Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Proposition 90: The Greedy Getting Paid

Back when the Supreme Court issued its decision last year in Kelo v. City of New London, upholding the generations-old practice of the use of eminent domain to assemble private property to turn over to private developers to further the public purpose of economic revitalization, I knew that nationwide folks would shortly lose their ever-loving mind, if the hand-wringing everywhere from DailyKOS to Free Republic was any indication. There are not too many things that cause even the most even-keeled people to start flagwaving more than having to grasp the constitutional caution contained in the Fifth Amendment takings clause ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation") that ownership of one's individual private property is sacrosanct only if the government doesn't want it to further an alleged public use. Knee-jerk resistence to, born of a complete lack of understanding of, the idea that there really is no such thing as an absolute right to property ownership in America, and that the Constitution itself authorizes the vehicle through which the takings clause has been effectuated, eminent domain, so long as money is paid to the property owner, is one of the few things that unifies all Americans, no matter what age, color, or education level.

Which is why Proposition 90 - one of the most poorly thought-out California constitutional initiatives to come along in a long time, and that's saying a LOT - is on the ballot this year in California.

What does Proposition 90 do? Well, its supporters say that it is California's answer to Kelo. The claim is that it is intended to restrict the right of California governments at all levels to take private property, to stop "eminent domain abuse." To save widows and orphans. To protect the American dream. That seems simple enough, right? Why wouldn't anyone sign onto that?

The devil, at the court level and especially at the Supreme Court level, has been in the details of what is considered "eminent domain abuse". Proposition 90 makes no intelligent effort to clear the waters on that devilishly muddy legal question. It does just the opposite: it makes the answer to the question even more opaque.

Proposition 90 is a fairly detailed initiative (which by itself justifies voting against it - laws trying to make constitutional amendments should be short and sweet, always), so PLEASE read it. But, for those who simply will not, here is my way-too-oversimplified nutshell description of it. Proposition 90 will mandate, constitutionally, that any government action which has a "substantial impact" on the value of "property" must lead to the payment of "just compensation" based not upon the existing use of that property (which takes into account current laws that might presently restrict how it is used and thus limits its value) but on whatever potential value it might have if such restrictions did not exist, or in the mind of either the government or a third-party private developer who has agreed to work with the government to develop or redevelop the property for economic revitalization purposes (i.e. a "public use.").

Explaining all the details of the above oversimplification would simply take too long to blog about and would definitely and not put people to sleep. So please please please read Proposition 90 yourself.

But just in case you don't, (and if you are a California voter you should!), you should still ask yourself: Is Proposition 90 really so potentially harmful to California when it seems to protect our "right" to own property? Hell yes. There is nothing wrong with limits and restrictions on eminent domain, but they exist already in quite a high level of detail here in California. Thus, even if Proposition 90 stopped at eminent domain, it would be bad because it undermines and makes a matter of constitutional law that which has already been resolved by statute and ordinance. But that would not be fatal, for the economy of California.

Unfortunately, Proposition 90 does not stop there. Explaining the real danger in the proposition would require a boring treatise on the legal concept of a "regulatory taking" which, taken to its worst extremes, can result in a finding of "inverse condemnation." A "taking", in the simplest English, when the government exercises its right to acquire private property for a public purpose. When a taking occurs, the 5th Amendment requires that "just compensation" be paid to the property owner for its loss. A "regulatory taking" is one which occurs when a law, or governmental initiative, has an adverse economic impact on a property's perceived value, even if the government never intends to acquire ownership of the property itself. If a regulatory taking is bad enough (i.e. wipes out a large part of a property's value) it can support a legal action in "inverse condemnation", i.e. one to compel the government to pay compensation for purchase of the property itself.

Supreme Court precedent has set the barriers for regulatory taking pretty high over the years and rightfully so, because all land-use regulation impacts property value, by definition. Under current law, most of the value of property must be lost because of a regulation before a government may be deemed to have actually "taken" the property away.

IME, you can tell how bad a proposed law is when people who would not normally spit on each other if they were on fire have lined up in coalition to try and prevent its passage. Such is the case with Proposition 90 here in California:

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council has gotten in bed with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association.

  • The League of California Cities is practically making love to the California Association of Realtors.

  • Even Phil Angelides and Steve Westly have temporarily kissed and made up over this.

  • You name it, and other than banks and large-scale developers, the opposiiton to Proposition 90 is virtually universal. The list of opponents goes on, and on, and on. We are, in terms of opposition to this measure, literally at the dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria level predicted as the end of the world in that harbinger of doom, Ghostbusters.

    Opposing Proposition 90 is a no-brainer, once you let your brain actually engage and set aside detached emotion wrapped in a flag and the myth of a poor, suffering Suzanne Kelo (who has now been paid millions out of the public coffers of what all agree was a financially suffering city of New London, Connecticut plus attorneys' fees for her trouble, just because she could). It is about shifting the last bits of state, county, and local wealth in our already-approaching bankrupt state coffers to private individuals who happen to own property. The money gets shifted whether through litigation or settlement, but it is shifted either way. And while it is the taxpayers who pay for it most directly, when the inevitable choice between raising taxes or allowing the last bits of our infrastructure (including schools) to crumble must be made, it is everyone who ultimately pays for that wealth transfer to the few. Everyone.

    I hope that people take the time to actually think about Proposition 90. There are many ways to ensure that eminent domain is not used for nefarious purposes, i.e. the old-style "nigger removal plan" that so many of us came to hate from the '60s and early '70's, and so many of us still fear without regard to the actual legal changes that have been undertaken to prevent it since then. Many of those ways have been law in this state since that time, and have worked to prevent the undisputable evil that former redevelopment methods wrought on communities of color.

    The development of my home city, the City of E. Palo Alto, is a prime example of this. No matter how much we all miss the culture of the old Whiskey Gulch, nobody misses 2000 Cooley (unless they are insane.) The IKEA and Home Depot and University Circle office complex that are in those places - and the beautiful units of permanently affordable housing that were built to begin to offset the loss of the code enforcement scourge owned by an absenteen landlord that gave new meaning to the term blight -- provide jobs, community pride, and the fiscal foundation for this minority-controlled city (even if it's less Black and more Latino than anyone ever expected) to survive and thrive without having to beg for charity, handouts and our wealthy neighboring cities feeling sorry for us. A city born of nationalist pride that can actually pay its bills someday (if outsiders representing absentee property owners would stop suing it for a while, anyhow). Who would have thought it?

    There is such a thing as balanced and community focused redevelopment, even with the use of eminent domain. The experience of E. Palo Alto demonstrates that.

    But if Proposition 90 passes, there will be no more East Palo Alto's. No more inclusionary zoning to ensure affordable housing (since that's definitely going to have a "substantial impact" on the value of business property, as everyone actually doing development acknowledges.) No more mandatory land-set asides to preserve open space, or protect the environment. Some are even claiming that Proposition 90 is so badly drafted as to call into question California's strong prohibitions against businesses disclosing personal information to unaffiliated businesses, since there is nothing in Proposition 90 that limits its provisions to the use of "real property" (i.e. land). Not because individual property owners -- of color, poor or elderly - were actually saved. But instead solely because businesspeople, who buy and sell property, real and personal, for speculative and investment reasons will have poor cities that wish to develop with sensitivity for existing diversity over an economic barrel if they can make any cogent argument that a government action has a "substantial" (meaning more than ephemeral, if you go by the dictionary which the courts would be required to do) impact on the value of their property.

    Which means, of course, that it won't get done. Ask yourself, if you are a California voter: Who wins, in that situation?

    I believe the counties facing bankruptcy in the State of Oregon can provide an answer, in the form of its Measure 37, which was upheld as constitutional earlier this year and passed before Kelo.

    IMO, all you have to do is look at Oregon to know with certainty why you should oppose Proposition 90.

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    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    New Jersey Apes King Solomon

    Well, New Jersey has spoken. And it has clearly put my own home states of California and New York to shame on the issue (although the last word in California has yet to be heard, so there is still hope).

    That's the good news.

    The bad news is that the New Jersey Supreme Court put the legendary King Solomon to shame with yesterday's refusal-to-make-a-decision decision in Lewis & Winslow v. Harris on the question of gay marriage. Not.

    For those who genuinely don't remember (!) the legend of King Solomon set forth in 1 Kings 3:16-28 here's the recap in a nutshell: he had two women who appeared before him with a baby, claiming that in the night the other woman had swapped her dead baby for the living child. Unable to decide, he recommended that the baby be divided in two and called for a sword to accomplish the task. It was then that purportedly God gave Solomon a clue, speaking through the true mother when she pleaded that the baby be given to the other woman and live rather than be divided and killed, whereas the false mother was willing to see the child die rather than share it.

    This biblical story is heralded as example of King Solomon's wisdom when it is apparent on his face that King Solomon wasn't all that wise, since he needed God to spell it out for him.

    So too, it seems, with the New Jersey Supreme Court. Except that their God is not The God (in Christian terms, anyhow) but the New Jersey Legislature.

    Yesterday's decision is the pinnacle of the art of punt. While rejecting the substantive due process argument that denial of equal rights in the fundamental right of marriage abridged the constitutional liberty interest of gay and lesbian couples with its finding that a liberty interest did not exist solely because of the second prong of the test (there was not a tradition of gay marriage "deeply rooted in the traditions, history and conscience" of either New Jersey or America, despite the liberty interest in marriage being clearly identified and of constitutional dimension) the Court nonetheless found unanimously that the New Jersey Constitution's equal protection clause was violated by any scheme that limited or made more difficult the ability of gays and lesbians to access any legal right s that heterosexual couples could access through legal marriage.

    Thus, while the reasoning was not pure, it ultimately got to the right place: New Jersey cannot deny gay and lesbian couples any of the legal benefits of marriage.

    Except for one tiny detail: the right to call it a marriage.

    I am being facetious when I call it "tiny." It is not and, indeed, the magnitude of the label has probably never been made as stark in discourse as it was in yesterday's decision. The Court majority was careful to discuss at length the cultural significance of the word "marriage", and acknowledge that the fight for the label is as much a religious and cultural one as much as, if not more than, a legal one.

    Therein lies the problem.

    While I have real difficulty with those who don't understand the jurisprudential differences between the issues raised by the New Jersey gay marriage decision and the idea of "separate but equal" (Brown v. Board of Education would likely have been a very different case, under American constitutional jurisprudence, had the Court been actually been confronted with "separate" segregated schools that were truly equal, but such a thing did not exist), nonetheless the larger problem remains:

    New Jersey has consigned the rights of gay and lesbian families to the whim of politics, by sending the matter to the New Jersey Legislature for the next six months. Deliberately.

    Such a thing -- telling New Jersey politicians that they have 180 days to come up with some law to give gay people the functional equivalent of marriage without actually commanding that they be given marriage, when one is talking about constitutional rights of a numerical minority, is unheard of. Indeed, had the question of the right to marry presented by Loving v. Virginia been sent to the Legislature in Virginia at the time, Mr. and Mrs. Loving would still be convcted criminals.

    The part of yesterday's majority opinion that leaves me the most worried about the future of this issue in New Jersey and elsewhere, is this:

    We do not know how the Legislature will proceed to remedy the equal protection disparities that currently exist in our statutory scheme. The Legislature is free to break from historical traditions that have limited the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples or to frame a civil union style structure, as Vermont and Connecticut have done. Whatever path the Legislature takes, our starting point must be to presume the constitutionality of legislation. . .

    [W]e will not speculate that identical schemes called by different names would create a distinction that would offend Article I, Paragraph 1. We will not presume that a difference in name alone is of constitutional magnitude.

    In other words, as the Court majority itself, noted: "What's in a name?"

    I believe the concurring and dissenting opinion authored by New Jersey Chief Justice Poritz, in which she on the day of her retirement gently tears her colleagues a new you-know-what for failing in their duty to protect the constitutional right to marriage for gay and lesbian people, answers the question nicely:

    Perhaps the political branches will right the wrong presented in this case by amending the marriage statutes to recognize fully the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry. That possibility does not relieve this Court of the responsibility to decide constitutional questions, no matter how difficult. Deference to the Legislature is a cardinal principle of our law except in those cases requiring the Court to claim for the people the values found in our Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, in his essay Judges as Guardians of the Constitution, the Federalist No. 78. . .spoke of the role of courts and judicial independence. He argued that "the courts of justice . . .are the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments" because he believed that the judicial branch was the only branch capable of opposing "oppressions [by the elected branches] of the minor party in the community" . . .Our role is to stand as a bulwark of a constitution that limits the power of government to oppress minorities."

    (Emphasis added, internal citations omitted.)

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    Harold Ford and the White Woman Thang

    A disclaimer:

    I am no fan of Harold Ford. Never have been, never will be. If there is one thing I cannot stand it's a Black political conservative. I like Black conservatives just fine, but the ones that tend to be in the political spotlight are pretty much whites in Black face, when it comes to dissing African-American political interests. Harold Ford has proven that he is conservative businessman, through and through. Black or no, he does not have grassroots sentiments or grassroots concern - his career has been about getting paid. In the House, he's been as much evidence of the Congressional Black Caucus sell-out mode as anything positive for Black folks. Ignoring the old advice that "You can't out-Republican Republicans" Harold Ford has often been one of the best friends of the right-wing establishment despite the (D) next to his name.

    You then add his case of homophobic foot-in-mouth yesterday on the question of New Jersey's Solomon-like babysplitting on the issue of marriage rights for gays and lesbians and it makes perfect sense that I genuinely don't dig Harold Ford.

    That being said, I can say that I feel for the brother, that he is doing so well in Tennessee in the Senate race that the GOP had to pull out the old South playbook to try and knock him down:

    By trying to evoke the subliminal white male fear of Black men fucking white girls.

    Anyone who can make any sense out of the bimbo's appearance in this GOP ad other than as a racist code piece is a better woman than I:

    You have to admit: She's just skanky.

    The NAACP is, of course, histrionic over it. Even Bob Corker is running from it, RNSC's refusal to pull the ad and closet-case Ken Mehlman's feigned helplessness notwithstanding. Ford's extremely measured response? “You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is, ‘My opponent likes girls.’ ”

    A high-yellow man himself, it seems clear to me that he left out a word for media consumption and what he really meant to say -- but cannot in mainstream politics, even in Tennessee -- was:

    "You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is "My opponent likes white girls."

    Obviously, Corker and the Republican National Senatorial Committee know Tennessee a lot better than folks gave them credit for (not that this wouldn't play right here in California too, given that the Klan and John Birchers haven't gone anywhere really but underground out here). After all, it was only a couple of years ago when the Tennessee GOP ran good-old-boy James Hart (aka Son of Hitler, to the right of David Duke) for a Congressional seat out there. Trying to link Harold Ford (a young black bachelor no matter how many almost-decolorized photos Newsweek runs of him) to white women anywhere in the South (even a ho-case like the one in the GOP ad) is like trying to chain Ford to political kryptonite.

    Ford already is in a statistical dead heat for the Senate race (which to me, a veteran of the Tom Bradley election, means he's almost guaranteed to lose), so IMO this last-minute advertisement is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to reach out to those voters who say all the right things but in the privacy of the voting booth would hesitate pulling the lever for a Black man..........for fear of what that would mean in terms of things like competing for white girl attention. It's not the old BS saw of "rape" anymore - here in 2006 we now can speak more honestly about what I believe is the true genesis of this problem: white male inferiority complex, vis a vis competing for white female attention with a perceived studly hunk (and I use the term loosely, in Harold Ford's case) of Black manhood.

    But that's only 1/2 of the story, IMO. From where I sit, there is *another* group this ad has bonus potential to offend to the detriment of Ford's chances:

    Black female voters in Tennessee.

    The extremely tense feelings that many Black women have about Black men who "abandon sisters" in their dating choices is well-known - in the Black community, anyhow. Go to any space in which single heterosexual Black women congregate and you will likely, over time, hear examples of it. Many of whom are single -- in part because they would never consider marrying a white man (history ain't that old YET in the South) -- and deeply resent Black men who date across racial lines at a time when there are only 90.1 Black men alive for every 100 Black women. Deduct the ones that are gay, incarcerated or unemployable, and you've cut the available percentage of marriagable heterosexual Black men to around 60%. Nearly 50% of all sisters under the age of 35 have never been married, as opposed to only 10% of white women.

    Add the bonus fact that Black men themselves often get on Black women's case when *they* date interracially, on race loyalty grounds even as they are hitting it with white (and Latina and Asian) girls and you quickly realize that it's often a good idea to wear flame retardant asking some Black women what they think of Black men who date white women. A full-out hazmat suit might be called for (especially after a few drinks.)

    Folks can say what they want about this being "racist" of Black women. They'd be right, but by focusing on that they'd also completely lack empathy for the reasons many Black women -- the head of the Black family, often -- feel as they do, often perceiving themselves as doomed to loneliness, overtly rejected as lovable, desireable women by the entire world, starting with "their own" men.

    Hell, I ultimately married a white man more than once out of love despite real misgivings about it and I still put political heat on my bi-racial son about the need to seek out and marry a good *Black* woman like his mother, despite the race of his father, when it is time to settle down. (I didn't say my own racial shit isn't occasionally hypocritical for political reasons; I'm nothing if not honest.)

    Look at the video again. What is the first image we are shown? That of a visibly non-white (light skinned Black, as I see it) woman pointing out that Harold Ford is "cute" and that's all that matters.

    Now think of what that might mean subliminally, the image of the white woman who claims to have met Harold Ford at a Playboy party (to which it is doubtful any sisters were invited) asking him to call her.

    Now, there's likely not a Black woman in Tennessee who would vote *for* Bob Corker solely because of an accusation that Harold Ford is hitting it -- or trying to -- with white girls. Sisters are lots of things, but politically stupid generally isn't one of them. But that's not how the game is played with many African-American voters. Crossing party lines just ain't all that.

    Instead, they just stay home. They don't vote at all.

    An outcome just as beneficial to the GOP when numbers are so close as the closet racists who will vote for Corker (aka against Ford) because of the ad.

    It's clear that Harold Ford and the Democratic Party are all over this racist ad and so far, reasonably successful at lambasting it where white voters are concerned. But I wonder if anyone has even thought of a separate need to say something to Black women voters in Tennessee about Harold Ford, at the same time?

    Probably not.

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    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    The Nationalist Math in My Head

    Yesterday morning, much as one gets a song stuck in one's head despite all reason, math ("cypherin', as my father would say in his most southern moment) was stuck in mine. This is what it was:

    9 x 12 = 108
    25 x 120 = 3,000
    1.5 x 1200 = 1800
    0.5 x 12000 = 6,000


    This late summer's reading, (which included a first reading of We Who Are Dark, a second reading of The Covenant and a third reading of Birth of a Nation); hearing that in my little teensy backwater California formerly Black city, we're bleeding more than $100 million a year that could and should be leveraged locally; and feeling an increasing sense of "Fuck, I just give up" when it comes to my efforts to build cross-racial and cross-ethnic coalition in politics based on directness and honesty rather than unthinking dogma at the present time to work on the now life-or-death issues confronting the African-American collective, has me thinking a lot about cyphering.

    And yesterday, the cypherin' that kept working my nerves despite a long day of working and living kept bringing me back to the number 10,908.

    10,908 Million, that is.

    Otherwise known as nearly 11 billion dollars. Not exactly chump change, especially when one considers what can happen to that number if it is subjected to the miracle of compound interest for a time.

    It is clear that Black folks have a lot of money that we can and do just spit away, even the poorest of the poor. Recent estimates of our disposible income, aka "buying power" collectively hover at around $800 billion a year. Right now, it's going to lots of causes, some good (churches and charities), some so-so (the mixed bag of The ShopTM, some very bad (the numbers, drugs, $150 tennis shoes and grill work on perfectly healthy teeth amongst the most self-hating.)

    What would happen if we asked Blacks to, finally, ignore our detractors and well-meaning yet naive allies, and turn their wallets to a single cause: taking care of their own, where others have proven that they will not, despite their as-yet unpaid slavery debts? What would happen if we banded together, despite political party affiliation, residence in the hood or Buppieville, paper-bag test color, and all other false divides, for a single cause? Our cause?

    That type of cause used to be called a Black nationalist cause. But whatever you want to call it (since I know that folks get scared about the words Black and nationalism in the same sentence, thinking that they mean "Kill Whitey" when they don't and never did except in the minds of white folks), the cause is long overdue. At least 85 years overdue, since the first time something similar -- a dues-paying membership society for African-Americans, for a purpose -- was called for. Except that this time, the long-term purpose would not be repatriation to the Motherland, but economic empowerment within the land we built for free. In our home.

    How did I get to 10,908, the math above? Well, it's simple.

    Even the poorest of the poor can donate $12/year - $1/month per person - to a cause. Indeed, many of the poorest of the poor donate lots more to causes that are grounded in nothing more than desperate hope, such as playing the numbers. (You can't rationally call the or the Lotto anything more than a donation, given that the odds range from 600-1 to nearly 12 million-1). That's where the 9 x 12 comes in: 9 million Black people living below the poverty line, each of whom gives only $1 per month to the cause. That's all.

    The next group, the overwhelming mass of Black folks (25 million) who are working and who may be, even if struggling, still spending on everything from hair to cars to clothes, can easily come up with $120/year - $10 per month per person. 1 less movie, 1 less pair of sneakers or mid-tier clothing. Or if folks really need to feel like they are making a sacrifice, 3 fewer monthly visits to Starbucks. 26 million people giving $120 each year, to a cause. We put far more than that in the collection plate each year.

    Then there is the next tier - the African-American professional class: those of us who make between $75K and $200K per year. Those of us who, even if we are struggling because historically we keep trying to live beyond our means, and in those people's neighborhoods at inflated housing prices instead of our own at reasonable ones, must admit if we are honest that our educational and professional credentials allow us to nonetheless spend more than $100 month per person on clothes, cars, upscale dinners and vacations, cable television and the big screen TV's to view it on (the latter which I myself have resisted because nobody, but nobody, needs a 42-inch TV.)

    Finally, there are our elites: those 150,000 or so African-American households (representing 500,000 Black folks, give or take) with a gross annual income of more than $250K per year. Contrary to myth, they aren't all getting paid by the NBA, and they aren't all Oprah or Bill Cosby - both of who are donating to Black causes enough for themselves and everyone else as it is already. The bulk of this group are "regular folks" (comparatively speaking, anyhow) who happen to have real financial security which they worked hard for. Their financial status comes from their equal status as the elite educated. The business class. The investor class. (Yes, Black folks have one, too.) Surely, it is not going to really hurt this group to to ask them to contribute $1,000/month or so (since, if the vehicle is initially non-profit, they can write it all off anyway and will get back 50 cents or so on the dollar) to share the wealth with their own. Indeed, many of this group are quietly donating the money anyway, just off the radar so that their white patrons don't notice, to similar Afrocentric causes like the Boule - except that the Boule has spent far more time and money on cotillions and social climbing than its original purpose justifies.

    And I have not yet even started talking about the Black billionaires and half-billionaires, who no doubt could, if so inclined, take up the slack and then some.

    So what if, instead, that 11 billion, that 1/10th of 1% of our collective buying power - that "spit money" compared to our $800 billion in buying power - just a part of the money that 88% of us donate each and every year to religious charity or religious foolishness depending on your perspective, was systematically harnassed for a greater cause? For self-interest? For taking care of our own?

    Imagine what could be done. The birth of a nation. We're already donating $11 billion every year anyway - why not aggregate it in a systematic way, for a change? And why not do it in a way that furthers our solidary, not continues to isolate the responsibility to a few individuals?

    Just food for thought.

    There is one, downside, and it's a big one. All 36,000,000 of those who identified themselves as African-American or Black on the most recent census would have to decide to work together. For a single cause - our collective cause. And to ignore ALL detractors who would try to tell us that we were "hurting our own interests" by banding together racially for a cause, especially the well-meaning liberal ones. Our sad miseducated history demostrates that this would be no easy feat. Slave mentality abounds, from the poorest of us to, most sadly, the richest and most well-educated. We continue (myself included, based on recent events) to measure the validity of what we want and what we say not on what is in our best interests, but instead on what they tell us is our best interests.

    But then the numbers come up again. It's hard to argue with the numbers. And 10,908 as a powerful number, when you think about it. For those truly old school folks, I bet I could even find meaning somewhere in the Dream Book for the numbers 109 and 908, even if I didn't "combinate" them. (Hey, old folks in the 'hood still rely on this hoodoo style today to make financial decisions, and the power of numbers is deeply embedded in our culture - so whatever works to engage people, right?)

    I cannot possibly be the first person who has thought of this simple idea, a cross between dues and tithes, right now, for a cause. The question becomes: how to try and make it reality? We obviously don't want another version of the crisis that caused the fictional "birth of a nation" called East St. Louis aka Blackland. (I couldn't sign onto a national anthem grounded in the Good Times theme song anyway....) If for no other reason than the fictional response to such a maneuver probably is not as far away from reality as one would like to hope. So what will it take? And who will it take? Perhaps something like *this* should be how we further things. The Covenant has not yet moved to its operational stage, although it's message continues to resonate and propagate quietly throughout our people, a phenomena largely off the radar (which I frankly am grateful for.)

    We could spend forever talking about what to do with that kind of money - clearly collective wealth even in the face of individual "no pot to piss in" poverty. But that's secondary; if history teaches us anything about power in America, it should teach us that it is only after you have the resources that you can worry about how to spend them. And making a start by first beginning to harness our untapped financial resources will give us the time to think all those things through. But we have to start sometime.

    Much to ponder. Much to hope for. Much to try and DO. I certainly am not up to the task alone, but I'm going to float this idea and see if it gets any traction.

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    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Fleeing into Space Away from White "Safe Space"

    It is ironic that fleeing one space has driven me to another- that I once saw as a tabula rasa on which I could self-express, then which became a guilty wagging finger as it remained, in fact, a blank slate, for months. With decreasing validity of excuse.

    Fleeing "safe space", both times, I grew silent.

    July was the last time I posted anything on my own blog. I have written nothing of substance that I have actually published since that time, although many things have been started, then set aside with second-guessing. The decreased amount of blogging time I dedicated, instead, to contributing to someone else's space, someone else's community. A rationalized outcome seen by me at the time as the easier alternative to writing nothing at all, given how long it takes me to produce anything that I believe is of suitable quality. Others use their blogs as news aggregators, 5 or 10 or 20 pithy comments a day that catch attention but provide no real analysis, hoping that ensuing dialogue will provide that critical element. That's never been my style, though, and, since I can be nothing other than me, I published nothing at all.

    That will change. Starting now.

    When I started this blog a year ago, I did so out of a need to write again, having self-silenced for decades, despite writing having been at at the heart of myself as a child and young adult. I saw it as an opportunity to express self - with all the eclecticism, inconsistencies and thinking outside the box that I actually have lived. To again speak in my own Black woman's voice, free from the weight of worry about others' opinions, validation, or acceptance. How quickly that changed, and I became like those that trouble me most: willing and able to self-censor, for fear of reaction. At least until my silenced feelings boiled over I was no longer able to exercise even a modicum of self-censorship to shield the ignorant from the bombardment of their senses that comes when you finally bitch-slap them upside the head with uncomfortable truths. Unable to at that point be silent, I became instead unable to follow my instincts, and not throw myself in front of the speeding train that is the predictable white liberal response to any Black person - but most definitely a Black woman - that tells them straight on that their shit still stinks. Much as a deer in the headlights is unable to move, I was unable to follow the primary Black rule of survival: nod, smile, and STFU.

    But the deer, unable to move, will die if he does not.

    I am not willing, quite yet, to die. I may have fatally wounded myself in terms of public acceptance from my "friends". I may have sent my own self into emotional turmoil, worrying about their feelings as much as my own if not more. And I may have lost my way in terms of rhythm and synch, meaning that it will probably take even longer to write. I may (likely) will be writing again to the audience of one - myself.

    I don't care.

    One of the most important things I believe I hve been called to do is to express the truth about ongoing racism in America, such as it is, the place of Black people in America vis a vis our culture and our majority (whites and their allies) as I see it, and the role it plays, when it does, in everything from the illegal immigration debate to abortion to the ascendancy and maintenance of the time of Emperor George W. Bush. That is not to say that everything is race, no matter how many times my detractors accuse me of making it such. Rather, it is to say that racialism plays a central role in a great deal of what this country chooses to do as a matter of policy. Whether we're talking about bombing brown Iraqis to the next world in the name of giving them "freedom". Or immigration law that uses Latinos and non-American "blacks" to validate the ongoing condition of the descendants of African slaves in America. Or even the vileness of what we decide is, or is not, obscene on television.

    This is not to say that I do not have political views detached from race. I believe my earlier writing has made that crystal clear. Rather, it is that I also have pretty finely developed racism antenna at this point, where unconscious racism is concerned. And, because I actually do love people, I can no longer let comfortable white liberals silence and reject out of hand what that antenna demonstrates, even if that means I'll be drawn and quartered rhetorically much like one of my heroines in the Blogosphere, Nubian of Black(A)demic was over the summer. She has bounced back with a vengeance from her self-imposed silence, a gift to the blogosphere. Me not doing so would therefore contribute to my own similar condition, our own similar condition. So I'm going to try, keeping in mind what is most important: why I blog in the first place. Borrowing prose from that wise young sister, Nubian:

    I Blog Because I Need to

    i blog because:
    i have a voice
    i have something to say
    i have something to type
    i do not want to be ignored, silenced, erased, avoided, negated
    i do not want to become co-opted
    i want to be visible
    i want to be heard

    It's as simple as that.

    So I'm going to give myself a fresh start, and fresh voice, knowing that I will be "unsafe" in all likelihood. But if I'm going to be unsafe speaking my version of the truth anyway (and recent blog experiences make that crystal clear) I might as well do so in my own language and on my own terms. With my own words, in my own voice, but at last free from the need to tart it up for consumption by majoritarian-thinking audiences that still condition believing and agreement about things that are evident to a small child on their personal sense of homeostasis and comfort.

    I'm not talking about me speaking some universal truth because I claim to know it: I don't. I am not God. I am not all Black people. Or all women. Or all bisexuals. Definitely not all parents. Heck, I'm not even all lawyers. But a dimension of my identity rests in each of those venn diagram circles. When it comes to the most difficult of these identity pieces -- race, gender and sexuality -- I only know what I have seen and experienced over 45 years on earth and know that they are the same thing as millions in the collective have also experienced, and I know that only crazy people deny what they have seen over and over and over again as the truth. Since I know that I am not crazy, no matter how much craziness other people's denial about truth (born from those ever-present evils, fear, guilt and defensiveness) evinces, I am no longer going to let needing anyone's agreement or approval stand in my way. I figure that's a pretty good start, and I will just take my chances on what flows from that, rhetorically and otherwise.

    I guess I need to thank those white liberal friends who could not see that their demand for "safe space" and insistence that they are "the same and its' all about class" when discussing the issues of race and racism were inherently unsafe-making for voices of color wanting to speak the truth about our experiences and what we have learned from them. Since it wouldn't have happened without their well-meaning self-delusion, and I would not be back here in all likelihood.

    We'll see if my newfound sense of purpose holds true.

    More Below!