Monday, March 31, 2008

The Conservative Dilemma on Race

It is a common conservative mantra that the problem with race in our society is that people simply aren't colorblind. Conservatives go around proclaiming that a better world is one in which we go around pretending not to notice the color of someone's skin and, worse, to pretend that this obvious and unavoidable reality (i.e. a world composed of people with different skin pigmentation) should have no social meaning.

I do think, though, that there is an underlying problem in the line of argument that goes along with the foolishness of this "colorblind" absolutism that permeates conservative orthodoxy on the subject of race. For most conservatives, at least from what I have seen, the concept of "Eracism" is nothing more than "Erace." By this I mean that conservatives think that ending racism depends upon making race irrelevant and meaningless.

Let me stop this foolishness in its tracks right here and state, for the record, that there is nothing inherently wrong with race having meaning for one's identity. What is problematic is when race becomes a wedge used for purposes of discrimination. But that someone's blackness or whiteness gives meaning to one's life is not necessarily, de facto, an evil and reprehensible thing, something we should avoid and resist.

I have no problem with a black person or a white person claiming that being black or white is a source of pride, or an important component of identity, or a fundamental symbol of cultural meaning. Just like I have no problem with women or gays or short people or left-handed people or disabled people or Southerners or Irish Americans coming together to discuss how a shared attribute has given meaning to their lives. We should celebrate this diversity, not seek to eliminate it from the public discourse, as the conservative orthodoxy on racial difference tends to want to do.

My advice to conservatives is that when they speak about race, they would do well not to pretend that they don't see skin color or to claim that seeing different skin color doesn't (or shouldn't) have meaning and value to peoples' identity. Conservatives (or anyone, for that matter) who would go around extolling a colorblind absolutism in the public square are fools to proclaim this. But what we all can say is that we won't allow or tolerate the meaning of race to one's identity to translate into or express itself through a policy of social, political, or economic discrimination.

Quote of the Day

"Between Barack and a hard place, I chose Barack."

Minnesota Senator and Democratic Superdelegate Amy Klobuchar, upon endorsing Barack Obama today.

"A hard place" -- Hmmmmm... I guess we know now what Klobuchar thinks of Sen. Clinton.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

MBH Pottery Kicks Off

Mrs. Huckupchuck has secured an exhibit booth at the Arts Market of New Orleans. This market, which features mostly hand crafted artisanry pieces and requires a review of one's work by the Arts Council of New Orleans to ensure that it meets the market's artistic standards, takes place usually on the fourth Saturday of every month. This means that this Saturday, March 29, is the next market.

Mrs. Huckupchuck will be there displaying and selling her wheel-thrown functional pottery. She'll be set up in exhibit booth number 48. If you venture into this market, please do stop by and say hello. Mrs. Huckupchuck, whom you can see at her wheel here, is very sociable and gregarious. I'm sure she'd love to meet you and talk pottery and books.

I'll be doing the Saturday routines with my other little lovelies (ballet practices, coffee shop visits, treats from the Whole Foods bakery section), so I'll probably only be around the market sporadically throughout the day.

I know I'm biased, but my wife makes some fantastic pottery pieces. Just about all of the bowls, plates, mugs, platters, vases, teapots, etc., that we have and use in the house are made by her skilled and loving hands.

Come by and check it all out!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Tulane University is hosting this weekend the Brazilian Studies Association's (BRASA) Annual Conference. Click here for information and the conference program. It promises to be a great event.

Criminalizing Charity

Some xenophobic, anti-immigrant rightwing blowhard Louisiana Republican Legislator from House District 35 (parts of Beauregard and Calcasieu Parishes), Brett Geymann, is attempting to criminalize charity towards undocumented immigrants.

This dude has sponsored three bits of rancid legislation:

HB24 - Creates the crime of harboring an illegal alien. The actual text reads:

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to harbor, conceal, or shelter from detection any illegal alien in any place within the state of Louisiana, including any building or means of transportation, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the illegal alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
B. For the purposes of this Section, "illegal alien" means any person who is not a United States citizen, who is physically present in the United States without the legal right to remain in the United States.
C. Nothing in this Section shall be construed so as to prohibit or restrict the provision of any state or local public benefit described in 8 U.S.C. 1621(b), or regulated public health services provided by a private charity using private funds.
D. Whoever commits the crime of unlawfully harboring, concealing, or sheltering an illegal alien shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
What does this potentially mean? That any person who behaves like a Christian and who welcomes, houses, or provides shelter to undocumented migrants can be potentially sent to jail for a year.

The other pieces of legislation are no better:

HB 25 - Provides for verification of citizenship or immigration status upon arrest. Read the text. The title of this Bill is pretty self-explanatory. Local law enforcement officials are being asked to function as Immigration agents.

HB 26 - Unlawful transportation of an illegal alien. The relevant section of this Bill reads:
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to transport, move, or attempt to transport in the state of Louisiana any illegal alien, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the nonresident alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of the illegal presence of the illegal alien in the United States.
You give your undocumented migrant worker neighbor a ride to the emergency room or the grocery store, you could spend a year in jail. What will the public transportation agencies do?

These pieces of hateful legislation are designed to tackle the undocumented immigration problem by criminalizing good deeds and charity. It jeopardizes the work that so many charitable organizations provide for marginalized and exploited peoples and seeks to criminalize such organizations for their good works. It is not only a completely impractical and wrong-headed way to resolve the issue, it is morally repugnant and wrong.

Right now, these three pieces of horse excrement are assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee. Let's hope this Committee lives up to the Justice side of its mandate and buries these Bills. In the meantime, any decent and fair minded Louisiana resident who reads this blog should contact his or her Louisiana representative and demand forcefully that they go on record as opposing these bills.

Eye Problems

Since early yesterday morning, my right eye has been swimming in a sea of blood vessels. As my better half said this morning: "That's one angry eye!" So, thinking I might be suffering from some heretofore unknown allergy, or that I might have somehow gotten a corneal abrasion, I went to my primary care physician to have it checked out. He ruled out corneal abrasion, conjunctivitis, and any of the other usual suspects. And since the eye also experience a sharp pain anytime it was exposed to bright lights, he sent me off to an ophtalmologist immediately. So I went. The diagnosis after a short examination: a very small corneal ulcer. Treatable with antibiotic drops. Which I'm doing. We'll see how it turns out. Not something I'd wish on anyone.

Monday, March 24, 2008

College Hoops

I had Georgetown going to the Final Four. Damn! I maybe should have known better; but that's what being soft for your Alma Mater does.

My bracket, otherwise, is holding up well. Unlike many, I did not have Duke even advancing to the Elite Eight.

Here's my Final Four lineup:

UNC vs. Georgetown; Memphis vs. UCLA

I have UNC and Memphis advancing to the Finals, with Memphis winning 79-74.

Tiger Woods Defeated

I love Tiger Woods. The he couldn't muster a victory at the CA Championship doesn't matter. He's still a formidable athlete and perhaps the best competitor of modern times. It's telling when the media reports a Tiger Woods loss (after 7 straight victories!) somehow as a letdown. Here's how ESPN reported the outcome this morning:

DORAL, Fla. -- So much for that perfect-season talk. Not only has Tiger Woods been beaten, Geoff Ogilvy did it on a course where the world's No. 1 player looked unstoppable in recent years.

Ogilvy won the CA Championship on Monday, saving a round that seemed in peril with a chip-in for par at the 13th hole and going on to claim his second victory in a World Golf Championship event.

A final-round of 1-under 71 was good enough for him to finish at 17 under, one shot better than Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh, all closing with 68s in the rain-delayed tournament. Woods was alone in fifth at 15 under.

With the win, Ogilvy joined select company -- only Woods and Darren Clarke have more than one WGC title. But this week won't be remembered for that accomplishment: It'll be known as the week someone finally took down Tiger.
The week someone finally took down Tiger!?!?!? Come again. No one takes down Tiger except Tiger himself.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shelf Life of Mrs. Huckupchuck

Pleasant surprise this morning when I opened the Times-Picayune to the Living Section. There, on the front page of this section, was a lovely picture of my better half doing her thing with a corresponding spread on her literary tastes and habits.

Ain't I a lucky man!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama and Jeremiah Wright

Quite frankly, I am somewhat surprised by the harsh reactions being levied against Obama because of his association with Wright and with his Church. That people would simply dismiss so casually every piece of evidence that exonerates Obama and shows the sum of his life to be nothing like the ugly things that Wright said is not the sign of a prudent, open, and reflective mind. Jumping on the "Obama is Toast" bandwagon is nothing more than a convenient excuse for people whose prejudices and demons regarding race that Obama has challenged to simply revert back to the comfort of these prejudices and demons. That even his supporters would turn against the man on a dime indicates to me an unserious and uncritical mind, and makes me wonder if such people really were on nothing more than a feel-good bandwagon.

Well, I have two things to say in defense of Obama: (1) Anyone who would judge Obama not on his own words and how he has lived his life, but on the words of another, is someone who doesn't want what Obama is offering in the first place. People who call Obama a fraud and a racist because of his association with Trinity Church of Christ and Jeremiah Wright don't want to move beyond the polarizing narrative of prejudice, they want to perpetuate it themselves. (2) When it comes to one's Church, especially in Protestant churches where there is a tradition of the "priesthood of the believer," the mettle of one's faith community is not and never has been wrapped up in the single character of one Pastor. People in particular Church communities, who live through multiple Pastors, grasp on to the Church and its mission and its congregational community above and beyond (and sometimes in spite of) the Pastor.

In short, I am as troubled and as put out by some of the things Jeremiah Wright has said as the next person; but there's nothing at all in Wright's ugly moments that would cause me to believe that these things reflect in any way on Obama. Obama is defined by what he has done with his life and how he has acted on what he has heard, not because he might have sat in a pew and heard some unpleasant things said by his Pastor. Like many things I admire about Obama, he transcends the ugliness of racism (of all varieties and expressions) all the while recognizing that he is also not immune to finding himself wrapped up in the messiness of it all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

March Madness

March is always the busiest month of the year for me. Graduate admissions committees to organize, post-doctoral fellows search committees to manage, multiple faculty and student summer grant competitions to run, awards ceremonies to plan, not to mention the regular demands of prepping and teaching two courses. I also have the edits from my book publisher's in-house editorial staff to review, approve, and submit by the end of next week. Add on top of that the regular family stuff and my volunteer work with Puentes, and you begin to get the picture. The short of it is that my head has been spinning recently and so I have been absent from the blog.

Yesterday was the beginning of our Spring break, which will last about 9 more days, which means that I have convinced myself that I can stop and breathe for a bit. Hopefully, that means that I will be able to post more to the blog in the upcoming days. So, check back for more.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mr. Attitude

Well, yesterday evening I attended New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin's "One New Orleans" conversation with the Hispanic Community. I guess there were about 60 people in attendance, 20 of whom were somehow part of Nagin's official posse. My reaction: it was a pretty vacuous "conversation." It started with Nagin giving us his laundry list of accomplishments, which lasted about 25 minutes or so, and was then followed by a question and answer session. I guess the Mayor gets credit for at least staging the event, even if the event was pretty much useless. But I do want to mention two things which stood out to me.

First, when asked about his comment regarding New Orleans being overrun by Mexicans, Nagin outright lied to the Hispanic community. Martin Gutierrez, the point person for Catholic Charities and the Hispanic Apostolate, invited Nagin to help him respond to Hispanic questions regarding the meaning of Nagin's comment. Gutierrez's question was phrased very sympathetically and even graciously, but was met with Nagin's characteristic dismissiveness and evasiveness. In fact, I'd say that Nagin insulted Gutierrez and the rest of the Hispanic community by basically claiming falsely that he never made such a comment. Nagin challenged the audience to provide any evidence that he ever said such a thing. Well, here's the evidence.

Now, I want to make it clear that Nagin wasn't even being criticized for this. Gutierrez was only asking him to clear up the matter and remove any doubts or confusion about what he meant with the comment. Gutierrez was basically saying that the Hispanic community heard his comment and perceived it to be not only a manifestation of ignorance as to the demographic reality of the Latino population in the City (i.e. Spanish speaking workers are not all Mexicans) but also a slight against the hard-working Hispanic labor population in the City. And Gutierrez wanted to be able to explain to those who asked him about it what Nagin's comment really meant and how to allay their negative perception of the comment. And Nagin just lied about it. He essentially denied it ever happened.

I can tell you that the room was a bit stunned at the brazenness of the lie, especially since everyone knew exactly what Nagin had said and had seen the video of the comment played over and over again in the Spanish language media. I myself had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Of course, Nagin and his henchmen, even when denying that such a thing ever happened, pulled out the "they're taking the words out of context" and "I love the Hispanic community" lines to paper over the fact. I tell you, it would have been better had he just said: "Yeah, I know, I spoke out of my nether parts on that one. I'm sorry for that." If he had said that his comment, clear in its intent, came amidst a heated exchange about employment and job insecurities for local residents in those uncertain days and months immediately following Katrina, I think his stature among the Hispanic community would have been restored. But, alas, instead of being honest and apologetic, he just lied. Even as I think back on the moment now, I still can't believe that he bald-faced lied about it. I understand that when the local media aired clips of this event on the news last night, they highlighted this lie. Personally, I think he blew it with the Hispanic community with his response. He certainly didn't make it easier for Gutierrez to be able to explain to those who ask him what the Mayor meant by that comment. I mean, what's Gutierrez gonna say to people who clearly saw the Mayor mouthing these words? Is he supposed to tell them: "Well, you see, the Mayor really didn't say that. You're just making the whole thing up."??? Ay, Carajo! Bueno ... ni modo ...

The second noteworthy moment came when Radio Tropical (AM 1540) and Telemundo NO owner, Ernesto Schweikert, III, expressed his personal disappointment with Nagin's ignoring the Hispanic Community following Katrina. Schweikert, in a very calm, but clearly personally disappointed tone, said that he resented the fact that when Katrina hit, Nagin made no effort to communicate with and provide information to the Spanish speaking community via Schweikert's still functional and broadcasting radio station in those first days of the Katrina crisis. Schweikert even went so far as to say how disappointing it was that the Hispanic community welcomed Nagin and helped elect him to office, only to be shunned and ignored following Katrina. Schweikert couldn't even get the City to provide him a gallon of gas to run the generator that powered his radio transmission equipment.

Now, the kicker to this moment wasn't so much Schweikert's personal plea, but the shocking and hypocritical quality of Nagin's reply to it. In typical Nagin "cold-cocking" fashion, Nagin responded by getting all defensive and telling Schweikert that he was out of place for expressing his personal resentment and disappointment with Nagin and his team in such a public forum. This, from the very man who himself makes a habit of going on television shows and radio programs and engaging in disrespectful and pathetic displays of frustration, anger, and even threats. And he has the gall to then go and tell Schweikert: "You got to have an attitude adjustment." (And that's a direct, verbatim quote from the Mayor.) Unbelievable.

I can assure you, Schweikert's "bad" attitude was not even a fraction of what we've seen the Mayor do in public forums. [Granted, Nagin later apologized to Schweikert for maybe seeming to "come on too strong"; but, heck, the need to even have to do that tells me that Nagin is no better than what he is complaining about.]

Frankly, I think the Mayor, at this point, is pathologically incapable of empathy or frank honesty. He struck me as jaded and not really interested in cultivating constructive and engaged working relationships with people outside of his cocoon. It was all a show, and Nagin was just going through the motions and playing his part, without all that much heart in it. That's how I saw it, anyway.

At least the "Complimentary Refreshments" were good, even if the chicken wings, barbeque ribs, and sausage jambalaya didn't quite match the preferred culinary dishes and flavors of the target audience.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Well, I haven't had much time to post anything these last few days, given all that's been happening. And I don't have all that much time just at the moment to post anything too substantial. So, though I foresee some time over the coming days when I can catch up with the blog, I'll just leave a few random thoughts and comments here for the moment.

First, the LatiNola Votes! campaign this past Saturday was a mixed success. We had great volunteer turnout, but only marginal turnout from the community. We did manage to register 31 individuals, which we should still take as a good start. But we were hoping for something much more substantive. So, the hard work continues. The leadership team will be meeting to evaluate and plan for upcoming drives, and it's likely that we'll continue to have at least one big drive once a month from now until October.

One exciting thing about this past Saturday, unrelated to the LatiNola Votes! event, was that I had the chance to meet Dangerblond for the first time. She was managing the polls at the Bayou Coffee Shop when I went to cast my votes for delegates to the upcoming national Democratic Convention. Deborah Langhoff was also there, so I had the chance to meet her as well. I'm pretty jazzed about the prospects for reform within the local Democratic Party establishment with Dangerblond, Deborah, and others sitting on the committee.

Hillary Clinton appears to have held off Obama and staunched his Omentum by throwing the "kitchen sink" at him. So, she'll probably be around for another day. But the delegate math heavily favors Obama and he's still likely to be the nominee. The good thing for Obama is that Hillary is doing all the dirty work that McCain and the GOP could have done, and so Obama is getting experience in weathering such attacks and finding ways to disarm them. My only concern is not that Hillary soldier's on in the Primary Campaign, but what doing so will do to the Democratic Party this November. What I once considered to be a lock for the Democrats on the Presidency this fall, I am now not so confident of. We'll see.

That's all for now. I'll be back soon. Peace.