Friday, June 21, 2013

Paula's Best Dish: A Pink Slip with a Side of Black Twitter don't give a Damn

Oh, Paula. You did it. You really stepped in the dog doo this time.

If you haven't heard, Paula Deen has recently come under legal and social media scrutiny after having said--and done--some really racist things. Good Ol' Paula, the southern-twanged, generally happy Food Network Chef who made her mark on the food world by stealing--I mean creating--soul food recipes that were as unhealthy as they were delicious, has found herself in a conundrum. Apparently, she used racial epithets against an African American couple in her restaurant, and then, to top it all off, she said that she would like to do a southern-style dinner party where black men and women would dress up as servants. Though the media has chopped the statement up to make it look like she would like to have slaves at this wedding/dinner party/whatever you want to call it, it's not clear that this is what she was saying, although I wouldn't put it past her. Long story short, Paula said and did some things that made people mad as hell, particularly the black folk on twitter.

In recent months, I've actually become quite active on twitter (shameless plug: you can follow me @bikomandelagray if you wanna), and, on the day when the Paula Deen news went out, black folk on twitter went off. "Black twitter," as some people call it, developed a hashtag called #paulasbestdishes, wherein they satirically riffed on soul-food dishes by providing a racist twist (you can read about it here). Long story short: black twitter was pissed at Paula, and they let her know it by satirically critiquing her.

Paula felt it, and issued an apology today (see above), wherein she said she was sorry for the wrong things she said and did. But, alas, it was too late; the Food Network served her a platter of "we're not buying it" and fired that ass quicker than you could catch diabetes from one of her dishes. Paula stepped in shit; and she can't clean it off quick enough.

Two things I want to say, and I'm gonna be done. 1: I'm amazed and inspired at the power of black twitter. Though it probably will go under-acknowledged, black twitter played a significant role in the events following the release of Paula Deen's deposition remarks, and, I would suggest, played a huge role in Food Network letting her go. Black Twitter did its thing, and the power of this collective voice should not be overlooked. (I think #blacktwitterpower should be a trending hashtag on twitter because of this).

And, related to 1, 2: given the reality of black twitter power, I wonder what it would take for black people on twitter (including myself) to provide collective responses to more everyday issues, like the problematic prison industrial complex system, gender inequities, homophobia and heterosexism, and other forms of bigotry. It seems to me that, while I'm happy that we do organize around egregious accounts of racism (like Paula or Trayvon Martin), we too often struggle to deal with the more everyday realities of discrimination and oppression that mark our lives as a collective. How powerful would it be, for example, if black twitter organized around the issue of poverty in America, especially when Republican congressmen are somehow claiming that people living on food stamps live too lavishly?  Or, as one of my friends on twitter and I discussed, the exorbitant amount of gun violence in Chicago that results in the deaths of many black children (Kanye's been screaming about this since at least The Late Registration)? Now that the power of black twitter is manifest, I wonder if we could harness it in more constructive ways. If we could get Paula off the air in a manner of days, imagine what we could do with more time. I see you, black twitter; and now, I'm hoping that more of the world will see you too.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I (Don't) Love (Rich) Boobies

I just read another gliph by one of the people I've been following about the freedom of speech as it relates to writing. I'm totally with him. And in the spirit of that freedom, I simply want to raise a brief question: what if Angelina Jolie were poor?

For those of you who don't know, Jolie recently went public about her double mastectomy that significantly decreased her chances of getting breast cancer. Her op-ed piece (linked above) said her reasons for doing so were very personal; she didn't want her kids to possibly suffer from their mother dying from breast cancer.

From, I have no problems with Jolie making that medical decision. Though I struggle with her decision to make it public, I can respect the fact that she included in the post an admonition to women to take breast cancer seriously. Cancer is a serious issue; I've lost friends and family members to the disease.
During the two years of my master's program, I never went to the doctor, because I could not afford medical insurance. And though I am not poor like many others in this country are, I definitely felt the effects of not having insurance. If this is the case for someone like myself, I can only imagine what it's like for others who are in worse economic conditions than that of my own. Though I know the movie John Q was fictionalized and over dramatized, I do think it pointed to one of the serious issues with this country's medical system. Poor people really struggle to maintain healthy, productive lives, especially when a profit-driven system is geared toward keeping the rich richer. And with the new push for doctors to stop accepting medicaid, it becomes even more difficult to be poor and get the medical prevention and care one needs. Granted, I must acknowledge that many of the doctors who refuse medicaid do so because the medicaid system can't pay their bills, but such a move only points further to the problem I'm discussing: poor people are overlooked in this country. One wonders whether or not a poor person could 1) get the genetic testing that prompted Jolie to do the procedure; 2) afford to pay for the multiple procedures required (even if they had insurance); and 3) even have the knowledge or time to get access to such information in order to make a decision.

So, Mrs. Jolie-Pitt, while I appreciate your desire to educate us more about the dangers of breast cancer, I would also appreciate it if, at the very least, you acknowledge your economic ability to get the necessary information and procedures that will prolong your life. Though I'm not particularly asking you to start giving to charity, I do hope that you acknowledge what it means economically for you and your family to have access to information and procedures that many sick poor people in our nation do not. And hopefully, in so doing, maybe your influence will prompt many others to rethink the economic situation in this country regarding healthcare.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Future of Education

Call me old school (puns intended, and I'm only 26), but I'm not convinced that this new push toward online education is actually the best idea. It used to be that online schools like University of Phoenix were specifically designed for that group of men and women who had already begun their careers, and needed a leg up (an approach that still makes me hesitate, but I'll deal with that later). Now that schools like Harvard have jumped on the online bandwagon, I have become worried.

Part of my worries are indeed personal; I am a graduate student in the humanities, and jobs are already scarce in my particular field of religious studies (no, I am not training to be a pastor or preacher), so this push to online courses where people can think one teacher can do the work of 20 is, quite frankly, frightening. And, honestly, it is probably because I am in the humanities that the idea of online education taking over angers me a bit.

Online education, while being touted for its "cutting-edge" approach, is but another manifestation of what I'm beginning to understand as the hypercapitalist sentiment running rampant in this country (that is, the United States). Honestly, it's just cheaper to have one teacher teach thousands of students at once; the overhead is low (who needs real classrooms when you can go to class from your bed?); you're paying less people, and so on. But, my own personal worries aside, there are the deeper sentiments that ground this approach--namely, the fact that online education truncates the meaning and purpose of education itself. Recently, the New York Times published an article in which one of its contributors laud the possibilities of online education, somehow suggesting that the expansion of "American influence" across the globe is a benefit and not a sin. Educational imperialism notwithstanding, the contributor suggests that the benefits outweigh the setbacks, and that online education should be seen as only the first level of education--that part where you just have information dumped into your brain.

The problem with this approach is that is assumes education is little more than information overload, the cramming of multiple ideas into your brain. It assumes that the goal and purpose of education is simply to gain access to materials, to be able to rotely memorize and regurgitate facts when the time comes. Though the contributor was much more sophisticated in his comments, he is unrealistic and misguided in his optimism that online education will not replace--and therefore truncate--traditional understandings of education as a way of producing critically thinking citizens in society.

This leads me to my last point, which is that the recent trend of American education has reduced the concept of "educating" to "job training." In short, if a major or degree cannot translate into a job, it is somehow valueless in this economy. Philosophers are less valuable than engineers, because the engineer can turn his knowledge into something profitable, unlike the philosopher, whose ideas "don't hit the ground". The problem here is that the populist turn in America has devalued the ability to critically think and articulate one's thoughts in a way that makes sense. Such a philosophy (again, pun intended) of education destroys the power (and often pleasure) of learning, turning learners into little more than drones prepared for the workplace. This might not be a problem if the average American citizen--or even worse, the average American politician--was actually informed enough and thought critically enough to give substantive reasons for their actions. As Kevin Todd has pointed out, it is not clear that we actually think for ourselves in this country; we seem to simply take partisan roads on questions of politics, religion, race, or whatever aspect of culture one is dealing with at the time. Education is not simply about information; it is about the formation of well-informed AND critically thinking citizens who contribute to society in more substantive areas than just the workplace. And, given the current state of American education, I'm not so sure we will make the correct adjustments.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I Don't Sing America

There is a problem with this country: it hasn't come to terms with itself. Politicians--the current president included--seem more concerned with partisan lines and good press than with the interests of the people they claim they serve. Public interest groups (like the NRA) make stupidity popular, advocating for lax rules concerning the acquisition of firearms, as if the root of the problem is somehow the regulation of firearms and not the fact that such firearms can be used to kill others (it is also quite interesting that we've forgotten about that group of black men and women called the black panthers, who were abruptly silenced when they exercised their second amendment rights, but I digress; this country is full of its contradictions). The Christianity practiced in this country looks less Christian and more capitalist; and the media outlets--on the left and the right--have taken to damn near outright cheerleading for a country whose sins far outweigh its virtues. All of this notwithstanding, the education system has reduced the concept of "education" to "vocational training," more concerned with making workers than developing citizens, and then we wonder why our test scores continue to drop (because personal and intellectual development, against popular opinion, cannot be measured by a bullshit standardizing test system). this is not to say that people shouldn't worry about jobs; they should, and I commend those who work hard every day to make a living. but it is to say that, if we developed responsible citizens in this country, maybe the economy wouldn't be so lopsided and we would have a more equal distribution of the wealth we've acquired. And I've yet to--and I won't, because I've done it in other places--talk about the ridiculous amounts of "isms" that are still perpetuated in this country. America has and continues to fail at its attempts to produce the kind of democracy it thinks it advocates for.

Oh, and before you all think that I'm being self-righteous, as if I somehow stand above it all, I don't. I know I am just as guilty in much of the stuff I've mentioned above, but I am now aware, and, with my gifts, will do whatever I can to change it. I just thought I should put this out there, share my thoughts on a subject that is quite important to me. And, to be clear, I don't write this out of some form of "love of country." Unlike Langston Hughes, I do not sing America. He writes:

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.
No, Mr. Hughes. As much as I love your work, and share your critical edge even in this poem, I do not share your optimism that we will somehow "be at the table when company comes," in large part because most of us--of any race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation--have no clue where the table is, let alone the ability to sit at it. Maybe, after many long and hard fought cultural and intellectual victories, such ideals might become possibilities. Until then, I refuse to lavish praise on a country and system that reminds me of its indifference to the happiness and health of its inhabitants on a daily basis. I do not--and will not, unless some serious change happens--sing America. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Being (Post-)Black: Race talk in the 21st century

This past weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an academic conference discussing the relationship between aliens, black folks (in scholarly language, this is understood as the "African Diaspora"), technology, literature, and a host of other things. And, amongst making new friends and colleagues (one of which is an awesome spoken word poet and literature scholar by the name of Joshua Bennett, and another literature scholar named Theri Pickens, whose work in science fiction points out the political issues around physical and mental impairment and disability), I also had what was a group of profound experiences surrounding my own self-understanding of what it means to be black now.

The most important experience happened at the keynote session, when another brilliant scholar Alondra Nelson discussed her interests in what has become a relatively new scholarly field: afrofuturism. Basically, per Nelson's words, Afrofuturism is concerned with making sure that Black people are not "written out of the future," and that our racial identity--along with the distinct contributions made by those of us who are black--is not erased in an attempt to move toward a "post-racial" (but not post-racist) society. Overall, I thought Nelson had some wonderful points. And so, being the inquiring mind that I am, I decided to ask her a question: what does the "post-black" movement have to offer discussions concerning racial identity? Nelson responded that, while she appreciates what post-black thinkers (most notably investigative journalist Toure') have to offer concerning the diversity within the black community, she was a bit reticent to adopt this term, in large part because it seemed to be too elitist, and it therefore seemed to overlook the large amount of suffering, death, and poverty occurring in black communities at least across the United States. In short, the "post-black" movement is not sensitive enough to the many problems facing African American communities to really be taken seriously. And furthermore, in light of these rather stupid notions of a post-racial America, the term "post-black" seems to be too much in line with the idea of what one of the participants called a "beige" society--one wherein the different races no longer existed, and neither did the oppression(s) that came as a result. So much for post-blackness. And so much for Toure'.

But I beg to differ. Though Toure's text (aptly titled, Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?) is at times rather unsophisticated and childish in its prose and content (we don't say "the bomb" anymore, and although explorations of black stereotypes are quite important and necessary for our work here, I'm really not concerned with whether or not you think its cool to eat watermelon in front of white folks), he does take the time to point out that "we are in an... era where the number of ways of being Black is infinite." Being black--or rather, being "post-black"--does not mean abandoning one's sense of racial identity, disregarding one's blackness in order to be "beyond" it. Rather, it can--and I must emphasize can, because Toure's work has another fatal flaw, to which I'll get in a second--open up new discussions regarding what it really means to be black in a time when "black" folks are running on Tea Party tickets, a "black" woman is becoming the new token for the republican party, Michael Jordan reminds us that "republicans buy his shoes, too," and Jay-Z rubs shoulders with Warren Buffett. Being black our time has so many ways of being expressed that it becomes quite difficult to sustain that there is a "normative" or "authentic" way of being black. In our time, any attempts to "keep it real" will inevitably "go wrong," as Dave Chappelle would say. Blackness is multivalent; and I think it should be treated as such.

This is not to say that thinkers like Dr. Nelson do not acknowledge the diversity within the black community; to the contrary, they do. But even in saying this, it does seem that, more often than not certain expressions of blackness are privileged over others. To highlight certain forms of blackness over others--like our good Tea Party friends, whether we like how seemingly misguided (or incredibly lucid) they are or not--is to miss that which is smacking us in our face. Blackness is complex as hell; and this must be accounted for.

But there is, however, a problem with at least Toure's understanding of post-Blackness; it's too individualistic. In other words, I have no problem with the post-black movement highlighting the diversity within black communities. But to think that "if there are forty million blacks in the United States, then there are forty million ways to be black" is to, at least in my opinion, also miss the fact that this diversity is almost always flattened out by the dominant perspectives regarding race. In other words, just because we may not want to carry the burden of representing all black folks, unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we are forced to carry this burden each and every time we leave our homes, or interact with people who are not deemed "black." "Ain't nobody got time for that" has went viral as an embodiment of 21st century coonery, whether we call it this or not (I know white folks who will say its just funny, but, really, it isn't). Mia Love--the black female republican running for Senate--has gotten a lot of attention in recent times, largely because she seems to be the token black person of the republican party, and is thus able to dissuade any claims to the republicans being racist. She bears this burden whether she likes (or recognizes) it or not. It is precisely because we are stuck between diversity and sameness--between realizing how infinitely possible it is to be black while realizing that we are typically lumped into the same group according to others--that Toure's approach to post-blackness is troubling. What we need, then, is an understanding of blackness that is attentive to the fact that, while blacks may be listening more to Gotye and Adele, wearing skinny jeans and large-framed horn-rimmed glasses, and (re)turning to the republican party as a sufficient political position, when we step out of the house, our skin color often flattens our racial status into a generic "blackness" whether we like it or not (it was this generic blackness--this blackness that we all share, typically on the basis of our skin color--that rendered Trayvon Martin "suspect" and ultimately led to him being killed). We thus need to understand blackness as infinitely diverse AND often ridiculously the same.

Because of this, I am now opting to call myself (post-)black. I am not all the way "post-black," because I realize that I am, in some way, connected to the young man or woman in the inner-city suffering from poverty and crime. I realize that my blackness reminded me that, while the nation was "traumatized" by the SandyHook shooting, there were little black girls in Chicago realizing that they may not be here tomorrow (and, while my heart goes out to the family of Hadiya Pendleton, I don't really know how I feel about how the Obamas handled this in the public). I realize that I wanted George Zimmerman and the police department in Florida to rot in hell for what they did to Trayvon Martin. I realize that some part of me rooted for Chris Dorner in his attempt to point out what many blacks already knew about the LAPD, irrespective of how they painted Dorner in the media (though I don't agree with how Dorner handled the situation). I realize that there is a racial coding concerning gun control and mental illness in this country (it is really interesting to note that the question of mental illness has not surfaced in any sustained fashion--though there are reports--regarding Chris Dorner, but two white men, one of which planned his attack out, are understood as having mental issues). No, I'm not fully post-black, because to be so would certainly alienate me from those whom have become part of my community of concern.

But I'm not simply "black" either. Because I do recognize that my self-understanding does not always conform to what is typically understood as black. I love Daughtry's debut album. I don't understand myself as an "African first." I love Western philosophy, from Plato to Derrida. Sometimes, I roll my windows up when I'm in the hood. And speaking of the 'hood, I've never really experienced poverty or death in the ways that Ice Cube and Kendrick Lamar talk about it. Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite TV shows, and I've never been all that interested in BET or TVone. Tyler Perry often disgusts me (though it could be questionable whether his rather distorted depictions of black femininity, masculinity, and religiosity is actually beneficial to black communities), and some of my favorite movies are from the Nolan brothers. I love nice clothes, and will someday learn to speak French and German. In short, I am not simply a black man, concerned with the uplift of a specific understanding of (the) black community. I am a (post-)black man, concerned with acknowledging the complexity of the black community while giving all of my intellectual energy to helping it and other communities.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Frank Ocean's 2nd Label (not OFWGKTA)

Hello all,

I know it's been a while. But I'm back after a long hiatus. I've had some time to think and reflect about life over the past two weeks, and am learning to work a few things out. I got a day-planner, and am working out a bit more consistently. Although I'm still getting my eating habits together, I think I'll be good. I cannot continue to waste my potenial.

But on to less personal things. I've also been thinking about life a bit more generally. And after Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean came out this past week, I think there is a lot to think about and say. But be relieved; this is not one of my pro-gay rants, although I am admittedly totally for gay people doing what they do. (I do not like the whole "LGBTQ" label, for a few reasons, the main one being that it's too cumbersome and they make a new letter every year. So I just say gay.) No, what interests me about these two coming out is the way they came out. Cooper came out kind of nonchalantly (not that we didn't know anyway), but Ocean, as subtle and artistic as he was, came out with more of a bang. Maybe it's because he's black. Maybe it's because he's male. But Ocean's coming out seems to have a considerable impact on popular culture.
Ocean's acknowledgments and his coming out statement
If you don't know, black men who do not understand themselves as straight have it kinda tough in the black community. Obama's support of gay marriage apparently had people like Jamaal Harrison Bryant reeling about the bible's perception of sexuality. And this, some have concluded, contributes to what we call Down Low or "DL" men--those sexual predators who are secretly bisexual but live "heterosexual" lives. Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls makes this point exceptionally clear: if you're on the DL, you'll probably end up passing HIV onto your female partner because of your sexually predatory nature. Yep, the DL dude is like the devil of black relationships; he fucks everything up.

But I digress. I bring up the DL dude because, like I said earlier (and as I've said before), black folks don't do well with that gay shit. For whatever the reason, the black community-as a whole--has yet to warm up to those black folk who like people of the same sex.

This brings me back to Frankie-O and AC. Although both of them "came out" around the same time, the way they came out was quite different. Cooper, in a very nonchalant email, told his friend he was gay; Frank never said he was "gay." He simply said that his first true love was a guy. Maybe it's because he's black, or maybe it's because he's an artist, but the subtlety and care Ocean took to share something so personal requires that we take a step back.

AC embraced the label "gay"; and he'll take whatever consequences--positive and negative--come along with that. But for Ocean, this wasn't the case. He never labelled himself. He never said his orientation is fixed; and for this reason, I don't think he's gay. This is not to say that it's wrong to say that one is gay; but it is to say that I'm unsure that Frank Ocean is.

Frank Ocean's (now public) sexuality is interesting because, as he says, "I think we're a lot alike," trying to figure out this thing called life. But, I would argue, if we were really honest with ourselves, many of us might realize that we have even more in common with Frankie-O than we'd want to admit. You see, I think sexuality is on a spectrum; many of us, myself included, fall closer the poles of "totally straight" or "totally gay"; but, after having spoken to many people, I would say that there is a large group of people who fall somewhere in between. This group of people love who they love, and cannot help it; sometimes it's a woman, sometimes it a man. And it is these people--people I think Frank Ocean could identify with--that have no label. It's not that they have no label because labels are bad (although I think they ultimately are). No, they have no label because there is no label for them. They don't fit into a sexual box, the black and white of gay and straight. They cannot make a decision. They do not choose a side because they cannot choose a side.

Some of you may be thinking that such people are "bisexual," or as I've heard many people say, "greedy." I don't think this label fits because, if that's the case, even the "straightest" of us are bisexual. Whether--and this is especially the case in many African American communities--we feel it is appropriate to acknowledge it or not, men and women know what other attractive men and women look like. It's one of the reasons why men get jealous or compete with other men, or are able to say, "dang, how did he get her?" Even if we may not want to sleep with other members of the same sex, we can admit that people like George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt, and Barack Obama are some handsome people. And women should be able to acknowledge the beauty of people like Heidi Klum, Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, and Scarlett Johannson. My goal here is not to discuss the hottest people in hollywood; rather, it is to make the point that men and women have an idea what other attractive men and women look like.

No Frankie-O isn't gay in my estimation; neither is he straight, and neither is he bisexual. He's just... him. He, like so many of our friends and family members, can only love who he finds loveable. And if that so happens to be a man, then so be it. It could very well be a woman. Honestly, I think this labeling thing has gotten out of hand anyway. No one is every really 100% republican, democrat, straight, gay, black, or white; we subject ourselves to such labels because it allows for us to identify--or be identified--with a group of people who may or may not share something in common with us. But the minute we begin to make ontological claims about these labels--that being gay, straight, republican, democrat, etc. is the essence of who and what I am or we are--we've already lost at this game called life. Labels hinder, constrict, and distort us; they destroy our human capacities to acknowledge and incorporate difference in our own lives and the lives of others. And when we ontologically subscribe to them--make them essential, unchanging traits of our being--we've lost a significant amount of the stuff that makes us human. For we, like almost every other thing on this planet, change. And, seemingly unlike other things, we change rather quickly. So, instead of locking ourselves into a particular ontological, racial, sexual, or philosophical vacuum, let us do the best we can to acknowledge that these "labels" to which we all subscribe are just that and nothing more--labels. And, like the sticky labels that we remove from our tupperware or moving boxes or filing folders, each of these labels can be removed and changed, even if this removal only benefits ourselves.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Throwing Money at the Problem

Hello all,

I'm pretty sure what I'm about to say is going to offend some people, even though my intentions are not to do such a thing at all. The Karen Klein incident, wherein a 68 year-old woman was subjected to repeated threats and disgusting remarks by young boys on a school bus, has gone viral, and, for many people, has become the poster case for anti-bullying campaigns. Klein did not deserve such treatment; no one does. And, while people are still upset about parental violence in lieu of the Creflo Dollar case, I must say: those kids need their asses whooped.

But ass whoopings are not really the focus of this post. The focus of this post is the reaction to the video after it had gone viral. Money has been raised for Ms. Klein in the amount of upwards 500,000 dollars, and Southwest Airlines has offered her an all-expenses paid trip to Disneyland. A person was subjected to abuse; people have responded; and now we all feel good about helping out a fellow human being, right?

Wrong. In the midst of the horrendous treatment Klein suffered, we must still ask some very critical questions, and, again, I turn to my favorite philosopher Edmund Husserl to help out with these questions. We all live in what he calls a shared life-world, a world of meanings, norms, and mores that supposedly helps to make this world make sense to and liveable for us. As I said before, this life-world includes violence: in the case at hand, bullying has been part of this life-world for many children in public school systems. I myself was bullied as a child and as a teenager; and I'm sure millions of other men and women have suffered similar treatment. And, while our life-world prescribes that no one should ever be bullied, it happens again and again. Even though it shouldn't happen, it does. But somehow, millions of us manage to live somewhat healthy and productive lives, and no one raises one cent for us.

I want to be clear here: I am not whining (though many of you will inevitably think that I am), and I am not saying that we should do nothing about bullying. Bullying (which is a word that, if I say it too many more times here, will run its course) is a problem that needs to be responded to; we must do something about children abusing other people. But, as Eric Deggans points out, we're not really against bullying as a principle; it's only bullying in particular situations at particular times. For Deggan, we are outraged when people like Ms. Klein are recorded getting verbally abused; but when Simon Cowell or the Abby, the lady from Dance Moms, are doing similar things on television, we watch, not in outrage or disgust, but in order to be entertained. NeNe from Real Housewives of Atlanta is one of the most abrasive TV personalities I've seen in a while, but we continue to watch and comment as entertained viewers, not concerned human beings. And, for Simon, Abby, NeNe and other TV bullies, they receive large paychecks from the ratings their respective shows get from us--entertained, not concerned, viewers. Furthermore, some of the wealthiest people in the business world made (and continue to make) their millions from bullying tactics. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates did not make their money being sensitive to the needs of smaller companies and investors.

So, it seems to me that we're not really concerned about bullying as a society. We're not really upset and outraged about the act of bullying that occurred on that bus. Kids get bullied every day, and we do not raise craploads of money. We make commercials about it; we cheer when we see smaller kids retaliate to bigger bullies and win; but we don't send them on vacations. So, no, we're not outraged about bullying; we're outraged about who was bullied and how extreme the bullying was. Which makes sense; a woman like that should never find herself subjected to such treatment.

But, for me, raising 500,000 dollars would have been more helpful if it went to education about the problems of bullying and possibly toward the reorientation of mindsets concerning bullying as a principle, but it wasn't. It was put toward giving one person (a person who definitely deserved it) a vacation from the shit she endured; a vacation that, ultimately, she received from Southwest Airlines which, for me, amounts to little more than a publicity stunt. But the reality is, we all endure shit of the bullying type from our bosses and superiors, and throwing money at one person's problem does not solve the problem that we have all helped to cause, and continue to perpetuate. And so, while Ms. Klein and her family members lounge in Disneyland on a much needed and deserved vacation, children and adults across the country will still be subjected to similar treatment--treatment from which there is no vacation.