Thursday, March 28, 2013

Small Town Politics

Small town politics are always personal.

Politics are always local.

Yes, we have the national and state elections, the national and statewide issues that affect our lives, but it is the local, the immediate, that has an impact that is felt before the ink is dry.

Such is the case with two school board issues in two towns I'm affiliated with.

Never mind the closing of the Chicago Public School by Major Rahm Emmanuel, never mind the creationism seeping into the curricula in those red-states, never mind the charter school potential takeover and privatization of education across the nation, no, the local issues of these two towns have an immediate impact.

In Jefferson City where I grew up, there is a proposition to make my alma mater one massive mega school instead of dividing it up into two high schools.  There are over 600 students in the graduating class, one has to take a meal to the graduation ceremonies held at Atkins Stadium just to keep from falling out from hunger.

They want to preserve the power of the JCHS alumni-controlled-board and the reputation of the high school football team.  Forget that Jefferson City expands far east and west and has grown out past the "new mall" and Truman Boulevard.  It is past time for two high schools.  I know if I were living back there, my daughters would not be going to that huge high schools.  Why are they not following the model of rival Columbia, MO that has two high schools - Rock Bridge and Hickman?

Small town politics are almost always about power and control.

In Kirkwood, where I current live, I am one of five candidates for two school board positions.

Again, small town politics.

The school board voted on a salary increase for the teachers in the middle of a tough economic recovery, 8% unemployment in our little suburb, an empty food pantry in our suburb, and salary cuts across the city. The current superintendent makes more than the university presidents in the region and certainly more than my equally credentialed husband who has more departments, more staff, more students, and a higher budget as part of his daily responsibilities.  For what? Prestige.

A gentlemen wrote a letter to the editor of our local patch to bring more light to this issue of teacher salaries and the rush to have it voted on before the county property assessments were completed.

Power and control.

There are a lot of things that are not in the public domain that should be, from Jefferson City and the mega campus to Kirkwood and the ever-increasing-financial questions, the public is not privy to all those decisions.

Both boards probably say they are acting in the best interest of the citizens, the students, but that is being questioned. Really?

I hope the voters come out on April 2nd and really let their voices be heard at the in the voting booth.

Tune in and pay attention, these decisions are more immediate and more impactful to you than the stories we hear on NPR or read about on the Huffington Post.

Politics are local and politics are personal.  Time to get involved.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why Presume?

Spring break week has been a wonderful opportunity for me to get caught up on some much needed rest, this campaign has been exciting and exhausting.

It has also given me an opportunity to read and watch the actual night of one of my favorite shows and not try to catch it on Hulu.

Last night, after being out putting up yard signs, spending time with teachers and voters, I settled in for Scandal on ABC, one of my guilty pleasures.

There was a scene when the crisis team of Abby and Olivia Pope had to come to a couple's home to do damage control.

The wife, a CEO, in her presumption of privilege fast-walks across the room, commanding the presence, with her hand extended "glad you could come, you must be Olivia Pope," toward Abby, the white, red-haired, employee of the black, dark-haired boss.

Why, in 2013, are we, well educated black women still presumed to be incompetent and our secretaries presumed to be our superior?

Are we a threat to some social order that always had black women at the bottom?

Is it jealousy because of what the sneaking-around slave masters did or the open-affair of the placage? Is it because the white women could see the "mulatto," the "quadroon," the "octoroon," the "one-drop," the scenes like Alex Haley's Queen?  Why?

We are portrayed in the media, even recently in the Webster-Kirkwood Times   review of the school board election, as being angry or slutty, mammy-ish or whore-ish, never are we ever just well educated, well spoken, well prepared black women who have a lot to contribute.

It, the slight in the writing of Shonda Rhimes, the black woman who wrote and conceived Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal, was not lost on those of us who have more melanin in our hue and female parts on our anatomy.

Facebook was a buzz about it, even the brothers chimed in, "did ya'll catch that?"

We, I, have faced it with white female students who are trying to get one of the three degrees I already have, who felt their gender and their skin color gave them the privilege to openly challenge me in class and when they were thwarted, to run to the white, female, department chair to launch a complaint.

We, I, have faced it with a white secretary storming into my office to "put me in my place" because she just felt like exerting some level of authority as our program rented the space, I was the director and manager of a teaching staff, counseling staff, volunteer staff, and caretaker of close to 100 children.  Yet, her skin color gave her the "right" to come in unannounced and uninvited to yell.

We, I, have faced it with undereducated white female bosses who were intimidated by our record of success and advanced degree.  Her privilege and connections within the company enabled her to cuss like a sailor in the office and destroy the careers of many associates who were younger and more educated than she was.

It is something we encounter in our workplaces, in the libraries, in trying to be published, in academia, in every element of our life.

Why presume?

Why assume?

Shonda Rhimes has been brilliant in her writing and her ability to created real characters and not caricatures. The lives of all her black doctors and lawyers have been full and rich, compelling drama, appealing to a multi-racial audience.  Her writing has given her an opportunity to address, ever-so-slightly, the subtle racisms we face every day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Are You Brave Enough?

Reaching a certain stage in my life and career, I've decided that the status quo is worthless, useless, and not fit for public consumption.

Now, it is easier to just "keep it the way it has always been" because doing anything else requires a sense of bravery and a dose of courage that the average person is afraid to use.

It is in us, we all at times do it, question the "powers that be," talk among our little group about how we "wish things were different."

But, that qualifier, as we, are you, willing to step out for the "something different" that will affect your life?

Are you, am I, are we, willing to hold those in "position of power" accountable for the actions they take that affect our lives, our livelihood?  What are you afraid of?

I am probably solidly in the middle of my life, or as my late father used to say, "I have more days behind me than ahead of me," and knowing that, I refuse to be silent, to be intimidated, to be labeled, to be anything but authentic, intelligent, brave, and authentic.

Asking questions is how we change, how we grow, and how we become better.  We have to, because truly, there are those, the "power players" the "ones in charge" the "1%" who want nothing more than the rest of "us" to be the "least among us."

There is so much more and it is not always the size of the house, the clothes, or the car, it is the character and the caliber of the human being, because truly, when the breath leaves and the dust settles, all that is left is the memory of what you did for someone else.

Are you brave enough to question the status quo?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing and Running

I looked up the other day and realized I have been too busy to write!

That has never been part of my life, me, a writer, too busy to write.  How did that happen?

I have also been too busy to take my Coursera Modern and Postmodern class.  Again, how did this happen?

On January 11, 2013, I filed my candidacy to be a Board Director for the Kirkwood Public Schools.

Things have been moving at an accelerated pace since then.

I've met wonderful parents, teachers, staff, and citizens who care deeply about the education of our K-12 citizens.  I've been to coffees, PTOs, and more board meetings than I can count.  I've chatted with my campaign manager about the size of my flyers and how many I wanted to print, I've made my family endure my absence and way too many unwashed loads of laundry.

The campaign has given me a fresh perspective on running for public office and also on how much work it takes to maintain one's individuality.

I am an independent candidate who first coined "a voice at the table" that has now been used by another candidate. I  was the first with the long thin flyers, now the rest have them, the first with business cards, now the rest have them, the first to publicly talk about "host a coffee" and have now heard the rest mention that.  In a crowded field of five, it takes a lot to stand out.

When I sat down for coffee this morning and thought about the week ahead of me, I thought about what I haven't done, and write is one of those things.

I went to the Nordstrom's eBar the other morning after taking my daughters to school.  I pulled out a Moleskin and decided to just write, after all, I talked about the pen-to-paper-to-brain path of learning and with carpel tunnel still bothering me, needed a break from the laptop.  I wrote three short vignettes and thought, ok, the muse is still there, she hasn't left me, even though she is drinking more coffee and talking to more people and being recognized much more than she thought.

It will be April 2, 2013 sooner than I think and the citizens of Kirkwood will have made their choice.  Two of us will be elected to the school board and life will go on again with one more month of school after that, summer plans being finalized, and a new flower store opening...until next year when another election takes up the collective mind space.

Being proactive and feeling the need for normalcy, I am trying to reclaim my writing time, my reading time, and oh yes, that pesky load of laundry.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Time To Speak Honestly

At some point, you have to stop being polite and speaking in collaborative terms and tell it like it is.

The Sequester is here, happening, and simply because a bunch of rich, old, white, conservative men hate answering to the black President, the one who came up through the social reforms that enabled many previously poor people to step into the middle class, and like the President, the upper income class.  The Sequester is white male resentment being played out on the public stage.  It is a manufactured crisis and they refuse to compromise, the very ones who redistricted themselves into a majority in the congress, the ones who insist on a super majority.

I once told my many white friends, back in 2007, that it is about to get very ugly in America and they had some power to make a change, simply by speaking up the way many black, Latino, and liberal minded people have for decades, for the past 30+  years.

Why are the American people being pushed aside?

The rich white Koch brothers have wanted to eliminate the middle class as have the entire `1% for over thirty years.  This is the reason they fought against public sector unions and teachers unions because these were the primary avenue where black and Latino people stepped into the middle class, being members of the Teamsters that were more inclusive than the craft unions, working in state and federal government jobs, they were able to step off the Jim Crow farms and out of the kitchens of their rich white wives.  This is what they have wanted to destroy.

But the hit will not be to black people because black people took the hit during the economic crisis that dates back to Reagan.  The housing impact was felt more on black people - Detroit is gone - and the unemployment crisis was felt on black people - even as the economy recovers and there were more hiring, it wasn't black people being hired, educational impact is felt on black people's backs - St. Louis alone is closing more schools in primarily black areas.

They, the ruling class, have always wanted America to be the United States of Britain and to have a aristocracy - why else are they so enamored with the goings on of Prince William and his pregnant princess, why is Downtown Abbey so well viewed? The first ones to come here from Europe were the working classes of England and in their greedy incompetence (knowing nothing of how to grow anything), they took over indigeneous lands.  Then for centuries they have "otherized" anyone of color from the Native Americans, to the blacks as slave or marginalized free people, to the immigrant negativity against mostly Mexican Americans.  The sins of the country are here for all to see.

Justice Scalilia called Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act a "racial entitlement" and we who lived on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement are scratching our heads like what is wrong with this man?

$48M loss in educating funding in Pennsylvania because of the Sequester, a "manufactured crisis" will be rippled across the country.  Even as I am a candidate of my local school board, I am sitting here thinking what in the world will be we do with $1.3 BILLION AND $1 BILLION in special education cuts? I live in a district that is not as racially diverse as I'd like but is a welcoming magnet for special needs families, all our schools have Austim-spectrum and Asberger's kids mainstreamed into all the classes, taking orchestra classes just the same as my daughter.  How will we handle this>?

It is like we were already reducing the nation's debt and then this manufactured crisis of a bunch of the white boy fraternity members of congress led by the chapter president, Boehner and McConnell, are being given a pass while they still get to keep their money, their paychecks, their wives are sitting pretty.

They created a crisis.

They want these across-the-board budget cuts, man-made disaster  self-inflicted wound, to become law because they do not want the least among us to have anything. The Senate Chaplain prayed "save us from ourselves" and it is a tiny, tiny group that made this mess worse.

They are slapping the country in the face because we chose, as a nation, to elect President Obama, to elect a sensible Senate, and actually congress, except for redistricting.

It is time to stop speaking politely and take the gloves off, to stare this bully in the face and tell them STOP. You may have hit us, the nation, with a sucker punch and we may have to eat more ramen noodles (thank you Monsanto for all the GMOs), but we will stand back up and we will not forget.

 There are more white people that will be hurt by this sequester and I believe, I hope, that more of them will finally find their voice and speak out against the ones who have destroyed the many because of their hatred of the few.