The Missing Solution
Salim Muwakkil's editorial does a good job of historicizing the
problem of police violence against black citizens as the precursor
to urban violence over the past century ("Cincinnati
Blues," May 28). But he forgot to mention something important.
In singling out causes, as well as in proposing solutions, the
Kerner Commission in the late '60s focused on the news media. Mainstream
news, the report said, had not done an adequate job of conveying
the misery of inner-city residents or helping the public to understand
racism. In addition, most reporters were found to be white and middle-class
with little understanding of urban conditions or contacts among
black leaders. Sources in news stories on race were found overwhelmingly
to be white male police and elected officials. Broadcast news, particularly,
showed angry and violent acts by blacks and other minorities but
failed to give minority spokespersons an opportunity to explain
why they were so angry.
The Kerner Commission recommended that newsrooms involve black
leaders and editors of black newspapers more actively as consultants
in defining issues, developing stories and in finding spokespersons
on a range of topics related to inner-city neighborhoods. As a long-range
strategy, the report suggested that schools of journalism should
recruit and educate minority reporters, and that newsrooms should
hire and promote them. Sadly, the journalism community has made
minimal progress in any of these areas.
Carolyn M. Byerly
Ithaca, New York
I was angered by Miranda Kennedy's misrepresentation of NOW
and the hard work that went into the April 22 march in Washington
or Never," May 28). First, the crowd was not just middle-class,
white women. I worked parking for the event and know that all types
of people attended the rally.
The visual that Kennedy drew of young, white women decorating the
lawn of the rally site and fanning themselves is ludicrous. People
were signing petitions, making signs and listening to speakers who,
like their audience, were also enraged at the Bush administration's
efforts to undermine choice.
Yes, the march was "carefully orchestrated." Activists from all
over the country, NOW members and nonmembers, put their everyday
lives on hold for two months to plan that action.
Kennedy inaccurately implied that NOW fully supported every decision
made under the Clinton administration dealing with women's rights.
Not so. Unlike the previous administration, however, the Bush administration
poses an enormous threat to women's lives.
NOW was aware of the other events going on that same day. Other
activists were fighting for human rights in other parts of the continent
simultaneously, but there was no collision of events. I know activists
who could not make the Quebec event and attended NOW's rally instead.
The last thing that pissed me off about Kennedy's article was the
conclusion: "Still, although many marchers in Washington were first-time
activists, many of them were also one-issue activists. Until that
changes, mainstream feminism isn't going to look like democracy
any more than Woodstock did."
The march was for a single issue--reproductive rights. If Kennedy
had ever participated in a movement she would know that it takes
both single-issue and multi-issue people and organizations to make
our voices heard.
Miranda Kennedy responds: By taking the NOW demonstration
to task, I was not undermining the importance of organizing for
reproductive rights or the work that NOW does. The rally was an
uplifting moment, proving there are thousands who will leave their
homes on a Sunday to show their intolerance for the new administration.
However, the rally was not only called to support reproductive
rights, as Richards suggests. The "Emergency Action for Women's
Lives" aimed to address a series of issues that affect women, according
to the organizers. But NOW's attempt to place the global gag rule
and mifepristone within the larger framework of a progressive crisis
seemed skin-deep to many there that day--partly because the Quebec
City anti-globalization protests were happening simultaneously.
Some activists were frustrated at having to choose between issues.
This is not just the fault of NOW; the problem stems from the
feminist movement itself. For too long, women of color and young
women have felt excluded from feminism. For too long, the feminist
movement has not genuinely allied itself with other struggles--against
poverty, police brutality, environmental racism and unfair working
conditions. As many NOW supporters are aware, fallout from corporate
globalization hits working women the hardest. Inclusion cannot be
superficial if feminism is to really become a multi-issue movement.
I appreciate Tracie McMillan's original and useful thoughts in
her review of my book, Her Way ("Generation
Sex," May 28). However, the critic wrongly describes me as an
"essentialist"--defining having sex without an emotional connection,
as essentially male and unnaturally female. I don't remember ever
saying that (or even thinking that). Instead, I point out that we
are socialized to view sexual permissiveness as a traditionally
male trait, and connecting sex with emotion or love as traditionally
In my conclusion I state that in the future women should not imitate
how men have been expected to act traditionally. We should not only
define "sexual liberation" in terms of disconnecting sex from emotion
(the major change in women of the past 30 years). But that a greater
(and just beginning) challenge of truly getting to "her way" means
broadening the possibilities, of women doing it on their own terms,
whatever they may be--virginal, permissive or somewhere in between.
This is neither an indictment of the gains of the sexual revolution,
nor a commentary about women's "natural" roles. While I report on
women's standard criticisms of the '70s sexual revolution, I also
recognize that it was a positive thing for many, kicking open the
door against centuries of painful repression.
Tracie McMillan responds: I concede that my analysis
of Kamen's book may have been worded too strongly with regards to
its tendency toward essentializing rhetoric. The frustrating thing
is that while the points Kamen raises in her response are intelligent
and important ones, I don't think they were carried through the
book consistently. But what concerns me far more than this discussion
of essentialist vs. nonessentialist was how exceedingly white and
bourgeois the entire book was. Like most of our generation, Kamen
appropriately noted that there are differences between women which
stem from race and class--and did very little to use that analysis
in a concrete way. To my mind, that is a far more troubling critique
than the one with which she takes issue above.