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Pepe the Frog

A public school student’s tribute to Pepe the Frog on display at an art show featuring work by students at Greenbelt Elementary School and Greenbelt Middle School at the Greenbelt Community Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Photo taken on May 8, 2017.

Matt Furie is an artist who had an online comic strip known as Boy’s Club, which received plenty of attention for one of its characters—Pepe the Frog, a basically laid-back peaceful character whose personality was something that could’ve come from a Cheech and Chong movie. Furie had no hateful or malicious intent when he created Pepe.

Imagine his surprise when various alt-right groups appropriated Pepe and used him to attack women, LGBTQ persons, Muslims, people of color, and other groups who aren’t white heterosexual Christian men. In time the Anti Defamation League added Pepe the Frog to its list of hate symbols.

This kind of appropriation is every creative’s worst nightmare come true. In the past I’ve had my own creative work (including drawings, paintings, and animations) get interpreted by others in ways that surprised me because I never had that kind of idea in mind when I originally created it. At least those alternative interpretations were benign and they didn’t hurt my work or my reputation.

Matt Furie had the misfortune of seeing one of his creations not only get interpreted by others in ways that he never intended but he had to stand by while seeing his creation get appropriated as a hate symbol. He tried to put the word out that he never created Pepe the Frog in that way but his protests fell on deaf ears as the alt-right continues to use Pepe for their own ends.

Last weekend Matt Furie uploaded a cartoon panel he drew depicting Pepe lying in a coffin. He also included that panel in a comic book that was distributed in comic book stores nationwide as part of the annual Free Comic Book Day. It was his way of announcing that Pepe the Frog is officially dead.

I don’t blame Matt Furie for what he did. If I was in his shoes, I would’ve done something similar as a way of distancing myself from seeing one of my own creations get twisted into a hate symbol.

I know some of you will ask why didn’t he simply get a lawyer and sue those sites that continue to use his Pepe the Frog in a despicable manner. Here’s the thing—launching a lawsuit in the U.S. is not cheap. I know this first-hand when my estranged husband sued me for divorce and I had no other alternative but to get my own lawyer. Even though my divorce was a relatively simple cut and dry matter (we didn’t have minor children living at home nor did we own much in terms of property and investments), I still had to pay around $250 in order to have my lawyer represent me in divorce court for a trial that lasted less than a half-an-hour.

Look at the late pop star Prince. He managed to get the majority of his videos withdrawn from YouTube and other online video sites but, in order to accomplish this, he had to hire an expensive team of lawyers whose job was to scour the Internet for any unauthorized uploads of his videos (including uploads made by his own fans). Prince was rich enough to afford such legal help.

In contrast, the vast majority of creative people, including Matt Furie, don’t have Prince’s deep pocketed financial resources to hire a similar team of Internet-savvy lawyers to do such work. Given the nature of the Internet, it would’ve been impossible for him to save legal fees by focusing on—let’s say—the controversial 4chan.org site (one of the places where those memes originated) because even if he had won that case, people would’ve taken those twisted Pepe memes and store them on other sites (such as the notorious white power site Stormfront.org) and he would’ve had to raise more money to pay lawyers to launch lawsuits against those sites.

Trying to delete anything off of the Internet is like playing Whack-A-Mole because once you get something taken off one site, that same thing will crop up on another site, then another site, and so on. Once you upload anything online, it’s nearly impossible to remove it.

Basically Matt Furie did the only thing he could do to distance himself from the hateful versions of Pepe the Frog by killing off his character. I don’t blame him one bit for what he did.

Happy Earth Day! Here are some links for you to enjoy! 🙂

Donald Trump’s modeling agency is on the verge of collapse, say industry insiders. It will be the latest in a line of failed ventures like the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Steaks, and Trump Vodka.

The original sculptor of the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street says that the Fearless Girl statue facing his statue distorts his work so much that he is considering filing a lawsuit.

Cannabis industry attracts more mainstream investors as business grows.

A mass-market shoe with 3D-printed midsoles is coming soon.

Eight-year-old boy learns to drive on YouTube then takes his little sister on a joyride to McDonald’s.

Microsoft Office vulnerabilities mean that no .doc is safe.

You’ll be working with robots sooner than you think.

Are you a photographer who needs a light box but you are currently short on cash? Here’s a video showing how you can make your own light box for less than $10.

Google’s new AutoDraw web-based drawing tool is a better artist than you.

It may be time to say farewell to the Pentax camera as Ricoh shrinks its camera business.

Chinese doctors use 3D printing to prepare for facial reconstruction surgery.

Microsoft to offer self-service refund for digital games.

How to stop Microsoft Office hackers from stealing your bank account.

12 ways to study a new programming language.

How Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet adhere to the Five-Hour Rule where they set aside at least one hour a day (or five hours a week) devoted to such practices as reading, reflection, and experimentation.

Exiles from the war-torn areas of Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan form a theater troupe in Germany.

Why Kickstarter decided to radically transform its business model.

How Steve Bannon’s multimedia machine drove a movement and paid him millions.

Microsoft will unveil the most powerful gaming console it has ever made on June 11.

Beware of “drive-by” computer scam.

Fake SEO plugin used in WordPress malware attacks.

Yes, some businesses still run Microsoft’s much-maligned Windows Vista.

Ohio inmates built and hid computers in prison using recycled electronic parts.

Dear Microsoft, stop blaming girls for not pursuing STEM careers.

Artist Hasan Elahi discusses racism in the digital art world.

Take a weirdly hypnotizing tour of America’s dying malls.

According to a recent survey, British women said that they prefer knitting to sex to help them relax from stress.

For photographers on a very tight budget, here’s a video showing how you can make your own DIY photography studio in your own home.

Disney files patents to bring humanoid robots to its theme parks.

Gizmodo reports on why people still use Microsoft Word.

Disney launching new animated Star Wars series on YouTube.

Black girls have been playing with white dolls for a long time.

Paper horror houses (including the Bates Motel) that you can download, print, and build for free.

Passover

There’s no glory in overworking. It’s just imminent burnout.

Tesla is now worth more than Ford and Elon Musk is already rubbing it in to everyone who ever doubted him.

14 stunning embroidery Instagrams.

Magic moments marking 170 years of British photography.

A Singapore man who lives with more than 9,000 Barbie dolls.

YouTube will now block ads on channels with under 10,000 views.

This robot will literally make you a salad.

A beginner’s guide to microblogging on Mastodon, the open source alternative to Twitter.

An interesting story on how writing on Medium each week has changed one woman’s life.

A 27-year-old entrepreneur talks about how he launched a seven-figure snack business in 18 months.

3D knitting brings tech to your sweaters—for a price.

There’s more to tech stock photography than hokey gold bitcoins.

3D printing in-store is very close and retailers need to address it.

A comparison of six free web-based SVG editors.

Nine anime things that Astro Boy did first.

Chinese man “marries” sex robot he built for himself after he failed to find a girlfriend.

Seven integral WordPress plug-ins.

White toddler girl defends her choice of a black doll to a cashier at Target.

Animated vloggers like Kizuna Ai could be the future of YouTube.

Chobani founder, who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, stands by hiring refugees.

Brands see the future of fashion in customized 3D-knitted garments produced while you wait.

3D printing: Don’t believe all of the hype.

Five free graphic design tools.

Top 10 WordPress plugins for business sites in 2017.

Hollywood’s whitewashed version of anime never sells.

New robots just want to be your child’s best friend.

How to make a coin sorting machine from cardboard.

How Harvard Business School has advocated the propagation of immoral profit strategies.

Photos showing 100 years of people knitting.

Talking bendable Justin Trudeau doll for sale.

WordPress for Google Docs lets multiple users collaborate on content in real-time.

Six of the most innovative 3D printing companies.

GIMP is crowdfunding critical updates like high bit depth and layer effects.

This man makes amazing surreal animations from famous artwork.

Open Collective is a GoFundMe-like service for open source projects.

Philadelphia museum showing glass bongs as high art. The museum’s directors say that this exhibit is less about potheads and more about allowing an underground community of artists to showcase their work without fear of being stigmatized or prosecuted.

A look at one crafter who renders pop culture figures in embroidery.

Knitted knockers for breast cancer survivors.

A girl who lost her eye to cancer got the best lookalike doll.

Adobe is currently developing AI that turns selfies into self-portraits.

60 free and easy Easter crafts to make for this holiday weekend.

Improvisation is the heart of Cuban animation.

Researchers are working on robots that can monitor and care for the elderly, such as the animal-like MiRo.

As the ballerina moves, this robot paints the dance.

New tools makes 3D printed objects look less 3D printed.

How the sudden unexpected fame of the 13-year-old Cash Me Outside How Bow Dah Girl has highlighted the double standard between the way that white teens and teens of other races are treated.

A World War II era photographer in Poland documenting the Lodz Ghetto buried his negatives in 1944 in an effort to preserve his work. After the war he returned to the burial site and and found that more than half of the original 6,000 negatives remained intact.

Viddyoze is a fully automated video animation that allows marketers to create magnificent animations in just a few clicks.

Microsoft’s Top 10 grammar mistakes made in Word and Outlook.

This Lego-compatible tape will turn anything into a Lego-friendly surface.

This self-taught Polish embroiderer’s 3D embroidery creations using polymer clay are one-of-a-kind.

Open source prototype turns any room into a 3D printer.

YouTube takes on Facebook with real-time video sharing app Uptime.

The best free PowerPoint alternatives in 2017.

Just as liberals will go into political correctness, conservative extremists will delve into patriotic correctness.

Retirees knit small sweaters to keep chickens warm and cozy in cold weather.

Adobe’s plan to reinvent itself for the era of AI and VR.

More millennial dads watch parenting videos on YouTube than moms.

Experts say that psychopathic CEOs, enabled by protective investors and weak human resources departments, are rife in Silicon Valley.

Texas woman uses plastic bags to crochet sleeping mats for the homeless.

How the AxiDraw is designed to make handwriting obsolete.

Sixteen months later, YouTube Music is still a missed opportunity.

Uber’s “hustle-oriented” culture becomes a black mark on employees’ resumes.

How to get started with drone photography.

Can Japan make anime great again?

How (and when) to use Microsoft Word footnotes and endnotes.

A New York Times article about the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which specializes in art from outsider and self-taught artists.

Things have been getting pretty weird since Donald Trump was declared the President-Elect over two weeks after the elections. He has been making appointments to the Trump Administration. Among them is a man named Stephen Bannon, who has been accused of anti-Semitism and has actively promoted racists and anti-Semites. I’m still reading about hate crimes taking place all over the U.S. but I haven’t seen anything happening in my own neighborhood—yet.

The most election-related outrageous thing I saw in my area occurred on Thanksgiving Day. I was on my way to my cousin’s home when I saw a pickup truck driving along the highway while displaying a giant blue flag that said in white letters “TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I only saw that truck for a brief minute or so because I was stopped at a traffic light. Seeing that giant flag was really no big deal.

Meanwhile a video has surfaced showing Richard Spencer, who runs the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist organization, giving the “Hail, Trump!” salute.

That video was shot at a conference in Washington, DC that was recently held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. What’s more, one of the conference banquets was held at Maggiano’s Little Italy, which subsequently issued an apology for hosting it. That banquet even drew a celebrity—Tila Tequila, who originally became a big deal on MySpace (back when MySpace was the biggest social media platform on the Internet) because she posted scantily clad photos of herself and later hosted a reality show on MTV for a couple of seasons. Since those days of fame she has developed a fascination with Adolf Hitler while dubbing herself as “Hitila.” The onetime “Queen of MySpace” appeared at that reception while making pro-Hitler posts on social media and she even posted a photo of herself giving the Nazi salute with two white men doing the same. Tila Tequila was suspended from Twitter for making those posts. Of course, she’s a Donald Trump supporter.

It’s kind of weird to see Tila Tequila being pro-Nazi for a few reasons. First of all, she’s not even white. She’s of Asian descent. While it’s true that Germany did ally itself with an Asian nation during World War II, that nation was Japan and Tila was born in Singapore to Vietnamese refugees. As for her family’s country of origin, Vietnam was occupied by Japan during World War II. That’s right Tila Tequila sympathizes with Adolf Hitler, the head of a nation whose big Asian ally had invaded and occupied her family’s country of origin during World War II. And I don’t recall Adolf Hitler ever publicly criticizing Japan for its invasion and occupation of Vietnam and other Asian nations.

On top of it, Tila Tequila has come out as bisexual while it’s well known that the Nazis persecuted LGBTQ people just as much as they persecuted Jews. In fact, the main reason why many LGBTQ activists wear pink triangles on t-shirts and buttons is because they had to sport them on clothes when they were sent to concentration camps. For an out bisexual to side with the same kind of people who would’ve preferred to see her dead is just totally bizarre.

What’s even weirder is what she said about being an Asian-American at a white supremacist banquet.

“And I think that’s why I’m also invited here because I bring a little bit more diversity to the movement.”

Diversity at a white supremacist event?!? WTF?!?

The cynic in me thinks that the real reason why she was invited to a white supremacist conference and was allowed to give the Nazi salute next to white men doing the same is because some of these white supremacist men have twisted fantasies of having her as their sex slave while they do anything to her they want. (After all, a number of Vietnamese women were forced to serve as so-called “comfort women” during World War II.) As a result, they are willing to tolerate having her around simply because she’s a petite woman with a cute face and breast implants who is willing to pose in sexy clothes and who has even made at least one porn movie. A less-sexy, less-attractive Asian-American woman would’ve either been driven away from that white supremacist conference or she would’ve been subjected to all kinds of physical and verbal abuse.

Living outside of Washington, DC, I’m getting a bird’s eye view of all the fuckery that’s going on in the wake of Donald Trump being declared as the President-Elect. The only thing I can say is that, so far, things seem relatively calm where I live. I’m just busy preparing for the upcoming winter holidays while looking into some potential job retraining programs. It’s stressful enough that I have to worry about finances and finding my next steady paycheck without having the added burden of the recent elections and what could possibly happen to my own country over the next few months.

thesonwithtwomomscover

Not too long ago I had a friend of mine who was urging me to read this book that was written and self-published by an acquaintance of his who lives near him in Takoma Park, Maryland. My friend was so moved by what he read that he’s been going to great lengths to publicize this book and he’s trying to think of ways of having it get noticed by a real book publisher so it would get published and be more widely distributed across the country. (Which isn’t easy because the closest my friend has ever gotten to the book publishing industry is that he currently works for a public library. LOL!) He even made a video review of the book which he posted both on YouTube and Amazon.com.

So he gave me a copy of this book because he wanted me to read this book and write a review on it. I accepted this as a favor to him since he recently has helped me out in a few ways. I posted a review on Amazon, which is what my friend wanted, but I decided to post a longer version of it in this blog since not everyone visits Amazon on a regular basis.

The Son With Two Moms by Tony Hynes is the kind of book that can easily be of interest to both the African American and LGBTQ communities. This book is a prime example of intersectionality politics, where it delves into the complex yet related issues of classism, racism, and homophobia. At the same time this book provides a personal human perspective on such issues so it teaches a more powerful lesson than if one were to read about intersectionality politics in a college textbook that was written in an intellectual fashion by an emotionally detached academic.

Tony Hynes was born in Washington, DC to a poor struggling African American single mother who also had a nine-year-old daughter. (His biological father was already out of the picture by the time he was born.) His mother struggled with schizophrenia that grew so bad that she could no longer take care of her own baby. Other members of the family were unable to take the child in so he was sent to an orphanage by the time he was one. His luck would change dramatically the following year when, at the tender age of two, when he was taken in by a loving upper class childless couple and he moved to the couple’s home in nearby Takoma Park, Maryland.

What makes his story different from the hundreds of other stories of poor children being taken in by loving upper class childless couples is that the couple in this case were not only white but they were lesbians as well.

Once he moved in with his new family he started to blossom. He quickly made friends with two brothers from an Irish American family who lived near his new family and he excelled in soccer. Reading those chapters of his early life in his new neighborhood sounds like the typical childhood of someone who grew up in an upper middle class suburb. The only difference is that he happened to have two same-sex parents instead of a mother and a father.

His two moms went to great lengths to make sure that he had a relatively normal childhood despite his unusual family structure. They raised him in Takoma Park, which is a very liberal town that’s located outside of the DC border. Detractors frequently refer to it as “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park” simply because of its history of championing progressive causes, such as having the Takoma Park mayor and city council declare the town as a “nuclear free zone” back in the 1980’s in response to the Reagan Administration’s nuclear arms build-up. But the city also has a rich history of being welcoming to anyone who is perceived as “different” in mainstream U.S. society so it has attracted not only the LGBTQ community but also radical leftists, hippies, artists, and musicians. As a result, his family was accepted in a way that would have been impossible had he been raised elsewhere. I know for sure that had his family lived in my hometown of Glen Burnie (which is located 30 miles north of Takoma Park) he would’ve been subjected to intense bullying at both school and in his neighborhood on the basis of being a black boy with white lesbian parents. (Growing up in Glen Burnie I frequently heard all of the derogatory words being directed against African Americans and homosexuals.)

His moms raised him in a Presbyterian congregation that had mostly accepted his family (even though the main denomination at that time was less accepting of LGBTQ persons and, to this day, those who identify as LGBTQ are still cast out of more conservative congregations). That was a good thing because there are still many religions that consider homosexuality as a sin and there are also too many majority white congregations that aren’t very welcoming to people whose skin color is other than white. Such houses of worship would have never welcomed a family that consisted of two white lesbians and an African American boy. Hynes mentions in his book how one of his moms was originally a Roman Catholic until her parish kicked her out after someone told a deacon that she is a lesbian.

For added measure his moms also chose a private Quaker school in College Park in order to ensure that the students and teachers would accept him despite having two white mothers. The Quakers have long had a history of social justice (including advocating tolerance towards people who are different) and they were among the first religious denominations to accept the idea of both equal rights and marriage equality for LGBTQ persons.

This story may sound like a charming happy fairy tale on the surface, complete with the proverbial “And they all lived happily ever after” but, as Hynes made clear in his memoir, his growing up years weren’t all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. He admitted that he felt anger at having an absent father and being sent to an orphanage at an early age. He mentioned how some members of his Presbyterian congregation had snubbed one of his moms at a prayer circle once and there were fellow members who simply refused to accept that family as part of the congregation.

The most dramatic moment came when Hynes’ two moms managed to initially adopt the boy only to encounter a persistent challenge from a member of his original birth family who called herself his Grandma. She opposed young Tony being placed with them in the first place for these reasons: 1) living in Maryland would cut him off from his original family and community in DC, 2) he would be a black boy being raised by whites and his Grandma feared that he would be cut off from his cultural heritage, and 3) his would-be adoptive parents are a same-sex lesbian couple whom his Grandma considered as sinners and she didn’t think that such sinners should have any business raising children.

At first she told the court that she was his biological grandmother who would be willing to raise the boy. When the court found out that she was really his step-great-aunt by marriage who didn’t have any legal rights to the boy, she first tried to get his biological mother to file for custody then tried to get his absentee biological father to file his own custody suit (with the idea of having the boy live with Grandma once either parent got custody) only to have both parents fail to show up for a hearing.

In any case, his Grandma managed to get the adoption overturned. After years of legal maneuvering, both sides ended up making a compromise where the two moms and Grandma all had legal guardianship over the boy. The two moms would have physical custody of Tony but they would be required to send Tony to his Grandma’s house for a visit every other Saturday.

While it seemed like an ideal compromise, Hynes writes in his memoirs that, as legal guardians, there were certain things that his two moms legally couldn’t do that they could’ve done had the adoption not been overturned by the court. One example was having access to his birth certificate, which his moms couldn’t access because legal guardians do not have that right. As a result, Tony was unable to apply for a learner’s permit at 16 because the state required a birth certificate nor was he able to go on a class trip to Canada because he couldn’t get a passport without producing a birth certificate. Ultimately one of his moms waited until Hynes was 19 (when the state no longer had to notify the birth family of a pending adoption because he was over 18) to legally adopt him so the adoptive mom can request a copy of his birth certificate as well as having full legal family rights that are given to both adoptive parents and their adopted children.

There were times when he would be sent back to DC for the weekend to the home of the woman he called Grandma (in reality she was a step-great-aunt by marriage) and any other relatives who happened to be living with Grandma at the time. His Grandma was a far cry from the stereotypical cheerful doting grandmother. In fact she was a bitter chain-smoking old woman who would spend much of her time trying to convince young Tony that he was stolen from his family and his new family wouldn’t let him be around other black kids. At one point Grandma even had Tony’s mentally ill birth mother (who rarely saw her son since his birth) over at her home during one of his visits in an attempt at manipulating the boy into turning against his two white moms. To Tony’s credit he was able to resist Grandma’s frequent manipulation attempts and come to his own conclusions regarding his then-current living situation.

Tony Hynes would face another major challenge in his young life soon after his custody case was settled when one of his moms was diagnosed with colon cancer. What was even more sad and devastating was that it was the younger of his two moms who was diagnosed (she was only in her early 30’s at the time). Not only did Hynes write about his own feelings about seeing his one mom’s health decline but he also included excerpts from a journal that that mom kept at the time so the reader gets her perspective as well.

Ultimately that mom lost her battle with cancer and she died just a couple of months before Tony’s 12th birthday. From that point on he lived with his surviving mom in a single parent household and the trials and challenges that he and his mom went through are not unlike those of other children who have lost a parent to death or desertion. Hynes mentioned a situation in his memoir when he remembered how people used to literally gawk at his family when both of his moms were still alive and the family went out anywhere in public. After that one mom’s death Tony and his surviving mom received fewer stares when it was just the two of them who went out in public. Hynes admitted that he felt relief at not having so many people stare at his family unlike before yet he was also ambivalent because he deeply missed his dead mom.

The book shows how even the person who holds the most prejudice against the LGBTQ community can soften his/her attitude once he/she gets to know at least one person from that community and begins to understand that person’s humanity. Tony’s Grandma from his birth family is one such example because she had initially gone to great lengths to have Tony’s adoption overturned and gain custody of the boy simply because the adoptive parents were a lesbian couple. Many years after that custody case ended, one of Tony’s male cousins came out as transgender when that cousin arrived to a family Thanksgiving celebration dressed in women’s clothing. Tony’s Grandma immediately embraced that relative, which indicated that she was willing to accept her relative with unconditional love.

Hynes indicated in his memoir that there may have been another reason why his Grandma was more accepting of different people than she was in the past: Her health began to decline. Nearly a year after that Thanksgiving celebration his Grandma died at the age of 80. Ironically his Grandma died in the same hospital that one of his moms went to when she was battling the cancer that ultimately took her life. Amazingly Tony was able to look past his Grandma’s frequent attempts to turn the boy against his two moms and her overall difficult personality to realize that, in her own way, she loved him just as much as his two moms. He even tried to convince his older sister (whom Grandma used to frequently criticize about her weight as she grew up) that Grandma didn’t really hate that sister as much as his sister felt, which showed how much he was willing to let go of any past bitter feelings he may have had for his late Grandma.

The last few chapters of Hynes’ memoir deal with his efforts to lobby the Maryland General Assembly into adopting the resolution legalizing same-sex marriage and publicly giving interviews when that proposed law, known as Question 6, was placed on the ballot for people to vote on during the 2012 elections. The book ends with the voters overwhelmingly approving Question 6, which made Maryland the first state to have same-sex marriage become legal by popular vote. The back cover of the book mentions that Tony Hynes still lives in Takoma Park and he currently teaches autistic children at an elementary school in nearby Prince George’s County. Basically he turned out okay despite being an African American man who was raised by two white lesbians.

At times Hynes interrupts the narrative of his memoirs to explore the issues of same-sex parenting and trans-racial adoption. For an added perspective on the latter, Hynes interviewed three of his friends (a Latino, a Korean, and an African American) who were all adopted by white parents (except these parents were the traditional husband and wife pairs) and their varied reactions to their own backgrounds lets the reader know that there are many different ways that children of trans-racial adoptions can turn out once they reach adulthood.

As for same-sex parents, Hynes admitted that there were times he internalized the frequent societal equation of heterosexuality with masculinity. He also admitted that he felt the need to be straight just so he could refute the frequent belief that children raised by same-sex parents turn out to be homosexual themselves. The fact that he encountered such negative societal attitudes despite his moms’ extraordinary effort to raise him in a neighborhood known for its diversity speaks volumes about how much homophobia there still is in the United States despite the recent legalization of same-sex marriage.

Tony Hynes definitely has a way with words when it comes to writing his memoir. Here’s a sample paragraph of his writing style, which can be found on page 49 of the book. (This concerns his memory of one of his weekend visits in his Grandma’s home when his birth mother also happened to be there during that visit.)

No words were said for the next half-hour as the three of us sat in the room, our eyes glancing from the TV, back to our hands, and back to the TV again. Tom Brokaw’s voice ebbed in and out as Grandma flipped from channel to channel. As the day turned to evening she put the remote down, picking up a box of menthols on the table. She plucked a cigarette from the middle of the container then fumbled on the table for her lighter. After finding it under a spare napkin, she put the cancer to her lips and lit up, the smoke framing her face under a grey haze. She took a long drag and settled back into her chair, picking up the remote with vigor, aimlessly flipping through more channels.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about how children of trans-racial adoptions and/or children who were raised by same-sex parents could turn out in adulthood. This book would be ideal to give to any acquaintance, friend, or relative who is adamantly against same-sex couples having children or having a couple adopt a child of a different race because this book refutes the notion that such children end up being completely screwed up in some way. The bottom line is that it’s not race or having gay parents that determines the outcome of a childhood, it’s the quality of the parenting, the quality of education the child received, and the neighborhood the child was raised in that makes all the difference of whether a child grows up to becoming a functional independent law-abiding adult or not.

This book is available in both print and various ebook formats. Here’s a short list of where you can purchase this book online.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Google Play

Yesterday one of my friends, Phil Shapiro, forwarded this video he made where he’s starting a side project. He wants to start something called a Wondering Contest. The whole purpose he has in mind is to facilitate more wondering in people which, in turn, would lead to more innovations in all kinds of fields ranging from science to politics. Here is how he explains his proposed Wondering Contest.

In contrast to this Wondering Contest, this morning I came across this article in The Guardian about the pre-trial hearings regarding the six police officers accused of murdering Freddie Gray in Baltimore a few months ago. The last two sentences in the previous link really resonated with me and it provided the proverbial being splashed in the face by a bucket of cold water while I was wondering about the idea of having a Wondering Contest.

One protester, Lee Paterson, said he remained concerned that charges could be dropped.

He also said: “You know, this whole thing is bigger than Freddie Gray. It’s about poverty.”

That man has hit the nail right on the head. Starting as far back as the Industrial Revolution (and maybe even earlier) there has been income inequality in Baltimore where rich industrialists took advantage of African-Americans and immigrants by paying them incredibly low wages that led them to constant economic struggle.

Sure, there was a brief thaw with the rise of the unions but Baltimore’s problems started with white flight out of the city in the 1950’s and 1960’s and it has been sliding since then. Ever since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 both Baltimore and the rest of the U.S. had to endure unions being dismantled (which started when the air traffic controller union endorsed Ronald Reagan in the 1980 elections only to have President Reagan return the favor by sacking them when they went on strike seeking better pay, better working conditions, and a 32-hour workweek) and jobs being outsourced to Third World countries while low paying service jobs have risen and CEO pay has literally gone through the roof. If you read some articles written by the likes of Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, you’d see the rise in income inequality and how it has affected more and more people.

So my friend wants to encourage more wondering by having a Wondering Contest. The only problem is that it’s hard to wonder if you’re worried about where your next paycheck is coming from and, if you do get some money, will it be enough to afford food, shelter, and other very basic necessities. You can’t do much wondering if your in constant worry about whether you’ll be homeless or have to file for bankruptcy or whether you’ll be able to afford to have enough food on the table to feed your entire family. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in action.

I’m getting more of a first-hand experience in confronting tight financial situations and trying to find paid work ever since my husband abruptly walked out on me then sued me for divorce as soon as he could. I was okay when I was married but now I feel like I’ve been treading water ever since the divorce and I don’t know if there will be an end in sight.

I get that something like a Wondering Contest can facilitate innovation and invention that can help people in the long run. But unless people can earn a living wage to feed themselves and their families, they won’t give much thought to wondering other than wondering whether they can stay financially solvent. Take a look at dirt poor countries like Haiti or Malawi and you won’t see much wondering or innovating there. Hell, take a look at the poorest states like Mississippi or West Virginia and you’re not going to see much wondering leading to innovation there either.

And nothing kills wondering and innovation faster than having a rich and powerful corporation squash smaller entrepreneurial companies—sometimes with the help of the U.S. Government. Today The Guardian posted an expose about the powerful egg lobby’s attempt to ruin a small start-up known as Hampton Creek with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The effect an action like that have on wondering is immeasurable.

I think society needs to foster wonder so that it can lead to more innovation that benefit mankind but I think it can only be achieved if more pressing social problems like income inequality, racism, corporate domination of the U.S. government, poverty, and the ability to find jobs that pay a living wage are addressed first. Otherwise, fostering wondering in this current economic and political environment would be like firefighters focusing on saving only one tree when the entire forest is on fire. As Abraham Maslow said a long time ago:

The good or healthy society would then be defined as one that permitted people’s highest purposes to emerge by satisfying all their basic needs.

When I first learned about what the Baltimore cops did to Freddie Gray, I wrote this post about how I was not only completely unsurprised that something like this happened in the city of my birth but I expected something like this to also happen in Glen Burnie, the town located just south of Baltimore where I lived from ages 5-19 (when I went away to the University of Maryland in College Park) then again for 10 months from the time I graduated from college at 22 until I got married and moved closer to Washington, DC at 23. I wrote a subsequent post reiterating why I thought Glen Burnie is such a toxic powder keg that could go off due mainly to the people who live there. I cited a bully in my middle school who not only made my life a living hell but she even managed to sign my yearbook where she essentially confessed to everything and I even provided the evidence in that last post.

Well recently this retired Baltimore police officer named Bobby Berger announced a fundraiser that would help pay for the legal defense of the cops who were indicted in connection with Freddie Gray’s murder. (And, yes, I and many others consider it to be murder.) Okay, one could argue that under the U.S. Constitution everyone should be entitled to legal representation in a court of law. Berger announced that he would perform Al Jolson songs. That’s not so bad on the surface since Jolson had released such memorable songs as “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” But Bobby Berger wasn’t going to just appear on stage singing Al Jolson songs as a benefit fundraiser for the legal defense of a few cops accused of police brutality. Here is what the British newspaper The Guardian has to say about it.

A former Baltimore police officer has said he plans to perform an Al Jolson routine in blackface to raise money for the six Baltimore officers who have been indicted in the death of Freddie Gray.

Let me get this straight: This man, who’s white, had planned to perform in blackface as part of a fundraiser for the legal defense of six Baltimore police officers who were not only accused of murdering an African American man but he was targeted for his race in the first place. And guess where this fundraiser was going to take place: GLEN BURNIE!!! That’s right GLEN BURNIE!!! As The Guardian explained:

Bobby Berger, whose performances as Jolson created tension with the department in the 1980s, said on Wednesday that 610 tickets have been sold in eight days at $45 each for the 1 November fundraiser in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

Before everyone goes to Glen Burnie with their pitchforks and torches, the venue where the event was going to be held, Michael’s Eigth Avenue, had decided to cancel the event while stating on its website:

Bobby Berger will not host a fundraiser at Michael’s Eighth Avenue for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. No contract was signed with Mr. Berger. Michael’s does not condone blackface performances of any kind. As an event venue, it has not been the practice of Michael’s Eighth Avenue to pre-approve entertainment that is planned as part of a contracted event. This policy will be carefully and thoughtfully reviewed. Michael’s regrets any concerns that the discussions of this event may have caused in the community.

One can hardly blame Michael’s Eighth Avenue for canceling that event. Had it gone through, that venue would’ve gained a racist reputation and it would’ve ended up as being a magnet for hate music bands and the Ku Klux Klan. It would’ve been ultimately toxic given the fact that the Baltimore-Washington, DC area has gotten more and more racially diverse over the last few decades and being known as a racist venue would’ve been the kiss of death for Michael’s Eighth Avenue.

And Bobby Berger’s protest that wearing blackface have no racial overtones rings hollow when one considers that Berger could easily sing Jolson’s songs onstage without blackface. In fact there are YouTube clips of Jolson singing without blackface that exist such as these.

It also figures that he attempted to hold it in Glen Burnie where there are plenty of like-minded people who probably would’ve attended had Michael’s Eighth Avenue not cancelled that event. When I was growing up I not only heard the notorious “n” word on a regular basis but also slurs against Poles, Japanese, Chinese, and Italians as well. Even if you were a white person of Northern European descent you could be targeted if you acted in a way that others perceived as being “not normal” and, at times, those standards seemed random and arbitrary to me. Hence, I had that “retarded” label that stuck with me from elementary school all the way through high school and it even affected how people from my old high school treated me during my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College. It was only after I transferred to the University of Maryland when I finally began to learn what it was like to be fully accepted for myself and I no longer had to walk on eggshells because I feared other people bullying me. Nor did I had to face people talking down to me like I was nothing because they still perceived me as being inferior. At least I don’t have to worry about living in Glen Burnie again. With shit like that aborted Al Jolson blackface fundraiser for cops accused of police brutality against an African American man, I don’t even want to consider moving back there.

I wish I could say that my (along with others’) participation in the May Day protests in Baltimore had led to a total dialogue of reconciliation between people of all races and we Americans have decided to put the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow far behind and we are now living together in perfect harmony. But I would be telling a fairy tale if I said it.

I woke up early this morning and checked my cell phone, where my various news apps have suddenly gone off with what happened in Charleston. (For those of you living totally cut off from the news, here’s a primer of what went down.)

I’ve been to Charleston a couple of times (with the last time being in 2008 just before my hip replacement). It’s such a place full of cognitive dissonance. On the surface it’s a really nice seaside town with lovely architecture. There’s a lot of history as well with places like Ft. Sumter and the Old Slave Mart. People of all races seemed to be walking around and getting along with each other, including plenty of recent immigrant Latinos speaking Spanish among each other. This sign that I saw posted on a wall outside a kosher bed & breakfast for Jewish travelers is indicative of the Southern hospitality that’s so common in Charleston and other places in the Deep South.

Shalom Y'all

There’s the Charleston City Market where local artisans display their wares, including the straw crafts made by the Gullah people. I saw pro-Obama campaign signs in the windows of some of the houses located along the historic Broad Street. Located just a few miles outside the Charleston city limits is Cypress Gardens, which is such a photographer’s nirvana as these next few photos show.

Where is the Alligator? Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina 2008

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Find the Swimming Alligator

White Bridge at Cypress Gardens

Then you hit something like this museum that’s run by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. (For the record, I didn’t go inside that museum but I did walk past it since it’s so close to the Charleston City Market.) When I went in a souvenir shop located near the Charleston City Market, I saw these magnets showing stereotypical black children (with thick lips and bug eyes)—one a boy eating watermelon and the other a girl dressed like Aunt Jemima—with the name “Charleston” written underneath the figurines. (My then-husband and I hadn’t gotten our first smartphones yet or else I would’ve taken and posted those photos.) On top of that, if you were to travel to Columbus you’d see that South Carolina’s statehouse still flies the Confederate flag alongside the U.S. and South Carolina flags.

Basically when you visit Charleston (and the rest of South Carolina, for that matter) you can be expected to go “How lovely!” one minute and “WTF?!?” the next.

There’s been a huge outpouring on Facebook and Twitter about what happened. The best writing I saw on this topic is this one that was written by one of my Facebook friends who is an African American man. He’s not a media personality so there probably won’t be a lot of attention paid to what he’s written. But it’s well worth the read because he articulated things far better than I, as a white woman, ever could.

DaShanswriting

And then there is this blog post whose link was posted by our outgoing Unitarian Universalist minister that was written by a white female minister called Dear White People.

http://www.nablopomo.com

This amusing blog post sounds like my own experiences with expectation vs. reality.

These well-preserved chalkboard drawings from 1917 were recently found in an Oklahoma City school. They provide insight over the educational methods used back then as well as showing some of the artistic talents of the teachers or whoever drew these really lovely and whimsical drawings.

Here’s an interesting critique on American Girl’s Addy Walker, an African American historical doll who’s depicted as being born into slavery, and the effects of that doll on African American children.

I’ve been critical about the recent changes in Etsy’s policies, such as allowing manufacturers to sell their wares on its site and I wasn’t surprised when I learned that Etsy recently got sued by its investors. Add this to the list of recent Etsy woes: Etsy’s stock has fallen by half in the two months since its IPO.

Here’s an interesting commencement speech given by film director John Waters, self-described as “The People’s Pervert.”

Lewd graffiti from ancient Pompeii. (NSFW.)

http://www.nablopomo.com

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