Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Defending the Indefensible

-=[ Defending the Indefensible ]=-

“One of the interesting ways of settling the race problem comes to the fore in this period of unemployment among the poor. In Waterloo, Kentucky, the enterprising chief of police is arresting all unemployed Negroes and putting them in jail, thus securing their labor for the state at the cheapest possible figure. This bright idea did not originate in Kentucky. It is used through the South and strong sermons and editorials are written against ‘lazy’ Negroes. Despite this there are people in this country who wonder at the increase in ‘crime’ among colored people.”
-- W.E.B. Du Bois, unsigned editorial,
“Logic,” The Crisis, Vol. 9 (January, 1915), p. 132

As a nation, we incarcerate more people per capita than any other nation in the world. For the last six years, I have worked in the field of re-entry. Re-entry, for those that don’t know, is the term used to describe the distinctly US phenomenon of 650,000 men and women – mostly black and Latino/a – who are released yearly from prisons and jails. They are for the most part not being released to communities in Utah or upscale communities such as Scarsdale or Beverly Hills. For the most part, they are released to communities such as East LA, Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has what some criminologists are now calling the “Million Dollar Blocks.” These are blocks in which the state spends more than million dollars a year to incarcerate individuals who come from those blocks. On some of these blocks, stand schools that very likely hold classes in retrofitted closets and bathrooms, have no computers or real libraries.

You do the math…

More than anything else, the Jena Six tragedy is about everyday US injustice. It’s not an aberration, but the norm. The irony being that even before the incidents of Jena came to pass a Louisiana legislative investigating team warned that the state's juvenile justice system was horribly mangled.

It found that the state couldn't lock up juveniles fast enough for mostly non-violent crimes. The investigative team noted that the sentences slapped on them were wildly out of proportion to their crimes, and that the kids had almost no access to counseling, job, and skills training, and family support programs that could ensure that they didn't wind up back in the slammer.

Though alternative sentencing programs are far more cost effective than incarceration, they are scarce and under-funded, and Louisiana officials have resisted all pleas to increase funding and resources to boost these programs.

This investigative team also found that black teens were hit with far stiffer sentences than white teens for the same crimes. It made no difference whether the whites had a prior history of criminal or bad behavior and the black teens were altar boys and had a squeaky-clean record. The blacks still got harsher sentences.

Countless studies show that a black teen is six times more likely to be tried and sentenced to prison than a young white, even when the crimes are similar, or even less severe than those committed by white teens.

Nationally, blacks make up 40 percent of youths tried in adult courts and nearly 60 percent of those sentenced to state prisons.

In Jena, the prosecutor, mostly because of a largely under reported grassroots campaign against the case, reduced charges against two of the youth. But that's an exception. Prosecutors nearly always push for hard time for offenders. This is infuriatingly apparent in Jena. One of the defendants, a star football player, was convicted on a reduced battery charge. Yet, he still could get a 15-year prison sentence.

The investigators implored the legislature to do something to correct the problem. They came up with a series of reform recommendations. They were largely ignored and four years later, state legislators have shown little inclination to fully enact the juvenile justice reforms.

Louisiana legislators haven't turned a deaf ear to screams for reform solely out of ignorance, apathy, or fear of a public backlash. The legislators read and watch the same relentless stream of newspaper and television reports of drive-by shootings, drug shootouts, and gang wars, most of them involving young blacks. This confirms the terrified feeling that many Americans have that young people - especially young black males - are out of control.

In the 1990s, influential conservative sociologists and news pundits convinced a largely fearful and racist American public that unwed (and therefore immoral) crack-addicted, black teens were giving birth to litters of irredeemable black babies who grow up to be “super predators.” Conservatives convinced a fearful and largely ignorant public that teen violence has spawned a new class of mostly Black youthful sociopaths and that the juvenile justice system was far too easy on them.

The idea that juveniles are running wild though is a myth.

According to the FBI’s most recent crime figures, the rates for murder and assault among teenagers have plummeted since 1993, even among black teens. In fact, today’s youth are less likely to have out-of-wedlock babies, become addicted, or use drugs than previous generations. That’s a fact. However, that fact hasn’t stopped a narcissistic adult class from using young people as scapegoats for almost everything that’s wrong with the world.

And politicians have overreacted badly and predictably to the public panic. In the past decade, more than 30 states have loosened, if not eliminated, laws requiring juveniles be tried and sentenced in juvenile courts.

The criminal justice system’s harsh treatment of young blacks, like the Jena Six, fuels the suspicion of many blacks that judges, prosecutors and probation officers bend way over backwards to give young white offenders the benefit of the doubt and are far less willing to label and treat them as dangerous habitual offenders, even when they commit violent crimes.

One study of the attitudes of probation officers toward black and white teen offenders found that they were far more likely to attribute black juvenile crimes to such family or character flaws as chronic disrespect toward authority and to brand them as inherent troublemakers.

They were more likely to blame white bad behavior on conditions outside their control such as hanging out with the wrong crowd, or to troubling family conflicts. Judges and prosecutors read the probation reports and heed their recommendations and if they are favorable, as they are more often than not with young whites, judges are much more inclined to approve alternative sentencing or treatment programs for them. An unfavorable report is just as likely to result in hard time in juvenile or adult jails.

The public outcry over the Jena case will probably force town prosecutors to back away a little more from the harsh charges against the teens, but only a little. They, like prosecutors everywhere, are convinced that black teens are genetically criminal and that the public demands for them to throw the book at them. And that's exactly what they routinely do in daily courts throughout the country.

The Jena case is about systemic racism and a criminal justice system that unfairly and deliberately targets children of color. And the fact is that too many people are losing sight of the forest for the trees. That’s the tragedy.

Wake the fuck up, people!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Anger Myths: Venting

Hola Everybody,

* * *

-=[ Practicing Hate ]=-

I wrote last week, listing five myths about anger. The first one, the belief that venting anger (“letting off steam”), is one of the most destructive. The idea that venting is necessary and helpful has become a cultural assumption. I believe it stems from a misconception from theories expressed by Freud and his followers.

The way the myth goes is that frustration can build up over time and that it must be released one way or another. Bottled up, unexpressed anger supposedly festers in your mind and body, creating both physical and emotional disease and poisoning relationships at work, play, and romance (Bry, 1976). The basic cure, then, is to express your anger, “letting it all out,” in order to cleanse and purify your mind and body (Janov, 1970). This so-called cleansing is sometimes called catharsis, which literally means “purging.” The assumption being that clearing the air results in healthier and happier communication and increases self-esteem.

If that were the case, then my family should be the healthiest family in the known universe. LOL!

After many years of research, the venting idea has been finally put to rest. Dead.

Blowing off steam is not beneficial. One of the most renowned researchers on anger, Carol Tavris, discovered that people most likely to vent their rage simply get more rather than less angry when they do so (Tavris, 1989). In addition, those on the receiving end of their outbursts get angry too. Perhaps you have noticed this in your own interactions. An angry outburst is followed by more anger and shouting, maybe even crying or violence, reaching a climax. Eventually this is followed by exhaustion and withdrawal and/ or an apology. I used to experience the aftermath of an anger event like an alcohol hangover: physical and emotional wreckage and remorse. Have you noticed how this cycle can be replayed repeatedly with no catharsis or decrease in the level of your anger?

Let anger out and it is met with more anger -- the simple law of cause and effect. It is also the exact definition of karma. Negative energy breeds more negative energy. Behavior such as yelling or even talking out an emotion doesn’t reduce anger, it is literally rehearsal for more of the same. Punching a pillow or a punching bag while thinking of someone you dislike or are angry with is rehearsing punching the person. By doing that you are creating more anger, more justification for your hate. There have been numerous studies showing that venting anger actually serves to “freeze” hostility. In other words, it serves to keep you stuck in the anger mindset or attitude (Tavris, 1989).

If you have the awareness, you would know from your own experiences that venting does not make hostile feelings go away. Instead, they tend to stick around longer and haunt you. The fact is that the popular assumption about the way to deal with anger, venting it by letting it all out, is worse than useless. Expressing anger does not reduce anger. It actually makes you angrier. Venting also serves to solidify an angry state of mind, escalates anger and aggression, and does nothing to help you resolve the situation. Furthermore, buying into the idea that letting it all out somehow purifies you is dangerous because it becomes a rationale to hurt others. You may have even done this yourself.

I know what you’re saying right now. You’re probably thinking back to the times where you felt relief after venting your anger. The kicker is that numerous studies have shown that such relief is not a function of venting your anger, but a learned reaction (Hokanson, 1970). Some people have learned to feel relief following the expression of anger just as others have learned to feel shame or increased compassion after venting. This learning involves making the mistake of falsely connecting acting out our anger and the calm that follows after the anger has passed. This is a false connection because the fact is that people would have felt calmer and better anyway after a while, even without acting out their anger.

::blank stare::

Yesterday, as I was heading toward the subway an older man brushed against me, gave me a dirty look, and told me to watch where I was walking. I wanted to tell that muthafucka to go fuck himself and a few other choice ideas, but what I said really threw him off his game. While he was in the process of shooting me the bird, I calmly, but firmly, suggested he seek therapy or sex and even offered to help him pay for it. It made everyone (including me) laugh and he actually looked foolish.

The good news is that you can learn new responses and change how you respond to angry feelings. From this perspective, responding to feelings of anger with angry actions becomes a choice rather than an inevitable self-fulfilling prophesy. Reacting impulsively (acting out) as a response to anger is not inevitable or something you need to keep doing.




Bry, A. (1976). How to get angry without feeling guilty. New York: New American Library.

Hokanson, J. E. (1970). Psychophysiological evaluation of the catharsis hypothesis. In E. I. Megargee & J. E. Hokanson (Eds.), The dynamics of aggression New York: Harper & Row.

Janov, A. (1970). The primal scream. New York: Dell.

Tavris, C. (1989). Anger: The least understood emotion. New York: Touchstone.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Transformation of Anger

Hola Everybody,
There's a phrase in Spanish, comer con los ojos, that roughly translates to "eating with one's eyes," and it refers to the tendency to eat from desire rather than the degree of hunger. Have you ever gone out to eat and order all this stuff only to realize it was way too much? That's eating with one's eyes.

My date last night was a lot like that. Not that I ordered too much food, but that the object of my romantic intention was based on a desire.

We have very little in common, and other than cheekbones to die for and an exquisitely shaped derriere, there's not that much that interests me. But hey, in my religion an ass, any ass, is a potential altar, right? LOL

Well, I think my date was doomed from the get go. To put it mildly, I was bored to death. At one point, I considered blurting out, "Let's fuck," as a viable sexual strategy, but I don't think that would've gone over too well. LOL

* * *

-=[ Confusion and the Transformation of Anger, pt. I ]=-

About 17 years ago, when I was picking up the pieces of my shattered life, I decided to face a challenge I had avoided and enter school. Someone I considered close told me that going to school was a waste of time, that I had waited too long and I should instead consider going to a trade school, get a skill and a job. He wasn't being mean, it was his honest appraisal of my situation. Still, I thought his advice was insensitive and short-sighted.

And I was pissed...

At that point, I had many options to responses to that statement. I could've told him off, for example, or stay quiet and allow my resentment to seethe inside of me. But because I was determined to live a new life, I decided to use different strategy. I made the conscious decision to use the energy of the anger and channel it to my school studies. A few years later, I graduated with honors from a top flight university and was accepted to an Ivy League school for my graduate studies.

It was a turning point in my life not only because education is the road to freedom, but because I had also taken an enemy -- anger -- and turned it into an ally. It was the beginning of the transformation of anger.

For much of my life, I had been a very angry person. Much of that anger was turned inward and I'm only half-joking when I say that if I had done to another person, what I had done to myself, I would be in prison for a long time.

Some time ago, I wrote a little about anger and I mentioned that anger is not one thing, but many things cobbled together by language and thought. I also mentioned that there are myths about anger that serve to confuse us and make us suffer needlessly. My own exploration into anger has taught me that confusion and anger (what it is and what it does to us) abound.

So, what is anger? Anger is many things across many cultures. This is why anger can be confusing. For example, Western psychologists tell us it is best to work through our anger without expressing it outwardly, while others tell us that expressing anger is a must, for both emotional and physical health. Similarly, some of us have raised in cultures in which the direct expression of anger was considered unacceptable or disrespectful, while others grew up in atmospheres where anger was readily expressed.

As if that isn't enough, the teachings of Jesus and many centuries of Christian theology seem to offer contradictory ways of understanding anger. Jesus seemed to question the appropriateness of anger under any circumstances in his teaching of turning the other cheek. Yet, he seems to embody anger itself when he brandishes the whip and throws out the money changers in the temple.

Later, early Christian theologians such as Augustine stressed the negative side of anger, seeing it solely as sinful and unwholesome. This reflection later led to the classification of anger, starting in the 5th century, as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

When one looks at modern social movements for freedom and liberation, however, one finds claims that there should be a righteous anger or indignation toward injustice and oppression. Martin Luther King, jr. pointed out the way anger could be the starting point for social movements rather than hatred when he said, "The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force." Similarly, Cornel West speaks of Malcolm X as connecting anger, love, and work for justice, seeing him as "the prophet of black rage primarily because of his great love for black people."

What I am suggesting is that the general Western ambivalence toward anger can cause considerable confusion. So how do we make sense of anger in order to work with and transform anger? The first step is to look intimately at the nature of anger, to explore anger in one's own experience, free from any prejudgment about anger. Next week, I will offer two tools, Buddhist mindfulness and Western science that can help us in this exploration.



Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

They were always on the outside...

Yesterdays [no. 1]

They were always on the outside
not because there was no door
but because it was where they

long ago chose to live.

I couldn't bring my world

to them, however I tried.
I could only extend the

invitation of an open hand.

Please replace me

if you dare...

Reach out for them.

If you care.
Listen to the silent screams

of these sad-eyed ladies.

Share their finely-tuned sorrows
when they join their pallid thin hands
with yours and guide you on their

journey to despair.

-- Edward-Yemí­l Rosario ©

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Mini Me

¡Hola! Everybody...
I’m reposting the following because I seem to always refer back to it. Will be out in the field again today. Hope everybody is well.

* * *

Three hundred thousand new businesses were formed in the United States in 2003. Eighty percent of these start-ups fail within the first two years. I doubt very much that the founders of these businesses assumed they would be part of the unfortunate 80 percent. More than half of all US marriages end up in divorce within five years of being formed, with thirty percent of those remaining in marriage reporting being extremely dissatisfied. Again, we can imagine that very few lovers assumed that they would be part of the despondent 80 percent.

Why does our vision, which knows only happy endings and simple solutions, rarely lead to what we had imagined? When we dare give flight to our dreams, why is it so often destined for a crash landing?

Actually, I started this entry back-ass-wards: I should have begun with an entry on what I call "natural vision" a child-like (as opposed to childish) quality that persists in seeing the world with fresh eyes. However, in light of the consistent tragi-comedic patterns on 360 (and in life), I will begin with the dark side.

Natural vision is invariably sabotaged by an unforeseen element in our lives, which affects us internally and externally. It is so powerful that it influences the way we parent, the way we treat our loved ones and each other, the way we do work each day. And it influences how others treat us. We never expect or invite it, yet almost every aspect of our lives exists in its shadow. And though we constantly find evidence of its effects, this force is basically invisible and therefore never anticipated or understood. Oh yes, we do our best to put a good face on it in order to keep it hidden from others, thinking our dark secrets are ours alone, but it really doesn't work: you can see the effects of this force everywhere (even on those who say “it's just yahoo”).

What is this mysterious element in human nature that stalks and sabotages us?

STORY TIME!!! *grin*

* * *

-=[ The “Mini Me” ]=-

and the Creation of the “Personal Novela”

Human beings are driven by a core wound this kind of madness that something’s missing. The more conscious they get, the more desperate that becomes...

-- Saniel Bonder

In Shakespeare's play, Othello, the protagonist and his young Venetian wife are deeply in love. Othello is a noble and simple-hearted soldier who trusts those around him. Desdemona, his devoted wife, loves him deeply and hangs on his every word. It is Iago, Othello's advisor and apparent friend, who plays one character against another, creating an atmosphere of separation and distrust. He whispers doubts into Othello's ear, inciting in him a violent jealousy that ultimately leads to a senseless tragedy.

We are all Othello's at heart -- open, trusting wanting to see the best in each other -- and we are seduced and driven to insane action by our own invisible Iagos. Our Iago is a state of mind; he cannot be seen, he lives in the shadows. Yet his work can be seen everywhere. Iago whispers to us both from within and through other people: it is the voice of a collective conditioning.

Our Iagos are like the "mini me" from the Austin Powers movies -- a smaller, angrier, and spiteful version of ourselves. A tragically funny alter-ego. Most of us live with a painful sense of separation from others, a sense of something missing, and a deep experience of limitation, fear, and desire -- we experience ourselves as small. As a result, we engage in a flurry of activity to avoid the objects of our fear and obtain the objects of our craving.

This is the dance of problem-based living and, although widely perceived as normal, it fuels an endless drama of struggle. It's the main character in our personal novela -- those over-the-top Spanish-language soap operas. And no matter how hard we try, the poison seeps through the cracks in our armor, manifesting as disease, conflict, and failure.

On a personal level, it can manifest as a general anxiety, or a body image problem. On a community level, it can sabotage something as seemingly simple as a blog (if you want proof of the mini me, just take note of the widespread pettiness on 360). Globally, it is expressed as war, as economic and environmental madness. This force has been given many names. I have heard it called “The Gremlin,” or (for the fundamentalists here) “Satan.” I call it ego-based living, or the “Mini Me.

Unlike the movie, we cannot see or measure the mini me directly; we only know it by its effects. It is like a thief in the night: you actually do not see him, but you know he has been there because your valuables have been taken. This mini me is state of mind -- a social conditioning of sorts and it possesses certain qualities:

Sense of Lack This is the essence of the mini me. Enough is never enough; we are never spiritual enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or hip enough. We perceive everything through this sense of lack.

Sense of Separation Constantly reaching "out there" to fill up our sensed emptiness keeps us focused on a "me-oriented" reality, reinforcing our separateness.

Addiction Gripped in the throes of craving and lack, as soon as we sense that something external will "do it" for us, we latch on to it and become addicted. In this way, the mini me can lead us into unhealthy attachments to work, sex, food, drugs, the internet (message boards? LOL!), or even romantic relationships.

Fear Once desire and addition take over, we are overcome by a sense of non-specific fear. If we believe the right relationship will alleviate our sense of emptiness, immediately loneliness becomes a terrifying fate.

Suspicion fear makes us suspicious, we trust no one completely.

Strategic Living We always plan for the worst -- something bad can happen any moment (politicians are notorious for using this aspect of the mini me).

Anxiety There is notion that something is wrong, that we should be doing something more to be “complete.”

Hostile Competition this is especially true in the realm of dating. If there is this notion that there is not enough, we must fight others who are trying to get it too! This is hostile competition as opposed to co-creation.

How do we get back our “larger” selves, where ego-driven madness doesn’t rule? How do we (or do we want to?) get back to our original self -- connected to something more powerful than mere desire, aversion, and grasping?



Monday, October 15, 2007


Hola Everybody,
I don't have much time today -- I'll be away from the office. I was going to post the next part of my racism series, but it's not done yet. It's tentatively titled, Racism without Racists. LOL! In the meantime, I want to share something I came across while going over my notes and reading material. Very few have written as this man did...

* * *

-=[ Education ]=-

The paradox of education is precisely this -- that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it -- no matter what the risk.

-- James Baldwin




Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Sermon [Anger]

Hola Everybody,
How is everyone?

* * *

-=[ Sunday Sermon: Anger ]=-

At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. By looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger within you is the main cause of your suffering.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh (2001)

The fact of the matter is that there isn't a human being on the face of this planet who hasn't felt emotional pain and anger.


The fact is humans suffer. You've suffered, I've suffered. We all have suffered. This is part of the human condition. This is part of the human condition. Still, we sense deep within us that pain and anger need not destroy our lives. The other fact is that these emotions can be used to enrich our lives. Maybe those among us who garden know the importance of using waste to enrich the soil. Even shit may have as its core purpose an offering to the key to freedom.

Your life is what matters.

The trick to easy living, to paraphrase the ancient Greeks, is not knowledge, but wisdom. Perhaps the trick is to learn how to live with your hurt and anger without damaging your relationships. Perhaps that's the prize you need to reclaim.

What we call anger is not a solid thing. It's a complex mix of thoughts, feelings, and urges pulled together into a thing called anger: "I'm angry." Some of us may have hurt others when seduced by the story of the anger within us. On the other hand, we may have been on the receiving end of anger and have learned to fear its explosive power. Many of us may have been obsessed by past wrongs and have allowed anger to filter our lenses, losing sight of the opportunities for living that exist here and now.

However, anger is not one thing. It is many things, loosely organized by language into something that appears whole, solid. It's important to remember that it's not the feeling of anger that causes the harm. It's the cold calculation of self-righteousness or the hot energy of attack that leads to negative consequences. Remember that anger is not one thing. It's many things. And there are many things to do with anger's various components.

Why write about anger on what is an attempt at a "sermon"? Because it is within the contemplative tradition that the answer lies. It's there where freedom from anger resides – the inherently human ability to be aware of awareness.

There are five common myths about anger and they serve to fuel and justify our pain:

Myth 1: Venting anger is healthy

Myth 2: Anger and aggression are instinctual to humans.

Myth 3: Frustration inevitably leads to aggression.

Myth 4: Anger is always helpful.

Myth 5: A person's anger is caused by others.

In future posts, I will address these myths and offer a saner alternative. Responsibility for anger behavior begins with you. Perhaps it's time for you to face up to that reality. This is the good news because your behavior is something you can control -- though it may feel hard. Ask yourself the following questions:

What has anger gotten me in the past and what have I gained from it?

How much energy have I been wasting in "managing" my anger feelings?

Do I have the courage to take a stand and respond differently to anger feelings?

Anger has cost you dearly in many areas of your life. The myths implying that anger is biologically inevitable and helpful, and that anger venting is useful are all wrong. Buying into these myths only serves to enslave you. The issue of responsibility suggests a new perspective to your anger and your life.




Hanh, T. N. (2001). Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames: Riverhead Hardcover.

Tavris, C. (1989). Anger: The misunderstood emotion (Revised ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

If I could...

Hola Everybody,
It's a lovely Saturday here -- the air is fresh, crisp, promising change.
It's corny poetry day! LOL!

* * *
Now [no. 15]

If I could
I would guarantee you
bright sunny days
and soft, dry breezes
for all your Summers.

If I could
I would give you
clear cold days
and clean snow

for the Winters you love.

And if I could
I would give you Autumn,
dressed to the teeth,
at that precious moment

when you most need change.

But if I want you
to remember me
as I will always remember you,
I will send you,


Edward-Yemil Rosario ©

Friday, October 12, 2007

[un]Common Sense Sex Blog [Goal-Oriented Sex]

Hola Everybody,
I had one of the longest of days yesterday!
It's the sex blog! I had some pics, but forgot to ask permission! Dang!

* * *

-=[ The Futility of Goal-Oriented Sex ]=-

Oftentimes, sex resembles a contest. If there ever was a metaphor we need to do away with it has to be the "war"of the sexes. In a zero-sum society, where the mentality of "winner takes all" rules, it's no wonder that sex resembles a race or competition: who can have the most intense orgasm, who can "do"who, who can suck dick better, who can last longer, etc.

It's absolutely amazing...

What happens, in my view, is that sex becomes something people do mindlessly, often in the darkened corridors of their shame.

What would happen to the simple of act of touching, for example, if we took the goal-oriented mindset away from it?

What if a man or woman simply touched you?

What would it feel like if your lover simply bathed you with no expectation of sex? Imagine being caressed for a long period of time, being bathed , towel-dried, massaged, pampered, touched, looked at, explored sensuously, lovingly, intimately -- without sex being the endgame.

What would that do to your comfortability with intimacy, touch, and nudity -- to have your lover drink in your body with his or her eyes like that? Just for the sake of looking?

The first casualty of long-term relationships is often the loss of sexual expression in the form of excitement, playfulness, spontaneity, and seductive touching. Perhaps we all need a re-orienting toward pleasurable sensual feelings. Without sensuality there is no real sex, and without sex, there's no genuine intimacy. Emphasizing a creative-type exploration, in a relaxed, non-goal oriented manner, the sensual pleasure you can derive from touching and being touched, is a sure-fire path to sexual healing or re-awakening.

Lovers develop assumptions (often based on misperceptions) and fall into ruts, creating awkwardness toward asking for a different type of touching.

Try the following exercise (Emily, if you don't have someone to do this with, I will gladly volunteer *grin*).

Exercise: Non- Genital Exploration/ Pleasuring

For this exercise, on partner should be the giver and the other the recipient. Interestingly enough, many men feel less comfortable as a receiver.

It's important before beginning sit down and talk for a little while -- perhaps over coffee or a small meal. Some might prefer a drink, but keep in mind that alcohol is a sexual suppressant. Recall an experience when you felt close and intimate. Express this feeling.

Gradually, allow your partner to caress your hands. Notice the differences in size and texture. Hands can communicate a lot.

If you choose to shower, experiment with different types of sprays and temperature. If bathing, try a new bath oil or soap.

Soap your partner's back, caressing it as you do so. Trace the contours of the muscles with your fingers, gently massaging. Do the same with the front of your partner's body. Soap his or her neck, skip the breasts and genital area. Soap your own body. Take in your lover's body as if you were looking at a new person.

Slowly, gently towel your partner and then move to the bedroom. The room should be comfortable and slightly dimmed. You should, however be able to see your lover's body. Have some soft music playing on the CD player.

Have the receiver lay face down. The recipient has three tasks. The first is to be passive and receive pleasure. The second is to keep your eyes closed throughout the exercise so as to be able to concentrate on the physical feelings and sensations. The third is to be aware of what parts of your body and what types of touch are sensuous.

The giver's tasks are...

Sorry guys, I have to cut off here. I'll finish this later...



Thursday, October 11, 2007

Honesty and Relationships

Hola Everybody,
I'm in prison all day today.

Relationship Thursdays! lol I wrote this a couple of years back. I was looking at it this morning and made a few changes, but I like it. Try the exercise at the end with a lover or friend...

* * *


Relationship is like a dance floor. Anytime you don't tell the truth, it's like putting a gob of well-chewed bubble gum on the floor. Your foot sticks to it, and you can't quite participate in the dance until you handle that
Gay Hendricks

I am going to submit that the vast majority of people, especially those who claim to be "truth tellers," wouldn't know what honesty is if it bit them on the arse.

Period. Punto y final -- No qualification.

Intention is everything. And honesty (or any other trait, for that matter) is dependent on intention and not mere words. Shit, even a monkey can point out that the Emperor has no clothes, that's not such a big thing. In fact, in my line of work, I have come across some intensely cruel people who shrug away their cruelty as "honesty." It's the same with humor: for many people, humor is a flimsy dress for their anger or lack of self-esteem. You see this type of humor when people use others as the butt of their jokes.

In the hands of a murderer, the knife becomes a weapon, in the hands of surgeon, that same knife becomes an instrument for healing.

People, do not be mistaken, the most powerful gift we can bring to relating is the conscious practice of honesty. Under the spell of our small ego -- what I call the "Mini Me" -- honesty becomes a weapon. To be sure, there are conflicting reactions to truth telling. Some people attempt to be honest in order to protect an image of being morally superior; to prevent another from leaving us; to avoid guilt; or to conform to a socially dictated moral system of values. On the other hand, we may avoid being honest in order to look good, protect another from hurt feelings, or to rebel against conventional moral conditioning.

Whatever the case may be, if we adopt honesty as a discipline to deepen our conscious heart, we can begin to expose and evaporate everything we carry within us that interferes with love. It can be a spiritual practice done with the intention to unite rather than separate. Honesty begins with you. Point one finger, three more point back at you -- go ahead, make my day, point:


Honesty is not just a moral principle. When we avoid telling the truth, we are cut off from ourselves. When you lie to another, you've also created a wall between you and yourself. For one psychologist, Brad Blanton, honesty is being completely present and describing your experience as it is: "You take the whole range of awareness and divide it into three parts. Notice what is going on right now outside of you in the world, what is going on within the confines of your own skin, and what is going through the mind right now, and that's all there is... "

According to Blanton, the three biggest rationalizations for lying are, "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings," "I don't want to offend anyobody," and, "I don't want to make a fool of myself." He recommends that you do all three! LOL! I don't agree with him, but I like his take on honesty not as a moral virtue, but as a spiritual practice.

When I first joined singles sites, for example, it was the rare profile that didn't state honesty as something valued in a relationship. The thing is that very few are honest even with ourselves, so how can we claim a higher moral ground? You doubt me, I think. Then let's look at the best foot forward approach, or the importance we stress on first impressions: how truthful are those? What about our photos? How truthful are those? Half the time a successful relationship may mean coming back to who we really are without losing each other in the fuckin process. So don't fuckin tell me about honesty. Apply it to yourself first, and then come back.

Here is what I see as honesty:

It's the quality of describing what is going on in any given moment in a way that doesn't blame anybody. It entails a whole set of skills: being able to pay attention, to actually notice what is going on, and then to describe what is going on in a way that matches the occurrence. All done with compassion.

True honesty is an act of liberation and it will flush out all the old dirt and grime, emotional and physical, you carry inside of you. It will create a sense of aliveness. You discover another dimension of being, a deeper intimacy, more genuine laughter, and fun.

And a lot more trouble! LMAO!

However, the trade-off of more trouble for more presence is a good one, trust me.

But genuine honesty has to exist without our eternal habit of judgment. In the same way we attach our personal "novelas" (soap operas -- drama) to our feelings, we attach them to our version of the truth. That's not honesty, that's judgment. But that's for another day, another time.

* * *

Honesty Exercise
(To be done with a partner)

Sit opposite one another. Breathe. Maintain soft eye contact.

Partner A, you will only listen. No interrupting, no commentary, no reaction at all

Partner B, you will tell the truth about this moment by describing body sensations, feelings, sounds you hear, things you see. When you notice a thought or a judgment, you can include it but label it as what it is. For example, "Now I'm having a thought that this is stupid," or "Now I'm having a judgment that you have a terrible haircut."

Keep coming back to now, and tell the truth about it. Be careful of words and phrases such as why, because, you made me feel. None of that nonsense is true right now; they are all interpretations of experience, not the real deal.

After a few minutes, switch roles. When you are both done, find out if you still feel any separation remaining between you. If you do, take another five minutes each.

During this exercise, you are both practicing skills that are at the core of conscious relating. One of you is learning to tell the truth about what is real in this moment, free of explanations, history, and blame. The other is practicing an equally valuable skill: the capacity to be still and listen, free of defense, free of giving advice or evaluating.

Try it, it might set your ass free, or at least help you attract that person you've been looking for.


Who luvs ya? LOL!!!


Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Hola Everybody,
Some of you may have noticed (and some of you have not! LOL!), that I'm not as interactive lately. Most of that is due to work-- I've been soooo busy. Plus, I'm having to shuck and jive for some funders, and on the personal side -- well, I get up early and get to sister's late (for the most part). So, I have no social life to speak of at this moment. Sorry, if I can't get to your pages and leave messages and/ or comments. It's not that I'm selfish, just in the Twilight Zone!

Today, I will be gone for most of the afternoon...

Covering the sky with Your Hand: The Denial of Racism

Hola! Everybody...
Because it has to be said. Quite long...

* * *

-=[ Covering the Sky With Your Hand: The Denial of Racism ]=-

There ain't no white man in this room that will change places with me -- and I'm rich. That's how good it is to be white. There's a one-legged busboy in here right now that's going: 'I don't want to change. I'm gonna ride this white thing out and see where it takes me.
-- Chris Rock

There's a dicho (saying, adage) Puerto Ricans are fond of using. It translates roughly to, No matter how hard you try, you can't cover the sky with your hand. And it addresses the very human tendency to deny uncomfortable truths. While at first, denial may work well to buffer us from trauma, eventually, as with all defense mechanisms, denial is as futile a coping strategy as trying to cover the sky with your hand. Not only does it not work, but often compounds the issue.

The introduction to this post (click here), served as introduction as well as a vehicle for a working definition for racism. I also attempted to outline a map of sorts. What follows is the meat of my premise that racism, far from being a thing of the past, is an integral, permanent, and almost indestructible part of our society. It is the challenge we all face. The well-being of all people -- black, white, yellow, and brown -- hinges on how we respond to racism. For racism is a pathology that infects all of us, not just blacks and other people of color.

I conceptualize racism in structural and institutional as well as individual terms. My definition of racism describes a system of oppression of African Americans and other people of color by white Europeans and white Americans. There is no black racism because there is no centuries-old system of racial domination designed by African Americans that excludes white Americans from full participation in the rights, privileges, and benefits of this society. Racism requires not only a widely accepted racist ideology but also the systematic power to exclude people of color from opportunities and major economic rewards (Feagin, Vera, & Batur, 2000).

While there are blacks and other people of color with anti-white prejudices and scattered instances of people of color discriminating against whites, these are not central to the core operations of this society (Bell, 1993). Or, as my friend the poet, Rage, says, "I'm not a racist, I don't have the resources."

One type of explanation for the persistence of black poverty and inequality argues that blacks have been victims of themselves and market forces such as the de-industrialization of old industries in the inner cities. Furthermore, these critics point out, blacks self-inflict damage by demanding high wages, failing to enhance their skills, turning housing projects into crime and drug infested areas, aided by females of low morality only too happy to have single parent families and live off welfare (D'Souza, 1995; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1999). Others dismiss the importance of race, citing other factors such as culture, gender, and class (Wilson, 1980) I call this newer perspective the racial conservatives.

Such accounts contain half-truths and exaggerations and completely underestimate the extent to which blacks have confronted blatant racism. Lets take one of the above assumptions, that de-industrialization served to undermine a black working class ill-equipped to take advantage of modern economic global trends. On the face of it, this sounds like a sound analysis. However, take into account the first wave of industrial restructuring disproportionately affected black workers in chemicals, steel, meatpacking, and coal industries. It did so because blacks were deliberately discriminated -- via rigged restrictions and seniority rules -- segregating them into jobs that were slated for automation (Rattansi, 2002).

But I get a little ahead of myself...

It is a well-worn clichè that the last thing a fish notices is the water. Similarly, we take the air we breathe for granted, just as European Americans take their race as a given -- as normal. While it is true that white Americans may face difficulties in their lives -- with finances and family, for example -- race is not one of them. Whites can afford to be nonchalant about race because they cannot see how this society produces advantages for them because these benefits appear so natural they are taken for granted (Kinder & Mendelberg, 1996). They literally do not see how race permeates America's institutions and how it affects the distribution of opportunity and wealth.

For blacks, Latino/as, and other people of color in the U.S. the same culture, laws, economy, institutions, and rules of the game are not as automatically comfortable and legitimate. In a white-dominated society, with color come problems (Sleeper, 2002).

Big problems.

What's more, if people of color cry foul, if they call attention to the way they are treated or to racial inequality, if they try to change the way advantage is distributed, if they try to adjust the rules of the game, white Americans see them as trouble makers as asking for special privileges.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, what this means is that people's perspectives on race reflect their experiences on one side of the color line or the other. Whites routinely misperceive the reality of black lives. For example, though blacks are about twice as likely to be unemployed, 50 percent of whites say the average black is about as well off as the average white person. Conversely, blacks tend to be more realistic in their perceptions of their economic status as compared to whites (Morrin, 2001). My point being that if white Americans make no effort to hear the viewpoints and see the experience of others, their awareness of their privilege suffers. They can convince themselves that life as they experience it on their side of the color line is the objective truth. This is the error that poses serious problems for conservatives' (both black and white) analysis of racial inequality.

I'm not saying that individual views differ within racial groups. Not everyone who shares the same subjective perspective will come to the same conclusions about policy. However, any perspective that is uncritically locked inside its own experience is stunted, and this is even truer when that perspective reflects the dominant culture. It is the failure to understand that they take whites' racial privilege for granted that leads conservatives to ignore the way in which race loads the dice in favor of white Americans while at the same time restricting African Americans' access to the table. White privilege, like water to the fish, like the air we breathe, is invisible in their analysis.

But you can't cover the sky with your hand.

Apostles of the new conservative perspective on race insist that racism is a thing of the past. The reason why they come to this conclusion is because they operate from a very narrow (culturally blind), outdated, and discredited definition of racism as intentional, blatant, and individual -- causing them to filter out evidence and judgment.

Many American institutions, including the current Supreme Court majority, share these misconceptions. Because racial conservatives ignore the range of racial reality in America, they are unable to see that racism is lodged in the very structure of society, that it permeates the mechanisms of the legal, economic, political, and educational institutions of the United States. The problem is that without that recognition we will continue to attempt to resolve the disease of racism by attempting to cover the sky with our collective hands.

At a workshop on race I helped facilitate, a young lady stood up and bluntly stated, I agree that slavery was messed up, but that was something in the past and I didn't have anything to do with that! (Remind me to tell you the story of this young lady.) Racial conservatives operate from the same assertion. Racism is regarded as a remnant from the past because whites no longer express bigoted attitudes or racial hatred. Indeed, the Thernstroms (1999) actually assert that despite the violence that erupted in the streets in 1968, there was no evidence that whites were drifting toward the virulent anti-Black sentiments of the 1940s and 50s. On the contrary, according to racial conservatives, the real story is that racism has all but disappeared.

Racial conservatives conclude that racism has ended because of the massive change in white attitudes toward blacks. For example, they note that at one time more than half of all whites once believed that blacks were intellectually inferior. In 1994 that changed, only 13 per cent of whites believed that blacks had less in-born ability to learn than whites. Whites also used to favor school segregation by an overwhelming majority, but now 90 per cent favor school integration. In the 1940s, whites believed they should be favored in competition for jobs. today, in a complete turn around, whites almost unanimously agree that blacks and whites should have an equal chance to compete for jobs. Shoot, the Thernstroms go as far as stating that white attitudes had already changed before the civil rights movement exploded in the 1960s! (p. 177, 1998)

Got dam, freakin' black people!

To the racial conservatives, this means that the race line has been all but abolished. Although many Americans still accept one or more negative stereotypes about African Americans, a recent study (Sniderman & Piazza, 1995) asserts that only 2 per cent of the population could be considered old school bigots who subscribe to a large number of racist stereotypes. Therefore, it follows, that the hanging of nooses at an all white tree in Jena, TX, Texaco's executives calling African Americans black jelly beans, a member of the Dallas school board referring to African Americans as niggers, and radio shock jock personality Don Imus calling black female college students, nappy-headed ho's, are rare cases of extreme racism.

The problem with racial conservatives' evidence is that they, like most whites, use a specific, narrow understanding of racism. This is the concept that racism is motivated, crude, explicitly supremacist, and expressed as individual bias. Racism, for racial conservatives, is a form of prejudice. Paul Sniderman and Thomas Piazza (1995) define racism as a consistent readiness to respond negatively to a member of a group by virtue of his or her membership in the group, with the proof of prejudice being thus the repetitiveness with which the person endorses negative characterization after negative characterization.

Whew! LOL!

It's no surprise then, given this narrowly defined concept of racism and the use of opinion surveys to measure it, that many people believe racism is a thing of the past. In fact, the Supreme Court has used just such a definition when hearing cases of discrimination. As a result, no one goes to prison for discrimination. This narrow definition, which erroneously conflates racism with prejudice, severely restricts what counts as bias or as evidence of bias. This definition tends to exonerate whites, blame blacks, and naturalize (make seem natural) the reality of racism in America.

In addition, this definition of racism, as I have noted earlier, is empirically and conceptually flawed. It depends almost exclusively on data uncovered by opinion polling. This poses two problems. First, even on its own terms, this interpretation of racism ignores significant recent research that demonstrates the degree to which racist attitudes have persisted. For example, in his book, The Ordeal of Integration, Orlando Patterson (1998) concludes that all things considered, it is reasonable to estimate that about a quarter of the Euro-American population harbors at least mildly racist feelings toward Afro-Americans and that one in five is a hard-core racist. This is not a small number by any measure.

Secondly, by relying on survey questions constructed in the 1950s, this research ignores possible changes in the character of racism and incorrectly measures the modern manifestation of it. As Donald Kinder and Lynn Sanders (1996) put it, a new form of prejudice has come to prominence, one that is preoccupied with matters of moral character, informed by the virtues associated with the traditions of individualism. Today, we say, prejudice is expressed by the language of American individualism. In other words, statements about individual failure are racially coded expressions of negative stereotypes.

The fact is that there is abundant evidence documenting the persistence of widespread racial prejudice 40 years after the civil rights movement. Interestingly enough, racial conservatives using polling data to show the decline of racism cherry pick among the surveys and omit this evidence. Some of the most compelling evidence of persistent, tenacious racism comes from studies of residential discrimination. The Detroit Area Survey, for example, found that 16 percent of whites said they would feel uncomfortable in a neighborhood where 8 percent of the residents were black, and nearly the same number said they were unwilling to move to such an area. If the black percentage rose to 20 percent, 40 percent of all whites indicated they would not move there, 30 percent said they would be uncomfortable, and 15 percent would try to leave the area. Were a neighborhood be 53 percent black, 71 percent of whites would not wish to move there, 53 percent would try and leave, and 65 percent would be uncomfortable (Farley, et al., 1994)

A more recent study of four cities (Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles) found that more than half the whites expressed a preference for same-race neighborhoods, while blacks expressed a strong preference for integrated neighborhoods (Charles, 2003).

Contrary to the false optimism of racial conservatives, one finds very little evidence, even in the polling data they use, that many white Americans believe in integrated neighborhoods. Especially if it means a neighborhood with more than a few black families. These racial stereotypes are not restricted to residential preference. As I will show in my next entry, they continue to be fundamental to (white) American culture. When the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center asked people to compare blacks and other ethnic groups on a variety of character traits, for example, they discovered that 62 percent of non-black respondents believed that blacks were lazier than other groups, 56 percent stated that they were prone to violence, and 53 percent thought they were less intelligent (Smith, 1991).

How racial conservatives twist the meaning of survey data and how they use them is problematic because people usually operate under expressed values as opposed to values-at-work. In other words, people will often commit verbally to what they think people want to hear (what is the right answer), as opposed to how they actually make decisions and live their lives. In the vernacular, it would be expressed as talking the talk versus walking the walk.

Outdated survey questions used to measure racial attitudes essentially tap into what people presume to know about American ideals as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. They know the right answers to these questions. But the narrow catch of this net reflects only the limited definition of racism. The gap between what people tell survey researchers and what they actually do is wide. However, a very different picture emerges when people are asked about behavior as opposed to abstract ideals. Here the discrepancy between racial attitudes and behavior is large and pervasive.

When asked, white Americans overwhelmingly support civil rights principles. By 1980, for example, only 5 percent of whites were willing to tell a pollster they preferred segregation. Yet only 40 percent said they would vote for a law stating, a homeowner cannot refuse to sell to someone because of their race or skin color (Schuman, Steeh, Bobo, & Krysan, 1998). White Americans say they support the principle of fair housing, but less than half say they are willing to act on this principle.

One study that served as a revelation for this writer was American Apartheid, an award-winning study by Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton (1998). Massey and Denton used demographic data about where African Americans and whites actually live and demonstrated that levels of segregation have barely changed since the 1960s. Applying a sophisticated index of segregation to thirty metropolitan areas with the largest black populations, they concluded that blacks living in the heart of the ghetto are among the most isolated people on earth (p. 225, 1998)

The Thernstroms challenge this conclusion, arguing that Massey and Denton exaggerate residential segregation. However, they offer no counter-evidence, nor have they generated scientifically-grounded indices of segregation. Their analysis is laughable, in fact. They state that The strongest proof that residential segregation has been declining for a generation comes from national surveys [that] have intermittently asked blacks and whites whether members of the other race live in the same neighborhood as they do (p. 222, 1999). The Thernstroms imagine that people's beliefs about who lives in their neighborhood are a more accurate indication of residential segregation than measures of where and how people actually live. SMDH

People will attempt to pooh-pooh what I have written here, or dismiss racism as one small part of a larger global dynamic. Or, that all this is common knowledge, blah blah blah...


Racism in the U.S. is an overriding factor in the lives of all Americans with dire consequences for people of color. It influences almost every arena in U.S. social life, as I will show in the next installment.


Bell, D. (1993). Faces at the bottom of the well: The permanence of racism New York: Basic Books.

Charles, Z. C. (2003). Processes of racial residential segregation. In A. O'Connor, C. Tilly & L. D. Bobo (Eds.), Urban inequality: Evidence from four cities (pp. 233-237, 257-258). New York: Russell Sage.

D'Souza, D. (1995). The end of racism. New York: Free Press.

Farley, R., Steeh, C., Krysan, M., Jackson, T., & Reeves, K. (1994). Stereotypes and segregation: Nieghborhoods in the Detroit area. The American Journal of Sociology, 100(3 ), 750-780.

Feagin, J. R., Vera, H., & Batur, P. (2000). White racism New York: Routledge.

Kinder, D. R., & Mendelberg, T. (1996). Individualism reconsidered. In D. O. Sears, J. Sidanius & L. Bobo (Eds.), Racialized politics: The debate about racism in America (pp. 44-74). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kinder, D. R., & Sanders, L. M. (1997). Divided by color: Racial politics and democratic ideals. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

Massey, D., & Denton, N. (1998). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Morrin, R. (2001, July 11). Misperceptions cloud whites' view of blacks. Washington Post.

Patterson, O. (1998). The ordeal of integration: Progress and resentment in America's "racial" crisis. Washington, D.C.: Civitas Book Publisher.

Rattansi, A. (2002). Racism, sexuality, and political economy. In S. Fenton & H. Bradley (Eds.), Ethnicity and economy: Race and class revisited New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Schuman, H., Steeh, C., Bobo, L. D., & Krysan, M. (Eds.). (1998). Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations (Revised ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Sleeper, J. (2002). Liberal racism: How fixating on race subverts the American dream. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Smith, T. W. (1991). Ethnic images, GSS Technical Report (No. 19). Chicago: National Opinion Research Center.

Sniderman, P. M., & Piazza, T. (1995). The scar of race. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Thernstrom, S., & Thernstrom, A. (1999). America in black and white: One nation, indivisible. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wilson, W. J. (1980). The declining significance of race: Blacks and changing American institutions (2nd ed.). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.


[un]Common Sense