Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sham Wow Guy Arrested For Battering A Sex Trade Worker

The minute I first saw the Sham WOW guy something about him struck me as wrong.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I could not justify it but I did not like him.  It seems that instincts were correct.  The fact that he felt the need to purchase the services of a sex trade worker and then physically assault her speaks loudly about the kind of person that he is.

In watching this video I am further disturbed by the fact that Olberman seems to think that this is a laughing matter.   Battering a woman can never be funny even if we have issues with the abuser.   I get the sense that this is considered hilarious  because the woman that he attacked happened to be a sex trade worker.  These women are routinely abused and their assaults go uninvestigated.  When the police do take the time to arrest the abuser, the criminal justice system does not punish crimes against them at the same rate.

We need to stop slut shaming women and assigning a spoiled identity based on sexual behaviour.   The fact that we can continue to write these incidents off as a comedic occurrences speaks loudly about the ways in which patriarchy continues to attack all women.   Using a so-called spoiled identity to justify violence only serves to discipline us all.  If society suddenly decides that we are unworthy who will care when our blood is spilled?

As a white male of privilege, Olberman does not have to risk his life to earn his subsistence.   He does not have to worry that when he has a run in with “officer friendly,” that that the interaction will lead to a sexual assault or some form of violation.   He will not be chased out of neighbourhoods as though his entire being is diseased.  In the end Olberman and crew can afford to find this laughable because it does not directly effect them and works to maintain their undeserved privilege.  Vince the Sham Wow guy maybe slim but so is anyone else who thinks that violence against women is something to laugh about.

H/T Silvia via twitter

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Once again I would like to say thanks for another week of lively debate.  We have had some interesting guests posts that have lead to conversations that don’t normally happen here.  I would like to remind everyone that if you would like to submit a post either written directly for Womanist Musings or a cross post, feel free to email me womanistmusings (at) 

I am once again reminding everyone to get your posts in for the WOC and ally blog carnival.  Please submit here.   The carnival will be posted as usual at Tell It WOC Speak on April 15th.

To your right you will find the new Womanist Musings Cafe Press Store.  If you are able and would like to support some of the work done here to maintain a safe space and open conversation don’t be shy about checking it out. 

Finally, Monica and I will be hosting our radio show today at 4pm EST.  It will feature Tammy of What Tammy said and Ouyang Dan of Random Babble.  We will be discussing motherhood as an active choice.  Please check it out and for those of you that are not able to listen live I will post the pod cast link tomorrow.  It would be great to chat with you all in live time though. 


As per usual as have a list of some really great posts that I came across this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check out their excellent work.  Don’t forget when you’re all through to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

she doesn’t “look native”…

Allies Aren’t Homophobes or Transphobes For Telling The Truth

Why I Won’t Get Breast Implants


Struggle With Diversity In Advertising

Will French POC’s Finally Be Seen

My Thoughts: You’re A Slut

Does A Black Woman Have To Get Shot By The Cops For Some Attention

My View From The Ceiling

Rape Culture

Poverty and Childbirth


Letter From A BlogSister

When A Man Is The Victim: A Second Study In Rape Apology

My Son At 5 On Same Sex Marriage


If You Support Trans Rights Some Rad Fems Declare You A Dickist

Though I probably should not give this bitch a second thought, I simply cannot stand being called out for having the nerve to believe that all people are created equal.  Aroo otherwise known as the trans bigot Margaret Jamison and her radical feminist drones have once again gone on the attack.

Earlier this week I wrote a post in support of Sarah Gronert, an intersex tennis player.  I fully believe that because Sarah has identified as a woman she is one.  Of course Nicky rushed over to share his trans hate.

As an intersex, I can the main complaints come from the transgender community because the transgender people are jealous and very envy of the fact that Intersex people are accepted by women than transgender do. The one thing you have to remember is that the transgender people and community will co-opt and take advantage of every thing and claim it as one of their own.
As an intersex person, I do support Sara gronert and as an intersex person, she has every right to play with who ever and for any trans thinking this is their issue, they need to take a hike and beat it because this is an intersex only issue

Obviously this goes without saying that this is trans hate.  Due to the fact that I want Womanist Musings to be a safe space for all people, I informed Nicky that such commentary is not welcome on this blog.

Nicky this whole post was written in support of her right to play tennis. There is nothing about that, that displays intersexphobia. I am simply telling you that your trans hate is not welcome on this site. You have no right to decide what constitutes woman period. On this site all people matter and no matter what discrimination you may personally face it does not trump the oppression of another.

Considering the nastiness of Nicky’s comment, I do believe that I was exceedingly polite but in an effort to justify their right to hate, Margaret Jamison declared my commentary hostile.  How fucking original is it to declare the words of a WOC hostile when they don’t agree with your desire to maintain undeserved privilege? If only the bitch had stopped there. ( Note: now I’m getting hostile)

Forcing, or even just requesting, female people and intersexed people who have been classified female (and usually surgically mutilated in the process) to feign some kind of political alliance with transgendered people who are all "yay, gender!" is rude, short-sighted, and anti-feminist.

Okay dimwit, the reason that an alliance is necessary is because all of the isms are related.  Call it sociology 101.  If you privilege one body over another you are only recreating the same conditions that allow you to be “othered” by another segment of society.  The problem is that you seem to feel that you can achieve power by being dismissive or invalidating the rights of another.  Guess what, that is exactly what patriarchy uses to keep women oppressed.  It’s called the Master’s Tools and you bitchy radfems cannot seem to get that through your fucking thick heads.

And in her final onslaught:

But I reckon for the dickists, it's males over any and everyone actually raised female.

So I’m a dickist…now we are creating words to justify stupidity. Yeah I like the dick, that is how I got two male children and I don’t apologize for a single time the unhusband give me a joy ride. I don’t privilege men over women, (note: the blog is named WOMANIST MUSINGS) but the males in my life are important to me and if you had any concept of family and love you would not denigrate a woman for loving hers. 

Trans women are not men and have never been men from birth;  they have only been constructed that way.  If you truly valued women as you spuriously (is that word to big for you dimwit?) claimed, you would welcome and embrace our trans sisters.  The lies and the hatred that you spread are the reason these women are victimized and slaughtered. You have blood on your hands no different than the common murderer or rapist.  You sicken me with your lack of human empathy and compassion and though I believe in neither heaven or hell, I hope that there is a hot seat waiting for your inhumane ass.

Oh btw, I don’t need your echo chamber of a blog to link to me.  Look at the stats bitch, I long ago cleaned your dumb ass clock.  Someone start the countdown, I do believe that is a TKO.

Friday, March 27, 2009

OOOH The Mehnz Are Stooopid

image One of the biggest complaints from the MRA crowd is that men are portrayed as dolts and idiots on mainstream television.  From The Flintstones, to Family Matters, to Everybody Loves Raymond, to Home Improvement, the model of the ideal family is the smart and together wife and the husband that can barely ties his shoes.  Belching, farting, and drinking beer, are presented as the primary activity as they evade any sense of adulthood, or responsibility.

This is discrimination and sexism and the mehnz trumpet that if  feminazis really cared about equality, this would be an issue that we actively sought to change.  It seems perfectly reasonable doesn’t it; that with all of the serious issues currently facing women today from sexual assault, domestic violence, FGM, inequality in employment,  the double day, reduction in reproductive rights, and poverty, that  we should seek to  spend the precious few resources that we have fighting an industry that is male run about its essentialist portrayals of masculinity. 

While it certainly must be said that such images can be damaging to young boys, they still do not have the same totalizing effect that sexism does when it is aimed at girls and women.   Patriarchy is alive and prospering and as the women of wall street found out, still more than capable of ensuring that when times get tough that the boys club sticks together until the bitter end.

image The good ole boys network runs the media.  Though they have allowed some women to take on some visible roles of importance by enlarge when we think of personalities that we deem of great importance they are male.  For every Katie Couric there are at least 5 men that we turn to inform us of the state of our world. 

Even in traditional situation comedies where the husband is presented as mindless ,it is not nearly as diminishing as it appears at first glance.  The husband as idiot allows the male to abdicate his responsibilities as an equal partner of the household while selfishly seeking out his personal gratification.  This supposed idiocy allows him a sense of freedom that is seldom granted to the female characters.  Secure in the knowledge that the wife will cook the meals, balance the books,  raise the children, and provide boring if guilt free marriage sex, the man is free to continue on in a state of perpetual childhood. 

As we know, along with the freedom of adulthood comes greater responsibility.  By changing the gender dynamic to present the woman as the alpha female, the infantalization of men in the situation comedy actually oppresses women, in that it forces us once again to take on multiple roles that are often time consuming and stressful.   When I see these supposed role reversals, I see a mirror  that reflects  the real life double day that women often work because men still refuse to carry their share of the domestic burden.  I see the abdication of responsibility as nothing more than an expression of male power.  The male as idiot is nothing more than a passive aggressive  delegation of responsibility.

The mehnz want to know why we wimminez are not actively fighting against the supposed diminishment of masculinity in the media.  Well the answers are quite simple really; it does not  actually do any significant damage to the male ability to express power coercively and it actually functions to reify standardized gender roles that actually serve to diminish women.  As I mentioned earlier, with all of the pressing issues that are currently facing women today, seeing Ray Romano display a stunning ineptitude to pay bills, or Tim Allen fumble with his tools as he professes an inability to comprehend life's most basic facts, are simply not a high priority to challenge.  If the mehnz are so concerned with the damage that this is doing to the boys club they can appeal to the men that run the media to do something about it.


image When we look at labels to describe activism by women we commonly use the term womanist, or feminist.  Words mean something despite how casually we toss them around.  They are how we order and understand our world.  In an effort to be inclusive when we write about activism many will often write feminists/womanists.  This acknowledges that some WOC have to some degree separated themselves and have taken on the label of womanists because of the history of racism within the feminist movement.

The problem with using these labels is that they often appear in a certain order.  Most will write feminists/womanists rather than womanists/feminists.  This may seem like a small insignificant point but what it does is that it once again sets up a hierarchy about what counts as real activism when it comes to women.  If feminism is routinely placed first it sets up womanism as a ridiculous offshoot.  When we consider that womanists largely identify as such because of racism in feminism, routinely placing it behind feminism only reaffirms the idea that white women still see WOC as secondary bodies.

Even though writing feminists/womanists is an attempt at inclusion, the order of the words appear means something because it speaks to who has power and privilege.  Often unconsciously we reaffirm power dynamics in our society.  Privileging certain bodies has become a naturalized phenomenon and  it takes a conscious effort to decolonize your mind. These small slights do not go unnoticed even if they are unremarked upon.

Many WOC are rightfully distrustful of white women.   There is a long history of betrayal and silencing.  I have watched time after time as we are assaulted and our issues ignored.  We are told that we focus to much on race in an attempt to destabilize our organizing.  Womanism  speaks about our lives, our needs and our existence in a way that feminism never has.  It validates our experiences and places us in the center of the conversation.  To place feminism before womanism  continually only reifies the need for womanism. 

The rift between WOC and white women needs to be healed.  Each new slight just adds to the bitterness and contempt and is the equivalent of pouring salt into an open wound thereby further  dividing  us from each other.  When there is such a large history of betrayal we cannot afford to continue to fuel the negativity as it only detracts us from our common enemy: patriarchy. 

WOC are always going to have issues that are unique to us, and yet we share many issues in common with white women.  The anger and bitterness often causes us to ignore their valid commentary and make sweeping assumptions.  There will never be one monolithic woman that can represent us and the “sisterhood” will never cure all the hurt, but we need to think about how we speak to each other if we are going to move forward.

Our future lies in unity and not in separation.  It is important that we leave room for forgiveness and  it is essential that white women acknowledge the ways in which they have wronged us.  This is a problem that we need to tackle together with patience and love.   Both WOC and white women essentially want to see women succeed, we just don’t always agree with what constitutes “woman”. 

Rape Trees and Immigrant Women: The Silent Victims

This is a guest post by Natalie.

Natalie blogs as Mzbitca at What a Crazy Random Happenstance.  By day she works as an Addictions Therapist and by night she watches American Idol and Dollhouse.

I will be the first to admit that I am not up on many of the immigration arguments that are going on right now. I know my stance would be on the more “liberal” side but all the little details about immigration reform and which policies are better than others are something I need to educate myself about more intensely. I started researching a bit after I heard about Rape Trees. Rape trees are reported as trees where, after they have been raped trying to cross the border, women’s undergarments are hung as a sign for posturing and/or intimidation.

In my research there were different types of explanations of rape trees. The average conservative blog focused on the fact that this is just another reason that “illegal immigration” is absolutely evil.

Have you heard of this faucet of illegal immigration? Rape Trees? I hadn’t until last week.

Reason #4,323 to support the Minutemen…

Of course, to these anti-immigration activists it is the uncivilized “other”. Nothing like this would never happen in America…no no no, we never have things like gang rapes or men proudly boasting of their sexual assaults. They do not care about these women. They want to use their victimization to attempt to make a point about how horrible illegal immigration is (all the while ignoring the fact that it is people like the minutemen who make the border such a dangerous place)

For any decent, law-abiding American, to see a rape tree is to gaze upon the face of the enemy of civilization. To see the blood-stained ground beneath them is to behold the faces of their victims. Never forget that. When the proponents of illegal immigration and the liberal news media decry the Minutemen as “racists” and “vigilantes” ask them, “What about the rape trees?” Who besides the Minutemen are doing anything about the rape trees? And now that you know, if you do nothing, what does that say about you?” (source)

It would seem that any self-respecting feminist would have to be against the illegal immigration that gives these horrible people the power and opportunity to treat woman and children this way…

See that ladies, it’s all our fault if we don’t do anything. Except of course we are, by trying to stop the detention of those captured and trying to make the border more open so that people aren’t viewing crossing dangerous territory as their only option.

Other blogs I found were more sympathetic about what the rape trees were and how the United States should feel.

We can only imagine the trauma and terror that these women, whose only crime was that they wanted to come to work in the United States, must have felt not only during the assault but afterwards as well. Seeing that these rape trees were in Arizona, the probable assumption is that these migrant women were on their way deeper into Arizona on their journey’s elsewhere.

Yet, after having been subjected to such horrendous violations, they are forced to suffer silently.


For that reason, it’s time to craft a federal program that gets these women out of the shadows so they can tell their stories, identify their attackers and begin the healing process with the professional counselling that they need.

The long-term psychological damage of a brutal rape is a price no woman should have to pay to support her family — no matter what side of the border she’s on

This all sounds well and good but I couldn’t help but wonder why these women are nameless. We know that rape trees exist and we know what they stand for but we have done that without talking to the women? I am all for counselling and helping these women but before we can do that we must find them and help them. Otherwise we are just using their suffering as a pawn in our argument. Pro-immigration reform people and anti-immigration reform people can get what they need from this discussion about rape trees. Either they are proof that Hispanics are monstrous creatures who need to be kept out of America or they are proof that are gov’t needs to change its policies. What they are not, in either of these situations, is a human being. They are a flag to be waved, a point in the argument, and button designed to trigger base emotions when pushed. Once again women are not truly treated as individuals but instead as pawns of both those that don’t have our best interest at heart and those that do.

A simple google search allowed me to see that there are women who have deal with being victims of sexual assault across the border. They are not nameless and faceless victims hiding in the shadows. They are incarcerated, are receiving counselling from others, and are being denied abortions.

Maria, a single mother, had left her 8-year-old daughter at home, she told Alvarado, and paid a man to take her to the border. Her ultimate destination, she said, was the Northeast, where a friend had promised to find her work as a housekeeper. “I went to send money home for my daughter,” she told Alvarado in a subsequent counseling session. “This was how I planned to support my family.”

Maria and several other Hondurans were guided on a journey by car and train, she said. At night, they stayed in ramshackle homes, sleeping on crowded floors. One of those nights, just before she reached the border, she said that a man grabbed her near an abandoned shack where the immigrants were staying. He forced himself on her, leaving Maria defenceless, the only witness to the violent act. Afterward, Maria blamed herself. She wondered if this was what she deserved for leaving her daughter.

Days later, as the group waded quietly through the Rio Grande, Maria carried the secret with her. It was something she planned to tell no one. Not long after crossing the river, she heard the engine of a Border Patrol truck, saw the green uniforms coming at her. Within minutes, she was corralled into the backseat of a Border Patrol pickup.

Weeks after the rape, Maria took a pregnancy test at the detention center—a mandatory procedure for female detainees between ages 10 and 50. An official from the Division of Immigration Health Services took the test away and came back to tell Maria the news: She was pregnant.

In 2008, 10,653 women were detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to agency spokeswoman Cori Bassett, 965 of those women — nearly 10 percent — were pregnant. Many of them, like Maria, were raped on their way to the United States—a journey known to be dangerous for any willing to take it, but especially so for women.

For two months, while Maria awaited her detention hearing, Alvarado says they met about once every two weeks to talk about the ordeal. Maria asked about her options for ending the pregnancy. “I can’t do it,” Alvarado remembers her saying. “The baby’s face will just remind me of him—the man who did this.”

But Maria ran into a practice limiting the reproductive rights of ICE detainees. For pregnant women in immigration detention facilities, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion. According to Bassett, in fact, “Preliminary records indicated that during fiscal year ’08 and ’09 to date, no detainee has had a pregnancy terminated while in ICE custody.” Not a single one.

This is the reality of women who have crossed our border. They are victimized on their way over and again once they’ve been discovered. However, no one has been talking about these women and their real problems. It’s easier to refer to them as the faceless victims and let people imagine them as a representation to whatever type of agenda they are trying to push. See, once we admit that women are people we have to deal with the fact that they are not just some perfect little story to shock and scare the masses. They have families, they want abortions, and they are in jail and being denied rights. They are human beings and they are being hurt. They deserve more than having their story altered to prove a point; they deserve to have their whole story told no matter how complicated it may make it. I know no one wants their perfect victim story complicated by that whole moral issue of abortion but it’s not their place to decide what parts of reality is presented

Find Your Way Home: The Women Of Magdalene Speak

image Find your way home is a book written by the women of Magdalene.  What makes this tiny book unique is that it is written by former sex trade workers and it speaks of their struggles to get off the streets.

The book speaks about the healing process and their path back to loving themselves after having some of the most unimaginable experiences. 

Though there is a strong religious undertone to much of the writing, I sense that for these women it provides them with a sense of comfort and love that has been missing from their lives. 

Often when it comes to sex trade workers allies speak and we do not get to hear their experiences first hand.  Part of what attracted me to this novel was getting to read for myself their thoughts.  The testimonies are honest and raw.  They function as a source of hope.

Magadelene offers a variety of services to these women.  Chiefly they learn that despite the fact that the world has cast them aside that they are still valuable, intelligent human beings, worthy of being loved.  They are able to stay in the residence for two years and in the meantime they receive counselling, and job skills.  When many of the women leave they are able to move into apartments and have already secured employment.

This worthwhile project is supported by Thistle Farms which is a business created to support their worthwhile work. 

image Thistle Farms is a non-profit business run by women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution, and abuse. “Thistle Farms products are hand-made by the very women they benefit. All proceeds go back into Thistle Farms and the residential program, Magdalene. Into every product goes the belief that freedom starts with healing and love can change lives.”

If you are interested in finding out more about these women or the remarkable program run by Magdalene, you can check them out at their new blog, The Voices of Thistle Farms.  Just like the book it will be filled with their testimony of healing and hope.   I have have many books on my on my bookcases and many blogs in my reader, but these women have touched me in a way that few have.  Please take the time to read their stories.  In listening actively to their voices it affirmed my belief that there is hope for us all.

Finding Home
by the women of Magdalene
Home is a woman I know well.
Her presence comforts me.
Her windows, like eyes, allow me to look out without fear.
I am safe with her.
Her clothes carry the scent of homemade soap
and fruit from the orchard.
A soft, delicate, melodic voice.
I am here. I am here.
Just call my name. I am here.
She reaches out to help all.
Takes thistles and turns them into flowers.
Browns. Reds. Greens.
Different shades of orange.
She has special treasures just for me.
I love her for being here just for me.
The smell of cornbread she cooked.
The smell of flowers welcoming you.
Wearing comfort like a tiger wears stripes.
She was conceived in love and peace.
She will live long and teach many.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ABC's What Would You Do: Homophobia In A Sports Bar In New Jersey

Overwhelmingly, the real patrons showed intolerance for snide remarks like his, even as the gay couple escalated their touching and affection.

“I would rather have 12 of you than four of him,” said one man apologetically to the couple.

“Seriously, this is not your [expletive] bar!” yelled an emotional woman to one harasser, in defense of the gay couple.

Later, a real patron who did harass the couple seemed to retract his views after the hidden cameras were revealed. An expert interviewed by ABC News attributed his transformation to the surprising peer pressure to be tolerant.

“Tolerance has become an American value,” she said. “People work hard to give others the impression that they believe similarly, even when they don’t.”

What I found most upsetting is that even the people that chose to speak on behalf of the gay couples right to be in the bar, clearly displayed heterosexist privilege.  They were fine with the couple being there as long as they were not “overly affectionate”.  You will note that the same standard of behaviour is not applied to the straight couple that were feeding each other and exchanging kisses in public.  This is not a sign of tolerance and acceptance at all.  The woman who got so upset that she left the bar exclaimed that she loved gay guys.  What the hell is that?  That sounds like some kind of fetish thing if you ask me. How about you support the rights of gays and lesbians to share our space free of violence, and harassment because they are human beings and entitled to dignity just like everyone else.

What this video shows us is not how far we have come towards creating an equal society, but how far we still have to go.   There are many neighbourhoods in which affection between gays and lesbians can lead to death. Driving a car with a rainbow sticker can lead to vandalism.  How many instances of women  being raped simply because they are a lesbian, or men asserting that they can rape a woman straight, do we need to learn about to declare that homophobia and lesbophobia is a virulent cancer in our society? There are precious few spaces that are safe spaces for gays and lesbians.

Heterosexuals will never know what it is to be unable to show affection to our significant others in a public place.  We will never have to deal with the disgust of another for a simple every day act of exchanging a kiss.  Of all of the evils of this world attacking love is one of our worst crimes.  

It is time that we recognize that all bodies matter.  When we fail to speak out against homophobia and lesbophobia we are supporting hatred and a constructed difference between bodies in a desire to privilege heterosexuality.  Every gay bashing, and every drop of blood spilled soils our hands because by failing to speak out we are supporting violence and murder. 

H/T Pandagon.

The “R Word” What’s In A Word?

This is a guest post from Silvia of A Just Society.








The above ad is part of a Special Olympics campaign that calls upon people

to recognize and rethink their use of the word “retard,” or as the organization would prefer, the “R-word.”

“Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends,” a statement about the campaign reads. “This word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur.”

-CNN report

Raising awareness about intellectual disabilities is a great idea. But the execution of this campaign is very problematic for three major reasons:

1. eliminating the R-word does not erase ableism,

2. setting disability against race and sexual orientation denies the realities of oppression that these groups still experience, and

3. de-linking the R-word from underlying societal power structures means that the campaign is attempting to erase a word from our vocabulary without creating any real social change.

I’ll discuss these three points in more detail below..

Eliminating the R-word does not erase ableism

The small type on this ad reads: “Most people who would never knowingly use disparaging terms don’t see a problem with retard.” To some degree this may be true. In many social settings, public use of the N-word has indeed become highly unacceptable. But racism is still omnipresent and verbally articulated, without any mention of the N-word needed.

Even in multicultural, “enlightened” Toronto, much overt racism can be heard. In my own area, I’ve often heard statements like: “The real problem in this neighbourhood is the Blacks.” “Black people are lazy. I work two jobs to stay off welfare, but they…” Erasing the N-word from socially acceptable speech has not erased the reality of racist speech.

Nor does erasing the N-word give blacks an equal position in society and equal access to resources. And the recent election of a black U.S. president has not changed that reality.

Just this morning I was saddened to hear that a female friend of mine, taking photos of a storefront on Yonge Street for a college project was harassed by the police for the crime of “walking around black”. Her little girl witnessed the entire incident. My friend had broken no laws, since she was on public property while taking a picture of a commercial building. I cannot count how often this kind of thing happens to my black friends.

Oh… but you can’t say the N-word anymore! So obviously racism isn’t so much of a problem anymore, right?

During the U.S. elections, we saw footage of people who were not reticent to make openly racist remarks and use the N-word. At least with these people, you know what you’re dealing with. It’s open and clear. It seems to me that the more liberal the social setting, the more that racism goes underground.  Black friends have sometimes said they prefer overt racism to subtle, underground racism. It’s harder to detect, harder to name, harder to fight. And it makes it easier for all us good-thinking white people to pretend that we don’t contribute to racist realities.

So I would like to say to the Special Olympics folks, when you focus a campaign on the erasure of a word – and nothing more than that –  you’re not doing anything to deal with the problem.

I would also ask: If people would stop using the R-word because it becomes socially unacceptable to do so, would that translate into respectful treatment of people with intellectual disabilities, equal access to employment and other social resources, and protection from marginalization of all kinds?.

This ad implies that “Retard is the new Nigger” aka “Disability trumps race”

The Special Olympics seem to also be playing the Oppression Olympics.

The ad implies that racism and homophobia are much less of an problem than ableism. But a social justice initiative that pits one group against another is essentially trying to improve the lot of one group by minimizing the oppression of others.

This ad seems to be saying, “We’re more oppressed than blacks, latinos, and gays.” That’s a very offensive comparison, for reasons I have already mentioned. And there’s been too much competition  between oppressed groups, perhaps most noticeable after the passing of Proposition 8 in California. An important segment of the gay community felt betrayed, because the American people had elected a black man to the presidency but failed to defend the rights of gays and lesbians. In fact, some went even further by blaming blacks for being more homophobic than whites – making them responsible in large part for the passing of Prop 8. Black bloggers such as Renee at Womanist Musings quickly responded to the racist assumptions and factual errors inherent in these accusations.

This ad campaign risks setting up a similar conflict between different oppressed groups.

In fact, a discussion about this ad campaign shows how it has been received by some belonging to other oppressed groups. One commentator (referring to a diffferent ad in the series), states:

I’m Jewish and I’m personally offended that “Jew him down” is clearly written, yet Nigger, Spic & Fag are written with dashes. So basically you don’t want to “fully” offend the Niggers, Spics, & Fags, but you have no problem offending Jews?

(This person actually mixed up two ads in the same campaign, but my point is that the nature of these ads sets up the reader for these kinds of perceptions, e.g.,  that the other groups are treated more respectfully by the campaign than are Jews.)

Another commentator stated:

Small mindedness will only hurt you. Why must you call those with intellectual disabilities a negative name, if they have done nothing to hurt you? Why pick on people who can’t defend themselves in the same way that someone who was a “nigger” or “fag” can? Your small-minded comments represent your extreme insecurities, so take them someplace else.

Ah. A “nigger” or “fag” is better able to defend themselves than a person with an intellectual disability. Just take a moment to think through the implications of this comment….

I believe that unless an intersectionality analysis is applied, we will continue to see one oppressed group competing against another. Such an approach also views each group as homogenous and assumes they live with only one dimension of oppression.

In reality, there are black, latino, and gay people with intellectual disabilities. A black person with an intellectual disability will experience that disability in ways that intersect with their blackness.

I could refer back to my previous post on an anti-oppressive approach to AD/HD, in which I cited Gail Mattox, a member of the Black Psychiatrists of America. Mattox points out that black children with AD/HD receive treatment at half the rate of white children, with key factors in this disparity being: poverty, culturally inappropriate services, lack of information and misinformation in black communities, and the fact that many black children are in care. Why would it be any different for black children with intellectual disabilities?

Similarly, women with intellectual disabilities are at very high risk of sexual abuse compared to men with intellectual disabilities.

So how can you list different oppressed groups and set one against the other? By doing so, you are oppressing some people in your own group.  As Renee noted,
"When the oppression Olympics is played this way, it also resorts in a form of erasure. There are POC, as well as gays and lesbians, who are differently abled. This kind of organizing sets up an understanding of disability that once again privileges white heterosexual bodies. By fighting the issue this way all that they are doing is reaffirming hierarchies of bodies that are already in existence. It is problematic to say the least."

What’s in a word?

The R-word is a word.

Language is extremely important and, I believe, it plays a crucial role in creating and sustaining our social realities. Yes, the flippant use of the R-word is not only offensive, but continues to subjugate and stigmatize people with intellectual disabilities.However, any strategy that seeks only to erase a word from our vocabularies can never change the underlying realities of oppression.

In this campaign, the R-word has been de-linked from the power structures of a society that marginalizes people with disabilities. Instead, the R-word has been linked and compared to other hateful labels that have since been erased from the conversations of enlightened people. By decontextualizing all these words from the societal power relations they represent, this campaign will accomplish little or nothing of any substance that will help people with intellectual disabilities. The R-word becomes just a word.

Sarah Gronert Is Not A Man

imageHow many times are people that are trans or inter sex going to have to declare their gender before cisgendered people accept them for who they are?  Sarah Gronert  was born intersex but underwent surgery to completely align her genitalia with her feminine gender.  Okay people, even if she had not had the surgery the fact that she declared herself a woman to begin with makes her one. What is so hard to understand about that?

After more thought it dawns on me, it’s not the concept that is difficult to understand, it is just that people are so damn bigoted that privileging cisgender bodies has become natural.  Whenever we can identify a minority group whether it is by gender, age, sexuality, or class, our society is structured in such a way that the tyranny of the majority will always ensure that certain groups are oppressed and stigmatized to support our belief in a hierarchy of bodies. 

What is really so threatening about this woman?  She is 619 in ranking, and has only won two titles.  What people find so unsettling about Gronert is her potential. 

Schlomo Tzoref, who coaches player Julia Glushko, told the New York Daily News that Gronert has a clear advantage and should not be able to compete against women. "There is no girl who can hit serves like that, not even Venus Williams," he said."This is not a woman, it's a man. She does not have the power of a woman and no woman has such a technique," he added.

image Interesting that Tzoref would turn to Venus as an example considering that until this time the Williams sisters have been overly masculinized by the sport of tennis.  How many times have these beautiful women been called ugly, menacing, or unkempt in an effort to demean and diminish their invasion into what has been a white sport? 

Tzoref could have picked several woman to place Gronert up against however, choosing Venus shows they extent to which many in this sport still are unable to own their various privileges.  The black woman has long been considered the eternal “unwoman” and “other” in comparison to a white woman and it is only when placed against an intersex woman that somehow Venus can finally have her womanhood validated. What is this but yet another stunning example of our hierarchy of bodies?  For tennis it seems the order of acceptability is white women, WOC and then intersex women. 

Women like Gronert and Venus are threatening because they are talented and champions.   Whiteness and cisprivilege means that certain bodies are thrown roadblocks to success and when they achieve in spite of the disadvantages that have been placed in their way, further disciplining is often instituted to further destabilize their persons. 

Fact is both Venus and Gronert are talented women and they are threatening to tennis pros because of their ability to succeed.  At one point due to the harassment, Gronert had even considered leaving the sport but thankfully she has somehow found the strength to keep fighting in the face of the hateful taunts that have been thrown at her.  Accepting them and honouring their achievements is not about creating special categories, or some form of new liberalism, but realizing that the definition of ‘woman’ is fluid and out of a respect for humanity all bodies need to be valued. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Ebony Experiment: Is It Racist?

For those that cannot view the video this segment on CNN is about a couple that have vowed to only purchase items from black owned business for the period of one year.   They have entitled their efforts the ebony experiment.

What would happen if Black families across America made real commitments to support Black businesses and professionals? How many jobs would be created? How many homes would be saved from foreclosure? How many new role models would our children have? How much would we improve the quality of life of the average American Black family? How much can we do on our own, together, united…without a government program? What if we could prove – again – that this community can defy history and improve the future by just believing we can and believing in each other?

Buying black is not exactly a revolutionary idea however, it is one which we have stopped  doing since we started integrating more with white people.  There was a time when blacks were dependent upon each other to survive Jim Crow and as such we patronizing the few  black owned  business in existence was a way of life.   One of the seldom discussed fall outs of the civil rights movement was our loss of connection with one another.   Yes, we gained the freedom of movement but it came at a loss of community. 

This project if successful will stand as a symbol of the ways in which we can once again work together to overcome tough economic times.  While the recession has been difficult across the board, blacks have been the hardest hit with an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent.  This figure does not include the ones that have been chronically underemployed or simply given up the search.  Poverty continues to plague black America and we have yet to come up with an effective solution to this issue. 

Supporting black owned business is just one way of fighting the systemic inequality of the world in which we live.   Blacks do not accumulate wealth in the same manner as whites, as generation after generation we have not been able to pass on assets to our children.  Homeownership which is the surest  path to economic advancement has been denied to us by either racist bankers, or an inability to qualify due to a lack of income. 

Anytime blacks reach for some sort of improvement in our living conditions it is met with resistance by whiteness.  If we truly lived in an equal world, buying black would not be a necessity, nor would whiteness find such a suggestion threatening.  The following commentary is from the Black Informant:


I think is is a problem and It seems like the founders are well educated. We as Americans should be treating others equally.While it may be happening, What would happen if Whites only shopped at white persons place Well in the end We will not be united but divided We will.

If anybody in the white community urged people to boycott black-owned business for the sole reason that they were owned by blacks, it would be seen as racist. Why is this any different? Shouldn’t we support black-owned business because they’re closer or better, instead of simply black-owned?

James Taylor
I couldn’t agree more… we should have black people buy only from black owned stores and white people buy from white owned stores. And while were at it lets send black and white kids to different schools, that really seemed to help things didn't it? How can people be so blind? Call it whatever you want to. Justify it however you see right in your own eyes. In the end all it is is justified racism. I am not and have never been racist, however it is hard to sit by while seeing the hypocrisy and double standards of many special interest minority groups. While applying to schools and scholarships as a white male I was always the odd man out. The fine print would always state that “priority would be given to minority and undeserved applicants including : African Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, Asian American, and women.” Well lets see here who does that leave out?…… oh I know how about the white male. But that is socially acceptable right? I don't need a scholarship or get into a good school because I'm white. That's because all white men share their money and job openings at our white man conventions where we plan news ways to oppress minorities. (I’m being sarcastic)
Basically what I’m saying is that this is wrong and that it creates divisions. If you really want to make headway in this country go to school, get good grades, act in a professional manner, and for God sakes stop blaming others for your problems. Only when everyone takes responsibility for themselves can we really get somewhere. To create a country where race does not matter and we truly are all equal. Often times I feel that is not what people from the minority communities truly want….

Philip L. McCleary
Wow black people buying from only black people what an idea!Maybe I will start serving only the whites in my business and see how long it takes the NAACP and god know who else to file a lawsuit for discrimination. I for one am tired of it always being ok for blacks to exclude whites but never can whites exclude blacks. Stand back and watch because I can assure you I will never purchase anything from a black owned business ever again. Please remember YOU made me take this action by force of example!

Sean Phelan
I am very upset at this experiment. We are trying to be one race and not divided by color. With people thinking like this we will never move past color. What if I shopped at only stores owned by “whites” If I went public here I would be called a raciest. What if I stated a new channel on TV called WET - White Entertainment. How about Whit Only scholarships…. We need to stop thinking of color and on the quality of people for scholarships, the quality of service at the business. If the service is good, go back, why should the owner matter? I as a “white” person do not see color. I see people. Why must you see color? Lastly, I am not a fan of the term African American. you are American just like me. I know, I’m not white. I’m Irish American. :)

The resounding theme in the above commentary is white panic and a denial of white privilege.  I personally love the question of what if whites only supported white owned businesses?  Since the majority of the business in the United States are owned by white people chances are you already do.   You will further note that the WET (white entertainment network) argument made its usual appearance.  When I see this supposition, I often want to ask about the status of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and in particular FOX news;  they clearly are not devoted to promoting diversity either in their news, or entertainment programming and BET which is barely managing to stay in business is a threat.   The bottom line is that unless something unfairly promotes whiteness it is deemed racist by those that are determined to maintain undeserved white privilege. 

We do not have a level playing ground and it would be foolish for POC to pretend that we do.  We cannot afford to listen to the taunts from the most privileged group of people ever to walk the planet (read: white men) about their supposed discrimination. In the negotiation of other isms, e.g., homophobia, or disability, their ability to completely benefit from white privilege may be reduced however, it does not mean that relative to a person of colour dealing with those very same isms that they do not have a clear advantage.  Whiteness will never commit to the advancement of POC because to do so would eradicate their social power to benefit from our debasement.  I do not know how successful this movement will be, considering issues of transportation and the availability of black businesses to patronize, but I certainly support the incentive behind it. 

Israeli Soldiers T-Shirt Shows Pregnant Woman In The Cross Hairs


According to the Herald Sun the above shirt was worn by Israeli soldiers to mark graduation. Another shirt showed a child carrying a gun with the words: "The smaller they are, the harder it is".

No matter where you fall on the Israel/Palestine debacle it simply goes without saying that the the above image is unacceptable and exists for no other reason than to promote hate.  As I stare at this I barely have the words to describe the disgust flowing through my veins.

In times of armed conflict it is the bodies of  the bodies of the women  and children that are made to pay for the hate of men.  To promote the death murder of a pregnant woman is to sanction a genocide.   Though the Israelis feel that they have a historical right to this land, the actions that they have taken to maintain their neo-apartheid state have been reprehensible and this is just the latest in a long line of wrongs that they have committed. 

The Israeli military sought to dismiss the shirts as "tasteless humour" and condemned the soldiers involved as "not in accordance with IDF (Israeli Defence Force) values," according to the Assoociated Press.

AP reported the shirts surfaced as Israel faced accusations of misconduct during its three-week war in Gaza which officials said left about 1300 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers dead.

I can barely stand to read the news from Gaza and the West Bank.  Each night it is filled with more and more bloodshed.   Palestinian blood flows freely as they continue in a struggle in which they are clearly out gunned and out resourced.  Even with the knowledge that this can never be a battle between equals these shirts evidence the degree of hatred to exterminate a people in the name of conquest.   Though much of the conflict uses religion as a justification, there is little difference between what is happening to the Palestinian people and what occurred in the western world to our Indigenous peoples. 

To speak out about the criminal actions of the Israeli military and state in the western world is to risk being called an Anti-Semite.   We are so filled with holocaust guilt that we have been silent while Palestinians are starved, denied medical treatment, live with reduced water and electricity, as they cry over their children who are slaughtered for throwing rocks at a tank.  When we fail to speak are we not committing the same crime?  Are we not suborning the ghettoes that they are housed in and the inferior education that their children receive?

It is not enough to throw up our hands and declare that this situation cannot be resolved when each day brings new death to innocents.   We have the luxury of living lives of relative freedom and safety, while our governments fuel the conflict by continuing to sell Israel arms.  The state of Israel is the largest purchaser of US military supplies.  Our hands are not clean, even as we cite so-called Palestinian terrorism to justify our collusion. 

When I look at this t-shirt, I see all of the little compromises that western governments have made to support a nation that shows little to no respect for human rights and systemically seeks to destroy a group of peoples.   How are their actions different than from what occurred in apartheid South Africa?  The only reason we fail to call out this behaviour and take a stand is because of the strategic position that an alliance with Israel allows in the Middle East, Holocaust guilt,  and the powerlessness of the Palestinian people.  It was a western nation that (read: Great Britain) who set the stage for the conflict by sanctioning the  state of Israel in the first place. To be clear, I am not calling for the eradication of Israel, I am however stating unequivocally that it has no more right to exist on that land than the state of Palestine

The two state solution is the only possible way to allow for the humanity and the right to life of both sides.   We cannot and should not continue to support such evil.  The majority of westerners cannot imagine what it is to live and grow in a war zone.  Since it does not touch our lives we readily accept the propaganda preached to us on the nightly news and fail to acknowledge that there are two sides to this conflict. 

When we examine the imbalance in the death toll alone how can we possibly continue to justify supporting this by continuing to sell Israel arms?  When Obama announced that Israel was one of the United States greatest friends, there was no uproar, only smiles of approval.  What is this but tacit permission for the state to continue to slaughter innocent Palestinians?  Had he dared to speak openly about Israel's criminal behaviour he would never have been elected; so great is the desire of many to devalue the lives of Palestinians.   One cannot possibly believe in life and the value of all, and continue to support a state that is determined to eradicate a group of people in order to secure ownership of land. 

H/T Muslims Against Sharia

Rihanna, Chris Brown And The Modern Day Lynching

I have a new post up at Global Comment.

Domestic violence happens across race, class and sexuality. It is an extremely damaging social phenomenon and yet we rarely speak about it. Until the latest incident with Chris Brown and Rihanna, the last time this subject matter was prominently figured in our social conversation was during the OJ Simpson trial. What these two incidents have in common is that the violence was perpetrated, allegedly - as in the case of Brown, by a black male.

Blacks have complained about the coverage that the Chris and Rihanna incident is receiving in the media, often referring to it as a modern day lynching. Though many will agree that violence against women is wrong, there is still constant victim-blaming. Along with a desire to support patriarchy comes the fear that once again blacks are being presented as uniquely violent. If we can somehow place the blame for Brown’s actions on Rihanna, then the black male patriarchy can free itself from another in a long line of social stigmatizations that continues our race divide.

A social conversation about domestic violence and its harmful effects is necessary. Daily, women are brutalized. Often, it ends with the loss of life. Children who are raised in this kind of environment repeat the patterns of behaviour, whether they identify with the victim or the abuser. The cycle of abuse continues and we end up having generation after generation of people living with the shadow of violence as  constant companion.

Finish reading here

Skinny Blonde Gets Naked Downunder

image Advertisers for beer have routinely resorted to oversexualizing and exploiting women to sell their product.  Often beer is associated with a hyper masculinity that includes expressing power and privilege in the most coercive sense.

The Australian been Skinny Blonde has taken the exploitation of women one step further by placing a woman in a bikini directly on the bottle.   As the temperature of the beer increases her clothes disappear thanks to a new technology used in the in ink in the label.

“We had the idea of a pin-up girl from the get go, we thought everyone uses women in their advertising campaigns so why not put it on a bottle?” Mr Rosser, who is the drummer in the Australian band The Vines, told The Times.

“So we had this idea of the disappearing bikini and researched into disappearing ink. Then we did a few trial runs and when we realised it worked we were stoked, we were over the moon.”

Crystal Lee, a barmaid at Bondi’s Beach Road Hotel, the first pub in Australia to serve Skinny Blonde, said that it was one of their most popular low-carb beers - especially when sold in a bottle.

“It’s a really popular beer, more in the bottle than on tap,” she said, before adding: “But that’s to do with the fact that the chick’s bikinis come off when people drink it.”

Ms Lee said that the beer, which has an alcohol content of 5.2%, was equally as popular among men and women – men for the bikini factor and women for the taste and that it was a ‘healthy’ beer. (emphasis mine)

We can always find an excuse to make the sexualization and exploitation of women palatable in a society that pushes patriarchal norms.  Whether it is for profit, sexual pleasure, or health we continually normalize such behaviour. 

It certainly is not surprising that this beer is a favourite amongst men.  What I find upsetting is that women are colluding with patriarchy because they have deemed this a “healthy beer”.   The irony in this is that it results in women participating in patriarchal discipline twice – once in the counting of calories (read: body discipline and fear of potential fat shaming)  and twice in the consummation of the beer itself.

We continually support our oppressors and each day in small ways women across the globe collude with patriarchy.   It is our work as patriarchy's support staff that ultimately allows much of womens oppression to continue unabated.  What is most disgusting about this incident is that not only are women approving of the over sexualization of female bodies, we are rewarding the exploitation by paying our hard earned income to do so.  In a world in which we routinely earn less than men the fact that we use our few disposable dollars in favour of a system that creates this instance testifies to how deeply we have internalized patriarchal norms.  Collusion is a fact of our ever day existence and functions like a form of social Stockholm syndrome.  As feminists we rally and we decry sexism but rarely do we speak openly and honestly about our own acts of collusion with patriarchy.  For us to advance and secure the liberation of women every where not only must we challenge men to change their behaviour we must change ours as well.   Without our help patriarchy would not be as powerful as it is and these small daily acts must come to an end. 

POC’S Special Knowledge of Whiteness III

This is third and finale instalment by whatsername of the Jaded Hippy.

Part III:
Varying interaction with this hierarchal system also happens on an economic level. An interesting case is examined by Kathleen Brown; “tithing” in 1643 Virginia.(18) In the tithing system, all men were “tithable”, or taxable. This meant that taxes were levied on the household per man in it. It was also decided by the government (the English crown) that Black women would be taxable, whereas white women would not. This was naturally based on the prevailing attitude that it was inappropriate for “ladies” (read: proper, “civilized,” women) to work, while Black women were “drudges” and predisposed for labor.(19) On a practical level what this amounted to was making it significantly more expensive for a free Black household to operate than a white household. While I would argue that in a twisted sense it served to devalue both white and Black women (white because they were relegated to delicate flowers incapable of labor and Black because they were estimated as “naturally suited” to it) the more insidious fact is the setting up of a system in which Black households were unavoidably disadvantaged and less able to prosper, thus rather inevitably creating the conditions needed for generational poverty. In a twisted way this also reinforced the different understandings of whiteness held by Black folks and white folks. Black families must have seen the predicament this put them in financially, but I would be very surprised to learn they did not also see the sheer hypocrisy of the set up, a habit of whiteness paying lip service to an idea but really doing whatever it wants to do in practice. A system which amounts to “do as I say, not as I do”. A system we still see in operation today.

This sheer hypocrisy of whiteness is also examined by Eric Lott in his discussion of blackface performance in the mid-1800’s.(20) Lott claims that minstrel shows and blackface came from a place of love and a desire for educating white masses about black culture (among other motivations).(21) Yet, even assuming this motivation to be honestly felt, we are left with some extraordinarily hateful representations of both Black men and women in the shows themselves. This disparity is not easily reconciled, if it is in fact reconcilable at all. A point made all the more poignant by Lott’s observations of white minstrels’ pathetic attempts at covering up their outright plagiarism with stories of inspiration from hearing "mysterious and beautiful Black voices" echoing from street corners or horse carts.(22)

The lesson learned by the behavior observed from white people in the works by Brown and Lott is that whiteness allows for hypocrisy, that white people are accountable for this to no one, and rather, are completely oblivious to it. Is it any wonder that bell hooks experiences whiteness as terrifying? That Kimberle Crenshaw observes again and again the social and legal divide between the world white women inhabit when compared to women of color? Or that Renee Martin stresses the importance of not trusting white women blindly, because “on an individual level we can…share intimacies but on a systemic level whiteness will always divide us”?(23) I began with the question of what special knowledge people of color have of whiteness. It is the privileges white people don’t even know they have; privileges people of color get to see because they see whiteness at its most honest, when it thinks no one else is actually watching.

(18)Brown, Kathleen. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
(19)Brown, Kathleen. 116.
(20)Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
(21)Lott, Eric. 59.
(22)Lott, Eric. 59.
(23)Martin, Renee. “Blind Allegiance to White Women.” Womanist Musings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Phil Donahue On Hannity

I have been watching Donahue since I was too young to understand what he was saying.  His commitment to equality and fair journalism has made me a fan from elementary school to adulthood.  Watch as he does something Hannity cannot comprehend – speaking truth to power.

It’s The Great White North For A Reason: Neo Nazis In Canada

Many Canadians function with the idea that we are a society that has moved beyond race.  We look southward with a false sense of satisfaction and declare ourselves evolved however; the POC who must daily negotiate the less overt form of racism that is practiced in Canada know all to well what it is to come face to face with white privilege.  

We know for instance, that Aboriginal Canadians are over represented in the penal system and rather than seeing this as a function of systemic racism, we choose to perpetuate the lie that Natives are drunks, and thieves.   We know that many Aboriginal Canadians live in poverty and instead of looking at the ways in which we have purposefully impoverished them, we continually repeat the lie that Natives are lazy with no desire to work. The rates of sexual assault and rape are highest in the Aboriginal community and  instead of recognizing this as the twin evil of patriarchy and racism, we have constructed the myth that the Native woman is always sexually available. 

We choose to ignore these associations because it privileges whiteness to do so.  The face of racism to Canadians looks like this:

image An Aryan Guard supporter salutes at White Pride rally as he yells at    anti-racism supporters in Calgary, Saturday, March 21, 2009. Over 500 people turned out to protest the march and clashed with Aryan Guard supporters. Police detained several people during the event. (CP)

imageWhile these White Pride Neo-Nazis are surely a virulent segment of our society they are not the complete face of racism.   They stand out simply because they have the courage to verbalize and or physically display their rampant hatred of bodies of colour however, attitudes like theirs have always been a part of our society. Politicians have publicly displayed their racism and yet we still have the nerve to declare this a colorblind society.  Pointing southward and declaring ourselves “evolved,” does not mean that the ways in which we have constructed race does not unfairly benefit whiteness.  From Jamaican born Ben Johnson, to the construction of gang violence as consisting solely of new immigrants of color from the West Indies, we have invested much time into assuring that a Canadian identity will be understood as white and affluent. 

There are those that will look at the above images of the Neo Nazis and radically declare that they are not racist.   What they will fail to recognize is that one need not wear a swastika to be a racist.   Being steeped in a culture that presents a binary construction of race wherein whiteness is always understood as good, makes the internalizing of racist ideals a natural occurrence.  Whether you clutch your purse when you see a group of young black males,  or find yourself citing your black best friend as proof of how advanced you are; racism is part of your thought process because you have been taught from every single agent of socialization that a hierarchy of bodies is just. 

Canada is no less racist that our cousins in the United States, we have just come to express it differently.  When I inform people that the Nazi death camps were modelled on our reservation system, there is always an expression of shock.  We have so whitewashed our history that learning about Samuel de Champlain, or Jacques Cartier are prominently featured, while we ignore the near genocide that occurred so that we could claim this as our home and native land.  We love to speak about the racism displayed by the founding fathers of the US, and ignore that John A. Macdonald called for the public whipping of black males who threatened female (read:white female) purity.  How can a society that is built upon slavery (yes it happened here as well) and the near genocide of a people in the name of conquest possibly result in the utopian equality that we have falsely declared to the world?  Until we can own the fact that racism is just as much a part of Canadian culture as hockey night in Canada,  bodies of color will continue to exist as second class citizens.

H/T Restructure Via Twitter and CIV Chinese in Vancouver for the images.

POC'S Special Knowledge of Whiteness II

This is a continuation of a series from Whatsername of the Jaded Hippy.

Part II:
Hierarchal values and their enforcement culminates in a daily existence unique to people of color, who are living in a system set up with whiteness as the ever-perpetuating-itself ideal and power structure(6). Renee Martin discusses this reality regularly on her daily blog, Womanist Musings; white people think nothing of reaching out and touching you without your permission(7), when you offer critique on a topic you are expected to have all the answers to fix it(8), white people respond hostilely to being asked to make compromises people of color have to make every day(9), and (especially male) children must be taught “to carry [themselves] in ways that white people will not perceive as threatening,” or risk the consequences suffered by many, from Emmet Till to Oscar Grant(10). Simply to survive, people of color have to be constantly aware of whiteness, but whiteness never truly has to be aware of them. Is it any wonder that bell hooks has experienced and articulates this constant vigilance as a form of sheer terror?(11) What other word is there for a reality which disregards you fully in the knowledge that it can enforce itself upon you, violently if necessary, at any time?

Perhaps ironically, there is also no example which displays the divide in the lived experiences of people of color and white people as much as when a Black woman like bell hooks or Renee Martin expresses theirs. “White students respond with disbelief, shock, and rage, as they listen to black students talk about whiteness, when they are compelled to hear observations, stereotypes, etc., that are offered as ‘data’ gleaned from close scrutiny and study.”(12) White people are commonly totally incapable of dealing reasonably with the fact that their experience of life is in fact not universal, that they are not invisible, untouchable beings or even worse; that they have at some point benefited from a system that has caused terror in or violence upon another human being. Barbara Smith points this out when she says, “it’s not white women’s fault that they have been raised, for the most part, not knowing how to talk to Black women…What is your fault is making no serious effort to change old patterns of contempt – to look at how you still believe yourselves to be superior to Third World women and how you communicate these attitudes in blatant and subtle ways.”(13) This is a trend which has unfortunately not abated much in the two decades since Smith spoke these words, as the comments section of Womanist Musings will attest to on any given day.

Violence in lived experience is another example where whiteness and its hierarchies impact white women and women of color (especially Black women) differently. These disparities are a topic which Kimberle Crenshaw addresses in her influential work; “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color;” a concrete rendering of how whiteness impacts the lives of white and Black women differently(14). One of the topics discussed is the disparity in rape convictions depending on the victim’s race and the perpetrator’s race. White women are more likely to have their cases taken seriously and a conviction attained, while even when Black women overcome these hurdles they are still likely to have a far shorter sentence attained for their rapist.(15)  Crenshaw also looks at a disparity in organizing, where white feminist antiviolence organizers “frequently have the power to determine, either through material or rhetorical resources, whether the intersectional differences of women of color will be incorporated at all into the basic formulation of policy,”(16) something they often refuse to do, and then act surprised when their coalitions with feminist of color activists end “when the women of color [walk] out.”(17)

(6)Martin, Renee. “Why Whiteness”. Womanist Musings.
(7)Martin, Renee. “Can I touch your hair? Black women and the petting zoo.” Womanist Musings.
(8)Martin, Renee. “Why We Need To Talk About Whiteness and Privilege”. Womanist Musings.
(9)Martin, Renee. “Negotiating White Spaces”. Womanist Musings.
(10)Martin, Renee. “I Am Sean Bell: A Mothers Lament”. Womanist Musings.
(11)hooks, bell.
(12)hooks, bell. 167.
(13)Smith, Barbara. 26.
(14)Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color." Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241-1299.
(15)Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1269.
(16)Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1265.
(17)Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1265.