Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Search Of Western Eyes

I found this video over at Sociological Images.  When I write about the pervasiveness of Whiteness, it is often from the perspective of the African Diaspora, however; we are not the only race of people that have internalized Caucasian features as the only example of beauty.  In the above tutorial, a young woman explains how to glue the eyelid to give a more rounded appearance.  It is worth noting that this  is a non surgical alteration and many often opt for a more permanent change.

It is common to use make up and clothing to either cover or mask features about ourselves that we feel uncomfortable with. We might opt for a girdle to mask tummy fat because we have been taught that bodies that do not appear to be lean are unattractive.  Rather than emphasizing that diversity is what makes us beautiful as a species, we have tendency to draw upon an idealized Eurocentric versions of the male and female form. 

When the genesis of the alteration is race based; it reveals who has power within society and who we consider to be “other”.  You will note that in the western world,  Caucasian women are not subjecting themselves to  surgery to imitate Asian eyes.  They do not purchase creams to darken their skin or make their hair kinky.  All white people are born into the race that has globally come to represent the epicentre of human achievement and  beauty. 

Though Asian women are not being forced to make this “beauty” alteration, the fact that some deem it necessary is particularly revealing.  “Slant eye” is a term often used to demean people of Asian heritage. It’s specifically used to denigrate them based in the fact that they do not possess so called White facial features. This can only be understood as negative because we have privileged Whiteness.

When we think of racial discord we often reduce it to a Black/White binary thereby ignoring how other groups are effected by Whiteness.   Many don’t see Asians as being targeted because they are understood to be “successful” in terms of Western integration, yet the stereotypes of washer people, fisherman etc., still exist to ensure that they are understood as less than Whiteness.  Asian women are highly sexualized and constructed as naturally submissive.

While the election of Obama has meant that for the first time in a long time race is being discussed critically because it has specifically excluded certain groups the conversation is incomplete.  Ending our hierarchy of bodies means we need to deconstruct the ways in which all bodies of color face discrimination and internalize negative stereotypes.  Privileging the Black/White binary only ensures our commitment to oppression Olympics thereby assuring that the division of people into racial categories will continue to be a mainstay in our society.


Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for another good week of conversation.  There were some really controversial subjects.  Please remember to engage respectfully; we don’t always agree  but the point is to take the time to consider all of the different perspectives.

I want to remind everyone that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  If you have a new post or a cross post, please feel free to send me an e-mail.  I am only one person and therefore the best way to widen the conversation is for different voices participate.

On Sunday at 8pm Monica, Allison and I will be interviewing, spoken-word poet and disability-rights activist Maria Palacios.

We can be found on Blogtalkradio at 8pm on Sunday July 19.  The call in number is (347) 326-9452. I look forward to hearing from you and if you miss the live show I will post a link to the recording.

imageBelow you will find links to some great blog posts that I discovered this week. Please take the time to show these bloggers some love and when you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Backlash Against India’s Landmark “Sodomy” Ruling

(re)thinking walking: fat girls/health

Adventures in skin bleaching ep 2: Son of the skin bleaching post

Women should have the right to be shirtless!

Operation Beautiful

Pervasiveness of rape culture and acceptance of “not rape”

Do Natalia Estemirova’s Killers Feel Like Big Strong Men?

Women, confidence and  fear of male judgement

Neither monsters nor martyrs be: lessons on motherhood from my menstrual cycle

The Homeless People In Japan

The Words Of God Do Not Justify Cruelty To Women

“Bobbi with a I” and I

Palestinian women prisoners

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Pat Buchanan on Rachel Maddow: We Need To Protect White Men From Discrimination

Well have you heard the word?  The white man constitutes an oppressed group socially.  108 out of 110 supreme court justices have been white however, the entrance of one “wise Latina” woman is going to ruin the system.  Damn that affirmative action.

What is interesting about this argument is that Buchanan is specifically speaking to impoverished whites with his racist ideas.   His argument assumes that white men are meant to lead and that they are being prevented from fulfilling this role because of affirmative action.   To economically disenfranchised whites this reads as, you’re situation would be different if bodies of color were not taking your places at universities and colleges.  It is the perfect example of the overvaluation of whiteness.

Class  like race is a construct and by offering bodies of color as causation for the class divide, Whites of economic privilege seek to maintain our current promotion of a hierarchy of bodies.. There is no doubt that the capitalist system is designed to  ensure that there will always be poor workers that are exploited.   What poor Whites need to realize is that relative to the body of color in the same economic class,  they will be offered more privilege, thereby; further stratifying society.   Whiteness as a reward for economic exploitation is a poor comfort when one is hungry, or unable to pay the rent.

Men like Buchanan depend on the inability of poor Whites to understand that they have more in common with a poor body of color than the most elite White male.  The point of fact is that the proletariat outnumber the bourgeoisie and it is only by perpetuating constructed divides that they are able to rule with impunity.   Each and every single time there has been a challenge to the ruling class, they have seized upon constructed difference to reaffirm their undeserved privileges.

Maddow claims that Buchanan’s rhetoric is really dated but in fact he is expressing the feelings of many today.   Liberal whites function under the belief that they have moved beyond the racism of men of Buchanan’s generation and yet in covert ways, they continue to oppress bodies of colors.  Simply because racism is not  overt, does not mean that it does not dominate our social discourse.  They may recognize the inequality in education, housing etc., but that does not stop the gentrification of traditionally Black neighbourhoods, the appropriation of our culture,  or the ironic comedy routines featuring a so-called post racial world.

It is far easier to call out a man of Buchanan’s ilk for his racism because it makes society comfortable; than to deal with the reality that the real evil of racism is in the everyday lived experience of bodies of color. Racism occurs every time a POC  goes shopping and discovers that there are no fresh vegetables to be had at their local store.  It happens when one is pulled over for driving while Black. The purposeful under education of our children ensures that race can be used as a weapon against us.  The prison industrial complex makes us modern day slaves and the media perpetuates every single negative stereotype associated with Blackness for profit.   Racism is not simply an issue of men like Pat Buchanan, it is interwoven into the very fabric of society.  Calling Pat Buchanan a racist may give one an anti-racist “feel good moment of the day,” but it is a far cry from understanding exactly how pervasive undeserved White privilege is ,or the ways in which race continues to operate as a block to the social mobility of POC.

The next time you are tempted to pull out your “I hate men like Buchanan, or I voted for Obama card”, ask yourself what that really says about your understanding of how racism truly works.   Believing that because one has an understanding of basic concepts qualifies you to take on the status of a racially informed person is a testament to your privilege.  No matter how many books, or peer reviewed articles you read, you will never have an understanding of race from the the perspective of the oppressed.  You will only have glimpsed the truth as we live it.  The decolonizing of your mind is not the work of a day, year or even decades; it is the work of a lifetime.  Just as from birth to death POC must deal with the racism of Whites, so to must Whites endeavour for a lifetime to mitigate their undeserved privilege.



Bridget Jones 3: Bridget Wants a Baby

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image The sequel has become a quick way for the movie industry to draw in viewers. With the cost of production studios are reluctant to take chances and instead fall back on cookie cutter plots that seldom offer any real challenge. “Bridget Jones” has become the latest serial girl flick movie. Who doesn’t want to get drunk, sing all by myself and watch Bridget’s antics as she tries to negotiate the life of a single woman?

In the first two parts we followed Bridget as she struggled to choose between her two suitors. When Bridget finally became engaged to Mark in the 2006 sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” viewers were meant to see this as the culmination every woman’s struggle to snag a man. Heaven forbid the media portray a single woman who is content to be so. No matter how much we accomplish in our professional lives or the quality of the friendships that we have amassed, each woman is understood to secretly be pining for a juicy blood diamond engagement ring to signify being owned by a man. Nothing exemplifies success like the ability to engage in a patriarchal relationship.

Studio owners have decided that Bridget’s “happy ending” is not yet complete. Bridget Jones 3 is in pre-production and no name has been selected for the new film as yet. After finally getting Bridget into a stable relationship, one may well wonder what is left to make her life complete. Let’s pause for a moment and think, shall we?… Hmmm, ah yes, a baby. Everyone knows that every woman wants a baby. How could she ever think her life is complete unless she is walking the floor at 4 AM covered in spit up, so tired that jumping out the window and running away seems like a good idea. For some, motherhood is a joyful experience, yet for many it is a choice that they are thankful to be able to opt out of.

The studio could not allow Bridget to ride into the sunset with a lasso tied firmly around her conquest, Mark, while they were still stereotypes to be exploited. If a woman in her forties isn’t anxious about her ticking biological clock, how can she possibly be on track for the mental breakdown that occurs during menopause? I can picture the jokes around basal temperature already. There are approximately ninety minutes to fill and one can be certain that every single anxiety faced by women who are attempting to become pregnant will played out until we all just want throw adoption papers at her to make the lunacy stop.

Finish Reading Here

Is Amitjo Kajla To Pretty To Be A Prison Guard?

image Former prison guard Amitjo revealed to the industrial tribunal in Birmingham that she believes that she was forced out of her job because of her appearance.  She is claiming constructive unfair dismissal. The chief complaints sited against her were the amount of make up that she wore and the alteration of her work uniform.  The work uniform was deemed to be to revealing, while Kajla claims that it was only reduced to be size appropriate.

Her employers further found it problematic that she carried a handbag, waved hello to inmates and on occasion chose to sit with them during free association time.  The inmates in question ranged in age from 15 to 21 and were at the time deemed to be volatile.  It seems that Kajla’s appearance was understood to be a distraction

Miss Kajla claimed the criticism wore her down. “I couldn’t sleep at night because of the bullying and harassment. I lost weight and decided I couldn’t take it any longer and resigned.”

The job of prison guard is traditionally a male occupation.  It is quite common for women to experience harassment when they choose to cross the gender divide and take on positions that have been constructed as specifically male.  Female police officers, military personnel  etc., have repeatedly cited sexism as a significant deterrent to the successful completion of their duties. 

How does wearing make up in her position constitute a significant threat to safety?  Unlike an earring makeup cannot be grabbed during a scuffle.  “Mr Adam Farrer, for the prison service, suggested that going to work “glammed up” was not appropriate and that she was seen as a “soft touch”. For Kajlas wearing makeup is part of taking pride in her appearance.  Women who enter the public sphere with their faces unadorned are often attacked for not being suitably feminine.  Even when Kajlas  went with more neutral colors it was still deemed inappropriate.

While there are certain standardized behaviours that all people working with prison inmates must adhere to, offering a smile as a greeting should not lead to being chastised.  Displaying authority and power is not necessarily incongruent with acknowledging the humanity of those one is charged to police.  When these young men get released they are going to have to function within the larger society and if we deny them common niceties, they will never properly integrate.  At the heart of this issue is our tendency to treat inmates as though they are not human.  We fixate on the offense committed  and forget that behind each crime ,there is a story or a particular frame of reference that led to incarceration.

The facts revealed in this case are at the  preliminary stage however, the prison service in my opinion, has failed to show how Ms. Kajla behaved in an unprofessional manner or complete her assigned duties.  Their charges seem completely genderized and designed to discourage other women from seeking employment within the prison industrial complex. 

Homelessness Under The Neon Lights Of Vegas

All cities have a homeless population though some are more invisible than others.  Vegas sells itself as the city of dreams it would not do well for tourists to discover that for many it is a place of nightmares.  In tunnels under the casinos live small communities of people who have become homeless due to a myriad of circumstances.  The following is a great series of videos involving the Vegas we do not see in the travel brochures.

 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

PETA Fail: Breasts, Lettuce, and Hot Dogs

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Yesterday, to counter  The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council's declaration that July is National Hot Dog Month, PETA declared it National Veggie Day. It is certainly appropriate for an animal rights organization to counter the celebration of meat, however; doing so by presenting women as a tasty vegetable option is offensive.

It certainly was not accidental that they chose Playboy Playmate of the year Jayde Nicole to wear their infamous lettuce bikini.  It is the equivalent of pimping out women.  It smacks of if you choose to go green you to can have a half naked beauty hold your pseudo meat (read: penis). 

PETA routinely resorts to these sexist, genderized ads and they are demeaning.  Even though their stated purpose is to encourage all people to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, their ads only seem to target heterosexual men through the use of women as props.  For a charity heavily invested in ending oppression, they seem to have no problem routinely engaging in it.

H/T Feministing Community


Maria del Carmen Bousada Gave Birth At 66 and Died At Age 69

When Maria del Carmen Bousada gave birth at the age of 66 she was the oldest woman to do so.  She spent her life prior to becoming pregnant taking care of her mother who lived to be 101.  Upon her mothers death, she decided to embark up0n a new phase in her life.   She lied to fertility doctors in the US regarding her true age and underwent invitro-fertilization. 

Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director and owner of the clinic, said Bousada falsified her birth date on documents from Spain.

When he learned of the deception, "I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right," he told The Associated Press.

It's easy for women to lie to their doctors, Sahakian said.

"We don't ask for passports, obviously. When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We're not detectives here," he said.

Sahakian said he implanted the Spanish woman with a younger woman's eggs and donated sperm, using hormone therapy to "rejuvenate" her uterus after she had been in menopause for 18 years.

image According to doctors, her late life pregnancy had no bearing on the cancer that eventually led to her death.  It may have been easy for Bousada to lie but considering that two boys are now orphans in a world that cares very little about the welfare of children, perhaps the clinic should have been more diligent in ensuring that Bousada was indeed within their stated age limits before performing this procedure.

Shortly after her sons, Pau and Christian, were born in December 2006, Bousada reflected on her decision to deceive doctors in order to have a family.

"I think everyone should become a mother at the right time for them," she told the British tabloid News of the World, which showed her beaming as she cradled her 1-month-old infants, both dressed in pale blue pajamas.

"Often circumstances put you between a rock and a hard place, and maybe things shouldn't have been done in the way they were done, but that was the only way to achieve the thing I had always dreamed of, and I did it," she said.

While I tend to agree with Bousada in that each woman should theoretically be able to choose when motherhood is a viable option in their lives, I believe there comes a point wherein the social good must be considered.  Even though Bousada’s mother lived to be 101, the likelihood of her living long enough to see these children to the age of majority is questionable.  As I type this, I am fully aware that many seniors continue to live very productive lives into their golden years, however; raising a child takes a tremendous amount of energy and is emotional trying under the best of circumstances. 

Some may say that this is ageist and perhaps I am displaying a form of privilege but I do believe that this was an extremely selfish act.  Simply because we are capable of doing something, does not mean that we should.  Technology continually forces us to face questions that other generations never had to consider and we must weigh the rights of the individual against the social impact of their actions. 

This situation causes one to consider many questions.  It is deeply problematic to uphold a belief in a woman’s right to choose and at the same time be concerned when age is factored in.  At what point, if ever, is it acceptable to ponder the age of the mother?  Who gets to decided when one is too old?  Is it acceptable withhold a service that would normally be available to younger women, after all she is still in control of her body; someone else is choosing not to intervene?  We know that men are capable of having children well into their senior years and should we deny women this same opportunity now that we have the technology?

Honestly this situation opens up a myriad of issues that I don’t believe can be decided on a necessarily black and white basis.  Every single time we have decided to intervene in the fertility of a group of people, it has been done to promote some form of privilege and bias has clearly been the basis of our decisions. I know that I would not have tolerated intervention in my decisions regarding fertility and perhaps I have no business commenting on that of Bousada’s but because children do not belong to the individual, I do believe we all have a responsibility to consider what is in their best interest.   Menopause occurs for a reason and when we flout the design of nature I do believe we are embarking upon a slippery slope.



Sherriff Joe Arpaio Inspires The Murder Of Children

Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s policies have been directed at so-called illegal's and Brown bodies under the guise of maintaining law and order.  Most so-called illegal's cross the border in order to be able to support their families.  Many US industries are dependent upon their labour to stay in business.  These families are hunted by the INS, and treated as less than human in many border states.  Many Americans function with the myth that undocumented workers are stealing American jobs without considering the fact that because of the unfair trade agreements the US has made with Mexico and the rest of Latin America, that they have no choice but to immigrate  to acquire subsistence.

In times of economic retrenchment we have been trained to blame the weakest members of society, rather than focusing on the rich bourgeoisie who maintain a system of economic hierarchy, that in most cases forces POC into poverty.  The poor are the least powerful members globally and we need only look at the captains of industry and the racist, patriarchal, capitalist state, to see whom is truly living a life of privilege.    The minutemen  have so  internalized the hatred of poor brown bodies, that advocating their death is understood as unproblematic.

Brandy Baron: Kill any man woman or child that comes across the border illegally. I’ll bet you, you kill enough of them right off the bat, them people stop coming over here.  Personally I think I minefield would be good. Why build a fence, just plant some mines.  I’d be fair about it.  I’d put signs up in Spanish on the other side, warning them, enter at your own risk.  That would be fair. If they’re stupid enough to try it, then they get blown up…oh well.

Interviewer: You said that you would kill kids

Brandy Baron. If they’re being drug across the border hell yes. See that’s difference between those people and us.  Our country is number one, yours..(obscene sound)

As shocking as this interview is, it represents the attitude of the nativist supporters of Joe Arpaio.  Even if one agrees that crossing the border illegally constitutes a crime, how does advocating  murder demonstrate a respect for the rule of law?  Nativists continually couch their defence in  respect for the stars and stripes thereby hiding the racism that is evident in their position. Undocumented workers do not only come from Mexico and yet it is Latino bodies that are most often targeted for violence.  To these people, human specifically means white and this is evidenced by their continued attempts to construct those of Latin descent as unequal  and or undeserving of the most basic protections. As they rant and rave, they fail to consider that each person that is not of Aboriginal descent is themselves an immigrant and I daresay many Native communities would consider Nativist to be “illegal”, considering the land theft and near genocide of a people.

Minutemen were allowed to fester and grow under the Bush administration. Instead of taking ownership for the terrible economy that his domestic and foreign policies created, he sought to foist blame upon the most powerless – so-called illegal immigrants.  This vitriolic ideology was embraced by Sherriff Joe, who was quick to provide an outlet for the frustrations of white supremacist minutemen.  Their actions are not a display of true patriots, they are in fact the result of racists who lack the basic knowledge to understand that their acceptance of such ideology keeps them impoverished.  What did this woman gain from aligning herself with Arpaio’s policies but the ability to distract herself from the fact that to the ruling elite she is just as meaningless as the so-called illegal immigrants that she denigrates.

Illegal is now a descriptor; it is  no different than nigger, or faggot. Just like many social signifiers it functions to infer a constructed difference and a lack of value.  You cannot see a border from orbit.  These differences are man made and we support them in order to maintain privilege.  The idea that a nationality represents anything of significant value other than a marker of cultural similarities is mendacious and harmful to many impoverished bodies globally.   Existing on a piece of land does not infer ownership, it merely signifies occupation.  We are all nothing but squatters and the time each person may occupy any particular space is finite.  If these Nativist truly respected the United States they would remember the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.  Citizenship is not an accomplishment, it is an accident of birth.

H/T Orcinus



Black firefighters fight for justice

By Stephen Millies

Published Jul 15, 2009 2:53 PM

The opinion rendered by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on June 29 upholding a firefighter promotion test in New Haven, Conn., that prolongs the racist status quo never mentioned a noose. That’s what Black firefighter Abdul Lanaird Granger found draped across his boots in his Brooklyn firehouse in 2005. (Daily Challenge, Feb. 11, 2005)

The noose was a death threat to Granger. Thousands of African Americans, Mexicans and Chinese in the United States have been lynched with nooses.

image The Fire Department of New York—not far from New Haven—is the country’s largest with 11,500 firefighters. More than 2 million African Americans live in New York City. As of March 2007 the city had only 335 Black firefighters—just 3 percent.

A mere 7.4 percent of New York’s firefighters were Black or Latina/o. (Center for Constitutional Rights news release, July 17, 2007)

Even Bush’s Justice Department was compelled to file a discrimination suit against the FDNY in 2007. Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg did nothing.

In 2006 there were only 32 women firefighters in New York City. (Courier-Life, Sept. 15, 2006) Firehouses could also be dangerous for lesbian and gay firefighters.

Anthony Kennedy and the other four Supreme Court justices who voted with him in the New Haven case ignored this record of bigotry, which is widespread in fire departments across the country.

“Firefighting is a profession in which the legacy of racial discrimination casts an especially long shadow,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent. “It is against this backdrop of entrenched inequality that the promotion process at issue in this litigation should be assessed.”

Admission tests didn’t keep the FDNY from hiring Edward McMillan after he and three other white cops fired 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo, unjustly killing the African immigrant on Feb. 4, 1999. The city had to pay Diallo’s family $3 million in compensation.

Compared with other cities in the United States, the FDNY’s hiring record is atrocious.

Fifty-seven percent of Los Angeles’ firefighters, 51 percent of Philadelphia’s and 40 percent of Boston’s are people of color. The fire departments are 30 percent Black in Baltimore and 23 percent Black in Chicago. (CCR, July 17, 2007)

One third of Cincinnati’s firefighters were Black in 2003.

Behind the racism of New York’s fire department is the racism of Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange refused to close its doors for Martin Luther King’s birthday until 1998—a dozen years after it had become a federal holiday.

Eight years ago Les Payne wrote a series of columns in Newsday about the miserably small number of Black firefighters in New York City. Payne pointed out that authorities don’t want African Americans seen as heroes and she-roes. (Newsday, May 6, 2001)

Billionaires consider it socially dangerous for a Black or Latina/o firefighter to rescue a white child in Howard Beach or Maspeth. Such lifesaving can cut through racism in all-white neighborhoods.

Legacy of struggle

Judge Kennedy, who’s from California, ought to visit the African American Firefighter Museum in Los Angeles. It’s located in what was a segregated firehouse at Central Avenue and 14th Street.

The Stentorians of Los Angeles City, an organization of Black firefighters, helped start the museum.

Stentorian member Arnett Hartsfield tells the story of what Black firefighters had to put up with in his book “The Old Stentorians.” Hartsfield also remembered courageous white firefighters who defended their African-American comrades.

Black firefighter George W. Bright joined the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1897. After being promoted to lieutenant, all the city’s African-American and Latino firefighters were put under his command. But Bright wasn’t allowed to command white men.

Black firefighters were allowed in only two Los Angeles firehouses until the mid 1950s. An African-American firefighter could only become a captain when a Black captain retired or died. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 13, 1997)

In 1919 Wesley Williams became the third Black male hired by the New York City fire department. Williams had to fight racist whites in order to keep his job. He helped form the Vulcan Society, the organization of New York’s Black firefighters, in 1940. (“So Others Might Live,” by Joseph F. Kett and Terry Golway.)

This is the legacy of struggle that the Supreme Court wants to reverse.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How To Make A Baby

A little afternoons silliness.

Tina Brown and Hillary Clinton’s Burqa

My favourite Gus, Allison McCarthy has a post up at Global Comment that is really worth the read.

image Tina Brown’s ploys for self-promotion are numerous, but her latest piece, along with a follow-up interview on CNN, takes the cake. Brown, former editor for noted U.S. magazines such as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Talk, has always maintained some problematic notions of feminist politics in her writing. She is also an adamant Hillary Clinton supporter, prepared to defend her candidate’s political representation at all costs. Unhappy with Clinton’s supporting role in the Obama administration, Brown lashes out against the perceived oppression of Clinton in her job as Secretary of State. In her new Daily Beast article “Barack’s Other Wife,” Brown proclaims in her opening lines:

“Left behind on major presidential trips, overruled in choosing her own staff — Hillary Clinton is the invisible woman at State. But Obama’s brilliant foreign-policy spouse may not stay silent forever. It’s time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa.” (emphasis mine)

Comparisons between Clinton’s status as a white upper-class female politician and Muslim women who don the burqa as a sign of personal and religious expression are asinine and reflect a racist, xenophobic and sexist perspective. Not only has Brown appropriated the experiences of other women, many of them women of color, but she also (wrongfully) assumes that women who wear the burqa are repressed and in need of rescue by the Western hemisphere. The only “invisible” women in this article are the ones who do wear the burqa of their own free will. However, these women often lack the large public media platforms granted to Brown.

Finish Reading Here

Food, Class and Need

Over at BFP’s there is a post about a ten dollar sandwich.  Ten dollars is more than some people make in an hour.  Food and class go hand in hand and quite often unless we are struggling we don’t see the connection.

 image The ability to walk through a grocery store and place items in a cart without consideration of the bill is a sign of economic privilege.  Every week the unhusband goes shopping and spends about 175-200 dollars.  He comes home with fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and meat for every dinner we eat as a family.  We even have a snack cupboard which we stock for the boys to munch throughout the day.  It is not uncommon for my family to eat meat twice a day, whether that is in the form of Black Forest Ham at lunch or a steak at dinner. 

When the boys decide that they don’t like a meal and refuse to eat something it makes me realize our privilege.   The boys have never known hunger because there has never been a time in their life when their father and I could not provide for them.  They can choose to go hungry and skip a meal sure in the knowledge that another opportunity to eat will arise and it will involve different choices.

When we talk about privilege it often involves race, gender, or ability but how often do we engage in serious conversations about class and food?   We all must eat to survive and yet food is something that is not a part of our daily image conversations beyond mentions of new recipes.  On days when I am unable and the unhusband does not feel like cooking we simply pick up the phone and order food or we take the boys out to dinner.  At no time do we consider that we are paying ten to twelve dollars for a burger or entree at our local Mom and Pop place because we can afford to do so.  Even the cat eats well in our home.

We have been conditioned to think of hunger as something that happens outside of Western countries and yet daily more people have become dependent on food banks to make it through the month.  Project Share (my local food bank) has reported a 22% increase in the month of June alone. 

Project Share is running short of food and is desperate need of Baby Formula, Peanut Butter, Canned Vegetables and Fruits, Juices, Tuna, and Protein Items.  They are asking that you fill a bag and leave it on your front doorstep no later than Saturday at 11 AM.  They are attempting to collect the equivalent of 42 thousand pounds or a months worth of food.

image Hunger is not something that happens elsewhere.  It happens in our communities.  Of all the requests for food; baby formula fills me with the most sadness.  I will never forget being approached by a couple who stood outside a 7-11 begging for change in order to buy milk for their child.  The face of hunger is that of our children. 

Though we do have welfare in Ontario, after paying rent (if you can) what is left to spend on food and utilities ensures that at some point throughout the month you will go hungry.  Conservatives have often tried to blame the individual for their impoverishment, ignoring the ways in which the system is specifically designed to ensure poverty for certain members of society.   We are told that welfare recipients are lazy or that they simply want to live high on the government teat.   No one has ever been able to explain how eating three healthy meals a day constitutes an abuse of government largesse.   Even if we were to accept the premise that the poor are failing in their part of the public contract, do their children deserve to go hungry?  If a parent is poor, a child is poor and as a community don’t we all have a vested interest in ensuring that our children thrive?

I quite often think about the massive amounts of food we waste daily while people are going hungry.  If hunger was an issue of supply at least we could understand its perpetuation but in fact hunger is an issue of commodification.  Looking outside the dumpster of most restaurants or grocery stores one could find perfectly edible food simply thrown away.  Some places have even started locking the dumpsters to block access to the free food.  They cite a fear of being sued however once again this comes down to a monetary concern.  Had they donated this food rather than putting it in a dumpster to begin with, the issue would not exist. 

I cannot help but wonder how it is that such a small percentage of the population can continue to control our consumption to the point that people are being denied essential needs.  Food should never be considered a luxury.  The fact that we have so allowed our system to become warped to the point where so many are going hungry is a sign of how irrational the capitalist system really is.  The ruling bourgeoisie have constructed socialism as a threat to a free society however, nothing brings about an end to human life like hunger. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Racism Is A White Male Issue Right?

Like most people I was appalled when I learned that the Valley Swim club threw out young Black children because they were afraid that it would “change the complexion of the pool”.  As a mother my heart broke and I thought of the parents that were going to have to speak to their children about racism and our hierarchy of bodies long before they should learn about such things.  Unlike White children, many kids of color have their time of innocence cut short as a direct result of racism.

As a womanist my support is not only for WOC and children but MOC as well.  Feminism has had a long standing beef with Black men because they were granted the vote (in name only) before white women achieved the same sort of social responsibility.  Reading the commentary of the early suffragists the barely masked racism is very revealing.  WOC have continually been asked to privilege our gender over race and stand in solidarity with the women’s movement.  We are expected to forget the ways in which white women quickly image turned their backs on their Black male allies.   When we have pointed out that white women wielded the whip just as white men did during slavery, we are reminded of their relative powerless in comparison to white men.  In fact I have been chastised repeatedly for holding white women accountable for their racist actions when they constitute an oppressed group as well.

When WOC  are asked to deny the men in our lives, it is because their value to us and the world is not respected.  The connections between WOC and MOC include, husband, uncle, brother, cousin, son and friend; the relationships are meaningful and in many cases lifelong.  No such sacrifice is asked of white women.  They may from a distance call out individual white men when they are sexist but the relationships that  are closest to them remain off limits.

When political wives stand next to their cheating husbands, do we demand that she leave him because he treated her terribly?  We don’t question their agency or even how their decisions will effect the young women watching.  A white woman is always allowed to stand by her man.

image The most recent example of this can be found in the incident at the Valley swim club. Not only did Bernice stand beside her racist lying sack of shit husband she publicly defended him.

Wife Bernice said they're not used to being in front of cameras or talking to reporters and her husband doesn't deserve what he's enduring for the wrong choice of words.

"Our home's been inundated with thousands of hateful emails, hundreds of horrible phone calls," said Bernice. "And we were just so thrilled to have the kids come here that it broke our heart that they couldn't come here."

"My husband, he's not one of the good guys, he's one of the great guys," Bernice said. "This does not represent what we stand for or how we raise our children."

Now pause and ask yourself why I am the only one speaking out about this obviously racist collusion.  What White women have continually failed to acknowledge is that they benefit from racism just like White men do.  She wanted to make it clear that her husbands comments did not represent what they teach their family but could not bring herself to denounce the racist place from whence his words sprung.  We are to be comforted because she, all knowing White woman has declared him a good man; such is the power of whiteness.  When Ida B. Wells was advocating to end lynching her life was so threatened that she had to leave the states.  Apparently her womanly status was not enough to testify for the worth of Black men.

image WOC have been repeatedly told that we should see White women as allies because we share the same gender and yet when the opportunity arises to prove that our connection is more than words, resounding silence comes from White women.  I have read many blog posts about this incident and they were filled with scathing indictments of John Duesler however; the words of his wife seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  To be an alley you need to call out racism even when it comes from someone that looks like you.

It is beyond privilege to demand that WOC turn our backs on the males in our lives that mean something to us when White women have made it clear that they are unwilling to make any such sacrifice.  Your men are no more dear to you than ours are to us.  Frankly, if it came down to a choice of  belonging to a group that advocates womens rights and protecting my son, I am sure you can guess who would lose every single time.  My little boys are just faceless Black males to the world at large but to me they are precious. They are like the beat of my heart and without doubt the love of my life.



Run For Congo Women

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Change Your Life. And Hers.

Join Women for Women International and stand up for women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Participate in a 2009 Run for Congo Women.

Run for Congo Women began with one woman’s determination to raise awareness about the dire situation in Congo and has become an international movement.

• More than 5.4 million people have died since 1998 in this conflict.  
• Half of these deaths are children under the age of five.  
• For women in Congo, brutal gang rape and torture are a daily reality.

Run for Congo Women is your opportunity to support these women and children as they rebuild their lives.

Visit www.runforcongowomen.org to learn more and register for one of the following runs today!

Morrison, CO - Saturday, September 19th

Portland, OR – Saturday, September 19th

New York, NY - Saturday, September 26th

Tempe/Phoenix, AZ - Sunday, September 27th

Chicago, IL - Saturday, October 3rd

St. Louis, MO - Saturday, October 17th

By signing up today, you will support Women for Women International’s program in Congo, in which women receive direct assistance, rights awareness and job skills training that make it possible for them to start their own micro-enterprises. You also allow them to provide for their family and to regain their role as an active member of their community.

When you join us, you help spread this message: Congolese lives matter. The lives of Congolese women are significant. The lives of Congolese children are precious. We are running to help.

Michelle Obama and the Pope: On Veiling as Debasement

I have a new post up at Global Comment

Today we associate the veil strictly with the Muslim faith, forgetting that it has a rich tradition in Christian theology as well. After all, I Corinthians 11, verse 5 states: But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

image When the Obamas visited the Vatican, as a sign of respect, Michelle Obama donned a veil. The veil is no longer necessary to attend mass, however; it is seen as a sign of respect if one is in the presence of the Pope. Each first lady that has visited the Vatican has honoured this sign of respect by donning the veil, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.

The veil is a very complex article of clothing, because it is filled with meanings that are both religious and secular in the sense that it promotes the patriarchal oppression of women. The leaders of the faith, regardless of denomination, have historically been male. Feminists have battled hard to reclaim the divine feminine in Christianity, however, such attempts continue to meet with great resistance.

The Bible is considered to be of divine inspiration and therefore its texts that address gender in a purely hierarchical sense are used to defend the role of man as ruler. For example, I Corinthians chapter 11 verses 8-9 state: For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. In this, we can clearly see that the order of importance is God, man and then woman. Each gender is given a specific role to perform.

Though the Western world has a foundation that is based in the Judeo-Christian church, attendance has been dropping for decades. In an effort to appeal to younger congregants, to infuse the church with vitality, some compromises have been made. Many denominations have eliminated a strict dress code and it is not uncommon to see people arriving for Sunday worship in jeans and t-shirts.

The Catholic Church has been slow in keeping up with the modern construction of the world. It still advocates abstinence and is strictly against any form of birth control other than the rhythm method. While these prohibitions apply equally to male and female, because women are the ones that bear children, they form the basis of genderized oppression.

Finish Reading Here

Kiss In At The Mormon Temple

Two gay men were taking an innocent walk home when they paused to embrace one another.  A small peck on the cheek was exchanged and the Mormons went batshit crazy.  It seems that an expression of love and caring is enough to get their extra set of super duper under pants in a bunch.  The men ended up in handcuffs and one reported that he experiences bruising.  I wonder how the LDS get their groove on when a kiss is deemed inappropriate.  Yep, not a lay I would want to participate in.

Gotta say I love the response from the GLBT community.

I know I have said this on many occasions but I will NEVER, EVER understand how people can be against love.  Love is the most wonderful thing that any human being can experience.  When I put my head on the unhusbands shoulder and he wraps his arms around me, I know that I am home and no one should ever be denied so a wonderful feeling.  I guess for the Mormons love has to come racist, sexist Brigham Young style with multiple wives to matter.  I don’t have a same sex partner to kiss but I’d love to wear a rainbow shirt through their little square of bigotry.  Happy kissing GLBT community and don’t let anyone ever tell you that love in a world filled with hate and intolerance is a bad thing.

Pro Womanism Wow I’m Relieved

I often get sent e-mail in which the author is looking for clarification on an issue.  Though sometimes it can smack of I’m to lazy to hit teh Google, I will for the most part take the time to answer questions.  What I don’t like is being summoned to a major feminist blog to play mystical Negro, for someone who has not taken the time to get her 101 on

Though I have occasionally guest posted over the last year at Feministe, it has not been a safe  space for me image and each time I do so it comes at an emotional cost.  To be summoned into a space because a white woman feels she has the right to question me is simply insulting.  Even the most loyal dog will think twice before following  a master into danger, and honey I ain’t no dog.  I enter for my own reasons and none of them involves an overwhelming desire to use the force and play yoda.

It seems that no matter how many times WOC  say don’t appropriate our work, labels, bodies or culture,Whiteness cannot stop from reaching with tentacle like hands to consume all that exists in its path.  Saying I am “pro womanist” only indicates that you had the choice to dissent in the first damn place.  As a WOC what choice do I  have but to advocate for POC, when Whiteness has made it clear that we will be thrown under the bus the moment our bodies are no longer useful?

What the hell is wrong with the word ally? It’s a nice friendly little word that does not assert or imply any kind of appropriation.  Try it out for size A-L-L-Y, see that didn’t hurt a bit now did it?  Declaring oneself an ally means that you are dedicated to working on a particular cause while at the same time acknowledging your privilege without appropriating the experiences of another.  Now doesn’t that pack a punch for a four letter word?

One can state that you are pro gay marriage because that is a right being denied by law but what does I am “pro womanism “mean other than code for new age third wave feminism speak for I am down with teh peeps, but I don’t have to do shit to learn about them?  Who would openly say they are against womanism unless they want to wear their bigotry like a scarlet letter on their shoulder?

Pro womanism is comfortable because it does not come with an obligation to work towards change, acknowledge privilege, or allow women of color to lead. Ally means work and feminism has a long history of paying lip service to the needs of WOC.  Our feelings are often over looked in a desire to promote white women, but since this largely seems to be the goal of feminism, what can I say but a hearty mission accomplished.

When we look at the major feminist blogs, is it really a surprise that they are white,, straight, cisgender, and able body centric?  While I will admit that there is some excellent work being done in this sphere, it has not escaped my notice that  image part of the reason that they are so large is because they make it comfortable for people to ignore their privilege.  If you happen to run across a blog written by a Womanist or a Radical Woman of Color, you might read something that disturbs you and wouldn't that just curdle the cream in your latte?

The spaces of Womanists or Radical Women of Color are ignored by mainstream feminists.  We may get the occasional bone but serious commentary or engagement is something that is denied us and therefore it is hardly pleasurable to be summoned for the purposes of providing an education in what I have learned through bitter tears and personal debasement. 

While your offer to play mystical negro on such a large stage may seem appealing to you, being a blogger myself I have become accustomed to controlling when and how I engage and therefore; it is without remorse that I less than respectfully decline. When you want to converse you know where to find me. I’m not looking to be anyone's teacher when Google has a search button that I recently discovered  they allow so called pro womanist feminist to use.

 

P.S. I bet you thought, I forgot…..Here you go

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Thanks for being Pro my life, the approval of white women is what I live for.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Giving Birth Without An Epidural

image From the moment a woman discovers that she is pregnant with a wanted child she beings to bond with her unborn child.  It is not uncommon to name the child in utero if the sex is known, play music to the child or even engage in conversations.   Even as we prepare for the moment that is sure to change our lives forever, no one is ever ready for the rush of love and emotion that happens upon meeting the baby for the first time.

According to the BBC, “Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, said pain was a "rite of passage" which often helped regulate childbirth. He said it helped strengthen a mother's bond with her baby, and prepared her for the responsibility of motherhood.” Doesn’t that  sound like the opinion of someone who will never have to endure the “pain” that he is so quick to advocate for.

The article in question attempts to avoid shaming women for choosing to go the route of the epidural, but somehow this option is not seen as a “natural choice”.  I find it hard to believe that women have not always had a way to alleviate the pain induced by giving birth through some sort of drug.  Medicine women have always known how to combine roots and other items found in nature to produce soothing teas and elixirs to deal with pain.  I find it hard to believe such options were not employed for childbirth.

Giving birth can be an extremely painful experience despite the recent push to “go natural” and the media fixation on labour orgasms. It seems to me that from the moment we conceive the pressure to experience and or practice a particular form of motherhood begins.  Clearly, even though the responsibility of raising a child from birth to adulthood largely falls to women, patriarchy does not seem to feel that we should have any say in how our bodies are treated.

The moment a woman becomes pregnant her individuality disappears and she becomes a walking womb for the world.  Think of the baby the nosey bystander will say.  The pressure to conform is enormous and we forget that though a potential mother; a woman is still a person in her own right.   Whatever alternatives a woman needs to make labour the kind of experience that she wishes is what should be the top priority.   Can we just face the fact that we have a lifetime to bond with our children and this pressure to have “natural” childbirth to make us closer to our kids is ridiculous.  A woman and a baby share the same body for nine months; if that does not accomplish a link nothing will.

Sex Offender Returns To Jail To Avoid Homelessness

Raphael Marquez requested that his probation be revoked because he could not find a residence that he could afford that was restriction free and within his ability to afford.  Like most people, I have very little pity for sex offenders but I do believe that this issue speaks to why the recidivism rate is so high.

If men like Marquez are not able to secure a residence, they are more likely to fall off the radar, thus making them harder to regulate.  He represents  the last type of criminal that we want walking about our communities without any form of oversight.  The more integrated these men are in our communities in terms of gainful employment and a residence, the easier they will be to monitor.

The issue of finding employment and residence is not unique to sex offenders.  Though we claim that someone has paid their debt to society after serving time, we very seldom give second chances.  Spending time in jail can actually mean a lifetime of poverty as we  practice a “not in my backyard” philosophy towards ex cons.

Often these men and women are reduced to committing crimes because they are unable to survive on the outside.  Those without an adequate support system quickly find themselves without options and become revolving residents in prisons.  When we consider that we do little to actually focus on rehabilitation while in prison, our failure to properly integrate them back into our communities reaffirms that these men and women are deemed disposable bodies that we would rather free ourselves of.  Like a nation of Inspector Javiers, we chase and hunt them down like animals, ignoring our communal responsibility to them as human beings.

We know  without question that the penal system is imperfect and therefore unjust.  Race and class often determine who is incarcerated.  Just living in a poor neighbourhood largely composed of people of color necessarily means a higher rate of interaction with law enforcement.  The ability to defend oneself once accused is severely limited by class.  We may parrot the words innocent till proven guilty but if you are person of color that presumption often goes out the window as the police officer is given far more credibility than the accused. I cannot imagine the trauma of being punished for a crime I did not commit.

Just as we are reluctant to give the benefit of the doubt before incarceration, we are unwilling to do so upon release.  Little time is spent giving thought to the ways in which capitalism and racism combine to create a criminal element in our society and therefore we continue to see criminal behaviour as a failure of the individual rather than a communal failure.  Politicians seeking re-election often take a tough on crime stance and in this model the suggestion often proffered is tougher sentencing and larger prisoners.  Anything that suggests a communal ownership of criminal behaviour is seen as soft on crime. 

If we truly want to create safer communities, we really need to focus on the ways in which our behaviour encourages recidivism.  Simply because someone has been to prison does not mean that they cannot contribute to society.  Men like Raphael Marquez will always be considered detestable by most but the surest way to ensure that he is unable to harm other than a lifetime of incarcerations is by creating a space for him to participate.  What he has done is terrible but how much better are we if we treat him like an animal?

Malia Called A Typical Street Whore At The Free Republic

The Free Republic is one of the most mainstream Republican blogs.  Though they have a policy which clearly states that they do not support racism violence, rebellion, secession, or an overthrow of the government, apparently it does not apply to the first family.  Malia is an eleven year old girl and her innocence seems to be irrelevant when it comes to directing hate speech.

image The controversy started because on their recent trip to Africa Malia wore a shirt with a peace symbol on it.  Of course this inspired nothing but hatred in the group think bee hive of the conservative set.  Dear lord, advocating for peace on a planet that has known far too much war simply cannot be tolerated.

The following appeared in the comment section:

"A typical street whore." "A bunch of ghetto thugs." "Ghetto street trash." "Wonder when she will get her first abortion. "Could you imagine what world leaders must be thinking seeing this kind of street trash and that we paid for this kind of street ghetto trash to go over there?" wrote one commenter. "They make me sick .... The whole family... mammy, pappy, the free loadin' mammy-in-law, the misguided chillin', and especially 'lil cuz... This is not the America I want representin' my peeps," wrote another.

When Kristen N, dared to complain about the language that was being tolerated the moderators temporarily removed the blog post, only to to repost it with her address and a copy of her e-mail complaint.  It is only after many left wing blogs wrote posts about this issue that The Free Republic finally decided to remove the post.

Malia did not choose to be a public figure and is only one by default of being born to the first African American president.  She is a child and had not begun to make her own way through this world.   The conservatives are continually harping about family values and yet it fails them when it comes to respecting the children of democrats.  It was not that long ago when Chelsea Clinton was treated mercilessly because of her pubescent appearance.

There are those that would claim that just because they are the first children that it does not mean that they should be sheltered from the racism that has become a fact of Black life.  As a parent I understand why this argument is presented because the reality of the situation means that even as we encourage our children to follow their dreams, we are forced to break the bubble of equality at a very young age.  As a child I remember my mother and father telling me that I could have anything I wanted as long as  I was prepared to work twice as hard and this is still true today.

It hurt me when I had to explain to my child why some children did not want to play with him because he was the “brown boy,”just as it hurt me to explain why store owners watch his every single move when he enters.  This is the reality of his life, though he is a bright and engaging little boy.  It is the reality for any child of color; their race speaks for them long before the content of the character is allowed to testify for their worth.

Even as we wish to arm our children against the slights and wounds that we are aware that the world is prepared to deliver, they are being robbed of their innocence.  Generation after generation of  children of color have had to turn their back on the innocence that should be a right in order to negotiate the evil of our racialized world. Malia Obama is no different than any other Black child however; is it really too much to ask for even one child to grow in a safe space where they are not subject to humiliation due to the ignorance of adults?

I am quite sure that her mother and father have prepared Sasha and Malia for the realities of their situation, however; no child should ever have to read commentary that refers to them as a whore, or ponders when their first abortion will be.  These comments that the Free Republic saw as unproblematic are representative of  racism and sexism that are typically aimed at young women of color. Malia is not even a teenager yet  already she is learning that because of her race and gender there will always be those that see fit to demean her in an effort to uplift themselves. Such is the curse of young Black womanhood across the Diaspora.



It’s All About The Sugar Daddy

If a woman agrees to date a man only if he spends large amounts of money on her, or takes her to fancy restaurants and trips is this the equivalent of being a sex worker?

I was sent a link to Established Men.  The goal of this site is to match men of class privilege with attractive young women who are seeking to have their inner princess identity validated.  Champagne tastes on a beer wallet are still as incompatible as they always have been.  Nothing comes free in this life and no matter how angelic your face or how great the conversation is, when interactions begin with a power imbalance, in the end the weaker party must always pay the tab.

This site advertises itself as a dating site based in the premise that its owner, a former stripper met her husband while dancing and was instantly transported into a life of luxury.  Yep, you guessed it folks, pretty woman come to life except that Julia Roberts admitted that she was a sex worker; a woman for hire.  The women on this site are only “dating” and not working.

I do believe that under the right circumstances women can freely choose to engage in prostitution.  It would seem that after viewing the video and the site, that the men have made their priorities very clear; they are looking for a short term engagement with no strings attached and are willing to pay for the convenience.  Does this not sound like a typical john to you?

If you are going to make the choice to work as a prostitute, I think that it is important to acknowledge what you are doing.  “Dating” for the purposes of special gifts is the same as accepting money.  We do ourselves a disservice when we lie to ourselves about what our actions really mean.  These men are not going to sweep you away like Richard Gere did…Pretty woman was just a movie people. 

This is not a relationship between “perfect princesses” and “generous benefactors,” it is a business contract between two adults and all of the pretty language in world will not change the terms of engagement.  It is further deceptive to describe the payment as “lifestyle needs “, as though everyone needs six hundred dollar meals and Prada purses to subsist.  Clearly, this is a business relationship which allows women to acquire products and services that they would otherwise be unable to afford.  These are the extras and not the essentials.

These men are not spending ten thousand for a kiss on the cheek and at the end of the day, they will expect a return on their investment.  The only reason that these “dates” are not openly referred to as prostitution by the participants is because of the stigma attached to paying for sex, or being paid for sex.   Despite the dream of being swept away by some rich man, it is more likely that this will be a short term arrangement, solely under the control of the benefactor (read:john). 

People continue to view prostitution as something that happens in alleyways with a drugged out woman and a sadistic john.  Those that are able to command more money are call girls and treated differently than street whores.  Isn’t it interesting that no matter what area of society that we look at, class plays a substantial role in how we are understood.  I have no wish to slut shame these women for their decision and or actions but I do believe that it is time that we acknowledge that these relationships are about business and not love.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Obama’s And The Door Of No Return

As a child of the African Diaspora The Door Of No Return has much emotional meaning for me.  My ancestors were pushed through that door in chains and so began a legacy of slavery that would last for hundreds of years.  The Obamas recently visited the Slave Castle in Ghana.

 imageArchitecturally it is quite a beautiful building.   If one did not know of its cruel history, it might even be a pleasure to behold. 

Looking out over an ocean that would serve as a burial ground for millions, its image white stone belies the bloodshed that its very existence is responsible for.  There are times when I vow that one day I will return for the sake of my ancestor who never had the chance.  Perhaps they were a baby shackled with chains and therefore unaware of the cruel fate that awaited them.  Their name has been erased from history and who and what they were will never be known to me.  The name of their homeland has forever been lost to the ocean tides and I sit here today an African Canadian forever disconnected from my history.  Even writing about this loss causes my throat to sting with tears.

Many times Blacks have been told to get over slavery because it was so long ago, but to me it will forever be personal.  No, I was never a slave, fortunately I only have to live with its lasting effects but the thought of an ancestor of mine surviving on gruel, urine, menstrual blood and feces because they refused to die, is almost more than I can bear.  She or he was made of more mettle and self will than I will ever be able to marshal and I shall never disgrace their faceless memory by forgetting about the inhumanity to which they were subject.

image My children will never be ripped from my arms because they are considered chattel.  I will never have to apply a poultice to my sons back because he has been whipped senseless by a psychotic overseer.  My life is my own to do with as I will.  I have the freedom that they could only dream of and in my blood flows their hopes and aspirations.  It was for me, for my life that they continued on in the worst of conditions. To forget slavery or move beyond it, is to dishonour their memory and they have already given enough so that I could walk the earth today with my mind and body intact. 

Those who refuse to see the seriousness of the African slave trade often try to blame it on Africans for their so-called collusion with Europeans.  Slavery in Africa was completely different than that engaged in by European powers, in fact it resembled more of what would have been considered an indentured servitude.  They had no way of knowing about the inhumane conditions to which they were subjecting people to.  There was also a power imbalance between African tribes and Europeans; in some cases it was participate or be subject to slavery yourself.

Those that want Blacks to move past slavery do so from a position of privilege.  It is not up to the oppressor to state when we, the oppressed should cease mourning for our losses.   I am tired of hearing that other groups were also image enslaved.  How many of these groups experienced slavery in the same ways as the peoples of the African Diaspora?  How many continue to be thought of as sub human?  Even sharks thought of us a chum.  They were known to follow the slave ships because it was only a matter of time before a slave was thrown over board.

As I looked at the picture of Obama at the slave castle, I knew that he could never experience in the same way that Michelle or any other child of the African Diaspora would.  His return represents that of a native son made good whereas; Michelle’s return represents that of a lost child returned home.  I have been told on many occasions that I should be thankful that an ancestor of mine was enslaved because it allowed me to be born a Canadian and to them I say, I would gladly give up that western privilege if it were to mean that no member of my family ever had to live through such a crime against humanity.  Slavery did not improve the lot for the descendants of slaves or that of the African peoples and it is dishonest to perpetuate such a myth. 

image When Obama looked out over the ocean and heard the echo of the masses that had lost their lives and their freedom, on some level it must have haunted him. The slave castle will forever be a monument to the depths to which we are willing to sink to in the name of so-called profit and or advancement.  I don’t now whether or not I will ever have the courage to return and look through the doorway that lead to the death of millions but I know I shall never think of it without a feeling of loss and sorrow.