Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

02 July 2020

How the System Gets Systemic and Other Tales


I see the grand opening of America is going well. Especially in Florida and Texas. But more on that later. Or maybe not. It's too easy a shot.

What struck me about the Tulsa Rally, the Arizona "Students for Trump" Rally, and (I'm sure) tomorrow's 3rd of July Fireworks at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota* were the "Front Row Joes". The ones who show up early, camp out, bring the kids and grandkids, travel from rally to rally, wear special outfits, have slogans, legends, beliefs, and a whole culture that goes with following the object of desire from one venue to another. You know: the conservative version of Deadheads.


God bless them all, and may they not get the virus. BTW, I can't help but wonder how many of the older crowd were Jerry Garcia fans back in the day. I'll bet if someone started humming "Friend of the Devil" a lot of people would take up the song...

BUT BACK TO THE MAIN THEME

Meanwhile, though, I've been thinking about systemic racism. Now I have not experienced this as such - all of the people who have ever harrassed me about my ethnicity have so far gotten it wrong: I am neither Jewish, Native American, Italian, or mixed-race, although I would not mind in the slightest if I were. What this dark-haired, dark-eyed, large-nosed cantankerous crone is, is Greek, and my Ancestry gene test proves it. (God, I wish racists would bother to do a little research and get their hateful ethnic stereotypes correct.)

But I certainly have experienced systemic sexism. As has every woman I know. So, let's go over some of the issues.

Dress Codes - "Show us your legs, ladies, and don't be shy about it!"

My first official job was in 1971 (I lied about my age, and other things), as a switchboard operator in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids gets cold and very snowy in winter, but we were required to wear dresses to work. And the manager could require us to wear dresses, even though no one in the public ever saw us. (Most of us wore pants on the way over and changed.) Women couldn't wear pants on the job anywhere at that time. It wasn't until the mid-70s that the pantsuit became popular and women could wear them at work.

But not everywhere: women weren't allowed to wear anything but skirts on the floor of the US Senate until 1993, when Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore pantsuits in defiance of the rules. That took a while, didn't it?

But sometimes it takes even longer: As late as 2019, a federal judge struck down a rule at a North Carolina charter school that prohibited girls at the school from wearing pants. It required them instead to wear skirts, skorts, or jumpers. The school had argued that the dress code promoted “traditional values.” (HERE)

And I note that the rule is still - on the Weather Channel and Fox News among other places - that female broadcasters wear (often sleeveless) dresses and spike heels all four seasons, while their male counterparts can actually cover their legs and arms with multiple layers. Still.


Jobs - It's hard to get one if you are barred from even applying.

Help wanted ads in newspapers were listed by gender until 1973. Jobs for Men; Jobs for Women. Betcha can't figure out what kinds of jobs were listed under JFW - secretarial, receptionist, clerks, low-level accountancy, waitresses, hostesses. CPAs were listed under Jobs for Men, along with everything else that paid a living wage.

But in 1973, in Pittsburgh Press Co. v Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973), SCOTUS upheld an ordinance enacted in Pittsburgh that forbade sex-designated classified advertising for job opportunities, against a claim by the parent company of the Pittsburgh Press that the ordinance violated its First Amendment rights. (Wikipedia) And finally, the barriers broke down!

Long history of discriminatory newspaper ads | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It still took a while for things to actually change throughout the land, and in many places, a token woman got hired, and that was enough, despite the fact that (ahem) women do make up 50% of the population. So far we're settling for 23% of Congress, and 5% of CEOs, and 0% Vice Presidents or Presidents. To quote the great RBG when asked "'When do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court?' And my answer is when there are nine." (RBG)

Meanwhile, we're still earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Higher Education

While there's a long history of women's colleges in America, beginning in the 1800s with seminaries, almost all of them were aimed at teaching teachers. Full education and co-educational college education was a long hard slog. It wasn't until the 1950s that - again - SCOTUS weighed in with a number of decisions that said public single-sex universities violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

"The Ivy League schools held out the longest: Yale and Princeton didn’t accept female students until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977 (when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College). Brown (which merged with women’s college Pembroke), Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981, respectively. Other case-specific instances allowed some women to take certain classes at Ivy League institutions (such as Barnard women taking classes at Columbia), but, by and large, women in the ’60s who harbored Ivy League dreams had to put them on hold." (Wikipedia)

Health - When you're not included because you're just an inferior man.

BTW, even today, most clinical trials for medicine and medical procedures are done exclusively on men. This is because - as we're always told - women have menstrual cycles that would screw up the research and men don't, and besides, "the average human is a '60 kilogram man'"**. One size fits all, right? Well, this has had some grimly hilarious results - did you know that the first major study ever done on breast cancer was done on men? True. But even today, studies on heart disease, lung cancer, Alzheimer's, and cholesterol are done primarily on men, and even when women are included in the studies, "they often fail to stratify data by sex or include information about hormone status or any other gender-specific factors." Which means we still don't know how well various drugs or treatments actually work for women. (HERE)

BTW - it's even worse for minorities. "Nearly 40 percent of Americans belong to a racial or ethnic minority, but the patients who participate in clinical trials for new drugs skew heavily white—in some cases, 80 to 90 percent. " (Scientific American)

The Pill

In 1957, the FDA approved of the birth control pill but only for “severe menstrual distress.” In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. In both cases, it was only for married women. And even then it was only legal in some states. It wasn't until the late 60s through early 70s that it was made legal and available for both single and married women.

Credit - Or, how do you start a business without any money?

Until 1974, a woman was not able to apply for credit without her father's or husband's signature. If you were a single woman, you were SOL. The Equal Opportunity Credit Act changed that. BTW, it was Congresswoman Lindy Boggs who added the provision banning discrimination due to sex or marital status, because the committee hadn't put it in the original bill. She photocopied the new version of the bill and told the other committee members, "Knowing the members composing this committee as well as I do, I'm sure it was just an oversight that we didn't have 'sex' or 'marital status' included. I've taken care of that, and I trust it meets with the committee's approval." The committee unanimously approved the bill.

Credit - Small Business Loans

Took a long time to get. And I know a number of women who were rejected by a bank - because we generally don't have the assets of a man - and started their small businesses using credit cards. Lots of them.

More Problems with Being Female While Working - Pregnancy

Besides trying to even get a job, or trying to even get credit to start your own business, or to get credit to buy or rent the furnishings or clothing you needed, women could also get fired, legally, for getting pregnant until the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Speaking of Pregnancy, how about the Age of Consent?

In 1880, the ages of consent were set at 10 or 12 in most states, with the exception of Delaware where it was 7. Yes, you read that correctly. By 1920, however, I'm happy to say that 26 states had an age of consent at 16, 21 states had an age of consent at 18, and one state (Georgia) had an age of consent at 14. Georgia which raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 in 1995, and Hawaii did the same in 2001.

And how about consent, period?

Well, if you were married - you couldn't say no. Spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.

And, for most of us who have not been living under a rock, we all know that rape is damned hard to prove in the courts of public opinion, public gossip, and the law. Especially since as many as 200,000 rape kits are still sitting around police stations in the US that have never been and never will be tested. Kind of makes you feel like it just doesn't matter. But it does... (HERE)

And sexual harrassment at the workplace was not made illegal until 1986, when the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment can be sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII in the case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. However, as some of us know, it still continues...

(See a host of stories on that topic, including my own "Pentecost", in Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology, SleuthSayer Elizabeth Zelvin, editor.)

More Problems with Being Female While Working - Health Insurance

Charging women more for health insurance than men wasn’t outlawed in health insurance until 2010 with the Affordable Care Act. Let me repeat that:

WOMEN COULD AND WERE CHARGED MORE THAN MEN FOR HEALTH INSURANCE UNTIL 2010's ACA!!!!

If the ACA is tossed out - as the current administration is trying to get SCOTUS to do - that will end and women can be charged more again. And undoubtedly will. (NPR)

Jury Duty

Many states excluded women from jury duty until SCOTUS declared that to be illegal in Taylor v Louisiana in 1973. Gives a whole new insight into the all male juries of Twelve Angry Men, and Anatomy of a Murder, doesn't it?

BTW - Barring women from practicing law was only prohibited in the U.S. in 1971.

"I thought you were a man"

Previously shared in a comment on Melanie Campbell's blog (HERE):

Back in the late 70s, I made the finals for new play contest, and I went down for the public reading of all 5 finalists. Now, I'd submitted the play under the pen name M. V. Fisher. When I arrived, the person in charge looked at me, and said, "We thought you were a man." And sure enough, all the other finalists were men. I didn't win.
Systemic sexism is real.
Systemic racism is real.
Fight them both TOOTH AND NAIL!!!!

Love always,
The Crone.


** For an absolute classic on how women have been measured by the male over the millenia, real Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure of Woman. https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Woman-Carol-Tavris/dp/0671797492

A quick quote: On hysterectomy for a 'precancerous' diagnosis: "Although prostate cancer is far more common than uterine cancer, no one recommends preventative surgery on the prostate. The very idea would make most men premurderous."

14 June 2020

Please Don't Upset Racially Mixed Children


The protests in the United States has people in many countries including Canada asking, “What can I do to help end racism?” My approach has been to listen to the stories from south of our border and within our borders: this is the birthplace of the solutions we need. However, I’ve realized that these stories weren’t addressing my concerns about my children and that’s a story I want to write.

My husband is white and our son and daughter are mixed race. I would say bi-racial but that isn’t true. My parents were from Sri Lanka—my mother’s grandfather was French, somewhere in my father’s family there was someone African but we suspect other ancestors as well, including a Chinese one. My husband has roots in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

There is absolutely no doubt that people are suffering in the United States and—to a lesser extent in Canada—from racism. I have no interest in diminishing this suffering—we should all be amplifying those stories. However, the way we discuss these stories are adversely impacting children of mixed marriages and that is where I want to focus: I want you to imagine being one of those mixed children while you read.

The research on implicit racial biases, often based on the Implicit Association Test (IAT), has provoked some people to state—with puzzling confidence—that all whites harbour implicit racist attitudes. To be clear: for my children, this is their father that we are talking about. When our children have their feet in at least two worlds, sometimes many worlds, telling them one of their parents could dislike them because of their race is not merely the height of cruelty, it is also untrue.

But the IAT, that measures beliefs and attitudes people may be unwilling or unable to report, has numerous problems. For a test to be relevant it has to be replicable—give the same result each time you take it—and valid so measuring what it purports to measure: “Greg Mitchell, a law professor at the University of Virginia (stated) the replicability of the IAT is extremely poor. If the test suggests that you have a strong implicit bias against African Americans, then ‘if you take it even an hour or so later you’ll probably get a very different score’. . . . More fundamentally, there appears to a very tenuous relationship between the IAT and behaviour. That is to say, if your colleague, Person A, does worse in the IAT than another colleague, Person B, it would be far too hasty to conclude that Person A will exhibit more discriminatory behaviour in the workplace. In so far as there is a link between the IAT and behaviour generally, it is shaky.”

If we ignore the fact that IAT is neither reliable nor valid and look at the results—even they do not show that all whites have implicit biases: 18% don’t. Since there are serious methodological questions about this test in the first place, it shouldn’t be used as a justification for saying stuff that would upset mixed race children.

Like most mixed race children, my children have a wide range of looks: they get very dark in the sun and by the end of a long Canadian winter, they look almost white. Once my son and I were grocery shopping at the end of a long winter and we encountered one of his high school classmates. My son told me that this young man asked him afterwards what race he was. My son cheerfully listed my husband’s European roots and my Asian and African ones. When he was finished his classmate said, “No wonder you’re an alpha male in our school. You’re seriously the master race.” Never before had I heard this horrible term being used in this way and it tells you a great deal about the hope I have for this new generation.

This young man—who is white—might go on and have racially mixed children. I can guarantee you that many of this generation will do the same.

For them, and for my children, I have a simple ask: don’t tell racially mixed children that one of their parents is biased against them. It’s cruel.

What my children know, to the core of their being, is that their father would lay down his life for them without a second thought. His love for them is unconditional, deep and one of the most important truths of his life.

Please don’t make generalizations that mess with the family we have created and the children whom both my husband and I love. You can’t stop the damage of racism by ignoring the reality of mixed race children. Keep them close to your heart and don’t say anything to suggest that both their parents have anything but deep, unconditional love for them.

09 August 2019

Uses of Mystery, Part 2


by Janice Law

I have recently become interested in how certain writers use the conventions of mysteries and thrillers to explore topics. Jim Gauer’s Novel Explosives was a madly ambitious literary example. Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night and American by Day are both firmly within the mystery genre but both use a crime, pursuit, detection, and chase to explore a variety of difficult topics, including racism and violence in American by Day, and anti-Semitism, post traumatic stress, immigration and parental guilt in Norwegian by Night.

Derek B. Miller
Both are distinguished by perceptive reflections on cultural assumptions and religious beliefs, some of which is funny. They have complex characters and in Sheldon “Donny” Horowitz, the main character in Norwegian by Night, one of the most completely drawn mystery protagonists in a long time.

A widowed, retired watch repairer, an ex-Marine Ranger and sharpshooter, Donny is intensely patriotic, pugnacious, cranky, and opinionated. His late wife thought he was showing signs of dementia; his beloved grand daughter has similar suspicions, and to be fair, he does conduct conversations with his dead friend Bill Harmon as well as experience intense serial trips with his dead son, Saul, along his fatal journey on the Mekong River.

Nonetheless, Donny is  as close to a believable eighty-one year old action hero as you are likely to get. When one of his grand daughter’s neighbors is murdered in their Oslo apartment, he finds himself on the run from ex-Kosovar militia with a traumatized little boy. Donny doesn’t speak Norwegian; he doesn’t have access to a car or a weapon; he can’t risk public transport, and he feels every day of his age. He’s impossible not to root for.

Donny Horowitz’s ingenuity is matched by Sigrid Ødegård in American by Day. Sigrid, the Police Chief Inspector in Norwegian by Night, has like Donny, her own regrets and bad memories. Although a more subdued character – Miller’s women, though well-drawn are not as impressive as his men – Sigrid proves equally ingenious off her own patch. Searching for her missing brother Marcus in upstate New York State, she navigates an unfamiliar geographic and cultural landscape with considerable aplomb.

Through her eyes, Miller gives a foreigner’s view of our tangled mess of race, sex and violence, much as he used Donny Horowitz to critique aspects of Norway. Well aware of our record of gun violence, Sigrid struggles to find her shy, almost reclusive brother before the authorities and also to understand how he became a suspect in the death of his African American lover, a woman herself traumatized in the wake of a police shooting.

The psychological climate of the book is necessarily somber but occasionally relieved by feisty bit characters like the savvy prostitute who has inherited tenancy in Marcus’s apartment and especially by Irving Wylie, the decent and philosophical local sheriff who may prove susceptible to Sigrid’s off beat charms.

Together, the paired novels are thoughtful, ambitious, and entertaining. If the body count in Norwegian by Night is maybe more than is needful and if American by Day is occasionally talky, they are both superior specimens of the genre, with all the action, smart dialogue and ingenuity that characterize good mysteries.