Saturday, May 29, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks again for another great week of conversation.  I am doing my best to keep the pace, but with the baby starting pre-school and the big project that I am working on, posting will continue to be light for a little while longer.  Thanks so much for your patience, it is much appreciated.  If you would like to participate in the wonderful conversations that happen here, please remember that Womanist Musings has an open guest posting policy.  Please send either your original post, or link back to your blog via e-mail. womanistmusings[at]gmail.com

Below you will find links to a few (oh alright, more than a few) great posts that I came across this week.  Please show these bloggers some love and check out their work.  When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Testimonies: Having a transgendered parent.

Dear Imprudence: Have You Considered Violating Your Son’s Bodily Autonomy

The Child Becomes the Woman

Fat Rant

Is Dora The Explorer An Illegal Immigrant?

Filling Up an Empty Space

Sex Offenders Non-Anonymous Call

Should We Keep Transition Regret Under Wraps

WHAT IF  “HAPPILY EVER AFTER” IS ONLY “HAPPY” FOR US BABY LOVING WOMEN? (A REVIEW OF SHREK 4)

A Message to Men Who Say They are Anti-Sex Trade

Kelly Osbourne: better to be a drug addict than fat

More Native Appropriations, Heritage Capitalism and Fashion on Antiques Roadshow

Watching The Blind Side, thinking about Hollywood’s problem with race

Transgender is an adjective. Not a noun. Or a verb!

Social Justice Matters: Overcrowded Prisons and Their Consquences

associate black men with drug dealers

On Heavy Girls and Sexy Time

Man Reported Police Sexual Assault On His Girlfriend, Now Faces Deportation

WPATH responds to the APA’s proposed DSM 5 Criteria for Gender Incongruence

Public Schools and Disability Do Not Mix

Ableist Word Profile: Crazy (to describe political viewpoints or positions)

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Friday, May 28, 2010

It’s Friday and the Question is…

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Friday is a special day of the week because when it comes to an end your time is your own.  What activity signifies the end of the work week for you, and how do you celebrate the weekend?

 

Daycare Subsidy and the “Good Single Mother”

image The New York Times has an article up about slashing daycare subsidy…Please check it out and see if you can spot the elephant in the room.  Go on, I’ll wait I promise.

Did you see it?  How about if I give you a hint? Welfare Queen.  That’s right, now that we are talking about White single mothers that are having difficulties, somehow the struggle is noble.  Why oh why do I have to make everything about race?  We’re all women right?  Except that Black and Latino mothers are considered irresponsible breeders.   When they go on welfare, it is to live high on the hog and become a drain on the system whereas; when  a White woman is forced to depend on the system it is the equivalent of a Shakespearian tragedy.

So, on a recent afternoon, she waited in a crush of beleaguered people to submit the necessary paperwork. Her effort to avoid welfare through work has brought her to welfare’s door.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” she says. “I fall back to — I can’t say ‘being a lowlife’ — but being like the typical person living off the government. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to use this as a backbone, so I can develop my own backbone.”

As the American social safety net absorbs its greatest challenge since the Great Depression, state budget cuts are weakening crucial components. Subsidized child care — financed by federal and state governments — is a conspicuous example.

Black and Latino mothers have been dealing with this issue for generations and they have yet to get any kind of positive affirmation for their struggles.  Day care has traditionally not been a problem for White women because we were raising their children while our kids were left to fend for themselves. Even today, rich/middle class women still hire WOC to watch their children as they attempt to break through the glass ceiling.

The economy has taken a downward spiral, and those that normally would have managed to get gainful employment due to racial privilege  now find themselves sharing the same historic struggles of POC.  Suddenly, the systematic factors that help to sustain poverty are the issue and not the individual.

The New York Times could easily have told this story with countless WOC, and yet a White woman was selected to humanize the story.  The choices that the media make are not merely coincidental or race neutral.  The media often serves to frame a narrative in a very specific light.  Reading this it is obvious that something needs to be done to help single mothers, and it is equally obvious that the good single mother is deemed to be White.

I found this link at Feministing in their “stories we missed” section. The linking sentence states: “As if we needed more depressing news about why this is not and never was a "hecession."  Here we have a feminist site supposedly dedicated to intersectionality, and once again the only site of oppression that they could find is gender.  It is easy to ignore race when you are White.  Whiteness as the default becomes internalized and even though they claim to be fighting for justice, they miss the obvious because it is not in their best interest to see how their actions perpetuate White supremacy. It’s the vagina sisterhood, as long as it does not mean pointing out purposeful erasure of women of colour.

So there you have it.  The good single mother as told by The New York Times, reaffirmed by a feminist website.  The systemic barriers that have been built into the system were never meant to cause an issue for Whiteness, and this is specifically why stories like this are suddenly getting the press that they are.  I certainly have sympathy for this woman and her struggles, but the convenient erasure of WOC only proves that almost any marginalized identity can suddenly be created as a symbol of injustice, if we put a White face on it.

 

 


D

“No es crimen pasional—es asesinato, or, It’s not a crime of passion—it’s murder”

image Eugenia de Altura is a female graduate student conducting research on issues of women and gender in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia. Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America with the exception of Haiti, and over 60% of the country’s population is of indigenous descent. Eugenia’s postings explore women’s rights, sexuality, and reproductive health in Bolivia and in Latin America as a whole.

 

Although violence against women is a worldwide problem, in Bolivia it is endemic—and local activists are taking both legal and practical measures to combat it.

A report released in 2008 by the United Nations Population Fund estimates that 70% of women in Bolivia suffer some form of violence. Recent acts of violence against Bolivian women that have made it to the local press include a young man who killed his female “friend” by hitting her over the head with a bottle, and then set her body on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence; a Bolivian migrant to Spain who was suffocated to death by her Peruvian boyfriend, and a man who murdered a sex worker in a hotel room and then attempted to flee the scene with the woman’s head inside of a cardboard box. Stories of violence that make it to the press are often the most sensationalistic, and many women suffer violence in their daily lives in ways that slip under the radar.

One organization combating violence in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, el Centro de InformaciĆ³n y Desarrollo de la Mujer (CIDEM), notes that violence against women in the country is somewhat accepted—or at least tolerated—because of widespread sexist attitudes and beliefs. One woman I met at a CIDEM workshop told me that when she took her husband to trial for years of domestic abuse, the judge asked her, “And well, ma’am, were you neglecting your cooking and cleaning duties in the home?” Other women note that their partners attempt to excuse their acts of violence by arguing that they were drunk when they beat or raped their wives or girlfriends.

Due to high rates of violence against and murder of women in Bolivia, feminist activists in the country have been pressuring lawmakers to incorporate the term “femicide” or “feminicide” into legal codes, as a counterpart to “homicide.” The crime of feminicide--which gained international recognition due chiefly to the murders of women in Guatemala and Mexico—is understood as the murder of women simply because they are women. These murders are usually, but not always, perpetrated by male partners, ex-partners, family members, “friends,” or acquaintances. Activists want feminicide to be incorporated into penal codes as a hate crime carrying a prison term of at least 25 years. Spain, Mexico, and Guatemala represent three of the few countries that currently recognize and provide specific punishments for the crime of feminicide.

The problem with the penal codes of countries that fail to recognize feminicide is that many men who kill women in these nations are able to get off with disturbingly short prison sentences, since their crimes are often designated “crimes of passion.” Crime of passion defenses usually implicitly blame the murder victim for her aggressor’s crime, by saying that something that she did—a suspected or actual infidelity, a word of anger, or a domestic “failure”—provoked a violent reaction in the murderer; a reaction that is often deemed “natural” and “uncontrollable” in men. The activism of women in Bolivia represents the first step in changing people’s mentality, and in getting folks to realize that murder of women is never passionate—it is simply murder. And the men who commit it should pay for their crimes.


Yes, Arizona Law is about Hunting Brown People

Though some members of the government claim that the new law in Arizona demanding that residents prove citizenship is about border security, in actuality it is just a legalized opportunity to engage in attacking Brown people. 

WTVN, an Ohio radio station is running a contest where the winner gets an expense paid trip to Phoenix to spend a weekend “chasing aliens”.  Though not as obviously crude, it very much reminds me of the ads that were placed in newspapers to help hunt down fugitive slaves.  You will note, that the advertisement makes sure to frame their contest in a way that removes any form of humanity.  “Aliens” are not people; they are are an invading force.  This ad seeks to create a homogenous White American identity, while simultaneously creating Brown people as “other”.

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How exactly can anyone know exactly what an undocumented worker looks like?  The federal  government recently detained a U.S. citizen in the mistaken belief that he was Mexican, despite the fact that he presented valid government I.D. He was threatened with deportation, and had it not been for the intervention of congressman Luis Gutierrez, he might well have found himself illegally in Mexico. Ironic isn’t it?

Caraballo said he repeatedly told officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and therefore an American citizen.  His mother also presented his birth certificate, but despite that and his state-issued ID, officials told him he was facing deportation.

"I'm pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look -- I have Mexican features -- they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake," he said. "They were making me feel like I can't voice my opinion or I can't even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen."

He says officers asked him specific questions about the Caribbean island that he could not answer, mostly because he moved to the mainland when he was 8 months old and has only been back to Puerto Rico once since birth.

Almost three days later, and after his mother contacted Rep. Luis Gutierrez's office, immigration officials released Caraballo at about 2 p.m. Monday.

And now, Gutierrez, who's fighting for national immigration reform, wants answers.

"You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they're legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they're an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It's very, very, very dangerous ground to tread," the Chicago Democrat said. (source)

The government cannot reasonably claim that this law is about security when it is detaining U.S. citizens.  True immigration reform would mean looking for people that are in the country without documentation, and the very fact that they are not targeting the Canadian border speaks loudly.  Yes, people enter to U.S. everyday via the U.S. /Canadian border, but because Canada is understood to be a White nation, no threat has been constructed.  There are plenty of people each day who enter the U.S. from Europe and Australia, and their Whiteness allows them to avoid the label of illegal immigrant, because those ringing the alarm are not really concerned with domestic security, but using so-called illegal immigration to bolster their racist agenda.

The very fact that the law is eerily similar to those used against fugitive slaves should be setting off alarm bells across the states.  Contrary to popular myth, racism is not on the decline, it has only taken on different justifications.  This law demonstrates exactly how dangerous nationalism is.   It falsely assigns out group status, even though borders themselves have no reality other than what we chose to assign to them.  The identity of a real American, can and has been constructed to maintain a privilege (read: Whiteness) that is feared to be under decline.

If the federal government cannot determine the status of a U.S. citizen, what are the chances that an ill trained police officer will be able to make the correct determination?  All that need happen is for a person to exist with Brown skin to be perceived as threat, and that only should be enough for people to realize that this is not about protecting borders, but propping up the White supremacist state.  You don’t hunt people -- and we need to remember that the first step in attacking someone is always to dehumanize them.

H/T sociological images for the radio ad and Questioning Transphobia for the Carabello story.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Not My Cat

The minute the unhusband turns on the vacuum, Darren the family cat immediately goes searching for the nearest bed to hide under.

He is shedding right now and not in a million years would he tolerate this, even though he shows absolutely extreme patience with the baby.  Do you think that you could get away with this with your cat?

Why it is not okay to depict women as skeletons

By now, many of you have heard about the Lane Bryant ad that was rejected because it was deemed to sexay for television.  Larger women in many cases have larger breasts, and that does not somehow make their bodies x-rated.  The issue is that we have invested socially in sexualizing the female form because it serves the idea that women are objects rather than subjects.

The following video is now making the rounds.  It plays on the rejected Lane Bryant ad to construct women who pose for Victoria Secret as skeletons.

It is an absolute undeniable fact that in the so-called normal size fashion industry anorexia and bulimia is  an issue; however, constructing these women as walking skeletons is just as problematic as the rejection of the Lane Bryant ad, because it serves to once again discipline the female body.

Not every thin model that is wearing Victoria Secret is starving herself, or engaging in risky behaviour to maintain a specific size.  Some of these women have naturally high metabolisms that result in their thin frames. What is problematic is not that these women are thin, but that retailers like Victoria Secret do not make clothing for a large variety of sizes.   Promoting a thin body over and above bodies that are considered fat is stigmatizing, and helps to promote the idea that fat bodies are inherently unattractive.

How many times have we uttered comments like, she just needs to eat a hamburger when we see women that we have determined is too thin, even though we are not aware of their dietary habits?  How is this any different than suggesting that fat women must diet and or starve themselves to achieve an unnatural body weight for them?

Whether it is attacking someone for being too skinny, or engaging in fat hatred, we are serving the purposes of patriarchy, because we are upholding the idea that women’s bodies should be open to public discipline and shame.  A more affirming message would be one that is inclusive of all body shapes and sizes without the rhetoric of shame. 

When we attack each other in the search for personal validation, it is patriarchy that wins.  As I have said on many occasions, patriarchy continues to be the force that it is, because daily women support its existence with their behaviour.  It’s not just harmless catty behaviour; it is damaging and causes a great deal emotional pain each time our bodies are constructed in a negative way.  You cannot shame one group of women to promote another.  No matter how good your intentions are the end result is only more pain for ALL women.

H/T Jezebel

 


Spark of Wisdom: Has the world ever been about anything BUT straight pride?

Normally Sparky graces us with a post every Tuesday, however when I came across the following post on his blog, I was compelled to ask permission to share it with everyone.

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One of the cornerstones of the GBLT movement has been the concept of Pride. And I applaud it with all my heart, because it is exactly what I feel was and is so needed.

The world denies GBLT Pride. The world suppresses it. And for such a long time – and still today – GBLT Shame has been the standard, not pride. We should be ashamed for what we are. We should change. Whole organisations have been built and funded around forcing us to change our shameful beings. Vast international churches fiercely press that our presence, our existence is shameful and should be repressed and changed and repented of.  We should feel guilty, we should be ashamed.

We are told we should hide. We should pretend. We should act lest our terrible weirdness infect, upset or hurt other people. Being GBLT is outrageous, shameful. We cannot speak of it openly. We must not speak of it in front of the children, because it will damage them. We cannot speak of it in front of other people, that’s forcing our nastiness on them, forcing them to endure it, forcing it down their throats, making a display of it. Isn’t it inappropriate? Can’t we just keep it to ourselves? Don’t we have any decency, don’t we have any shame? We should feel guilty, we should be ashamed.

We are attacked and punished for being who we are, beaten down, driven into hiding and killed. We are kicked out of houses, even our parents’ homes, because of the shame and vileness of our presence under their roof. We are turned away from businesses and employers. Laws are enacted to keep us out, to silence any mention of us, to protect vaunted professions from us, to protect children from us, to deny us and push us back. Laws that exist to enforce our shame. We should feel guilty. We should be ashamed.

I grew up with Gay Shame. I grew up with the idea that my sexuality was a bad thing, that I was a flawed and broken, that I had some terrible affliction that I should spare other people. I grew up knowing I deserved less, that I was less, that I was embarrassing, shameful, something to hide. I was taught to be guilty. I was taught to be ashamed.

I was taught that, society taught me that, family taught me that, certain “friends” definitely taught me that.

This is what GBLT Pride means. In a world that tells us we should change, we say we’re good as we are. In a world that tells us we should hide, we say we’re here and open. In a world that tells us we’re sick and broken, we say we’re whole and well. In a world that tells us children should be protected from us, we say we have kids and are kids and that’s pure and good and right. In a world that attacks us, beats us and kills us for daring to exist, we say that’s wrong and we fight back. In a world where laws are expressly created to repress us, we scream that we are equal. In a world that tells us we should not be, we yell that this is who we are and this is fine and wonderful.

In a world that tells us we should be ashamed, we declare that we are Proud.

And this is not a message that is easily announced. So far this year a Pride Parade in Lithuania was met with violence,  a Pride Parade in Minsk broken up by riot police, the first Pride Parade in Slovakia was cancelled after being attacked by skinheads, and Moscow Pride Parade has been cancelled (Moscow has a bad history with Pride Parades, to say the least especially as Mayor Yuri Luzhkov refers to gay and lesbians as “satanic“).

So looking at that, at the power and meaning and declaration of Pride, as well as the violent and virulent opposition to it, we get this and this and this and this Straight Pride. Hey you can google it, there’s no shortage of links, alas.

0Has there ever been an institution of straight shame? Have your families, your love, your children, your life ever been demeaned and attacked and criminalised because you are straight?

Have straight people ever had to declare their sexuality? No, because the world will always assume it and honour it and raise it up and pure and proper and right. There has never been a need for straight pride because the world is steeped in it, saturated with it and pumps it out every second of every day. They flaunt their privilege like a flag and think it’s oh-so-witty to do so.

They have taken the symbolism of Pride and are using it to attack us and demean what they know so little about.

And today on Twitter, “Geek Pride” was trending. It is, apparently, Geek Pride day.

And I saw people celebrating. Including words like “Hiding in the locker is over.”  And “I’m coming out as a Geek!“ and “it’s geek pride day! I can go out in geek drag.” “Is there a colourful flag we should be waving?”

Why, I think I see some subtle comparisons there. Yes, yes I do.

I am a Geek. I play WoW, I am a fantasy and sci-fi lover, most of my TV and book choices either have lasers or fireballs or at least vampire fangs. I’ve played D&D, I’ve played GURPS and I have a shelf full of White Wolf books. I had a childhood crush on Nightcrawler for gods’ sake (don’t ask. Really) I am as geeky and nerdy as they come and merrily happy with it.

But this? This is appropriating something vital and powerful. Celebrate geekiness, revel in it, dance with it, wave those towels! It’s a wonderful wonderful thing, but Geek Pride? No, really, no.


Awareness or Voyeurism: Hoarders

image I have been watching “Hoarders” on A&E. Each week it shows two people that are compulsive hoarders.  Some of the homes are over run by the things that people have collected, and others are filled with every kind of garbage that you can imagine.  Though the audience is made aware each episode that we are actually watching someone deal with a terrible illness, the shows still tend to give off a voyeuristic feel by focusing on the worst examples of hoarding.  Though the hoarders involved are given help to clean their home and money to pay for after care, the fact that their illness has become a form of entertainment is indeed problematic.

The homes of hoarders become so packed that there are rooms that they cannot enter.  One family featured on the show was sleeping in their backyard even though they had home.  Their house had been over-run by bed bugs, thus making it impossible for them to sleep in their own beds. One man had lost a loaded gun in his home and mouse droppings covered the counter tops and the floors.  In many cases, their houses become health hazards -- and just living in the space is risking their health.  

While “Hoarders” has certainly raised the profile of the illness, it does not do so in a way that engenders sympathy.  The viewer is encouraged to gawk at their lives  and because there is never any in-depth conversation regarding what leads to this illness, or the emotions behind it, hoarders can be understood as simply lazy people who don’t have the good sense to clean up.  That their lifestyle actually presents a health risk and not simply and annoyance to the communities that they live in is also not clearly explained.

Jesse Gaston, 76, and his wife Thelma Gaston, 79 were discovered buried alive in their home.  Thelma originally became trapped and when Jesse tried to help her, he also succumbed to the mess that had become their home.

Fortunately for the Gaston’s, they were found after a neighbour decided to call for a well being check after not seeing them for three weeks.  In some cases eating rotting and spoiled food, or living in an environment where they are infested with various vermin and even rotting and dead animals, means that each day they awake is a miracle.  Because hoarding is most often seen through the eyes of those that they inconvenience, the  self destructive nature of it is ignored. The people most harmed by hoarding are not the neighbours or even family and friends, they are the hoarders themselves.

"Essentially, hoarding is a particular manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder," Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, told FoxNews.com. "People feel compelled to collect and keep seemingly useless things, and would become highly and irrationally anxious if these things were taken from them."

Ablow said the root of this disorder is partly biological and partly due to early life events.

"Particularly those involving sudden changes or catastrophic losses," he said. "Hoarding can also be a kind of psychological defense against bigger threats since hoarders reduce their sense of well-being to whether they can keep the things they have collected." [source]

Watching the news story on this poor couple, we are again presented with a group of hoarders that we are expected to feel disdain for rather than sympathy.  The cameras repeatedly pan over the garbage and the mess, thus making the manifestation of the illness larger than the illness itself.   The house itself has been condemned, meaning that this couple, like many disabled people, will not be able to negotiate their illness on their own terms.

It is normally state or family intervention that forces the hoarder to deal with their illness.  In the case of family, it is often perceived that the hoarder is choosing  junk, over interacting with family.  Those who have never struggled with the disease have a hard time attaching the same value to these seemingly worthless items that the hoarder does.  The state only cares about the inconvenience it causes society and has been known to threaten imprisonment, thus once again criminalizing a mental illness.

From the outside hoarding may cause revulsion but until it is actually recognized as a sickness, those that suffer with it cannot be helped.  If we as a society simply move in and clean the area, it accomplishes nothing in the long run because the root of the problem has not been dealt with.  A hoarder must actively decide to seek treatment and to keep their house clean and clutter free to achieve permanent change.

Hoarding is just one form of disability among many that is easily ridiculed.  A lack of understanding is no excuse to treat these people as though they are a spectacle -- and the public shaming does nothing but increase the tendency to hoard.  Hoarders already feel enough shame; they isolate themselves from others in the fear that their sickness will become public. There are certainly no easy answers when a disability extends to the point where others are negatively effected, but I fail to see the point of shaming those who are clearly in pain for the sake of entertainment.  

 


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Black Women are Perceived as a Threat

I was reading the story of 54 year old James Bain who has recently been released from prison after serving 35 in years  for a crime he didn’t commit.  I felt anger and sorrow for all of the terrible years that he has lost.  Once again, I could not help but notice that it was a man of colour who had lost his life to system that is determined to see Black bodies as surplus.

As a result of his false imprisonment, he is about to receive $50,000 for every year he spent behind bars, for a total of $1.75 million.  This is restitution that is going to be paid to him by the state for his false imprisonment.  It is clearly does not make up for what he lost behind bars.  Bain does not have hatred in his heart for the system that imprisoned him; however, he does have a distinct distrust of women.

He said it's the money that's keeping him on his guard -- and is one reason why he doesn't yet have a girlfriend.

"I just don't want no woman to want me for my money, to be honest with you," he said. "... You don't know what they have planned."

His suggestion plays into the meme that women are gold diggers who are constantly out to take money from men.  This construction of course never considers the millions of hours of free labour that the average woman will supply patriarchy throughout her lifetime.  In the interactions between men and women, it is men who will overwhelmingly profit.

It is tempting to give Bain a pass because he has not witnessed first hand the struggles of women’s groups to attack sexism; however, this does not acknowledge that in the time before he was imprisoned, he was more than willing to adopt the male privilege that patriarchy handed to him on a silver platter.

Sexism is connected to race because Black women continue to have to deal with it on a daily basis.  Many Black men are convinced that we should openly embrace their issues while ignoring the ways in which the Black male patriarchy has brought significant harm to Black girls and women. 

Bain is fine with women as long as he can maintain control of the relationship.  He currently resides with his mother and has expressed a desire to take care of her, thus fulfilling the male provider role.   It is quite normal to want to take care of an aging parent, but when it falls into typical understandings of how we perceive gender, it is indeed problematic.

We are expected to read/hear Bain’s story and be overwhelmed with sympathy and rage because Black men have become the face of injustice, despite the fact that they are just as guilty as the White male patriarchy of doing harm to Black women. Even after everything he has been through at the hands of the White supremacist state, women are who he sees as threatening, and this is specifically why race and blood is not always enough to bind us to Black men.

News agencies have lauded him for his ability to forgive.  White supremacy loves nothing more than a Black man that is willing to turn the other cheek.  As long as Black men do not focus their anger and aggression on White supremacy, the damage that they do WOC is seen as more than acceptable.  As long as we continue to be divided from each other the forces that seek to create us as “other” win.

At the end of Bain’s story I found myself saddened.  My heart is full of pity for a man that lost his life to the penal industrial complex and anger for the fact that he could find it in his heart to forgive those that persecuted him while redirecting his distrust at women.  His story sadly is not unique, and that is specifically because though marginalized by racism, far too many Black men buy into the lie that oppressing someone will make them powerful.

 

I Can't Believe You Laugh At This: The Edition Of Just Why I Want To Live In A Cave

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

image Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

Dear BLOG! reading person,

I have to warn you early enough today. This letter you see before you is actually a rant. A long winded-one at that. So, if you're in no mood to listen to me rant (again), you can leave. I seriously don't want any more e-mails detailing just why do I rant and what's so wrong with it. Now that all the troll-people have gone, let's get on with our usual LadyBusiness shall we?

It comes as no surprise that I love watch mind-numbingly horrid T.V. shows; it's a real problem with no visible cure. So today, while I fed my weekly need to pierce my eyeballs out addiction, something terrible happened. It happened. Indian T.V. has finally managed to completely repulse me by just a three-minute dance performance. Every time I see something terrible, I promise myself I won't watch the show again. Sure enough, next week I am on my position on the couch, waiting for the horror to unfold.

This show I talk of is called 'Zara Nachke Dikha' which is probably the Indian version of 'Dancing With The Stars' -- only the stars are divided into two teams : Men Vs Women. This week the theme was 'fusion'. This is an opportunity for the contestants to mix Western and traditional Indian dance styles. Apparently contestant Siddhesh Pai  interpreted this theme to 'fusing genders'. Just peachy.

The dance performance is set to an 'item-number' genre of songs (These songs are typically identified with courtesans and prostitutes), where the contestant is dressed as a woman first and then quickly changes back to his usual masculine self. As it is a 'second-grade' song, this gender subversion is ignored. The audience looks at the dancing prowess of the contestant, how effortlessly he dances like a woman, how equally effortlessly he changes to his shiny silver costume, giving out a ton of dude-ittude one moment, shifting to feminine seduction next. This can possibly be an extremely warped version of Woolf's Orlando on an alternate universe. You can hear people cheering, the judges laughing, while I seethed in fury from my position in front of the T.V.

The Indian Transsexual
The Indian Transsexual

This is certainly not the first time transgender and trans-sexual identities have been an object of ridicule. It's de rigueur for stand up comedians and script-writers to use trans-sexuality as a joke. After all, transsexuals in India are nothing but a joke. A man who actually has LadyBits? Or a woman who is born with the cumbersome male-appendage? Nothing provides better fodder for jokes and mockathons. They are called hijra and chakka -- derogatory words that symbolise their "incomplete-ness".

The trans-sexual community is a grossly marginalised one; people literally walk away when they see them. We see them at road signals, dressed in sarees, walking in packs of two's and three's. They beg for money, tease the taxi driver, laugh and walk away. As a child, I was scared of them mainly because I didn't know who they were. When my mum explained to me that they were "half and half", I realised they were people too.

"Trans-sexuals are those people on the street who clap in that peculiar way to announce their arrival" say some people as a way of explanation. "Give them money, they'll go away. Otherwise they touch you with those hands" admonished my aunt. I didn't fully gauge this marginalization till I read the 'Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini -- my first brush with the notion that transgender isn't always necessarily a choice here. Who knew being cisgendered would turn out to be a privilege one day?

"These hijras are all prostitutes Madam. They like it" tells the watchman near the red light area. As I talked to Maya, a trans-woman and sex-worker for the past 12 years, she says, "Men come to us. We're women down there. They don't mind it even if we don't have the upper half of women's bodies". She adds, "Little boys make the best dancers. If you train them well enough, they can soon forget what they were before". As I stared at her, she huffed angrily, "We give little lost boys a home. They'd be rotting in the gutters otherwise". There are boys as young as 6 or 7 years old, dressed as girls; laughing at a distance. What my too brief visit to the trans-sexual commune didn't highlight are the weekly visits by policemen and officers (as free customers) ; the harassment they face on the streets, how some young boys are castrated to make them follow the transsexual way of living, the underground prostitution rings and of course, the status of being less than a 'second-grade' citizen.

This being only the modicum of issues that surround trans-sexuality, it's really appalling to see the media so shamelessly USING them to laugh and joke. As seen in the dance above, even in concepts as harmless as 'dance fusion' trans-sexuality is used to get points and appreciation from the audience.

For that last time I want to say - Trans-sexuality isn't a joke. It's not a disease. Crouching away from the hijra that comes along your vehicle in a traffic jam or just dismissing them with some loose change isn't a part of the solution anymore. They are P-E-O-P-L-E. They deserve to be treated so.

An extremely Jaded16.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Stories of Pain

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This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

Two weeks ago I spoke  about a particularly awful party I attended including a particular horror from my teenaged years pretending he was my friend. To a degree I am still dealing with a lot of the shadows I raised there and I have to thank everyone for their kind and powerful words of support. They were touching, comforting and very helpful to me in finding my way through this little maze.

But I also got another type of comments (well, 2 other kinds, but trolls will be trolls after all) in my email through LJ, to my gchat and my twitter. Stories from GBLT people, thanking me for what I said and telling me their stories.

Some were not as bad as mine, some were many many times worse. All were painful, painful for them, to have lived, painful for me to read. They all spoke of wounds and scars, physical, mental and emotional. They all spoke of their lives, as kids. as teens, as vulnerable youth trying to live and learn and grow being attacked, being hurt, being wounded to the core. So many horrendous stories that I don't know whether to cry or break something.

And the stories kept on coming - and keep on coming. Stories of pain and hate and grief - not just one story, not just a few stories, but a growing horrendous heap of stories. A mass of people reaching out, sharing their pain that still hurts, identifying with past wrongs that cast such dark shadows on their lives.

These stories are tragic and touching and heartfelt. The sheer amount of grief suffered by so many young GBLT people, grief and pain that continues into their adult lives was stunning. And enraging.

It made me think back to all the times the homophobes will scream "think of the children" when they opposed, well, anything. Gay adoption, gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws even events like the Day of Silence designed to highlight and combat anti-gay bullying are all met with fierce and furious condemnation and opposition by the usual suspects among the homophobes and always under the wail "think of the children."

GBLT youth is over 4 times as likely to take their own life as straight, cis-gendered teens. And I read these stories and I can believe it, in fact, I can believe the figure is much higher. So many of the people who spoke to me described how they stood on that knife edge, described how they considered it, told me the things that held them back from that fatal decision. So many of them stood on that ledge. I have stood on that ledge.

In the UK surveys by the NUT (National Union of Teachers) have revealed that nearly 100% - not a typo, nearly 100%, nearly ALL - teachers have witnessed homophobia between pupils. These stories of pain and their scars in my inbox are not things of yesteryear - they are happening again, new stories are being written right now in the homes, schools and playgrounds. A new generation of children are standing on that ledge.

And this is why it matters. The activism, the fighting, the campaigning in all its forms. It matters because literally dozens of GBLT people have contacted me with their stories of pain. It matters because so many of us have them, it matters because not having one is almost exceptional, it's that horrifically pervasive. It matters because there is another generation of kids out there living those stories again. It matters because far too many of those stories will be painfully short.

Our children - OUR kids - deserve better. And believe me, homophobes, we are thinking of them and of the kids we used to be.

Letting Students Wear KKK Robes in School Might be a Bad Idea

For the end of the year history project, Catherine Ariemma’s students in Georgia were instructed to re-enact a historical event.  Four of her students decided to come to school in White robes akin to those worn by the KKK.  None of the students in her class were Black, though there were some that are of colour.  Said students even apparently asked an African-American child to participate so that they could re-enact a lynching.   Ms. Ariemma walked the students through the cafeteria where Black children were having lunch and this obviously caused both fear and anger.  Ms. Ariemma is now on administrative leave.

Transcript starting at :30

Ms. Ariemma: It was a mistake and I am sorry.  I don’t know what else to say. It was not my intention for anyone to be hurt. 

at oo:56: They were filming an episode on the Klan.  Well you cannot discuss racism in U.S. history and not cover the Klan.  And they came into my classroom and they had sheets, sponge bob hats (note: the hats were to simulate the cone shape of the KKK hood.  They were then covered by White sheets)

Of course Ms. Ariemma didn’t meant to cause harm, many so-called White liberals never do.  How could anyone reasonably believe that allowing students to dress up as the KKK on campus in full view of African-American students would be harmless?  Her intent is irrelevant and what matter is the end result of her actions.

Blacks must constantly be aware of race because we have to negotiate a White supremacist word whereas, those with White privilege need not learn anything significant about African-American history, or culture to be able to survive.  Blacks spend their lives worrying about how their behaviour, language, dress, sexuality etc are interpreted by Whiteness because it is quite literally a life and death matter. Whiteness can simply exist.

Though Black students clearly stated that they have were harmed by this activity, some of the commentators at CNN were more than willing to give Ms. Ariemma a free pass.

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I most certainly agree that a conversation on racism in the U.S. definitely needs to include the actions of the KKK; however, triggering and scaring Black students should not be a part of this ill-fated experiment.  The activities of the KKK are not a thing of the past and they continue to be involved in racist activities that are extremely harmful to Blacks and in fact all people of colour.

Instead of teaching the students about how damaging the actions of the KKK continue you to be, Ms. Ariemma taught these White students that their learning is far more important than ensuring a safe environment for all people.   These kids learned that White privilege over rules the damage that it has historically done to others, if it can be justified by supporting a pseudo liberal agenda. There are many ways to learn about racism and only someone committed to its perpetuation chooses to do so in a way that reifies its existence.


Marketing the Black/White Dichotomy: Where the Toyota Swagger Wagon Goes Wrong

This is a guest post from Godheval

image I am a writer, a philosopher, a dreamer, and an idealist.  I have no credentials worth mentioning, and I don't presume to know anything about anything.  I am merely a man, and a person of color, and I am always contemplating what that means for me and my relationship to the rest of the world.  That relationship is negotiated by an overwhelming sense of justice, something I mitigate with a harsh rationality lest I come completely undone by my emotions.  I blog about social issues, culture, politics, philosophy, and entertainment at Godheval.net.

This is me, sighing.

Maybe this is another case of me being "hypersensitive", but so be it. If you're a white person or a particularly assimilated person of color, then you'll probably think this is a rather harmless video.

You may think it's funny. Hilarious, even.

If you’re a person of color with even an iota of militancy, or hell, if you’re me, then this commercial probably makes you cringe, or just plain annoys you.

But perhaps you're not entirely sure why. So I'll tell you why it irritates me, and maybe my explanation will make something click for you.

First of all, it's cultural appropriation.  Which means that an element of a given culture is taken and used outside of its intended context - worse yet, in blatant opposition to the intended context.  From Wikipedia:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behaviour. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

Hip-hop, and rap in particular, by no measure of historical revisionism or denial of their contributions, is undoubtedly an African-American cultural product.

This, however, does not mean that it belongs exclusively to African-Americans, or that no one else can use it.  The rule, though, is that it should be used in the spirit in which it was intended.  That is, as an expression of positivity, uplift, counter-establishment, or justified anger towards historic and lasting inequality and/or injustice.

People around the world have used hip-hop brilliantly and properly - from the Palestinians speaking out against Apartheid conditions in Israel, to the righteous anger from the socially marginalized of the Parisian banlieues, to Somalian rapper K'naan speaking about abject poverty.  And let's not forget M.I.A., who in spite of generating mainstream appeal, has managed to keep her message authentic and political.

There are countless examples of where hip-hop and rap are used incorrectly – just look at the majority of mainstream rap today.  By African-American artists, no less.  But remember that bit I told you about appropriation?  Well, as much as I despise commercial mainstream garbage rap, the fact of the matter is that, as an African-American cultural product, rap is free for African-Americans to do with as they please.

If you own a television, it is your right to use it as a surfboard, even if it means you are rushing headlong down a slippery slope towards self-annihilation.  That was not merely an analogy, but a metaphor.

If someone else were to come in and use your television as a surfboard, well…you’d be pretty justified in wanting to smash said TV over their heads.  The smash-impulse I speak of is neither an analogy, nor a metaphor.  Which brings me back to the Toyota commercial.

Here we have a fictional white family, with all of the privilege, normativeness, and inherent “rightness” their mere existence implies, members of the “dominant” culture, appropriating the music, language, and projected mannerisms of African-American culture (“minority” culture) and using it in a way that completely contradicts the intended spirit.

Hip-hop, should I need to remind you, was originally all about countering the establishment – an establishment built-in with various mechanisms and controls to ensure that African-Americans would never stand on equal footing with white people.  An establishment that would deny the average black family access to the so-called “American Dream”, which the white family in this commercial exemplifies to a truly laughable extreme.  I mean, they even seemed to choose the blondest babies imaginable to ram the point home.

Contrary to this “wholesome” symbol of white normalcy, hip-hop and rap for the most part – in spite of their mainstream commercial appeal – are regarded as less than ideal, unworthy, “not music”, “ghetto”, “stupid”, “irresponsible”, promoting all the wrong values.  That last bit – about values – is interesting, because of course hip-hop would never promote “white values” – white being “right”, of course – where African-Americans were not given access to the same livelihoods and cultural environment within which such “values” would flourish.

This is not to say that such values – personal responsibility, emphasis on the family, etc. – are foreign or unimportant to African-Americans.  They are equally, if not more important, in an environment that regularly creates obstacles to achieving the ideal.  Hip-hop and rap, though, were the response to that environment.

So this video, in its promotion of white normalcy and wholesomeness, not-so-subtly implies a black/white dichotomy wherein the white family champions family values and the American Dream, in stark contrast to the mainstream rap music of today, which places a premium on materialism, excess, selfishness, and often violence.

“Where are the kids?” seems particularly meaningful when we consider the stigma against black families as being “broken” – having absentee parents, teen parents, or otherwise not “doing right” by their children.  No worries about the white family, though – their two little Aryans are close at hand.

The white family drives the station wagon, with the car seats in the back, while rappers show off their financially unwise and unsustainable Escalades or even fancier cars, symbols of their excess and irresponsibility.

The whole commercial screams – or maybe whispers for most of you – this paternalistic message of: “Here, let us show you what you’re supposed to be doing.”

It is important to note here that when hip-hop and rap were definitively anti-establishment, flew arms-swinging into the face of white normativeness, there were no attempts to appropriate them.  They were swiftly and decisively demonized, devalued, dismissed as invalid and inappropriate.  The average white person would have sooner taken a shit on a rap album as purchase one.  Their children who embraced the music or the culture were regarded cautiously at best- parents hoping it to be just as a fad (as it could only ever be) – or punished at worst.  They were ridiculed by their peers and regarded as niggers-by-association, the word of choice being “wigger”.

But then something happened.  White businessmen, as they had with Jazz, Blues, Soul, Rock, and other forms of black music before, saw the money-making potential of rap music.  They may not have wanted it for their own children, but they recognized it as perfect for consumption by other white children who could use it as the ultimate symbol of rebellion against everything their parents stood for – that is, everything white.  That the sizeable minority of African-Americans would also buy the albums in large quantities was an added bonus.

And so was rap music corporatized – warped and perverted into a commercial product far-removed from its original purpose; something achieved by the silver tongues of businessmen appealing to the sensibilities of those with very little, with promises of what they never had – and, for the most part, still wouldn’t have even after the deals were signed.

When deciding which of the wide variety of rap music to push into the mainstream market, the businessmen chose those who emphasized the black/white dichotomy in the most extreme way – the “gangsta” rappers – the music which further reinforced just how far black people were from the white ideal of family values and personal responsibility.  It was the portion of rap that the kids of white suburbia would most embrace, thereby generating the highest profit.

The rappers themselves, beneath a superficial layer of anger and violence, often had important messages to relay – but these messages were lost on a market that had neither any frame of reference within which to process them, nor any real interest in hearing them.  The music that stayed completely true to hip-hop’s original spirit, what we today call “conscious rap”, was kept in the margins.  Not only because it continued to speak against white businesses’ appropriation of hip-hop, but because their message, more readily accessible without the superficial layer of violence, was not marketable to white suburbia, nor was it something that the establishment wanted people to hear.

So make no mistake.  While much of mainstream rap music today disgraces the spirit of hip-hop, its popularity and mass-marketing is the direct result of cultural appropriation.  What little wealth or acclaim it grants a handful of African-American artists – often short-lived – is a mere consolation prize for the wholesale theft of a cultural product.

The Swagger Wagon Toyota commercial, in implicitly pointing an accusatory finger at mainstream rap music, and African-Americans by proxy, again aims to make a profit by promoting a black/white dichotomy that reinforces white righteousness.  And anything that validates the current social pecking order is ripe for consumption by those at the top.

As an added bonus, the commercial even elicits a few hearty chuckles.  Hee mother fucking hee.

While I have zero doubts about what this commercial is saying, implicit though it may be, I cannot say with any conviction whether or not this loaded message was intentional.  White privilege, white normativeness, white standards, white values, and the black/white dichotomy – these things are all built into the foundation of American society.  This video may truly have been an innocuous attempt at humour, but one that echoed from that foundation.

I’ll ignore, lest I get carried away with my analysis, the fact that the commercial itself is in black and white.

The people who made it, having already embraced the dichotomy, may not even have been aware of all of the implications – just enough in the abstract to recognize how it would speak well to the sensibilities of other white people.  Such is the essence of good marketing, which as any self-aware capitalist will tell you, is often mutually exclusive from any ethical or moral good.


Dan Savage Does Not Have the Solution to Homophobia in Malawi

image Over time I have come to loathe Dan Savage for his racist, ableist, fat phobic and sexist language.  Though Savage is oppressed as a gay man, he seems to forget that he has plenty of privilege.  Not only is he White and male, he is also able bodied and cis gendered, has class privilege, western privilege, thin privilege, etc and etc.  For all of the oppression Dan Savage faces as a gay man, he certainly exists with enough power to make the lives of others a living hell.  There seems to be this need for marginalized bodies to find someone else to oppress, in an effort to avoid becoming the bottom tier of the social hierarchy.

By now I am sure the readers of this blog are aware of the Malawian couple that has been sentenced to prison for 14 years of hard labour after having an engagement party. The couple have been misidentified as a gay couple (an error his royal highness did not see fit to correct). Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman, and that means that this relationship is a heterosexual one.  The issue here is that Malawian government does not recognize her gender identity and has misidentified it as a gay relationship.  While I agree that this is an issue for the TLBG community, it is also an issue for all those that believe in equality. Some people however are more concerned with pushing their issue, regardless of the social cost to others.

Blogger Gina of Skip The Makeup had this to say:

It is true a conviction like this will only oppress gay men even more to have sexual relations "on the down low" and that Malawi has one of the highest rates of seropositivity in Southern Africa (and therefore, the world). Yes, they were convicted under statutes which were meant to punish same-sex couples. But for mainstream publications (and many gay blogs) to ignore the gender identity of Ms. Chimbalanga is, in its own way, equally horrific. Nowhere is the term "transphobia" even mentioned. In this misgendering, it greatly resembles the story in the New York Times about the 1999 murder of soldier Barry Winchell, which completely ignored his girlfriend Calpernia Addams' gender identity and presentation as a woman, and characterized it as a case of homophobia because Winchell was in a "same sex relationship."

Once again like a stale fart in the wind, Savage has decided to spew his virulent idea of activism on the internet.

Malawi is dependent on foreign aid—most of it from Britain and the US—and that aid should be withdrawn. The government of Malawi should be told that it can have its rabid anti-gay bigotry or it can it can have foreign aid. But it can't have both.

Let’s see how this works: the western world stops providing aid (which btw really isn’t real aid), and then everyone in that country gets to starve and we watch as their economy collapses.  How long do you think it would take before Malawi became a failed state like Somalia?  I know that men like Savage who feel that they are oppressed by Blacks, cannot see the tragedy of the thousands, perhaps millions who would lose their lives. 

Some of the aid that Savage is so willing cut off goes to provide basic services like health care. Though HIV/AIDS is an issue for everyone, the GLBT community in particular has been extremely strong in the fight for a cure.  The rate of AIDS in Malawi is one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.  At the end of 2008, there were 930,000 people living with AIDS, and that figure accounts for 11.9% of the adult population. And if that does not shock you into awareness, 68,000 died of AIDS, leaving behind 560,000 orphans. Without the paltry western support that Malawi currently receives, how many more will die? 

Savage can afford to make outlandish statements specifically because it is not his life at risk.  Children in Malawi already labour in cruel conditions to support the tobacco industry in the U.S., often surviving on one meal a day, thus acting as the major support for their families. How much more burden are we going to place on the backs of little black boys and girls? 

And finally, who the hell is he to decide how the situation should be handled?  I know it seems like a novel idea, but how about asking the TLBG community in Malawi what form of support they would like?  I am most certain that they would not support an action that would lead to further impoverishment and death.  It is not the government of Malawi that will suffer, it is the people.  Savage’s suggestion is  absolutely brainless and it  would create havoc for the very people that he claims to be advocating on behalf of.  It is because Savage cannot see beyond his own frame of reference and western privilege that he feels that he has the right to make such a terrible suggestion.

If the west were indeed to remove aid for this action, who do you think would be blamed?  How do you think the Malawian population would treat the LGBT community when they already have such little regard for their rights?  In fact, his language is already harmful because it fuels the myth that homosexuality and a transgender identity  are not African.  Despite the fact that there have always been GLBT bodies on the African continent, many choose to reject this population as a form of resistance against colonial oppression and therefore, before a western White man like Savage seeks to assert his clearly harmful opinion, he should have given thought to how it would be received. The last thing that the GLBT community  needs is more identification with Whiteness, when Whiteness has done nothing but rape and pillage that continent for centuries.

Savage will continue to put his foot in his mouth because that is what he does.  Oppression is a terrible thing; however, we cannot bring an end to injustice by ignoring the ways in which we are privileged, because that will only lead to repeating an already damaging form of hierarchy.  If his real concern was helping the Malawian TLBG community, perhaps Savage should have thought before writing the first ignorant spew that came to mind-- but then men like Savage don’t really care about others.  And though I have said it before, Savage really needs to be quiet. The last thing we need is more fuel to the fire.

 

 


Monday, May 24, 2010

Banned by Black Men By Kola Boof

image Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project.  She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.”  She blogs at Kola Boof. com
Why can’t we clone Kalamu Ya Salaam, Keidi Awadu, Barack Obama, L. Martin Johnson Pratt and Derrick Bell?  Why can’t we just let those be the Black men with privilege?
I warn you, this commentary is going to be…very blatant.
But we need it so bad.
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As I prepare to headline a singing and reading recital this Friday at the renowned National Black Theater in Harlem; and do a book signing at the nation’s top Black bookstore, Hue-Man, this Saturday—I still find myself melancholy over the fact that a prominent African-American bookstore owned by two Black Males has banned me from ever appearing at their store or having my books sold there.
Friends, mostly men, say that I should get over it and focus on the acceptance I’m receiving from my own fan base. But the more I try to absorb this brand of censorship as an acceptable component of the Black arts community; the more I feel tainted by our hypocrisy for not speaking out.  Who on earth screams with “self-righteous indignation” more than Black people? Yet we Blacks have the gall to think it’s alright to silence people within our own ranks who frighten or challenge us.  The fact that these Civil Rights-era Black men have banned other Black female authors from being sold/appearing at their store—most notably, Emmy winner and National Book Award Nominee Wanda Coleman—makes it all the harder for me to ignore.  

The bookstore in question is called “EsoWon” (which in the Amharic language means “water over stones”); it’s located in Los Angeles and the owner who relayed to my publicist Nafisa Goma that I and my work are banned from his store, is named James Fugate.
Nafisa Goma, a sweet Arab-American woman, contacted the store to book me for a signing and Mr. Fugate informed her that I would never under any circumstances be allowed on their premises and that he wasn’t going to tell her why.  This was followed by Nafisa Goma and several Kola Boof supporters going in person to the store to request my work or that I be allowed to do a reading/signing there.  According to this contingent of Black-American, Senegalese, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Ghanian women, Mr. Fugate and his employees were hostile and rude to each of them for requesting my books and became nearly vicious when they stated that they would like to see me there for a signing.
Mr. Fugate told these women, as I’ve since learned he’s told numerous people, that he is disgusted by me appearing “topless” on the back covers of my African-themed novels and short story collections.  He finds this 26,000 year old Nilotic African practice (black bare titties—the KoijiSijil) inappropriate and grounds for banning me from existence.  Yet his store, an African-named bookstore with Kente cloth designs all over it, is overflowing with images of Black women with fake blue eyes and Blond hair on their heads plastered across the books, front and back!
When one of the Black American sisters pressed James Fugate on why Kola Boof novels were so disturbing to him besides the topless photos—she says that he muttered something about me putting “our dirty laundry in public” and focusing on issues that aren’t that important to the Black struggle in his opinion—“my vagina being circumcised and infibulated”; “the Post-Colonial light skin over dark skin hierarchy (he is light-skinned);” the systematic rape of African women globally; my rejection of Black America’s claims that Arab Muslims are “Brown brothers” in solidarity with Black people.  In short, he expressed the feeling that by me focusing on African women’s issues and indicting Black men in so much of Black women’s suffering; my work divides the community and portrays Black men in a bad light.  Therefore, it is his duty to protect the Black community by seeing to it that my work, at least in his bookstore, doesn’t exist.
This is what many Americans consider to be “Honourable Blackness” and not censorship (you see it in their music videos; their films and magazines)—a “faux” imitation of White looks imposed on Black women (or better yet, mulatto women from Spelman draped in Kente cloth); a rehashing of Eurocentric trained thoughts dipped in Easter-Egg-Brown and Black Dye; a mulatto Disney-like fixation on tired ass Egypt; a proliferation of “romanticized” Afrocentric camel shit that they pass off as African history; authentic African living—“hotep! Hotep!”--all the while excluding and hissing at any actual African artists who have anything to say that deviates from the mythical mirage of royalty and Egypto-Aithiopic patriotism they cling to.
Note to Black America—you all’s Mum was West African.  You can’t get any higher than that; so stop neglecting her in favor of what you perceive to be lighter-skinned Egypt.  Stop trying to claim Ethiopia when most Ethiopians can’t stand your behinds. Claim Senegal, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali and Ghana, the countries that actually love Black Americans (and for good reason; you’re their children). Furthermore, few of us in or from Africa have ever been Kings or Queens; we are not deities; not one of us is named “Mother Africa” and we did not receive our sinful wicked side via exposure to European White Devils. We are the earth’s first human beings and everything good or evil in human character was created and practiced first by us; not by Europeans.  Africans are two-faced just like every other race; which is why you were enslaved, raped and brutalized in the first place. Europe’s armies were more powerful and better equipped than ours, it’s just that simple. And in addition to Europe’s might, the Black race has always produced people like Clarence Thomas and Sean Puffy Combs; therefore, your asses got sold across the ocean by some of your own leaders—while others like King Katanga, Queen Nzingah, Queen TinkaTeker II and King Jingo died fighting against your enslavement.
500 years ago—West African women who spoke against slavery were called “Fire Witches” and “Man Bashers” and were burned at the stake so that the men’s greed for bling-bling could be attended to before our children. Looking at your own “hotep-holler’n” Black asses today; little has changed. Black folk, whether they live in Chicago, Harlem or Nairobi are not fairytale archetypes from “The Lion King”; and as such, African-born artists possess our own voices and our own story to tell just like any other artist from any other country.
It’s silly for Black bookstores to say that I’m acceptable with fake blue eyes and a blonde hair weave, but not in the image of traditional topless African women—a Non-Christian, Non-Islamic indigenous African feminine tradition that is still practiced daily by over 10 million African women throughout the continent despite the denials and embarrassment of self-hating upper class Africans at Oxford and Yale.
Many of these bookstores like EsoWon, call themselves Afrocentric, but in reality, the only thing Afrocentric about them is their non-flinching sexism. They are full of rows and rows of insecure Camel Shit designed to soothe the self-hating nature of former Colonized and Enslaved people—and specifically insecure, self-hating Black Male People.
I take issue with any Black organization telling Black people that they can’t make up their own opinions or form their own conclusions about Black authors/Critical Thinkers by reading and hearing from those authors themselves.  And what I take bigger issue with—are the LIES that so many people manufacture and spread about me just because they’re too stupid (or jealous) to appreciate an original voice that is different from what they’re previously used to hearing.
This brings me to the Black American Scholar and Public Speaker, Ronoko Rashidi.  A typical colorstruck dashiki-wearing McAfrican Philly Buster who goes around the United States speaking on behalf of “African Queens,” “Great Mother Africa” and the good ‘ol African women back in the villages and on river banks he visits yearly. He loves us naked clothes-washing baby-strapped-to-the-back cooking cleaning basket-on-head African women.  Our subservient image allows him to put down Black American women while he exclusively dates the damn-near-White or Filipino looking California trollops that “emasculating” Black American women “ran him off to.”
  My blow up with him came after I gave a speech at Cal-Lutheran University relating my experiences with being circumcised/infibulated; the effects of Colorism and Skin bleaching on Black women and Children; the chronic sexism and invisibility that pervades Black women’s lives globally, and last but not least, my unpopular support, as an African mother who actually comes from an Arab ruled nation, for Israel instead of Palestine.  This man who professes to love African women and claims to want us to have a voice was not present for my speech but was livid by the waves of discussion it ignited in Southern California. For a whole year, he went around to colleges and myriad writers announcing: “Kola Boof is mentally ill and a fraud. It is as simple as that. She is a born liar.”
I could kick his ass for Christmas.
Ronoko Rashidi has never met me in person. He has never spoken with me. He has no way of knowing anything about my life other than what my enemies manufacture and distribute in their desperate attempts to make people afraid of me.  Even a White Male journalist, Stephen Milner, went on Pacifica radio and stated that he’d been offered money by Arab-American businessmen and Oil Companies to print lies and distortions about me.
So how can someone purported to be a “Black Scholar, historian and intellectual” join in with such Gestapo-like tactics and be so cruel and dishonest as to dismiss my personal suffering and the suffering of millions of women just because my commanding influence makes him feel uncomfortable? 
What insecurity commands some Black men’s innards to the point that they fear anyone having a voice but those singing their song in their key? That goes for today’s pitiful Black music, the films by Black male filmmakers and everything else.  What in the hell is the difference between so many Black male rappers/scholars/athletes and the White men they demonize and refer to as “White Devil”? It seems to me that many Black male image-makers hate Black women and Children (really hate them selves to be more accurate) more than any White person could ever hate us.  Who is really our enemy if we can be banned from writing our experiences or speaking honestly about our lives?
Who is really our enemy if Black men in cities three thousand miles away can make up my sexuality (my sexuality; not their own, but mine) and then use whatever lie in church or a board room to run me down, all because they feel I’m criticizing them or being too vocal?
Granted, I’ve been nasty in my own fashion. I was insulting and cruel to Muslims on KJLH radio.  On behalf of South Sudan, I called Minister Louis Farrakhan a “White Bastard” in an interview (though I’ve since apologized).  I said very mean things on the radio about writer-poet-activist Ishmael Reed (Uncle Ish); namely that he’s a sexist pig who loves whining for Black Men but isn’t really Black himself and couldn’t bring his Pro-Black penis to produce a Black man.  His wife is White and by his own admission his daughter could pass for a Saudi Arab, not a Black child, yet claims to speak for the “betterment” and “worthiness” of Black men as though he ever loved them enough to do like I did and bring one into the world (I brought two Black men into this world as a matter of fact).  Ishmael Reed, a Black woman hater and “name caller” from back before I came to this country, sat his red insect-looking self up on PBS with Walter Mosley and called Condoleeza Rice (who isn’t someone I particularly like either) a “skeezer”(something you could tell he’s always wanted to call a Black woman on national television).  But then he couldn’t understand why I asked aloud, “What about that ugly White bitch you married, Uncle Ish-shit…is she a skeezer?”
So, of course, it’s natural that the men might want to call me “bitch” or “whore”—to a degree, they aren’t wrong. I really can be a bitch and a whore; it’s a natural result of living in a straight woman’s limited space range. Some of these men have bedded me, because socio-political opinions aside, I’m still an insecure bombshell who often has the strongest erotic chemistry with the men I’ve fought and cursed the loudest.  I understand their confusion when it comes to me. They’re not used to my brand of feminism. But how do you BAN someone from writing a book or speaking in public just because you don’t agree with their politics and their views?
I could see not inviting someone to a party or a television/radio program.  I completely respect Tavis Smiley’s decision not to have me on his show even while welcoming vile gangster rappers. But I can’t see myself owning a publishing house or a bookstore and then banning a book or a writer for being controversial or unlikeable. I mean, why own a bookstore?
In my mind, Zora Neal Hurston, Alice Walker, Michelle Wallace, Audre Lord and Notzake Shange already took this kind of pettiness from the Black community so that we 21st century daughters wouldn’t have to.  Yet the pompous lack of integrity that has always shaded upper class and academic Black people’s “moral superiority” over everyone else on earth is still resonant. And as I prepare to tour New York City this week, it’s all I think about. I think about how people who fear me have invented their own fictional Kola.  I think about all the outrageous things that people believe about me in lieu of them not thinking about the important issues I raise in my work.
I think of how voiceless and invisible I would be without the small specter of celebrity I’ve so carefully woven.  I think of how glad I am that I was smart enough to do that—make myself larger than life; my own special symbolic archetype; one they’ve never seen before.  In the face of all who despise me, I’m glad that I am so truthful about my life.  I am proud that I am the one who defines who I am and what I am about.
This is all so emotional that I’m not really writing it well.
But suffice to say; in reality…all Kola Boof wants is for Black women to have what everybody else has. I want my side of the story heard. I want my spirit acknowledged.  I want my image risen up and projected to my liking just the way a White Male Author or a Black Male artist or a White woman or Mulatto woman is allowed their brush. You don’t have to like it, daddy.
Gee…Black men, of all people, are banning my work!