E.J. Graff

Why Hasn’t George Zimmerman Been Arrested Yet?

(AP Photo)
I have a new email correspondent—let’s call him “Joe,” because he doesn’t want to be named—who has suggested to me that the media storm about Trayvon is more than a little out of control. Joe writes: why isn’t there coverage to how many more young black men die at the hands of other black men? Why isn’t there a national uproar when black men murder white men? (He’s sent me clippings of a trial in one such Florida murder.) I’ve gotten hate mail, too, but from the exchanges we’ve had, my sense is that Joe’s different; he’s seriously trying to have a conversation. So let me say this: what’s deeply upsetting to me is that, more than a month after a teenage boy was killed while walking home with Skittles, George Zimmerman has not even been arrested. Listen, I don’t know what happened in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26. I know I’m responding to Charles M. Blow’s columns, and to the stories that I know of black men being treated as dangerous simply because they’re black , and...

Poetry As More Than Pretty Words

When a great feminist poet dies—a poet powerful enough to have left her mark in the minds of several generations of young women and men, powerful enough to have her obituary on the front page of the New York Times ’ website—who do you want to write the obituary? Why, another feminist poet, of course, one whose work is also shaping the minds, etc. So don’t miss Katha Pollitt, in The New Yorker , examining Adrienne Rich’s place in poetry and the 20th century, and poetry’s shifting place in the nation. Some of the highlights: The death of Adrienne Rich marks not only the end of a long and transcendent literary career—thirty books of poetry and prose, prizes beyond counting—but the end of a kind of poetry that mattered in the world beyond poetry… . Rich’s career reminds us that poetry can be more than aesthetic, more than lyrics of personal feeling—although she wrote many beautiful lyrics. It can engage with the biggest issues of its day and speak to a large and passionate readership. Do...

How Do You Remember Adrienne Rich?

(AP Photo / Charles Knoblock)
On my Facebook page, I asked friends to post excerpts by which they would remember Adrienne Rich. Here they are: From Martha Barnette, of A Way With Words, from an essay called “ Invisibility in Academe ”: ‎"When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female, or speak with a different accent or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.” From Jennifer Einhorn, a poem called “Delta”: If you have taken this rubble for my past raking through it for fragments you could sell know that I long ago moved on deeper into the heard of the matter If you think you can grasp me, think again: my story flows in more than one direction a delta springing from the riverbed with its five fingers spread From Judith Mosley, formerly a...

Good Night to Adrienne Rich

(Flickr/K Kendall)
She was fierce. Once, when I was a shy young poet-hopeful who wrote for the feminist and gay press, I met her. I worried when she said she was following my writing (did I mention I was shy? and young?), because I couldn’t imagine anyone so august reading my work except to critique it. I preferred to follow her at a safe distance, through her writing, with their searing instructions to be awake, true, and relentless in observing the world honestly. It hardly needs to be said, but I need to say it: She inspired my generation of young female writers and young political lesbians. Reading her work aloud to each other filled us with hope and purpose. She wrote, somewhere, that we should read the poet Muriel Rukeyser: we did. When I locked myself in my office to write, four hours a day, as I did during my twenties and thirties, I often started by reading aloud and then memorizing some of her lines. Even now, they float up in my head sometimes, illuminating a moment: The accidents happen, we’...

Son, You Could Be Trayvon

I’m furious that Trayvon Martin is getting blamed for his own murder. If smoking pot in high school were an executable offense, as the Miami Herald seems to suggest, we would cut the U.S. population by about a third. Add tardiness to the list—again, as the Miami Herald seems to be doing—and I believe we could eliminate Social Security entirely. How was a young man shot and killed and the man who did it still hasn’t been arrested or charged? Does anyone believe for a minute that if things were reversed—if Trayvon Martin had shot George Zimmerman—that Martin would be walking around free? (By the way, don’t miss Charles Blow grilling Joe Oliver, George Zimmerman’s acquaintance, on MSNBC; he starts about 8:33 minutes in.) Why, with someone dead, with the evidence of Zimmerman’s past vigilantism and domestic-violence charges and arrests and anger-management courses, with those horrifying 911 tapes, and all the rest, why is the man still walking around free? Look, Zimmerman may not be...

Friday Miscellany

With Passover approaching, it’s time to ask the White House: which haggadah will you use? #Obama #MaxwellHouse Speaking of which, my father had a theory that so many Jews are intellectually limber because they learn Hebrew—an extremely foreign language for English speakers—at such a young age. I wish I could call him up (how stupid he was to die !) and tell him he might be right , according to the neurologists: Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age. Harvard Business Review asks: Are women better leaders than men ? Better leadership or not, being a woman is costly . Just don’t do it. Preventing sexual assault: There’s an app for that! And it looks kinda cool.

The Hoodie

(Flickr/Manic Street Preacher)
You may have already been outraged to hear that Geraldo is blaming the hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s death. Of course he’s wrong. Short skirts don’t rape women; men rape women. Hoodies don’t shoot Skittles-toting teenagers; overzealous neighborhood watch guys shoot teenagers. The blame lies squarely with the rapist or killer, not the victim. And it lies with the racism that keeps getting passed on through our culture, just below the radar. I am regularly appalled when, on family movie night, we watch some children’s movie that friends recommended—and realize that the only African Americans are the bad guys. It makes me sick to my stomach. That instills fear in too many brains and shame in my son’s heart , all about his skin. But watch Geraldo all the way through. He didn’t say that it’s right. He didn’t blame Trayvon Martin for his own death. He gives an impassioned diatribe about what he told his own son, whom he describes as darker-skinned: Do not go outside wearing hoodies. When you...

Time for Lessons on “Living While Black”

(Flickr/Ruddington Photos)
Two days ago, I wrote about Trayvon Martin’s killing and my fears for my own little guy. I’ve been reading about it obsessively, as I suspect many people have been. Adam Weinstein’s explainer at Mother Jones has my go-to stop for the latest developments. Sally Kohn has a good summary of the implicit bias research here . There’s been the news that the Sanford, Florida police chief might lose his job . Of course, there’s been the “ Million Hoodie March ,” and more protests are planned in other cities. Here’s the piece, though, that wrecked me, and which I’ve printed out for my own reference: one mother’s explanation of what she tries to teach her 12-year-old son to keep him from being shot. As she explains: It’s tough finding the balance between encouraging a black boy to storm the world with confidence and at the same time to fear for his life. But that’s what I must do. I know that at this very moment some have just sucked their teeth in disgusted disbelief and decided that I’m...

Is the Blunt Amendment a Wedge to Bring Down ACA?

You’ve been reading me go on and on. Now you get to see for yourself exactly how much fun I have talking about the contraception wars, et al. Sarah Posner had me on her Bloggingheads.tv show, which was posted last night. This particular excerpt starts close to the end, but if you want more of our chat, go ahead and start it at the beginning . Oh, and if you want to bring me to speak at your campus, church, or other forum, lemme know!

More on Tyler Clementi

(AP Photo)
Richard Kim at The Nation has the smartest take on the conviction that I’ve seen, combing carefully through the evidence and thinking about the conclusions. Please do pop over and read it (and then come back here, of course!). Some excerpts: The cell phone and social media evidence … suggests a more complicated picture than the initial caricature of Ravi as a cyber-armed, homophobic bully…. Ravi expresses horror when he discovers online that his new roommate is gay (“FUCK MY LIFE/He’s gay”), but he later texts “I don’t care” and characterizes Clementi as “gay but regular gay”—a term he also used to refer to the month of January (“what a gay month”)…. Clementi, for his part, expresses some alarm that his new roommate’s parents are “soo Indian first gen americanish” and so “defs owna dunkin’ [donuts].” Had the roles been reversed, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which that text would be used in court as evidence of Clementi’s racism…. There are all too many cases of gay...

Walking While Black

AP File Photo
I’m sick to my stomach about the Trayvon Martin shooting that Jamelle Bouie mentioned here yesterday. Over the weekend, Charles Blow at The New York Times (once again, my favorite columnist) wrote : Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local 7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle. Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked “real suspicious,” according to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy. Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun…. One other point: Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not. Trayvon was buried on March 3. Zimmerman is still free and has not been arrested or charged with a crime…. As the...

Who Killed Tyler Clementi?

(AP Photo/John Munson)
(AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, John O'Boyle, Pool) Dharun Ravi waits for a judge to explain the law to a jury before jurors begin deliberating. Friday, Ravi was convicted of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, having an intimate encounter with another man. Days later, Clementi committed suicide. In September 2010, Rutgers student Dharun Ravi used a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man (he didn’t tape him or broadcast him; he just took a few quick peeps and tweeted about it, according to in-depth reporting by Ian Parker at The New Yorker ). Three days later,* that roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped off a bridge to his death. On Friday, a New Jersey jury convicted Ravi of 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. Some of the charges carry possible sentences of ten years in prison. Because Ravi was born in India and arrived in the United States at the age of two, he could also be deported to a country he scarcely knows. Like many...

Encyclopedia of Silly Walks

(Flickr/Todd Mecklam)
Here’s a little something to enjoy, posted in honor of the final print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Silver Lining for the Ladies

Women protesting at White House in 1917
Tigger and Eeyore are battling it out inside me this week. I can’t tell whether to be depressed over what Maureen Dowd calls “the attempt by Republican men to wrestle American women back into chastity belts” or invigorated by the myriad ways women are chronicling it and fighting back. Are women really gonna get dragged back to the scarlet-letter era—why not just repeal the 19th amendment!—or is all this going to set off a revitalized third feminist wave? Eeyore: In a surreal move, the Arizona Legislature’s Senate Judiciary committee has introduced a bill that would: … permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment. If she’s slutty enough to be using it to have sex, well, no coverage for her! Tigger: Hey, at least it’s time to stop being ambivalent about the SlutWalks ! It sure has become clear that that particular eruption of take-back-the-word feminist...