Thursday, 29 October 2009

I'm in Brazil, and I'm not Coming Back to the USA!

Monday, October 26, 2009

(Editor's Note: The following post comes from Francis L. Holland. A fellow Afrospear member who blogs over at The Francis L. Holland Blog as well as an assortment of great sites.Checkout how he breaks it down as he attempts to broaden your world view a bit.)

People here in Bahia, Brazil often ask me why I’ve come to live in a “Third World” country when I could live in the United States, where I was born, educated, and practiced law. I guess the simplest way to explain it is in terms of what drove me away, how I got to Brazil, and what makes me stay here.

When I lived in the United States, I was so depressed that I didn’t want to live anymore, even though I was becoming increasingly more recognized among immigration lawyers and non-profit program managers, was earning a good salary and drove a new car . . . I felt empty and lonely inside and didn’t want to be alive any more. I sought psychiatric help, but often the biggest barrier to care was the cheap-ass American insurance companies I had, even as a managing attorney in a large corporation. My doctors had to lie and say I was suicidal, even during weeks when I was feeling better, in order for my care to be covered.

Instead of just ending it all, I decided to do something equally dramatic. I enrolled in a USA university’s French language program and applied to learn French on the French Riviera, while living off student loans. In France, all of my medical care for my psychiatric illness was 100% covered by my French government insurance, which cost me about three hundred dollars a year. The Government also paid 30% of my apartment rent, because I was a student. I began to see more and more that the USA just isn’t “the best country in the world”, compared to what many other countries offer to their citizens and even to foreign students..

After 30 months in France, I was getting along quite well in French and was even enrolled in a doctoral program for international law. I had a doctoral thesis project and had passed a number of law courses taught entirely in French. Once again, though, I came to feel empty and purposeless in spite of the doctoral program, university friends, and an apartment near the beach. The depression and suicidal thoughts came back like a flock of locusts that won’t leave even after the fields have been picked dry.

One negative thing about my personality is that as soon as I learn to do something competently, then I don’t want to do it anymore. I constantly need new challenges, if only because confronting them distracts me from inner loneliness and emptiness. I couldn’t feel happy anymore in France. By 2003, with the Bush Administration’s ballooning war deficit devaluing the US dollar overseas, I just couldn’t afford to live in there anymore, and I thought that I had seen all that I would see there.

So, I researched countries where the US dollar was more valuable and took a bus to Krakov, Poland, where I contracted for an apartment much less expensive than the one in France, and returned to France to gather my things. (I was one of only three Black people I saw during a week in Poland, but I thought I could handle that.)

It was at this point that an Italian friend returned to France from a vacation in Brazil, accompanied by the most beautiful and enchanting young Portuguese-speaking girlfriend imaginable. Together they convinced me that I would be much happier in Brazil, where there is great Afro-Brazilian food, Samba, Pagode and Axé music and dance, Afro-Brazilian culture and heritage, and a uniquely Brazilian martial arts form called, Capoeira. The dollar went a long way, they assured me.

They convinced me that I would surely find the woman of my dreams in Brazil and begin a family, even with financial resources that in France were laughable. (A Coca Cola at a beach restaurant in Brazil costs one dollar, but it costs seven dollars in France, not including the fifteen dollar French charge just for occupying a beach chair.)

After some Internet research, I decided to give Brazil a chance. I sold everything I had (car, kayaks, law books, tools, stove and dishwasher) and was able to buy a ticket to Brazil, with two hundred dollars to spare. I couldn’t afford to travel for a mere visit to Brazil, while continuing to pay rent and monthly expenses in France. So, I had to jump into Brazil with both feet or not at all.

Brazil, I discovered, is a country of 200 million people, so large that it “occupies nearly half of South America” and is and is the fourth most populous democracy in the world. With a hundred million Black and brown people, (1/2 the population) Brazil has the largest Black presence outside of Africa itself, including:

7.4% classifying themselves as preto (black skin color) and 42.3% as pardo (brown color). The latter classification is broad and encompasses Brazilians of mixed ancestry. A caboclo is a term used in Brazil describing a person of mixed Indigenous peoples in Brazil and White people descent. In Brazil, a caboclo is a specific type of mestizos . . . making the total 49.5%. The largest concentration of Afro-Brazilians is in the state of Bahia where over 80% of the people are descendants of Africans. Absolute Astronomy

If you have never been to a part of the world where Black people and our culture are in the majority, it’s hard even to imagine how freeing it is. It’s wonderful to walk into a store or restaurant and not have anyone wondering, “What is HE doing here,” because most of the people are Black and there is nothing remarkable about your skin color. It’s wonderful to have all commerce stop for a week in February for Carnival, which is an intense national multicultural celebration of Black culture.

When I arrived in Brazil, a childhood friend who is now a psychiatrist diagnosed my mental illness as “post-traumatic slavery syndrome,” exacerbated by the constant pressure of being Black in the USA. Like a burn victim who can’t recover until he gets out of the fire, I couldn’t begin to recover from living in United States until I was living somewhere else. I thought he was crazy, but it makes sense to me now.

In Bahia, where 80% of the population is Afro-descendant, the official culture is Afro-Brazilian, with Afro-Brazilian dance and music daily featured on television, and real discussions occurring about what this culture means and how it evolved, and how it is a force for growth now and in our future. Here, Afro-Brazilian music and beats play on the streets, in beachside restaurants, in clubs . . . virtually everywhere.

Lunches and dinners of black beans and rice, okra and sweet pumpkin, fried fish, grits and jambalaya would make many Black Americans feel more at home here than in my native Massachusetts. And the variety of fruits here is simply amazing.

Brazil still has obvious skin-color aroused problems, but it also has laws to protect Blacks from the worst affronts to our dignity. Article 3, Sections XLI and XLII of the Brazilian Constitution say:

The Law will punish all discrimination against fundamental rights and liberties. [including the fundamental right not to be subject to discrimination.] The practice of racism constitutes a crime not subject to bail, and subject to imprisonment, according to the terms of the law.
In Brazil, whites have no First-Amendment “right” to call Blacks “monkeys” or the “N” word, or to insist that we are genetically inferior. Instead, that sort of behavior elicits the virtual guarantee a swift arrest, particularly when there are witnesses or other convincing evidence that the law against “racism” has been violated.

(Compare that to my experience walking with a white woman in Providence, Rhode Island, and having two white men scream from a pickup truck, “What are you doing walking with that “N” word?!” In the United States, I had no legal recourse; those whites had a Constitutional right to say that to us, which makes me strongly question the “wisdom” and intent of the Foundering Fathers.)

In this part of Brazil, it is so common to see multi-colored groups of tourists and bi-chromatic couples that the term “interracial” doesn’t even make sense here. At least 50% of the population has “interracial” ancestry and comes from a polychromatic family. So, to see a beige and a brown person together and call them “interracial” is like saying San Francisco and Los Angelos are interstate cities. With so many white-skinned Brazilians who have one Black parent and a Black cousin, the strict belief in “race” doesn’t carry the weight that it does in the United States. My kids say its “racist” to consider differences in skin color when deciding whom to date and marry.

The relationship between Blacks and police is different in much of Brazil as well. In the US, we Blacks immediately sense trouble when we see police officers, regardless of their skin color. When whites say, “The police are your friends,” we just roll our eyes in disgust. In Brazil, both the death penalty and life imprisonment are unconstitutional.

In the state of Bahia, by contrast, the majority of police officers are Black, and they walk among the rest of us like neighbors and friends, rather than like the occupying force they are in our United States communities. For example, there are four SWAT-like police officers who live in our condominium complex and all are Black. They carry machine guns and automatic weapons, but we are not their targets. They are our neighbors – not beasts of prey who travel to the inner-city from their suburban homes each day.

It took me probably a year in Brazil to stop automatically fearing police, but now I see Brazilian police as citizens, like members of any other profession. Young and handsome Black men and women. I have a close friend who is graduating from the police academy, sponsored by another mutual friend of ours. In Brazil, I don’t feel like, as a Black man, I am being hunted, targeted and under siege anymore.

Blacks are better integrated into Brazil’s voting population, and voting is far easier here than it is in the United States. In fact, it’s a requirement that Brazilian citizens vote, or explain why they were unable to do so. Therefore Brazilian politicians have to spend their efforts convincing the electorate, rather than manipulating and discouraging Black turnout on Election Day.

The poor seem as likely to vote as the rich, and the Blacks as likely as whites, which is a fact manifested in the election of President Lula Ignacio Lula da Silva, who once lost a finger when he was a machinist; who went on to lead the machinists’ union; and then won the presidency on his third candidacy. If Lula has his way, the next president of Brazil will be the first woman president, and will continue Lula’s social policies, including free medical care for all, and designated seats for Blacks and the poor at the nation’s universities.

I’m not as lonely here. In 2005, I married an Afro-Brazilian woman, and I have three adolescent step-children, God help me. I’ve shared with my wife my and my family’s experiences with color-arousal in the United States, but my wife asks me not to tell her the news I report in my Police Brutality Blog and Electrocuted While Black blog. She says hearing those accounts just leaves her angry and disgusted.

As someone who suffers from chronic depression, readily accessible medical care and medication are essential to me. In Brazil there is a national government system of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies that provide free medical care regardless of who you are (Brazilian or foreigner) and without inquiring about income, social status, or requesting payment of any kind.

If you have a serious car accident in Brazil with multiple injuries, you can be treated at a Government hospital without any insurance and without receiving a bill afterward. Health workers even visit patient’s homes to remind them of appointments.

Because I struggle with depression, I need to see a psychiatrist at least every two months for a fresh medication prescription. Unlike the United States, where there were co-pays and limits on treatment visits, and where I had to pay for medications out-of-pocket, the doctors at the neighborhood clinics here see me here for free, and I receive the medications I need for free at the same government clinics. Nonetheless, because of poverty and its attendant risk factors, Brazil’s overall infant mortality rate is almost four times higher than that of the United States. And abortion is illegal.

Many Brazilians idealize the USA, mostly because they’ve never had to actually live there. They would never imagine that USA for-profit hospitals secretly dump uninsured patients on the streets in front of homeless shelters. They couldn’t imagine waiting six weeks to see a dentist or paying a thousand dollars for a root canal, since dentists here have walk-in availability and charge only $150.00 for a root canal.

Instead of paying through the nose in the United States for dental care, it’s often cheaper to fly to Brazil, have a dental vacation, and return home with money to spare. Brazilians couldn’t even imagine going to the emergency room for a broken arm and getting a five thousands dollars invoice afterward. Invoices and credit card swipers don’t exist in Brazil’s national health care system.

There’s something about the dignity and creativity of Brazilians that impresses me: Poor Black people have far more autonomy in Bahia than in the United States. Many Blacks who would be suffering unemployment in the US with their level of education are instead running their own businesses in Bahia, selling and fixing bicycles, motorcycles and cars, owning restaurants, bed and breakfasts and Internet cafés, making and selling art works from jewelry to African-inspired clothing and sculptures . . .

The imagination and self-determination of Afro-Brazilians makes me proud to have brown skin, when I see us selling fresh coconut water, carving human heads from coconuts, and using dried coconut shells to make and sell colorful necklaces and earrings. Instead of sound trucks, humble Brazilians have massive sound systems mounted on bicycles. They advertise their clients’ wares and effectively have their own businesses.

Even though I lived in the US for 37 years and in Brazil for only five, I know far more self-employed Blacks here than I did in the United States. In Bahia, there are fewer rules and less regulation to prevent a person from starting a business in his home or on the street.

Brazil reminds me of my African roots. If you want to “Free Your African Hair”, there are self-employed men and women who work at booths or stools in the streets of Bahia, waiting to braid your hair for twenty dollars or less. They also braid white tourists’ hair.

Yes, Brazil has its problems. Basic sanitation like sewers and running water are lacking in the poorest neighborhoods of many cities, and criminals parade with impunity. Public education is sometimes as lousy and precarious as it is in US cities, and many young people who can’t find jobs turn to selling drugs instead, with the attendant murders and other crimes.

The murder rate is four times higher in Brazil than in the US, according to the US State Department, with heavily armed drug cartels battling each other and often defeating police on the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. These cartels burn buses (after emptying them) and destroy the police’s armored cars and helicopters with high-powered rifles and grenades. Innocent Brazilians die daily when they’re caught in the crossfire.

Just as the rich in the USA help themselves to public monies through the military-industrial complex, and prison industry, much of Brazilian state and national budgets is lost to embezzlement by government officials and their associates. Hundreds of millions of dollars just disappear while local mayors literally build castles for themselves and fly about in helicopters, taking their families to Europe on their Government expense accounts. But Brazil is not at war with any country, and the rich steal peacefully – not by starting wars of imperialism.

Brazil is a lot of fun and Carnival is coming. If you visit Brazil, here are a few tips:

If you come to Brazil, bring a little extra money and get all of your root canals and crowns done in a week or two, for 20% of what it would cost in the United States.

Most stories of tourists losing their passports and money start with the phrase, “I was just having a few beers . . .” When you’re navigating a new culture and language it’s better to do so sober, like flying a plane.

In Brazil, drug dealers will sell you baking soda as blow, and then kill you if you are foolish enough to return and complain.

Prostitutes may well drug you and then take all of your money. Thieves and com men target foreigners who look, dress and act like wealthy tourists, so stop at a cheap clothing store and dress yourself up like the humble Brazilians you see on the street. If strangers call out to you, “amigo” or “Americano”, it’s best to get the hell away from them as quickly as possible. They know what (they think) you have, and they want it.
What still needs a world of work here is national television. There is one television show with twenty women dancing behind the host, and sometimes only one of the twenty is has brown skin. An advertisement for the new Salvador Shopping Mall in the capital of this 80% Black state has over fifty photos of models as shoppers, but none of the shoppers are Black. How does that happen in a country that is half Black?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

"The Low Cost of Being Racist (sic)"

In an article entitled "The Low Cost of Being Racist", by Karnythia at the blog, "The Angry Black Woman: Race, Politics, Gender, Sexuality, Anger" blog points to a case in Taos, New Mexico as an example of "racism". A white man bought a hotel in this mostly Latino town and then told Latino workers that their names had to be anglicized, and could no longer be pronounced as would be appropriate in their native language, and as they had been called all their lives, at work and at home.

According to Yahoo News,

The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.

No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.

Whitten's management style had worked for him as he's turned around other distressed hotels he bought in recent years across the country.

The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed. Yahoo News.

Although I understand Karnythia's concern with "racism", there is a fundamental futility in calling people and their behavior "racist":

New Mexico's anti-discrimination law does not use the word "racist" and does not forbid being a "racist". Instead, the anti-discrimination statute forbids acts and practices based on race . . . color . . . national origin . . . ancestry . . .

28-1-7. Unlawful discriminatory practice.

It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for: A. an employer, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification or other statutory prohibition, to refuse to hire, to discharge, to promote or demote or to discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, physical or mental handicap or serious medical condition, or, if the employer has fifty or more employees, spousal affiliation; provided, however, that 29 U.S.C. Section 631(c)(1) and (2) shall apply to discrimination based on age; or, if the employer has fifteen or more employees, to discriminate against an employee based upon the employee's sexual orientation or gender identity;

Since the employee's names are virtually inseparable from their "national origin" and "ancestry," to oblige Hispanics to anglicize and stop using their given names seems a like discrimination to me. And I believe I have read some caselaw to that effect although I don't remember the citations.

So, is Whitten "racist"? What difference does it make, if our laws do not provide for treatment or punishment for being racist? Like diagnosing someone with "bipolar disorder" and "schizophrenia", "racist" is a diagnosis that cannot be proved based on one act of illegal color-aroused discrimination. As with alcoholism, you need a case history, access to medical records, discussion with family . . . No one should be psychiatrically diagnosed, e.g. an "alcoholic" on the basis on one night of drinking.

Does that mean they should not be punished for their behavior? Absolutely not! If drivers drives drunk, then they can should be penalized not because they are alcoholics, a determination which is more in the realm of medicine that law, and which determination would require expert testimony and weeks of testimony. No, they should be punished not for what they are, but for what they did. The should be punished because they drove drunk, which is a determination that does not require expert testimony.

Laws typically prohibit what people do, not what they are. Even laws that declare someone to be a sex offender based the sex-offender characterization on on individual convictions, based on proven sex offenses. Statutes specify exactly what behavior leads to a determination that a convict is a sex offender.

Is anyone aware of a law under which three acts of discrimination qualify the offender as a "racist"? That doesn't exist, and I don't think it will anytime soon, if only because "racist" is a psyhchiatric determination rather than a legal one.

There is a fundamentally distinction between proving what someone is and what someone has done. A law professor once told me to be careful not to exaggerate my own "burden of proof." Don't say, for example, "The prosecution will prove that Mr. Rapist is the most hideous rapist in the state." Don't say that to the jury because even if the jury find that Mr. Rapist has commited one act of rape, that same jury might use the burden of proof that you suggested - "most hideous rapist" - and find that there is reasonable doubt on the question of "most hideous". That would be a shame since "most hideous" is not a criteria necessary for a rape conviction.

Back to Larry Whitten, the hotel owner. If we propose to prove that Whitten should be punished by the Government because he is a "racist," then we will fail because:

(a) Being a "racist" is not against the law, and

(b) Even if being a "racist" were against the law, you would need expert testimony from psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and even linguists to prove that Whitten is a racist. Aren't discrimination cases hard enough already without assuming this immensely higher burden of proof?

When we assume that we have to prove that someone "is a racist" in order for anything to be done about their behavior, we effectively increase our own burden of proof from:
(a) proving what they have done, to

(b) proving what they are in their essence.
Many of us cannot describe ourselves cogently, much less convince an all-white judge or jury that one or three or five actions of discrimination. That's a determination that a legislature would have to make by legislating the number and kind of acts which, once proven, make a person a "racist."

Here's an analogy: to convict someone of shoplifting, do you have to prove that they have a long-established tendency to steal from stores, or is it enough to show that they stole from one store one time? Should we change the law to increase the burden of proof, requiring the state to prove that the defendant is a shoplifter. If so, how many instances of shoplifting must the prosecutor compile, and what additional psychiatric information would be required before the state can arrest someone for being a thief?

Must a prosecutor prove that the person who raped a woman is a rapist, or only that he raped someone on one occasion? Is it unfair to punish someone for "just one rape"? Shouldn't we wait unti the have committed a series of rapes, and until there is a consensus among the talk show hosts, before we put them in jail, having determined that all of their rapes together prove that they are a rapist? Is so, then every man can commit one or two rapes with impunity, because one or two rapes, without more, don't prove that he is a rapist.

What we're really talking about is whether someone has to be proved to be a serial rapist before they can be charged and convicted of one rape? And whether someone has to be a serial violator of anti-discrimation laws before the can be charged with discrimination. After arguing over the definition of "racist" for half a century, it should be obvious to us that it is much easier to prove what someone has done on a particular day, with witnesses present, than it is to prove what someone is.

The problem with calling people "racist" is that "racist" is a high bar to clear, and requires a strong burden of proof on the person making the accusation. It's fair to ask, how can you tell from this one circumstance that the person's manner of interacting with Latinos is consistently and chronically antagonistic based on the "race" of the victim?

The truth is, it really doesn't matter whether Larry Whitten is a "racist" or not. It seems likely to me that under New Mexico's anti-discrimination law, Whitten would be found to have engaged in unlawful discrimination in this instance, because he forbids people to use the names that inherently identify them with their color, national origin and ancestry. Just stating that rule, orally or in writing, is sufficient at least to file a claim under the anti-discrimination, because to fail to file a claim will mean acquisence to a long series of violations of the statute.

Here's an analogy: Your child takes ten dollars out of your pocketbook to buy candy. You say he is a thief and must be punished. He retorts, "I have stolen in this once instance, but that doesn't prove that I steal all the time, in the past and into the future. I am guilty of one act of theft, but that is not enough for me to deserve a spanking. You must prove that I am a thief.

According to Merriam Websters Online Dictionary:
Pronunciation: \ˈthēf\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural thieves \ˈthēvz\
Etymology: Middle English theef, from Old English thēof; akin to Old High German diob thief
Date: before 12th century

: one that steals especially stealthily or secretly; also : one who commits theft or larceny

So, your child argues that he has stolen once, but that does not prove that he is "one who steals" habitually. And so he isn't a thief and cannot be punished for one mere act of theft.

And so you say to your child, "You are right." I don't have enough information to determine that you have dedicated your life to an unyielding pattern of thievery. So I agree that it would be unfair to punish you for stealing $10.00 from me. I agree to wait until you have stolen so many times that you meet the definition of "one who steals" rather than the lower burden of proof of "one who has stolen."

Now, your child has you beaten. There is no one anywhere who can specify the number of times and quantity of money stolen necessary to prove, to everyone's satisfaction, that your child is a thief. That's why the law against theft focuses on what the defendant has done, rather than on what he is as a person.

Remember: we do not need to prove that someone is a rapist; we only need to prove that they comitted ONE act of rape. Likewise, we do not have to prove that Larry Whitten is a racist and doing so would have no legal effect even if it were possible. We only need to prove that he committed one or more unlawful acts of discrimination.

It is not illegal to be a "racist", even in Brazil where there is a law that specifically forbids acts of racism. The law forbids acts, not vaguel or completely undefined existential states. This is why we need to stop calling people "racists", setting a high evidentiary bar that we can never clear. We need to show how individual acts and patterns of acts constitute violations of anti-discrimination laws. If those laws do not forbid the acts that most offend us, then we need new laws. But, we'll never get a law that punishes people for what they are rather than for what they do.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

First we discover from conclusive mapping of the entire human genome that "race" does not exist in any way that can be identified by science. Then we elect a president whose skin-color is a mixture of that of his white mother and his African father, and whose "race" can only be determined with reference to the "one drop" rule: Anyone with a drop of Black DNA (that is visible to the human eye) belongs to the black "race".

Now, we discover at the Root Magazine that Michelle Obama has a great-great-great grandaddy who was white, which make Michelle herself biologically a member of white white family whom she never knew, as well as a member of the Black family in which she was raised:
First Lady Michelle Obama’s maternal third-great-grandfather was a white man who fathered Melvinia Shields’ (her maternal third great-grandmother) son, Dolphus T. Shields, both slaves. This discovery, like all recoveries of the identities of ancestors we thought had been obliterated in the crucible of slavery, is first and foremost a welcome gift for the first family, especially for Michelle’s mother, Marian Shields Robinson, and the Shields family line. And for anyone still naïve enough to believe in the myth of racial purity, it is one more corroboration that the social categories of “white” and “black” are and always have been more porous than can be imagined, especially in that nether world called slavery. Read it all at The Root.
So we can only conclude that Michelle is exclusively of the "black race" if we do so on the utterly unscientific basis of the slavery-era social norm that anyone known to have even a drop of Black blood was to be considered Black, and therefore subject to the master's ownership and the country's strict laws determining the subjugated status of Blacks.

We know that all of this is arbitrary, capricious and socially constructed, e.g. to insist that I am all genetically Black while my mother was white and my father was Black. In fact genetic evidence would show a strong relationship to both parents. The child of a Black man and white woman is neither all black nor all-white as a matter of science. We only insist on strict delineations because Blacks, as a minority, cannot afford to lose a single member of our army, while whites' socio-political hegemony is based on the utterly absurd belief that they are a genetic race unto themselves, with superhuman and superior-to-Black characterstics in every conceivable way.

We know that we could just as easily say that Michelle Obama is "white", since she has one drop of white blood. Either "one drop"rule is a rule of law confounded by science, a conclusion that is the antithesis of empirical science.

Nonetheless, we American will wake up in the morning and see Black and white people in the mirror, even though reference to a color chart will show that we are brown or beige, and reference to a history will show that we are just as much biological members of white families as we are members of Black ones.

At some point, the documented discoveries of historians and the genetic analyses of the medical field will compel us to accept that the "color line" in the United States is no more genetically based than the redlining of Black neighborhoods is created and compelled the movement of tectonic plates. With all of this knew knowledge, we've all got a lot on our plates, and we're all "chewing"on color-aroused ideation, deciding whether to believe in scientific and historical facts or white supremacist-origin social structures whose purpose was to define and delineate the boundaries of Blacks' aspirations in America and the near boundlessness of our servitude.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Can "Racism" Have Caused Chris Brown to Beat His Black Girlfriend's Face to a Pulp?

I can't believe that Michael Vick went to jail for beating his dogs, but Chris Brown can beat his (Black) girlfriend senseless and live on as a free man. (I'm not advocating that Chris Brown go to jail or that he go freee, but I'm pointing out the irony.)

Field Negro is right that whites and the white (in)justice system value dogs, regardless of their color, much more than they value and protect Black women. They value and protect a Black man's dog more than they value and protect a Black man's Black girlfriend.

Chris Brown was wise not to beat a white and blond singer senseless, or he'd be serving 20 years to life in jail for attempted murder. He'd have been treated like a serial ax murderer / rapist if he had beaten a white and blond woman like that.

So, can a Black man be "racist" against a Black woman by preferentially beating up that Black woman based on his correct belief that the legal consequences of beating up a Black woman will be less than the legal consequences of beating up a white woman? No, a Black man cannot beat up a Black woman on the basis of her "race" because "race" does not exist:

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program,
"DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other."
In other words, the Human Genome Project has proven that, as a matter of scientific fact, that which we call "race" does not exist as a matter of biology, and so all references to "race" are references to a fallacy.

And if anyone wants to drag in all of that ideological sociological bullshit about "race" existing as a social construct, then we would have to conclude that . . . Chris Brown is not "racist" to choose beat up a Black woman instead of a white woman. Chris Brown, according to the pantheons and canons of "racism", because Chris Brown, as a Black man, doesn't have the social power necessary to beat his Black girlfriend senseless.

Except Chris Brown obviously DOES have the power to beat his Black girlfriend senseless, and the power comes in part from the knowledge that the white criminal justice system will not treat him as brutally and mercilessly as it would if his victim were white. So, Chris Brown chooses his victims based on their skin color, but he's not "racist", because "racism" doesn't exist. Racism cannot logically exist because "race" itself does not exist.

Let me harmonize all of ideological madness for everyone by speaking about skin color that DOES exist instead of "race" that doesn't: Chris Brown has the color-aroused ideation that he will not be harshly punished for beating up a Black woman. This ideation is based on four hundred years of history in the United States of America. Black men are not allowed to beat up famous white female singers and live to tell about it.

So, Chris Brown chose his victim based on skin-color-associated ideation and his knowledge of how skin-color-based (in)justice works in the United States of America.
He chose his victim based not on "race", which doesn't exist, but based on skin color, which DOES exist. Anyone want to argue whether skin color exists or not?

Instead of asking the "chicken and egg," "tree falls in the forest" question of whether Blacks can be "racist" against Blacks, which is like asking whether helium weighs more than oxygen underwater, why don't we simplify our terms and ask whether Chris Brown can choose to beat up his girl friend based on the knowledge that the criminal justice system won't treat him as harshly as it would if his girlfriend where white. The answer to that question is obvious, even to ten year olds. He wouldn't DARE leave a famous white woman singer's face looking like that!

I think it's pretty obvious why Black men don't go around beating famous white women's faces to a black and blue pulp: Black men don't want to spend the rest of their lives in jail for one night's angry outburst against a white victim who is more highly valued by white juries, prosecutors, judges and police. This is not "racism" but it is color-based decision-making, which is something that people of any skin color are capable of.

Would O.J. Simpson's case have become two-year-long national cause celêbre if he had been suspected of cutting a Black woman's throat? Of course not! With the "evidence" they had, they probably wouldn't even have bothered to arrest him!

Ideation based on skin color is why Black people kill Black people more than they kill white people. We know that killing Black people is socially acceptable while killing white people is stupid, because it much more often leads to the electric chair.

Color-based justice in the police departments, district attorney's offices, courts and juries leads to color-based decision-making on the part of Blacks and whites alike. Why steal a white refrigerator and get the death penalty, when you can steal a Black refrigerator of equal cost and quality and get two years' probation?

That analysis is not based on "race" and "racism" (the non-existence of the former having precluded the existence of the latter) and it's doesn't require knowing whether barium weighs more than oxygen. It's simply color-aroused decision-making based on predictable color-aroused consequences.

Forget "racism" theory and ideology and witch doctory, and let's discuss skin color-based decision making. Chris Brown is not in jail today because he made the logical but morally reprehensible color-based decision to beat up a famous Black woman singer instead of a famous white woman singer.

Kanje West took a medal out of a white woman's hand during a Grammy ceremony (or Emmy or Nobel?), without physically harming the white woman at all (except with respect to her legal right not to be unconsentually touched, even indirectly) and this became became national news. Chris Brown's brutality toward his girlfriend also became national news, but he was not seriously punished because he beat up a Black woman instead of a white woman. He showed an very keen understanding of the skin color-based (in)justice system for which the United States of America is notorious.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Knowledge of Anti-"Racial" Finding of Human Genome Project Becoming More Generally Known

I am very pleased with the progress the evidence of the Human Genome Project is making in educations the USA and the world to the fact that biological "race" and "ethnicity" simply don't exist. Of course, this acknowledgement raises suspicions about the usefulness of the terms "racism", "racist" and, perhaps most of all, "racial," since "racial" is a word that denotates having a biological characteristic which biological characteristic simply does not exist in biology.

There are now almost five hundred thousands hits at Google for the search, "dna human genome race". The foremost hit at Google for this search is the Wikipedia page on "Human Genome Project", which ironically states under the heading, "Key findings of Genome Project:"
All human races (sic) are 99.99 % alike, so racial (sic) differences are genetically insignificant. (citation needed)
What the Human Genome Project actually says is that "race" doesn't exist at all. However, those writing and editing the Wikipedia page on the Human Genome Project are unable to integrate this scientific information because they are so hidebound to using unscientific terms like "race" and "racial". Confusion reigns, even as science tears down old hypothesis and propaganda in an effort to replace them with empirical scientific truths.

What the Human Genome Project actually says about "race" and "racial" is that there is convincing evidence that these concepts have no basis in science and they simply do not exist at all.

"DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other."

I'm not going to bother to fix the Wikipedia page, because some idiot will inevitably change it back, which is something they cannot do at my various blogs.

The page of the Human Genome Project including the above statement recounts an extensive effort to explain the conclusions based on DNA, but in a way that would not upset Black people. Ironically, Black people have largely ignored the findings and white people simply act as if this particular result of the Human Genome Project didn't exist. However, as I acknowledged above, just the fact that there are so many pages at Google addressing this question is positive for the prospect that humanity will someday absorb what human science has discovered.

What Did You Do to Help Senator Obama Become President Obama?

This is a provocative and ultimately persuasive argument I made against John Edwards' candidacy, for the purpose of helping Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama to end the 43-term white male monopoly of the presidency. I think this argument, in its various iterations, was influential, because Garance Franke-Ruta quoted it in The American Prospect: in an article entitled, "What Edwards Doesn't Get About Poverty: John Edwards's failure to appeal to low-income voters proves the poor want more than just new programs."

I also made the argument (modified) at Huffington Post (Edwards Tells Supporters, 'Vote for Me Because I'm a White Man.'), and at my own blogs and elsewhere, and it helped to serve notice on Edwards and progressives that Blacks and women were not going to support the election of a 44th white male president in 2008. I was reviled and exiled from many a blog, but I was right and I was vindicated, and that's what ultimately counts to me personally, but not nearly as much as ending the 43-term white male monopoly of the presidency.

It's worth noting that the graphics below infuriated supporters of John Edwards specifically and of the white male supremacy paradigm in general. I also know these arguments were influential because Hillary Clinton's Internet Activism Manager Peter Daou called me by telephone in Brazil to personally enlist my support for Hillary, (for all the good it ultimately did him and his candidate.) Daou asked me not to discuss our conversation before Hillary formally announced her candidacy, and I kept my promise not to do so. Actually, Hillary is Secretary of State now, so none of our efforts on her behalf were wasted, even if virtually all Blacks eventually rejected Billary's color-aroused politicking and were driven to support Senator Barack Obama instead. "Billary and Me: Time to Break the Silence"

WHY would electing John Edwards Lift Women and Blacks from Poverty?

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Cross-posted at

This is an historical and political analysis of the central premise that underlies John Edwards' claim to the Presidency. This essay asks and explores the question, "Why Will Electing John Edwards Raise Women and Minorities Out of Poverty?" Everything in the above graphic represents only my own original paraphrased appreciation of the thrust of arguments made by others.

Everyone who has superficially studied the problem of American poverty knows that, although all demographic groups are represented among the poor, women and minorities are more likely to be poor than other segments of our society (e.g. white men).

In fact, historical patterns of discrimination that legally prevented women and minorities from buying and owning property, opening bank accounts, and moving to areas where opportunities were greater - all of these governmentally sponsored factors and more led to the feminization and the "racialization" of poverty. The poverty of Blacks began when we were forced to work for free, with government returning us to our "owners" if we escaped slavery with the intention of being paid for our own labor.

In light of this history of the causes of poverty, it is quite impossible to talk about alleviating poverty without discussing how to systematically root out the carefully lain government sponsored roots of poverty in de jure and de facto gender and color-based discrimination. To the degree that there is anything at all that the government is still doing that intentionally or effectively disadvantages the target populations of a proposed new poverty program, to be effective in alleviating poverty government must stop doing anything and everything that has historically led and continues to lead to the feminization and colorization of poverty.

Let's face it: Poverty programs are expensive. Just gathering the statistics to know whether the programs are succeeding or not typically costs millions of dollars, while any intervention to lift people from poverty costs more still. The Republican criticism of the poverty programs of the 1960's is that liberals were unwilling to examine the assumptions underlying these programs and were similarly unwilling to carefully measure whether the programs actually worked or not.

But there is one assumption that neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to examine: the unexamined assumption that women and minorities can be lifted out of poverty without increasing the representation of women and minorities in government. The corollary unexamined assumption is "women and minorities can be lifted out of poverty by increasing the power of white men." Effectively, every time we vote for a white man over a woman or minority, we vote to increase the overall power of that demographic group while maintaining the political powerlessnes of the other demographic groups.

The assumption that government sponsored poverty programs and benefits can improve the condition of women and minorities without increased access for women and minorities to the levers of power is an untested and unproven assumption that has provided precious little enduring results in the past. But the economic status of women and minorities HAS consistently improved when their voting rights and access to elective office have increased. It makes intuitive sense that the political will to continue supporting poverty programs will be stronger if members of the demographic group benefiting from the programs are in elective office, where they can vote to continue funding for programs that are helpful to them.

Arguably the most enduring government-sponsored act of the 20th Century toward alleviating poverty was the guarantee to women and minorities of the right to vote and hold elective office - a right that we had never had before the 20th Century. And, arguably, a substantial portion of the enduring alleviation of poverty that has occurred has come directly from the new right of women and minorities vote for candidates who represent our interests and to hold office and thereby help fashion an economy and legal framework in which women and minorities, too, are likely to prosper.

Here is but one example of how increased political power within a demographic group leads to increased economic well-being: If you want to open a small business, you generally need a business license and various other government approvals. Ostensibly, licenses are granted according to Byzantine rules that anyone can master with sufficient lawyers and money. However, in most places, personally knowing the members of the various licensing boards (or the officials who appointed the licensing officials) is very helpful in obtaining crucial information and businesses licenses that allow a person to open a business, work and improve the financial condition of self and family. To the extent that a demographic group lacks this informal access, it will also lack access to the government when it needs government licences and permitting.

Considering how many people are not poor because they have started businesses that result in steady income, it seems obvious that electing more women and minorities to government for the purpose of helping each other to obtain information access, and business licenses is an obvious anti-poverty intervention.

Until the Civil War, white men used their control of state and national government to prevent slaves from successfully escaping and competing with white men for the proceeds of Black men's labor. White men forbade women to work outside the home, effectively forcing women to work for white men. If only white men ran the government today, would they not use their control of business licenses to preclude women and minorities from opening competing businesses, just as they once used their political power to prevent Blacks and women from opening bank accounts?

Isn't it true that whomever holds the reigns of government tends to make more money?

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America has tried various solutions to end poverty, but increasing women and minorities' participation in government has never explicitly been one of the government-sponsored solutions. Is this solution so absurd that it ought not be tried, at least once, particularly considering that many other solutions that have been mostly unavailing are nonetheless tried over and over again?

Enter John Edwards: Let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that electing John Edwards would perpetuate the historical pattern of disadvantaging women and minorities by never electing a president who is not a white male. Let's focus specifically and exclusively for a moment on the extraordinary claim that underlies John Edwards' claim to the presidency.

John Edwards says that America's most urgent problem is poverty, and he proposes that we elect him President and give him 30 years to alleviate this problem. But, most importantly for this discussion: While running for President against three liberal Democrats who are members of the target demograpic groups most affected by poverty (women, Blacks and Latinos), John Edwards has made the extraordinary and counter-intuitive assertion that electing him, a white man, is the best way to reduce the poverty of women, Blacks, and Latinos.

Of course, Edwards' is a self-serving premise, i.e., "The best way to help THEM is to give something to ME!" But showing that the premise is self-serving does not, by itself, prove that the premise is incorrect. It merely make the premise suspect.

It is not impossible that electing John Edwards can help to alleviate poverty. The question is, "Is electing John Edwards the BEST way to alleviate the poverty of women and minorities who have historically lacked the political power to organize society in a way that would support their economic enfranchisement?

When a politician claims that giving food to people in Washington DC will reduce hunger in Washington DC, then we are apt to agree. But when a politician claims that giving food to people in Boston is the best way to decrease hunger in Milwaulkee, that is an EXTRAORDINARY claim that requires extraordinary analysis of the assumptions underlying the proposed program.

Many people will demand to know how giving a liberal Democratic woman or minority the power to help shape the economy and the economic framework within which business operate would help lift women and minorities out of poverty. To me, this is like the question, "How will the distribution of food in Boston help to alleviate the problem of hunger in Boston?" It's like asking, "How will giving a fisherman a boat help him to fish?" People who have access to the resources the need are more likely to use those resources to improve their circumstances. If this is NOT so, then nothing Government does will help women and minorities. So, the question is whether to hand out more benefits or to empower women and minorities to benefit from sharing the reigns of power.

If one of the reasons for governing is to manage the economy in a manner that helps to improve the financial circumstances of citizens, doesn't it stand to reason that if responsible liberal Democratic women and minorities are elected, they will use the power entrusted to them to help women and minorities succeed economically?

Why would we choose to believe the opposite: that white men, (who are competing with women and minorities for resources and advantages) will use the power of elective office to help people who are NOT of their demographic group? Everything in America's history and its present circumstances - with white men in power - suggests that the opposite is true. The longer white men are the majority of the US Senate, the US House and have a lock on the Presidency, while controlling the apparatus of the power of the 50 states, the longer women and minorities will lack the political power to lift themselves out of poverty.

I think that, for the purposes of our discussion today, it is essential that we limit ourselves to testing John Edwards' premise, that electing him is the best way to lift women and Blacks out of poverty, better than electing a liberal Democratic woman or Black person. That question is sufficiently complex that it is worth spending at least one day considering it, by itself, before going into the voting booth.

How, specifically, is electing John Edwards going to reduce the poverty of women and minorities. I think this is a fair question to ask?

As a threshold issue, it seems necessary to remind readers that any discussion of whom our 2008 presidential nominee will be should necessarily be limited to a discussion of the Democrats. Whenever I assert that electing a woman or minority president will help American in one way or anther, someone urgentlydemands to know whether electing a REPUBLICAN woman or minority would help America. That is a specious, in my mind, question since the premise of all of our activities is that electing Democrats is better. Moreover, since there are Democratic women and minorities running for president, it is hardly necessary to speculate about the effect of electing a Republican candidate.

Responding to the proposal to elect a woman by asking whether a Republican woman would suffice is like responding to the same proposal by asking whether a child-molesting cannibalistic ex-convict schizophrenic woman would suffice. How is that relevant to the question of whether, as between two elected and respected liberal Democratic officials, the election of a woman or minority will help America to progress? Certainly, raising the specter of electing a woman or Black Republican is an unhelpful and superficial debating technique with no relevance whatever to the discussion at hand.

And yet this technique is often used by "progressives" to derail urgent discussions of whether increased numbers of women and minorities in government will significantly change the nature of American society. The technique only serves, if tolerated, to perpetuate the status quo, the control of America's government by white men.

And so I pose the urgent question: In light of the high correlation between historical patterns of political disenfranchisement and poverty for America's women and minorities, with white men in power, how do we know that electing electing John Edwards as president is the best way to lift politically disenfranchised women and minorities out of poverty?

To me, the premise is counter-intuitive, lacks empirical support, is not based on an historical or sociological appreciation of the direct causal relationship between the feminization and colorization of political powerlessness and the feminization and colorization of poverty.

Author's note: I have designed the graphics here to represent my own interpretation of the political and economic facts involved, and so I have paraphrased, in my own way, what I believe to be the thrust of the arguments involved. I suspect that many people will disagree with these representations, but the purpose of these graphics is to challenge assumptions and encourage us to clarify our thinking about our underlying premises.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Is Exposure to Hair Straightening Chemicals Causing Your Child's Asthma Attacks?

Please see the above trailer for Chris Rock's movie, "Good Hair,"

in which he has to answer his little daughters question,

"Daddy, why is my hair 'bad'?"

Many Black people in Brazil (where I live) and in the United States are using formaldehyde to straighten their hair. They call it a "progressive permanent", although it doesn't last more than a week or two under the best conditions, if only because new hair grows that has not been "processed". Then women tie their hair back as tightly as possible so that the curly new growth will be as invisible as possible. Otherwise their half chemically permanent and half DNA permanent hair looks like a broom that has been randomly hacked at with a pair of sharp scissors.

But, if this many women use formaldehyde to straighten their hair, it must be harmless to them and their children, right? Not quite. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry says,

Formaldehyde is a nearly colorless gas with a pungent, irritating odor even at very low concentrations (below 1 ppm). Its vapors are flammable and explosive. Because the pure gas tends to polymerize, it is commonly used and stored in solution. Formalin, the aqueous solution of formaldehyde (30% to 50% formaldehyde), typically contains up to 15% methanol as a stabilizer.

So people are straightening their hair with a "flammable and explosive liquid", including "methanol"? Methanol is used as an alternative to gasoline in cars.

It could still be safe to put formaldehyde and methanol in your and your children's hair, right? Not quite. According to the US Centers for Disease Control,

  • Inhalation of formaldehyde can cause airway irritation, bronchospasm, and pulmonary edema.
  • Absorption of large amounts of formaldehyde via any route can cause severe systemic toxicity, leading to metabolic acidosis, tissue and organ damage, and coma.
  • There is no antidote for formaldehyde. Treatment consists of supportive measures including decontamination (flushing of skin and eyes with water, gastric lavage, and administration of activated charcoal), administration of supplemental oxygen, intravenous sodium bicarbonate and/or isotonic fluid, and hemodialysis.
  • Meanwhile Black children have dramatically higher incidence of asthma than white children living in the same cities. White people do not straighten their hair as much or as often as Blacks.

    According to the University of Illinois at Chicago,

    Asthma prevalence has been found to be higher in urban areas. A survey of inner-city children in New York City showed that 14.3% reported ever having asthma, and 8.6% reported current asthma, a rate twice that of the general U.S. population (4.3%). A study of asthma mortality in Chicago found an overall asthma mortality rate of 16.42 deaths per million from 1980 to 1988 for persons aged 5 to 34 years; this is approximately three times the rate for the general U.S. population. Rates were highest among poor black persons. Targonski et al.8 studied asthma mortality among persons aged 5 to 34 years in Chicago from 1968 to 1991, and found a 337% increase in mortality for African Americans, while there was no significant increase among Whites. A study of asthma hospitalization among 5- to 14-year old Medicaid patients in Michigan also found much larger increases among urban black children, from 3.2 per 1000 in 1980 to 7.1 per 1000 in 1984.

    One Swedish study linked formaldehyde levels in the home to the presence of asthma:

    Although there has been little research on indoor pollutant concentrations and asthma, there is some evidence of an association. Researchers in Sweden22 measured levels of formaldehyde and VOCs, along with other indoor factors, in homes of 47 asthmatics and 41 nonasthmatic subjects. Mean formaldehyde concentrations were 29 and 17 ug/m3 in homes with and without subjects reporting nocturnal breathlessness. The mean levels of total VOCs in the living room were 780 ug/m3 and 300 ug/m3 in homes of subjects with and without reported nocturnal breathlessness.
    Is it possible that the formaldehyde in Black women's and children's and even men's hair, at the beauty salon and at home (and in the homes of poor Black people who cannot afford salons) is causing their children to have life threatening asthma attacks?

    One way to test the hypothesis would be for Blacks with formaldehyde-straightened hair to go without chemical straighteners for a year, in themselves, their home and their children, to see if their children's asthma attacks subside. However, this is not a test, since at least half of the thirty children in your child's classroom also have trace but still poisonous levels of formaldehyde in their hair. A whole community might have to try to be hair-straightening free to see if children's asthma decreases.

    I suspect most Black women will prefer to keep straightening their hair with formaldehyde, buying asthma medication, and taking their kids to the emergency room with severe and life-threatening asthma attacks. After all, the vast majority of Black women straighten their hair and have no intention of desisting, no matter what the consequences for their children's health.

    So how should Black women respond to the mere suspicion that the formaldehyde in their hair, and the formaldehyde to which children are exposed during hair straightening may be causing children's asthma attacks? The

    Centers for Disease Control says,
    Formaldehyde is a highly toxic systemic poison that is absorbed well by inhalation. The vapor is a severe respiratory tract and skin irritant and may cause dizziness or suffocation. Contact with formaldehyde solution may cause severe burns to the eyes and skin.

    Respiratory Protection: Positive-pressure, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is recommended in response situations that involve exposure to potentially unsafe levels of formaldehyde vapor.

    If you have a children who suffers from asthma attacks, should you expose them to formaldehyde during the process of straightening their hair, or while waiting for your hair to be straightened,and then being subject to your hair all day and every time you hug them?

    Should you keep formaldehyde-based straightening preparations in the home, where they contaminate the air that your asthmatic child breathes? If you want to kill your child, this would be a good way to do it without being prosecuted. Just expose your child to hair straightening formaldehyde and ignore her/him when s/he is unable to breathe.

    If your child has asthma attacks as well as exposure to straightened hair and hair straightening, consider this medical wisdom from the CDC:

    In cases of respiratory compromise, secure airway and respiration via endotracheal intubation. If not possible, perform cricothyroidotomy if equipped and trained to do so.

    Treat patients who have bronchospasm with aerosolized bronchodilators. The use of bronchial sensitizing agents in situations of multiple chemical exposures may pose additional risks. Consider the health of the myocardium before choosing which type of bronchodilator should be administered. Cardiac sensitizing agents may be appropriate; however, the use of cardiac sensitizing agents after exposure to certain chemicals may pose enhanced risk of cardiac arrhythmias (especially in the elderly).

    Surely, most parents would not allow their children to be exposed to toxic chemicals unless it was necessary to assure that women and children have straight hair instead of "bad" hair. The National Institutes of Health says:
    Indoors, products that contain volatile organic compounds release emissions when you use them, and to a smaller degree, when they are stored. You can be exposed to volatile organic compounds at home if you use cleaning, painting, or hobby supplies that contain them.

    ( . . . )

    Long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Short-term exposure to volatile organic compounds can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, nausea, and memory impairment. National (Emphasis added.)

    So, there it is. A direct relationship between hair straightening chemicals and medical illnesses that affect Black children (whose hair is often straightened and who are surrounded by people with formaldehyde in their hair).

    When children go to school, they are surrounded by other children with formaldehyde and other toxins in their hair. When they come home from school, their parents' friends and relatives are toxic waste dumps from base of their hair to the tops of their heads. And then they spend Saturdays in the beauty salon with mommy, where known respiratory poisons are present in large quantities (unless they can't afford the salons and do several womens hair at home at once).

    Should we wait for more evidence that formaldehyde and other hair straightening chemicals are poisoning our children, leaving them breathless and causing trips to the emergency room, or should we take the poisons out of their environment and see if they stop having life-threatening asthma attacks?

    Wednesday, 7 October 2009

    Do Some People Who Straighten Their Hair Need Psychiatric Treatment?

    Cross-posted at the PamsHouseBlend and the American Journal of Color Arousal.

    After four years of living with my step-children, I've simply come to the transitional conclusion that I simply don't like much of what comes out of their mouths and their behavior, particularly recently, with respect to their hair. This has become a dinosaur bone of contention between us. At this time, I have decided simply not to speak with them at all, about anything, lest I say things that hurt and offend them and they respond in kind.

    I expected it when my step-daughter told me, "You're not my father", because all step children say that sooner or later. But, when one of them said that I like my dog better than her and she hopes my dog "will hurry up and die", that hurt and infuriated me more than words can describe.

    Certainly, I provoked them, by pointing out that spending forty percent of my oldest daughter's internship income to straighten the two girls' hair ought not be a highter priority than paying what is already owed for straightening my younger step-daughter's teeth, and the monthly maintenance. I also provoked my oldest daughter by asking her how much it would cost her to straighten her hair once a week at a salon, on an anualised basis. (I already know that it will cost 20% of her income.)

    I further pointed out to her that an electric straigtening comb does affect the family finances, because it will consume electricity for which her parents will pay. These are the sorts of observations that infuriate my step-daughters.

    Yes, this decision simply to refrain from talking with my step-daughters is born of anger and hurt, but sometimes anger and hurt can help us to define and maintain appropriate boundaries between ourselves and others. It is certainly more mature to restrict relationships with others than to say or do things to them that are intentionally hurtful. Arms-length truces may not be as good as friendship, but they are better than open warfare.

    At this time, my wife's two girls, 14 and 16, are going through the developmental stage where they realize that their hair is a potential point of attractiveness and the more attractive their hair is perceived to be, and they perceive themselves to be, the more attractive they are peceived to be overall. (Should I warn my oldest daughter that she seems more concerned about her hair than about a college entrance exam which takes place in two months and guarantees a full scholarship? No, that statement would be argumentative and provocative, regardless of the information contained within.)

    These girls talk so much about their hair, and their friends' hair, and play with and organize and experiment with their hair so much that they remind me of three year-old girls playing with dolls, or two year old boys who have suddenly discovered they have penises, which become their favorite toy and fascination. These girls remind me of the white woman who inspired my essay, "I saw a white woman masturbating in the subway."

    There are many reasons why my two step-daughters want to straighten their hair. For example, when they chemically or mechanically straighten their hair, their bosses, peers and others tell them that they had never perceived them until they saw them with their hair straight. All of that is a very strong motive for teens to want to straighten their hair, and that's why I would estimate that 99.9% of Afro-Brazilian women in the city where I live "treat"/subjugate their hair so that it looks as much as possible like the hair of Scandinavian women, although not all of these Afro-Brazilian women actually turn their hair blond.

    At least three times a day for the last four years, my younger step-daughter has exclaimed how much she wants to buy a hot comb and straighten her hair. She says with determination, "I'm going to buy a hot comb," and then the argument starts between her and her mother.

    The older one, 16, simply decided this week that, since she has a job, she can spend the money as she likes, even on submitting to chemical and mechanical hair straightening without her mother's permission.

    And now the male salon owner says she's so beautiful with her hair straight that he wants to feature her in a modeling show after straightening her hair again and adding two additional colors to it.

    I can't help but wonder about this man's motives, but I know my concerns will be rejected out of hand, so I'm not going to bother casting my pearls on the swine-like mind of an adolescent. This male hairdresser who eulogizes my step-daughter's beauty after she pays him a fifth of her monthly salary only has my step-daughters bright future in his mind, I'm sure.

    He doesn't want to have sex with my step-daughter. He doesn't want to take nude photographs of her while he's modeling her hair. And he is not trying to sell her as a sex slave in Italy or Portugal, as happens to so many other Brazilian girls who believe Hollywood-like promises. He only wants to put lye and dye in her hair and make her into a star! Lye or formaldehyde and dye. What could be the matter with that?

    Recently, a fifteen year-old girl of our acquaintance took off to another state with a 35 year old suitor, who then threatened to kill her and her family if she tried to return home. I know my step-daughters were able to learn from that girl's experience, and I know that the dangers from which I try to protect my step-daughters all have some level of relevance, but I simply don't have the patience and forebearance anymore. I am learning MY limits in the realm of step-fatherhood.

    attyfrancislholland :: Do Some People Who Straighten Their Hair Need Psychiatric Treatment?

    One Brazilian newspaper reported,

    Em moda no mundo inteiro, os cabelos lisos viraram mania e vem mexendo, literalmente, com a cabeça das mulheres. Cuidar das medeixas, portanto, passou a ser uma atividade fundamental na vida de quem deseja ter cabelo liso . . .

    Straight hair is in style the world over, and has become a mania that messes with, literally, the heads of women. Taking care of hair, as such, has become a fundamental activity in the lives of those who want their hair to be straight . . .

    It costs my older step-daughter fully twenty percent of her monthly intern salary to straighten her hair at the beauty salon, plus another at least ten percent to treat it with various chemicals and creams. So, thirty percent of her income is spent straightening her hair, while her mother works seven days a week to pay for braces that straighten their teeth.

    I believe in straightened teeth, but I believe that people caught straightening their hair ought to be immediately seen by a psychiatrist to determine whether they can stop straightening their hair on their own or whether inpatient or outpatient psychiatric care is necessary. Of course many of the ten people who read this will insist that I am being extreme, but I can prove that I am not.

    One of the symptoms of the psychiatric condition that Michael Jackson had was his obsession with having perfectly straight hair, as would a Scandinavian or an Italian with no recent African heritage. If Michael Jackson had gotten treatment for the psychiatric illness that made him want to look like a white person, then he might not have become or remained addicted to the drugs that killed his pain, some of which pain was clearly the pain of having African DNA inside him in the context of a nation that hates many of the phsysical characteristics associated with recent African DNA.

    Of course, everyone's DNA is 99.9% the same, regardless of their skin color and superficial color-associated physical characteristics, such as the texture of their hair and the shape of their nose. Michael Jackson was led to drug addiction and a demand for a suicidal drug overdose partly because of the pain he felt wanting to eradicate the 0.1% of his DNA that was of recent African descent.

    The fight against color-aroused and color-associated physical characteristic-aroused disorder has only recently appeared on the radar screen of the American Psychiatric Association, and most people do not believe there is anything wrong with wanting to look like a white person in terms of one or more phsysical characteristics.

    Most psychiatrists don't believe it is wrong to viscerally hate Black people's physical characteristics. If they thought hating, fearing, stigmatizing, being envious of, and feeling subconsciously inferior to Black people constituted a mental disorder, the would describe this mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

    And if psychiatrists believed that some Blacks' feelings of disgust and revulsion at one or more aspects of our physical characteristics was a mental disorder, again, they would describe this disorder in the DSM.

    If psychiatrists believed that attempts to eradicate the visual cue that arouses in them such emotional pain, amounted to a psychiatric disorder e.g. behavior such as nose cutting, and painting carcinogens like lye and formalehyde on the human head were acts of self-destructiveness, they would say so.

    Since they haven't done so, we must conclude that they do not think it is an illness for whites to feel and act upon the disgust and revulsion that some of them they feel when looking at curly hair and afros, and likewise they do not think it is an illness for Black people to feel disgust and revulsion when they think of themselves or others having curly hair, Afros, Braids and Rasta Locks.

    It is considered "natural" for whites to hate our skin-color and skin color-associated physical characteristics, and it is considered equally "natural" for us to hate our skin color and skin color-associated physical characteristics. Many people believe that, in any case.

    I believe that (a) ideation aroused by perceiving brown skin and brown skin associated physical characteristics, such as, "I have to straighten my hair or I will be ugly"; combined with (b) extreme hatred, revulsion, fear, disgust and other upsetting and debilitating emotions aroused by our and others' skin color and color-associated phsyical characteristics, such as hair color and texture; combined with (c) behavior that is antagonistic toward the ideational and emotional cue, i.e. putting lye or formaldehyde in one's hair to make it straight, even when it hurts and causes hair to fall out,(d) all add up to a psychiatric disorder that I call "Extreme Color-Aroused Disorder" ("ECAD").

    My wife recounts to me that she remembers her older sister putting lye in her hair to make it straight and then running out of the house screaming, "It hurts, it hurts!" She had permanent scars on her forehead and elsewhere as a result of burning herself with the lye.

    Had she put the lye in her mouth instead of in her hair, she would have been taken to a psychiatric hospital. However, it is considered "natural" in Western societies for Blacks to pay any price, in terms of their finances and their health, to have their hair look more Scandinavian or Italian, regardless of the risks or the cost.

    When Michael Jackson died, among the many chemicals he had in his bedroom was a cream intended to lighten the color of his skin. We all say, "Michael Jackson was freaky." Yet, people who treat their hair as Michael Jackson treated his hair are "normal", only because the norm itself mentally disordered.

    I believe whites who automatically experience extreme arousal when they perceive color and color-associated physical characteristics are whites who need psychiatric treatment. Many Blacks agree with me that it is "sick" to hate Blacks, but they nonetheless insist that whites who are "sick" should not receive psychiatric treatment for their illness. We prefer to call this "racism" (a sociological problem) than to recognize that extreme color-aroused illness in some individuals is the sine qua non of "racism" in society. It is impossible for one to exist without at least some of the other.

    Still, many Blacks argue with me that hating Blacks and our characteristics is not evidence of a mental disorder, but is just "racism". Maybe they hold onto this believe as drowing person hangs onto a life preserver because if hating Blacks and our physical characteristics constitutes a mental disorder then many Blacks (like the ones who cannot conceive of going to church with their hair unstraightened) have this Extreme Color-Aroused Disorder as well.

    "Racism" ideology puts all of the onus for the hatred of Blacks' phsyical characteristics on white people. Extreme Color Aroused Disorder studies and one day hopefully will treat the symptoms of self-hatred in Black people as well as the symptoms of color-aroused disorder in whites. Ultimately, anyone who has repeatedly burned his/her head, over a period of six months or more, in an attempt to make his/her hair look more straight and (coincidentally?) more like white people's hair, is a person who should be screened for Exteme Color Aroused Disorder.

    Some people if not all are putting lye and formaldehyde in their hair because they hate or feel disgust and revulsion at the hair with which many Black people are naturally born.

    Saturday, 3 October 2009

    I'm Revolted: My Oldest Step-Daughter has Straigtened Her Wavy Hair

    The societal pressures they feel to straighten their hair is intense.

    In music videos, television news casts, and at school, my two step-daughters perceive that virtually every Black woman they know chemically or mechanically straightens her hair. So, it ought not surprise me that my sixteen year-old step daughter, graduating from high school in three months, has taken advantage of her new decision-making authority not to choose a university or search for scholarships that suit her interests, but rather to pass an electric iron through her naturally long and wavy hair.

    Like too many teenagers, she doesn't value what makes her unique, but wishes she could be "just like everybody else." My wife and I have expressed our opinions to her since before she was an adolescent - that the pressure for Black women to straighten their hair is part of a determined effort by whites - in the media and even in job interviews - to assert that their hair, like everything else about them, is inherently better than Blacks' natural superficial physical characteristics.

    (I know that many Black women are born with naturally straight hair and I am not talking about them, so let's not distract ourselves with information irrelevant to this particular discussion.)

    I'm talking about the tremendous pressure Black women feel to straighten their hair - at any cost - in order, effectively, to look more like white girls. (Some Black women, like my step-daughters, are born looking more like white girls because they have DNA from white people in their family genetic heritages.) However, long and wavy hair has not been enough for them. They want their hair to be perfectly straight.

    This issue is not merely one of aesthetics. Here in Brazil, women use a process called "permanent progressive" wherein formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) is placed in the hair and then washed out. If two much formaldehyde is used or it is not washed out soon enough, Black women can literally die for straight hair. I reported such a case at the American Journal of Color Arousal (AMJCA) on August 14, 2009:

    The television news report in this YouTube video says that 150 children per year die in Brazil while styling their hair, with 49% dying as the result of electrical shocks. “Parents should not allow their children to use these electrical mechanisms because of the risk of electrical shocks” says one professional interviewed on the news.

    One of Brasil's top media outlets reported:

    Women never stop efforts to become more beautiful. For centuries, they have been squeezing into corsets to keep their waists thin. In China and Japan, women bandaged their feet to make them smaller. Now the madness has gone beyond hair removal. Many women are putting their health (and their lives) in danger to keep the hair smooth and voluminous.

    The death of a 33 year-old housewife in Missouri, this week raised the controversy over the new hair straightening techniques. Maria Ení da Silva died after undergoing a escova progressiva (permanent straigtening). According to her family, she applied a mixture of cream and formaldehyde at a hairdressing salon on Saturday, March 17, and was directed not to wash her hair for three days. During this period, she complained of headaches, shortness of breath and itching. On Tuesday, March 20, she fell ill, was taken to two hospitals and died. Globo.Com

    This story is particularly maddening for my wife and me. Last year, disobeying my wife’s firm and repeated decision, our youngest daughter went to a local store and bought an electrical hair straightener, because virtually all of the girls at her school electrically or chemically straighten their hair. The social pressure she feels to straighten hair is intense. When girls straighten their hair, their peers, boys, parents and community suddenly begin to say, “You look beautiful. You look so pretty with your hair straight.”

    Since my wife and I are unable to convince our daughters that their hair is beautiful in its natural Black state, I have warned them not to straighten their hair in the bathroom, where the electric iron can fall on the floor and transmit 120 volts of electricity to girls' (and boys') wet feet, freeze them in their tracks and electrocute them, causing them to fall on the floor where the electricity burns their bodies in a different place every time they try to free themselves from the force of their store-bought electric chairs.

    What Black girls don't realize is that white girls have this hair without endangering their lives, while for Black girls there is danger, expense and time wasted that could otherwise be spent choosing a college and getting better grades that would lead to full scholarships. While white girls prepare for professions, Black girls strain to look like white girls or like Black girls with white genetic heritage.

    The most common violence promoted by music videos is not the violence on the streets. It's the violence done to Black girls' and women's hair.