Monthly Archives: July 2009

The doctor and the media

I have a post up at LA Moms Blog.  Head on over!

The one in which Emily admits to making a mistake

Every now and then, I make a mistake.

When it comes to arguments with my husband, of course, I am always right.  However, sometimes when I branch out into the wider public, those not quite as willing to humor me, I actually can be wrong.

And I was last week.  I stand by most of my post on Sotomayor, Gates, and Benjamin.  I do believe that all three of them have learned and will continue to learn from their experiences as minorities in the United States.  However, I regret stating that Gates was racially profiled by the Cambridge police.

Here is my take on it, which is just my take and should not be read as expert opinion (as if there were ever any risk of that happening).  I think that Gates is a brilliant but probably egotistical academic (redundant, I know).  He is also a black man.  Confronted with a cop who probably just wanted to do his job, Gates reacted with that entire history.  Did he lose his cool with a cop who absolutely should have been investigating?  Yep.  Should the officer have asked him to step onto the porch?  Well, let’s put it this way.  If ever the cops come to my house to investigate a possible forced entry, I sure as hell hope they ask me to step outside and talk to them, because then I can get away from the violent maniac behind the door who has the meat cleaver poised above my head.

(What can I say?  I have an active imagination.)

Did Gates feel he was being racially profiled?  I have no doubt.  And he felt that way for damned good historical reasons.  Nonetheless, his ego as an academic and his righteous anger as a black man in a country with a distressing history of racism led him to overreact with a police officer who was responding to a call.

However, Gates ought not have been arrested.  He did nothing illegal, and anyone could have seen that the guy was not a threat to Officer Crowley.  Not a physical threat, anyway, although clearly arresting him was not exactly a boon to the good officer’s career.

Officer Crowley made a mistake.  Henry Louis Gates, Jr., made a mistake.  Most shockingly of all, Emily Rosenbaum made a mistake.

As I said in the original post, smart people learn from their lives as members of racial minorities.  If Gates is the academic I think he is, this experience will deepen his understanding of racial relations in this country.  Officer Crowley, if he is a good police officer, will also learn from the experience.  It is not an issue of right or wrong, as the last week has made so very clear.  There are a hell of a lot of crossed purposes whizzing around the U.S., and even well-intentioned people can explode against each other when race is involved.

This last week could be a teaching moment for all of us.  We could talk honestly about race instead of assuming there has to be a good guy and a bad guy in every situation involving a black man and a white cop.  It would be nice to think that our moment is here.

Race Matters; or, the Judge, the Professor, and the Doctor

These are interesting times.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been taken to task for stating, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  Her word choice is poor, but her point is that her ethnicity and gender carry with them a wealth of experience simply unavailable to a white man.

Can race, gender, or ethnicity be instructive?  Well, let’s examine the evidence.

In a recent moment of almost perfect poetic symbolism, the fine officers of Cambridge, Massachusetts, racially profiled one of the finest minds in Af-Am scholarship, a man who has been instrumental in creating a space in which the uniqueness of black experiences and voices is honored.  Well, now he sure as hell has had an edifying experience as a black American male that is not available to the white population.  Having been an academic long enough to know how their minds work, one of my first thoughts upon reading of Gates’s arrest was, “Wow.  Think of the article he’ll write after this one.”

Don’t get me wrong – I think the man is a genius regardless of race. But, his experiences as an African-American have shaped him into the type of scholar he is.  And, I’d be shocked if this latest experience doesn’t further shape his academic work.

And then we have Regina Benjamin, the nominee for Surgeon General, who is being criticized as too fat for the job.  Now, setting aside my immediate reaction of “Are you fucking kidding me?” for a moment, I do see the point that we need role models for good health.  However, a couple of photos of a plus-sized woman do not by any stretch of the imagination demonstrate that she is not a good doctor or role model.  Show me a grocery receipt with $78 of Twinkees on it and then we can talk about poor health choices.  For all I know Dr. Benjamin eats well and exercises regularly and would weigh a helluvalot more if she didn’t.  Last I checked, people come with different body types.

Oh-ho-ho-ho, isn’t it fun to characterize black women as lazy, stupid slobs who can’t be bothered to walk their empty tub of KFC X-tra Crispy to the trash can?  It’s uncool to call black women “Welfare Queens” nowadays, but calling them too fat and unhealthy to be good doctors is every bit as much about race and gender.

I don’t know Thing One about how it feels to be discriminated against for being fat, female, and black, but Regina Benjamin sure does.  I suspect that experience will serve her well as she tries to educate Americans on their health choices.

Does race, gender, and ethnicity qualify someone for a job?  Of course not.  Does being black or Latina in American make a person necessarily wiser or smarter than someone who is white and male?  Not last I checked?  Does it provide a library of experience from which to draw?  Absolutely.  To pretend otherwise, to try to simply ignore racial and gender identity, is to attempt to marginalize minorities by erasing the very bodies on which American society has been writing far more negative stereotypes for centuries.

Holding pattern

I feel like I owe you all an explanation.  You all have been so loyal and patient with me, and I am just off with no explanation.  Here’s the deal — there are a couple of big things afoot for our family right now that I cannot write about just yet.  These big things keep my mind very, very occupied, and naturally I want to write about what is on my mind.  But I can’t.  So I am not writing anything.  I promise that I will be back once a few personal things get resolved.

It does feel terribly self-involved that I am unable to post because my personal life is so all-encompassing, given the giant things afoot in the world.  I should be writing about racial profiling and Harvard professors, but I figure I have nothing new to add, there.  Or I could be writing about Cronkite, but, I have written about him and what he meant to me once already.  I think I will post on him soon, but I need a little time to think about his loss.  And I guess I could write about the health care reform that simply expands the existing coverage with little actual reform, but again, smarter people than I have already said all of this.

So, I will cocoon, plan birthday parties, deal with sick children, and ask your forbearance for my spotty (at best) blog reading and my weak excuses for posts.  Right now, even writing Facebook status reports feels like lying, because the big things we are waiting on must remain unspoken.

On another note, Benjamin has given up his dream of being a princess.  Now, he wants to be a ballerina.  A big, scary ballerina, to be sure, but a ballerina nonetheless.  Anyone know where I can find a tutu in size “husky”?

Alternative Berenstain Bears

In lieu of a meaningful post on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. or the death of my hero, Walter Cronkite, I present to you the following list of suggestions for Stan and Fran Berenstain.  In case they ever stumble up against writer’s block, they may want to try writing a few of the following books:

The Berenstain Bears Learn to Smoke Crack

The Berenstain Bears Lose Their Virginity

The Berenstain Bears and Brother’s First Drag Show

The Berenstain Bears Fight Off Foreclosure

The Berenstain Bears and the Dyke Next Door

Now, it’s your turn.  Any suggestions?

Best laid plans of mice and moms

My children’s respective birthdays were looming, so we asked Benjamin what he would like on his birthday cake.  “I want a bat for my birthday cake!”

“You don’t want Tinkerbell?” I asked.

“Yeah! A bat and Tinkerbell for my birthday cake!”

“Which one?  A bat or Tinkerbell?’ J queried.

“A bat and Tinkerbell.”

“Honey, I’m not sure if we can do that. How about Mickey Mouse?”

“Yeah! Mickey Mouse.”

“OK, we’ll do Mickey Mouse,” J replied.

“And a bat and Tinkerbell.”

I figured that perhaps the thing to do was to establish a theme for said party, so we went to the party goods store to get the various and sundry items necessary for a third birthday party.  On the way there, I tried to figure out if I could get away with the (plain) environmentally-friendly plates for a three-year-old’s birthday party, provided that the rest of the stuff was festive enough.

The place where we are having the party suggested four table cloths, so my plan was simple: allow Benjamin to choose a table cloth and then get the rest of the stuff to match.  Having learned absolutely nothing from the birthday cake discussion, I thought he would look at the array of tablecloths and determine a theme.

“I want this!” he exclaimed in front of a plastic purse.

“We do not need a purse for your party.”

“What’s this?”

“That’s a musical hula hoop.”

“I want musical hula hoop for my party.”

Zachary chimed in: “I need to go to the bathroom.”

Having finally made it to the party decorations section, I started showing Ben the possible table cloths.  “Do you want Princess?”

“Yeah.  Mommy, what’s this?”

“Can we please focus on the tablecloths?  There’s also Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse.”

“There’s Spiderman,” Zachary ever-so-helpfully pointed out.

“Honey, please.  I don’t want him to have Spiderman.”

“Mommy, I want these glasses for my birthday party.”

I ended up laying out all the appropriate tablecloths, hoping he’d pick one and I could build a theme from there.  He chose four.  Four different ones.  And cups.  And napkins.  Not necessarily ones that matched the tablecloths.

Thank god I got those plain, eco-friendly plates and forks, because this party now has six different themes, and that’s not counting the Shrek birthday cake.

Happy third birthday to my devilishly adorable middle child.  And happy anniversary to my in-laws.

The one in which I actually write about my husband

I have a post up at LA Moms Blog, so please click over.