Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder

Having recently returned from a mental health seminar abroad, I feel particularly well-prepared to tackle Mel Gibson’s outbursts over the years. In fact, with the help of several colleagues currently practicing in multi-culti or LBT centered facilities around the world, I already have.

You see, a famous therapist presented an in depth study on “the importance of diversity” in health practices at the seminar/conference. Despite his obvious commitment to trying to welcome diverse clients into mainstream services, it became obvious that he had started from the all-too-familiar supposition that emotional reactions to oppression were pathological. In other words, if you are angry because you live in gentrification grand central, or you are acting out in class because you are experiencing all kinds of bullying around your first attempts at gender transgression, it is because you have “maladaptive coping skills” (ie your anger is “inappropriate”). And if you get mad at your therapist, stop treatment, or otherwise try to seek real help by indicating the problem to someone else … oh yes, my friend, you are not only exercising maladaptive coping skills, including triangulation (when you try to get a third party to uphold your “crazy, crazy, fantasy land”)  but you are CRAZY with a capital CRAZ and YYYYYY. (image to left

What exactly does this have to do with Mel Gibson, you ask?

You can imagine that several of us were unhappy that once again the “doing diversity” plan was to talk “inclusion” at the same time equality was completely ignored in favor of pathologizing people’s response to a lack of it. So when it came time to do break out sessions, my colleagues and I leapt at the chance to answer the break out session question:

Identify a behavior or disorder that you believe is directly related to diversity issues, locate it on a spectrum,  and explain how you would engage in inclusive therapeutic techniques to ensure that everyone was served.

(note: the new big thing in mental health is to cut down the number of disorders that stand alone and incorporate them into a larger spectrum in order to give people wiggle room with diagnosis and needs.

Also note that this project was an attempt to confront the way the medical model pathologizes difference and reframe it in a way that actually addresses real pathology in our society.)

Our answer “ripped from the headlines”:


The Disorder – Colonial Fantasy Syndrome

A disorder in which a member of the dominant culture believes that their experience is normative and any other experience is therefore deviant or abnormal despite evidence to the contrary.


Sufferers must meet 5 or more of the following criteria

  1. delusions of grandeur
  2. preference for a world in which the fantasy of their dominance supersedes the realities of diversity in the real world
  3. an overwhelming sense of persecution or victimization
  4. frequent projection (ie accusing others of the acts in which the client is actually engaging)
  5. manipulation of interpersonal relationships for one’s own gain while claiming otherwise
  6. egocentricism often masked as selflessness or self-interested demonstrations of selflessness
  7. characterized by sublimation in which one’s sense of superiority is masked by seemingly altruistic acts toward the targeted group(s)
  8. subset of sublimation defined by hypocrisy in which the sense of superiority is masked by calling out others for same or similar behavior, espec if members of targeted group(s)
  9. desire to belong to a group, see one’s self as, or otherwise engage in elitest or exclusionary practices
  10. engages in emotionally or physically threatening behavior with those who challenge the client’s world view
  11. tendency to blame addiction for incongruencies in one’s worldview or self-image (may or may not be accompanied by actual drug & alcohol dependence or abuse)
  12. willful disregard for the truth when confronted

Spectrum – The Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder

AP Photo/Ric Francis

This spectrum includes all 9 indicators within its definition and may express itself through racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or any combination therein. It is characterized by hypermasculinity distinguishing it from other similar illnesses. This spectrum is also distinguished from other illnesses by the presence of membership in the dominant racial group and most often, the dominant gender. While some believe absence of membership in heterosexuality exempts one from being located in this spectrum, this is unfortunately not the case.

While it is often characterized by alcohol dependence it may also include people who call any of the other 9 indicators addiction in and of themselves.This behavior is seldom a recognition of the problem but rather an avoidance technique designed to evade or minimize responsibility for one’s actions.


  1. Michael Richards
  2. John Mayer
  3. Don Imus
  4. Prince Harry
  5. Dan Savage (who was the first blogger to blame black people for prop 8 & refused to intervene when commenters on his blog engaged in blatant racism, including epithets, when discussing the issue)
  6. Moderators at Boxed Turtle – who allowed anti-immigrant threats to dominate a discussion of a homophobic hotel owner (including against all immigrants not just the hotel owner) until I called them out, then allowed people to attack me and threaten my own status in this country, defended their lack of moderation, and then months later quietly deleted all reference to calling INS on all immigrants, me, and all brown ppl everywhere as well as other threats related to skin color or status from the thread.

Treatment Issues

People in this spectrum are often accompanied by enablers who make treatment of the problem nearly impossible. These enablers include people with more mild forms of the same syndrome (like wordpress itself, whose highlight page consistently includes racialized posts about black people and now Asians rather than highlighting posts written by & abt poc or by white ppl who are actually engaged in decolonized praxis rather than hipster colonial fantasy), other related syndromes or disorders like Goldberg Disorder I or II, etc.

Treatment can also be impeded by the ubiquitousness of the disorder across class lines. For instance more widely recognized cases may be defended by the media, perpetuated by it, or erased through it (which directly contradicted Savage’s part in and continued defense of blaming black people for the loss of gay rights).



Cognitive Behavioral modification that engages the client in understanding their faulty thinking about themselves, the world, and others and provides alternative modes of interacting with targeted group(s) that do not reflect maladaptive behavior. Ongoing intervention in childhood messages that allowed clients to internalize feelings of superiority, actions of violence to reinforce that superiority, and a sense of victimization by anyone who did not confirm their belief systems so as to remap cognitive processes away from cognitive splitting (when a person believes one thing even when seeing another. Example: they are being arrested because the police officer is female and Jewish not because they are driving drunk).

Ultimately, treatment depends on environmental (revolution), intrapersonal (addressing the whack-a-mole mind), interpersonal (friends don’t let friends drive, write, call, etc. while oppressive), and familial (so you say your dead was a Holocaust denier) aspects. Thus treatment is holistic and active at its base.

Being diagnosed with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder should in no way be seen as an addiction. Both the Spectrum and its distinct disorders are a choice not an illness beyond one’s control. People can completely heal from Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder and their healing will ultimately help heal the world. As such, we must not fall into a pattern of excusing or minimizing the behaviors of MGSD but engage it head on rather. In so doing, we understand that MGSD is the pathology not the people who are often the target of people with MGSD.


Weave Mirror/ D. Rozin

In concluding our diagnosis, we pointed to the many ways that Western Society pathologizes victims of people with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder while giving people who continue to embrace the disorder and refuse to change a free pass. John Mayer is a perfect example of this phenomena. While he was under intense scrutiny for several days, he was back to tweeting, blogging, and major ticket sales before the end of the week of his racism incident. He is already being featured in a morning show concert series. Don Imus is back on the air and Rush Limbaugh was never taken off it. And I don’t doubt that my willingness to include Dan Savage in this list will raise the ire of some of my longstanding queer readers.


So was this post really about Mel Gibson? It would have been easy to link to his “crazy” via TMZ or youtube and laugh and laugh and laugh some more with you all. However, ultimately, it is easy to point at the latest spectacle of oppression. But unlike a train wreck or an accident on the freeway, you can’t just slow down, stare, and then move on because when you do, you are in fact ensuring that the number of people with Mel Gibson Spectrum Disorder grows.

For those unfamiliar with the way MH diagnosis work, you may want to look up the list of symptoms we listed here. The reality is that each and everyone of them is actually included in one or more major personality disorder diagnostic criteria. Yet, that criteria is utterly devoid of oppression work. In other words, you are narcissist if you are self-absorbed, a sociopath if you engage in violence without remorse, oppositional defiant if you attack authority figures; but you are none of these things if you beat your wife, girlfriend, or partner, threaten to lynch, beat up, or kill a person of color, trans, or gay person, or try to get your black, queer, or differently-abled doctor, professor, or grocery store clerk fired. When you are deemed crazy in our society, you are expected to seek out treatment and work your treatment plan. Often when you are personality disordered, you are also highly stimatized as dangerous, violent, and in need of supervision. When you are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. you can simply excuse away your behavior with “I’m sorry you interpreted my behavior that way”,  giving to charity or playing on stage with a differently-abled or young child, or a trotting your gay-black-trans friend, ex-wife, or tweens who pee their pants when you come around. No one watches out for or over you or is warned about you being dangerous. And while the medical model often pathologizes and polices people who do not deserve it (including people with personality disorders who have not been violent or whose violence is contingent on not getting treatment which is exacerbated by the way they are pathologized during treatment) the fact is that in the case of oppressors such labels and warnings would actual shift the medical model toward those people who are in fact violent (emotionally, physically, sexually), unrepentant, and therefore likely to be repeat offenders.

Give Us Free

This Juneteenth, I find myself wondering just how free we really are. There is a black man in the White House and a black woman still dominates afternoon tv, even if her ratings are slipping and have been since she supported said black man. Black people can apply for jobs, business and home loans, buy, sell, eat, drink, in public and alongside white patrons. Unlike our brown brothers, we can even live in Arizona, as long as we are a deeper shade of berry that is, tho I don’t know why we would. In the eyes of many, the legacy of slavery and the existence of racism are things of the past.


But let’s break down the difference between then and what many scholars and activists have come to refer to as The New Jim Crow:

  • We have a black president but for the first time since the troubled days of reconstruction, or those of 1963, 1965, and 1968, both nationally syndicated radio and talk show hosts are calling for a “million gun march” on Washington and supporting a movement that contains openly racist elements
  • Despite the loss of basic civil and human rights under the Bush Administration we only see the rise in law enforcement willing to “defend the rights of states and citizens” after Obama’s inauguration and specifically implying that he will at some point try to “enslave” people, “create concentration camps”, and/or rise up against the “people of the U.S.” based on neither history nor voting record nor any other indication except his blackness (see Oath Keepers manifesto – and no I am not linking there)
  • The intentional, and illegal, targeting of black people and other poc for predatory lending , particularly women of color, helped cause the economic crisis and left entire black communities without homes or good credit and the only response has been two administrations handing over stimulus checks to the perpetrators
  • Despite exposure of predatory racialized and engendered lending, the bid to profit off of poor black women and other woc (as well as poor white people to a lesser extent) continues in the form of tax loopholes and property law manipulation (You should note that even though the documentary Flag Wars shows a white lesbian real estate agent intentionally targeting and intimidating black home owners, including at least one homophobe, and then reveling in one hold outs death as she picks over her things for resale, that same agent was later featured on an episode of House Hunters, for which she was hired and paid by both the show and the home buyers, living in a mansion in FL)
  • Unemployment for African Americans is at a 25 year high while no programs are specifically earmarked to help them
  • White supremacist and other hate groups are on the rise with a 54% increase in membership since 2000
  • Liberal blogs, established “zines”,  journals, news shows, publishers, departments, etc. continue to exclude or tokenize (defined here as having 1-2 people but no more despite multiple opportunities) intellectuals of color giving the sense that we are still only important when discussing race and that only a handful of us have the intellectual chops to do so
  • Despite evidence to the contrary, liberal circles are just as likely to blame African Americans and other poc and resort to racism for losses in rights we share but are perceived of as their own as conservatives
  • Gentrification that displaces African American and other poc communities is still largely spoken about by liberals as “bettering the community” “saving neighborhoods” “creating community” or “fostering multicultural communities” and applauded without a single thought to the economic, social, and psychic damage done to displaced black folks
  • More black trans women are being killed now than in the past and less is being done about it even as gains in protections for trans communities are being won largely on the basis of murders of trans women of color
  • police brutality against black women and girls continues to be documented on video and yet excused away by review boards
  • and if listservs. livejournal, and blogs are any indication, the number of white people who believe that “racism” is a “slur” levied by black people to make “innocent” white people feel bad about themselves and not an actual indication that discrimination has occurred is any indication, the number of white people who feel immune to being called out for discrimination and absolved of ever being discriminatory is also on the rise
  • That liberals, conservatives, and hipsters think racism is something they can joke about as if it is both a thing of the past and theirs to laugh at

So this juneteenth, I find myself not in the mood to celebrate the last black folks to be told they were in fact free and subsequently let out of bondage but rather musing on how long the white people in that Texas town kept black people enslaved despite 2.5 years of laws to the contrary because they could and neither their neighbors nor the nation was interested in making sure equality was upheld.

While I am grateful that black people in the U.S. are no longer enslaved (not counting black and ther poc “servants” trafficked here from other countries to clean elite people’s homes or serve as sex slaves), I am saddened by the fact that we are still not equal in this nation and that the spectre of segregation looms at every turn.

4 Things You Can Do to Restore Civil Rights in AZ

By now, we have all heard about SB 1070, the latest maneuver by State Government and/or Legislature in Arizona to target Latin@s living in the state. This past year alone, such efforts have included the second attempt to remove key Chican@ history from high schools in a law that would have made it possible to do away with all multicultural, women’s, and/or gender and sexuality history from schools, employment review of some high profile Chican@ advocates working for the state and/or intimidation of state employees questioning discriminatory policing and other government practices,  and the ongoing efforts of Sheriff Joe Arpaio to criminalize Latin@s at the expense of other, needed, community policing. Immigrant rights advocates and civil rights advocates banned together to draw attention to the impact of Sheriff Joe on both race and gender relations in Arizona, citing the absence of follow through on rape cases in order to patrol the border, the increase in petty crime and theft with a weapon, in his district without much response or with response times that have grown every year, making it impossible to catch criminals, and the use of chain gangs and tent prisons in 100+ degree weather, and the rise in racial profiling that was literally targeting all Chican@s in the area and occasionally resulting in young children, N. American citizens, being left on the side of the road, when their parents were carted away and permanently traumatized regardless of whether they had other care providers available. These actions, have already led to Arizona becoming a place where predators who target children, women, and isolated businesses and families thrive because they know that little, if any, energy is being put into investigating their crimes. According to some advocates, rape evidence has been allowed to degrade while Sheriff Joe and his deputies do random searches of families out for a drive. The racial divides in AZ have gotten so bad, that local radio stations actively encourage racist sexism and sexualized violence against Latin@ advocates like Isabel Garcia without much apology and whole communities have been repeatedly pamphleted by supremacist organizations.

Yesterday, despite widespread criticism from both local and national communities, including the President of the United States, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 2010 into law. The bill gives AZ police the right to stop anyone suspected of being undocumented with Arizona borders. The law erodes recent Federal attempts to reign in Sheriff Joe’s racial profiling and seemingly discriminatory policing practices and streamline border patrol efforts. These attempts were not, as some have argued, an attempt to ignore or give a free pass to undocumented people, but rather to draw a permanent line between immigration reform and white supremacy in which the latter was no longer welcome. Finally, the law increases militarization at the border, both in terms of increases in advanced technology at the border and the number of armed border patrol officers and “aids” stationed there, including members of the national guard when/if necessary.

The impact of signing the law far outreaches the legal expansion of discrimination in the state. By signing the bill under scrutiny from the President, Governor Brewer joins a growing trend of conservative Governors and Mayors who have publicly questioned the fundamental powers of the Union in which we live and declared the autonomy of their states in the face of Federal guidelines they have cast as racially insensitive, unequal, or dangerous to white people. These efforts include, casting the health care bill as anti-white or biased toward black people, in an era in which white people are losing their homes and their jobs at an equal or greater rate than people of color over lack off access to medical care or ability to pay rising insurance costs, claims that the President’s support of education and educational reform are about indoctrinating children against “family values”, and now the insistence that border & immigration reform that would have radically reduced the role Sheriff Joe played in AZ were akin to allowing a sea of undocumented (and shiftlessly criminal) people of color into the state. As with all of these examples, SB 2010s symbolic impact is a racial line in the sand that calls for the state sanctioned harassment of people on the basis of their skin color while at the same time, joining a chorus of people questioning the legitimacy of a black president and subsequently re/claiming the nation, citizenry, and governance, as whites only space.

The impact of this law is thus both legally and symbolically important to all of us. So far reports of similar policing in AZ have included issues such as:

  1. costing tax payers in Maricopa County $42 million in settlements for police brutality, unlawful search and seizure, and racial profiling
  2. leaving children on the side of the road to fend for themselves when parents are arrested
  3. decreased school performance and sense of safety for children
  4. the failure to investigate rape reports in a timely manner or, in some cases, at all to police Latin@s
  5. the incarceration of nursing mothers with no access to their children
  6. the breaking of a Chican@s’ arm while in custody for refusing to sign paperwork saying she would return to Mexico
  7. sexual assault of undocumented women by people either associated with or claiming to be associated with Border Patrol or border policing
  8. forcing Latin@ truck drivers to produce birth certificates to move products across the state (think 16 wheelers bringing your produce, the new furniture or fridge your going to buy at the big box store, etc.)
  9. the increase in armed theft
  10. the increase in petty criminality in isolated communities
  11. lack of safety for women, children, and families who are Latin@, interracial, indigenous, or other wise brown appearing
  12. increased open and publicly applauded connections to supremacy
  13. increased public connection between policing and racial profiling that makes everyone who “looks” brown unsafe
  14. the militarization and granting of state policing powers to largely untrained civilians who do not have to pass similar inspection or comply with state laws governing police conduct
  15. the harassment of journalists and attempted policing of news readers

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has released a 4 point effort that anyone concerned about these issues can do to help restore civil rights in Arizona:


NNIRR urges you take four actions NOW to take a stand for justice and human rights.

  1. Raise your voices for fairness and equality at the border. – Call Gov. Brewer’s office and tell her SB 1070 is a disaster for the rights of all our communities. SB 1070 will intensify racial discrimination, criminalization of immigrants – or anyone who does not pass as white or a U.S. citizen. CALL (602) 542-4331 | You can also email Gov. Brewer at:
  2. Organize a house-meeting, a vigil and other actions to express support for immigrant rights in Arizona and in your community. Also ask your family members, co-workers, neighbors and friends to talk about what is happening in Arizona. Ask them to make calls and send emails to Gov. Brewer with this message: We are all Arizona. Your law cannot break our spirit of community; your law will not stand. Racial profiling and racial discrimination are illegal and SB 1070 will be stopped.
  3. Build the movement for justice & human rights – tell President Obama to roll back the hate and end all immigration police-collaboration initiatives. Call President Obama to  ask him to speak out against the climate of hate and SB 1070. SB 1070 depends on federal immigration policing programs. Ask President Obama to roll-back the federal immigration enforcement programs that allow local police agencies to collaborate in immigration control. The 287(g) and Secure Communities programs are encouraging the kind of hateful activity we are witnessing in Arizona. CALL the White House at (202) 456-1111.
  4. Give direct support and express your solidarity to communities organizing on the ground in Arizona.

Students around the N. American Southwest, organized walkouts, marches, and protests in solidarity with Arizona. In Arizona, high school and college students also took to the streets in peaceful protests and marches in the hopes of being heard. In many communities, the first of May, ie May Day, will also be an opportunity to stand up for immigrants’ rights, immigration reform without racism, and to participate in the annual call to draw attention to and remove Sheriff Joe. Please be looking out for these efforts in your area as well as considering doing one or more of the four steps above. While you may not live in AZ, we are all ultimately impacted by the turn toward, public, state sanctioned racism, in N America. And the stats about rape cases, petty and weapon related theft, should make both women’s advocates and people in general concerned about their own safety even if they think they are unimpacted by the rise in hate crimes and racial profiling.

A Testament to Evil

A verdict has come in, in the August murder of Roberto González Onrubia in Spain. In 2006 Onrubia reached out to two homeless cis women, Dolores de los Reyes Navarro and Ainhoa Nogales Bergantiños, in the hopes of providing them an opportunity to get back on their feet. While the potential “guilty liberal” politics of such a decision are questionable, they did not justify the violence and humiliation Reyes Navarro and Bergantiños heaped upon him for the misguided attempt to help them out. Within a few months of moving in, they took over his home and kept him prisoner in his bedroom while they sold his mother’s jewelry and his inherited stamp collection. His attempts to free himself where met with both physical violence and transphobic and cissupremacist sexual threats. On more than one occasion Reyes Navarro and Bergantiños forced Onrubia to wear women’s clothing and threatened to prostitute him for additional cash. They did it both to humiliate him as a trans man and to intimidate him sexually, relying on both transphobia and sexism in the sex industry to menace Onrubia as much as their own behavior. They also forced him to give up much of the outward markers that allowed him to live in his chosen gender while again filming the abuse.

When the two women had sold all of the furniture and possessions in Onrubia’s home, they beat him to death.

Onrubia’s was found, disfigured by physical abuse, dead in his own excrement and urine. It was clear he had been forced to spend an unknown amount of months living and sleeping on the same mattress where he was forced to go to the bathroom rather than be allowed to use the facilities in the home. He was also extremely malnurished at the time of his death; Reyes Navarro and Bergantiños took pleasure in denying him food and may have even linked the starvation to their transphobic torture by telling him his dwindling body helped him look “more like a man.”

While the abuse in this story is horrifying, one has to ask why none of his neighbors, co-workers, or friends asked what happened to him. Though he did receive calls during this time, Reyes Navarro and Bergantiños took his cellphone and screened his calls. No one seems to have done more than a preliminary inquiry about where Onrubia was and why he had allowed these two women to sell everything he owned. Was he ignored because he was trans  or did he lack an extensive support network because he had transitioned and was rebuilding his life? Either way, his vulnerability seemed to be clearly linked to cissupremacy that often requires people to start completely over when they transition.

For their crimes, Dolores de los Reyes Navarro and Ainhoa Nogales Bergantiños were fined US$180,000 and sentenced to 18 years each in prison. While it is an impressive conviction given the slap on the wrist most murderers of transgender people receive, can we really put a price on the life of any person, especially one who tried to help others survive?


This article is based on information from El Pais

Another Racist-Sexist Comic About Obama? Say it Ain’t So …

Like many people in academe, the blogosphere, or simply interested in equality, I am keeping track of some of them more heinous examples of offensive-marginalizing thinking about the President of the U.S., the Obama Administration, and political figures in general. I am particularly interested in those images that combine racism and sexism or homophobia and what they tell us about the underlining anxieties of so-called “middle America.”

One of the common tropes in this vein has been “Obama as rapist” or misogynist, which rely on the myth of the black rapist. This discourse was most prevalent during the primaries and was mobilized by people on both the left and the right. In general, people on the Left tended to be more careful about the way they talked about Obama’s interactions with Clinton and their “suspicions” about his thoughts on women in general. Their assumptions about his seemingly-inherent misogyny and crafting of him as dismissive of domestic and sexual violence coupled with language used to describe his interactions with Clinton and other women was distinct from those who actively criticized specific policies or decisions Obama had actually been involved in. On the right, the black rapist image, ala Birth of a Nation, was much more common than any “subtle” attempts at link black political aspirations and white women’s safety. After Clinton was defeated, this discourse died down on the Left, but many of their tactics were then adopted/adapted by the Right to discuss Obama vs. Palin alongside the pre-existing racist paranoia about black male misogyny and sexualized violence. Now that he is President, political discourse has seemed to move on to much more nefarious and ubiquitous fears but the anti-Health Care protesters and anti-government protesters have continued to keep the threat alive with some of their signs and slogans.

I analyze many of the images in the slideshow below in the Anti-Obama Sign link at the top of the blog but wanted to give you some of the images here before launching into an a close reading of the latest racist-sexist cartoons from Darleen Click depicting Obama as rapist of N. America.  Because wordpress slideshow does not allow you to use more than one slideshow in a post, I am unable to just post the sexist posters here and keep the racist (sans sexism) posts until the end; pls note that the “black in white” image is actually a Russian ad and the Palin shoe ad was originally a completely different image used in England, all others come from the U.S. (it takes a while to load, but you can scroll down and read the post while waiting)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The latest entry comes from Darleen Click, a conservative blogger and photographer/cartoonist who currently writes at the arch-conservative blog Protein Wisdom. (Frighteningly, that blog is run by an academic who teaches somewhere in Colorado after a fairly prestigious education.) Last week, Click made one of the most blatant racist-sexist cartoons to date:

The image made the rounds of conservative blogs, who mostly praised it, with little attention from mainstream media. It replaces a particular woman, Clinton or Palin, with Lady Liberty in an attempt to capitalize on both racialized sexism and ongoing unfounded fears about the state of N. America. Like the older white woman who cried out “I want my America back” at a rally late last year, this image speaks to the idea many people seem to hold that by nature of his blackness, President Obama is anti-American. Harkening back to Birth of a Nation, the image also equates black leadership with sexual threat as a metaphor to socio-political threat, ie the insatiable black man will not only rape white women but his appetites and lack of restraint, ie civility, will ultimately bring down the nation. This is classic projection given the founding of this country and the examples of colonial and slave rape in the Americas that is an integral part of U.S. nation-building or Manifest Destiny. It is also ironic in the wake of an endless number of scandals involving Conservative representatives cheating on their wives, implicated in the disappearances of female staffers, and/or under investigation for sexual harassment of both male and female, of and under age, staffers at this time. And while Democrats are certainly not immune to these scandals (notably Clinton and Edwards) they do not belong to a party that links sexual morality with political aptitude. While President Obama has been the happy family man hard at work, many white male Neo-Cons in the government have compromised their effectiveness in Office or lost positions, like Governor, and one time Presidential hopeful, Mark Sanders precisely because they cannot keep it in their pants.

Sexual scandals aside, this image mobilizes the black rapist. Note how the bubble above Obama’s head references “consent.” In a single image, Click captures the fears of many conservatives (and more than a few bigoted liberals) about Obama sullying the nation through unbridled and wanton desires. In reality those desires include Health Care, Immigration Reform, Reproductive Rights (and Wrongs), and Mediated Gay Rights. Rather than addressing the issues, which would require moving beyond political pundits’ talking points and critically engaging information about the nation’s needs, women’s bodies have once again become the political proving ground. The “innocent white woman” sits shamed by the “scary rapist black man” because the conflation of sexism and racism are images that ultimately undergird the founding of this nation. At it’s heart, not only does this discourse rely on the obvious racism of black male licentiousness, misogyny, and violence but also on the equally heinous sexism of women as property (ie one wins or loses by sullying “another man’s woman”) and sexist racism of white women as virtuous (which allows white men to justify any number of violent acts including lynching, burning down whole towns, or driving out whole communities).

Some conservatives did criticize Click for going too far, as did some liberals. In response, Click made a second cartoon in which she removed the rape image while still calling it up in her cartoon title:

Title: Consent

In this version, Nancy Pelosi, who is equally vilified, replaces Lady Liberty in a venue calling up the decline of the Roman Empire. To the unaware, Click is seemingly mixing metaphors in which she conflates Obama’s presidency with a legitimated part of Euro-American civilization (ie the Romans) at the same time she hopes to criticize his leadership. Yet, she deconstructs the idea of Rome as civilized past through Judeo-Christian symbolism in which conservatives will recognize the Romans as people who oppressed not only Jews but also Christians and killed Jesus. Thus Clark gives us a Rome that we should recognize as not only in decline but on its way to ruin precisely because of its lack of “Godliness” another key trope of the right which equates blackness with demon/heathen and has mobilized this discourse both through anti-Muslim sentiment (calling Obama a Muslim while at the same time criticizing his Christian Pastor) and condemnation of his efforts in Haiti (remember Robertson and his “deal with the Devil” comments?).

The racialized sexist metaphors shift only slightly here. Pelosi still acts as sullied virtue in this image only this time she is sullied by her willingness to “be in bed” with a black man. Thus the narrative of racial purity replaces that of racial aggression in which white women still appear as arbiters of virtuous and as property. The virtuous woman in this cartoon is still Lady Liberty. Though not pictured, she acts as the absent woman who has been taken advantage of by the wanton woman who by aligning with the black man has clearly lost perspective on the nation and accomplice to its demise. This interpretation also relies on engendered classism, in which Lady Liberty is the working class every woman to Pelosi’s aristocratic decadence. She is the silent partner to the “beggar” who comes to Obama and Pelosi looking to save his livelihood. Once again the image tells the tale of a white nation under siege in which virtuous women suffer because of a despotic black man and the race traders at his side.

I’ve said this before, I often marvel at how certain, outspoken and/or activist, white women will sublimate their own gender equality in the face of white privilege. In each of Click’s images women are acted upon, not actors. They have no power and no leadership, they are simply symbols for the political jockeying of men (beggars or politicians doesn’t matter). Their sole contribution to the nation is depicted as one of sexual fidelity or lack thereof, in which their sexual purity (ie racial purity) is the measure of their commitment to the nation. For women like Click, who is clearly committed to an active role in her political future and in building the version of the nation she would like to see, how does this image gel with their own contributions? How can they depict themselves as perpetual victims and sexual objects when they so clearly do not live their lives this way? Like the history of class antagonism in this country, which was consistently quelled by mediated extension of white privilege, these women seem to believe that access to whiteness trumps access to engendered subjecthood.

Ultimately, it is not President Obama who will cost this nation its success but the multiple fears mobilized by Clark and others and the willingness to sacrifice one’s actual liberty for the promise of access to limited and often fleeting, at least for the working class and rural communities building the groundswell of the neo-con movement, to whiteness.

New Blog Documenting Racism & Sexism Incidents at UC San Diego

After several meetings regarding the racism and sexism related to the “Compton Cookout” party held by some UC Students and their use of university funded programming to advertise the event unchecked, some students have taken to the blogosphere to permanently document their experiences of what is going on. I applaud the innovation – ie getting the word out publicly and globally – even as I wonder what it’s impact will actually be considering other such efforts to connect racism and sexism on university campuses, like the tenure cases of prominent women of color faculty, had little impact on the overall running of the uni, the milieu, or the decisions being questioned. At the same time, public pressure increases exponentially with the use of public social networking spaces and universities can no longer keep these incidents “in house” as they once did. Moreover, cases outside of the university like the Jena 6 or the Dunbar 4 have greatly benefited from blogger activism. And while the blogosphere is notorious for playing telephone with information, such that research and truth are always in question, both of those cases also prove that the blogosphere is full of people doing stellar research on the ground and documenting in ways that can be corroborated with source material for later. So whatever you think about the medium, the fact that students are using the blogosphere as a medium to confront racism and sexism on campus is both unavoidable and imminently exciting for the potential it provides to shift long held oppressions on campuses aimed at staff, faculty, students, and neighboring communities alike.

Check it out here.

BHM: Teaching TABs to See

Ever Lee Hairston is the first African American Vice President of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Federation for the Blind.


During her childhood she helped her parents and grandparents on a Cooleemee Plantation in Winston Salem MA, where they were sharecroppers and took the bus to a segregated school 18 miles away from home. As a teen she went to New York to work as a live-in caregiver to a terminally ill child; when the child died, her parents offered to help put Hairston through nursing school. Unfortunately, the school would not let her attend due to the discovery of retinitis pigmentosa. Hairston refused to be deterred by ablism, so she went into the teaching program at a different college. Unfortunately, 4 years after she started teaching, she was fired because of her rapidly deteriorating eye sight.

While Hairston initially let repeated incidents of ablism and racism get to her, she ultimately fought back. Once in college she became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Building on her own knowledge of discrimination and unfair labor practices in the South, Hairston was committed to ensuring African Americans had better choices and equal access to education and employment in the future. She recalls her involvement in the Sears and Roebuck discrimination case sit-in as the proving ground for her disability rights activism, By the time she was being ridiculed in public with other blind colleagues, she felt she had endured enough sanctioned identity based hate that she knew she had to stand up and stand strong.

In 1987, she applied to do entry level social service for the state of NJ and confronted the ableism of the hiring committee head on. When they claimed her blindness would get in the way of her ability to intake clients properly, Hairston pointed out that it takes more than one skill to understand people and that she had developed quite a few skills during her time as a caretaker and a teacher. She not only got the job but then exceeded her peers expectations by moving up the ranks. While her time as an advocate continues to be marred by workplace discrimination at the intersections of race, ability, and gender, Hairston holds her co-workers accountable as well tries to educate them. She feels her presence both as a Supervisor for State Health and Human Services and as an advocate in the court room has been essential to changing the way people think about both black women and differently-abled people.

Hairston’s work also allows her to continue working for working class women and people of color’s rights by working for social justice in the courts. She is also a club woman, and her advocacy and mentorship of other black women was recognized in 1999 when she won the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Woman of the Year Award.

Quickies: Racism During Black History Month

Besides the ongoing saga of “I’m not an a**hole” John Mayer (yes, that’s a direct quote from Mayer’s concert last night, which was preceded by three different concerts/events were he gave a young male audience member his guitar on stage, paused for a photo op with a differently-abled male child and tweeted links to the pics, and featured his black female back up singers as he talked abt how they “support his work” tho not his words), and Vanity Fair’s insistence that no women of color in Hollywood count as movers and shakers in a year where a young black woman is up for the Oscar’s top honor and another was in the 2 top grossing films of the year, there are other ppl mucking up this BHM season.

I started to write individual posts about each, but then, I shook my head and said nope, spending my energy elsewhere. So here are the stories in quickie form:

  • Gerard Depardieu will appear in black face (“kinky wig and dark make up”) as author Alexandre Dumas in the film The Other Dumas.

While originally released photos for the film appeared as described in the heading, the newest shots of Depardieu show a much lighter toned skin color, closer to Depardieu’s own, and a wig that also more closely mirrors his own hair while still remaining “coarse”. Under these new circumstances, the issue seems two-fold:

  1. the ongoing problem of limited roles specifically for black people and the overwhelming failure to do race blind casting when casting actors of color – under such scarcity black characters/roles become all the more precious to black actors and yet are increasingly given to white actors (Jolie & Zellwegger being two modern examples) who have a much wider opportunity to act in general
  2. the concept for the film – Dumas is not a literary genius but a fraud capitalizing on a white ghost writer’s real talent

The latter has been completely ignored in the media and on blogs in order to debate whether the original and the current make up issue is legitimate or “overreaction”. It is almost as if the director and star knew they’d get in trouble for racial passing, so they started out in a place they never intended to stay (with dark makeup and a coarse wig) and moved to a place that would look like compromise (much lighter makeup and toned down wig). By seeming to be attentive to their audience on the black face issue, they could then remind people that they were not racist when they saw the film and questioned is potentially racist plot.  The film is based on a controversial book that argues Haitian Creole Alexandre Dumas actually had none of the literary talent for which he is famous; instead it is Dumas who is doing the passing, providing a black face to acclaimed literary achievement actually written by his white ghost writer, who in turn gets no credit. In looking to the primary and secondary materials available on Dumas, it is clear there is far less material to support this argument than any other historical accounts of Dumas’ life.  Yet, a filmmaker who casts a blonde blue-eyed actor in the role of a Haitian Creole, whose neither of these things, chooses a story that argues the black man is a liar and a fraud passing of white male creativity for his own. Coincidence? I think not.

  • UCSD’s multiple racism incidents

UCSD, who will forever be the school that did not tenure Pat Washington, caused ridiculously self-serving infighting at the NWSA, and put a gag order on all of its graduates and current students in the WS program while also actively encouraging them to sing the praises of the program during the initial outbreak of the controversy, has had multiple racism incidents this month.

On Feb 16, 2010 members of the UCSD student body advertised a “Compton Cookout Party” in honor of Black History Month. The invitations included the following explanation and directions:

wear cheap baggy clothes, chains and other clothing stereotypically thought to be worn by rappers and black males […and…] talk loudly and for women to act like “ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes…”

When student’s protested, including sending in the invitation to the school paper so that there would be documentation, the Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs said that the school could do nothing about a private party. (Sadly this is true, university’s have no ability or say in what people do at private parties; however, Director Gattas could have spoken out against racism and the university could have initiated awareness events and discussions about race and racism and how they intersect with gender and sexism.)

Sometime between Feb 17 and 19, organizers of the party and other UCSD students used hate speech language to advertise the party and ridicule the complaints of anti-racist students on the University owned and operated television station. The University did not issue an immediate response. While the part was outside of the jurisdiction of the University, the use of the University owned TV station to demean other students and use racist language should fall under “code of conduct” violations and may even be governed by the FCC regulations related to Federal discrimination laws.

On Feb 19, 200 students including representatives from the Black student organizations marched against racism on UCSD’s campus. They also released a statement addressing both the racism and sexism involved in the event and the lack of accountability the University appeared to be implicated in.

On Feb 25, 2010 someone hung a noose in the main library at UCSD. As seen in the picture above, white students continued to study in the library without taking it down. It is unclear how many students who saw the noose reported it to the librarians and how many did not. However for anyone denying the racism seething under the belly of the “Compton Cookout”, it should be clear that there is a larger problem here.

After being slow to do anything publicly about the racial climate on campus, UCSD officials have now put up a website calling students to “stop the hate” and “learn about diversity”; they also held a racism teach-in the day before the noose incident for 2 whole hours. After being served with a statement from the Black Student Union and others, they also claim they were doing a private investigation into Code of Conduct violations for several of the students involved in the University tv channel incident.

  • Female professor shoots mostly people of color colleagues over tenure decision

I was on the phone with a colleague catching up when she said “Oh no, some one on the faculty just opened fire at a staff meeting in Alabama.” My first thought was that now the violence had moved from students to staff and we were in big trouble. My second thought, upon hearing the shooter was a woman, was that it was probably tenure related. Truthfully, no matter how many academic bloggers pretend otherwise, tenure is often a contentious process in which more times than not denial is not based on merit but rather one’s ability to squeeze a marginalized body into a centered box. (And no, unlike others who have forgotten what it is like to teach as a junior faculty from the position of marginalization, or never knew, I don’t think the problematics of tenure warrant doing away with it; until the issues that often make it problematic are dealt with tenure is the only stop gap between traditionally marginalized faculty and/or radical or marginalized ideas and sub-fields and unemployment.)

When the discipline of the victims and shooter were revealed, I again found myself thinking about how credentialing works in academe. Women are few and far between in the sciences not because, as one Harvard professor once insinuated in public, we are lesser thinkers than men, but because science remains one of many disciplines unapologetically dominated by men. So-called “hazing” in the sciences often takes on particular misogynist aspects for both men and women, meaning that sexism permeates the ways established scholars and soon to be established scholars discipline new ones regardless of their gender. Add to that the ways in which women and girls are discouraged from pursuing science as early as grade school, through a series of systemic and individual measures and popular discourses about men’s “natural aptitude” for science vis-a-vis women’s and you can begin to imagine the pressure female scientists feel. Add to that the ways in which women are generally policed in academe and you have a recipe for sexist abuse of female faculty in the sciences that may or may not have been present in her Bishop’s current appointment but was likely a part of her overall career.

Then they released the image of the victims. It seems that this “random shooting” left 4 of 5 people of color in the department shot or dead. (3 were killed instantly, one was wounded, and she aimed at the other one but had run out of bullets)

There are several ways in which this information can be interpreted as racist:

  1. the shooting was random despite her training up for it at a shooting range but the racial milieu in the department meant that “all of the black kids were sitting together” when she opened fire (alternatively, they were clumped together due to either group-lateness or desire to exit quickly that would also be related to milieu in or outside of the dept)
  2. the shooting was intentional and Dr. Amy Bishop targeted faculty of color because she internalized the message that faculty of color are “affirmative action hires” standing in the way of her “legitimate” claims to tenure (alternatively, she is invested in a racial narrative in which she believes poc are “more sexist” than white people and therefore they were directly responsible for her no vote)

Who is to say which or any of these motivated her to potentially target professors of color when she went on her shooting rampage. What seems to be clear however is that she tried to shoot every single person of color in the room, one person did not get shot only because she ran out of bullets but she did try to shoot at them as well. Had she been mindlessly shooting, this would have been nearly impossible without the aid of a racialized environment in which her colleagues were clumped together as explained above. Even then she would have to choose an area to begin shooting and the area chosen seems to be where faculty of color were seated, blurring the lines between intentionality and environment all the more.

What also seems to be clear, is that while everyone discussing the case agrees that Bishop seems to have a long history of documented violence (she shot her own brother, stole a car at gunpoint, and was involved in several inappropriately heated altercations with colleagues throughout her career) so far most, if not all, of the people discussing the racial aspects of the case are faculty of color. For some reason, “crazy” trumps racist as if one cannot be both. Interestingly, “crazy” also seems to trump sexism in this case, because very few people across the board are discussing the overall culture of sexism in the sciences in relation to this case either. Yet both race and gender are at play in this event even if ultimately it boils down to the actions of a single unstable member of the faculty with access to weapons.

The sad truth is, Amy Bishop shot her colleagues over tenure. No matter what her reasons, none justify killing or terrorizing people. Of the people killed that day, the overwhelming majority were faculty of color despite their not having been a majority in the department. According to initial reports every single faculty of color present was aimed at, and all but one, were shot. And, the police have decided not to pursue the Hate Crimes angle because a hate crime requires one to intentionally target a protected group and it is more than likely Bishop would have shot at her colleagues no matter what their background. While I understand this distinction, I think it misses key subtleties in the outcome.

  • late editions:

  1. a respected academic blogger uses the last days of black history month to call klan “progressive” because even tho they hate Jewish ppl (and Asian ppl who she does not mention even though she quotes an anti-Asian comment) some of them like or can tolerate gay ppl (this of course assumes gay ppl are neither Jewish nor poc); worse, the tongue-in-cheek post assumes that we can all find something amusing about an organization and a website that has actively advocated the rape, torture, and murder of our community members (they have made hit lists on that site and bragged abt violence on that site), and if you can, then her post may seem “harmless” but you might want ask yourself why you can.
  2. PETA once again mobilizes racism for animal rights, this time resurrecting the eugenicist idea of who can and should reproduce and who should not in order to promote spaying or neutering animals. read more about the latter at Renee’s Blog.
  3. On Friday 2/27/10 the last week day of BHM, the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at Missouri University was vandalized; unidentified people dumped cotton outside the center in the early morning harkening back to the images of slavery and the belief the once widely held N. American belief that all black people “were good for was picking cotton.” While this represents the height of stupid racism, my mother was a sharecropper in her youth and 1 thing I always remembered as a kid was the piece of unrefined cotton she kept with her to remind her of how far and how little we have come as a nation. read more at The Maneater
  • old news I missed

Chris Matthews “forgets Obama is black for a moment” as a “compliment” about how great and wonderful the President is, in other words his broad base appeal, persuasive speaking style, and intelligence about the issues transcends the ignorant black criminal that Matthews comments clearly reveal he is still invested in deep down, even if not on the surface.

    BHM: How Wide the Diaspora

    While I have kept these posts largely about N. Americans, I think it is only fair to include Aída Cartagena Portalatín in this year’s Black Herstory Month/ Latinegras Project posts. Portalatín was a Dominican feminist poet who wrote poetry about women, race, immigration, and imperialism. Her poems consistently centered the female experience and were informed both by her own travels, as a student in Paris, Santo Domingo as a transnational cityscape (ie a place where people from around the world interact and engage in discussion of ideas about identity and travel), and her friends, colleagues, and family members who had moved permanently to the U.S. Thus her poems represented the viewpoint of mothers whose sons had experienced racism abroad, or women whose longing had made them susceptible to exploitation, elder women who had been abandoned for younger ones, etc. At the heart of her work was a preoccupation with the limits of freedom and how freedom was both gendered and raced.

    She has published in numerous anthologies and has a wide body of work most of which has not been translated to English. Her most famous poem Una Mujer está Sola appears below:

    Una mujer está sola. Sola con su estatura.
    Con los ojos abiertos. Con los brazos abiertos.
    Con el corazón abierto como un silencio ancho.
    Espera en la desesperada y desesperante noche
    sin perder la esperanza.
    Piensa que está en el bajel almirante
    con la luz más triste de la creación
    Ya izó velas y se dejó llevar por el viento del Norte
    con la figura acelerada ante los ojos del amor.
    Una mujer está sola. Sujetando con sus sueños sus sueños,
    los sueños que le restan y todo el cielo de Antillas.

    Seria y callada frente al mundo que es una piedra humana,
    móvil, a la deriva, perdido el sentido
    de la palabra propia, de su palabra inútil.
    Una mujer está sola. Piensa que ahora todo es nada
    y nadie dice nada de la fiesta o el luto
    de la sangre que salta, de la sangre que corre,
    de la sangre que gesta o muere en la muerte.
    Nadie se adelanta ofreciéndole un traje
    para vestir una voz que desnuda solloza deletreándose.
    Una mujer está sola. Siente, y su verdad se ahoga
    en pensamientos que traducen lo hermoso de la rosa,
    de la estrella, del amor, del hombre y de Dios.

    In 1981, she published her epic poem Yania Tierra, which retold the history of the Dominican Republic from the perspective of a woman. In the poem, Yania, the protagonist, is a female personification of the nation harkening back to the original declarations of independence in which the island nation as female was celebrated rather than negated as weak and violatable. Infusing both a female perspective into the “his story” of the nation and recasting the nation as a whole allowed Portalatín to insert women back into Dominican history at the same time that she questioned machista nation building at home and abroad.

    You can read more of her poetry here.

    Portalatín was also an active member of the international community. After her post-graduate studies in Paris, she was appointed to UNESCO and sat on the jury of the 1977  Casa de las Américas awards for Latin American poets. In 1969, her work was up for a prestigious Premio Seix Barral International Literary Award in Spain. She also traveled frequently in Africa, Latin America, and Europe engaging in feminist encuentros, expanding her knowledge of global blackness and colonial histories, all of which informed her work. Thus her work has inspired many black female poets and other artists in and outside of the Dominican Republic.

    She also taught about colonialism and history at UASD for several years, encouraging a new generation of intersectional scholars who embrace blackness and feminism in their work.

    BHM: Do you Know Who This Important Figure in Black Herstory Is?

    Today is your second chance to win a gift certificate to Powell’s Bookstore, hopefully to buy a book about black women’s history.

    The Contest: The first person to correctly identify the woman pictured below and her significance to black herstory wins a $20 gift certificate to Powell’s Books

    The Time Frame: you have until 12pm Monday 2/22/10 to guess (even if some else has already guessed before you, weigh in, because you never know who will get the most accurate info)

    The Hint: Her speech about the hypocrisy of N. American racism and its connections to slavery, civil rights, and the prison industrial complex aired on independent and some major radio stations across N. America in the summer of 1973.

    Do You Know Who this Important Figure in Black Herstory is?

    Assata Shakur

    The Winner: Sasha for her answer “Assata Shakur, who is a political activist and a former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. She was forced into political exile because the United States government falsely convicted of her of shooting a New Jersey police officer.” (full BHM bio forthcoming)