The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Today's My Birthday!

accept my little experiment and actually ask black women what they considered to be a greater obstacle in life: race or gender. REMEMBER, PLEASE: I’m not trying to prove that one or the other is a greater barrier. My position is that it isn’t really possible to determine the answer to that question, but that the group who could come CLOSEST to an answer would be black women (if you want to know whether a BMW or a Porsche is easier to maintain, wouldn’t the best group to ask be people who own, or have owned, both?)

At any rate, here’s Dan’s post:

"I've asked 4 black women the question about race v gender –

3 of them told me race was more difficult; one by a lot, two by a little. One black woman told me her gender had been more difficult for her, by a lot.

One bisexual latina I asked told me it was her gender, by a lot.__

Today I was in the lunch room at a client's down in El Segundo and found myself sitting with 16 working-class women who did telephone support -- so I polled them.

They were:__
- 7 black_
- - 4 white_
- - 4 latina_
- - 1 asian_
- _I got a total of six different responses to my poll –
- __Has your gender or race been more difficult for you, and by how much?
- __Race, a lot
- _Race, a little_
- Neither or not applicable
- _Gender, a little
- _Gender, a lot
- _Mind your own business
- __Adding in the four black friends and one Latina woman I'd asked, here's what I've got so far –
- __Black women - race by a lot – 4
- _Black women - race by a little – 2
- _Black women - not applicable – 1
- _Black women - mind your own business – 2
- _Black women - gender by a little – 1
- _Black women - gender by a lot – 1
- __White women - race by a lot – 0
- _White women - race by a little – 1
- _White women - not applicable – 0
- _White women - mind your own business – 0
- _White women - gender by a little – 1
- _White women - gender by a lot – 2
- __Latina women - race by a lot – 0
- _Latina women - race by a little – 1
- _Latina women - not applicable – 0
- _Latina women - mind your own business – 0
- _Latina women - gender by a little – 2
- _Latina women - gender by a lot – 2
- __Asian woman - mind your own business – 1
- __It's an interesting cross sample -- and meaningless, obviously. The only non-heterosexual in the study (as far as I know; I didn't have the temerity to ask the women in the call center) cites gender as worst, by a lot, and in her case I know why.
- __Out of 21 people only one person selected the neutral option -- a black woman. I wish I'd started with her, I might have changed the structure of these questions -- said, roughly that being black hadn't been a disadvantage, being female was sometimes a disadvantage and sometimes an advantage, and on balance it was all a wash: "Look, just being a person is hard."
- __It's too small a sample to be meaningful (and let's not discuss the awful way the data was gathered) -- but I do get more black women thinking being black is harder, and Latina and white women feel being female is harder. For what it's all worth with such a trivial sample size.__Sometime soon I'm going to try to get this poll up at Even that won't solve anything, all online polls suffer from self-selection, but it's an interesting set of numbers regardless. Maybe some smart person out there will do a real study.
- ##
- STEVE HERE. Thanks, Dan. I’m going to make a broad, rough statement. My guess is that the darker the skin color, the more likely someone will consider race to have been a greater problem. The lighter the color, the more likely gender will loom large. Make of that what you will.
And speaking of Vantage points...
Saw “Vantage Point” last night. Illogical, ridiculous, paper-thin and just a huge amount of fun. The assassination of an American president during an anti-terrorism conference is examined from multiple points of view, and each new perspective (the same five minutes is re-played about ten times) reveals new information. I heard it referred to as “an entire season of 24 condensed into two hours.” Not a bad description. If Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida, and Chloe O’Brien had popped up I wouldn’t have been surprised at all. A “B+” for those in an undiscriminating action movie mood. Regular movie goers, maybe a “B-“
I sure agree with everything said about decriminalization of Drugs. But did you notice that the general discussion revolved around two options:
a) Criminalizing drugs.
b) Giving up and selling them everywhere.

Kind of interesting. There are always more than two options to any problem, and when you only see two, that invariably says more about you than it does the situation. The third option that I like is to legalize any drug less toxic than alcohol or tobacco (which might well include Marijuana, Cocaine, and Heroin, but not Meth), and sell it in “Package” stores with heavy taxes. Invest ALL the profits in anti-drug campaigns and rehab clinics, modeling the most successful such programs. I believe the following cascade of effects might be expected:
1) Saving huge amounts of money in the law enforcement/prison system, which could be reinvested in the community.
2) Returning huge numbers of incarcerated drug users AND DEA agents to more socially beneficial functions.
3) By selling drugs at below street value, a major source of capital for street gangs dries up.
4) By pumping billions of dollars a year into anti-drug and rehab campaigns, the demand would dry up.
5) Central and South American drug cartels are reduced to ordinary agricultural concerns. Still profitable, but without the kind of money—or need—to corrupt American and Central American law officials.
6) Greater stabilization of those governments, and the ability to invest their anti-drug money in their own infrastructure might even lead to better working conditions, leading to a reduced negative pressure in, say, Mexico which contributes to the Illegal Alien problem. This may be wishful thinking on my part.
7) More honest and accurate information about the usage and dangers of drugs means less addiction and overdose.
8) The ability of organizations like DEA and DARE to speak honestly about the dangers of drugs—and the ways to use them which minimize those dangers (one of my favorite is the anti-marijuana propaganda quoting obscure reports suggesting that one marijuana cigarette is as likely to cause cancer as smoking a pack a day. Even if this b.s. was true, the obvious suggestion would be a vaporizer, or brownies. Duh.) would lead to greater overall respect for authority. When kids KNOW they’re being lied to (kids don’t smoke pot primarily because of peer pressure. They smoke it because they like the way it makes them feel. I’ve never heard a single anti-drug program state this simple truth.) they wonder what ELSE the adults are lying about.

I really that this would work. I also think that any politico who seriously advocated it would be killed immediately by those who stand to make billions and maintain higher levels of social control by keeping them illegal. It’s such crap. And has destroyed so many lives. And wasted so many billions for NOTHING.

And again, until you’ve been to a cocktail party fund-raiser for a “Just Say No” campaign, you haven’t experienced true surreality.
Today is my birthday! Fifty-Six years on this planet. Thanks for helping to make ‘em more interesting.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Steve!

May your life continue to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday -

Thanks for an always-interesting website.

--Paul Worthington

bak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bret said...

Hi Steve

Happy Birthday

Thank you for expressing you views

Shawn said...

Happy Birthday!

Looking forward to Millennicon in a couple weeks. Will the Tai Chi be something that rank amateurs can handle, or should I stay away?

Brian Dunbar said...

Happy birthday, many happy returns.

Your work has touched many lives - speaking only for myself the world is a better place for your having been in it.

asha vere said...

Happy Birthday! And best wishes for many more!

That study is interesting. In my life, I'd say problems related to race edge out gender, but just barely. Like, on a scale of 1 to 10, race would a be a 5.1 to gender's 4.9...

Pat Logan said...

Happy birthday, man. Hope the day went well.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday

I wish you well and that you keep on writing for many more years, because I really enjoy your books.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

Tai Chi is available to all. And thanks, folks, knowing that there are folks on the other side of my musings makes a difference.

Angie said...

Happy Birthday, even if I'm hitting the blog reader a bit late. :) And I agree absolutely re: the drugs. [sigh] I have to hope that some day our society will have a relatively sane attitude toward recreational drugs.


Josh Jasper said...

Happy Birthday!

Mike Ralls said...

Happy Birthday Steve! Your writings have definitely made a positive impact on my life.


mjholt said...

Happy Birthday, Steve!

Thank you for challenging our world.

I have spent the weekend at Potlatch in Seattle. This Potlatch honored Octavia Butler, who was a personal friend to me and many others who attend. Potlatch is a small convention that helps support Clarion West. Octavia died two years ago during Potlatch. We who knew her expected her to be there, then we learned of her fall and death.

Each Potlatch there is a "book of honor." This year it was Parable of the Sower. Nisi Shawl moderated. There were many comments that paralleled the questions you posed today.

The discussion of the book of course centered on Lauren Olamina, the heroine. One "conclusion" that came out of a discussion that involved many people on the panel and in the audience, was that Lauren Olamina planned to be a leader. She gathered the tools she needed to lead. She created a vision to guide her. She chose her people not by their utility but by their spirit. The forethought and deliberate course of action of her endeavour defined who she was and who she was becoming.

I mention this, because I was struck by the focus on past that the (self) definitions imply. In my own life I am thinking about the definitions that I apply to myself, and considering how much they limit me.

Your questions and this part of the discussion is important, but as Ted Sturgeon used to say, "ask the next question." What are you gathering so that you will be more -- a leader, a writer, a physician, who knows -- who you want to be?

Dan Moran said...

A belated happy birthday, old man. :-)

Frank said...

Hey Happy Birthday you old fart you.

And here I was under the impression you were younger than me but you got me beat by two years.

Don't matter, you're probably a lot younger than me physically.

Enjoy your day!

Anonymous said...

Happy belated Birthday, Steve. Your work, and this blog, have enriched my life.

Lynn said...

Happy (belated) Birthday. Sorry I missed it. Now I guess I'm caught. I don't read you every day. :-)

Anonymous said...

"That study is interesting. In my life, I'd say problems related to race edge out gender, but just barely. Like, on a scale of 1 to 10, race would a be a 5.1 to gender's 4.9..."

Or what if the racism score and the sexism score add up to more than 10? Sometimes it's hard to tell whether abuse is more racist or more sexist.

For example, I'm part, well, "Mediterranean." When I was 10 my face started growing hair like my mother's does, and some kids at school bullied me for it (and kept up the bullying after I learned how to remove the hair). At first I thought it was just sexism (since my parents told me I was white). When I was 11 I was confused about whether the bullying was sexist (since my brother didn't get bullied for his facial hair) or racist (since the trait seems to be rarer in girls who aren't Middle Eastern or Latina).

Now I realize African-American women and girls probably face similar (but much worse!) treatment, in addition to facing the same racism African-American men and boys face and the same sexism white women and girls face...