Bethanee Epifani: When Looks Can Kill a Whole Vibe: An Excerpt from Don’t Fall Prey!

When it comes to romantic interests, this idea of ‘perfection’ is based heavily on appearance…we are flooded with images…Whether it’s advertisements on billboards or magazines, music videos, or social media, these images are everywhere and dictate beauty standards.

I remember a few years ago, my best guy friend was dating a new girl, and he had brought her to my birthday dinner where we met each other for the first time. My friend told me that he found the girl to be attractive, however, a few of his guy friends didn’t think she was that attractive. He wanted to know what I thought. She had a cute, short haircut and pretty brown skin.

I told him I thought she was very attractive. However, my seal of approval didn’t seem to be enough for him, and he was in doubt. I was annoyed by my friend, whom I had always believed to be an independent thinker…[he] didn’t want his male buddies’ opinion on whether or not she was kind, smart, or ambitious; he just wanted to know whether or not he had gotten the “hot girl” that would provide the envy of other men. I was disappointed, because I thought he had more depth than that.

The pressure is, and has always been, on women to alter their appearance to suit a man’s desires and preference rather than her own. They feel they have to fit in with the trend or else they get overlooked.

This dire need for male approval, coupled with the fear of being seen as un-beautiful, plus the damaging, unrealistic media comparisons is what drives women to change their appearance and develop low self-esteem and body dysmorphia disorder (BDD).

We need to teach women that their value is not in their appearance, but that their value–and real beauty–lies in the intelligence, knowledge, skills and love that they can bring to a relationship.

Bethanee Epifani’s Don’t Fall Prey! is a collection of personal dating lessons, stories, observations, and suggestions aimed at reminding women of their power, their value, and their beauty. The intention of this book is to promote introspection and clarity on how to tailor one’s dating life into a more positive, and healthy experience. While Don’t Fall Prey! is told from a woman’s perspective, it does not mean men cannot gain something beneficial as well. All are welcome to read, learn, and grow. Available for purchase on Amazon & bethaneeepifani.com.

B.E.

Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California (2010)

The first time we analyzed an election in California was in 2017, when we reviewed data from a Special Election in Los Angeles. Data for that election showed a yawning gap between the voting rates for white and non-white voters; at the close of the special election, in a city where less than 50% of the population identified as white, over 64% of mail-in ballots turned in belonged to white voters. As we noted in that article:

“Although non-white registered voters make for a combined total of 52% of votes eligible to be cast in L.A., post-election day, only 36% of ballots turned in belonged to non-white voters.”

As it turns out, the rate of return for that Special Election in L.A. was not an anomaly, or some new and strange phenomenon, but actually consistent with the history of voting in ‘liberal’ California as a whole.

In Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California, Daniel HoSang takes an analysis of California’s voting patterns one step further, exploring the way the predominantly white electorate of the state has voted negatively or against a handful of ballot issues dealing closely with racial or progressive issues in the state during a sixty year period from just after 1945 to the early 2000s.

And why should we care about a handful of ‘old’ voting issues in California? HoSang explains that ballot measures are especially useful for thinking about the state’s role in the inequalities found between its housing, public schools, healthcare, employment and other areas ‘separating’ people of color from wealthier whites due to the way that voting publicizes a particular type of conversation on these issues:

“Ballot measures…especially those that receive widespread public attention, create public spectacles where competing political interests necessarily seek to shape public consciousness and meaning.”

Put another way: materials like campaign rhetoric, opinion articles, television commercials and other instruments which are used to support the passage of certain ballot issues, or used to defeat them, show that campaign or policy battles don’t ‘just express’ the will of an electorate, but even go as far as to create and develop certain ideals about what the state of California is, who California is, and who it belongs to.

“Because the instruments of direct democracy by definition are intended to advance the will of “the people,”…organized groups and interests must always make their claim in populist rather than partisan terms, thereby defining the very meaning of the common good.”

In other words, for HoSang, as anyone familiar with the 2016 Presidential Election should be able to recall, voting issues have a very particular–at times even “nasty”–way of telling voters about “who we are,” what our values are–or what they should be–and how we should act on such values with our votes.

HoSang further contends that the “sensibilities” or logic which the voting issues of Racial Propositions make their appeals to are voters’ “political whiteness.” The phrase “political whiteness” has layered meanings, but essentially, throughout his book it means a degree of privilege and status for white voters that’s not only maintained but also expounded on by voting issues.

From the outset, HoSang claims that “whiteness” in the United States isn’t simply a “fixed” identity, where if you’re white, you view yourself as such in a “static” or “unchanging” way; instead, he argues, “whiteness” is highly impressionable, or capable of transforming due to external factors like advertising, propagandizing, and finally, voting.

As HoSang takes readers through the first dozen or so pages of Racial Propositions, then, rather than simply restating the term, the author arrests and interrogates scores of materials left by different voting issues in California. The campaigns for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, or the effort to Desegregate Public Schools in California are just a few of the voting issues he discusses, in which he exposes the logic of “political whiteness” at play in efforts by organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Realtors Association (CREA), the Parents Associations and other groups that come together to defeat policies aimed at “leveling the playing field” between white and non-white people in the Golden State.

That’s right. Did you know that in 1946, voters in California decided against protections for workers facing discrimination in hiring? Or, did you know that in 1964, voters in California decided against protections for non-white residents looking for a home in the state? Did you know that in 1979, California voters decided against racial integration at our schools when they canceled the state’s busing program?

In Los Angeles alone, a mass of white parents voted by a margin of 73% to put an end to school busing in the city, which was only instituted in 1977 and thus not even off the ground yet.

The vote against desegregating schools was passed through an ordinance known as Proposition 1, and put an end to “mandatory” busing in 1980 (which, of course, was just a few years before my parents would arrive from Latin-America alongside many other Central-American and Asian people. Can anyone say, awkward?).

On the issue of school integration, HoSang points out that it wasn’t easy placing an end to a program whose stated goal was the integration of the races in the state’s public classrooms in accordance with Brown vs Board of Education; the formula to defeat integration required a sophisticated deployment of a language of “racial innocence,” which sought to ‘pass the buck’ or responsibility for “fixing” racism onto the desks of the state and away from the homes of ‘innocent’ [white] parents:

“[Supporters of Proposition 1] held that because white parents and students did not intentionally create the second-class schools to which most racial minorities were consigned nor explicitly support segregated schools as a matter of principle, they could not be compelled to participate in the schools’ improvement.”

In other words, in the same way that today the Trump administration likes to argue that the refugee crisis in Central-America should be some other state’s–perhaps Mexico’s–problem, opponents of the school-busing program in late seventies California argued that mixing their white children with Black and Brown kids was unfairly burdening them with a job that was supposed to be the state or federal government’s to do. That is, whenever the state or federal government would get to it. Perhaps never, even, but the point being the same: it was not the parents’ responsibility to account for or address inequality at public schools. They were “the innocent ones.”

But the gift of Racial Propositions is that no matter what the reader may make of the author’s argument on political whiteness, the book is an exhilarating page-turner for anyone interested in a political history of “The Golden State.” This is due in no small part to HoSang’s unsparingly sharp, saber-like writing skills. For his part, the author recognizes none other than James Baldwin as a key influence on his analytical framework:

“Whiteness was for Baldwin “absolutely, a moral choice,” an identity derived from and constructed through a set of political convictions. It was by inhabiting a particular political subjectivity—one that rested upon a series of destructive assumptions—that one became white. To embrace the myth of whiteness, he argued, was to ‘believe, as no child believes, in the dream of safety’; that one could insist on an inalienable and permanent protection from vulnerability.”

By the closing pages of Racial Propositions, HoSang’s analysis also makes clear why our political discussions today need to abate a conception of ‘liberal’ California which still dominates the vox populi leading up to 2020: that because California is already a “minority majority” state, it offers a glimpse into the “progressive” future of America, since the U.S.’s “browning” is asumed to lead towards ‘liberalizing’ it.

HoSang notes that if such “majority minority” or “browning” scenarios are the last frontiers for the hope of liberalism, which became the case in California nearly two decades ago, than they better take a closer look at the numbers:

“…in 2000, as California became the first large “majority minority” state in the nation, white voters still constituted 72 percent of the electorate.”

And so, as one blogger put it to his fellow readers and historians following another election where that same “majority minority” was hardly seen during election day:

“The current disparities throughout California between white voter rates and those of people of color when considering the larger voter eligibility pool of the latter is not just unfortunate, it’s something of a public safety concern.”

So let’s get on it, Los Angeles. Find and read Daniel HoSang’s book, which has full approval from The L.A. Storyteller.

J.T.

War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980)

In the days since an ebullient Back 2 School 2 Party, I’ve had the privilege to rest and restore myself from the frenzy of so much organizing. One of the key activities in this “decompressing” process has been getting back to los beloved libros. In an effort to spread the joy of reading, then, here is another brief book review, this time on a little-known story by a major organizer in American history: Huey P. Newton’s War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980).

I can only imagine how demoralizing it was for Mr. Newton to describe the harrowing experience that led to the publication of this work, which describes how in less than ten (10) years his entire life was uprooted, distorted and destroyed by a branch of government whose authority was never approved by Congressional Hearing (see FBI), but which would nevertheless work “behind the scenes” to eradicate the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) efforts to free Black and other minorities from the second-class citizenship over a hundred (100) years after the Reconstruction period that followed the US Civil War (1861-1865). As Mr. Newton points out in the opening pages of his analysis:

“By 1966, the United States had experienced a recent series of disruptions in several of its major urban Black population centers—Harlem, Watts, Chicago and Detroit. Numerous organizations and leaders representing groups of Black people—e.g., SCLC (Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Black Muslims (Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X), CORE (James Farmer), NAACP (Roy Wilkins)—had repeatedly articulated the causes of these riots or urban rebellions: high unemployment, bad housing, police brutality, poor health care, and inferior educational opportunities.”

That same year, the Party would be founded in Oakland, California. It wouldn’t last more than 14 years. But during its lifespan, the BPP served as a “vanguard,” to borrow one of Newton’s terms, which would not only extend the spirit of Black Liberation Theory passed down from the blood and ashes of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., but which would “evolve” that spirit to meet the needs of a new “postmodern” world dawning after the “radical sixties” era in the United States. A world which would nearly leave the Black community and other minorities completely behind, if not for the revolutionary spirit and action of thinkers like Mr. Newton, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, and other major intellectual and social figures of the times.

To be sure, War Against the Panthers is not a “tell-all” expose of the BPP and its legacy, but it’s a close and fact-based look at the methods of infiltration used by institutions such as the FBI, CIA and even the IRS and others, which set out to destroy the party’s Breakfast and other ‘Survival’ programs in Oakland, Chicago, New York and many more major cities across the U.S. For this same reason the dissertation is a very brief read containing a handful of facts, figures, and memorandums obtained through litigation by attorneys for the Panthers in cases against the FBI and its counterparts for violating the Panthers’ rights to privacy, freedom of speech, and other political freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2019, “privacy” and the right to privacy is a word and phrase I read mostly when articles are referring to the internet, and more specifically, when they’re referring to which companies are spying on Americans’s phones and web browsers (virtually all of them, though one might ask: does it still count as spying if we clicked “yes” in the disclosure agreement?).

Yet Newton’s dissertation is an example of just what kind of actions can be taken against any American when the major power players deem them a “threat to national security,” or even just expendable or collateral damage. The analysis is therefore also instructive in the matter about why ‘[the] people’s’ rights are still worth defending; the issues of privacy and the right to organize oneself privately, politically or otherwise are not just legislative or “abstract” issues, but truly personal ones affecting every American today. As Mr. Newton points out, if even just one power player can deploy their leverage against any one group or person to destroy the rights of their citizenship, then it follows that all power players are given permission to misuse their leverage against all [the] people:

“…governmental efforts at destruction of the Party, successful in varying degrees, were only thwarted or held in abeyance when they reached their logical consequence: destruction of the right of dissent for all groups, a right indispensable to the functioning of a democratic society.”

I salute Mr. Newton and his comrades for their invaluable bravery in living, breathing, and exposing this parable. At least for JIMBO TIMES, the people will know: these are legends not far at all removed from our time. The text is free online for any one to read, and has full approval from The L.A. Storyteller.

J.T.