Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Richmond rape case, and why race is relevant or irrelevant

Does this look pleasurable to you? Me neither.

Again I’ve put my best work on T & T, so go there for a summary of the Richmond Homecoming rape case that happened a week ago today. As of this writing, one man who was questioned has been released from custody (not enough chargeable evidence … yet), and five remain in custody with no or very high bail. The three underage suspects are being charged as adults.

The 15-year old victim is out of the hospital but I am sure not out of the woods. Seriously, will she ever be out of the woods, even with the very best of therapy?

When I first heard about this crime, I confess I thought exactly what the majority of people thought when they heard about the actual location of the crime. Richmond is a formerly nice town, especially when the military was still in the area. But with the de-militarization of the United States, something else moves in when the military moves out, and what moved in caused Richmond to become a hood.

Now before you jump all over me, “hood” does not mean an exclusively black or Hispanic neighborhood. There are plenty of areas that could and are described as “white trash,” and hood is just a more politically correct term in my eyes if that’s possible. The word “ghetto” evokes strong feelings toward one race, “barrio” toward another, and those ill-feelings toward the people who may live in those areas is entirely too destructive.

So knowing a little about what kind of people live in Richmond now, I figured this was going to be more black-on-black violence (like the epidemic in nearby Oakland) or Hispanic-on-Hispanic or white or black (like most of the Bay Area). Didn't matter to me, it was still disgusting that a female was taken advantage of yet again by uncivilized males.

Let me say that the black-on-black violence sickens me, but what sickens me more is the attitude of black opinion leaders who virtually ignore what happens in Oakland. Toss a white or Hispanic person into the mix (a la the Oakland cop massacre earlier this year) and you get Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson all over the place decrying how unfair everyone treated the black perp—it wasn’t his fault he was a felon, it was all about lack of opportunity, blah blah blah.

I feel the same about Hispanic-on-Hispanic gang violence. There’s outrage, but no opinion leaders stand up and offer suggestions as to how to stop it. More often than not, it’s shrugged off as being a “cultural thing.” How that cheapens life!

When the Richmond rape occurred, I believed the victim was more likely to be black or Hispanic. But when the usually predictable overblown response (or lack thereof) from black or Hispanic opinion leaders didn’t pop up, that was a big red flag that the victim was white, which is the case.

The boy who lured her over to the group of boys and men who were drinking on the Richmond High campus was white, and a friend. At Richmond High, whites are the minority, big time. Most of the group of male (thus far) appear to be Hispanic, though there is one black boy charged as well.

The black boy’s family say he was arrested because he’s black, and they are threatening to sue the city of Richmond for targeting the boy because of his race. The family claims he walked by and left the scene.

But Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton haven’t rushed to the black boy’s family and started their rhetoric. They must know something the family is denying ...

So far none of the Hispanic boys/men or the white boy’s family are squealing about race being the reason they were arrested. Of course media accounts have said that none of the males took questioning seriously—until the cops told them how grave the situation was and just what they were facing. No reset button. No do-overs. No taking it back.

I keep saying this to anyone I speak to about this horrific crime—it’s not about race. Bad people come in all colors. And do I think the girl was targeted because she was white? I honestly don’t know. I am inclined to believe she was just an available girl, that the group didn’t talk about targeting a white girl—it was more like any girl would do.

But we have to know about the race of the perps to know which “audience” to target in order to figure out remedies. Rape is not a crime about sex, it’s a crime of control. Standing by and watching an unconscious girl be raped is not entertainment, it’s a symptom of something much bigger—the lack of empathy and accountability. And neither the cause nor the solution are going to be easy to figure out.

You’ll get people who say this negative change in attitude and caring is because of absent fathers and irresponsible mothers on welfare. You’ll get people who say this happened because the United States is turning away from Judeo-Christian principles. You’ll get people saying this is a cultural thing (for example, me la robo bride-selling in the Trique culture), especially in a culture that devalues women and treats them as possessions. You’ll get people saying the boys/men were bored and the girl was a tart (by all accounts she was a churchgoing kid trying to fit in on campus, and went to the dance dressed nicely). You’ll get people saying it’s because of violent video games which facilitates a break from reality because of the reset button. You’ll get people saying it’s because of rap and hip-hop music that teens of all races listen to, and a common theme in that music is devaluing females (“hos”).

Maybe it’s all of that.

Yes, the school itself needs to take part of the blame. According to friends of the victim, boys/young males who were not Richmond High students were hanging around on campus. Back in the 1970s when I was in high school, that simply would not have happened—school administrators, chaperones or the cops would have chased them off. To be let into a school dance, you needed to show your student body card. If you wanted to bring in a date from another high school (or someone who had already graduated), you had to submit that person’s name to the office early in the week for approval.

And kids weren’t wandering to and hanging around in the dark, poorly-lit areas of campus—there were adults patrolling. I know this one for a fact, being the stupid little pothead I was in high school, being chased from a nice dark corner trying to toke up.

Race is relevant only in it helps sociologists, anthropologists and educators study why stuff like this happens. To make a blanket statement that says Hispanics and blacks are more likely to rape is wrong. To embrace that believe is to perpetuate racism and rape, and the devaluing of females of all colors.

Young men need to be raised with a sense of accountability and empathy. They need to be told—repeatedly—that despite what pornography tells them, rape is not fun for the woman. And they need to suffer the consequences when they cross the line.

I hate the idea that we need to raise our daughters to be more paranoid and less trusting of males, but until males understand the gravity of rape (and that means prosecute it, period), it’s up to us females to minimize their opportunities. And being a strong, assertive and streetwise female is definitely not a racial thing!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Slow news week, I guess ...

You know it’s a slow news week when you find yourself riveted to the television for a couple of hours and watch a “flying saucer” floating over the state of Colorado when there’s supposed to be a 6-year-old boy “inside.”

Not to say that nothing bad happened in our dysfunctional government but I’m sick of self-flagellating over that mess, for this week anyway.

Actually there were two news items that caught my attention: the aforementioned balloon boy and the justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple.

First “Balloon Boy.” A wackjob family in Larimer County, Colorado claimed their son had climbed aboard a weather balloon that was shaped like a flying saucer (more like a container of Jiffy Pop popcorn) and was adrift, with no way of bringing the balloon back to earth, and no oxygen aboard. I admit to watching coverage, but my first thought really was “What kind of dumbasses have something like that in their backyard when there are three boys under 10 years of age living in the home? That’s a disaster waiting to happen,” and “It’s sad that child will pay for his parents’ mistake and bad judgment.” I never made it to physics so I really couldn’t figure out if the balloon was really capable of lifting the child at all, but I’ve read plenty now, enough to know the balloon was too flimsy to pick the kid up at all (probably couldn’t even pick up my nearly 20-pound cat Ryan …).

The father is an amateur scientist (whatever that means, I guess he reads a lot and fancies himself self-trained and superior to all) who also claims to be a meteorologist, and he and his meek-as-a-mouse Japanese wife chase bad weather with the three boys in the vehicle.

Then I learned the family had been on a lame-ass “reality show” called “Wife Swap.” I’ve never watched this show; it’s my understanding that two married women “switch places” and become the mom to a family that is as unlike theirs as possible. In the case of the Heene family (the people pulling off the balloon incident), you could put pretty much anyone into that situation and she’d be out of place. The three boys are rude, crude and run around uncontrolled; the father is a chauvinist of the worst ilk. Apparently they’ve been on the show twice.

But they claim not to watch television … although when the balloon went adrift, the dad first called the FAA and a local television station to report the “flying saucer” was adrift. Only then did he call 911 to report his son was aboard.

Long story short, no kid on balloon, thousands of dollars on emergency resources to track the balloon and figure out how to get the kid down safely, a closure of nearby Denver International Airport, and a farmer’s plowed wheat field were all affected. Once the balloon came down on its own, with no kid aboard, there were fears the boy had fallen out of the balloon, or out of a basket said to be on the balloon, so more helicopters and ground crews became involved in the search/recovery effort.

Perhaps an hour later, the family claimed to have found the boy, hiding and asleep in the garage attic. He was “afraid” he was going to get in trouble for playing with, and being part of accidentally releasing, the balloon.

Police searched the family home, the father “searched” the garage.

The ruse unraveled when the family did the talk show circuit later that night—and I mean full force. The 6-year-old, when answering his dad’s question “Did you hear us? Why didn’t you come?” said “You said it was for the show.” Dear old dad became flustered and confrontational with any media type who asked for a clarification.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Thus far, the only possible charges are filing a false police report. Certainly there have to be some sort of federal charges for causing actions that shut down an airport. Certainly somewhere in the false police report are provisions for restitution for the public agencies that responded. Certainly child protective services need to look into a family who has a “weather balloon,” and all the stuff required to maintain it, lying around in disarray.

Oh and to any network considering giving this family a “reality show” of their own (that they won’t watch since they don't watch network television), just say no. I think it may be time for that type of programming to die a quick death anyway …

As for the justice of the peace thing—I disagree with the concept of interracial couples not being allowed to marry. But I got to thinking—and this thought might be controversial, so bear with me—perhaps it is that man’s right to refuse to do so if he believes it is so wrong? Much like a nurse who is against abortion is not forced to care for a woman undergoing an abortion, maybe it’s this guy’s right to refuse? The couple was referred to another justice of the peace.

I also refuse to believe this is the first time in 34 years that this has come up. Why are we hearing about it now for the first time?

Of course his beliefs are wrong in the eyes of the law, but he holds those beliefs. Much like pharmacists who refuse to sell Plan B, the morning after pill, because they erroneously believe it’s an abortion pill, it’s their right to refuse to sell it as long as there is another pharmacist who can and will sell it. Let the people of his parish in Louisiana decide—don’t use his services for weddings. Certainly the word had to have been out on this guy and interracial couples had avoided utilizing his services before? Now the word is out for everyone …

Seriously we need to do a better job of being color-blind. Even if it’s hard to do, we need to try harder.

balloon boy

justice of the peace

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thoughts on today’s gay rights march in Washington

Gay rights is another area that I tend to not hang with my Republican brethren. I don’t believe that gay, lesbian or transgendered people choose to be gay, lesbian or transgendered. Seriously, why would a person choose to be homosexual? It is what they are, it is in their wiring it is in their brain.

I have no problem with gay people serving in the military—as long as they serve, and not recruit. And to be honest with you, the homosexual people I know don’t run around recruiting—but I am sure they are out there (look at the current administration’s “Safe Schools” czar’s past actions. It would not surprise me that he was pushing an agenda on kids, he’s not going to make a kid who is wired to be homosexual homosexual any faster, but he sure could be in a position to take advantage of a non-wired kid who has a bad home life, further messing that kid up). The schools are not the place to teach children that there are people who are homosexual, that they are good people, they are not dangerous, and they deserve to be treated the same as any heterosexual person—no job discrimination. Acceptance and understanding starts at home—except for most kids it doesn’t.

I’m even okay with committed homosexual couples forming civil unions. Sorry but the Catholic school girl in me still says marriage is a hetero thing, set up for people to be monogamous and raise a family. I know that’s old-fashioned and that homosexual couples raise families, it’s just my hang-up.

I do object to the president giving lip service to this group, refusing to put a date on when he’ll take up “don’t ask don’t tell,” and other issues important to homosexuals. Why does this group think anything is going to be done by this current president?? He’s already worried about his re-election—he’s not going to alienate blacks and Hispanics who think that Prop 8 was the way to go.

But I also believe that homosexuals do deserve exactly the same rights as heterosexual people—and I mean exactly. Instead, the government wants to put them in the same “protected” category as minorities, and I object to that. This places a specific group of people to be of more value in the law’s eye. Hate crime legislation should not apply to any group (hate crime legislation should not apply to anyone—unless it works both ways. Right now it’s a hate crime if a white person kills a black person, but not if a black person kills a white one or a Hispanic one kills a black).

Personally I wish the Republican party would take a lesson from the Libertarians and just decide certain things aren’t worth fighting about. If homosexuality is wrong in the eyes of God, we will all face his justice someday, just like in the case of abortion. There are certain things government is supposed to do—maintain and train a competent military, maintain vital infrastructure such as highways and railways, provide police protection. If I have learned nothing else, you cannot legislate what you perceive as morality. So why waste the effort?

Friday, October 9, 2009

More musings on racism, or is it insanity that worries me?

You experience the best and worst of humanity on a light rail train.

Earlier this week a video was posted on YouTube which was taken by a rider of San Francisco’s notorious MUNI system. The video, taken with a cell phone, showed two women, one black, one Asian (probably Chinese) arguing on a seat on the bus. The back story was this: the black woman was taking up two seats, one for her behind, the other had packages. The Asian lady asked the black lady to move over, thereby necessitating the black lady to put her packages on the floor or on her lap.

The black lady refused to do so. The encounter quickly became a shouting match with the black woman finally throwing a punch at the much older Asian lady. The older Asian lady fought back, and finally another female passenger broke up the fight (the person who took the video, a male, stated he’d been confronted on the bus the previous week, so I guess he wasn’t into the idea of getting between those two women). He bus driver did not stop the bus, nor were the police called, nor was anyone tossed from the bus.

SF authorities claim to be investigating.

Today on my way into work on the light rail, a very loud Hispanic man boarded the train two stops after I boarded. He looked to be in his 40s, and he was disheveled in appearance. Did I say he was loud?

(Let me preface this by saying I was in a good mood, the light rail operator waited for me to gimp to the train at my stop, instead of driving off as I’m moving my crippled legs as fast as they can carry me. I was feeling nothing but love for my fellow man. Nothing like an obnoxious person to kill the good vibes.)

This loud man sat next to a quiet Asian man across from two young white women and me. I was wearing sunglasses and tried my best to ignore the guy, to not encourage any sort of conversation. He turned to the women and said something about their noses, his speech was garbled but not in an “I’m drunk” way. It was the kind of speech I remember hearing during my psych nursing rotation—words strung together in meaningless sentences that make sense to no one but the speaker. Of course he got angry when the women said “Huh? What are you asking?” He then turned to the man in the seat behind him, another Latino, shook his hand and then started speaking very loudly in Spanish, talking about burritos and tacos. Eventually the second man returned to his book.

By this time the women had left the train and the guy slid across the aisle to the empty seats. I’m still sitting there going “please God I’m not in the mood.” At the stop where the women exited, a black male with his hair in dreadlocks boarded. He was wearing Oakland Raiders gear and looked benign.

The loud Hispanic man said “Do you ever wash those things?”, referring to the black man’s dreads, which were obviously clean. The black man asked the Hispanic man to repeat the question, and then he answered, “Of course I wash them every day.”

The Hispanic man asked “With what?” At this point this sounded like a young child asking obnoxious questions that people don’t tend to get irritated by because it’s a kid asking. But coming from a 5’10” poorly groomed Hispanic man, it’s not so cute.

The black man said “With shampoo, of course.”

Hispanic man said, “Looks like you use motor grease.”

Black man turned away, obviously looking to avoid a confrontation.

Hispanic man asked, “Are you homeless?”

Black man replied, “No, are you?”

Hispanic man said, “I know I look homeless but I’m not. I think you have lice. You smell bad.”

Black man just stood there, I am sure not believing what he’s hearing. I looked up at him and just shrugged, shook my head.

Hispanic man said, “Can you go stand somewhere else? You smell and you have lice. I don't want to get lice from you.”

Fortunately it was my stop and I was glad to exit the train. I probably would have anyway for fear that little encounter would escalate.

Of course I am wondering if the Hispanic man was mentally ill. But let’s say he wasn’t.

More and more I am seeing people of color “attack” each other, and even “attack” within their own group. For the life of me I can’t understand why that Hispanic man felt it was okay to insult the dreadlocks-wearing man like he did. He did not smell, and while I’m not a fan of dreads on anyone, it’s his right to wear ‘em.

The way things are in the U.S., if a white person had been the Hispanic person in this story, you can bet that the other Hispanic people on the train would have read the riot act to the white guy. But why is color-on-color racism not as serious?

I was sick, and wished I could have walked to the front to the train faster to let the operator know there was a problem back there.

Why do people pull crap like that simply based on skin color? What’s so hard about being color blind and being humane to one another?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Should he, or shouldn’t he?

I have written a whole bunch about the Roman Polanski thing on T & T.

But I tried pretty hard to not inflict too much of my own opinion on the three articles.

Here’s the place to spill my guts and be a whole lot less tactful.

I have come to the conclusion that every person involved in the rape of Samantha Geimer is a pretty despicable person. And I mean everyone—Polanski, Samantha’s mother Susan, Samantha herself, the friend of Samantha’s family (Henri) who suggested Samantha for the photos, Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston (for being such good friends that Polanski was comfortable enough to give Polanski access to their home, and for Huston not demanding Polanski put an immediate stop to what he was doing in the bedroom), and even the caretaker who gave Polanski permission to open a bottle of champagne that was in Nicholson/Huston’s fridge.

I am seven years older than Samantha, barely out of my teens and too young to legally drink at the time of the rape. And yes, I believe what happened was rape, even though this trainwreck could have been derailed by any one of a number of people. But as I wrote over at T & T, everyone involved was a famewhore.

Polanski at the age of 45 was trying to hang onto his reputation as a continental playboy and swinger.

Susan, Samantha’s mother, was described by Polanski as being an actress, so why not get attention from a famous director any way you can? Maybe if he likes the daughter he might like the mother and see that she’s worthy of casting in a movie? She’s the latest undiscovered talent in Hollywood!

The friend, Henri, wanted Polanski to give Nicholson copies of the magazine he wrote for, a fringe publication extolling the virtues of marijuana.

Samantha herself probably got caught up in the potential glamour of becoming an international (!) model and all that would lead to. Oh well, so she had to put up with an old man to get there. Perhaps she’d already seen that sort of behavior from her mom. The 13-year old Samantha no doubt had limited parenting; she claimed to have lost her virginity at age 8 (eight!!) and at the age of 13 not only had a 17-year old boyfriend that she had an intimate relationship with, but she also told Polanski she’d been drunk and taken Quaaludes. ( I waited until the age of 15 for my first experience at alcohol abuse while in the company of age-group peers, and never touched downers.)

She may have been young, but Samantha had been around the block a time or two.

Over 30 years later, there is evidence of possible judicial misconduct. But did this misconduct consist of railroading an innocent guy into taking a plea deal? Nope. It was as simple as the judge thinking that perhaps he needed to give Polanski a bit more time in prison to think about what he’d done, before he was deported from the U.S.

Polanski took a plea, plead guilty to the least serious of six charges, and did 45 days of a court-ordered 90 day psychiatric evaluation. Before he returned to court for formal sentencing, Polanski split.

There is no deal in place. Polanski didn’t show for sentencing, the terms of his plea have not been met, and he is a fugitive from justice.

Some people argue that the State of California is broke, let the now 70-something guy out of that Swiss jail and let him live his life in peace. “He’s been through so much,” they say. And not every person who clings to that train of thought is a limousine liberal. My daughter thinks it’s stupid to tie this up in court, especially because the victim and her mother want it left alone.

Because Polanski ran, this crime is no longer about them. At this point, he should have to do the year in prison, the maximum time for failure to appear for a felony case. He will no doubt care much about the $5K fine associated with this.

Samantha says that the civil court remedy was adequate for her, although it appears by court records that Polanski hasn’t paid her fully. But at this point, why is she not cooperative? She went public with her identity in the late 1980s when she initiated the civil suit. The facts of the case are well known. Yes, she and her mother are going to face criticism for her behavior—her mother should never have let Samantha leave with a 45-year old man who was proud of his swinger image. And Samantha may have been sending mixed signals to Polanski—the caretaker who let Polanski and Samantha into Nicholson’s house said the two behaved toward each other as if they were lovers. (Ick.)

Polanski would have been better off facing that judge all those years ago versus taking his chances with a judge or jury who probably do not embrace the “everything goes” disco attitude of 1977. I have no idea what the LA DA has in store for Polanski once he is stateside, but I have a feeling that he won’t be permitted the sweet deal he had back in 1977.

He needs to enjoy a little time in prison alongside Phil Spector to think about what he did, and then he needs to be unceremoniously deported. Consumers (that’s you and I) need to remember the names of those Hollywood types who voiced their support for Polanski and start talking with our wallets. What he did in 1977 was wrong, just as wrong and despicable as it would be today.

Too bad castration isn’t an option.

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