Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kwanzaa principles and media examples

Note: I believe these principles can be applied within and beyond the black community. I feel that anybody who is privy to a legacy of being othered and therefore like a deficit in one way or another can benefit from the principles Kwanzaa has to offer.  I have worded the principles and their meaning the way I have because of this and because the media selections that follow have a similar intent in that the messages are not meant to be exclusive to a particular group. That being said, here is my interpretation of the principles and media that illustrate these principles, followed by a list of movies & shows that I believe illustrate all seven principles. My son and I collaborate on this list each year (we’ve been doing this since 2012). That being said, this list is incomplete and always up for revision. Anything anyone wants to add is fine with me, as long as it’s relevant.

1.       Umoja |Unity—maintaining unity in family, community, humanity, and self
Movie(s): Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Meet the Robinsons; Spirited Away; Kung Fu Panda; Guardians of the Galaxy?; My Neighbor Totoro; The Wiz; Big Hero 6
Shows: Proud Family; Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood

2.       Kujichagulia | Self-Determination—the ability to define, speak for, and create yourself
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Monster’s University; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Wiz; My Neighbor Totoro; Bebe's Kids
Shows: Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood; Scrubs

3.       Ujima | Collective work and responsibility—building and maintaining community together; helping others with their problems and working together to solve them
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Monster’s University ; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Never ending story; Bebe’s Kids; Big Hero 6
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

4.       Ujamaa| Cooperative economics—need for community to support and sustain itself economically
Movie(s): My Neighbor Totoro; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Lilo & Stitch
Show: FMA Brotherhood

5.       Nia | Purpose—working to restore ourselves to greatness as a people through collective and communal efforts/developments
Movie(s): Castle in the Sky; Nausicaa; The Never ending story; The Wiz; Bebe’s Kids
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

6.       Kuumba | Creativity—doing what we can, when we can, in the ways that we can, to be of benefit to our community & ourselves; to leave both more beautiful & beneficial than we first found it
Movie(s): Kiki’s Delivery Service; The Little Rascals?; The Wiz; Spirited Away

7.       Imanai | Faith—to believe in community, family, humanity and ourselves ; that they will help us in our struggles
Movie(s): Spirited Away; Nausicaa; Guardians of the Galaxy
Shows: Avatar; Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Movies that illustrate all seven principles: Star Wars (the originals); Spirited Away; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Kung Fu Panda; Whisper of the Heart; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; The Wiz

Shows that illustrate all seven principles: Avatar-The Last Airbender; FMA Brotherhood; Ninja Turtles?; Samurai Jack?; Digimon; Steven Universe; It’s Okay, That’s Love

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I am surprised I still have to hear people say this but not really

When I hear people say things that are clearly meant for me to question myself, I know I have a long way to go when I actually comply and waste time wondering. Reminds me of this song...

The short of it is, I really need to work on my snappy comebacks. When I say I am a Black American and I hear the response "I'm surprised you would say that if you use Black Feminist Thought" I should have said "Oh but you're not surprised they claim Catholicism considering how Christianity was also an agent of genocide of indigenous peoples which they also claim?" Not snappy enough but you get the idea. Instead I end up trying do defend my choice of identity and Dr. Call-Em-Out sits there in amusement waiting to reclaim their moment as center of the universe. Yeah I might have been imagining things but the impact was there. As I'm told its not about intent it's about impact.

Still it bothered me enough that once more I was not Black Feminist enough because I said I was American, that I was lost, that I am essentially homeless as far as knowing where I come from is concerned. This is the reality of my situation. I don't know who my great-grandparents are, I don't know where my people have traveled over time, I have no sense of my roots. We seem to privilege this knowledge, this right to claim an ancestral home and story line. There is apparently no excuse for not knowing in this day and age. When I assert the choice to move away from the legacy of violence that plagues my family, I am told I am running away, placing a band-aid on a wound rather than addressing it. Maybe so, but these folks don't seem to consider that this logic applies to refugees trying to get away from horrendous situations in order to survive long enough to reclaim their human dignity. Maybe leaving such situations and legacies behind is a matter of life and death. I assert how I no longer belong to a place where I am required to be the kind of tough that I am not, nor really want to be. I am told maybe mine is an urban legacy, that such memories and imprints of how to be in this setting will return. It was as if I were being painted in a box, their box of what it is to be black. It was as if  they were claiming what so many non-black people of color and whites do, that they know what it is to be black, that they are blacker than me. Here come the reading suggestions. Thanks for understanding me. And yet I have not dared question why this deeply indigenous person is in academia, the very setting that justified the erasure of their people. A fine oppressor they will make. 

Even so, it was never considered that maybe being a nomadic soul, without knowable roots, is part of the Black condition. Uprooted from the African continent to aid in the settlement of another's land, continual displacement and exclusion from human dignity, eventual settlers with no home to return to, what else was supposed to happen? We were and continue to be damned either way.  Continual re/creation and validation of ourselves is  a process that has been claimed as part of Black Feminist epistemology. Understanding my roots might not be the thing that makes me whole as much as it appears to instead strip me of agency to find my own way home. Never mind that living is an active will to survive and make another way of life for myself. I have come to understand my home as being any place where I can simply be, where I can love and be loved. The Wiz does a great job of articulating this reality, that home is where you love.

So while I claim a Black American as part of my identity, this is done fully knowing that my consciousness and way of being is not absent of American-ness. I cannot simply deny this part of myself, even in the face of continued oppression, even if there is no such thing as America. If I were to go anywhere outside of this place, I would be identified as an American plain and simple. There is need to invalidate this material aspect of our reality, no need to invalidate my connection to Black Feminist Thought just because my sense of self defies the box you think I should be in. This may not be considered very radical beyond knowing that at the very least this place is where I am and therefore a part of who I am. I am continually in the process of creating the kind of self and reality that suits me, my son, and anyone else who wishes to visit my home. It doesn't matter if this doesn't scream Black Feminist to you. It does matter that Black Feminism be better understood on its terms rather than your own before you assume what I am not enough of in this regard. More than that, it matters that I am understood on my terms before you decide we can relate.

Alas, having to hear about how I should be questioning myself and my understanding of myself and my blackness is something I'm going to have to deal with from the minute I open my mouth. Why? Because I don't "sound black"! So even as an adult I my speech patterns get made fun of (as in very recently, as in even people from the African continent have caught on that this is okay), let alone my beliefs . I get exposed to double-standards like I get exposed to air. Yet I am not firm enough in my resolve to be dismissive of the nonsense and go on my way. Why? Because I want to get it right, being a Black/Feminist that is.

The bottom line is it doesn't matter--never has, cause it's all b.s. when it comes to me. I'm dammed if I do or don't remember? So I gotta keep making my own way, lifting as I climb, knowing who and what got me to where I am. Doesn't that make me Black/Feminist enough for you???!!! Then why are you doing this if we're supposed to be p.o.c in solidarity???!!! Get it together you say? You first! I always have to be the better doormat up in this piece! Imma just take a step back, work on my healing, and know that home is not where you are. Even so, peace be with you all the same.

Until next time...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Oh what dreams I have...

A while back I had the following dream. Every now and then I have vivid dreams like this that I do not make note of. I am trying to change that, starting with the following...

I was walking to the Palouse. I arrived in a small town instead overshooting the Palouse and knew I needed to backtrack. This small town was crowded with homes, small shops and people and visitors. It was fall and gray out and I had on a large backpack for traveling. People seemed to notice but ignored me traveling through their town. I saw a path, a gravelly one which went through a park like setting that I thought pointed in the direction of Palouse, from which I would travel on to Spokane. Before getting on that trail, I had to pass by a densely populated parking lot. One of those dirt/land parking lots that was part of the park. There were only 2 is rows of cars, trucks, rvs and large vans. As I began walking my way through, a bunch of roaming dogs start coming up. They seem threatening because they are a mixture of curious yet on guard with bared teeth and barking so I put my backpack in front of me to shield me from the dogs. I keep walking slowly through but am largely stopped. Then their owners appear to send them away. Mostly these are white women who appear to live in the surrounding trailers and rvs. They are rough looking which seems to fit the spirit of the town. One of those places where people are getting by with what they can. A few kids pop out and are curious about me,especially a little brown skinned girl.

Eventually I end up in a woman's house/store where I am able to get some water. I move with the other women to the kitchen and notice large roasted peppers-orange ones-in a hanging wire basket by stove. I notice on the floor next to a comfy chair nearby is my missing water bottle. I am not sure if I should reclaim it and feel weird for doing so because I do not want to be seen as a thief so I leave it. I am still eating the chocolate and wish for relief from it so I hurriedly drink water. For some reason I feel I must finish the chocolate as quickly as possible before I continue on my way. I have made peace with the fact that I may need to grab a taxi to get me up to Spokane and begin wondering how I should go about calling one. In the meantime, there is an overabundance of chocolate which was sweet at first but becomes a burden to consume. Chocolate fills my mouth. It becomes too sweet, too much and I consider throwing it away but in spite of my growing disgust decide it is better to eat it. 

What could such craziness mean? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The politics of unfriending

Justifying a real-life unfriending is very hard to do, but necessary because it has not been done before by me, actively. Given my desire to be a decent human being, such rejection--the moving away from friend-space--seems contradictory to this greater goal. Then I remember how far away from this desire this particular "friendship" was taking me as I found it harder and harder to identify with their living paradigm. 

What is it to reject evil? Is evil real? Is it perpetuated in rejection of those with such undesirable traits?

Working the path of change, trying to figure out, if this is who they really are, why hang around? It seems they’ll just as soon burn the world down with you in it because that is their medicine and you were a fool to think it had to be yours too—that liking it was part of accepting who they are. But what about you became an unacceptable response with an all too obvious answer of you don’t matter because it’s not about you. Accepting this makes it all to easy for you to forget who you really are/who you really want to be, which is why you resist such logic  as much as you are able to. 

 If what is said about evil is true, then they are evil because they never bothered to understand the world, nor you enough to know that their medicine does harm, no matter how it is sold. Besides, you never felt comfortable around fire to begin with because you weren’t a fan of pain. Didn’t stop you from trying to apply a healing touch. They don’t see they are hurting you as you burn, in fact they did nothing wrong because this is who they are and how they heal. You forgot fire cannot be healed, only extinguished. So do not feel bad for walking away from the fire. They know not what they do, but you know, which is why you had to leave. 

Healing is hard to do when you keep burning yourself trying to understand and get close, thinking you were making your skin tough by trying to get through to them. Don’t fool yourself; they will burn you to the bone unknowingly, uncaringly, and say you wanted it, that you enjoyed it because you stuck around thinking you could save them from the flames of their own demise. Besides, accepting them for who they are, might mean doing so from a respectful distance—far enough away so you aren’t the fuel for their fire. 

And this is the resting place I have arrived at on this matter. Yes, healing needs to be done, but I am not sure this should involve anyone but my friends and myself. I might never be ready to face someone that maintains such a toxic demeanor. And why should I? Self-preservation, let alone self-love has taken a backseat long enough in my life. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Struggle to Live in Decency Continues: Love and Mercy for the "Judas-type"

I wrote this a few weeks ago. It was my response to a conversation had recently…

“If___had been shown love, they might not have done what they did.”

Such a saying casts the wrong-doer as the victim. Is this to say their crimes should be excused? Of course not! Would they have turned out differently? Ask enslavers, slave masters, colonists, those bent on genocide. Ask racists, sexists, megalomaniacs, murderers, rapists, and anyone else wedded to privilege and/or domination. I don’t think its much of a leap to consider that such individuals—personified by characters like Cypher from The Matrix or Lando (to a far, far, lesser extent) or others that betray in favor of either saving their own skins, or power (or at least the chance of having it)—are that far off from joining up with such horrendous legacies.

“But without these people there would be no story.”

No matter how hard I try, I cannot buy into this logic. It sounds too close to “but without slavery where would we be as a people?” It is rather infuriating to hear that time and again. When people become enamored with self-serving power which expresses itself in the form of anything ranging from undivided attention drawn from others, to having the power to command that attention, loyalty, service from others, it is hard to know whether love would really have been the answer.  Love demands responsibility to do well by others, to respect them enough to know them, which allows for us to care about them effectively. Being shown that is one thing, but passing that gift on is another. It seems all such wrong-doing characters want is that comfort that comes with self-centered, self-serving, power. That is the love they seek. At the end of the day, we should consider that a “Judas” acts out of this kind of greed and jealously which is ultimately a great sense of self-love to be consumed for self alone. It becomes evident that to expect reciprocation is a futile one. Exploitation through domination is not an expression of love. You can lead such a character to love but if it doesn’t serve their purpose, the wont fully partake beyond what is for them.

 History teaches time and again such “sensitive” folks are not to be trusted if only because they want what they want and find it bothersome to work for anyone or anything else if it does not ultimately serve their ultimate ends and means. It’s hard to think that they do take on anyone else’s suffering as their own, or that they do so with anyone they find tiresome. If they do it is to suit their own needs. Their alliance is not fully realized because of the tendency they have to perpetuate oppression on others, often without recognizing that it is happening. Indeed their allyship is with power. They must be remembered at all costs . The people that are aware of this try to disrupt and discourage such tendencies, whether it is through speaking truth to power or attempting to divert such energies into more positive ones. Such disruptions are upsetting because they do not want to let go of the possibility of one day getting a taste of that power, that they will get that taste one day. That is what they are working for. Convincing us that they do it for survival, that they do it for us is part of the game and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. Does survival to you mean being served caviar and steak? Cause people have survived with far less and continue living decently. Don't demean their lives with your b.s. version of survival. 

Side note: 

These folks—the “Judas” type—should no doubt be treated with compassion. They are long suffering after all. Such treatment may not change their trajectory, but will hopefully stick out in their mind as a potential path to take. Either way, the choice is theirs and we must accept that they may not make the one we hope for. Still, treating them with dignity and respect is the least and/or most (depending on the situation) we should do. Everyone could use a friend and no one should live a life of suffering without one. Do what we can to love them as fully as possible might be a decent resting place.
 Not that I wholly agree nor engage in this behavior. I am human and still working through this logic as someone who is continually at risk of being dissed and therefore does not feel obligated to give anything to those that are more in love with self and power than being a decent person consistently. Liking someone is not a requirement of caring about their spiritual, holistic growth and prosperity however (Dr. King told us that). Especially when they seem hell bent on continuing with their ways, which makes this my greatest personal challenge yet. I mean, why do those that suffer at the hands of their oppressor always get called on to be the better person, to show mercy, to show love? My kneejerk response is likely, you first, before blasting them Bishop style. The struggle to be a decent human being continues...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's that damn woman again!

Ugh, that Rachel. So infuriating! This post is likely incoherent but so it goes with sagas like this one! Here is my second attempt at concluding my remarks:

In previous posts on the matter, I wished Rachel no harm at the impending storm headed her way. Wishing someone no harm is usually my go to with anyone who has done wrong. I now realize that the subtext of this is the assumption that judgement and strife will be byproducts of their actions, that they will suffer. Messed up though it may be, I also wonder about the possibility that such a statement gives the benefit of the doubt to the wrongdoer once more. Either way, compassion is the sentiment that is likely misplaced when it is clear that white privilege is doing a pretty good job of protecting them from harm that anyone of a darker shade, and of an oppressed legacy would not even be considered a contender for.

The fact that mainstream media bypasses the harm that is done to the black community, and black women in particular, let alone other communities of color, along with other oppressed groups should speak volumes to how this matter continues to be handled. This woman fully expects and appears to be receiving the benefit of the doubt because of the work she has done. She fully expects to be believed in as a black woman. She does not see that she has done anything wrong at all. I'm familiar with such logic. It goes something along the lines of "The only thing I did wrong was be born to white parents!" No sense of accountability, or responsibility for her actions whatsoever! That is how privilege works, and it appears she has yet to consider any of this about her current position, which is a huge part of the fight for equality, equity, and social justice--acknowledging one's privilege ever aware of the possibility of perpetuating associated oppressive acts and vigilant to prevent such things from happening!

Alas, as the money starts pouring in, will she refuse it out of principle? Based on her current acts, of course not! No remorse whatsoever for the damage she is causing to the very social justice she claims to be in favor of. Just reading responses to the mainstream stories out there should point to the damage being done as far as people of color, and the multitude of other oppressed communities being taken seriously when it comes to calls for equity, equality, and justice are concerned. Not to mention the right to their dignity and lives, the right to have their painful legacies fully acknowledged and appreciated, the audacity to mention that racism is about to make as fierce a comeback as ever because of this.

Based on the logic before us, all anyone white has to do is have an anthropologically encyclopedic knowledge of fill-in-the-blank group, embrace and identify as the group, in order to be the diverse representative for that group in any given social setting, but especially in institutions. Worse yet, they can claim to be fighting on our behalf, just like the men fighting for women's reproductive rights, or at least their version of it. The subaltern will no longer have a ghost of a chance of speaking for themselves, working for themselves, which is the ultimate doom and gloom of possible outcomes. But wait it gets worse; some of us will take that broom and sweep our own selves under the rug because that's what the mastery of the master's tools prepared us for! Those that do so forget that the same goes for them too.

 No one seems willing to acknowledge that this would not work the other way around. No person of color of a browner hue and nonwhite characteristics could ever mistake themselves for white and expect to live as such. Those that do are readily put in their place by not only whites, but the very people of color they attempted to differentiate themselves from.

I for one get anxious at the thought of having to explain why Rachel is wrong for what she continues to do regardless of her contributions. No one in white mainstream media, and even black mainstream media, seems willing to think about the implications of this for the people of color she claims to represent, their life chances, their future opportunities. No one seems willing to believe the pervasiveness of whitewashing and how it minimizes the continued struggles of people of color. No one seems to consider the continued harm as far as internalizing inferiority goes, especially when it is possible to be us without ever having lived or died as us: hated, feared, considered worthless, ugly, untrustworthy, amoral, oftentimes on-site at first glance. How could the deeply entrenched desire for domination through erasure be ignored when it comes to those that colonized, enslaved, and now appropriate only the attractive aspects of the otherwise oppressed? Yet the oppressed have no problem putting her on their pedestal.

Of course I am over-exaggerating, but sometimes I wonder if I really am. As I mentioned previously, I am suspect, and readily ignored simply because of how I speak, and how I refuse to fall in line with any one majority. What can I say, past experiences have taught me to be careful about who I consider my friends and allies. Based on this turn of events, I wonder if it even matters how hard I work to achieve my goals and dreams when, standing next to someone of a fairer, more attractive appearance (I know my beauty isn't the standard one after all), I will be heavily scrutinized and passed over accordingly. It's a feeling, not an excuse not to try. But now it will be harder to tell why my dreams were deferred (should that happen), especially if I continue to work my buns off for them. I am sure the politics behind this b.s. will have something to do with it given the location.

Women of color--especially black women should be allowed free therapy for life for shit like this. I know it has done a number on my psyche and my soul.    

Monday, June 15, 2015

Arguments among friends: Who's right?

I am beginning to understand how partial truths are expressed in a dominant societal context. Those of us that are well assimilated become wedded to truth-oriented discourses that demand we be quick to point out how something said is not true. To me this suggests that they have not carefully considered the depth of what is being said, or were partially listening—enough to have found what is “wrong” about what is being said—or any combination of these things. I was/am one of these people who is in the process of attempting to divorce from this mindset. As of late, once having thought about a given interaction, I am finding this sort of communication to be violent. Violence in the sense that the other is all but shut down or cut down. It is hard not to want to come back in a way that reduces the person to ashes. This is how coercive power works interpersonally; it is meant to dominate, to make someone an opponent to be defeated, to make someone a “leader”.

 On the other hand the possibility of community building, of bonding over difference/in spite of difference is gradually diminished. If it is clear that the other person just wants to be right, victorious, etc., then I have lately become aware of this to the point of simply listening and considering what is being said. This may be taken as an act of cowardice and pandering, but consider that the other person also simply is not in a state of mind where they could even appreciate a differing point of view. At some point it is clear when they are not acting in the spirit of listening et alone understanding. As such listening is a way of letting go of the need to be right, or to be understood (which is harder to do).
Like I said, I recognize this tendency in myself. Indeed this could be considered a reflection on previous incidences where I am blinded by a subtle rage that puts me in a battle mindset. I came to the resting place that although I might be fierce and they might be considered warriors for justice, this does not translate well to interpersonal relations where we are supposed to be friends.

Can I really trust that this person is really here as my friend when I feel like the basis of our relationship consists of proving how right you are? How much better than me you are in your positioning? Proving how down you are? Proving how dumb I am for saying what I have to say? My understanding of matters may be incomplete but the same applies to you, partial truths that vary in degrees depending on what is being discussed. Am I really your enemy here?

 Humble, compassionate, and nonjudgmental people are highly (self)aware and therefore incredibly hard to come by. It is these people from whom I am learning most effectively. They relate out of love and it shows. I hope to be truly on their wavelength at some point. So much work to do when it comes to being a good friend.