hctiB G: Hi, Yellow Bitch

originally posted February 21, 2006
reposted February 21, 2011


In class we touched on the nappy hair issue and I added that I’d heard as a child, How can such a yellow girl have such nappy hair? (Also, when older, I heard, stuck-up Creole bitch, stuck up yellow bitch, and stuck up high yellow bitch.) It was on my mind because of the newspaper article Sunday, far too short, on Haki Madhubuti, a man and writer I admire even though, maybe because, I don’t agree with him on all points. But one part of the interview struck memory and set me thinking:

Q: Was being light-skinned a problem?

A: Being high yellow was always a problem, yes. What happened, early in the struggle in the 1960s, I would always be challenged by men in the struggle that were in some cases darker than I was but not as intellectually referenced. There was always the question, was I black enough, could I be trusted in the deepest of struggle? I decided I was going to have to outwork everybody in the black community, not tangential to it, not parallel to it, not in some academic university setting. I would really have to produce in the black community. That was my mission.

I was pleased to see “high yellow” and that end of the colorism spectrum mentioned in the newspaper but it was equally painful. When suspect, you must work harder than, be more committed than, be more hardcore and “authentic” than anyone else. Which is not authentic, in my opinion. Peers, adults, strangers, family suspected I wasn’t “down” because I was light and almost white-looking (except for the nappy hair and nose–and not for long; I still get in the sun as much as possible), a decision made before I spoke or got close enough to distinguish one eye from the other. The assumption was I thought lighter meant “better.” I grew up during the shift from near-universal Black pride in education and hard work to the school/kid culture of today in which As or Bs, knowing how to spell, liking to read (anything, not just Jane Austen) meant you were “acting/tryin’ to be white” and in my book-smart-straight-As-glasses- fat-unathletic-too-bookish-to-be (or care much about being)-hip case, I was an inherent traitor. But instead of taking the usual path, one I saw almost every other light-skinned person around me take (and had taken and I would see take over and over), the path Madhubuti speaks of, I decided to get comfortable with, if not downright like, being an outsider. I didn’t turn away from blackness or pass or become infatuated with false “superiority” based on internalized white supremacy (I’m not a nationalist nor am I an integrationist) but turned away from the daily pit fight of proving my blackness, proving where I stood every second and inch, proving every minute Who I Really Was.

And it is still a problem. For me and others. I wait for the you’re-not-black-enough shoe to hit the back of my head. Every day I fear all my not-black-enoughs will jeopardize me at the University. Yet I still contrarily resist playing the Prove-It Game, still to my detriment but I stubbornly cling. The same essentialism that says I must like X and behave like Y to “be/prove/signify” I am black is the same that says my skin color determines my intelligence, moral values and reproductive choices and that says my uterus is the center of and only justification for my existence. I eat my beans with a gravy, drink pot liquor from greens, eat black-eyed peas on New Years and red beans on Mardi Gras and tell my daughter proudly about black history and braid her curly, wavy, somewhat kinky, thick, beautiful hair. My skin gets ashy. My hair stays dry. I experience racism. And colorism. I get up early to go to Zulu and ignore Rex. Yet I do not know much about Mardi Gras Indians, Martinique, slave markets, Haiti, Senegal, underground rap, the Ninth Ward or the old Magnolia projects or what “flossin’ “ means. I sort of know what crunk is now after many months. What disturbs me is that the black-enough bar slides up, down and sideways depending on who is holding it over your head and for what reason, to put you in your place or to just plain fucking bash your head in.

I know damn well what we think of as race is a social rather than a biological construct and fact (see the American Association of Physical Anthropologists Statement on Biological Aspects of Race). I also know that I have never in my life felt like a white person or wanted to be one. I did not marry who I did because he was white. And I push my students because I know excellence is not dependent on skin color, that they are capable and will not succumb to stereotype, self or group underestimation or condescension. I do not agree all black people are loud or soft-spoken or any single or monochromatic (pun intended) feature. At the University, the skin colors are all in a certain range but the backgrounds and philosophies range more than at, say, an Ivy League school where nearly everyone, white, black, Latino, Asian, is upper-middle class or better and suburban and has pretty much the same law school/business/med school ambitions.

I did not go out “looking for a white man.” I do not think I am of a different class, order, level or magnitude “than other black people.” I do not hate blackness or my “Black self.” I do not choose my friends based on skin color and the few times I have, always favoring the black person over the white, I have gotten deeply, unforgettably burned. I do not choose all the things I eat, read, listen to, crave, dream about, hope for and buy based on “blackness” or“whiteness” but on quality, price and my personal desire and/or plan. I also do not do this without inner conflict, angst, frustration, existential anger and hurt feelings, mine and those of others. Especially mine.

How will it end, ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue

Black and Blue, performed by Louis Armstrong


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Thanks, Jenni!: AWAP Wednesday on Invisible Illness and Suicide

Sometimes it’s the level of pain, sometimes the relentlessness—the 1585th or 1693rd day, the 10,000th month, that 23rd hour of the day–and sometimes it’s everything you’ve lost and the isolation and the lack of substantial pain management and quality of life.

I don’t always “seek help.” For me, it’s a sign. It’s hard to explain to people whose experience is mostly with acute pain but with chronic pain, you can’t take __ every time, every day. The effectiveness wanes, you get looked at funny, and it doesn’t help all that much when it’s every day and multiple locations, not just that broken femur or wisdom tooth extraction site. So when it comes to that, I stop the whole day, back out of everything, take what I have and/or some chocolate, and wait to come out the other side. because I always have fucking tomorrow and next week to get through. And next year. And my 60s.

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World Sexual Health Day 2014

from The Declaration of Sexual Rights, adopted in 1999:

Sexual rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity, and equality of all human beings. Since health is a fundamental human right, so must sexual health be a basic human right. In order to assure that human beings and societies develop healthy sexuality, the following sexual rights must be recognized, promoted, respected, and defended by all societies through all means. Sexual health is the result of an environment that recognizes, respects and exercises these sexual rights.

Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.

This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.

This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviours about intimacy as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.

This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.

Sexual pleasure, including auto-eroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well being.

Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.

This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.

This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.

This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.

This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.

Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.

Do something for your sexual health today.

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Victor White III: “a federal investigation is underway”

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley of the Western District of Louisiana confirmed today that a federal investigation is underway into the death of the 23-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.

…The U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI and criminal section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division investigate allegations of civil rights violations by officials acting under the law and for determining whether the evidence demonstrates that a civil rights violation occurred and that it was willful, Finley said in a news release.

A federal representative has contacted the White family to assure them the Department of Justice will follow the evidence and take appropriate action based on that evidence, she said.

The Louisiana State Police already is investigating the shooting. Finley said the FBI “has been working parallel with” that investigation.

“Our review will take time to complete,” Finley said.

Federal officials will review the State Police investigation results and determine what additional investigation, if any, is necessary “to determine who fired the fatal shot, and whether the evidence demonstrates a willful civil rights violation,” she said.

The federal investigation will supplement the State Police investigation.

“Once the investigation is complete, we will carefully review the results to decide if any prosecutable violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes occurred,” Finley said.

Feds investigate Victor White III shooting death. The Advertiser, 9/2/14.

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Happy Fucking Labor Day

Michael Rubin, one of the lawyers who sued Schneider, disagreed, saying there are many sound wage claims. “The reason there is so much wage theft is many employers think there is little chance of getting caught,” he said.

Commissioner Su of California said wage theft harmed not just low-wage workers. “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history,” she said. “This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”

Many other states are seeing wage-theft cases. New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has recovered $17 million in wage claims over the past three years. “I’m amazed at how petty and abusive some of these practices are,” he said. “Cutting corners is increasingly seen as a sign of libertarianism rather than the theft that it really is.”

More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft.’ NYTimes, 8/31/14.

Louisiana, like MS, TN, SC and AL, has no minimum wage law.

In 2012, women in LA earned on average 67 cents to every man’s dollar. LA women earn the most in Rep. Richmond’s district and the least in Rep. Boustany’s district.

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Victor White III: More Links

#justiceforvic defense fund: Donations are still needed to help the White family find out what really happened to their son.


Lieutenant Anthony Green, however, was willing to give his take on New Iberia’s response to the shooting, stating, “The community is not really up in arms about this. I don’t sense any large unrest.”

This isn’t the first time the Iberia Sheriff’s Department has been suspected of brutalizing the people of New Iberia. Last year, a group of officers were caught on video beating a handcuffed man at the town’s annual Sugar Cane Festival, an incident that led to a deputy’s firing. And at least a few activists are upset by this history of mistreatment. On March 11, Reverend Raymond Brown, a fast-talking New Orleans preacher, hosted a small rally in New Iberia and called for the US Justice Department and the FBI to investigate Victor’s death.


Handcuffed Black Youth Shot Himself to Death, Says Coroner. NBC News, 8/25/14.

According to Lewis and the manager of the Hop-In, while Lewis and White were inside the store, a fight started outside.

Two men in front of the store began shouting. One told the other he was going to get a gun. White told Lewis they should stay inside. A woman called 911. After the men ran down the street, Lewis and White left.

Around 11:30 p.m. White and Lewis were walking a few blocks down the road when a police cruiser slowed, Lewis said. According to a service report provided to NBC News by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Corp. Justin Ortis asked the men to stop.

Ortis performed a “consented pat-down” of White, according to the report, and “located suspected marijuana in front pants pocket.”

They told the officer, Lewis said, that they could identify the men who were fighting. He said they offered to go to the convenience store with them, to talk to the clerk. “I said, ‘You can still probably catch them,” Lewis said. “You’re just burning time here. Victor said, ‘Why can’t you go back to the store and look at the camera?’ They said they didn’t have time for that.”

According to a public information officer for the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, no one was ever apprehended for that alleged offense.

Lewis said that after finding the marijuana, the officer told them, “I’m going to let y’all go, that’s nothing.”

But after the officer ran the men’s names through a police database, he called for backup. As they waited, White and Lewis sat on the ground in front of the police cruiser, headlights cutting into the dark.

By the time a second officer in a separate cruiser arrived, Lewis said, White had been handcuffed behind his back, and placed in the back of the first car. The police report says White was detained and read his rights.

According to the report, a second search of White produced the cigars and a small amount of cocaine, and White said both the cocaine and marijuana were his. “White was then transported to the patrol center to be questioned by narcotics detectives,” the report concludes.

The officers dismissed Lewis, and he walked back to his father’s house.

But by 5 a.m., Lewis said, detectives were knocking on his door, asking that he come to the station to answer questions about his friend. At no point throughout the course of the subsequent interview, Lewis said, did they tell him that White had died while in the custody of police officers.

Victor White suicide ruling leads to public scrutiny. The Advertiser, 8/27/14.

“Although the decedent was handcuffed at the time with his hands to his back, due to his body habitus (type), the pathologist and investigators agree that he would have been able to manipulate the weapon to the point where the contact wound was found,” the statement said.

Lawyer for White family calls for U.S. Justice Department investigation. The Daily Iberian, 8/27/14.

“He is not Houdini,” [Monroe lawyer Carol] Powell Lexing said. “He is not David Copperfield nor is he a descendant of either.

“There is no way on God’s green Earth that someone handcuffed behind his back can shoot himself through his chest,” she added.

The lawyer claimed she had evidence sheriff’s deputies beat White when they arrested him for possession of narcotics following the report of a fight in the 300 block of Lewis Street at 11:22 p.m. March 2. She identified the arresting officer as Justin Ortis and said his Facebook page, which includes a post justifying a photo of an officer slamming a man in a chokehold to the ground, indicates his violent character.

“He has already shown us on his website that he is a badass,” she said.

Powell Lexing said there is a “rat to be smelled” in reference to State Police claims the handgun used was not one used by Iberia deputies. She also accused investigators of taking too long to submit “crucial” evidence such as dash video camera recordings or simply ignoring tests such as those for gunpowder residue on one’s hands or arms.

“Everyone knows, the public knows police officers carry what are called ‘throw-down guns,'” she said.

Powell Lexing said she has been in talks with the U.S. Justice Department and is seeking an independent autopsy by famed New York pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, whose resume includes autopsies on President John F. Kennedy and, most recently, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

She added national media outlets, including MSNBC, also have contacted her and the White family on this story. Following the press conference, Powell Lexing suggested future public response could mirror the protesting in Ferguson following Brown’s killing.

“The country is in an uproar,” she said. “The country wants accountability.”

NY Forensic pathologist to review White’s autopsy. KATC.com, 8/27/14.

Happening now: The attorney for Victor White III’s family held a press conference at the Iberia Parish Courthouse asking for justice after White was shot while in police custody earlier this year. They say New York forensic pathologist Michael Baden has agreed to review the autopsy, and they are in the process of sending him the report.

Baden recently performed an autopsy on Michael Brown, at his family’s request, after he was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Baden, who was also New York City’s Medical Examiner, has also served on the federal committee that re-investigated the deaths of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

White’s family also spoke out in today’s press conference, saying they do not believe White killed himself. They say he was a joyful person who would not have taken his own life. The family attorney, Carol Powell-Lexing, says they’re also requesting an investigation from the U.S. Justice Department. A peaceful rally is planned for next month, and details will be forthcoming.

Coroner: Alleged statement White made before he died determined manner of death. KATC.com, 8/28/14.

According to Coroner Carl Ditch’s report, White allegedly said “he was gone” or something similar before he was placed into the patrol car.

Ditch says in the report that the cause of death for White is a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right chest, but notes that “the manner of death is more problematic given it is based on the decedent’s intent, i.e. whether he intended to shoot himself, or the firearm accidentally discharged while he was manipulating it under awkward circumstances.”

New Iberia man’s gunshot death in cruiser was police brutality and not suicide, family says. The Associated Press/nola.com, 8/28/14.

KATC.com Victor White III coverage

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Katrinaversary #9: A Special Bit(ch)

No, “all” of New Orleans is not below sea level.

No, Katrina didn’t flood New Orleans. The levees failed and filled the majority of the city with water that took weeks to pump out. The levees were not bombed to flood black neighborhoods and spare white ones. Lakeview got slammed as badly as the Ninth Ward. The difference in return and rebuilding rates is socioeconomic.

It’s been 9 years. It’s likely some people will never return home.

The French Quarter is not the same as New Orleans. Regardless of what’s happening there, or has been, recovery has been variable, sometimes temporary, and plagued by the same problems as NO had before August 2005: corruption, racism, elitism, selfishness and greed, poor and/or tainted and/or fake and/or absent planning and “planning,” etc.

No, “the storm” didn’t clear the decks for the schools to “get better and better!” Much is still the same. Test scores, the gold standard of reform evaluation, aren’t really that much higher. The top schools before Katrina are still the top schools 9 years post-K. Privatizing the schools did not stop corruption, adult self-centeredness and selfishness, or the devastating effects of a still-too-segregated city with too many low-wage tourist and entertainment jobs and not enough of a safety net to help people up regardless of how hard they try.

New Orleanians will carry the trauma of August 29 and the lingering aftermath forever. The rest of you have the luxury of forgetting. We can’t. And some of us have no intentions of forgiving.


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Vox: Where We Donate V. What Kills Us: Graphic

As a rule, he explained, “donating money to the best developing world health charities will reach at least 100 times as many people than if you donate to developed world health causes.” For example, consider the potential public-health impact of your dollars spent, using a measure of disease burden like the quality-adjusted life year. With ALS, he said that $56,000 would provide one quality-adjusted life year to a sufferer. On the other hand, he said, “the same amount of money could provide 500 quality-adjusted life years if you give money to bed nets for malaria.”

“People can get upset when you say some causes are more effective than others. That’s not true, because it’s as tragic for someone to die of ALS as it is for someone to die of malaria. But wanting to respect and honor a particular tragedy is different from trying to help as many people as you can.”

There are also tools that can inform your decisions. Charity Watch, for example, measures the effectiveness of non-profits. They look at the ratio of spending on actual programs to administrative costs. According their website: “Rather than merely repeat charities’ self-reported finances using simplistic or automated formulas, we delve deep to find the real story of how efficiently charities use your donations to fund the programs you want to support.”

Instead of focusing on financials, GiveWell has earned a reputation for scouring the globe to find charities that are most likely to touch the lives of the maximum number of people per dollar spent. As they put it, they conduct “in-depth research aiming to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent.”

Charity Navigator, meanwhile, is another well-respected watchdog that looks at the overhead-to-program spending ratio of various non-profits, though they say they’re moving toward a more robust calculus that will track how well charities are solving the problems they set out to tackle. For now, they offer a list of tips for savvy donors here.

The truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge: Viral memes shouldn’t dictate our charitable giving. Vox, 8/20/14,

[HT: The contrast between diseases that kill the most and diseases that produce the most donations: Jarvis DeBerry, 8/27/14, nola.com]

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“like he got hit in the eye with the butt of a gun”

One of the reasons the coroner determined suicide is mentioned in the autopsy report. He said White allegedly made a statement to police “that ‘he was gone’ or some similar phrasing before being placed in the patrol car.”

Neither [Louisiana attorney Carol Powell] Lexing nor White’s father believe he made any such statement.

As for the weapon used in White’s shooting, Louisiana State Police spokesman Brooks David told HuffPost on Monday that the weapon was not “a weapon used by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

According to White Sr., his son was not raised around guns and, to his knowledge, had never owned or handled one.

Lexing has her own theory on where the gun came from.

“If a gun existed, we think that it was a throw-down gun,” she said, insinuating police planted the gun at the scene.

Lexing also said she believes police caused two abrasions to White’s face, which are noted in the autopsy report.

“They told his parents the abrasions were caused when he shot himself,” she said. “That’s not true. I can tell you this boy’s left eye looked like he was beaten, like he got hit in the eye with the butt of a gun.”

Inquiries to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office were directed to the Louisiana State Police.

Contacted by HuffPost on Tuesday, Capt. Doug Cain, head of the state police public affairs unit, declined to address any of Lexing’s specific allegations.

“[The] state police was not involved in the incident at all,” Cain said. “We were brought in at the request of the sheriff to do an independent investigation. Our goal is to gather facts. That’s the only thing we deal with, and we’re getting close to the end of the investigation.”

Victor White’s Family Disputes Claim That Handcuffed Man Killed Himself. HuffPo, 8/27/14.

WHOA! Wait the mother fuck—contact wound?victor white iii contact wound autospy crop

contact wound victor white iii detail “Contact gunshot wound to the right chest” of a left-handed man handcuffed behind his back sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser. CONTACT wound? How the fuck could he put a gun to his own chest handcuffed behind his back? And, somehow, hit himself in the eye with this, or another, gun? All in the part of the parking lot not covered by surveillance cameras.



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Bit(ch) 19: “self-directed pursuits of pleasure without shame”

As a feminist who fucks*, I have no problem with “Anaconda.” I find it delightful.

* It isn’t the male gaze, dominant narratives of sexuality, or hegemonic femininity which reigns true throughout Minaj’s work. It’s her own sexual state of being. And when Nicki Minaj struts out in a string bikini or exudes her own sexuality in the middle of something otherwise empowering, it isn’t an inherent contradiction or a cause for debate. It’s simply a reflection of how many women — women who, often, feel comfortable with and empowered in their choices — are living their sexual lives. As sexual beings, we’re allowed to indulge in self-directed pursuits of pleasure without shame. We’re allowed to be frank about our own exploits. We’re feminists who fuck, and a lot of times it looks like both things happening at the exact same time.

“Anaconda” wasn’t an isolated incident, and it wasn’t Minaj’s first time articulating her own identity nor her last. Throughout her feminist declarations, however, has appeared the same specter of doubt. Feminists refuse to take Minaj’s statements seriously, continuously torn between embracing her sexually raw and eccentric persona with her own self-declared girl-power focus. It’s clear that when Minaj is making feminist statements in a language that resembles mainstream feminist discourse, folks are giddy to jump on the bandwagon — but her oversexualized state of being, her sexual aggression and occasional sexual dominance, often worry them.

This is hugely problematic.

It’s the impossibility to ultimately marry the image of a sexually empowered woman to her state of existence which allows for the distorted view of women’s sexuality to prosper. When feminists honor Minaj’s feminist lyrics, as they did with “Anaconda,” and then admonish her for expressing herself with sexually charged images and videos, they are playing into the same dominant narratives about women’s sexualities that perpetuate victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and the subordination of women.

The proof is in the pudding, respectability politics be damned. Nicki Minaj is a feminist, and she expresses that in her work. In the long run, what Minaj has contributed to the existing and ongoing dialogue of women’s oppression is the perspective of someone who refuses to be defined by any categories she doesn’t claim for herself or constrained by the desires of other people.

Today’s feminist blogosphere can get super hung up on who self-identifies as a feminist and who should be allowed to, but what that conversation ignores are both the variances among us as women and the real, lived experiences of women living in those variances. In a universe in which we are still enslaved to the dichotomy of “slut” or “virgin,” Nicki Minaj has chosen to live within her own spectrum of sexual expression — and she’s proven that at no matter where we land on that spectrum ourselves, we’re still whoever we damn well please, feminism and all.

Nicki Minaj’s Feminism Isn’t About Your Comfort Zone: On “Anaconda” and Respectability Politics. Autostraddle, 8/25/14.

A large part of sexist oppression is narrowing women and their sexuality to “respectable” limits that can be approved of by General Audiences. Fuck respectable. Fuck limits not chosen by me or chosen to confine me into something smaller, safer and easier to drown so someone’s dick doesn’t feel small.

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