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Overheard and Outdone: Jermaine Jackson and Ross Edition

Posted by JD on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 , under | comments (1)


Every now and then I hear things that just leave me speechless. Today I’m posting two of those things. The first thing I heard was Jermaine Jackson on the Rickey Smiley show this morning. In case you didn’t know, Jermaine and the other original members of the Jackson 5 have a reality show in which they are profiled while they work on a new Jackson 5 er 4? album. I’ve only seen one episode of the show but from the beginning it’s clear that Jermaine likes attention and sees himself as the star of the family. This, in direct contrast to the more level headed brothers, Tito, Jackie, and Marlon.

I was a little surprised to hear Jermaine on Rickey’s show since I’ve heard Rickey repeatedly say that he things Jermaine is ‘NASTY’ for "dealing with" his little brother Randy’s ex-wife. I have a feeling Jermaine isn’t aware of those comments. AND THANK GOD because if he were I may not have heard the fuckery that I surely did hear.


6? of Jermaine’s 7? children have names that start with the letter ‘J’. Jermajesty, Jafar…umm…some other ones. And then a daughter named…Autumn. He said he ran out of ‘J’ names. That's an interesting comment since Autumn’s middle name is Joy. I believe Jermajesty is a grown man now and even this many years later, Jermaine was still delighted to tell Ebony, Rickey’s co-host, that Jermaine and Jermajesty have almost all the same letters!! *excitement* WHO KNEW!


The highlight of the interview was when Jermaine said that he was trying to "catch up" to his father in terms of how many kids he has, but lamented the fact that he couldn't because his father had all his kids by the same woman (that's not exactly true but...).

That prompted them to ask Jermaine how many wives he's had. His current wife, said Jermaine, is his 4th. And he said he KNOWS it's gonna work out because she, Halima, is 'real' and from a different country (Afghanistan) and she's worldly and...and...I don't even know what else.

Before he could finish, they asked him if Halima was the wife that had been previously married to Randy. Jermaine said that NONE of his wives were ever married to Randy and he immediately changed the subject back the reality show even though he had been rambling on and on about personal matters. It was such an abrupt turn that you could hear Rickey and Ebony snickering the background. IT WAS HILARIOUS.

If audio is posted, I will link to it. In the meantime this is the link to the Rickey Smiley audio archives. I missed the part where Jermaine discusses his hair! So if you heard it or have the audio pleaseeeee let me know!


On a separate note, I was in my favorite store the other day (Ross) and I heard the following exchange between two older black ladies, one a cashier, the other a customer.

Cashier: Would you like to donate $1 to the American Heart Association, it could help save someone's life.
Customer: No
Cashier: What? You don't wanna save any lives?
Customer: I save lives everyday.
Cashier: What, you a nurse or something?
Customer: Yes I am.
Cashier: Oh ok so you're a nurse, very nice. Wait, you're a Doctor?
Customer: No, I'm a nurse.
Cashier: Well, Drs save lives! Nurses just get people ready.

And hell no, the customer did NOT donate a $1 to AHA!!

Reflections on Race and Gender in the Workplace: Is it My Race or My Sex?

Posted by JD on Monday, January 18, 2010 , under , | comments (7)

Today is the day we celebrate the accomplishments of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King--a man who helped to inspire generations of people with the dedication he showed to a
dvancing civil rights in the United States and across the globe. Holidays that honor transformative figures and events are opportunities to reflect on our past, present, and future. I will admit that I don't always see holidays as anything more than a much-needed break from the daily grind. But on this particular King holiday I broke from that mindless tradition as I remembered something I'd read recently regarding civil rights.

A couple weeks ago, I was thumbing through one of my favorite books. "Speeches That Changed the World: The Stories and Transcripts that made history." I keep this book on my desk at work...I get random urges to look through it and compare my my own personal speechwriting for my principals to the speeches by vital figures who've come before.

On that day, I opened the book to a speech Shirley Chisholm delivered before Congress on May 21, 1969 in support of the Equal Rights Amendment--legislation that proposed to prevent discrimination based on sex. I'd never read this speech and before I could even begin, the following words jumped out at me:

"As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black."

Chisholm's words reflect a deeper kinship with her white feminist counterparts than I'd previously realized. She delivered those words at a crucial point in American history. Dr. King had been assassinated only a year before and that year also marked the beginning of Vietnamization as President Nixon promised to end the war in Vietnam. The political climate in 1969 was a very intense one as black America struggled with the gap left by Dr. King and the country found itself still in the midst of a war they began to fear would never end.

That Chisholm addressed the rights of women at such a divided time in our nation's history is a striking contrast to the issues that dominated American thought in 1969 and, I believe, shows the commitment she had to equal rights, in particular the rights of women. That fact, caused me to think about my own lack of commitment to advancing women's rights as I've focused more often on the impact of race. I'm wondering if I should reconsider my perspective.

The bulk of Chisholm's speech is focused on debunking the myth that women are "different" or somehow in need of additional "protection" from jobs or roles deemed too tough or intellectual for females. At the time of Chisholm's speech to Congress, the ERA had been introduced in every legislature for 40 years straight. Still, employers, including the Federal government were not prohibited from posting job announcements that excluded women or developing and using doubly pay scales that reflected differing pay based on sex. Chisholm remarked:

"It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as 'odd' and 'unfeminine'..."

This part certainly hit home.

As many of you know, I write for a living and my career as been spent in politics and government. In the 10 year span of my career, I've worn many hats. I've been an assistant to a PIO, worked on the campaign trail, and lobbied, among other things. Most recently, I served as a spokesperson for an Agency where toward the end of my tenure it became very clear to me that I'd been discriminated against. I even considered filing a complaint--something that I'd never thought I'd do.

The environment at my previous job was one of young white women who, I believe, undertook deliberate efforts to continuously exclude from power anyone who wasn't like them (white, under 40, thin, and decidedly whitebread). A sort of Stiletto Bush World, this brand of discrimination doesn't just omit blacks, it rejects nontraditional women, including white ones, and older people of both races and sexes. It also completely emasculated the VERY FEW white men who held positions of power and the even fewer black men who languished without care or career development. I am not an expert on work place racial and gender-based dynamics, and I have struggled to connect the pattern of power indicated there to larger trends and have been as yet unsuccessful.

However, I do know that never before in my career had I felt that I was treated differently based on race and sex in a way that impacted me negatively until then.

Working in politics, I have been typically surrounded by white men. Around white men, right or wrong, I have been my most comfortable. I've always felt that these men didn't see me as a woman, but as a man in a dress who just happened to not be white. On some level, I believe, I've benefitted from white men's tendency to view me as defeminized and simultaneously as both devoid of race and a double minority (which gives them a way to appear more diverse and tolerant with my hiring).

I also think that I have been allowed a trust and respect not immediately afforded to their white female counterparts who I've seen white men, in turns, dismiss as mother or wife prototypes (bitches and nags), sex objects, or, especially in the case of many younger white career women, as little girls who should be seen and not heard.

In my time working around and for white men, I've never been talked down to or ignored. But I have experienced such treatment by white females and black men and have seen white men subject black men and white women to such treatment. This is not to say that I haven't witnessed active discrimination by white men. But this discrimination, as I've experienced it, is part of a larger effort to keep them in (by them, I mean their trusted and vetted networks and ilk), not necessarily to keep others out due to a negative perception of that group. Exclusion of people like me by white men has been mostly a byproduct (that I have overcome in many cases) not a deliberate effort as I've experienced with other groups. The type of discrimination that I've faced by white women is yet another hurdle I see in developing a kinship with them or even black men as it pertains to issues in the workplace.

Chisholm pointed out the many roles from which women were barred or not represented at the time. She didn't bother to distinguish between white women and black women leading me to believe that if a white woman was elected to a board of directors, Chisholm would have seen that as a victory on the part of all women whereas I would only view that as another victory for white women. As I see it, wins for black women come in the form of black female accomplishment specifically--no other type of achievement counts.

This subject came up often while Secretary Clinton was running against President Obama during the primaries as the media made a point of asking black women in so many words, "Whose side are you on??" Overwhelmingly, black women sided with President Obama feeling a black man in the highest position in the land is a more personal victory than a having a white woman serve that role. I agree with this, but wonder if Secretary Clinton were black, would we have felt a deeper kinship with her than Obama. For the record, had a black woman run against Obama with the same platform and agenda as he, I would have broken the law in order to vote for her more than once. My thinking has also led me to defend Condi Rice on several occasions and to be more angered by the media's treatment of Michelle Obama during the primary season than Obama himself.

I wonder about others' experiences and how they view current workplace dynamics, not just politically speaking, but on the grander scale of public, private, NGO and corporate work. I can say that up to this point in my career, I believe the discrimination I have faced has been because I was black and not because I am female--although being black and female has come with its own set of very specific challenges and differential treatment that I've only begun to understand.