viernes, octubre 17, 2014

Halle Berry and the quest for equal rights for women

Yesterday, I read a few articles about Halle Berry and her child support woes.  This is definitely something new, because Halle's "woes" are not that she is not getting enough.  It is that she gives too much.

As you may know, Halle has a little girl, Nahla, with her now ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry, a model. They now share custody of Nahla, and Halle gives Gabriel $16,000 a month in child support.  Now, she claims that Gabriel has stopped working and is living off the money meant for her child, and she wants to reduce her payments to $3000 per month.  

It is so sad that Halle, instead of being concerned for Nahla only, is showing more concern for what Gabriel does with the money that she was ordered by a court to give to him.  The speculation is that Halle wants to get back at Gabriel because a judge ruled that she couldn't move to France with her new husband and Nahla.  Makes sense to me.  But besides that, if Halle cannot prove that Nahla is not being cared for properly, she hasn't a leg to stand on.

And here's where the "equal rights for women" thing comes into play: there are many, many women who live off their ex's child support.  I'm not saying it's right or even OK (I'd even go so far to say that that is why women can't have nice things).  It just is.  A lot of those women think there is no shame in what they are doing and make no efforts to hide it.  So why and how is it different when a man does the very same thing?

Women cannot have equal rights until they are willing to let go of the conveniences, if you will, they've become accustomed to in a patriarchal society.  Sometimes, in order to get something, you have to be willing to give something up, and that includes courts often siding with the mother on custody issues, even when the mother is not fit to care for a child.  

I may not be a feminist in the eyes of many women, and that's OK with me.  If feminism means always siding with women no matter what, I certainly do not identify with that label.  Here's a great quote from a lady commenting on Flavorwire's indictment of celebrity women who do not consider themselves feminists:

"Feminists need to stop trying to "own" all progress in gender equality. Feminism has its own (diverse and varied) belief structures and its own particular lenses through which to see the world. To treat all women as if we have to either identify with these belief structures and lenses or be hypocrites for having vaginas while not identifying as feminist (and benefiting from its historical gains) is itself hypocritical and vain."
Right on.


martes, octubre 14, 2014

Late for Work

Over the past 12 years at my place of business, I have had 5 jobs in 4 different offices.  All of them had one thing in common - between 50 and 75% of each job sucked, was soul-crushing, etc.  My jobs have much in common with the rest of the world, actually.  From having co-workers belittle me and my work, either very loudly or extremely quietly, to having the role of "usher", escorting people to and fro, to running around chasing down money for already overpaid people and working in very much a domestic capacity.

When I first came to this place, it was hard for me to imagine being one of the same unhappy working lackeys that surrounded me, the elders insisting that I would become just like them and retire from here. "Resign yourself to that."  The thought sent chills down my spine.  I don't like the word "resignation", as in "resign yourself to..." It implies defeat.  I've heard that I can't leave because I am "institutionalized".  I associate that word with prison.  I knew what my co-worker meant when she said that - I am too used the salary/benefits/pension plan - but still.

Everyone you work with is stressed out and dissatisfied in one way or the other.  Everyone gets pissed off.  This anger, frayed nerves, etc., has varying degrees of severity.  I have been in offices where it is just unbearable.  Even when you think you're doing something innocuous, you get yelled at.

You start being late for work.  Who on earth would want to get out of bed, way too early, to deal with that?  And if you feel like you are going nowhere, it gets even worse.  You start calling in sick - it becomes your first thought of the day.

I used to be a much more negative person than I am now.  I used to smile a lot less.  I think I've made good progress on that front.  I've changed small things: I complain less.  I have learned to be more grateful.  I force myself to smile more, until smiling isn't an extra effort that I'm making - it just happens naturally.  I go through my day with my hands open - a yoga teacher once told me that I should do this to accept life, good or bad. A friend once gave me solid advice - accept and strategize.

But the thing is, and this is where I've become more understanding, when these people yell at you and/or belittle you, it's not about you. Everyone has a need to prove themselves as dependable, smart, funny or what have you.  Everyone wants to look good, to keep their good reputations.  When they can't do this, they snap. When someone asks them to do something they really don't want to do, even though it's part of their job, they'll take it out on someone else (if you are an assistant, the unspoken part of your job description is to catch the overflow of whatever crap your boss has been given).  It denotes a lack of strength on that person's part, and a lack of respect and understanding.  Yet, I did that very thing today.

I snapped because I made something all about me, in my own quest to be recognized.  However, that's not what matters.  Are your co-workers your BFFs?  No.  But when a supervisor shows you that he/she is flexible, approachable and gives you praise when it is warranted, you really should not mess with that type of relationship.  A friend helped me see this, and I apologized to my boss for a tone that I took with him.  There is a facade you have to keep up at work, and mine cracked for a bit. My boss is really quite awesome, and for the first time in years, I feel comfortable in this office, and I like the people I work with.  So what is my problem?

I say the following for myself as much as for my readers:  If you are looking at a dead end at your job, if you are being harassed, if you are being blatantly disrespected, if you know you can get a better deal somewhere else, QUIT.  But you have to sit down with yourself and honestly assess the situation.  Are you being disrespected, or are you imagining that you're being disrespected in order to justify something?

lunes, julio 15, 2013

Zimmerman verdict highlights what's wrong with this country

Saturday night, I was at home, very uncharacteristically glued to MSNBC's coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.  The jury was out for deliberation, and they would be for sixteen or so hours.

The all-female, nearly all white jury of six. One juror was described as either black or hispanic. Four were mothers. One of them, when asked if Zimmerman was wrong to follow Trayvon Martin, replied "Yeah, I guess...."

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking home from a 7-11 with what would become a very symbolic bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea. He was staying in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. It was dark and raining. George Zimmerman, a 28 year old, half Peruvian, self-appointed neighborhood watchman, not good enough to be an actual cop despite his efforts, was making rounds of the gated community in his car. When he spied Trayvon walking home in a dark hoodie, "looking suspicious", he called police. We know that in the recording of that call, police tell Zimmerman to leave Trayvon alone. Zimmerman followed, and at one point, got out of the car and approached Trayvon, who was on the phone with his childhood friend, Rachel Jeantel. Zimmerman asked "What are you doing around here?", something to that effect. Whether he identified himself as neighborhood watch to Trayvon, which may have calmed the situation, I'm not sure. A struggle followed. Neighbors heard screams and called the police. Then, gunshots went off.

Let's consider the state of Florida first:  This is a Southern state that has voted Republican 6 times in the last 9 elections, in a region that still votes along lines quite similar to those of slavery in a civil-war era map of the South.  It is safe to say that Florida is a conservative (take that word to mean what you will) state. Florida, governed by Jeb Bush during 2000, famously or infamously, hosted a recount in that year's election when, many argue, George Bush, Jeb's brother, was "appointed" President of the U. S. by the Supreme Court, rather than elected by the people. Florida is a state where no license is required to purchase a gun, there is no required registration of guns, and there is no rule that a gun-owner must disclose their possession of a firearm to law enforcement. It's been said by comedians that, in Florida, guns are given out with lottery tickets.  Sanford, Florida, is a small town whose police force often refer to the black community they are meant to protect as "porch monkeys". 

Most recently, a Florida jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of killing her child, 2 year old Caylee. A Florida court last week sentenced a woman to 20 years in prison for firing one warning shot to scare off her abusive husband. She allegedly fired in the direction of a room where two children were standing, hence prosecution. It was ruled that she was not "someone in fear for her safety." Florida is famous for their "Stand Your Ground" law, which states that "a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first." 

Zimmerman was found not guilty by the jury based on this law and the inability to prove that he acted with ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent. Here, I recall to you the most famous of Zimmerman's statements to the police as he followed Martin:

"These assholes. They always get away."

To be completely fair, when you read the transcript of that call all the way through, you might understand how Zimmerman would have felt uneasy or scared. According to that transcript, Zimmerman stated that Trayvon did start to approach the car. I would be scared out of my mind in that situation. But I would stop my car, stay in it and wait for the cops. A wannabe cop with something to prove would not, especially when the kid started to run away.  And just a note:  no, they don't always get away, and that is a whole 'nother story.

In Trayvon's defense, if I was being followed by a strange man in a strange car, I would start to run like hell, as Trayvon eventually did, also according to the transcript of the police call. It was after Trayvon started to run that Zimmerman got out of his car.

That's when, allegedly, Zimmerman caught up with Trayvon.  That's when the struggle happened. 

The screaming, according to Zimmerman's mom, was her son's.  His uncle also claimed it was George's voice, saying that he "felt it in his heart" (give me a break).  Trayvon's mom said it was her son.  So did his father. A neighbor who made a call to 911 argued it was Zimmerman, another that it was Trayvon.  

I'll tell you something:  while watching the coverage and waiting for the verdict, I drifted off, and what woke me were Trayvon's screams for help as the tape of a neighbor's call to 911 was played in court.

The prosecution was unable to prove that Zimmerman's shooting Trayvon indicated an indifference to human life. I'm sure Zimmerman values human life very much. Namely, his own, his family's, etc. Did he value Trayvon's life, or any black person's life? The answer is unequivocally, without a doubt, NO. As the prosecutor said in his closing argument, Zimmerman had hate in his heart and in his mouth.  He acted recklessly even though, as he has admitted, he didn't know about the Stand Your Ground law at the time (no wonder he was rejected by the police) and therefore that he could eventually be protected by it.  

The jury agreed that Zimmerman did not act with an indifference to human life, because they do not know what it is to be judged - to have the validity of your life judged - by the color of your skin, but more than that, by the criminality, proven or not, of the rest of your people.  

Trayvon's "crime" was being black in a gated community where black men had robbed a few houses in recent months.  That's a fact.

Even if a black man or woman does not follow a path of criminality, he/she is already branded from the time they leave the womb.  He/she doesn't stand a chance.  It is very difficult to take yourself out of that, and being half-white, half-Latina, I can't accurately tell you how hard.  But I do know this: black men are, in the minds of most non-blacks, threatening, intimidating, uneducated, GUILTY. To get themselves away from those pervasive stereotypes, black men (and Latinos) have to work that much harder to "speak so well" and otherwise prove themselves to get even the smallest amount of respect that the rest of us get without discussion.  That's a fact.

The woman who fired a warning shot to scare off her husband?  She had no right to Stand her Ground. 

Trayvon had no right to Stand His Ground.  

I do not believe for a minute that Trayvon, as Zimmerman insists, reached for Zimmerman's gun, which to my mind, he couldn't have even seen in the dark, in its black holster, stuck down the back of Zimmerman's pants, covered by Zimmerman's jacket.  Zimmerman had the right to carry a concealed weapon.  Trayvon did not.  He had only the pavement, as the defense pointed out.  

I can't and don't want to address the rest of the inconsistencies in Zimmerman's story, such as the alleged 40 seconds of his head being continually bashed against that pavement with nothing but two cuts.  I think those holes in the story were definitely glossed over by the defense, and to be fair, it is their job to do that, to minimize inconsistencies to prove their side of the story.  Those inconsistencies, it seemed to me, were also glossed over by the prosecution, and despite what they likely consider their best efforts, and they were pretty good, they also did Trayvon and his family a disservice.

I was not surprised to hear Zimmerman found not guilty of second degree murder.  But I was very surprised that Zimmerman was not put away, was not even given a slap on the wrist, for manslaughter.  Because a black man would have gotten life, no questions asked.

And that's a fact.

Over the past two days, I've heard this a lot:

"A system cannot fail those it was never built to protect."

The American justice system was not established to protect black people.  But as black folks were freed from slavery, the justice system has very sadly and very clearly not been updated to reflect their humanity.  I add that the justice system was not built to protect women, girls or children of any race either, and it has not been fully updated in that respect, either. Citizens, instead of merely pointing this out, should move by electing more people of color and more women to more accurately represent this country's population in courts of law.

Another thing that happened this weekend, which received little to no coverage (UPDATE: It is now, on twitter and beyond), was this:  Temar Boggs is two years younger than Trayvon was when he died.

miércoles, julio 03, 2013

Kid destroys a life and a family and gets, oh, just 24 years for it

Thomas Maslin was walking home through Washington, D.C.'s Eastern Market from a Washington Nationals game one August night last year.  Three guys, kids, really, jumped him, hit him in the head repeatedly with an aluminum baseball bat (the irony is disgusting), and robbed him of his bank card, his phone and keys.

I hope those kids think it was worth it.  They robbed someone else in the Adams Morgan section of D.C. just hours after attacking Maslin.

Maslin suffers from brain damage as a result of the attack, as well as limited use of the limbs on one side of his body.  He can't see out of his left eye.  He cannot read his 2 year-old son a bedtime story.  He can't walk properly.  There is a whole list of things he can't do anymore.

One of the three kids got more than 24 years for his part in the assault.  Another kid's trial starts next week.  The third kid pled guilty to his part in the attack and probably got a nice break for testifying against his friend, because that's how our legal system rolls.

People, this is why we can't have nice things.  Envy, hate, greed, those things are definitely a factor in this awful crime.  But more than that, I really wonder when parents stopped parenting and teaching their kids the difference between right and wrong.  As in, it's wrong to beat a (wo)man.  It's wrong to steal.  This is basic stuff.  I can only imagine the horrid home lives these kids must have had.  Cracked out parents, maybe they were beat themselves - I can only speculate.  Not that this is an excuse.  But crime begets crime, so I have to wonder what these kids suffered to make them so cruel, so disrespectful, so covetous.  Maybe they had it good growing up and somewhere they went wrong with no one to correct them.

And the ringleader gets 24 years, give or take.  He should get life.  He basically killed a man and ruined a family.  The absolute worst part?  This was not a unique crime.

The WordPress Experiment, Part II

I got the bright idea of switching to WordPress at a web content seminar I took at Interactive One with the great Gordon Hurd.  It was an awesome seminar, short and sweet, yet I took away a lot of new information from it.  Gordon likes WordPress, and therefore pushed it to us, and while I could appreciate that and actually did try WordPress for a bit, the old saying still stands: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  So I'm back to Blogger.

Hey there!