Saturday, May 2, 2009

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for all of the great conversation this week.  Thanks as well to all of those who guest posted here.  Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy and therefore if there is a subject you are interested in, please feel free to e-mail me either your original work or a cross post. As a single voice I realize that I cannot possibly cover all of the subjects of interest or do so in a way that reveals all nuances. 

This is your weekly reminder to contribute to the WOC and ally blog carnival that will be posted on the 15th at Tell It WOC Speak.  I am especially interested in posts about the way that race interacts with the other isms. So if you have written about race and disability, sexism, classism etc please send in a link.  The more sites of oppression that we examine the more complete the deconstruction can be.

As usual I have a list of posts that I found interesting to read.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out. When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

The 40 Year Old Virgin: Sex Ed

I Wasn’t Going To Do This  (This is a must read)

Cis is not an academic term

Oh, the privilege of ignorance

From Shakespeare to  StumbleUpon The Male Gaze Is Everywhere

Fibromyalgia: When Your Brain Is Not Your Friend 

They want me to be fat

2 Red Deaths = 1 White Death = Different Media Coverage and different degrees of sympathy

Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: Gotta Have Soul

PETA: No Better Than Michelle Malkin

Time To Call Out Another Privilege

Insert Clever Hair-Related Title Here

feel bad about participating in gentrification

Just To Clarify:  that is not what a “real man” is supposed to look like

You are not your breasts

Kids’ Thoughts About Skin Color And Beauty

 

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Balls, Balls, Balls and More Balls

image I live in a house of men.  Even Darren our newest addition is male.  Is it any wonder that I name the inanimate objects around the house with female names? How is it that I, a devoted womanist have ended up being surrounded by men?  Some would call it a cosmic joke.

I cannot tell you the last time that I went an entire day without having to participate in a conversation about balls, fart, poop, and the most recent addition nipples.   Mayhem has recently taken great interest in his nipples.  Not even at the diner table am I spared.  

image I was recently informed that as the only female in the house that I should be considerate and lift the toilet seat when I am done with it.  How do you like that for tyranny of the majority?

I have learned to pick my battles with the awareness that even in the testosterone overload at least my guys are a lot more aware of the sexism that they are capable of engaging in than many men/boys that I have run into.  Recently Destruction stopped speaking in mid sentence when he realized he was about to announce that his friend was crying like a little girl.  I do not allow the feminine to be used as a  pejorative in my home.  He caught himself and switched to baby and looked at me and smiled. His father high fived him announcing that it was “a good save”.

Nothing in my home is sacred.  My tampons have been turned into speed bumps for dinky cars and on more than one occasion my pads have been used to redecorate the bathroom.   The boys of course just see them as additional toys, while I get irritated every time I reach for what should have been a full box only to find them empty.’

Living in a house of men is enough to drive any womanist/feminist right around the bend.   Sure, some of it comes down to individual idiosyncrasies and some of it I am sure is a plot to make me absolutely loose my mind.  For instance how many of you can go shopping without stopping to check out all of the Man Q’simage (Read: BBQ’s)?  They are sometimes referred to as male cooking centers.  The unhusband even has this fantasy about this 3500 dollar behemoth that hooks up to the same gasline as the house. Not even if I won the 649 would I give in to that one.  Meat, beer and Man Q, of course not necessarily in that order become the hot topic every spring.  It seems that the Man Q is some sort of status symbol (read: penis enhancer) by which men judge their cave manness. 

And then there is remote control for the television.  I would like to know how my vagina renders me incapable of controlling the volume or changing the channel?  I have had to put my foot down and demand control but at least it was ceded without  whining and crying. 

Everyday in small ways I am working to make them aware of one simple truth: If Momma ain’t happy then no one is happy. I may not always be successful and there seems to be way too much bathroom humour but at least I know that at the end of the day if I say stop that is sexist, I never hear the words “you’re too sensitive”.  Even if someone cannot understand exactly why what they said or did is sexist, the fact that they are willing to end the behaviour shows respect and if everyone started from a belief in respecting others there would be a lot less negative engagement with the isms. 


Friday, May 1, 2009

White Men Need Not Apply

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You simply cannot make this shit up.  Marc Halpern is concerned that with the retirement of Souter that the white man will experience discrimination. I wonder if he bothered to glance about the current make up of the supreme court and realize that not only is whiteness represented, it is over represented?  The white male is the most privileged group in history and yet the mere thought that they might just loose one seat is enough to push the panic alarm.

While I am not suggesting that affirmative action will be used in the selection process, it damn well should be.  Clearly when we leave the government up to its own devices it is more than content to follow the historical pattern of making sure that women and POC are barely represented.  Personally, I would love to see a WOC put on the robe.  When laws are made without the influence of all members of society it means that certain people will always face discrimination within a system that is supposed to be race, class, and gender blind.

White men find the thought of affirmative action threatening because it seeks to specifically undo the generations of work that they have invested in ensuring that we live in a society that is inherently unequal.   This panic is the acknowledgement that the undeserved privilege by which they live is not natural; rather it is the collection of purposeful acts daily engaged in by whiteness.

In this instance selectively eliminating a white male from competition is not discrimination, it is an attempt to balance books that are deep in the red.   While whiteness may feel entitled after having the ability to express power freely for generations; the ones entitled to a little justice in this world are women and POC who have systemically been shut out of opportunities. 

Each time whiteness presents an objection to the slightest possibility that a marginalized body might possibly achieve a new position of power there is also a shadow of apprehension.  I remember one woman at a Palin campaign expressing fear that Obama “might not like white people”.   You see, what is often unspoken of is a fear of retribution.   Yes the “R” word.  When you know that you have wronged someone repeatedly, you expect vengeance.  Whiteness is more than aware of the ways in which it has attacked, demeaned, murdered, assaulted, and abused people of color.   Though it often tries to construct our anger as needless emotionalism; it fears a loss of privilege will not only result in equalization but justice.  This is why the turn the other cheek POC is so highly valued.  

When we appear happy or content with the imbalance in justice it affirms their right to lead as natural and reassures them that the continuation of oppression is acceptable.   Unfortunately for whiteness the days of sambo happily smiling and dancing a jig are long since over.  While I have no desire to recreate slavery or place whiteness in Jim crow living situations. my understanding of justice involves equality for all people.   If it means that some feelings get hurt because the opportunity to express power is reduced, somehow I will sleep at night. 

Final word to the wise: Considering that 2050 is fast approaching you might want to keep some of those affirmative action laws on the books for when you might actually need them – Monica@ TransGriot.

H/T Alas A Blog and Shakesville


My Daughters’ Keeper: Nahid Persson’s “Prostitution Behind The Veil”

Part 2   Part 3   Part 4    Part 5

As westerners there is so much we do not know about the daily lives of women in Iran.  Most of what we learn is filtered through the media and therefore their thoughts and emotions are often omitted.    My Daughters Keeper: Prostitution Behind The Veil is the story of two young women who are forced to turn to prostitution to feed their drug habit and care for their children. 

As they move from sigheh (temporary marriage) to sigheh it is subsistence and not love that is their primary concern.   These temporary marriages act as a veil for prostitution and can vary in length. It seems that even in a theocracy society will make room for the exploitation of women. 

It is my understanding that this practice is not necessarily Islamic but as someone unfamiliar with the faith I am in position to say with any degree of accuracy.  As I watched one woman recount the pain of having to sell her daughter my heart broke for her.  No mother should be put into that position and yet if this documentary is  accurate this is not an uncommon phenomenon. Due to lack of familiarity with both the culture and religion I can offer no great critique however I do submit if for no other reason than to hear from women that are usually silenced that this documentary is worth the time to watch.

H/T Muslimah Media Watch


Fibromyalgia: The Invisible Pain

image It's BADD! Click the logo on the left to visit the BADD homepage at Diary of a Goldfish and read all the BADD posts as they come rolling in.

Forward motion was the constant theme of my life.  There was always something to do and sitting and resting was a foreign concept to me.   I would often go to sleep at night thinking about everything I thought I had to accomplish the next day.   If I had to pick a word to describe me it would have been driven.  I would dedicate myself  with every fibre of my being to my various aspirations, not stopping until I had accomplished my goal. 

Suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt.  Sarcoidosis and Fibromyalgia entered my life and for the first time I learned that strength of will is not always enough.  When I was first diagnosed, I demanded my specialist fix me in three months because I had things to do and could not be bothered with this illness.  I assumed that just like everything else in my life I would grit my teeth and will myself into health and look back at this as some sort of uncomfortable inconvenience. 

As three months stretched into 6 and finally into 12, I began to understand that will alone would not make me better.  To the outside world other than the weight gain from the prednisone I look the same.  It is easy for those around me to forget that I am ill or the pain I live with everyday.   Even as I type this my hands and feet  are burning.  Despite a full night of sleep I am exhausted and am fighting to stay awake. 

One of the things I find most irritating about being disabled is the super crip status people expect me take on.  I know that I have always been tough but if I say I cannot do something, that means I cannot.  That short three blocks that you want me to walk might as well be the Boston Marathon to me.   It makes me want to scream you try it.  Try having ever fibre of your being ache as your body becomes drenched in sweat because each step is a struggle of unimaginable proportions.  Living in an ableist world means that there are those that don’t believe that concessions are necessary.  Those of us that have a disability are expected to rise above at all costs and therefore pose  no burden to those around us with our pain and our suffering.

To talk about our pain is construed as whining.   Someone will always come up with a story about a friend of a friend who had a disease similar to yours  who took  this herbal pill from Tibet or some mountain that you have never heard of and suddenly was cured and got on with their lives.   More likely than not this friend of friend just finally got the message that talking about their illness was not cool and decided to be silent.    You see we can talk about pain but only in terms of what we are doing constructively to get better and not about how much it hurts or hard it is emotionally.  It makes people uncomfortable and so it is understood as easier for all if we would just be quiet.  I know this to be correct because the moment you answer truthfully about how you feel the subject is quickly changed or silence ends the conversation. 

Another thing, stop telling the disabled how lucky we are, or how you wish you could be at home just like us.   Really?? I’ll trade you my body with all of the pain and you can stay home, spending the day on your back propped up by pillows with your feet on a heating pad watching endless hours of court tv and CNN in the hopes of keeping your mind somewhat active.  How much “fun” do you imagine it to be when your three year old asks to go to the park and you have to decline because you would rather be stretched on a rack than deal with the discomfort of the benches?

Sure, I don’t have the stress of ignorant co-workers or answering to a boss but each day I answer to the whims of this backstabbing body that seems to have a mind of its own.  I wake and sleep when I want but that is because I have no place to be and no one dependent on my labour.   In a world where much of ones identity is derived from what kind of work one does this makes me invisible and to some unimportant. 

Finally, don’t expect me to be unchanged by this experience.  How could I possibly be the same person after years of chronic pain and watching the life that I once led evaporate before my eyes?  No, I’m not going to laugh and smile to make it easy for you either. I suffered a real loss and at some point that needs to be acknowledged.

Even if I had not gotten sick  I would have changed, no one stays the same.  Change does not mean that everything about me that you once knew is gone, it just means that dealing with three chronic illnesses has altered  the way I view life.  Things that I was once able to take for granted I must now give great consideration to. 

Please just stop and think before you speak. Moving from able bodied to disabled is a life changing experience and each person needs a different kind of support.  Trying to pretend that nothing has changed is insulting.  Yes these chronic illnesses are invisible to the naked eye but they are felt in every fibre of my being.  Respecting me means respecting my illnesses; they are a part of me just like the  the hair on my head.   If I have to ask for help, recognize that it is a concession of my own will and I don’t need to be shamed for asking.  There will always be a time for laughter and smiles but sometimes know they exist to hide the pain I live with that you have difficulty dealing with.


Carol Thatcher Disgusts Me

This is a guest post from Mar from The Mongoose Chronicles

Rogue economist escaped to the bright side. Writer, talker, dancer, songwriter, singer, walker, runner, roamer, cook. Fierce lover of family and friends. Lover and defender of my womanness, Africanness, my Caribbean heritage, my Barbados, my right to take up my space and protect our space.

image In February of this year, Carol Thatcher, daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was dropped as a roving reporter on BBC1's The One Show after calling a black tennis player a golliwog in the show's backstage green room, and then refusing to make a full public apology over the remark. In the aftermath of her sacking, the BBC received over 3 000 complaints against their decision to fire her, and the mayor of London Boris Johnson publicly declared that he thought it was the wrong decision.

Thatcher was back on the air last week on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, and not only defended her use of the word - which is not surprising given that she refused to apologize in the first place - but also made two statements which I found indefensible. She first informed us of the many letters of support she received and of the fact that her golliwog collection had now greatly increased since like-minded people had included the keepsakes in their fan mail; and she suggested that the whole brouhaha was a result of people being overly sensitive and politically correct.

Now, I'm going to try and keep this short because we've had an extended conversation about this before, and because this kind of wilful racism does not stand up to argument. But the fact is, just because you grew up seeing golliwogs on the side of your jam jar as you sat at your breakfast table with your white, wealthy family and friends, does not entitle you to decide for another group of people what they are and are not allowed to be offended by. Carol Thatcher is a white woman, who was never the subject of the racist taunts of which the word 'golliwog' was a part, and who clearly does not understand that even the origin of the figure as a blackface minstrel is in itself far from flattering and arguably racist. As Labour's Jennette Arnold pointed out in response to Boris Johnson's defense of Thatcher's position:

"The symbolism of the golliwog is colonialist, racist, and harks back to time when black people were dismissed as slave, servant, and figures of fun.
"It is an image associated with the demeaning of black people. There are no second chances when anyone in public life uses such offensive language.
Boris Johnson seemed to think that Thatcher should have been disciplined internally with a small slap on the wrist, arguing that [emphasis mine]:
"The way to deal with it is if someone says something a bit offensive in a green room and you're the producer of the show and everybody else has taken umbrage and feels uncomfortable ... you take that person on one side and say: 'Listen, you've got to understand we've got to work together and you've got watch what you say and you've got to be sensitive,' but I don't think you fire someone. I really don't."

I often wonder how it is that people's self-censorship mechanism fails to engage in these situations; how it is that they do not realize that as people outside of the group whom this directly affects - and worse, part of the group that has perpetrated the racism in question - they don't get a vote. Now Boris Johnson's comments are less to do with whether the word itself is offensive and more to do with corporate equality policy, which is an important debate for everyone to have, but the fact that he calls the expression 'something a bit offensive' gives us a clue about how damaging he thinks this language really is (not very), and in fact, he should just have shut up.

I was disgusted by Thatcher in this Andrew Marr interview, because alarmingly, she seems to be part of this club of golliwog collectors who think their quaint little hobby is more valuable than the historical and current subjugation of an entire group of people; and worse, she is also one of those who has assumed the role of victim because The Man wants to take away her right to hurl racial slurs at people. And the rest of us should just get over it so she can have her golliwog fridge magnets and make fun of black people.

The issue of whether the term 'golliwog' and its image are offensive seems to be a recurring one. And for me, it is simple. As a small child, one of my favourite Enid Blyton series was The Three Golliwogs. I adored the characters, Wiggie, Waggie and Wollie, and saw them as just three toys come alive who got up to mischief. Of course, I grew up in Barbados. By that time, no one had ever called me a golliwog, and I hadn't yet learnt about the practice of blackface or really any of the history of slavery. As I got older and learnt more, no one needed to point out to me that these characters were a product of a racist time and tradition. It naturally became apparent - even before I learnt that one of the original names of the golliwogs was 'Nigger'. So just because you found a name or image harmless in childhood, either because you were part of a privileged group towards whom it was never directed, or because, like me, you were black but lived in a society where that kind of nomenclature was not a common form of attack against your group, that does not mean that the word or image was not harmful or racist. Both sets of circumstances can obtain, and in this case, they do. And here's what I also find problematic: it is not alright to say "well, people at the time were racist. So what can you do? I'm going to continue to read this book to my children because people nowadays are way too sensitive." You can do that, but if you do, be aware that you are in fact perpetuating racist stereotypes, and be prepared to be called a racist when someone comes to your house and sees your little golliwog fridge magnets. Because the fact that you know better and still refuse to adjust your behaviour means that that's exactly what you are.

A few months ago, I went exploring a closeby neighbourhood in search of cheap hangers on which to store my ridiculous amounts of clothes. (I'm always buying hangers, because apparently we have a hanger ghost who cannot cross over until she has hidden all of mine under bushes and brambles far and wide. Either that or I should stop shopping. My money's on the ghost.) I came upon this home supply store with cheap hangers of all materials and colours and as far as the eye could see! It was some kind of hanger paradise! So as I was scooping madly, my eyes happened upon the back of the store, which seemed to be where they stored the toys, and against the entire back wall, from floor to ceiling, were all kinds of toy golliwogs, their hundreds of black faces, white eyes and red lips grinning back at me. I have to say that I was horrified. I immediately felt vulnerable, because if these were the kinds of people who would so unashamedly offer these items for purchase, what, I thought, would they do with a real, live black person (I was the only one) in their store? Because clearly, they weren't worried about seeming racist.

It must have been people such as this who sent Carol Thatcher their letters of support, people who are banding together to protect their right to display icons of the racism they practice when they think no one's listening. Well, carry on with your crusade. But don't be surprised if you lose your job over it.


Donna Barstow: Racist Pearl Clutcher

image I do believe that Ms. Barstow has been polishing her pearls.  In any earlier post I wrote about the racism and western privilege that she engaged in, in  her decidedly racist cartoon depicting Mexico.  After reading her whining commentary and e-mail, though it was clear that her issue was the criticism and not with the copyright, I decided to remove the image.

I did make it clear that due to the scurrilous nature of her work that it has been replicated across the blogosphere.  It really is hard to ignore such obvious noxious content if you are a politically aware blogger.   She repeated her threats at several sites and with the exception of Womanist Musings, all refused to remove her work citing fair use.

It seems that peddling racist images is Ms. Barstow’s stock and trade.  Is it any wonder you ended up with a terrible contract considering  the calibre of your work. Had it been printed on paper, I would not even line my kitty litter box with such obvious nonsense; my beautiful Darren deserves better than that.

After reading commentary at Alas regarding Ms. Barstows complaints I am even more convinced that the issue is that her work was labelled racist.  If you don’t want to be called out on racism the simple solution is to stop being racist.

I understand that tooting around the world with white privilege means that you have learned to take many things for granted however, you new age Missy Anne, times have changed and you will just have to learn to wear a cream sheet publicly and save your gleaming bleach white sheet for your family and friends to adore.

I am sure you have much support for what you do with David Duke crowd however the same right that enables your offensive speech allows me to critique it.  That you feel the need to characterize legitimate criticism as hate mail speaks the limitations of the validity of your work.

In two example of your work you chose to play upon racist characterizations of Mexicans and Blacks.  Gee, how can anyone think for one moment that a white woman (that would be you) steeped in a racist culture, could honestly be unaware of the message that she was sending?  Your actions were purposeful Ms. Barstow and each day whiteness commits such acts to maintain our dissonance in worth and value.  The only thing I am surprised by is that you expected your activities to be above reproach.  Ooops silly me isn’t that the usual ploy of whiteness; the ability to believe that it is immune from criticism? 

Though I have already given you more attention than you deserve I want you to be aware that each time your name appears in this blog post you will find a link.  It is there because in your last commentary you complained about a lack of recognition.  After careful thought I realized that linking to you is a good thing because all who come across your little drawings should see them for exactly what they are; the racist scratches of a woman so steeped in white privilege that she believes herself above criticism. 


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your Brain On Whiteness

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Yes I am going to once again talk about whiteness.  I do so not because I have an obsession with it but because whiteness has a tendency to dominate most conversations even when the subject matter is clearly about the oppressions faced by people of color.   Whiteness continually centers itself in the debate through either attempting to relate when their is no causality or pointing out the various ways in which it also experiences oppression….Gee really…who woulda thunk it?

Yesterday I wrote about the Lennon song Woman is the Nigger of the World.  In response, I got back but white wimminez experience sexism too.  Really, no shit Sherlock?   With all of the work that feminism has done to convince the world that white, middle class women, are oppressed by men somehow I missed it.  You see, their oppression should some how take precedence over the fact that women of color are completely erased, ‘cause the white wimminez are suffering and since they constitute legitimate womanhood this travesty cannot be ignored.

Each act of erasure constitutes racism in the same way that using a racial epithet marks one as a bigot.  Using WOC as anecdotal evidence of sexism is also a racist act but to hear white people tell it they are “being inclusive”.   Uh huh ‘cause race can only be understood through the lens of whiteness and the ways in which bodies of color understand the isms is completely irrelevant to the world unless of course we have the nerve to critique whiteness, then suddenly what we have to say matters because whiteness is understood to be above critique. 

To not include whiteness is deemed racist even though it is represented in every single social institution.   Of course, whiteness can only receive the most glowing of reviews otherwise we are displaying hatred.  I sho nuff knows how hard you has it Missy Anne and I’s grateful for the opportunity to serves.  Can I’s get ya sumthin make your days a bit easier?  Ya knows I just loves me some white folks.  Shuckin and Jiving is how whiteness loves its coloreds an  I sho nuff aims ta please.

Discipline, censure, erasure and silence, these are the most common tactics engaged in by whiteness even in spaces dedicated to discussing race critically.  The responsibility of holding up the race hierarchy can never be neglected.  It is the burden that all who are born white must carry with them throughout their lives and only angry POC cannot see the suffering that this entails.  How can we possibly relate to the trials that come with that?  The daily “othering” that we receive can only be understood as secondary in comparison to the trials and tribulations of whiteness…can I get a Hallelujah?…mmmm how about an Amen?


Still Black: A Portrait Of Black Transmen

 

image   imageThe following are three short clips from the groundbreaking documentary  Still Black.  I have yet to see it but the opportunity to hear from the voices of a group that we have silenced and “othered” has really caught my attention.  It follows the stories of an artist, student, husband, father, lawyer and teacher: 6 men in total.  Screenings for this film run until June. 

Transcript:

I worked in corporate America. I went to work in corporate America after law school and I kept thinking I am not going to be the cliché the black civil rights lawyer.  The black lesbian at the time cause that was the title that I thought was closes to who I was at the time.  So I went to work at this corporation to make lots of money; so I was gonna conform.  It was horrible because then I had to dress or try to dress like everyone with the hose and the makeup.  I don’t know if there are any people that wear those things but it is quite costly to buy makeup and hose and all of those things.  And then you have to get up at the crack of dawn just to get dressed. You can tell I’m not for that which is why my head is shaved.  I’ve never been for getting up early.  I would just rip those close off as soon as got off of work, out in the car in the parking lot   I just couldn’t stand it.  I would be undressing as soon as I could.  I just couldn’t stand it.  It was just horrible.  

Transcript:

I’m still psychologically going through puberty even though I’m grown. I’m 22 and I’m grown.  I’m older and it’s so weird that I wanna look like 50 cent or just you know my physical image.  I don’t care to be a gangster, I don’t need to do that .  I don’t care to be, which is a lot of media portrayal of black men. I don’t care about all that cause I am a poet.  So when you go into the poetry you seen, you’ve got these cool black dudes who are just like chill whatever, so I am not really concerned with that.  I think it’s just physically I wanna be, I mean I wanna look like that.  Okay, cause I think I am still early.  I have only been on testosterone for a year so I’m still like early in my physical transformation. So I’m like mmm I kinda wanna have a body like that or I want my voice to be like that.  Ummm I think other people expect me to be what the media portrays the black man and that’s difficult.

Transcript

I asked my father, I remember asking my father when I was about three years old when my penis was going to grow and it totally freaked him out.  It really freaked him out but I would see little boys and I just always wanted to be with them.  I wanted to do the things that they were doing, I always wanted to hang out with them.  

How they see me and then I see my previous life you know living as a lesbian.  Living as a female sitting here and how the conversation would be different.  How guys talk to me different you know um how women don’t approach me now. 

I decided to have kids  cause like I’m getting old and um they gave us a .00% chance of um  that we would have our babies.  Or um a baby cause before we always talked about one baby.  Low and behold two came and the next thing you know I found out that there were girls and I started saying I got to get another job cause I got three women in the house now and that’s not gonna work.  Through all my BS Wanda has been there for me. 

But if I have..428 years and I still can’t see beyond my broad nose and I only get 28 days in February to say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud. I was talking to a friend the other day and it’s kinda like I’m still a lesbian.  There is no way to run my femininity and if I try I’ll always be miserable. 

I cannot wait for this to come on video.  This is one documentary that I predict should not be missed.

H/T genderfork


Gay Marriage: If It Were Not For Those Pesky Blacks

Andrew Breitbart used his large platform at the Washington Post to once again spread the false meme that blacks are against gay marriage.

On display at the Miss USA event was the activist left's pageant of selective bullying, a concerted strategy to go after low-hanging fruit like Mormons. But the left leaves off its hit list members in good standing of its normal coalition - its "rainbow" coalition. In California, one of the gayest places on the map, blacks and Hispanics - who disproportionately disapprove of same-sex marriage - get a stunning pass from outraged proponents of gay marriage.

image Isn’t it wonderful that despite the fact that this has been disproven countless times, the lie about the support of Blacks for prop 8 can continually get repeated as though it is the gospel truth?   Of course, it is only slandering an oppressed group so why not just allow this mendacity to continue to spread throughout our social discourse. 

On this blog alone I have presented example after example of the black community standing behind same sex marriage.  Let us  not forget that there are black members of TLBG community, who I am quite sure did not vote against their own right to get married. 

Each time I am forced to blog about this issue I feel as though I am beating a dead horse.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been told to let this go and just move on.  The point of fact is that this lie enrages me.  Many in the GLBT community refuse to acknowledge the racism engaged in after Prop 8, let alone apologize for it and yet they seek to construct all blacks as intolerant bigots.  Yes, it is the blacks with the least amount of institutional power that are denying the lesbian and gay community their right to marry.  That just makes so much sense.

The GLBT community does not want to admit that it is lead by whiteness and therefore uses its privilege to attack groups that it perceives as less than to affirm our social dissonance.  From gay is the new black, to appropriating images from Jim Crow, the white lead GLBT movement has made it patently clear that blackness exists to be oppressed.

I cannot stop speaking about this because to deny the racism in this position, is a denial of my dignity as a human being.   People need to stop engaging in privilege to prove that they are oppressed because more often than not it results in dehumanizing another vulnerable group in society. 

Dear white GLB community, I know that you feel owed, entitled and wronged however your oppression does not out weigh that of another, nor does it give you the right to demean others at will. I hate to inform you that the differently abled, Indigenous Peoples, Latin@’s, the poor, women, transgender community, Asians, and etc., are all still waiting for justice so get the fuck in line with everybody else. I know that this is painful to hear because many of you are so used to your white privilege paving the way to achieving everything your little hearts desire and this may be a little tough to take but take it from someone who negotiates three areas of oppression on a daily basis; the path forward is not to mimic your oppressor but to systematically change the ways in which we understand power and hierarchy.  The Master Tools are only going to alienate those who would have potentially allied with your cause.


Denis Leary On Mel Gibson

This is truly a case of one asshole to another.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Think I’ll Call her Mary-Lou: Getting A Wheel Chair

image Since I opened the door to publicly blog about my chronic illnesses, I have decided I might as well kick the damn thing down.    I have been resistant to  completely owning the status of a disabled person and getting a wheelchair.  Getting the rude commentary and stares every time I am out with my cane was enough to make me resistant to taking the next step.

On my recent trip to Walmart (yes I know they’re evil but once again I live in a small town) to shop for new patio furniture, I found it incredibly difficult to walk around the store.  I kept having  to go and find a seat and what should have been at most a forty-five minute expedition took literally hours.  I spent the next three days on the couch barely able to move, my body racked with pain and my mind filled with regret.

image I entered a small depression as I realized that if I couldn’t even toot around a Walmart how limited the coming summer would be for the boys and I.  It is bad enough that I cannot even sit at the park with them for any extended period of time but the thought of being restricted to my porch while they play in the front yard is positively depressing.

A few days later the unhusband talked me into going to Zellers (big box store similar to Walmart).  In the front they had a shiny courtesy power wheelchair for shoppers.  I stood in front of it shaking and thinking about my past experience at Walmart.  I didn’t want to go through the physical pain again but was I strong enough to get over the looks that come with riding in a motorized wheelchair.  Well I did it.  I threw caution to the wind and got on board.

It was the best decision that I have made in years.  For the first time in forever I could keep up…I COULD KEEP UP.  I tooted around the store in little to no pain and did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.  I have to say that it was the most liberating experience that I have had in forever.  When we were done I didn’t want to give up that wheelchair.  I realized that if I actually owned one I’d be able to get at least part of my life back. 

I know that I am not going to get better.  No matter how many milligrams of prednisone or various other drugs they pump into my system, Fibromyalgia and Sarcoidosis are here to stay.  They are painful diseases and quite invisible to most people but if I want to have some semblance of a life I can no longer allow my pride to get in the way. 

 

image

So there she is.  Since I have a habit of naming inanimate objects, (for example my laptop is Suzy) I am going to name her Mary-Lou.  I have no idea how I am going to afford to get her yet and doubt that I will have her for the summer but one way or another, I am determined to get a wheelchair to get some part of my life back. 


Saying I’m Sorry Won’t Kill You Dan Savage

image In a continuation of his pompous over privileged attitude, Savage once again refuses to apologize for his offensive commentary.  Are the words I’m sorry a foreign language to this twit? Really, he makes me ill.

A commenter pointed out to him that repeatedly using the word “retard” as a negative descriptor is not only offensive but ableist and how did the bumptious teller of truth respond:

I'm going to turn over a new leaf, TROS, and make a conscious, conscientious effort to break myself of the bad habit of using the word "retard." But I don't think the "retard jar" is for me. Instead, I'm going to use a substitution for the word. From now on, instead of saying "retard" or "that's so retarded," I'm going to say "leotard" and "that's so leotarded." (emphasis mine) I won't be mocking the mentally challenged, just the physically gifted. I will pick on the strong—and the limber—and not the weak.

One: That you have to be told in this day and age that using the word “retard” as a negative descriptor is wrong, speaks to your continual inability to recognize those that don’t fit into your tiny little framework of what constitutes a human being.  If someone were to say “that’s so gay,”  I bet you would demand an immediate apology without any form of rationalization. 

Two: Just say I’m sorry.  It won’t kill you and believe it or not even over privileged white males do fuck up from time to time.

Three: Replacing an offensive word like “retard” with “leotard” is  not acceptable.  You are still mocking those that live with mental disabilities.   Using a different label to infer the same concept is not progressive. Let me put this into  terms even you can understand; calling someone a fag and then switching to queer still amounts to homophobic commentary…See how I made sure to use a reference that even you dear Dan could understand because we all know that unless someone is gay or lesbian, white, able bodied, cisgendered and class privileged they don’t matter in your rainbow world.

Four: It is not just a case of a “bad habit,” routinely using the word retard as a negative descriptor is ableist.  You would call something hateful towards the gay and lesbian community homophobic, so why not just admit that what you said was ableist…mmm I know ‘cause that would require an apology and the great Dan Savage is above that.

Five:  Here is a shocker, there are those that are mentally disabled that identify as gay or lesbian and therefore when you are ableist, you are insulting members of your own community.  It’s called intersectionality Savage, people can have more than one site of oppression.  So Mr. King of Gay rights, if you actually respect the lesbian and gay community you claim to represent, how about you acknowledging its diversity.   I know that with the personality of a smarmy used vacuum cleaner salesman it is hard to see beyond your own teeny world experience but if you are going to stand on a pedestal and claim yourself as a truth teller, perhaps you should begin with the revolutionary thought that all people matter.


Blame Mexico

I found this less than brilliant cartoon over at Pandagon.  Just at first glance it has several layers of wrong.  It stinks of so much geographic Northern privilege, I might just need a virtual glade plug in to attach to this post.

You will notice how Mexico is constructed as the gift that keeps on giving, as though it is in the condition that it is without the intervention of western countries…seriously a little thing like spurious debts, unfair trade contracts, forced devaluation of currency, colonialism, manifest destiny inspired conquest, racism, illegal military activities, and one of my personal favourites union busting.  The sad part is that the aforementioned list is nowhere near complete, it only includes incidents that are off the top of my head.

The western world is like the wicked step sister to Latin America.  It has no intention of helping because if the condition in Mexico continues to deteriorate it offers more opportunities to exploit.  As much as the disgusting minute men rail against illegal immigration, we all know that many North American industries thrive on immigrant labour.  How many so-called “American made” products are made in factories on Mexican soil where they barely pay a living wage and then avoid taxes and duties? Yeah, follow your jingoist dream and buy all American and in the process you ensure the continuation of slave labour.

North Americans refuse to employ useful strategies to deal with drug addiction and somehow it is the Mexicans that are understood as criminals.   Imagine the nerve of these brown thugs growing cocaine and pot because other cash crops don’t pay enough to sustain a family. Why oh why are they so unwilling to starve; oh well at least it allows us to stand on our false moral pedestals and wag our fingers. 

This little cartoon is nothing more than a this is your brain on western privilege
commentary.  It abdicates all responsibility as though the luxury that we live in comes at no cost to others.   Our over sized houses need to be maintained, the SUV’s have to be made somewhere and heaven forbid we should stitch our own clothing or pick our own fruit; isn’t that why we constructed the concept of third world bodies in the first place?  I know, I know, we are doing them a favour right?  Just imagine what would happen if we decided to release some of the privilege that we have gained through illegal and soul crushing activities….Mexico might actually be a country enjoying a decent standard of living.  Oh well, at least we still have a place to get a decent shot of Tequila, while we use the cultural phenomenon of the siesta to construct the idea of the lazy, dirty Mexican. 

Editors Note:  The cartoon that accompanied this post was removed at the whining of the author.  It seems that offering a critique when someone is being not only insipid but racist is a no no.  I don’t care if you are a woman Ms.   Barstow, it does not give you the right to be an ignorant ass at will.  Ta ta and I am sure that you will continue to enjoy choking on your privilege.


Dora The Explorer Matters To Boys

image Dora has been a part of my life for the last 4 years.  We started a relationship when my oldest boy Destruction, developed a deep and abiding love for her.  Everyday at 5pm she promptly arrives on my television and I am ordered into silence for the next thirty minutes, unless I am shouting along, swiper no swiping, or singing the backpack song.  Mayhem who is 3 1/2  is equally dedicated to Dora.  We also watch her cousin Diego, but Dora remains their first love.

When the firestorm first broke about the fact that Dora is about to undergo an image change, feminists across the blogosphere wasted no time in documenting how damaging this would be to young girls.   Unlike many of the female targeted cartoons Dora is unique;  she goes on adventures, is not overly sexualized and is of color.  She unabashedly speaks her native language and encourages children to learn and experiment.  I must admit the little Spanish that I have picked up in the last few years is a direct result of the hours of Dora I have had to watch.

image When I think of the shows I have been forced to watch like, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Bob The Builder, Fairly Odd Parents, Pokemon, Johnny Test  and yes even Barney; Dora stands as one of my favourites.  

Just as Dora presents a positive image to young girls, she does so for boys as well and this has been ignored in the outrage over the image change.  When my boys watch and embrace Dora, they learn that masculinity is not the center of the universe even though so many things around them attempt to confirm this as a universal truth.   It further becomes apparent to them that girls don’t all want to play dress up and mommy; they want to have adventures as well. 

If we want boys to grow and believe that girls are their equals, positive images of femininity  are extremely important.  When feminists write we constantly say that sexism hurts men to but often this is just lipservice and no real analysis emerges to explore this theme.  I waited patiently for someone to speak about Dora’s effect on boys but alas it was not to be.   It seems that femininity has completely claimed her and by so doing we have ignored the mass appeal she has to both boys and girls. 

We know that gender is a constructed identity and therefore whatever images children internalize become their understanding of what roles males and females play.  If boys only see themselves represented they learn to see girls and women image as unimportant.  Even though Nickelodeon felt the need to create Diego to have a cartoon specifically aimed at boys, Dora continues to rule the roost at my house.  Having learned to love her from the very beginning my boys saw no need to slap a  figurative penis on her and switch allegiance to Diego and that speaks volumes about her ability to teach males that adventure comes in both genders.

When this new Dora makes her appearance in the fall, I fear that she will just affirm all of the negative stereotypes about girls and women I fight against each day.  When I tell the boys that not all girls like dolls, or makeup, Dora has always been able to serve as a ready marker of truth in my words. This new version will simply imply that as girls age they revert to what we have constructed as socially natural for femininity thus negating all the good work done by the original Dora.  So yeah, this new Dora sucks for boys as well.  Each time we challenge gender performance both sexes benefit. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Woman Is The Nigger Of the World

I recently read listen to racist music at stuff white people do.  It got me thinking about the song Woman Is The Nigger Of The World by John Lennon.

Woman is the nigger of the world
Yes she is...think about it
Woman is the nigger of the world
Think about it...do something about it
We make her paint her face and dance
If she wont be a slave, we say that she don't love us
If she's real, we say she's trying to be a man
While putting her down, we pretend that she's above us
Woman is the nigger of the world...yes she is
If you don't believe me, take a look at the one you're with
Woman is the slave of the slaves
Ah, yeah...better scream about it
We make her bear and raise our children
And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother hen
We tell her home is the only place she should be
Then we complain that she’s too unworldly to be our friend
Woman is the nigger of the world...yes she is
If you don't believe me, take a look at the one you’re with
Woman is the slave to the slaves
Yeah...alright...hit it!
We insult her every day on TV
And wonder why she has no guts or confidence
When she's young we kill her will to be free
While telling her not to be so smart we put her down for being so dumb
Woman is the nigger of the world
Yes she is...if you don’t believe me, take a look at the one you’re with
Woman is the slave to the slaves
Yes she is...if you believe me, you better scream about it
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance

I suppose at the time that this song was written it was deemed progressive. It reminds of the Student as Nigger by Faber which was published a few years before this song was released, which pushed the same sort of idea. Today this form of appropriation is readily engaged in by the GLBT community with the phrase gay is the new black (I bet they thought they were being original).

Though much time has passed since the song and the paper were released, whiteness still defines oppression by how it treats blacks.  White privilege means the ability to erase others while complaining that one is uniquely oppressed because you are experiencing a form of discrimination that is normally reserved for a group that has been assigned the identity of “other’.  Heaven forbid any white person live with a small dose of the kind of systemic inequality that blacks face on a daily basis. 

Appropriation of the struggles of others has been the stock and trade of most if not all social justice programs led by whiteness.  Whether it is feminism, environmentalism, disability rights, or animal rights, all have a vested interested in promoting whiteness.  Their continual refusal to employ intersectionality is proof of a lack of commitment to truly challenge power dynamics. 

A white man singing woman is the nigger of the world is meant to confront and destabilize  the power of patriarchy however, it ignores the fact that white women live in privilege in comparison to black women.  ‘Woman’ cannot be subsumed under a monolithic identity because we all experience oppression differently.   While white women are oppressed by sexism, they still exist with the power to oppress with racism.  Reading the daily exchanges in the feminist blogosphere this is evident to anyone who examines race critically and yet we are still expected to come together under the banner of sisterhood when it suits the interests of white women.

POC are often told how much better things have become but if we are still fighting against the same constructions after decades of activism,  how can we declare progress? Woman is the nigger of the world is just as offensive today as it was when it was first sung all of those years ago and yet we can still see its echo across time in feminism, and gay rights. 

I have spoken passionately about racism and the painful results of being daily “othered,” only to find my voice drowned out by self righteous pearl clutchers, intent on embracing their pedestals to the bitter end.  Legitimate critique is presented as though I am mean, immature, or angry without cause. The difference between white rage and and black rage is that our anger is always deemed to be emotional and highly illogical.  The logic argument is particularly harmful in that it asserts the correctness of whiteness and places it above critique. 

One of the hardest things to do is critical self reflection.  It is far easier to succumb to anger and deny even the mere possibility that our actions or language not only cause harm but that we benefit from damaging another human being.  We have been trained since birth to invoke our various privileges and thus maintain our social inequities.  It is not hard to believe when someone says that they are hurt, if we look outside of our privileges.  The idea that anyone should exist with the continual right to offend or declare the feelings of another irrelevant is ridiculous.  A stigmatized and or oppressed individual is not whining when they express their hurt; their feelings are worth something if you believe that all people matter. 


Living Purple in a Lavender World…It’s a Social Change Perspective!

This is a guest post by Maxine Ariot

"What I know for sure is "The greatest value a person can attain is full humanity, which is a state of oneness with all things, and willingness to die so that the best that has been produced can continue to live in someone else."  Alice Walker. I am a recent graduate from American University with a degree in Women and Gender studies. I am a woman in transition who believes that theory can be a source of healing."

When I say “I am not a feminist” the glances from the room full of women suggests only my ignorance, and lack of knowledge, superseded by the argument that society is the culprit for my misguided and socialized understandings of feminists as angry women.  As the discussion develops, the group insists that, indeed I am a feminist, reluctant of the name because of societal repercussions.

Reluctant? No! It has nothing to do with societal feelings and everything to do with the barriers within the feminist community.

The feminist community has been unsuccessful in capturing the voices of women with special regards to the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality.

Often enough women of color remain restricted by the pretence “to be seen and not heard” in feminist activism. As a result WOC have found new theoretical frameworks representative of their everyday experiences.  

“Womanism is a social change perspective rooted in Black women's and other women of color's everyday experiences and everyday methods of problem solving in everyday spaces, extended to the problem of ending all forms of oppression for all people, restoring the balance between people and the environment/nature, and reconciling human life with the spiritual dimension for it has been uniquely these moments of discrimination where I have found myself to be a woman who is seen and heard.” Layli Phillips

Womanism is more than a theoretical concept; it is realistically applicable to everyday life experiences and is an insurmountable source of healing. Its liberatory practices are personal and build universal strength because of one voice choosing to speak against, that is the value of being womanist natured. As a womanist, fulfillment of one transition to the next is the ability to advocate through voice, mind, body, and spirit against oppression. Our strength builds from the context that we overcome suppression by simply speaking out against oppression no matter how small the infraction.

As we participate in this kind of social justice we prepare the next generation for something better than what we have encountered and could have ever imagined.


Some Woman Didn’t Do Her Job: Single Mothers And The Destruction Of Society

No person is born outside of discourse and if your body is encoded with several negative descriptors, those that exist with social privilege will use the imbalance in power to continually affirm their position through the promotion of harmful ideologies.  When we examine the hierarchy of bodies as it relates to the western world there can be no doubt that the black woman has no institutional other.  She is oppressed to maintain both white hegemony and patriarchy. 

Rather than examining the ways in which privileged bodies work to ensure that the most vulnerable members lead lives of poverty, the blame is placed specifically on the  oppressed for either an unwillingness, or inability to conform to socially constructed norms.

  Government statistics reveal that the percentage of all babies born to unwed mothers nationally rose to 32 percent in 1997 from only 5.3 percent in 1960. Among blacks nationally, 69 percent of births were to unwed mothers. And in a departure from previous increases in births to unwed teen mothers, 70 percent of births to single mothers involved women 20 or older.

    The survey data notes that in 1960, 9 percent of children lived in a single-parent household — usually headed by the mother. By 1998, 28 percent of all children and 55 percent of black children lived with a single parent.

    This “substantial weakening of the institution of marriage” is also part of a national trend identified in a report by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. It found that the marriage rate fell from about 73 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15 and up in 1960 to about 49 per 1,000 in 1996, the latest available figures. This rate is the lowest recorded since the turn of the previous century. And many black women are giving birth and raising children without ever taking marriage vows.

image It is assumed by many that the patriarchal family is the desire for all women.  The wedding day is referred to as “the brides day”; after all we need to celebrate that she was lucky enough to catch a man.  Women are encouraged from childhood to celebrate their future nuptials as a validation of coming of age and as the symbol of a value of their femininity.  You have to be worth something if a man is willing to a live a longer, reduced stress life, with a live in caretaker, cook and sex partner.  Gee the sacrifices men make when they say “I Do” is overwhelming isn’t it?

The causes of plummeting marriage rates, particularly in the last four decades, are many and varied. Researchers note the social acceptance of sex outside marriage; more working women who have less economic reliance on a husband, and a popular culture that often mocks the institution of marriage. There appears to be no hard data, however, indicating why births to unwed mothers are so much more prevalent among black Americans.

    Single parenthood should not be viewed with indifference. Indeed, the number of single moms poses serious social and public-policy dilemmas. It has been well documented and reported, for example, that children born to unmarried women are far more likely to live in poverty, suffer abuse and be neglected. Girls born into these families are more likely to become pregnant than children living with their married parents and continue the generational cycle of unwed motherhood.

    Children from low-income, fatherless households are also more likely to become school dropouts. Children in these families tend to be lower achievers than those from two-parent, higher-income families. These trends generally exist even when a stepfather is present.

image The social ills brought on by single motherhood are absolutely terrible.  If only these women would keep their legs closed until they garnered the brass ring.  How dare they attempt to raise children, get educated and have jobs, when society has made it clear that they will be punished along with their children.  How much more clear can we make it that women are meant to submit to the patriarchal family? 

We continually see the terrible stats associated with single motherhood and instead of disciplining the fathers who have abdicated their responsibilities, we blame the woman because women are understood as the gatekeepers of sex.  Even as we continually reduce access to abortion and birth control information, the rising phenomenon of single motherhood is constructed as the fault of a wilful slut. Ultimately this is about controlling women and not about the welfare of the children that are born outside of wedlock. 

If we truly cared about these children we would be providing these mothers with everything that they needed to lead successful lives.  Things like subsidized day care, decent subsidized housing, education, and a good support network could go a long way to ensuring that these children had a stable environment in which to grow.  We push the patriarchal family not because it is better than a communal form of responsibility for children but because it supports male hegemony.

We understand this as an individual problem which is a false construct in a society that is interconnected.   Humans are communal, despite the individualistic ideology adv0cated by bourgeoisie capitalists.  It is in the interest of the ruling elite to push this false construct because it is comprised largely of white men.  For them to admit that their standard of living is largely possible because of the exploitation of women and in particular women of color would severely limit their ability to maintain the obvious inequities that are rampant within our system.  The daily shaming and lack of positive effort to improve the lives of single mothers is about the maintenance of power and privilege and not because we lack the ability to retool how our society is constructed. It is politically correct to speak out against poverty and suffering yet our daily actions prove the mendacity of our words. 

When I see studies like the above which actively engage in shaming women, I cannot help but to question where our social responsibility is.  It is not enough to look at the bare statistics without examining how they came to be generated.  If we own the shame that patriarchy seems intent to enforce we cannot possibly hope to create a world that is at the very minimum a safe and healthy space for women and children.  Our actions should seek to dismantle our current power structure rather than encouraging the blind conformity of all beings to a corrupt, decrepit, soul crushing way of life.


Condoms: We Should All Celebrate

I loved this ad the minute I saw it months ago but it took me forever to find it again.  I love that it is fun and light hearted without the slightest bit of shame for engaging in sexual behaviour.  This Indian model is something we should attempt to follow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Privilege of Just Being a PERSON: Whiteness and Race Anxieties

This is a guest post by Berneta Haynes of Nickel For A Thought.

Berneta is a Ph.D candidate in English at the University of Iowa, interested in the role of the "othered" body in American cultural production and discourse. Generally, I am interested in the ways in which symbolic and metaphorical constructions of the "othered" body underscore very real divisions of race, sexuality, gender, and class in American culture.

I am writing this post in response to something that has bothered me recently, in response to a question that I’ve been asked on three separate occasions by three separate white people: “Can we just be friends (or lovers) without you being black and me being white?” During each occasion my answer was an immediate and emphatic, “No.”

Alice's role in this relationship exemplifies the narcisism of whiteness at its worst, and that narcisistic power embedded in whiteness virtually erased Tasha's personhood.

Alice's role in this relationship exemplifies the narcissism of whiteness at its worst, and that narcissistic power embedded in whiteness virtually erased Tasha's personhood.

I have always been dumbfounded and amused by the fact that the very people responsible for the creation of racial categories are the very people who can’t seem to handle racial categories anymore. The very people whose sense of power and superiority, and thereby warped sense of self, is dependant upon these racial categories can’t handle racial categories anymore. Having to deal with the fact that the brown and black world sees them as white people, rather than just people (as whiteness is supposed to be seen as the norm of humanity), is seemingly too much for white people to handle. The reality of their race creates a whole existential crisis in white folks.

This shit is funny to me, as I watch white people suffer with the realization that they too have a race and that the notion of being an individual (devoid of a racial culture) that is so embedded in the ideology of whiteness is nothing short of an illusion, as I think, “Karma is never fun.” Yes, Karma. The very group that created the notion of race in order to categorize and, thereby legitimate their oppression of, non-European “others” (in order to grasp their own identity, many cultural critics would suggest, a claim I don’t deny but one which I think completely lets whiteness off the hook) are the very people who suddenly find themselves oppressed by that notion, race, by the fact that they are also categorized as “other” by non-whites. The shit is funny to me, plain and simple.

But I want to return to the question with which I’ve framed this post. With regards to this question, I have a couple of follow-up questions: What is to be gained from such a scenario, wherein my white friend and I cast our racial identities aside and operate as friends outside of the construct of race? And who is set to gain from such a scenario? I am most certainly not going to gain from such a scenario because it will require that I ignore on a continual basis the particular power positions from within which we both operate, and the particularly disadvantaged power position from which I operate in the situation. In fact, that position of power from which the white friend operates is exactly what prompts such a question in the first place. Only a person from a position of racial privilege can ever feel capable of abandoning his/her racial identity. Only a person from a position of racial privilege can ever feel it appropriate to ask his/her lesser privileged friend to abandon his/her racial identity. Only a person from a position of racial privilege can ever feel that it is even possible for his/her lesser privileged friend to abandon his/her racial identity. For that lesser privileged person, to abandon his/her racial identity is to abandon his/her community and sense of community, that force that imbues him/her with the ability to endure and fight against the racial oppression of the racially privileged, of the white American in this context. Without this force, this community and sense of community, he/she is lost, helpless, defenseless, and vulnerable.

To answer the aforementioned question, then, I have nothing to gain from such a scenario, and in fact I have everything to lose, including part of my sense of self. The white friend is the person who gains in this scenario, but only in an illusory way. As James Baldwin would suggest, nothing is ever gained from avoiding culture (and as the notion of race is very much the foundation of American culture and the culture of whiteness, my white friend’s question is very explicitly an attempt to avoid culture and society). But what does he/she gain, however illusory: relief from his/her role in the hierarchy responsible for my very position of inferiority in that system of racial domination. What does he/she gain: the ability to sleep easy at night, and think, “I’m not racist because I can see them as just people. I’m not like the others who look like me.” What does he/she gain: the ability to think, as whiteness often does, “I’m an individual, unformed by any collective experience of race. I am beyond that (despite that fact that I benefit everyday from my whiteness).”

I write this now because I’ve been asked this question numerous times, and I just realized how much I hate this question for what it reveals about the person asking the question. I hate it because it reveals something I either couldn’t see beforehand (and thereby anticipate such a question) or wouldn’t let myself see beforehand. It reveals something truly disturbing about the person behind the question, something we’d like not to see in our friends and lovers. When a friend last semester asked me this question, I drew up defensively, said, “No,” and promptly departed from the person. I’m not sure if it was the best way to handle the situation, but it was the only way that I could handle the situation. I didn’t want to think about the situation and work through it, but recently I decided it was necessary that I work through the situation and the question that prompted the situation. I felt that it was necessary finally to put words to the pain I always feel when a person I am close to (or to whom I’ve been close) asks me such a question.

It is painful because such a question reveals to me that the friendship or relationship isn’t about me and the person: it’s purely about that person. To the white person behind the question, only they themselves matter within the friendship. No matter how much the POC’s racial identity means to him/her, if it makes the white friend uncomfortable, that POC should be willing and ready to shove his/her racial identity aside and essentially shove him/herself aside to accommodate the white friend. This is what that question means when uttered from a white person to a person of color: “You don’t matter. My comfort is what matters.” It is the narcissism of whiteness at its worst and most heartbreaking. It is this dynamic, this narcissism embedded in whiteness, that makes it so difficult for me, as a person of color (and more importantly a woman of color) to be emotionally close to the majority of white people I establish “friendships” with. A real friend would never ask a friend such a question after all, since a real friend has an understanding of his/her friend’s sense of self, and knows that such an imposition would require that friend, that POC, to do violence to him/herself by siphoning off his/her racial identity.

Ultimately, I have a response for misguided white people who ask such questions of their brown and black friends: “My color is a result of your need to create your own difference and superiority. It’s not my problem that you can’t deal with what you’ve created and, worse yet, become dependent on. But I won’t abandon myself to make friends.” A white person who asks such a question is one who is operating from a position of privilege, either unaware of that privilege or refusing to recognize it, and can thereby only see him/herself. The POC is at once made invisible within the “friendship” and, what’s more, made aware however painfully of his/her invisibility within that “friendship.” And that’s the irony in the question: it reveals that the white friend is all but incapable of seeing his non-white friend was a whole person (personhood being that which is both embedded within culture–i.e. categories of race, etc.–and beyond culture). The privilege of whiteness stems from the fact that it sees itself purely as that which is beyond culture, particularly as culture pertains to categories of race.