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.

teka

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)

PICT0008

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.

paul-lara

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.

teka

No Race or Gender Justice Without Class Politics

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (December 18, 2018)

Race IS a deformation of class. As gender IS a deformation of class. So if you keep class politics, but don’t go after race politics, you’ve ignored all of the ways in which class politics comes in as race politics. If you go after gender and don’t go after class, you’ll have created two different sets of “women”: aspiring/potential CEOs and untouchables.

Racial and Gender justice is late stage, metastasized class injustice; but just addressing it as class politics is like addressing liver cancer and dealing with liver cancer, when you know full well that it has metastasized to the lung and pancreas.

This is all because you have to understand, class is largely a matter of where you fit and how you are treated in the political economy and production chain. How do Black people fit in the political economy and production chain? Well, we started out as chattel slaves, how do you think? So racial justice also means justice for people doing the work the United States made Black people to do. Same with gender justice.

Now this part is very important:
Whiteness is a class statement about being exempt from a certain kind of work, or being exempt from a certain kind of work under certain working conditions.

Whiteness is the expectation to be treated a certain kind of way in your activities. And these expectations are gendered.
________

So when you talk to Black people who don’t have a labor politics, it means that they don’t care if Black people are doing the kind of work, under the kind of conditions, that made Black people Black, ever get justice. Those Black people are simply want a set of Black people to be treated as if they were White. These are House Negroes.

When you talk to feminists who don’t think about working class women– and there are A LOT OF THEM– and they aren’t out there arguing for nannies to be unionized, that’s a problem.

irami

For Fellow White Women, After the 2018 Mid-terms

By Nicole Berland (November 7, 2018)

To other white and white-passing women, here goes a long and potentially unpopular post:

I’m stoked on many of the results from yesterday’s election, but, per usual, the returns saw the majority of white women voters cast our ballots for Republicans who legislate against women’s interests in places like Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Whether or not *you* voted Republican (if you’re reading this, you probably didn’t), *we* ww are responsible for the violence our demographic continues enact upon marginalized groups.

A few things:

If you’re wondering why white women vote Republican:
The reason ww vote for candidates who seek to consolidate power for rich white men is because we derive most of our privilege from our whiteness. The ww who vote Republican fail to recognize the ways in which our lives would all be immeasurably enriched by moving toward a more equitable society.

If you are still surprised that voting for Hillary wasn’t enough:
First, she was not a progressive candidate, and she’s proven time and again that she would have actively upheld white supremacy, probably without recognizing it as such. That being said, IMHO it’s great that you voted for her. Trump’s policies are caging children and killing countless more. It’s not that you shouldn’t have voted for her, it’s that voting isn’t enough, and her winning wouldn’t have been enough, especially in a two-party system that has functioned primarily and historically to consolidate power in the hands of white men.

What to start doing now, the day after election day:
1) Learn the difference between interpersonal and systemic racism, and fold it into your observations of every institution and interaction to which you’re party.
2) Press for actual progressivism in your political candidates, and begin at the local level. Hold your Democratic politicians accountable for policies that seek to redistribute privilege.
3) Follow WOC and other BIPOC activists, educators, and artists on social media, and pay them for your education via Patreon or Paypal, but don’t comment or send them DMs unless they explicitly request it. You don’t need to tell them how their work makes you feel or ask them to elaborate anything. Work out that stuff on your own or with your other white/white-passing friends, and let them focus on themselves and their communities. This is the first way to practice letting go of your privilege. I like @rachel.cargle, @kendrianaspeaks, @ihartericka, @shishi.rose, and others.
4) Start working on your “apolitical” friends and relatives or anyone who thinks that “staying out of politics” is possible. This doesn’t mean you should be hostile, but these are people who either don’t realize: a) that inaction supports the status quo; or b) that supporting candidates who are explicitly hostile to marginalized populations is a form of violence. Elaborate the stakes.

What not to do:
1) Don’t get defensive. To quote ShiShi Rose and others, if this isn’t about you, it isn’t about you. If you are worried about all the specific traumas white women suffer, think about how helping WOC dismantle the violences they experience at higher rates would also benefit you.
2) Don’t talk to POC or other marginalized populations about how their suffering makes you feel or ask them how you can help. There are plenty of educational resources online about how you can help. Read those.
3) Don’t take issue with a POC’s tone or methods; just listen.
4) Don’t think it’s on you as a white person to solve racism. When we’re upset, many of us want to organize actions, without realizing that there are already plenty of ways to support POC who have already been doing this forever. Even though it isn’t flashy, the best thing to do is probably to educate yourselves, give money, amplify WOC and other BIPOC voices, and collect your people to the best of your abilities.

If you feel guilty, remember that we are not born into this world with an understanding of our own privilege and how it impoverishes our humanity. The more you sit with these feelings, the easier it will be to start acting more justly.

The Era of Unbridled Cynicism: #Himtoo Movement Backlash

By Ana Castillo (October 15, 2018)

When catastrophic natural disasters devastate towns and islands & the president doesn’t bother to make an appearance with sincere condolences, instead chooses to attend campaign fund raisers and nationalist rallies, continues to mock minorities, the disabled and disenfranchised, routinely lies, dismisses abused women, and ignores the suffering of children, who practices nepotism, racism, misogyny, protects the wealthy and praises despots: and we tolerate it? We are a lost nation.

In this era, anyone who rises without any intention of acting upon (besides complaints on social media/forwarding fake chains and links, etc.) you must surely check your cynicism gauge. You may be lost, too.

ana castilo

The Club of Patriarchy Begins Early

By Alexander Reid Ross (October 1, 2018)

Rebecca Solnit’s courageous piece is empowering and exciting. What turning over the rock from under which Kavanaugh crawled did was expose the horrible abuse pretty much all women are subjected to in the US from a very young age. It’s societal and systemic oppression in which specific, discrete acts of sexual misconduct and assault play an important, though not necessarily central, role.

Sexual assaults become mechanisms of policing women’s bodies and independence, and the threat of sexual assault is always a force beneath the surface of everyday life.

Yet men are inculcated into the club of patriarchy at a young age and begin to practice mistreating women with the help and support of elders. One is free to make revealing comments about women in private (a la Trump’s “locker room talk”) but to not participate in such behavior is to bring attention to your own vulnerabilities.

We are taught, as men, to be insensitive and unintelligent while priding ourselves on our smarts by putting down women who are disallowed from presenting the truths of the moment. Growing up, I think I knew some young men who attempted to negotiate between being devalued as a person and treating women (and non-straight white males in general) with respect. I don’t know if I ever knew any men who fully repudiated patriarchy and misogyny, though.

However, reducing everything to “bad things we did when we were in high school (and younger)” isn’t enough. We need to continue to recognize how we fail women, as men, in our daily lives, and work to make things better. One of these is recognizing, with the outpouring of revisited trauma, that we need to attune ourselves to how liminal this stuff is and be prepared to talk about things like “triggers” without smirking with contempt for people who suffer.

alex

Do You Get it Now?

By S. (September 30, 2018)

boy

Every time a black person is murdered and there’s a public debate I want to scream “do you get it now?”

Kavanaugh’ entire life is about generational wealth, white privilege, systematic oppression of black people, and control of women. He is a terrific embodiment of Republican values. Like Trump, he is but a symptom.

The larger picture is about a toxic ideology to some extent we all agree with: an ideology that says it’s okay for the strong to dominate the weak (through economic means), that governments are ineffective, that wealth is a blessing from God, that compassion is weakness and greed a virtue, that there is no consent only domination.

Do you get it now?

Dr. Ford Represents the Resilience of the Wounded

By Mark Naison (September 27, 2018)

I didn’t watch Christine Ford’s testimony, but the pain it has inspired among so many friends, which they have expressed with an eloquence and courage that has moved me to the core, is something I will never forget.

This is a profound historical moment. I just ask for the wisdom and strength to show solidarity with and compassion for so many people who are at the very heart of the communities which give meaning to my life. If I do not hear the cries of anguish, if I do not grapple with my own demons, if I do not contribute to the healing, I am not the person I need to be.

In this moment, know someone hears you, someone loves you, someone remembers that it is the resilience of the wounded that has contributed to our best art, our best music and has shaped those moments in History where humanity takes a step forward.

naison-color-qinrui-hua