Category Archives: bias

You just don’t think of principals as black.


You know, the same way you just don’t think of women as your boss, or Asians as doing much besides pulling rickshaws, or Mexicans as anything but fruit-pickers or housecleaners. YOU know. Isn’t everyone who COUNTS… just like me?

Sigh. And here we all were, thinking it was 2010, not 1910.

movie poster, original 1975 Stepford WivesMy daughters have been complaining about school here in Stepford.

Not the daily four hours of homework, although that has certainly put a damper on our typical wandering around, exploring the world, talking-to-strangers kind of things my two daughters and I tend to do.

Not the quantum leap in difficulty this new California school has presented them with, loading them with academics far beyond what they were accustomed to in New York, a few months previous. They’re fairly smart kids. They pick up things fast, and besides, we’ve always done something I now know has a name: “afterschooling.”

While my two sisters “homeschool,” a tradition that sends a frisson of horror down my spine, for so many, many reasons, I instead send my kids tottering off to public schools. In this way, no matter what they learn (or don’t learn), they at least get a taste of real life – as in: showing up every day; dealing with other humans your age and thereabouts who range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are; and teachers (much like the bosses to whom they will someday report), who also range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are – only the proportions are different, and I’ll refrain from giving my personal opinions here.

<Insert extremely loud throat-clearing>

So public school has its place. I was always sort of against private school, because of its exclusivity. It sort of – well, it TOTALLY went against the whole reason I sent my kids out in the world to begin with – private school creates an imaginary oasis of cookie-cutter sameness.

Play-Doh Fun FactoryIt’s sort of like a school-shaped version of that Play-Doh® toy, where you shove in the neon-colored goo, push down the lever with one hand, get your little plastic knife ready in the other, and squirt out slice after slice of the same brightly-colored shape.

Perfect, if you want to create a bunch of automatons in Izod® polo shirts, marching in lockstep into mortgage brokerages to buy McMansions in (sometimes, for variety) gated communities, razing more and more of the landscape in the furtherance of making every place, everywhere, look exactly like the same three or four house plans – all of which boast half-circle windows.

half-circle windows(Ever notice? What IS it with the damn half-circle windows, anyway?)

Everything the same. Like, you know, milk. The same four blonde popular girls. The same one ethnic kid. Maybe Indian. Maybe Asian. Maaaybe black. Maybe.

If the school is lucky, that kid has siblings, and then they have more than ONE token.

Otherwise, the school is all-white, all-perfect, all-C+ or better.

The athletics department is better funded than the arts, of course, because heavens, who wants Jack or Brittany to grow up to be an ACTOR, my GOD…

In the New York area where we came from, in our old, historic neighborhood, the Board of Education redistricted the neighborhoods in a labyrinth that looks like suspiciously like scribbles on the city map. The effort was to get the poorer kids out of the oldest schools – the ones with the crack pipes in the playgrounds – and into the better, bigger, newer schools where my kids attended.

It worked. In fact, it worked so well that my kids, who look as white as snow, despite their mixed heritage (their paternal grandfather was half-black, and their maternal great-grandmother was Jewish) were actually in the minority.

Mocking Shane DawsonTherefore, my oldest daughter can speak ghetto better than YouTube’s Shane Dawson, and can swear in Puerto Rican almost better than I can. In fact, if I were to record her voice and play it for you here, you would never in a million years believe she was white.

So when one of her classmates in her new, nearly all-white, affluent, sunny California, blonde, blue-eyed school, made the following comment, you can just imagine.

School chum: (as if divulging information like: “you know, the principal is secretly a man”) “You know, three years ago, we actually had a BLACK principal.”

Daughter: (as if hearing “the principal is a principal.”) “So?”

School chum: (with a “duh” tone in her voice) “Well! You just don’t imagine a principal as being BLACK, that’s all.”

Daughter: (too dumbfounded to speak.)

My kids love the stories Rudyard Kipling wrote: Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Jungle Book – but the one story I’ve yet to tell them is the one fairy tale Kipling himself bought into: the one of “the white man’s burden.” You know: the burden of the so-called civilized, “enlightened” white man to bring his own bullshit down, nice and hard, with weaponry, when necessary – onto aboriginal and indigenous peoples.

The sort of nice way of rationalizing the British Empire’s habit of wandering around the globe, stumbling upon some grassy spot, and planting the Union Jack flag, and claiming it for King and country. THEIR country, that is.

Um,” native peoples would – at first – politely protest, from their existing dwellings. “Have you lot happened to have noticed that we’re already peacefully, happily living here? That we’ve even named our country, have our own laws, government, etc? You Brits wouldn’t mind shoving off, now, would you?”

“Sorry, chaps, can’t do that. White man’s burden, you know. You don’t know it, what with all your extra leisure time, your happy life, your low impact on your environment, and all that, but you aren’t like us, and you need to be.

Er,” responded aforementioned natives, growing a bit irritable. “Says who?”

Well, says us British invaders,” would proudly proclaim the British invaders.

Natives, now thoroughly vexed, would hold up spears, or what have you, and repeat: “All right, then, that’s quite enough of that. You’ve worn out your welcome, now: shove off. We really don’t give a donkey’s behind what you say.”

At which point, yon British invaders would smile – sort of creepily – stick out their shiny red-coated chests with the bright gold buttons, and hold up their superior weaponry, like muskets and cannons. “What does your donkey’s behind think about what our gunpowder has to say, mate?”

At which point, most natives got blown to smithereens, or assimilated, rather like Star Trek’s The Borg Collective, a hive mind nemesis whose slogan was “Resistance is Futile. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.” Borg victims were then basically turned into mostly cyborg, emotionless organisms whose minds would join the single mind of THE Borg, whose aim it was to crush out the individuality of the entire rest of the universe, etc.

History, obviously, duh, repeats itself.

Sorta Borg. Sorta Stepford, if you think about it. (Does anyone, actually, think about it, except for me?)

There’s this thing about history: if you don’t learn from it, you’re kinda doomed to repeat it. I KNOW this, because I’M not the one who came UP with that saying. So SOMEONE must be thinking about this stuff. Why isn’t it working?

Welcome to sunny Northern California. It’s not exactly golden here. It IS very very nice. But the color is more of a very, very …. white. Not a vanilla white, really – sort of a Stepford white.

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Michigan Goes Mad.


michiganI’m visiting my family in the deepest heart of rural northern Georgia, a place where the wildest action happening is watching the kudzu overtake the pines lining Route 20 to Atlanta – that is, on the extremely rare occasions we load up my sister’s seven children, ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years in the giant grey commercial vehicle her family uses for transport.

There are no chain stores here. No 7-11s, no Outback Steakhouses, no Galleria Malls. The biggest cluster of stores is located at a lonely intersection of country roads only locals travel, consisting of The Rocky Plains Community Store, Nancy’s Cuttin’ Up Salon, The Baptist Church, and while there are two new gas pumps, you can still set yourself up with dyed diesel and dyed kerosene from old-fashioned pumps that look like something out of the 1950s.

No one has yet to be able to explain to me what, exactly, dyed diesel or dyed kerosene is used for, nor why it is dyed, but they are politely apologetic as they forlornly explain to me that they do not know, as if they are announcing the funeral of a long-lost friend, and they ALWAYS call me ma’am when they do so.

This throws me, living as long as I have in New York. I still think of myself as a “miss.”

Nevertheless, as strange as dyed diesel, dyed kerosene, and sheets of relentless zudzu plants as intent on overtaking the entire state as horror movie triffids might seem? Michigan has Georgia beat, hands down.

Here’s the latest news from the Wolverine State – and some insight, perhaps, as to why Michigan acquired that toothy nickname:

According to Associated Press reports, in Muskegon, this week, a man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for biting his girlfriend’s five-year-old son in the face.

In the FACE.

Why did he do it?

Because the little boy bit him first, of course.

Duh – gotcha back.

The boy’s mother defended the boyfriend, explaining that the man was merely trying to discipline the boy – after all, said boyfriend was trying to get the kid to brush his teeth when the kid bit the man in the face.

Perhaps the man was trying to demonstrate the value and strength of a good, healthy set of chompers. Why, I wonder, were their mouths and faces so close together in the first place? Were they sharing toothbrushes?

Interestingly, the mother didn’t turn the guy in – school officials, noticing the bite marks on the child’s face, alerted Child Protective Services.

I don’t know about any of you, but I can NOT think of an excusable reason for ANYONE to bite my kids. Were anyone to attempt such a foolhardy thing, I can honestly say they would begin to know the true meaning of wolverine.

In Mount Clemens, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, a 33-year-old mother was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison. Her crime? She settled her 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son down for some soothing hot chocolate – laced with sedatives – then set fire to the house and expected them all to sit quietly with her and, well… die.

The judge basically decided she’d forfeited her status as “mommy” from now on.

Luckily, the kids shook off the wooziness and escaped the house in time.  Mom had taken the kids out of school early, too.

Big disappointment, huh? Usually when mom takes you out of school early, it’s a good thing.

Writing straight-like-that they are “scarred for life,” the kids have my sympathy – but so does the mom, to tell you the truth.

Apparently, she suffers from a mental illness which affects six million Americans – 5,999,999 of whom did NOT attempt to kill ANYONE today, FYI, although thank YOU, “fair and balanced” Fox News, for making darn SURE that’s the first “fair and balanced” item you mention in your “fair and balanced” report on this “fair and balanced” news day.

Way-to-go, perpetuating that old-fashioned “fair and balanced” stigma against mental illness.

Odd, isn’t it, Fox has to keep reminding us that they’re “fair and balanced?” How come The New York Times never has to defensive – I mean, defend – itself all the time like that?

While we’re at it, why do all crime news reports describe men who commit them like this:

Carpenter/Architect/Professor/Janitor Massacres Many….

NEVER ONCE MENTIONING whether or NOT the male of the species has even propagated the species?

But if a WOMAN commits a crime, her status as mother FAR OUTWEIGHS any other accomplishment she might otherwise have earned?

For instance:

Mother of Two Embezzles Funds…

It will only be in the last paragraph that we may or may not learn she’s also received the Pulitzer, a Grammy Award, AND the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Sigh.

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