Saturday, June 27, 2009

It Don't Matter if You're Black or White...or Maybe It Does

I'm already tired of the coverage. The second full day after Michael Jackson's sudden and surprising death, and it is still a half-page headline on Today's "big news?" His body has been moved to the mortuary. Really? I mean, I understand the mourning period, and he was an amazingly talented man...but the media is keeping the coverage alive simply for ratings, that much is by now clear.

And yet here I am, writing one of what I'm sure are countless blog posts regarding his passing. But mine is not to review his greatest hits or greatest dance moves or to lament the untimely loss of such a great entertainer. No, I'm interested in the reactions other people had to his death--and the differences I saw in race among those reactions.

*Disclaimer: this is in no way a scientific survey, but instead just a commentary on what I noticed on my Facebook (800+ "friends") and Twitter (following 1800+) streams.

See, if there was a news posting or Tweet that wasn't about MJ, it was in the extreme minority. Everybody was talking about it. Most were the standard: RIP MJ, etc. Basically just acknowledging it. There were those in shock, who wondered if it were really true. There were those who seemed to go into deep mourning, with messages of lament and loss of a childhood icon, a hero gone. And there were those who flat out said they felt no sorrow, who made (in my opinion) tasteless jokes, who were proud to say they were happy he was gone. The difference between those last two groups--those in lament and those in ambivilance or joy? Race.

Those who seemed to mourn the most, to enter into reflection on MJ's influence on our culture, and to appreciate what he had contributed to the world, were mostly people of color. Those who made jokes about naked children, who celebrated the "death of a pedophile," who proclaimed no sadness at the loss, were white.

I'm not sure why this surprised me, but it did. Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that MJ had his issues. The first thing I prayed for after learning of his death was that he'd found peace and freedom from his demons. But there is also no denying what a genius--and I don't use that word lightly--he was, not only in music and dance, but marketing, publicity, and fashion (hello, one glove?).

And I'm not sure why there's such a disparity. Of course I expected a mix of reactions, given his controversial life, but to have negative reactions be on such a clear racial lines...?

Then again, perhaps it's not that only white people viewed him that negatively, but that people of color, and especially those in the black community, felt they would be lambasted if they reacted that way to such an icon.

I don't have answers, just observations. If anyone can provide insight or noticed the same, please share!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

An African is Not Just a Brown White Person

I got all excited just now poking around Etsy, "window" shopping for stuff for my as-yet-to-be-found new place, when I came across these pillows.

I was just ready to add them to my favorites when I took a second look. Something wasn't right. And then I realized: these are not the silhouettes of Africans.
Ok, now I know that there are white people in Africa...but these silhouettes are, in my opinion, not meant to be of white Africans. They are composed of brown fabric, and the accessories are clearly meant to be, ahem, "ethnic." They are meant to be native Africans. They're not.

I know I'm probably treading into sticky territory here, but their features are clearly white. The one that clued me in first was the male. Look at his hair! All of them have pointy, up-turned noses and itty bitty mouths. Now, I'm not saying they should go overboard and end up with with the type of caricatures that commonly portrayed Africans and those of African heritage in the past, but let's be real.

The problem goes back to the fact that white people are still the standard, the norm, not just in our society, but globally. So a silhouette of a white person (since you can't see the skin color) can be made African by making it brown. Dolls can be made "diverse" just by changing the color of their skin and leaving all other features the same (if they even move beyond simply blonde hair and brown hair).

Of course, race isn't the only place where this happens. Gender, too, brings it out. Only just now are companies researching how drugs affect women differently than men--usually, women were just treated as smaller men. Um...NO.

A woman is not just a man without a penis,
and an African is not simply a white person with brown skin.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I Tweet

I am a Twitter user. I have an application on my computer to use it more easily than on the web. It's my second--the first one bit the dust when I accidentally turned off the power strip and therefore my computer in the middle of using it. I haven't figured out how to fix it, and so I let it go, though I miss some things it could do.

But I use Twitter. Many people, when they find this out, if they even know what Twitter is, ask me about it. Why--isn't it basically the same thing as Facebook (which I also obsessively devotedly use)? Who cares what people are having for breakfast? Doesn't it take away from "real" realtionships? So here's my explanation.

First: no, it's not the same as Facebook. There are few photos (and you have to click a link to see them), no applications or quizzes, and you are limited to 140 characters. Period. Even in your private messages. It varies from person to person, but I actually have very little overlap between my "friends" on Facebook and my "followers" on Twitter. What overlap there is generally from people I know on FB opening accounts on Twitter, not the other way around. I have one exception--a lovely woman who I "met" on Twitter who I then friended on FB.

Most of the people that are my FB friends I actually know in "real life." Most of my followers/those I'm following on Twitter I do not.

Second: Very few people I know actually use their 140 characters to answer Twitter's question, "What are you doing?" and give you a play-by-play of their activities for the day. If they do, it's because that's what on their mind at the moment and they want to share it in addition to the rest of their more significant "Tweets." People use Twitter to rally to causes, engage in discussion, network, find and give support, "meet" people with similar interests, and break news. Some examples: many people on Twitter (myself included) have bathed our pictures in green in support of the people if Iran; yesterday the Today Show was asking people on Twitter for information about the pilot who died mid-flight; when the toddler of a "mommy blogger" died suddenly of an infection, the news traveled quickly and Twitter lit up with supportive messages.

Third: These are relationships. Often I don't even know the real names of the people with whom I tweet, just their usernames, but I include them in prayers, joke and cry with them, ask and give information and opinions. My face-to-face and otherwise real-world relationships come first, as they should. But there are real people behind each avatar and username, and while there are many just on there to get as many followers as possible and feel popular, or to build and market their consulting businesses, there are just as many who are there to connect and interact, and they are all so different!

In my small corner of the world, how much opportunity do I have to daily interact with sexologists, conservative and progressive Christians, Etsy sellers, atheists, celebrities (some do actually reply), politicians, stay-at-home moms, eco-gurus, savvy aunties, news groups, activists, farmers, non-profits, and family members? The people I interact with are all over the country and the world (we often say good morning/afternoon/evening to cover the many time zones) and from so many different viewpoints and places in life, and they just fascinate me!

And apparently, I must interest some of them too: this week I surpassed 1500 followers.

So, in many more than 140 characters, this is why I use Twitter.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

You know you're really "in" something when... dream it. A Spanish teacher of mine used to get so excited when one of us would come in and say we'd dreamt in Spanish. That meant we were getting it, he'd tell us. Even if in class or doing homework, our conscious minds struggled to remember conjugations and vocab words, our sub-conscious was latching on to it and reproducing it while we slept.

This happened to me a few times in seminary when I was really immersed in something. I'd dream of a theologian, or of preaching.

And now, I feel like I'm really digging in to fabric art. My proof? I had a dream last night about tie-dying a whole bunch of fabric green.

Now, that may not seem like much, but it's about creating, about taking control of my art by not simply using fabric that's already been designed for me, but making my own. I also did it utilizing a skill I've had since I was a Girl Scout--perhaps my subconscious telling me that I don't need to go out and learn all these new techniques, that already I possess the ability to create these pieces.

This past week I finally opened my stole/liturgical "lovelies" shop on Etsy. It's wonderful and scary and feels just right. Recently I've been just overflowing with ideas for new stoles, so many I'm going to have to try them out over the course of months!

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