I’m Not Your Blackface

By Teka Lark (January 31, 2019)

I think one of the most important things to know is who you are and the second most important thing to know is who others think you are.

I like to think of the world and my life as a journey, but I am aware that many people, entities, systems, view each individual as a game piece.

As a younger person I ignored this, as I felt self awareness was enough to not get “played.”

Though I was raised around Black people and in a Black family, I have always had the ability to talk to anyone, to connect with anyone, regardless of race, class, nation, sexual orientation and/or religion.

I am in some ways a performer, as I view writing, especially online as a performative act. I have always been aware of my audience. I live in the US, the biggest audience in the US (by the numbers if you want to break down by race) is white. I am aware of that and while I write from a Black point of view I know that white people are the predominant race of people who are reading what I write. This isn’t the case for all Black people, but it is the case for Lark.

There are certain things I do not say owing to that, people say, “It shouldn’t matter.” But see it does matter. I have mostly written for predominantly white leftist publications. When Obama was president these leftist publications would ask me specifically to write about Obama. I would always refuse.

Never in my life have I ever made the problems of capitalism, injustice, and institutional racism about one person. You probably have noticed here that I rarely talk about Trump. The reason I do not talk about Trump is because I do not believe that removing Trump will remove the problem of injustice in the US. That is not to say I support him or I would stop you from expressing your opinions on him, but for me I have limited time. I will never turn my issue with capitalism into a one individual person issue.

Most of my white friends on the far left agree with this EXCEPT when it has to do with Black politicians, for some reason they are often obsessed with politicians with Black skin even though the night before we have all just had intense conversation that it is the system not the people in the system which is the problem.

So if you’re waiting for my thought on Kamala as a leftist, well why are you not waiting on my thoughts on Elizabeth Warren or Tulsi Gabbard, no one is waiting for this, because within this game my job is supposed to be talking about the Black people. That’s my role in the game. I understand that role, but that is not who I am. Who I am is a person who looks at the bigger picture. I do not believe that within this system there is a magic bullet politician who can solve it all, because my belief is that this system that is rooted in stealing and murdering Native Americans and kidnapping Africans to work as slaves is not a system that can be fixed.

My role will never be to call out only the Black players in the system, especially not for a predominantly white audience, who cannot see this system beyond the paradigm of Black and White.


The US has Avoided the Task of Anti-Black Racism

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (January 30, 2019)

Heather Heyer died for going to a rally against White supremacists. She didn’t wake up that day to die. She woke up that day to go to a rally against White supremacy. But she paid the price. That’s simply what justice costs. Our unwillingness to pay that price is why we ended Reconstruction.

I think that not so deep down, we all know that the nation has avoided the task of directly addressing anti-Black racism. The Germans went through the work of de-Nazification; White Americans erected monuments to Confederates.

Maybe it’s because they wanted to keep our housing values, secure our inheritance, or send their kids to the school with the higher scores or didn’t want to offend their vaguely supremacist friends or boss or spouse or parent or colleague. Maybe it’s because they wanted to keep our kids safe, even when we knew the “stop and frisk” sensibility or targeted traffic stops were disproportionately taxing on Black men and communities, and the best way to do that is concentrate all of America’s race problems into Black neighborhoods.

But I think that deep down, White Americans know that the vaguely anxious feeling that White House staffers feel about Trump’s twitter account, petulance, and erratic decision-making is the same feeling Black Americans walk around with all of their life with White America. It’s a steady state of terror that starts as young as pre-school, when you see the stats on how 3 year olds are disproportionately punished before they can barely talk, and the trend simply doesn’t stop on through adulthood.


This is Why Women Stay Silent When They Are Uncomfortable

By Elle Stanger (January 23, 2019)

I asked a man to stop bothering the three women at the table across from him while they were trying to eat; he was asking about their work, clothing, and the final straw was when he asked if they wanted to date his friend or him,

They were giggling and trying to shut down the conversation but obviously didn’t want to be “rude”

So I leaned over and said “hey can you leave them alone, they didn’t come here to talk with you — they came here to eat”

and he told me I was probably a feminist

and I told him he’s acting like a misogynist

and then he called me a cunt and a bitch

and then I asked him if he puts his hands on women also or just acts entitled in public,

and he told me to shut my mouth

I asked him if he’s a rapist too

And said that I will remember his face

Then four other women from another table came over and said they would kick his ass if he kept calling me cunt

He did not finish his food and he left quickly,

Then the women at the original table thanked me for intervening, and all eight of us nodded and thanked each other for looking out for each other.

…and then we all stared at the door for the next 10 minutes in case he would reappear with a gun like some typical white angry male who was just rejected and embarrassed because he was acting predatory in the first place kinda shit.

Anyway, this is why women usually stay silent when they feel uncomfortable.

(No regrets)


MLK, Jr. Was a Sci-Fi Geek (and It Shaped His Idea of Justice, Too)

By Joseph Orosco (January 22, 2019)

By now, a lot of people have heard the story of how Star Trek was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite TV show.


It was, according to Nichelle Nichols, the only program he allowed his children to watch because it portrayed African Americans living in a future where they were treated equally and with dignity and respect. He believed that this representation was an important image for young Black people to see and he urged Nichols not to leave the show. (She stayed and her role had tremendous impact—it encouraged Whoopie Goldberg to seek her role as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and inspired Mae Jemison to become the first African American female astronaut. Soniqua Martin Green has recently said that Nichols motivated her as the star of the most recent Star Trek series Discovery).

It’s interesting to speculate how Star Trek might have influenced King’s thinking. Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) premiered in September 1966. This was after the two big legislative victories of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was also a year after Watts burned and the same year race riots broke out in Cleveland and Omaha. King had moved to Illinois at this point to extend his organizing into urban issues in the North, including unemployment, housing discrimination, and poverty. He had started to think about the effects of the Vietnam War and how it robbed people of life and the means the sustain themselves. It was a particularly difficult time for him politically, emotionally, and spiritually. How did a science fiction story about human beings living in the 23rd Century–in which war, hunger, racism, and poverty had been overcome–affect his sense of hope for the future and what was possible for humanity?

It’s not a far fetched idea to think Star Trek touched King’s imagination. We know that he was a fan of speculative fiction from his earliest days—and we know that his wife Coretta was partly responsible for stoking his creativity along this path.

When they were first dating in 1952, Coretta gave King a copy of Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel, Looking Backward. She instructed him that she wanted him to read it and return to tell her his thoughts about it. Bellamy’s book, written in the 19th century, imagines what a socialist United States would look like in the year 2000 (free medical care and unemployment benefits for everyone!).

In an amazing and touching note, the 23-year old King writes to his future wife and tells her how much he enjoyed the book—so much so that he admits he wants his future ministerial work to be guided by the kind of vision of progress hinted at in it—a world free of war, with a better distribution of wealth and resources, and solidarity instead of racism. He admits that he agrees with Bellamy that capitalism has no future for humanity but he worries what revolutionary socialism can justify in terms of violence. For the next sixteen years, he would reflect and refine his thinking on these subjects, leading him to not only imagine the Promised Land, but also to the devise the organizational strategies and policies—the Poor People’s Campaign, universal basic income, demilitarization—to try and get there.

Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have given us this notion of visionary fiction in their collection of stories Octavia’s Brood:

Visionary fiction encompasses all of the fantastic, with the arc always bending toward justice…Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless. (p. 4)

I would argue that some of King’s works, such as the “I have a dream” speech and his idea of the Beloved Community are verging on visionary literature in this sense.  As the King Center puts it:

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.  In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.  Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.  In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power.  Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.  Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

All in all, King’s vision of the future for humanity is a clear example of the power of utopian speculative fiction, and Star Trek, in particular, to nourish an imagination in the pursuit of justice.


Inclusion Isn’t a Free-for-all for Bigotry: Exclusionary Feminisms and the Alt-Right

By Rachel Wagner (January 15, 2019)

In one of my groups, there’s a discussion going on about whether or not it’s “exclusionary” to ban TERF and SWERF views (presumed “feminist” views that exclude trans-women and women who engage in sex work). Those “radical feminists” who wish to exclude trans women and sex workers from feminist spaces are upset that they’ve been told their exclusionary views aren’t welcome. And in response, they confuse the rejection of their exclusionary opinions with their being unwelcome as people. That is, they claim they aren’t welcome as human beings when in fact, it’s their exclusive views that aren’t welcome. Continue reading “Inclusion Isn’t a Free-for-all for Bigotry: Exclusionary Feminisms and the Alt-Right”

Bookchin Helped Us Understand the Roots of the Ecological Crisis Today

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin (January 14, 2019)

Murray Bookchin would be 98 today.

Calling himself at times both a “Pleistocene Bear” and a “relic from a different age,” Murray was in many ways ahead of his time. He introduced ecology to the Left in the early sixties–before even Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring he would tireless point out–even raising climate change as an issue in “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought” in 1964. He welcomed the development of feminism, and was supportive and involved in developing what would come to be known as eco-feminism in the ’70s, while also heavily involved in the direct action movement against nuclear power in New England that decade.

There are plenty of critiques and problems with Murray one can point to but hey, today’s the old man’s birthday, so let’s save that for another day.

Murray’s most significant and lasting contribution, in my mind, is his observation that the ecological crisis is rooted in the crisis in society, that it is in fact a social crisis; that the attempt to dominate nature is based in humans dominating other humans, and that to solve the ecological crisis we must confront and overthrow things like racism, sexism, capitalism and the nation-state.

Cheers Murray, you’re missed.


The Wall is a Symbol of Isolation and Racism

By Rachel Wagner (January 8, 2019)

Has anyone else noticed that Trump only talks about one issue at a time, like for months?

For a while it was Hillary. For a while North Korea. Healthcare for a while. There were others.

Now it’s nothing but wall wall wall. This successive “single issue” approach is likely intended to just keep us fighting with one another. It’s a well-known divisive tactic, to reduce all difference down to one oversimplified thing and people feel compelled to yay or nay and define their opponents based on that.

The truth is, many of us are OK with the wall we have. We don’t oppose walls in principle, though they would depict us that way. What we oppose is rank racism and indifference to the poor and a lack of responsibility for past damaging foreign policy. But they’ve pushed us to to holler “no wall!” And then they flip around and say we don’t care about security at all because we want “no wall” which of course isn’t true for most people. They are “for” the wall, which means what exactly?

I think for them it’s purely a symbol of isolationism and generalized racism. And Trump, or perhaps his handlers (because I think he does listen to the likes of Hannity) laugh while we battle over a symbol that means different things to each of us and fight with one another.


Surviving Misogynoir

By Teka Lark (January 8, 2019)

When I have events I never have music. I don’t like music.

I came of age in the 80s and 90s.

I came of age when music was getting pretty mean and I knew immediately that I did not like hiphop. I didn’t like hiphop, because it seemed to specifically be talking about how it hated me as a Black girl, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to have the words, but even as a kid I liked myself.

I wasn’t going to purchase and listen to music that seemed to specifically hate me, even if it had a good beat.

I don’t use hate flippantly.

“Tired of my face, Telling lies gettin’ n—s wives tied up and raped.” — Rick Ross

There is something that listening to soundtrack of Black women hate that turns even Black women against Black women. It’s propaganda with a producer.

The lyrics were not only violent towards Black women and sexually graphic, but also had to on top of all of that it had an undercurrent of respectability politics, like “we all raped this 12 year old, but if she had dressed like a lady and loved Jesus, well that wouldn’t have happened…”

Self righteous, objectifying, and mean.

I also came of age in the beginning of music videos, MTV was actively and openly racist, it wouldn’t play Black artists, so BET was started and initially I watched the R&B, until I noticed not just the songs, but the videos.

I noticed there was a lot of colorism, sizeism, and just women as objects, R&B had become like hiphop, but with singing. Art is supposed to be fantasy, so when you listen to music and watch videos you sort of fantasize that it’s you, and I didn’t want to be dancing in a music video in a g-string sitting on some evil child molesting uncle’s lap.

People say well all music is sexist.

Many Black women academics say that hiphop is from the larger culture which is sexist.

They are correct the US is sexist.

All art is sexist, but you know what, I’m not embracing an art form that has for the last 40 years specifically described people who look like me as a bitch, whore, gold digger, prostitute, and baby’s mama over and over and over and over again.

I’m not embracing an art form that views me as a hole for masturbation.

I’m not embracing an art form that ranks Black women by shade and hair texture, so that even Beyonce who is unrankable (and husband is Jay Z) gets ranked a B, because she isn’t biracial with wavy hair, because even light skin won’t exempt you from their wrath.

I’m not embracing an art form that would openly disrespect Beyonce, because she is a Black woman and you can get away with disrespecting a Black woman, even if the Black woman is Beyonce.

I’m not embracing an art form that claims it loves Rihanna, creepily stalks Rihanna (Drake) then collaborates with the man (Chris Brown) who tried to kill Rihanna.

You will not call me out my name in my own neighborhood and in my own home.

In the past I brought this up to people and I got a lot of push back as there were bigger fish to fry, you know, racism, because politically some of these men accidentally made some good points like NWA’s F*** the Police.

“Dr Dre has changed…”
Fuck Dr. Dre.

As a Black girl in a Black neighborhood, the racism I witnessed and experienced on a daily basis was on rotation on the radio and cable television —songs by R Kelly, Dr Dre, NWA, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dog and as I was from LA, I didn’t just hear the songs I knew friends who had personally experienced the brutality of these men and the culture that uplifted them and stomped on Black women and girls’ souls.

They were predators going after underage girls and bragging about not falling in love with them, but raping them. There are songs that explain in vivid detail these activities, no one was hiding anything.

“Mister, mister, before you make me go
I’m here to let you know your little girl is a ho
Nympho, nympho, boy is she bad
Get her all alone and out comes the kneepads
I know she is a minor and it is illegal
But the bitch is worse than Vanessa Del Rio
And if you decide to call rape” —Ice Cube, 1991

There has never been a misunderstanding.

For me there has never been a conflict in my head.

I have never been confused about R Kelly, Dr Dre, hip hop or rap. You don’t like me, then I don’t like you. There is no confusion or conflict for me.

When I brought this up in the Black community I was told that I was being unfair, because #NotALLUrban music and when I brought this up in predominantly white feminist circles I got a lot of, “This is complicated and bell hooks said it was OK…” bell hooks didn’t say this was OK, but whatever…

Sexism for some reason always becomes more complicated when it involves Black girls/femmes/women, because Black in the eyes of society makes you not a woman ala “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave,” and feminism is for (white) women, not Black girls.

I remember once I was at a women event, run by non Black women and to be inclusive they played hiphop, and though it wasn’t a hateful song it was by an artist who I knew was hateful.

I got sick of explaining why as a Black woman how hurtful it was (and is) that women who are not Black, but claim to be feminists, feel it’s completely OK to uplift a lifestyle that that hates me, for the sake of some fake diversity.

I also got sick of asking Black women who love hip hop, Dre, R Kelly etc…why they liked music that insulted them, degraded them, the people in the genre won’t even marry people who can’t pass the paper bag test, these men clearly think the average Black woman is disgusting and they say it over and over and over again. They rank you a D and they do it publicly. They call brown and dark Black women gold diggers for wanting to be treated nicely, they hate you, and the ones with “positive” lyrics collaborate and party with the ones that hate you, so why, why do you continually defend them? Why do you set yourself on fire to keep these men who wouldn’t even waste spit to help you, if you were actually on fire?

I stopped explaining this topic.

I was exhausted at having to explain this to Black men, Black women, POC, white people, just everyone.

I stopped asking, begging, appealing to reason as to why people feel the need to continue to play and support the hateful genre of music that hurts Black women.

Imagine going to an event with music and someone made a derogatory slur about you at least three times an hour, because that is what it is like for Black women, that is how prolific the hate is.

This is why I don’t have music at my events, because if Black women can’t freely dance, then no one is dancing.