Monday, 22 June 2015

Has Anything Changed for Black Americans?

Parishioners attend the first church service four days

A little girl turns up for Sunday service at the Emanuel African Methodist Church after the shooting incident which killed 9 Black people. People have drawn comparisons between this picture and the one below of little Ruby Bridges who was the first Black American child in 1960 to attend a previously all White school. Ruby was aged 6 at that time and had to undergo a terrifying experience for the simple act of trying to get an education.

This is Ruby's story:

As soon as Ruby entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out; all the teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only one person agreed to teach Ruby and that was Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, and for over a year Barbara taught her alone, "as if she were teaching a whole class."  That first day, Ruby and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal's office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day.

On the second day, however, a white student broke the boycott and entered the school when a 34 year old Methodist minister, Lloyd Anderson Foreman, walked his 5 year old daughter Pam through the angry mob, saying, "I simply want the privilege of taking my child to school...." A few days later, other white parents began bringing their children, and the protests began to subside. Every morning, as Ruby walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, allowed Ruby to eat only the food that she brought from home. Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school.

Has anything changed?


Sunday, 21 June 2015

White Woman Poses As Black Woman

Do people in a multicultural society adopt racial identities of others? I know of White teens who love rap music. I see White teenage boys walk around with their jeans pulled down below their underwear like the rappers do. There are mixed-race girls who classify themselves as White despite bearing a darker skin colour. Then there are mixed-race children whose skin colour is White, like my daughter, who consider themselves, well, mixed-race rather than identifying with one colour. 

It's all enough to do your head in isn't it? To add a further complexity which trounces all other racial complexities is the case of a White woman who is not mixed-race but who passed herself off as a Black woman for 10 years. It isn't the 10 years that gets me so much as the fact that someone went to all the trouble to change their identity to join a group that is much discriminated against. 

rachel dolezal white black

Rachel Dolezal, was a civil rights leader who worked at the National  Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington. She was well known in her fights for racial equality but her parents outed her last week by telling the press that Rachel was their daughter and was not mixed-race in anyway. There was not even a smidgen of racial cross-overs in her ancestry. They were all White throughout their lineage. 

Rachel has since attempted to defend herself. In her words: "I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices...Please know that I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me, it's about justice". 

Putting aside the legal considerations about whether she misrepresented herself in her employment contract, I think Rachel ought to be reemployed because anyone who goes to such lengths to fight anti-racism is a keeper. Anyway, according to social scientists (e.g Ruth Lister), race has no scientific basis as a classification of peoples because there is greater genetic diversity within groups classified as 'races' than between them. Race is seen as being a social construction rather than an empirical fact. If somebody wants to adopt another race then good luck to them. I thought Eminem was a Black rapper when he first came on to the music scene till I saw a photo of him some months later. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Rick Perry Classes Charleston Shooting As An 'Accident'

Rick Perry is running AGAIN for the Republican nomination to be the candidate for the American Presidential Election and it is quite clear from this video that the Republican party has learnt NOTHING from their losses of the last two elections. When a White man who sports an apartheid badge goes into a church in a Black area and shoots 9 Black people dead it is NOT an accident. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Oh For The Days When Mountains Were Associated With 'The Sound of Music'

'Climb Every Mountain' had a raw appeal. Julie Andrews' vocals drew you into the song and made you feel as if you were on a journey of some sort that involved tearing yourself apart. The second line, "Search High and Low" only served to reiterate the point that you were being asked to make a decision to forge a path in life which involved getting out of your comfort zone.

So it was not to be with the young people who climbed a mountain last week in Asia and went straight into their normal routine of behaving as if they were at a nightclub in Ayia Napa. The clothes came off, cameras out and then a finale which involved waterworks. For an oldie like me there was only disappointment. The association with the mountain of a childhood memory of  'Sound of Music' was thrashed.

While I attempted to play 'Climb Every Mountain' in my head as a way of cleansing the whole dreadful fiasco people kept asking me for my opinion. Every so often a question would pierce my thoughts, 'What do you think about ....mountain...?. I was suddenly cast in the role of Asian cultural expert. This operates in the same way as when English people go to great lengths to tell me about their Asian friend and provide me with a description of the person plus their name and then look at me expectedly, hoping that I know this friend. This is as funny as me asking an English person whether they know Matthew who studied law with me, has red hair, comes from Lincoln and whom I lost touch with. (Seriously, does anyone know where he is?)

As for the mountain, Dan Jones in an op-ed in the Evening Standard, 12 June, wrote that: "Local politicians are blaming this disrespectful act for causing an earthquake...I suppose they may consider themselves lucky that they were not visited by the girl who last summer gave 24 men blow jobs in a Magaluf bar...The mountain would probably have exploded".  I was finally able to laugh after reading this.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

What Do Working Mothers Need?

I started off my morning like many other mornings with a delayed train and subsequent bus journey to work which meant that I got into work late. This happened yesterday too and the journey took 35 minutes longer than it ought to have. The only upside to a longer journey is that I get to read my newspaper, The Guardian, in full but even this silver lining is not silver enough to compensate for a delayed start to one's work.

What a working mother needs is a proper transport infrastructure that does not let her down with a regularity which makes her grind her teeth before even getting into the office where she then has to fight for equal pay, advancement opportunities and the scourge of 'presenteeism' which makes people think that you are skiving if you are not actually sitting at a desk in the office (thus negating the whole concept of 'flexible working').

With so much emphasis on productivity in our economy and endless debates about why it's low I would suggest that transport or a deficiency in the transport system is a contributing factor of productivity. Whenever there's a transport workers' strike the press and politicians are in uproar about how the economy has been brought to a standstill for ONE day yet people are getting into work late everyday which negatively drip feeds productivity levels if measured in time units.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Are You a 'Lazy' Mother who Feeds her Child Instant Noodles?

The mother police are out again and this time in India. The sales of Maggi (made by Nestle India) noodles has been banned in 13 states by the ruling party called Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The reason for this ban is because "the new generation of mothers are lazy, hence they feed their children on Maggi". 

Hands up those of you who have given your children instant noodles? I would put up my hand if I could but that would prevent me from typing this blog post. Heck, when I resorted to throwing a pack of noodles into boiling water it was because I: (A) couldn't be bothered to cook a meal from scratch; and (B) it was also done when I was short of time and my daughter still had to be fed. Option A, by the BJP's premise, makes me a lazy mum and, under option B, I am still being a lazy mum. 

Image result for maggi noodles banned

In other words, the Indian mother police have made every real life experience of cooking noodles a sort of crime. While cooking noodles does not seem have been classed as a crime, the moral aspersion cast may as well convict you. So, even if your cat was drowning and you had to rush out and save it before taking it to the vet to have it checked out, came home exhausted and trembling you still would not be able to cook noodles because of the moral magnitude that lies behind the ban. 

Much like the big lottery hand that used to feature in ads with a booming voice going: "It's you" the stigma of cooking noodles will jar your conscience and you will go to sleep thinking "it's me, I am a bad mother".

In a country with great inequality where poor children scrounge in dustbins for food I would have thought that a ruling party would have bigger pressing concerns to deal with than the oppression of mothers through a food ban. 


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Syrian women celebrate escaping ISIS by tearing off their robes

Syrian women celebrate escaping ISIS by tearing off their robes.This is the incredible moment elated Syrian women tear off their black shapeless robes as they enter Kurdish-controlled territory after fleeing for their lives from the clutches of Islamic State. In two video clips released exclusively to MailOnline, men, women and children are seen celebrating their arrival in Rojava in the north of the country. Two women pull off their robes to reveal colourful dresses while another removes her headscarf and lets it fly away in the wind after escaping religious persecution under ISIS

Syria-based freelance journalist Jack Shahine watched as the refugees arrived in the area close to Tel Abyad and about 40 miles east of Kobane. He told MailOnline: 'These women, children and men are fleeing ISIS controlled area and as soon as reaching Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) controlled areas they remove the black Burkas obliged by ISIS, breathing freedom again. 'These women started to remove blackness, feeling cheerful and joyful for being finally free.'

The footage was filmed by Shervan Derwish, a cameraman and the spokesman for the Euphrates Volcano Operation Room - established by the Kurdish YPG and Free Syrian Army to target the Islamic extremists.


Friday, 5 June 2015

More Parenting Labels, This Time It Is The 'Cat Dads'

Notice how almost every parenting label to date has had 'mother' or 'mummy' tagged on to it like Tiger Mother, Yummy Mummy? The closest that Dads got to was in the catch all 'Helicopter Parenting' label. Even here, the term was more often used in reference to a mother's parenting style than the father's.

Now it is the turn of Dads and the moniker is 'Cat Dads'. The origins of this label come from a Chinese comedy series titled: 'Tiger Mom, Cat Dad' which, in turn, was inspired by a debate that took place between Amy Chua and Chang Zitao. The former is the Chinese American woman who wrote a book about how Tiger Mothers raise more successfully driven children blah! blah! Chang Zitao, a real life Chinese Cat Dad, thought that the best role that a Dad could play was as a buffer to a mother's excessive power driven mothering style. 

As always the proof is in the pudding or, in this case, in how your kids turn out. Amy Chua has two children at Harvard University. Chang Zitao has a daughter who also went to Harvard. Neither's parenting style seems to have borne any strong evidence of being better than the other's which must have been disappointing to both of them. 

As a result of this conflict both parenting styles are now featured in the Chinese comedy series. 

The protagonists are an ambitious disciplinarian mother and her easy going husband. They have regular clashes over which parenting style is best for their daughter. The mother character believes that their daughter is spoilt and does not measure up to the success of her peers in school. The father character wants his daughter's happiness to come first before her schooling. 

Such a conflicted sense of parenting must do a child's head in. Having been brought up in Asia myself many decades ago I cannot understand why folk over there have not found a way of combining the two - that working hard for one's success can be fun. Instead success and fun are always presented as uncomfortable bedfellows or dichotomies are divergent as loving or hating Russell Brand. 

Here is a trailer clip of the Chinese comedy series. If you ask me, it seems to more resemble a trailer for a remake of The Omen starring Damian rather than a laugh a minute type of show. 


Monday, 1 June 2015

Success is when your children turn out better than you

Joe Biden, the Vice President of America, lost his son Beau Biden at the weekend who died from brain cancer. This video is of a speech Joe Biden gave a few weeks ago. It is immensely touching and, while his son's serious illness was a secret at this stage, viewed with the gift of hindsight it lends a poignancy that is heartbreaking. I have always subscribed to the same belief as Joe Biden - success is when my daughter turns out to be better than me in every way. Piers Morgan has written about Beau Biden.