Letters from the Issue of April 22, 2004

Haiti of yore, more obsessions, posterior postmortems, and the S word

The day we saw the artwork covered up, our son was practically in tears. "Aw, poor Super Booty."

Max Borges

Miami

Erin Was Saintly

And I witnessed her righteous power: I write in defense of the Biscayne Boulevard beauty Erin, and in praise of the power of her prodigious posterior, her titanic tuchus, her bountiful booty. I never had the privilege of seeing her buttocks beckon to the weary traveler and the traffic-bound, but as a visitor during Holy Week, I can testify to her resurrection on Ocean Drive. For it was there that I witnessed an epiphany, as the sight of Erin on the New Times cover becalmed a small child who was intent on violence.

The boy, perhaps three or four years old, was wielding a palm frond, one that was dry enough to thrust and parry, yet not so brittle as to break. Despite the imploring of his mother, the child swung his weapon back and forth, poking his sister and menacing all those pilgrims who were drawn to the light from the neon-lit Art Deco temples. But all at once he dropped his sword, stopped in his tracks, and was stricken still by the vision of Erin glowing from a New Times newsrack. With a beatific smile, he pointed and said, "Ooooooohhhh!" Perhaps he was unconsciously mimicking the "Uhhhhhhhhhh!" of his elders, but I prefer to think he was speaking in tongues.

I pray that Erin's tormentors soon see the error of their ways. She should be honored as a sainted symbol for Miami and the beaches, much like the French venerate Marianne, the bare-breasted embodiment of their republic. For Erin and her nether regions represent all that is good and true and pure in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Liberty! Fertility! Derrier!

Sonny Goldreich

Silver Spring, Maryland

Simulated Sex:

It's Not Just for Kids

What's next -- "mature fans" and "Britney Spears" in the same sentence? I really disagree with Juan Carlos Rodriguez's article about Britney Spears ("Porn for Kids," April 8). I honestly don't believe Britney did her show in a very sexual way for little kids to watch. She shouldn't have to stay a squeaky-clean performer just because people want her to be a role model for their children. I also believe parents should have known what her live show was going to be like; prior to the concert tour, there was a special on MTV and other channels about its content.

Britney should not be blamed or belittled. She is doing what she thinks her older and more mature fans -- like me -- would enjoy. So leave her alone.

Brandon Harrison

North Miami

None Dare Call It Slavery

At least not these days, and for good reason: By the time I finished reading the third paragraph of Carlos Suarez de Jesus's article on "Miami's Hidden Past" (April 1), I knew I had to contact the author to commend him on a very skillful piece of writing. His inspired effort is all the more commendable for bringing to light a very important part of Miami's history: its very beginnings as a modern-era settlement and the circumstances in which it was established, not to mention the dedicated efforts of artist Willie Keddell and his Troy Community Academy students.

Regarding the language by which we seek to understand that chapter of our history known as slavery, a process of reexamination has been under way for at least two decades, gradually spreading beyond academic and activist circles, but not yet having reached our schools, news media, and popular culture. The bottom line is this: The word "slaves" is no longer cool, because by using it we buy into the paradigm that says these were nonpersons who could in fact be "owned" and to whom nothing could be owed.

By referring to these individuals instead as enslaved Africans, enslaved laborers, or African captives, we recognize their humanity and implicitly acknowledge that their enslavement was an arbitrary or temporary (in historical terms) circumstance. This fine point is not trivial in its impact or consequences: If we buy into the old language paradigm, we justify and perpetuate it. In that process, we become (often unwittingly) complicit in the present-day prejudicial view that defines the living descendants of those individuals as the descendants of nonpersons, who had no more claim and made no more contribution to this nation than livestock. We maintain the rationale for second-class African-American citizenship, even if we do not personally believe it.

In times before our own, closer to and less removed from the reality the word "slaves" represented, it could pass because many of the more subtle understandings were still in place. Not so in the 21st Century, with our new sensibilities, understandings, and expectations embodied in the language we now share, and as a new generation comes of age.

Dinizulu Gene Tinnie

Miami

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