Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dispatches from a "Post-Racial" America: The Straight, No Chaser Edition

     By T.M. Bonner

  The "Dispatches from a "Post-Racial" America" series has been highlighting actual events that demonstrate the continued pervasiveness of racism in America. This is necessary because far too many people deny racism's omnipresence, or deny that race even matters anymore. And you can't solve a problem if you don't believe there is a problem.

     This week, the 'dispatches' are uniquely special because well-known people - some notorious, others noble - are telling you how important race is in this country and to themselves.

     You're getting it straight, no chaser.

     I can almost hear the Church Lady from "Saturday Night Live" fame replying to them with her famous retort: "Well isn't that special?"

     So just click on the links beneath the quotes below to be awed (or appalled) by the honesty.

From the now infamous Texas Rancher, Cliven Bundy, who believes African-Americans would be better off as slaves. Read more here!

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gives White High Court majority a lashing on race after controversial decision. Read more here!

A team owner in a predominantly black sport who doesn't like black people all that much - and he's not ashamed to say it! Hear his own words here!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dispatches From a "Post-Racial" America: The Pet Peeves Edition

…because living in denial is never a good thing.

The latest edition of "Dispatches From a "Post-Racial"America" features racial pet peeves, or things that just make those harboring racial bias crazy in America.

Of course, such a list is potentially infinite with all that hate inside. So, I've narrowed it down to three of the most significant ones to rear their ugly heads in the news over the last few weeks.

Just click on the links above the photos for further enlightenment.


T.M. Bonner is a writer, filmmaker, MBA, Social Justice Advocate, and is also a professional in Social Policy/Social Service in New York City.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anita Hill Documentary Highlights Need to Discard Concept of “Women and Minorities”

By T.M. Bonner

Anita Hill Testifying in October 1991
(YouTube Screenshot from "Anita" Trailer)
By the time I found myself watching a second major milestone take place in Anita Hill’s life, I had long stopped finding the harmlessness in the popular phrase “women and minorities.”
      That second time, I was in a movie theatre in New York City. I was watching the documentary “Anita,” released in March 2014. It chronicles the impact of the decision of a young, African-American Hill who dared to speak up about sexual harassment at the hands of then U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas.

      The first time, I was watching that drama play out live on television as Hill, then a tenured law professor at the University of Oklahoma, testified before Congress in October of 1991 during the now infamous Thomas confirmation hearings.

I was too young and had more limited life experience to really connect all of the complicated dots of this controversy back then. But what didn’t escape my observation was that despite the professional credentials she held, and the poise, confidence and consistency she displayed throughout her lengthy testimony, this was a black woman in trouble as she faced the doubting and accusing eyes of the all-white and all-male Senate Judiciary Committee.

 In fact, Hill’s historic testimony on sexual harassment was less of an Aha! Moment and more of an Oh No! Moment.

Hill was a woman accusing a high-powered man of sexual harassment. Hill was an African-American woman accusing a high-powered man of sexual harassment. Hill was a African-American woman accusing a high-powered African-American man of sexual harassment. And while white women would and have faced maltreatment and credibility challenges when standing up against sexual harassment, it is the intersection of gender and race in the case of African-American women like Hill that presents an unfortunate chasm in a gender-shared experience.

The all-male Senate committee was already having a difficult time understanding sexual harassment. Asking the also all-white Senate Committee to see the deeper implications of race for an African-American woman accuser was a stretch – especially when many in this nation struggle with seeing beyond stereotypes when interacting with African-Americans on any level.

To illustrate my point, in Time Magazine’s coverage of the hearings, an October 21, 1991 headline read:  “Sex, Lies and Politics: He Said, She Said: As the nation looks on, two credible, articulate witnesses present irreconcilable views of what happened nearly a decade ago.” So when the media is still impressed that two Yale-educated African-American attorneys are “articulate” (as the headline read), getting an understanding of the more complicated, really deep stuff would take some work. In case anyone thinks things have changed, remember:  President Barack Obama was described as “articulate, “bright,” and “clean” in 2007 by current Vice-President Joe Biden (who also led the Thomas hearings in 1991, by the way).

So behind the scenes, Hill was pulverized by many African-American men (and even many women) for “trying to bring down a successful black man.” In other words, Hill’s right as a woman to protection from sexual harassment from an African-American man should take a back seat to protection of the ‘race’ and African-American men. Many of these aggravating and disappointing conversations I even remember hearing at the time. A 1992 study of opinion polls on the Hill/Thomas controversy showed that only 33% of white women, 27% of white men, 26% of black men, and 26% of black women believed Hill was telling the truth. Meanwhile, the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee – having to decide between the word of a black woman versus the word of a black man (He said, she said) – the word of the “He Said” came out the victor.  And Thomas was confirmed as the second African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice after Thurgood Marshall on October 15, 1991.

The Hill/Thomas controversy represents how misguided lumping minority women and men together in a category can be via the concept of “women and minorities.” Because if we want to just be 100 percent real about what that phrase means, it separates African-American women (and other minority women) from white women (“women”) and lumps them all together with minority men (“minorities.”)

It is true that minority women and men do share some important experiences and concerns being minorities in America. But it is also true that minority women also have some very different experiences and issues as result of them carrying the dual burden of racism and sexism. The Thomas hearings illustrate that even in a showdown of two prominent African-Americans who rose up from abject poverty while enduring racism, sexism will always be a factor for the African-American woman. While African-American women like Hill are accused of being a “gold digger” and of “trying to bring a black man down” for bringing sexual harassment complaints, African-American men like Thomas don’t have to worry about being confronted with sexism-based accusations and doubt when they stand up for themselves against injustices they may feel they are facing. They also are not made to feel that it is their responsibility to 'protect the race' and the honor of other African-American men.

There is also the problem of lumping together all minority women – as if all of our histories and life experiences are similar. Many minority women felt more comfortable believing the word of Thomas over the African-American woman Hill – with whom America assumes they are united with in ‘female minorityhood’ through the concept of “women and minorities.” And let's not forget that an all-female jury that included five white women and one woman of Puerto Rican ethnicity acquitted George Zimmerman of the murder of Trayvon Martin despite an assumed understanding of a ‘mother’s pain.’

But a second problem with “women and minorities” is not just the lumping together, but also the separating out of white women from minority women. This has implications of separate priorities for women’s issues – a racial hierarchy of women’s needs, if you will.

And such a racial hierarchy of response to women's needs from white women down to minority women has been playing out in this country since recent memory.  

While President Obama and other special interest groups critique gender pay inequality, it is clear that the issue of pay inequality for women goes deeper than just gender. African-American women earned $610 per week compared to $718 for white women in the second quarter of 2013, according to a study from the Center for American Progress. And while white women only earned 78.1 cents to the dollar compared to a white, non-Hispanic man in 2010, African-American women earned even less - just 64 cents to that same dollar.

On the health front, while white women are more likely to have breast cancer, African-American women have higher overall mortality rates from breast cancer, according to that same study.

And at the time of the study, only 14 out of the total 98 women in Congress were African-American, while only two women of color have ever served in the Senate. There has never been an African-American woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice, while there have been two African-American men appointed.

So, it is time to stop putting women into compartmentalized categories that ignore or perpetuate inequality among women.

 It is time to stop putting minority women into compartmentalized categories with minority men whose self-interests and needs may collide with minority women. It is time to stop feeding African-American women, in particular, the message that standing up against abuse (domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc.), or sexism in the black community will mean being demonized in the black community as a traitor to her 'race.'

It is time to do away with the concept of “women and minorities” and the implications behind it.

Perhaps by the time a third major milestone of Anita Hill crosses my path many years ahead, we will have finally gotten that lesson.


T.M. Bonner is a writer, filmmaker, MBA, Social Justice Advocate, and is also a professional in Social Policy/Social Service in New York City.