, crying, hugging, and clawing my way through the crowds to get out.  Then I headed over to the LGBT Center where the atmosphere was very different.

Just as Obama’s victory is a step forward for not just blacks, but for latinos, asians, natives, and other minorities, Proposition 8’s passing is a step backward in the fight for equality for ALL.  When the civil rights of anyone is challenged, all of our civil rights are challenged.  I know there are many straight people who would say that the passing of Proposition 8 has nothing to do with them but I beg to differ.  Native Americans, the struggle of the queer community today was first and still is your struggle for equality, you from whom this land was stolen.  Black people, “stolen people on stolen land” and those from whom the motherland was stolen, the struggle of the queer community today is and has been our bi-continental struggle for justice since the first slave ships arrived on these American shores and since the first colonizers arrived on the shores of Africa.  Latinos, the struggle of the queer community today is also your struggle for immigrant rights to citizenship and equal treatment in this country.  Women, the struggle of the queer community today is and continues to be our struggle for equality in a traditionally male hegemonic society.  I could go on but I’ll spare you.  Every group has its own struggle, its own fight for equal treatment under the law in this country, THAT is the American dream.  So today I say to you, don’t be too sure that California, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida’s decisions to take away rights from queer people is unrelated to you.  Equality under the law ignores religious and straight up bigotted reservations.  You can be anti-homosexuality but pro-human rights.  Having said that, invalidating gay marriages that have already taken place and banning those that would occur in the future has everything to do with all of us.  You think your civil rights are safe and protected?  Civil rights such as the right to the pursuit of happiness could never be voted away by the people, you say?  Think again.  If Americans can vote to take away gays’ right to marriage and therefore their pursuit of happiness in loving whom they choose, whose civil rights will be in jeopardy next?

Friends, I apologize if this is a downer in our time of celebration at this historically-defining moment but don’t take this as me trying to make your sweet moment a bitter one. I only want to remind everyone that last night was a great victory but also a great disappointment in the arena of civil rights.  Please, discuss this among yourselves, be angry, don’t be angry, agree, disagree, do whatever you will but talk about it.  But know that whether you are black, white, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, male or female, you, someone you know, or someone who brought you into this world understands the struggle for equality, one that continues today.  If you understand that struggle, if you cried like I did last night when I saw a huge leap forward in that struggle when the United States elected its first black president, then you MUST understand the magnitude of the situation with Prop 8.  You must see that the passing of Prop 8 would be a huge leap backwards not just in gay rights, but in civil rights for all marginalized and historically oppressed people in this nation.  Remember that there weren’t just black people marching on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement, there were people of all colors and creeds.  Remember that the civil/labor rights movement of migrant farmers in the 60s (La Causa) for the end of exploitation, brought together Filipinos and Mexicans despite the language and cultural barrier.  Know that this struggle for equality for gays must also bring together black, asian, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, and all people whose ancestors fought for their equal rights under the law.

I’ll leave you now but I encourage all of you to write down what you’re thinking/feeling today and in the days to come because this is history.  20, 30, 40 years from now when we have a latino/black/asian/white/jewish/muslim/native president (not all in one president, although that’d be tight) you’ll be able to say that you were there when the revolution started.  And you’ll also be able to say, “oh look, here’s what I thinking as well…”  This is just my little tidbit: my thoughts the day after the victory for my people and our friends.  My thoughts in the days before the victory that is yet to come for my friends and loved ones.

Peace, love, and Obama..but moreover LOVE.

Yes We Can!

5 11 2008


Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he’s fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they’ve achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the new White House.

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother’s watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you’ve given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best — the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who’s been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn’t do this just to win an election. And I know you didn’t do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage or pay their doctors’ bills or save enough for their child’s college education.

There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done inAmerica for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That’s the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

The Crunk Bunny’s Guide to California Voting

27 10 2008

Good Evenin’, ladies and gents. The time has come. In one week, we will vote in Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. My money says he will be amongst the most famed and most loved presidents America has seen. So, needless to say, vote for Barack Obama on November 4th. Obvi.

Moving on, there are a number of critical ballot initiatives that need your attention. If you feel overwhelmed by the rhetoric and can’t decide which way to go, here’s your answer. I’ll provide a brief synopsis of what the initiatives contain and what their practical implications will be, as well as a basic argument suggesting which way you should vote. I feel fairly strongly about a few of the issues at hand, but as much as possible I’ll try and spare you the fire and brimstone. Where I feel unqualified to offer an opinion, I will refer to the organizations and individuals who endorse the bill. For example, if there was a hypothetical bill relating to food and safety guidelines and McDonald’s was giving hella money to support it while the Humane Society was against it, even if the bill looked good in some ways, I’d vote that shit down. Word? Word.

Additionally, as a point of interest, I’ll just note that there is no proposition other than 2 for which I assume a particularly strong affirmative stance. That is to say, while there are several bills that absolutely require a No vote, such as 4 and 8, there really aren’t any propositions that would kill me should they fail. That being said, both 2 and 5 would be nice, but more on that below.

If you’re looking for a quick answer and don’t want to read anything, here’s the breakdown:

Proposition One: Yes
Proposition Two: Yes
Proposition Three: Yes
Proposition Four: No
Proposition Five: Yes
Proposition Six: No
Proposition Seven: No
Proposition Eight: *Hell* No
Proposition Nine: No
Proposition Ten: No
Proposition Eleven: No
Proposition Twelve: Yes

Prop 1A- High Speed Passenger Train Bonds

Practical implications: This proposition would allocate $9.95 billion in state bonds for the construction of a high speed rail line from southern California to the SF Bay Area. 90% of the bonds are directed specifically to construction projects for the line.

Arguments: Keep in mind that a bond is not cash- it’s a loan, ie. it will cost the state about $20billion over the next 30 years considering interest, but revenues from passenger fares are expected to compensate for this cost. This proposition has been endorsed by nearly every news agency in the bay area. Furthermore, a high speed line from the bay to southern California would create a lot of new jobs and would be *hella* convenient. Saves gas, reduces dependence on oil, saves money etc. etc. Most No arguments run something along the lines of “hard economic times/education and health care should be priorities etc. etc.”. These frankly don’t hold water since their not mutually exclusive issues nor are they comparatively similar in how the state pays for them. The only thing I will say against 1A is that the 25 years it will take to construct such a rail line and the huge risk of mismanagement and corruption (a la Boston’s notorious Big Dig) do make this a somewhat tedious bill.

Answer: Yes on 1A

Prop 2- Standards for Confining Farm Animals

Practical implications: This bill literally only adjusts the regulations for farm animals so that they have sufficient room in their cages to fully extend their legs and turn around. That’s it. Read the ballot measure and I promise you it’s only a few sentences long.

Arguments: Currently there are no regulations that farm animals be allotted room enough to turn around. Such confinement has extreme deleterious effects on farm animals physical and mental health. This decreases the overall food safety and quality produced on factory farms in the name of cheaper prices. The most stringent scientific studies have verified the high content of pathogens in animals kept in factory farms. (Google it-but check the funding on the studies.) On a humane level, even if you are not a vegetarian or animal rights activist, most will agree that animals should be treated with at least the minimum amount of respect during an otherwise short life that is ultimately intended to feed our bodies. Prop 2 has been endorsed by countless organizations included the Union for Concerned Scientists, The Humane Society, Dr. Jane Goodall, and The California Veterinary Society. Opponents of Prop 2 are funded almost entirely by Factory and Commercial Farms who claim prop 2 will diminish food safety, sky rocket prices, and increase imports of foreign eggs and meats. Since the regulations don’t go into effect until 2015 (six years from now), I think these arguments are moot, given the rate of technological advancement. Farms should be able to get it together by then without destroying the market. Overall though, this is a humane issue as well as a food safety issue and Prop 2 makes small but important strides in that direction.

Answer: Yes on 2

Prop 3- Children’s Hospital Bond Act

Practical implications: Passes a $980 million bond for the construction, renovation, and equipping of Children’s hospitals, with 80% of the funds allocated specifically for hospitals specializing in the treatment of children with leukemia, cancer, heart defects, diabetes, sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.

Arguments: A 2004 initiative passed a similar bond of $750 million for improvements and renovations on children’s hospitals, a little more than half of which has been allocated. Opponents of this measure suggest that with funds still available from the 2004 measure, Prop 3 supporters are pulling on the heart strings of voters with heavy rhetoric and Sigourney Weaver playing music with children who have these atrocious diseases only to fill their own administrative pockets- this is a legitimate argument adn should be taken seriously. The bill is flawed, to be sure, and doesn’t take into account the wider reforms necessary to optimize California’s healthcare system. Furthermore, many of these hospitals are affiliated with prestigious UC schools and have other sources of funding. That being said, I’m willing to take on some financial burden for this kind of cause. While I have strong suspicions of power abuse within hospital administrations, I don’t believe withholding state funds for hospital improvements is the way to rectify that problem. Rather, a least a portion of these funds can, in fact, go to updating hospitals with the most up to date technologies that will help ease the suffering of children afflicted with terrible diseases. Furthermore, everyone and their mom has endorsed Prop 3. Only strict fiscally conservative assembly people and a few conservative journals have opposed it.

Answer: Yes on 3

Prop 4- Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

NB: This is the first measure on the ballot that amends the sate constitution (ie. big deal. closes the functional debate on this issue).

Practical implications: This proposition requires that a physician notify the parents of a pregnant unemancipated minor 48 hours prior to giving an abortion. In cases of abuse, the physician is permitted to contact a family member in lieu of the parent and is required to file an abuse report with the proper authorities. The minor can also petition juvenile court for a waiver if she demonstrates sufficient maturity and best interests. Any physician violating these new requirements would be subject to civil suit and penalization.

Arguments: The nuances to this proposition are complicated and hotly debated. Basically it’s a battle between pro-choice organization like Planned Parenthood who argue that parental notification further endangers young pregnant girls and pro-Life organizations who are attempting to subtly legislate against abortion. Both have intense rhetoric surrounding young girls safety, with the Yes side stating that current laws do not adequately protect against predators and the No side arguing that notification requirements would complicate the situation of girls living in dangerous households, and (i think rightly) further suggesting that it’s absurd to expect a young recently pregnant minor to advocate for herself in juvenile court. What tips the balance for me is the slander-laden attacks by the Yes side on Planned Parenthood, which makes the transparency of this incognito pro-life campaign obvious. Young pregnant girls need a neutral safe space in which to discuss their options and receive counseling- not a beaurocratic mess that makes an already emotionally distressed teenager more pressured. Legislating family notification of any kind will detrimentally preclude that safety in dangerous household situations. Current laws already require reporting of abuse to law enforcement- that point should not be included in this discussion. No on Prop 4 has been endorsed by countless medical practitioners, most importantly by many prominent women’s health and OB/GYN organizations in the state. Yes on prop 4 has substantially less support, mostly from conservative school districts and public offices.

Answer: No on Prop 4

I suggest reading the actual legislation. The material is dense and alluring, but requires substantial thought to really grok. The pro-4 campaign is HIGHLY rhetorical and uses stories instead of argument or statistics to sway voters. Unfortunately the no on 4 campaign isn’t too much better (at least in the voter’s information guide), but at the very least has more thorough logic. I think you’ll agree, in the end, a constitutional amendment to this effect is not was is called for in order to keep young girls safe.

Prop 5- Non Violent Drug Offenses- Sentencing, Parole, and Rehabilitation

Practical implications: $460 million in drug treatment expansion for at risk youth convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. It also substantially limits parole, from 3 years to six months, in some cases, and expands parole in others. It also adjusts sentencing and incarceration terms.

Arguments: This is one of those bills that I feel unqualified to opine upon. Opponents call it the “Drug Dealers Bill of rights” and proponents laud the nearly $2.5 billion in potential state savings. I happen to think the No on 5 campaign has a better structure to their argument, but the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has endorsed the Yes campaign. I tend to think they know what’s up, since Van Jones is my hero and Ella Baker Center leads the battle in prison reform. So, while I think the No on 5 campaign has legitimate arguments, and I’m highly skeptical of the new “Diversion” tracks the bill implements for repeat offenders, I think the overall shift from prison sentencing to rehabilitation and parole is a good one. Hopefully this bill will be a critical step in prison reform and treatment for young drug users.

Answer: Yes on 5

Prop 6-Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Criminal Penalties and Laws. Initiative Statute.

Practical Implications:Provides nearly $1 billion each year for Police, District Attorneys, jails and juvenile probation centers. Makes 30 revisions to California criminal laws relating to gang crimes, as well as creates several new laws which carry the potential for life sentences.

Arguments: This is an exorbitantly expensive bill for ill-guided, ineffective reform. It’s endorsed and authored almost exclusively by conservative law makers and counties who believe the only way to effectively fight crime is throwing people (predominantly of color) in prison. Most importantly, this money is *Locked Away*, which is to say it cannot be touched even during a financial crisis (like….now). It increases every year automatically. With a state deficit of over $15 billion and California spending nearly 4 times more on prisoners than students, this bill is ludicrously irresponsible. Not to mention ineffective. None of its purported gang related reforms have been proven to decrease crime, nor is there any oversight or accountability. Furthermore, it takes money *away* from programs that have been proven to be effective. This money should go to schools and education not overcrowding California’s prisons. Duh.

Answer: No on 6

Prop 7- Renewable Energy Generation

Practical Implications: Requires utilities to produce 20% of the power from renewable sources by 2010, 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025.

Arguments: Yay! Renewable Energy! Wait. Hooold Up. Proposition 7 sounds great, looks great, but upon closer inspection is being fought by almost every environmental group including the Natural Resource Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Really? Environmental Groups fighting renewable energy? Hmmmm. Sounds fishy. Upon closer inspection, the good intentions of this bill are undermined by its poor authorship. In short, clean energy competition would get slammed, small businesses would be forced out of the market, and bureaucracy would get out of control through an arbitrary shift in oversight from the California Public Utilities Commission to the California Energy Commission. Both the Democratic and Republican parties oppose this bill, which was written and sponsored by an out-of-state billionaire. Boo out-of-state billionaires. Boooo.

Answer: No on 7

Prop 8-Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

NB: This is another constitutional amendment initiative. Ie. Game-closer, discussion-ender, duct-tape-over-the-mouth kind of deal.

Practical Implications: Just what the title says: Eliminates the right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.

Arguments: There are no valid arguments in favor of this initiative. It literally writes discrimination into California’s state constitution and creates separate, albeit similar, rights for domestic partnership. It can only be seen as an attempt to demean, degrade, and demonize queer relationships. All of the arguments in favor of prop 8 were used, in identical rhetorical fashion, to deny interracial marriage. Everyone who has endorsed it is affiliated with a radical evangelical organization, since there is no secular argument whatsoever that can hold water in favor of prop 8. The language used by the Yes on 8 campaign regarding children safety is nothing other than thinly veiled hate speech designed to perpetuate intolerance and division and has been denounced by California Superintendent of Schools. Obama and Schwarzenegger both oppose it. Here’s video goodness to help ease the decision making process:

Answer: Absolutely No on Prop 8

Prop 9-Criminal Justice System. Victim’s Rights. Parole. Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Practical Implications: Requires notification for Victim and consideration of victim’s family during the criminal justice process. Requires that victims be notified of their constitutional rights.

Arguments: This bill changes very little in the state’s judiciary process. California passed the Victim’s Bill of Rights in 1982, which establishes many of the same requirements of prop 9. Opponents of this bill ask why duplication is necessary. The problem with this bill is it provides too much influence on the part of victims in the justice process. We have independent juries for a reason, which is why victims don’t get a say in the punishment of their perpetrators. Ostensibly, this bill would simply keep prisoners in jail longer and reduce chances of parole. It is opposed by the same coalition opposed to prop 6 and supported by one guy and his friends.

Answer: No on 9.

Prop 10-Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy. Bonds

Practical Implications: Grants nearly $5 billion in general bonds for research into alternative fuel technologies and renewable energy. Provides rebates for consumers who purchase high-fuel efficiency vehicles.

Arguments: *Sigh*. This is another wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Bill, funded by Texas Oil Tycoon T. Boone Pickens, notable supporter of George W. Bush and 117th wealthiest man in America. To be fair, that does not immediately discredit the bill. However, this is not conservation or regulation oriented in any way. It is an incentive bill to encourage consumers to buy more natural gas and oil dependent vehicles and it sounds good because of the “clean energy” ethos it creates. Note: natural gas is not a clean energy alternative. The bill contains no real reform or functional regulation, but does indebt the state a whopping $10 billion. Perfectly timed to decrease funding for schools and social programing when the state is $15 billion in the hole. This bill is again opposed by every environmental and conservation group you’ve heard of. Boo hiss miss-representation!

Answer: No on Prop 10

Prop 11-Redistricting

Practical Implications: Changes the authority of redistricting from representatives to newly established 14-person board of review. Requires bipartisan vote for approval.

Arguments: The bickering over this bill is silly. Neither camp is straight forward and neither camp has clear intentions. I would almost suggest abstaining a vote on this one. The argument in favor suggests that an independent commission would end the conflict of interest facing representatives who have authority over redistricting, since redistricting is about power. Duh. Opponents suggest this takes away a voters say in redistricting and puts it in the hands of bureaucrats. Opponents also say prop 11 is convoluted and mysterious with little accountability for fiscal expenditures going to consultants and lawyers. I kind of agree. In the end, it’s unclear who is right and I honestly can’t tell from endorsements. My gut tells me No, so I’m going with that.

Answer: No on Prop 11

Prop 12- Veterns’ Bond Act

Practical Implications: $900 million in bonds would go to Cal-Vet program to help veterens purchase homes and farms.

Arguments: There is literally only one dude, Gary Wesley, who opposes this bill because he believes only combat veterans should be eligible for Cal-Vet loans. Someone should probably take his computer away.

Answer: Yes on 12

Thus concludeth The Crunk Bunny’s Guide to California Voting. Feel free to leave a constructive comment below if you feel that I’ve erred in my reasoning.

And now for an unrelated video: