Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Moving to… Utah, I guess.

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Racism makes me angry.

Whoa there, Rusty! Don’t go way out on a limb and say something so controversial.

Okay, I admit saying that racism makes me angry is hardly the most earth-shattering news ever, especially coming from someone who doesn’t have to deal with the DIRECT impact of racism… sexism… homophobia… etc. Basically I pretty much embody the white, middle-class, middle-aged oppressor who is seen as the fault of pretty much everything. (Well, maybe if I had more money I would be PERFECT…)

I am NOT complaining about that. Anybody who complains that they are too ‘privileged’ is really missing the mark. “Cry me a river, white boy” would be an acceptable response to that.

But, no, racism makes me angry.

HAVING SAID THAT, I am reminded this week that OVERT racism leads me to a different emotion than anger.

It confuses me.

I mean, I am aware that there are racist people all among us (and I don’t mean the level of racism that we all have, I mean the REAL racist bastards), but I am still surprised when I encounter it.

Why?

Because society doesn’t accept it and people KNOW that society doesn’t accept it, so when you make an ignorant racist comment, you KNOW that people will judge you negatively for it. So I figure that people know better than to…

…but I guess that misses an important point. Racists ARE ignorant and stupid. Why would I expect rational behaviour out of them?

Years ago, I worked in a record store in Calgary. We had a new hire who was there when one of my other co-workers put on a new album… it MIGHT have been Ice-T, but I’m not sure. The new guy said, “I don’t like rap. It is just a bunch of n*****s who can’t sing.”

My reaction was to look at him incredulously. I honestly couldn’t believe he had just said that.

Then he said it again.

(I am happy to say that I pretty much got him fired after that… but to be fair, it was pretty easy since he was also a pretty terrible employee)

So why am I talking about this now?

Earlier in the week, I saw that messed up Psychology Today article that ‘explained why’ black women were not as attractive as white women were. It was a disgusting mess of barely concealed racism behind junk science trying to pass itself off as fact.

Then I heard about Carlos Santana speaking out against the new immigration laws in Georgia. I looked into it and saw that Georgia was adopting similarly racist immigration laws that had already been adopted in Arizona… and Utah, which I also hadn’t heard about.

Obviously, I have a problem with this. I have already spoken about it. One of the things (beyond the law itself) that drive me crazy is that people couch the debates around the law as dealing with immigration. That is bull. You can argue back and forth all you want about immigration and the laws that should or should not be in place. I am not a big fan of arbitrary borders, but I accept that not everyone has my views and some think that you need to protect your citizens from people coming in to try and… I don’t know… get a job or something.

But that is NOT the point.

My hatred towards these laws is not about immigration. It is about racism.

These laws give the police the right to question someone if they have any reason to suspect that they might not have legal immigration status. Therefore, everyone will be required to carry ‘their papers’ in order to prove they are legal… oh wait, not EVERYONE. Just people who may have something about them that could give the police ‘reason to suspect’ them.

In other words, there are now laws in place in three states that requires people to carry papers and submit to police questioning if their skin happens to be brown or they have the wrong accent.

Sorry if Godwin’s Law says that you can stop listening to me now, but a law of this nature makes me immediately think of another place, another time, with another sort of regime.

This disgusts me.

I think I am going to go back to performing Moving to Arizona. Do I actually think me reading a poem about something so awful is going to actually change things?

No, but I am not a voter in Arizona, Utah or Georgia, and I am not a subscriber to Psychology Today, so I can only do… well, what I can do.

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Moving to… Georgia?

Posted: May 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Apparently Georgia has now passed similar ‘immigration’ laws to those in Arizona.

I put immigration in quotes because most people who argue that these laws are okay focus on that aspect. The reasons these laws are NOT okay is that they give the police the authority to question people based only on their skin colour.

This is racism as official policy.

Moving to Arizona

Censorship?

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

There were two new stories recently that caught my attention due to their similarities and differences.

(Wow, is THAT ever a stupid sentence. Oh well, carry on…)

It seems that Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is being altered to remove the ‘N-word’.
It also seems that the Dire Straits song ‘Money for Nothing’ has been deemed unacceptable for play on Canadian radio.

The general reaction to both of those stories was “that is stupid”.

I think lumping these stories togather is a mistake, and cannot be judged by the same standard.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN

Altering this book to remove the N-word is ridiculous. And remember that this is coming from a person who refuses to even use the actual word in his blog.

Let me be clear: using this word in any context is objectionable. (I suppose I am speaking about non-black people using the word. I am not a fan of the word regardless, but I am certainly not about to tell a black person whether it is acceptable or not for them to utter it.) It is extremely offensive and using it brands you as a racist… and well it should.

Does that mean Mark Twain was a racist?

Well, probably yes. He lived in a time when racism was pretty much a given.

So now that this word is no longer acceptable, shouldn’t we take it out?

Absolutely not. In fact, doing so is very destructive because it waters down the impact that the word had, and hides some of the attitudes towards black people in the time and place depicted in the book. Removing it does not protect black people from the impact of the word, but rather it forgives its usage in the first place. We get to pretend that the book exists in a world where the white people were not all racist and the black characters did NOT have to live with that weight on their shoulders.

In addition, by substituting a different word, you are turning THAT word into something every bit as offensive as the ‘N-word’ because it is filling that spot in the lexicon. When you substitute one word for another without changing context and the intent of the writer still exists.

(To use a geek example, having Battlestar Galactica people say ‘frak’ is every bit as stupid. Is it okay to swear on tv or not? If it is not, switching to a different word the CLEARLY means the same thing and is a swear word is stupid. The fact that it is allowed showed the idiocy of the rule and those enforcing it…)

Finally, you are changing a work of literature without the author’s permission.

Unacceptable.

If you feel that this book shouldn’t be read, then don’t read it. Don’t change it, just don’t read it.

DIRE STRAITS

So, I should be opposed to banning ‘Money For Nothing’ from the airwaves, right?

No.

Here we have a song that was offensive when it came out and it is offensive now. If Huckleberry Finn had been published in the early 80s I would say the same thing about that.

More importantly, a song is not a book. In the book, Twain is saying that these characters say certain things. He is not saying them himself. He is not endorsing them. (Though…)

In this song, there is no ‘narrator’. It is Knopfler singing so it is Knopfler’s voice. When he spoke, he was intentionally trying to paint a picture that was offensive. He said it in a time when it was OKAY to insult gay people, so it was accepted.

HOWEVER, when the song plays on the radio now, there is no context. There is nothing in the song that says ‘back in the 80s we would say…’, like there is in Huck Finn. When the song plays, it plays. Just like I don’t buy the argument ‘I wasn’t saying it, I was just quoting it.’

When you play it, you play it now. You don’t play it then.

I am not saying that Knopfler is a homphobe now because he was then, but that has no bearing on the song because when you play it, you play it.

(Interestingly, you can get a mix of this two arguments when you talk about ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty McCall… I would be opposed to that song being banned because it clearly is ‘characters’ that are signing and evoking a certain type of person and setting…)

Remember, when talking about things like broadcasting INTENT DOES NOT MATTER. If a song will be taken a certain way (like automatically equating gay with BAD) then it is your responsibility as an artist or the controller of the medium to understand than.
The Cure had a song called ‘Killing An Arab’ that was about the book ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus. When Robert Smith found out that there were people who were misunderstanding the song (famously, an american radio announcer introduced it as ‘a song about killing ay-rabs’) he asked for the song to no longer be played on the radio. He took responsbility for the damage that a common misinterpretation could do and took action to prevent it.

Don’t play the song on the radio. I’m not saying to not allow the song to be available for sale or whatever, just don’t play it on the radio. This is no different than not playing the Forgotten Rebels ‘Bomb the Boats’.

The TL,DR version: don’t rewrite Huckleberry Finn and don’t play ‘Money For Nothing’ on the radio.

The New CapSlam Season is Underway!

Posted: September 7, 2010 in CPC, Poetry, Slam
Tags: ,

And what I bizarre show!

Okay… the first round was underway… we had OpenSecret setting the bar as the sac poet… Chris Tse set the bar in the event itself… Sean O’Gorman scored really well… I ‘slam debuted’ Moving to Arizona, with a less than perfect delivery but it went off okay.

Then up came Tommy Fitz. This cat was clearly a stand-up comic rather than a poet, but hey… it’s all spoken word, right?

He started strong with a bit about a movie adaptation of the game Battleship. It was funny. People laughed. It was good.

Then he did THE joke. I am going to reproduce it (slightly edited, so you understand what went down).

“I use bad words when I play scrabble. Words like ‘spook’, ‘jigaboo’, negro, and sometimes ‘n****r’. I use those words when I play against racists, because they are the only words they can spell.”

Okay, so there is the ‘joke’. The fact that it isn’t funny… well, that happens. Comedy is hard. HOWEVER… this guy is white. By the time he hit the N-bombs, the room was nearly silent. One guy laughed. The rest of the room sat in dead silence.
He kind of apologized for the joke when he realized how it went over and when on to the next one. If you wanted to give him ANY benefit of the doubt, he lost in on the next joke which involved saying a certain accent made them sound ‘retarded’.

One person walked out of the room in anger after the N-bomb. (He came back, I am glad to say.)

When he left the stage he did so to minor, light, polite applause. When he got to the back he said something to Danielle about having just written that joke and it was a mistake. Then he was out the door. (Now, I happen to know that he had another gig. He wasn’t JUST fleeing the scene.)

Then came the scores: I was a little disappointed at first with how high they were… but the rest of the judges came through. 8.4 7.9 4.0 0.5 0.4
AND he had a 4 point time penalty. giving him an 8.4, the lowest score I have ever seen at a slam.

I was happy how the crowd dealt with him. They didn’t turn ugly… they just made it very clear they weren’t going to support him in any way. Very mature yet… properly judgemental.

After that, the room was sucked clean of any good energy. I felt really bad for arRay-of-Words who had to go up next. He definitely scored worse then he normally would have there.

By the end of the first round I was telling Danielle that I thought this was the worst show we had ever had. (though some great performances by the likes of Elle P and Sarah Musa were a nice surprise to many in the room.)

I am happy to say that our feature, Fraser, won the room back. A great set mixing poetry and hip-hop, including some VERY timely stuff about race turned the show back into a positive atmosphere. He ended with a cool freestyle that namedropped Poetic Speed.

The second round was REALLY good, though. Sarah Musa went up first and while it wasn’t as strong as her first round piece, we still know that she is a name to watch.
Second up was Elle P. I personally discovered her at Voices of Venus and asked her to come Slam. This was her debut with us and she ROCKED it. Two steller pieces.
Third up in the 2nrd round was me. I did Angst and it went over well. I mean REALLY well. I think some o fmy own emotions came through as I have been having a tough time lately. Nothing I’m going to get into here, but that’s just the way it is. Afterwards I had a number of people thank me for the poem in the way that tell sme they have suffered from the depression that I talk about. Sometimes poetry is really rewarding.
It was pretty ‘rewarding’ on the scoreboards as well as I got 3 tens and ended with a 29.8
O’G went up and continued to show why is such a rising star.
Chris Tse went up last and said 29.8, eh? Let’s see what I can do about that… and also got 3 tens but ended with a 29.9

Final (remember that the rounds are cumulative)
1. Chris Tse (starting the new season like he ended the last one)
2. Elle P
3. Rusty Priske
4. Sean O’Gorman
5. Sarah Musa

Oh, as a side note, Danielle Gregoire only missed the second round by .1 and when she was knocked out because Sarah Musa slayed the room in the 1st round? Well, I’ve never seen someone happier for getting knocked out. 🙂

Next up, Bill Brown 1-2-3 Anniversary show. I really don’t know what I am goign to do for the short pieces.

Moving to Arizona

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Poetry, Rant
Tags: , ,

CONTEXT: May, 2010

Sometimes I just get mad about stuff and want to write about it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

This one worked out.

The state of Arizona is bringing in a new law that instructs police to request ID from anyone who they have ‘reason to suspect’ is not in the U.S. legally.

Look at all the problems with that. First off, normally you are not required to carry ID if you are not operating a motor vehicle. Now you will have to carry ID if there is any chance that the police might ask for it. So who will have to carry ID? Brown people, of course.

Take context out for a moment… now picture this on the streets of Ottawa or Toronto instead. A police officer comes up to someone and says, “Show me your ID, please.” That person says, “Why?” Well, first off, the officer no longer has to GIVE a reason why, other than saying “to make sure you are here legally.” That gives them carte blanche to do WHATEVER THEY WANT.

Now, look again. You just gave those police the right to ‘detain and question’ based on skin colour or accent. Really? Is this okay with anyone?

Well, not with Obama. You see, immigration is under federal jurisdiction. This Arizona law isn’t LEGAL ANYWAY!

Incredible.

    Moving to Arizona

I’m moving to Arizona!
I’m leaving all my worldly
Goods behind
And jumping aboard a Greyline
And when the border guard
Asks me the purpose of my visit
I’ll say VACATION
In the land of Diamondbacks
And cacti.
I’m sure he won’t bat an eye
Because I look like a
Trust-worthy soul, and I have
All the proper ID
But when I get there I will make
A bonfire
And toss in my passport,
Driver’s licence, health card
And anything else that shows
My country of birth.
I’ll emerge from the bonfire
Reborn and renewed
Like a Phoenix in Phoenix
Settling into my new role
As Illegal Immigrant.
Then I will sit back and wait
For someone sporting a badge
To ask to see my papers.

You see Arizona has a new law
Coming to be
That instructs police officers
To request ID
From anyone who they might suspect
Of being there illegally.
So, when will they question me?
Won’t it be obvious that
My northern glow that has
Developed after generations of
Scrounging for Vitamin D
Is not at home in the desert sun?

But no, I expect that the eye of
The law will not stray to me.
‘Suspicion’ will only be roused
By skin that is brown
And accents that indicate
That “Y’all aren’t from around
Here” even though ‘Hispanics
And Latinos’ make up 29%
Of the state’s citizens.
Those police won’t be questioning me.
I’ll be home free
And if you are legal
Why would you care about
Showing ID?
They just need to ensure
No disreputable sorts are
Checking in for a ‘better life’
Like clean water
Access to food and Obama’s
New health care
And if the price of that
Is a police state, isn’t that
A price we are willing to pay?

Put aside the moral righteousness
Of restricting access across
An imaginary line
That is only meaningful
In relation to the rules created
To protect it.
Instead look at investing the powers
With the right
To detain and question
Based on the colour of
Your skin.
I’ll be standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
With a red maple leaf
Tattooed on my forehead,
Garnering no attention from
The thin blue line
That separates the citizenry,
Not the legal from the illegal,
But the white from the brown
With legal status being an
Afterthought
Because not carrying papers
Is a crime, just like in those
Cold War movies on the wrong
Side of Checkpoint Charlie.

But pity the police.
They have been handed a law
That can only be enforced
By being acting racist,
So let’s make this easier on
Them, with a NEW law
That is in keeping with their
Immigration Enforcement
Policies.
From now on, anyone who is not
American-born, or whose parents or
Grandparents were not American-
Born (or at least hailing from a
Country whose people look like the
Official image of what it is to be
American-born)
Must affix a badge on their
Chest, not in the shape of a star
But in the shape of a Phoenix
Sun, to ensure only the right
People are incriminated.

But you don’t need to worry about me.
I will be fine.
Because first they came for the Latinos
But I was not Latino,
So I said nothing.

““““““““““

Next is a poem inspired by a kid in a high school I visited in Markham.