Archive for February, 2009

A break from more serious thought

Gender Analyzer is an interesting website that analyzes the language of a blog and “determines” whether a blog is written primarily by a man or a woman. It is by no means perfect, but it is fun to see when it is right or wrong and how right or wrong it was. I took the time to run some of the blogs that I frequent through the analyzer. Many of the scores are in the 45%-55% range, which means that they lean one way but basically are gender neutral. Enjoy! – 55% Man – 54% Man – 52% Man – 62% Woman -68% Woman – 82% Man 69% Woman 63% Man 53% Woman 79% Man 53% Woman 65% Woman 59% Woman 51% Woman 71% Woman 58% Woman 55% Woman 64% Man 75% Man 83% Man 59% Woman 54% Woman

Ethnic Diversity in UnDiverCity – A taste of diversity

My wife and I are getting around to the restaurants here in Huntington, Indiana. Pizza Junction, which is downtown, offers a strong selection of pizzas and toppings and a great environment. Ugalde’s offers a local alternative to Applebee’s or Chili’s, but not as polished (which can be a good thing) and not as expensive. Copper Kettle, another downtown restaurant, offers a surprisingly inviting atmosphere (I have only had breakfast so I can’t say much food-wise). Great Wall is the compulsorily Chinese restaurant, although pretty generic in its buffet-style, the selection was wide and the fried rice was not orange.

While my wife and I enjoy food, what has interested us in Huntington’s food selection – as well as incited us to continue to eat out – is the ethnic diversity that can be found while dining. Great Wall is the only place in Huntington that we know we will see someone like us (well, like my wife). Although to some it may seem odd, there is something comforting for an ethnic minority to be able to walk into a room and realize that they are no longer the minority – or at least that there is better representation. The sense of, “you are like me” is extreme. It is something of a non-geographical ethnic enclave; we are drawn to one another.

There is a Mexican restaurant next to the Chinese restaurant and although the feelings aren’t quite the same as when we walk into Great Wall, they are similar. In the case of the Mexican restaurant, it is simply the appreciation of something minority. They are like us, even though they are not like us.

Mexican restaurants aren’t the only place where we have the opportunity to rub shoulders with Latinos/Hispanics. Like many towns/cities, many restaurants have Latinos/Hispanics as cooks or as buspeople. While it frustrates me that this reality is rooted in the fact that Latinos/Hispanics aren’t likely to be hired in others jobs, especially better paying jobs, it is an object of excitement when I see someone of some pigmentation behind the counter.

Surprisingly, when we ate at Ugalde’s there were a number of Latinos working both in the kitchen and as servers. I say surprisingly because my first inclination was that Ugalde’s was going to be a local joint where my presence would attract crooked necks and concentrated stares (which has happened); a part of me was a little anxious. As I reflect on my initial reaction, my assumption based prejudices are revealed. Even though I hadn’t experienced the restaurant I “knew” what it was like. Obviously, it was simply one of those rural “white” restaurants where those certain type of “white” people ate. While my assumptions were based in experience, it remained a prejudice and stereotyped view of small town white folk and small town businesses.

While there are no soul-food restaurants in Huntington, I am most likely to see black folk when I go out to eat. Some friends and I went out to Los Amigos, the other Mexican restaurant. As we entered we were welcomed by a brother!! He was as surprised at the tint of my brown skin as I was at his. He welcomed me with the ceremonial (not all black people do this) black handshake (which varies depending on who you are meeting; really, it’s the art of going with the flow) and made sure that I had everything that I needed. We were both thankful to not be the only one.

The unexpectant waiter isn’t the only black person I have run into while satisfying my hunger. I have seen a combination of about 10 black people – including bi-racial children – in restaurants. All in all, I have seen only about 18 or so non-Huntington University-affiliated black folk, in Huntington, so 10 is a fairly considerable number.

Ethnic diversity is scarce in Huntington, but at least I know I can get taco, some fried rice or a Philly cheese steak and have some diversity on the side.

Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”

Growing up I didn’t go to the barbershop much. We had a barber’s chair in our basement – eventually it was in my room – and my dad had the tradition of cutting all of his sons’ hair. Albeit I spend most of my time in my dad’s barber chair I knew what it was like at the barbershop and the reality of my black hair was very real.

While I was young, I often went with my mother to Vera’s. Vera’s was where my mom got her hair did (done). The smells of SuperGro, Afro-Sheen, hair dryers, and hot combs still permeate my mind with memories of eavesdropping on conversations. Whether it was my mom and Vera, Vera and another customer or a conglomerate of black voices, Vera’s was always a happenin’ place. For many of the women it was their time to gather, their sowing club, their town square .

As I aged I styled my way through a variety of hair situation – though now being professional it behooves me to keep it short. I had fades, flattops, zig zags, waves, cornrows, close shaves and an Afro. My favorite of these was the Afro. Although my hair grows a little crooked, which was frustrating because I constantly had to trim my fro in order for my hair to be somewhat even.

I loved caring for my hair. Every so often, I would have to wake up early wash my hair with chemicals and then use the hot iron to straighten my hair. I couldn’t do this everyday because washing most black hair daily is a very bad thing – especially in hard water. However, I loved those mornings, there was a smell and a sense of genuine Afro-centricity that was present.

Although I loved by Afro, I also loved to get my hair did (done). Though it is easy to view this as a tedious activity, sitting for hours and having someone cornrow and/or braid your hair is one of the most enjoyable activities. Not because of the activity itself – who likes getting their hair pulled? – but because of the community that forms around sitting on the block or in a room, crackin’ jokes, catching up or just being together. I will always remember my mother helping me with my hair, it was a time for us to talk, at time for mother and son, and  and a time to just be.

I haven’t had the honor to watch Chris Rock’s, “Good Hair” but it has gained a lot of praise from its appearance at the Sundance Film Festival . The culture behind black hair is fascinating. There are various styles, opinions, and classifications of black hair and within the United States. African-American hair styles are perhaps some of the best examples of artistry. From the weave and elaborate plats and cornrows, to dreadlocks and perms (which makes black hair straight not curly), black hair is anything but bland.

Although at first look “Good Hair” sounds as if it is a examination of the classifications of ones hair as good or not, which spawns from straight, smooth hair appearing more European and thus good in juxtaposition to curly, kinky hair appearing as African (and unsophisticated) and thus not good (just in case I need to clarify, most black women straighten their hair to make it have the straight look – which is somewhat disheartening). However, “Good Hair” focuses much more on the culture and commerce of black hair rather than the complexities over the context of “good hair”. In some ways it is taking the hair culture -good, bad and tragic,- displayed in the Barbershop movies and Beauty Shop and expands it into an exploratory documentary.

I will be searching to cop (get) this film in the next couple weeks, if anyone has the chance to watch it or finds a copy of it let me know.


This is a difficult situation. Honestly, I don’t know what to think.

A part of me feels obligated to go on the expressed intentions of the cartoonist. If their intention wasn’t racist then it wasn’t.  I know that position comes with great complexity, but I don’t think it is healthy to spend too much time deciphering what is  racist and what is not, especially those things that are up to great debate.

But another part of me is enraged by the image. The dead monkey congers pictures of oppressed Blacks, Negros, Niggers who are, by nature, primitive and this, disposable.

Bottom Line: It was not wise for the NY Post to publish this cartoon. It was a misfire. It was confusing.

Regardless of whether I or you believe that this was offensive or not does not matter. What matters is that some do find it offensive. Thus, we all must defend the emotions and sensitivities of others. White, Black, Latino, Bi-Racial, Asian or other, if someone you know is offended you must not belittle that emotion you must acknowledge their condition – be it ultimately perception or reality. When feelings – perceptual or not – are invalidated we never make gains in dealing with our complex issues.

We are not in a post-racial society, it is obvious that a division remains. We cannot spend time denying the racial lines that are often so apparent nor can we exhaust ourselves by preaching to others in a way that is only understood  by our own choir

The foundational question is not, racist or not? It is, why does this hurt and divide humanity?

What is our response, not to a picture, but to one another?

Polygamy case may test limits of Canadian same-sex marriage

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (RNS) A landmark court case will test whether Canada’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage also justifies the practice of polygamy.

The defense lawyer for a British Columbia man who openly admits to having multiple wives will argue that Canada’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage broadens the definition of marriage to include multiple spouses.

Blair Suffredine, lawyer for Winston Blackmore, who prosecutors claim has 19 wives, said this week he will argue in court that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects polygamy under the principles of equality and religious freedom.

When the Canadian parliament made same-sex marriage legal in 2005, members of the Conservative Party of Canada argued that changing the definition of marriage would open the door to court challenges from people who wanted polygamous unions.

Canadian evangelical Christians also opposed making same-sex marriage legal on the grounds that it could permit immigrants from countries where polygamy is legal to maintain multiple spouses in Canada. Some Muslim countries allow polygamy.

Legal specialists say it would be hard to cite same-sex marriage laws to defend polygamy in the U.S., in part because same-sex unions are not constitutionally approved across the country.

In the U.S., polygamists who belong to fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sects have been prosecuted for sexual crimes involving minors — not polygamy in itself.

Daphne Gilbert, a law professor at the University of Toronto, told Canadian Press the argument proposed by Blackmore’s lawyer is predictable, but without merit.

Same-sex relationships maintain Canada’s traditional view of marriage, she said, because they only involve two people. Polygamous marriages, she added, raise questions about whether the often-young wives are truly consenting to being married.

Even if a lawyer could prove that a ban on polygamous marriage is a violation of the Charter, Gilbert said the Canadian government would be allowed to ban polygamy by arguing the value of protecting the greater public good.

The two British Columbia men charged with polygamy by government prosecutors — the first case of its kind in Canada — are leaders of rival polygamous factions of roughly 400 members each.

They reside in a community called Bountiful in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains near the U.S. border.

High-profile businessman Winston Blackmore, 52, has more than 100 children from as many as 19 wives. The other man on trial is James Oler, 44, who is charged with having two wives.

Both Blackmore and Oler have long been affiliated with the Utah-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How to we as Christians deal with this? Same sex-marriage? etc?

In one sense, we can say that we aren’t dealing with the polygamy issue, but it is imperative that we acknowledge that this is possible in our country. I am not an advocate of same-sex marriage (though LGBT civil rights are important to me), but our country is most likely moving – in our lifetime – to legalizing same-sex marriage. With that, there is the potential that we must more widely deal with the issue of polygamy and additional lifestyles incongruent with the Christian faith.

The idea of a “Christian” nation is perhaps detrimental to the cause of Christ. What we must do is maintain Christian morality and ideology despite a nation that may not exalt Christians ideals. The danger in issues of polygamy, same-sex marriage, divorce – absent of abuse/adultery -, abortion, etc. is two fold. We can either respond by pulling out of society, leaving no impact. In effect, not loving our neighbors because they are “sinners” and we are not. Or we can soften our theology by accepting sinful actions as true and Biblical. In effect, making Christianity a social club of spiritually people.

In this complexity, we must find the third way of Christ: living in Grace and in Truth. Regardless of our exterior society, Christianity must earnestly seek after God. We should not be swayed to separatism or acceptance of the world.

Growing Evangelical Hispanics

The Pew Forum posted an article about the growth of Hispanic Evangelicals. This is an exciting happening in the American evangelical world. Not because there is something inherently wrong with being Catholic, but because it seems that for many Latinos and Hispanics Catholicism has, unfortunately, been a hindrance to faith development.

Although I am not in a position, geographically, to fellowship and worship with many Hispanics – In Fort Wayne there is a Bi-lingual evangelical church called Grace Point South – , I hope that churches and Evangelical Christian communities reach out to Hispanics who are converting from Catholicism and/or non-belief. This may come with some significant cultural challenges for the typical Evangelical world. The style of worship, preaching, music and organization will most likely be unfamiliar and unattractive to Hispanics. More significantly, the orthopraxy and theology of many Evangelical churches may not be relevant for the ex-Catholic Hispanic population.

From my observation, the churches with the most potential of welcome these groups would be those communities that come from an African-American heritage or those who lend themselves to a more charismatic theology and style. It will be interesting to see what occurs as this trend further develops. Hopefully it will be the opening to create a more diverse and multi-cultural local church.

Here are some other highlights of a study conducted by researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

* Half of Hispanic evangelicals said they converted from another religion, and 43 percent said they were former Catholics.

* Even among Catholics, Hispanics prefer a more animated form of worship – 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics called their worship style “charismatic,” compared to 12 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics.

* More than two-thirds of Hispanics, 68 percent, identified themselves as Catholics. A third of all Catholics in the U.S. are Hispanic.

* The next-largest religious category — 15 percent of those surveyed — was those who said they were “born-again” or “evangelical” Christians.

* In a comparison of Latinos of all religions and their non-Latino counterparts, more Latinos said that the Bible is the literal word of God.

* Among Latinos, 74 percent of the foreign-born said they were Catholic, compared with 58 percent of U.S.-born Latinos.

* About 20 percent of the Hispanics surveyed had changed religion, though a quarter of these had simply become unaffiliated with any religion.

* More than 80 percent of converts cited their desire for a more direct, personal experience with God as the main reason for their conversion.

More Excellent Black People

In having a conversation about my previous post, Excellent Black People, my friend Felicia brought up a good point, “sometimes successful black people are seen as exceptional even if they may not be”. I still believe that there is a prerequisite of extraordinary excellence for successful black people, but Felicia comment beings up another complication.

Personally, the assumption of my excellence often occurs. I believe that part of this is because I am intelligent, but to some degree it is because I am an anomaly, a Black male in graduate school. Sometimes people, of various races, view me as something different, something special, something that isn’t normal blackness. I am excellent because I am not like other black folk. I don’t think there is any malintent, but I do think that my success is somewhat inflated in the minds of some because of my ethnicity.

This limitation, that is real – if only in feeling -,  is difficult. It isn’t that I wish to not be excellent, excellence is a noble pursuit. Rather, I wish to be excellent as a person, not a Black person.