A very nice subscriber (Thank you Theresa Y) sent a fabulous short video my way, and I've selfishly been keeping it to myself, watching it at least once a day to get the juices flowing.  I slowly started sharing it with friends in the last week or so.

If you're familiar with The Avant/Garde Diaries, you probably know that what you're in for is not the expected. This unique install about two young musicians is filled with hope and inspiration.  To repeat the best comment about the work: "Malcolm Brickhouse and Jarad Dawkins are metalheads, and they don’t care what you think about that."

(My apology to subscribers and followers that have already seen this. You're ahead of the curve.)

Allow me to present easily the two coolest kids of this week (Video)



I've been haunted the last few days by a guest column I read on dallasnews.com earlier this week. The opinion piece, written by software engineer Alan Mi, outlines why he took part in a November protest at the local ABC-TV affiliate's offices in downtown Dallas. Mi explains in his column "Why Asians won’t just move on after genocide joke," that it was not right for the network to air a  children's segment from Oct. 16 on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live. The network has apologized for the broadcast.   (Deadline.com's report with full text of apology.)

In the skit, young children appeared on a panel with Kimmel as moderator to talk about the issues of the day.  Kimmel asked the panelists what to do about the money the United States owes China? A 6-year-old unscripted contributor suggested that America  "kill everyone in China."

Since the show aired, protests at  ABC-TV news sites have been held in Dallas, Los  Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and New York. "I joined a protest on Friday, Nov. 1, at the WFAA [-TV] site in downtown Dallas," Mi wrote. "I am just an ordinary Asian-American. I’m not an organizer; I’m not extreme in my views."

Mi's piece was the first I'd heard of the incident. After reading it I did online searches hoping to find a news story account. I didn't find much mainstream media coverage of protests or news stories about fallout from the show. The Associated Press through The Hollywood Reporter ran a story on the ABC apology, which according to the AP occurred Oct. 25, about two weeks after the airing. The apology came after protests and complaints erupted from the Asian American community and Asian organizations.

In the op-ed column, Mi calls the lack of an appropriate response on ABC's part a "massive insult" to the Asian community. Mi and others from the Chinese community have said that ABC's apology is not adequate. In the video of the segment posted on Deadline.com, Kimmel appears to be going along with the child's suggestion, causing Mi and others to conclude that it was more important for him to get the laughs. The late night comedian chuckled aloud in response to the youngster's proposal and responded with "that's an interesting idea."

Later in the discussion, after other children around the table suggested their ideas for solving the debt problem, Kimmel canvassed the panel:  "Should we allow the Chinese to live?" With conflicting responses, the kids continued to debate the topic until Kimmel wrapped up the session, suggesting a gummy bears break.

I've been reading the comments on the sites that have covered this incident from tabloids such as the New York Post to entertainment outlets.  Reactions have ranged from, the protest is "political correctness gone horribly wrong," to the other side , those that believe the airing goes too far.  Some that commented dismiss the matter altogether because it involves kids.

The problem I have with the controversy centers around the children. Lay aside the politics and economics of Big Business and government, and look at this squarely  on the basis of humanitarianism.  What should rattle everyone about this incident is that there were young impressionable minds in the mix. Yeah, kids can be adorably cute and brutally honest while saying inappropriate things (adults, too, for that matter), but a 6-year-old can't be held responsible for his actions in this context. Someone needed to be the grownup in the room.

I hope that ABC wishes it could take this episode back. The Jimmy Kimmel Live show despite the name airs on a delayed basis. In a responsible and reasonable world, this could have played out differently, particularly since the network has removed the video footage of the skit from its archives anyway. Nixing the segment in the moment and privately explaining to the young panelists why ethically it was the right thing to do could have led to an excellent teachable moment, as corny as that sounds.

We know as adults that genocide crosses the line and that debt and the global economy are challenging and daunting topics. But a kid can't reason the same way.  As playful as such kid segments seem, common sense has to prompt adults to resist heaping on already over-wired small children issues that are too confusing for them to understand and therefore out of reach in their overall development.

Here's another thought. I found the segment uncomfortable to watch and plain not funny, and I'm an easy target when it comes to kids entertainment. In his column, Alan Mi writes, "We cannot tolerate race-disparaging attitudes to get laughs. This is racism under the cloak of entertainment. It must be stopped."

I can't help thinking about the vintage show Kids Say the Darndest Things. TV's beloved Art Linkletter created the early reality spot in the 1960s where kids got to speak their minds on many topics. (Watch Bill Cosby's tribute to the iconic show.)  Linkletter had a nice touch. He understood that kids do say the darndest things. Think he also understood that when the prompting goes too far innocent people can get hurt.

Dear subscribers and followers,
If you visited the website over the last two days, pardon the interruption during the remodeling.  A recent ice storm forced me indoors and gave me the chance to spruce up the blog.  Your input and feedback have led to improvements that will enhance your experience here.  Namely, no more hunting for the "Subscribe" button (now, to the right of each page) and comments box (at the end of each post).
Being iced-in also enabled me to quiet the mind for more writing. Here's what's coming soon...
** As the world prepares for Sunday's farewell to Nelson Mandela, eRACE your isms  looks at the revered Mandela and two other late 20th century figures to study what it takes to become the face of a movement.
** Also, as the NFL regular season nears the end, I need readers to calm my rant about a storyline pertaining to tolerance.  No, I'm not talking about the before-preseason Riley Cooper n-word incident or the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito "bullying" drama.
** And, "You can touch it, now!" Another hair-raising epiphany. Or is it?



In memory and honor of one my most admired heroes, I'm sharing one of the many social network tributes distributed the day Nelson Mandela died.  The chosen salute, posted on Facebook  by a loyal subscriber to this blog, best speaks to and further inspires the mission of e RACE your isms.com.

Rest in peace,  great servant of humankind.

Last few words on Thanksgiving holiday food...Nice treat to have Stirring It Up With Molly Ivinshad my dear friend Ellen Sweets join in the conversation. Ellen was a foodie before the word became hip.  As a good friend and former newspaper colleague, I've sampled coming and going many of Ellen's specialties at her delicious tables and parties in Dallas. Ellen loves to celebrate food, and in a roaring tribute to her friend, political commentator and newspaper columnist Molly Ivins, Ellen wrote a cooking book about her food adventures as sous-chef to the late Texas legend.  If you've now recovered from Thursday's feast and are trolling for fresh food recipes along with very fresh attitude dishing on the side, or just plain need a fun read, Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins is  available on Amazon.com.


I'm prejudice, I admit.  I can't get past the look of the  oyster, chestnut, fresh bread or and any other versions.  Cornbread dressing upstages the bird on my family's table every Turkey Day.  In my book, my mother-in-law's  so hits the spot, I don't need the bird with it. blogthanks  The dressing, particularly in the Deep South, is so popular that Sam Sifton, author of Thanksgiving (How To Cook It Well), includes two versions in his well acclaimed work (available on Kindle for $1.99).  Though, I do take exception to his listing the obvious first-place cornbread recipe second to Fresh Bread.

This is a dish, bias aside, that is steeped in my upbringing and culture. Lore and my grands and greats say recipes resembling the tasty side date back  to slavery when poor black people made the most of the innards of the turkey left as scraps after the real feast had been prepared in the big house. Corn was plentiful , and the other main ingredients (onions, chives and celery) were grown in slave quarter gardens from leftover seedlings gathered by field workers during veggie planting time. My Grandmother Susie Thomas, the quintessential Creole cook,  first told me about cornbread and rice (aka "dirty rice") dressings, the latter a staple side at many Louisiana holiday gatherings. My two families have honored these sides at Thanksgiving and other holiday times through generations.

That's my story.  While  we come from an assortment of cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and have many food stories behind our family beginnings, the one thing we share  in this country this week is the celebration and customs of Thanksgiving Day.  In the spirit of sharing and giving,  I invite erace your isms visitors and readers all week to post their food traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Right about this time on that day 50 years ago,  the nuns at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School in Lake Charles, LA, headed by  Sr. Maria Petra, principal, shepherded us children from the school building across the playground area to the main church and ordered us to pray.

I was a young black school child, and I was a Catholic. When sister gave us the news we all began to cry , not because of our politics (we were too young to have such), but because of the dual connection to the man who was our president.  mamaeditNot only was he regarded in our community as someone sympathetic, he also shared our faith and religion.  On an even more personal level, though at the time I didn't have full appreciation, he was the first president my mother voted for.

Now he was gone.  Amid our tears we did what born Catholics upon the death of a dear one are taught to do as soon as we reach age 7, about the point that reason kicks in. We prayed for the repose of President John F. Kennedy's soul.

Never forgot the tears and praying.  Little more than 50 little black faces, as I recall, trembling voices reciting The Our Father, the Hail Mary, signing and ending with: "May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.  Amen."

I started out wanting this blog to be a "Politics-Free Zone".   It's a fantasy, though, to buy in to the notion that you can have conversation about race without politics seeping in, particularly given who currently occupies the White House.

Honestly, my request to those who are still complaining about the office's occupancy is, "Please, move on."  For the sake and saving of this generation and future ones? Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Presidency. Twice! Because there are many Americans still ill at-ease and still angry, politics sadly becomes very relevant in discussions about race and culture and isms.

There, it had to be said.

If you are a New York Times reader, you likely have seen the column this weekend by fellow journalist and Times columnist Charles M. Blow. Charles kept me sane with his brilliant commentary during last summer's circus of a murder trial in the death of Trayvon Martin. In his Nov. 15, 2013 piece "Disrespect, Race and Obama," Charles nails it in one of the more  thoughtful pieces to date on how race is at the core of what I refer to as "The Washington Problem."

I like it when passion and culture are fused, and that's why I want to give a shout-out to the Church Mothers in the Mississippi Delta and to University of Mississippi photojournalism professor Alysia Burton Steele. blog alysia

In the black Baptist community of much of the South, the church mother is the inspirational leader to young women in the congregation, comforter and counselor to all congregants at all times, organizer of church programs and an adviser to the pastor. It is the head pastor that selects the distinguished member to serve in the role. She may be asked to weigh in on church appointments and operations and always is a respected member of the general community. The time-honored position dates back to early 20th century, and often is a slot that faithful churchgoing women naturally evolve to. To preserve the rich legacy, the professor from Ole Miss has come up with a 21st century approach using an old-fashioned technique -- the art of talk.

For more than half a year, Alysia, a friend and former Dallas Morning News colleague, has spent countless amounts of her own dime and weekend time pursuing and documenting the stories of these women. Her project in progress, Jewels of the Delta, chronicles in beautiful black and white photography and melodic heart-to-heart audio the vibrant lives of 50 women known throughout the Delta for their directness, fortitude, beauty and sense of place in history. The grace through the emotional and sometimes witty conversation of the women, reverberate as they sit with Alysia for two or more hours at a time regaling her with their revealing tales of church life and beyond. With all due respect, the church mothers featured are authentic Drama Queens.

They remind Alysia of her grandmother, she told me in a recent telephone interview. That made talking to them easier. Though winning their trust took some doing. Without the help and coaxing of the pastor and very willing family members, she's sure many of her subjects would have turned her away. They guard their privacy, especially with strangers, Alysia explained. "It was interesting to see how their grandchildren got it. They so wanted to preserve their elder's legacy."

In a way,  Alysia is preserving her Grandmother Althenia Burton's legacy, too. Alysia, who was born in Harrisburg, PA  and is biracial, was raised by her black grandmother since age 3 . Her grandmother died unexpectedly before Alysia graduated from college, and like so many of us that have experienced the sudden death of someone close, Alysia lives with "If Onlys." She wishes she had more pictures, more videos, recordings of her grandmother's voice.

When the working journalist-turned-academic arrived fresh on the historic campus in Oxford last year, she had not spent much time in Mississippi. The region and life there brought back memories of her upbringing and that led her to her project. Her Presbyterian grandmother and Baptist great-grandmother were strict church ladies, and she learned a lot about what that means from them, she said.

Many of her students first year had had no exposure to the Delta region. She wanted them to learn photography and a sense of history. She included in their coursework the option to go on Saturday field trips to the Delta to shoot pictures. For more than a year, she and groups of students have been loading camera equipment and themselves in cars and traveling to the area. "There's so much to explore here. Many of my students have never seen or heard of the Delta.''

Almost every weekend, they schlep through the rural cotton country feasting on iconic images of nature and people and lifestyle during the day, and at dusk on the nightlife in historic Clarksdale, a Delta hub, featuring the renowned blues spot Ground Zero Blues Club, made even popular by its owner actor Morgan Freeman. The academy award-winning actor and his partners Clarksdale resident/businessman Bill Luckett and entertainment executive Howard Stovall opened Ground Zero to help preserve a part of Delta music history.

Alysia was inspired by the three men to push on with her project to publish the complete work and ultimately fund a traveling exhibit. Her target publication date is May 2014. She is about halfway through her 50 interviews and is not nearly talked out. "I love listening to these women. Telling their stories is such an honor.'' Turning again to her grandmother's memory, she added, "She wasn't thrilled that I was pursuing photography. She wanted me to pursue a field where I could make money. But, I think she would be pleased with my work.''

Check out a sample of Alysia's project, Jewels of the Delta.


It feels wrong using "trash" to refer to a human being. In public and private discourse there seems to be no moral dilemma with calling a certain segment of the population white trash?

In context, the phrase by definition is prejudicial.

Meaning from Merriam-Webster -- usually disparaging: a member of an inferior or underprivileged white social group

Its usage dates back to the first half of the 19th century based on annotations and documentation from writings, most notably slave narratives, personal memoirs (Ulysses S. Grant) and formal works of writing (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

Legend and literature speculate that the plantation house slave likely was first to use white trash to dismiss any attitudes of superiority on the part of whites that were not landowners. Stowe, believed to be pro-abolition, was the object of backlash for her 1852 book depicting the rigors of slavery and graphic mistreatment of black people. In her follow-up work, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the author devotes an entire chapter to “Poor White Trash.”

A friend and follower of this blog recently suggested exploring the label for eRACE your isms. My friend, who is white and had used the term in the past as a descriptive for a certain lifestyle and behavior, wondered about a double standard. My friend had specifically been taught not to use the n-word. Why had there not been parental guidance on use of white trash?

The conflict is a valid one. I wasn't familiar with the term in childhood. Guess my parents, like my friend’s parents, figured from the phrase itself restriction is more than obvious if you learn the Golden Rule. As an adult, I have inexcusably on occasion spoken the words in conversation. What’s interesting is that curiously I first encountered its use among other whites. Did that make it OK?

From history we learn that folk of color were not and are not above using pejoratives for whites. Just as white trash probably came from plantation slaves, African Americans at the height of the 1960s black power movement and black militancy also created other terms of dis-endearment for the group they regarded as the enemy. "Honky" and "whitey", to pick a couple more print-palatable ones. And before that, remember cracker? (Though we learned from the Trayvon Martin killing through trial testimony by his friend Rachel Jeantel that "cracker" as a hate label has evolved and may not be a race-specific pejorative among black millennials.)

Throughout history, Americans have been very good at slurring their own. Along with the 19th and 20th centuries’ immigration wave of hyphenated Americans came rivaling and jockeying for ethnic hierarchy that resulted in name-calling. I was introduced to this practice in my early 20s when a first-generation Italian-American friend in Washington told a joke using the W-word. When I looked at her with puzzlement, realizing my innocence she explained how the word was common among her people and gave me examples of how Irish and Jews and others had similar words. “Do I repeat these words, or is it exclusively theirs?” I had asked myself.

In 2013, I suspect more than in any other period since its usage, whites that "fit" the definition of white trash proudly embrace it. The surge in acceptance of reality TV stars Honey Boo-Boo and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, and show brands such as TLC’s Jersey Shore and A&E’s Duck Dynasty prove there is plenty of reverence or irreverence, depending on your worldview.

White trash celebrity ratings and their accompanying shows' numbers are through the roof. In real reality, stars and programs are beyond mere fodder for water cooler chat or a passing fad. Fans of phenoms Snooki and Honey Boo-Boo cross demographics. To the devoted both are legitimate iconic figures. (Snooki has close to 6.5 million Twitter followers.)

That’s television entertainment. In the printed medium and online, there's plenty of w-trash love to go around. Last week, in time for this post, author-commentator Charlotte Hays blog white trash(1) released her new humor title: When Did White Trash Become The New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question. blog white trash(1)Ms. Hays’ new laugh-out-loud book details the many ways white trash is not only pop culture but a lifestyle and state of mind embraced by poor and working class whites and multimillionaires too. (Read my review of her book.)

SO amid the just-published book and the culture's commercialization of white trash, I wrestle with the morality angle. Google white trash or type in the phrase at Amazon.com, and it is astounding. In the hunt are thousands of books alone (works include use of the phrase in title or texts and include revered literature such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.) Online search results include cookbooks, etiquette guides, how-to craft titles, romance, adult, joke and gardening selections. The general merchandise search also turns up practical items such as diaper pails and white (colored) trash cans.

While Ms. Hays' book, TV shows and related merchandising are sources of bemusement for the masses, and lively topics for entertainment and consumer writers, as well as other bloggers, I wonder if all this white noise is purely about smart economics. Find a captive audience, promote, and sell, sell, sell.

If money is motivation behind pejorative pride, it makes sense that the African American millennial and Gen X entrepreneur,poet, rapper, and artist, among others, argue for free speech and feel justified in using the same strategy/model to lay to rest n-word stigma. Isn't it doublespeak, if not hypocrisy, to be willing to bolster the case for the Hollywood and Madison Avenue marketing genius behind white trash, yet harshly judge commercializing efforts for creative use of the n-word?

I’m bothered by the conflating and conflicting ethos of what should be a glaring cultural no-no. Meanwhile on the business side of white trash already deep pockets grow deeper, and the money managers laugh all the way to the bank.

Readers may remember my audio interview late summer with Nate (n-word, the flip side), and how he struggles with what's the big deal?

I recently contacted Nate, 28, for his views on white trash. He’s now a first-time Dad to newborn, Ava. blog nateAs readers that listened to my previous conversation with Nate might guess, Nate’s reaction was low-key. "Sure, I've heard people call themselves trailer park trash...Yes, I figure they are proud of it.

“I understand the pure ugliness behind n-word.” Nate continues to explain how he also understands the business and ethical motive driving black entrepreneurs "to put it out there. Why not? Whites came up with that word to make my ancestors feel like less than human beings. The word trash is not there. It's hidden. Which is worse.” When I asked Nate if "white trash" should be off-limits for blacks and others the same way n-word should be banned for whites, he was on the fence.  "People should make their own choices. Based on their own conscience."