Wednesday, June 20, 2007


"The process of emancipation from slavery and its effects...." What I typed out yesterday, on Juneteenth. Take, for example, voting rights, and the ongoing attempts to prevent Black and other people of color, as well as the poor, from voting. These activities, written into law, occurred before the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, but they really kicked into gear after universal emancipation and voting rights were guaranteed constitutionally. Over the last six years, in fact, we've had so many examples occurring right under our noses in Washington, and until the Democrats took over and began investigating, few were able to put all the pieces together. Want an example? Here's one (and mind you, this sulfurous character has been nominated by W to the Federal Election Commission--of course!):

WASHINGTON — A former Justice Department political appointee blocked career lawyers from filing at least three lawsuits charging local and county governments with violating the voting rights of African-Americans and other minorities, seven former senior department employees charged Monday.

Hans von Spakovsky also derailed at least two investigations into possible voter discrimination, the former employees of the Voting Rights Section said in interviews and in a letter to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. They urged the panel to reject von Spakovsky's nomination to the Federal Election Commission.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said that von Spakovsky wouldn't comment on the latest criticism. She said he's "preparing a point-by-point rebuttal that will address these issues" and "looks forward to working with members of the Senate during the confirmation process."

Von Spakovsky blocked a major suit against a St. Louis suburb and two other suits against rural governments in South Carolina and Georgia and halted at least two investigations of election laws that appeared to suppress minority voting, one of them in Wyoming, said Joseph Rich, the former voting rights section chief.

The former employees' letter also challenged von Spakovsky's candor during his confirmation hearing before a Senate committee last week, when he portrayed himself as a middle manager in the Civil Rights Division who didn't make policy or personnel decisions. Von Spakovsky, who's served as a presidential recess appointee to the FEC since early 2006 and is seeking a full six-year term, also played down his role in several controversial decisions.

In the letter to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel's chairwoman, the former employees said that von Spakovsky acted as the "de facto voting section chief" from early 2003 until late 2005, spending virtually all of his time on voting matters and promoting "partisan political interests."

"We have never seen a political appointee exercise this level of control over the day-to-day operations of the voting section," they said.

It was the second letter in the last eight days in which former employees of the Voting Rights Section, including Rich and former deputy chief Robert Kengle, urged the Senate panel to reject the nomination. Feinstein told von Spakovsky during the hearing that the criticism from former department officials would make it difficult for him to win confirmation.

Monday's letter included the first allegations that von Spakovsky torpedoed suits and investigations over alleged state, county or local laws that diminish the voting strength of African-Americans, Native Americans or other minorities or prevent them from voting altogether.

Von Spakovsky, the letter said, stripped the voting rights section chief of his authority to open investigations of discrimination without his superiors' approval.

The letter also challenged von Spakovsky's testimony about a letter that the department sent to Arizona Secretary of State Janice Brewer in April 2005. Contrary to his testimony, the former employees alleged, von Spakovsky didn't seek input from career staff members before he notified Brewer that provisional ballots didn't need to be offered to voters who failed to present identification — a reversal of the department's previous interpretation of a 2002 federal election reform law.

You know there's more, both in the article and beneath the iceberg these revelations about von Spakovsky's actions represents. Oh, and his replacement, Cameron P. Quinn, is also not fond of the dark-skinned types casting ballots either....


More mental decolonization issues to mull, according to Buzz Feed:

Skin whitening is the rage (again) in China, Japan and India.*

This ad is only one example.

And as the article I linked to the other day on DR notes, it's also an issue in parts of the Caribbean, and Africa, and of course, the USA. (Yep, you know AMBI hasn't budged from its choice perch on supermarket shelves all over the country.) Though now you can get all kinds of skin peels that do the work of vitiligo in just a few (or many) minutes!

(Of course I blogged about this almost two years ago.)

And, the US doesn't need to go so far with overt commercials like the one from India, since a persistent and relentless aesthetic aryanism is thoroughly encoded into nearly all of our televisual and mass media. Yet even with this, there are still regular eruptions, as it's never enough for some people.

(On the flip, naturally, there's tanorexia--only don't get too dark [too thin is always in]!)

Remind me again what century we're in?

*Some may note that historically, in some places, an affinity for lighter skin has predated European colonialism, which only managed to make it worse.


So much hype about Mike Bloomberg's kicking the Republican Party to the curb to become "unaffiliated," and his possible run for the presidency! Oy, the pundits are in a frenzy, a lather, sheer ecstasy! They were as breathless on the local news and radio as on the evening network broadcasts. Judy Woodruff nearly smoked her seat trying not to jump into Bloomberg's lap on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, almost forgetting that the slick Antonio Villaraigosa was swanning right next to him. (For the record, C noted that they would be a particularly formidable combo.) But the media talking heads don't see Villaraigosa as far as any of them can throw him. Instead, they're slobbering over a ticket with right-winger Chuck Hagel, who still manages to vote with the Commander Guy and Cheney every chance he gets. Or will it be Joe Lieberman, neoconservativus perfectus? Really, is Bloomberg going to be the incarnation of Ross Perot, John Anderson, or Ralph Nader?

He was kind enough to throw a wet sheet on the blazing fires of excitement by restating his commitment to be the Richest Mayor-Nanny of New York until 2009. Meanwhile, back in reality, let's not forget that Bloomberg was the bagman for the 2004 Republican National Committee's convention in the City. He chaired the most important event to raise money and convince Americans to reinstall the Worst President and Vice President Ever. He also gave over $300,000 to the hapless New York State Republican Party, which until last November had as its figurehead a real tool, George Pataki. And, in a move that made his authoritarian predecessor Rudy Giuliani proud, he even presided over the rampantspying and thuggery by his police department during that event. He has yet to account or apologize for either. Meanwhile, Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront are turning into Dubai, New York's public educational system remains a mess, and those billions can make anybody snap to attention. At least he doesn't hate brown people.

Furthermore, back in the reality outside Mediastan, he would not win a single state outside the Northeast, except perhaps Hawaii and California. Illinois would be pushing it. Seriously. And he's more likely, with his social and economic liberalism (yes, he doesn't hesitate to raise taxes or erect nanny-state policies), to draw votes from the Democrats than the Republicans. Which is just what we DO NOT NEED, 4 more years of the disaster we've had to endure for the last 7. On top of which, he keeps talking about partisanship as if both parties in Congress have been engaging in it these past 7 years. He's a very smart man, so I don't think he missed the fact that the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the Presidency and the Courts during this period, and that the Democrats repeatedly caved into them (except on social security). The partisanship ran one way. It still does. Surely he's not that clueless.

I think the mainstream media's Bloombergomania is yet more confirmation that these overpaid hacks are completely out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, though they still have the power to shape--and warp--our national public discourse.

Please, Bloomberg, fuggedaboutit!


I am sufficiently grounded in anti-positivist thought never to put too much stock in reductively biologistic explanations of anything. That said, I found the following article, New York Magazine: The Science of Gaydar, which bristles with nodes of problematic reasoning ("gay disease"???) fascinating. And yes, I am going to start looking more closely at hair whorls as I sit on the local trains. I may even photograph some (or hundreds), calculator in hand....

And then there's this one, from this week's Village Voice, about gay kids. (And the mini transgender sensation, hormone patches to "degay" fetuses, and all sorts of stuff that give new meaning to the word "spectacle.") The late author and activist Eric Rofes's quote from a book researcher Dee Michel is editing on the emotional support he drew the Wizard of Oz particularly resonates: "As a child who was bullied for being gender-nonconforming (girlish, nonathletic, studious, emotional) and who often felt trapped and without recourse, these stories offered me a happier ending to my own story."


  1. John,
    When you return to blogging you sho nuff don't play. Dang! That skin-lightening stuff is frightening. After I watched the ad from India I watched the Olay Whitening ad (w/ UV protection! the ad reminds us as the model flits from shadow to shade to escape the sun...). Of course with the voting rights issues in the US and other countries where there may be backroom disenfranchisement of darker-skinned folk. maybe folks are thinking their lightened skin-color will trump the race or name given on their I.D.'s (you can always get that photo I.D. retaken after the AMBI takes effect). It's interesting that you mention your writings from 2 years ago, and the article discussing the adverts which crop and dismember women's bodies, focusing primarily on faces. I remember one teenage summer being asking by a friend of my mother's if my "that" (referring to my face) was my true skin color, I said "yes". She rejoined, "but your upper arms and legs are lighter?" I visualized for a moment and said, "well, uh, yes." "I thought so," she said with a peculiarly knowing smile. I always considered such conversations an acute demonstration the hyper color consciousness that black folks have. I was to learn, of course, that we don't have an exclusive on that "mental decolonization issue."

  2. Audiologo, so right about the conjunction of the lightening/whitening and IDs/voting rights, and then there's always Photoshop, etc. It makes me think about Gukira's post on the unsuitability of non-European folks--non-Northern Europeans--for democracy, and how there's a strain of this that still runs through our contemporary sociopolitical discourse. The story about the skin color is interesting, and you're so right about hyper-color consciousness. In the second issue of the new Black gay mag that GMAD puts out, there was a strange article on color issues....