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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Last Night I had a Nightmare: Palestine and Israel

Last night I had a dream. All of my friends decided to take a trip to the Middle East. Half of us went to Palestine, the other half went to Israel. I don't know how the decision was made about who would go where but I ended up in Palestine. It was a nightmare. I spent the entire week dodging bombs. I did nothing all week but struggle to survive. 

When the group got back together and compared notes I had to explain to the friends who stayed in Israel what Palestine was like. They had no clue. I had to loudly and dramatically explain to them that we had no  water, no electricity and no peace of mind. Our every waking moment was consumed with wondering when the next bomb would fall, where the next meal would come from, how we would get by.

My friends who stayed in Israel had had no such experiences. They had watched TV, talked on the phone, ate regular meals, accessed the internet and lived a relatively uneventful life. It was like night and day. I realized after talking to them that it was as if we had lived on different planets for a week (Is it like that for Israelis? Do they just have no idea what it is like to live in Palestine?)

After our one-week experiment we all returned to America but my friends noticed I was having a much harder time re-adjusting to my home life because I could not help worrying about the Palestinians.

This really was a dream. I didn't make it up. But I did get to wake up. After waking up, I find I am still worried about the Palestinians. As an Indigenous person, I am sympathetic to the plight of any colonized people. 

When will the colonization of Palestine end? When will they wake up from their nightmare ?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's To Do List: Remember the Women


1. Stop US involvement in torturing detainees---check
2. Wage Peace in the Middle East--begun
3. End International "global gag rule" on abortion--check
4. End the war in Iraq--begun
5. Get us out of this Economic Mess--begun
6. Tear Down the Bush Curtain of Secrecy Hung around the government for last 8 years--check

Obama has initiated talks with Middle Eastern leaders, sent envoys to the Middle East, met with military leaders to set the time table for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, has issued executive orders suspending trials at Gitmo,  shut Gitmo down, and set regulations on the interrogation of prisoners still held there. He has also passed executive orders to create government transparency, posted complete copies of all of his executive orders online, written an executive order to reverse the global gag rule on abortion, and met with Congressional leaders to push through an economic stimulus plan designed to create 4 million jobs. All this in the first five days on the job.

So far so good.

But there is still much to do. One of my big concerns at this point is how well Women's Issues will be addressed by this administration. 

Concern: Obama's decision to create new jobs primarily through construction and engineering projects is likely to unfairly benefit men over women, given that only 3% of construction workers are women. 

Concern: Not only are the jobs being created in fields that are typically disproportionately filled by men but they also usually pay much more than jobs populated by women workers. 

Concern: Of the 4 million jobs promised by the economic stiumlus package how many will go to women? An estimated 1.4 million, according to Obama. That is only 35%. Why is 52% of the population only receiving 35% of the jobs being created? This is not acceptable.

Concern: Only 6 of Obama's 24 cabinet members are women, a mere 25%. Only 16 percent of Senators are women and women only account for 17 percent of the House. We as women do not as yet have the political power to represent ourselves. This needs to change. In the mean time we need the men in office- men like Obama- to do everything they can do end gender inequity.

So what should Obama do?

Obama's To DO List for Gender Equity

1. Make sure that 52% of all economic stmulus jobs go to 52% of the population (women) by writing this into the legislation

2. When creating jobs in male-dominated industries (such as construction, engineering, etc), institute regulations to prevent men from favoring men in hiring. Many of the jobs that are reserved for men do not require any skills unique to men.

3. Write pay equity regulations into the economic stimulus plan to guarantee that women receive their fair share of tax-funded resources. Ensure that the female-dominated jobs get paid wages similar to the male-dominated jobs so that men are not making twice what women are making just because we have a history of paying more for jobs associated with men (garbage collection, construction, plumbing, electricians, etc)  than for those associated with women(education, clerical, healthcare, childcare).

4. Provide childcare for workers thus allowing more women to work outside the home while simultaneously creating more jobs in a woman-dominated industry (childcare).

Only by undoing the political and economic inequalities that have been in place since this country was founded can we hope to stimulate the economy in a way that does not unfairly privilege 48% of the population (men) to the detriment of the majority (women).

I have a much larger TODO list for Obama but he can start here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Pinch Me: If I am Dreaming I Don't want to Wake Up!

This morning I woke up afraid the inauguration had all just been a wonderful dream. It wasn't until I heard the DJ on my morning radio show mention the inauguration that I breathed a sigh of relief. But I can't relax. I still hold my breath every time I see Obama in public, afraid he will be shot. I still worry that someone will find a way to take it all away, to render his election illegitimate somehow. I am still not sure this is really happening.

Its not my fault. Nothing in my 40 years of life on this planet has prepared me for this. Nothing in my experience as a black/red/brown woman in the United States has ever suggested that this was possible. If I don't know how to act for awhile, people are going to have to cut me some slack.

Am I sporting a goofy grin during what ought to be a serious discussion? Cut me some slack. Am I teary-eyed every time I watch the news? Cut me some slack. Am I bumping into walls while walking about in a dreamy state? Cut me some slack, people.

When I was a wee girl all my teachers told me I was supersmart. My parents tended to agree with them. Given all the praise I was getting from the big people- who ought to know-I had no reason to think it unreasonable for me to decide that I was going to grow up to be president of the United States. The adults were too nice to burst my bubble. They never discouraged me but oddly didn't encourage me much either. Looking back on it now, I suspect that just hearing me say that was what I wanted may have broken their hearts a little bit.

When I was older- around 10 or 11 I was reading an encyclopedia (something I enjoyed doing for fun, being a nerdy type of child) and I came across a section on the presidency. The book had a photo gallery with photographs (or in some cases drawings) of all the presidents who served in the history of the country. I looked through all the pictures, page after page, and I was struck by two oddities: there were no women and there were no brown faces.

By that age I had  been made aware of the great number of white people who thought Black people weren't real people like them and I had met my share of men who believed that we lived in "a man's world" where women were just their helpmates, their ornaments, their entertainment. But I didn't put it all together until I saw all those old white men lined up in that book. I didn't know until then that when they said any American citizen over the age of 35 could be president that the term "American citizen" did not include me, despite my being Indigenous to this country on one side of my family and a 3rd generation American on the other.

So if I you find me stumbling through my day in a dreamy state, don't pinch me. I don't want to wake up from this wonderful dream! I hope I never do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Smiling ad Crying for Obama

I am sitting in front of the television watching the Kenyan Boy's Choir dancing for Obama and I can't help crying. I have been to Africa, I have known Kenyans. I have danced with Tanzanians, Nigerians, Kenyans, and Zanzabaris in the streets on the continent. But I had to travel so long and so far to meet my sisters and brothers.  

We as African Americans have never danced with our cousins in the streets of the United States. And when we as African Americans have danced in our own streets, we have always had to keep one eye open for the brutality of our state's police forces who were ready to stop our dancing with guns. We have never seen our African cousins on the dais at distinguished national events. And before Obama, we have never seen our faces so well represented in so many places. We have never had this chance to be this proud.

This is our moment. It is also our country's moment. It is our moment of healing: this inauguration. This is America's chance to begin to undo a history of  shame and injustice. It is our chance finally to undo the damage done by our ancestors, to heal the wounds inflicted on our ancestors. It is our chance to remember and to heal a past marked by slavery, lynching, segregation, and discrimination. It is our chance to replace hate with love.

Kenyans are so happy. We African Americans are so happy. But I can't help crying too. We have waited for so long.  African Americans have waited so long. Africans have waited for so long. America has waited for too long.

Will we now, finally, have the chance as peoples to dance in our own streets? Will we be treated with dignity and respect now? To believe that another world is possible makes us smile; to remember the lives we have been forced to live for centuries makes us cry. 

No matter what Obama does as a president, his election has given us this moment, this moment of hope. For the first time we are able to imagine that another world is possible.

Thank You Kenya, for sending us your son; thank you Kansas for sending us your son. Thank you America for pursuing King's dream. We shall overcome.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Good News: Oscar Grant's Killer in Jail

The white cop who shot the unarmed black man, Oscar Grant, at an Oakland BART station has finally been arrested and put behind bars after two weeks of protesting in the city of Oakland by outraged residents. The officer was apprehended in Nevada and returned to California where he was booked on murder charges the night before a second big rally by Bay Area activists asking for justice

Numerous  cell phone videos have surfaced over the last week. None of them show any reason why the cop should have shot the man in the back while he lay face down on the ground. The other young men who were forced to witness the brutal murder at close range while also being detained by police are said to be suffering from trauma after the event.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Racism Kills - OSCAR GRANT murder (TRAIN VIEW)

Young black man killed execution style by white police officer.

Oscar Grant, the 22-year old killed, had no guns, posed no threat, was not engaged in any crime and had his hands in the air when they tackled him, as this video clearly shows. He was a black man killed at random by a white cop who perceives black men as inherently dangerous even when handcuffed and restrained by two cops. Oakland residents have been protesting for days demanding that charges be made against the officer who  killed the handcuffed father of two.

This is what racism looks like. Racism kills.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day: The Day of Killing Children

Today Israel is still bombing Gaza. Over 400 Palestinians killed, over 2,000 wounded. Many children wounded today.

Sadly Israel and their allies continue to try to portray this as a war. The Israeli's have lost 4 people, they say. Four? Are they serious? Four compared to four hundred? A city that has no water, limited electricity, insufficient medical supplies, and no modern military weapons, no weapons of mass destruction is being compared with the modern city of Israel, a city-state which has one of most well-stocked arsenals in the world?

According to the group, Physicans for Human Rights, "Palestinian doctors are performing surgeries without surgical gloves, local or general anesthetics, gauze, sterilized equipment or sufficient oxygen for patients. All together, there are only 1,500 hospital beds available in Gaza’s 13 publicly run hospitals."

Israel is the only state in the entire region that has nuclear weapons. It is the fourth-largest recipient of weapons from the U.S.  Since 1986, it has received a U.S. allotment of $1.8 to 3 billion per year in foreign military funding. No other country in the world, whether member of the United Nations or non-member, has been as frequently condemned by the United Nations as has Israel for its occupations, wars, attacks, and massacres in the Middleeast. It currently stands in defiance of 69 United Nations Security Council resolutions.
(Hoffman and Lieberman, Reporter's Notebook)

Meanwhile, no Arab State has ever been condemned by any organ of the United Nations for military attacks upon Israel.
So if you don't believe me, listen to the United Nations. This is not a just war, it is not even properly described as a war. It is a military attack by a super military power on an ethic organization designed to suppress and intimidate. It is an act of terror.

The blood of Palestinan children running through the streets of Gaza testifies to this.