Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do as I say, Not as I do: Social Justice in Academia

Academia is so much like church sometimes it sickens me. The final straw would be a collection plate going around with the professor/preacher justifying why your money should continue to go in. Then again, that comes in the form of tuition and fees, so there's no need. What there continues to be a need for, is the kind of preaching, certain churches are notorious for; where in order to make a point--and usually a weak one--some entity needs to be berated as an example of why the teaching makes sense. Sure we could all be a little kinder to each other, but did you have to bash the shit out of so-and-so's point of view just now? Where is the kindness in that? Oh you mean we should enact a kind of social justice that is connective and compassionate but will judge the crap out of anyone who uses commercial means like the only store in town in order to make such connectiveness a reality? Real classy. And just what are people supposed to do to share resources, make them out of whatever is around the house? Am I going to turn my nose up at somebody's contribution just because I came from a huge corporation? Hell to tha naw! I will instead be grateful as all get out that we were able to pool our resources enough to help each other out at all.  Growing food and sharing it is one thing, but is a potluck really that bad if someone made an apple pie from the apples they can only afford to buy at Wally's World? Has the spirit of community been undermined by such a heinously evil act? Hard not to get that messaging from a person who will turn around and try not to be classist about the fact that sometimes our choices are that limited when it comes to shopping.

Judgement is often cast the harshest within the walls of academia with the don't do this or this, and then turn around and do just that because that's how they keep their jobs. Not cool dude, not cool. How am I supposed to model this ideal behavior when I keep receiving the exact kind of modeling I've been receiving for years, only this time it's packaged as somehow radical or liberatory? Can't help but see right through that one. Not to say that there is no hope. I mean at least the professor/preacher is mindful enough to know what is happening is f--ed up, just not enough to know when they are participating in the perpetuation of it. We are complex creatures, we human beings, but those who find themselves in positions of power and privilege  either flaunt it shamelessly or pretend like they aren't doing it or that they even have such things! And this is not a pipe (that I wish I were using to bash my brains out for having once more subjected myself to such nonsense)! But I digress, just like the other beloved preacher/professors who love to go off on the kind of tangents reminiscent of the kind found in "Don't be a Menace" when that reformed prisoner is preaching away. And is it really the so-called leaders in academia that should really be sought out as potential enactors of social justice? This is not what I intend to be about. I try to live it, but who am I kidding?

Of course I am guilty of judging and would try to justify it with some reasoning like, isn't the point of judgment to know what not to do in the quest to reclaim oneself, to adhere to a higher ideal even? How does one respond compassionately to such happenings? To listen without judgment is perhaps my greatest challenge. To pull from what is heard and unheard gems that help get us or maybe it's just me closer to actualizing the underlying messages of community and education that undermine and perhaps undo the status quo that were intended to be preached about. In the meantime, I need a break and a place to find my own way for a while. Modeling the kinds of behaviors that lend to compassionate and loving community and education are what I thrive off of. I honestly can't expect to do it without perpetuating the very modeling I've come across to date. Where to find that kind of modeling is a mystery. To think I could solve it myself is a rather lofty mistake to make.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Victimization and the “Strong Black Woman’s” response: A dry run at expression

When someone asks “is she really the victim here?” and follows up with “As a black woman she likely has some power in the situation,” it is a challenge on two fronts. On the one hand, the listener is challenged with considering this as a possibility which means further pondering what kind of power a woman could have in this situation and to what extent the power one has is also racialized. On the other hand the listener is challenged with the assumption that once more, she is likely to be blamed as the cause of her own demise. It’s even worse when a black man posits this question and dichotomizes responses among women especially black women i.e. the strong black woman’s response versus the black feminist response; where both groups place their blackness and womanhood on the stereotypical dominantly derived hierarchy and are thus mandated to view them as a negative juxtaposition.

Should I be considered black first and a woman second? This seems to suggest that I put my womanity on the back burner in favor of highlighting my blackness.  Black people have long been subordinated as a group and made to feel as though our lives are hardly meaningful and worth snuffing out on a moment’s notice. So, is this to say that in situations where black men are being called into account for treating black women in this very way that my blackness should be at the forefront of any response made? If so what response should that be? According to the strong black woman mythos, the suggested response is to “stand by your man” because we are both black and our spirits and lives have been similarly disheveled. But look what ends up escaping the attention of both groups; a battered black woman. But hey she’s strong, she’s black and she certainly is not a victim right? Her blackness is what gives her her power, her strength. What ends up happening is a familiar sort of abandonment, especially when it appears the black male counterpart was provoked into doing such dastardly deeds. It’s almost as if to say, she WANTED to be attacked or else she wouldn’t have done what she did. –How this does not seem familiar when it comes to black men  having been attacked and murdered by white men  in positions of power who would claim the victim was being aggressive  and thus illicit such an uneven response on the part of black men is beyond me—The result is abandonment by black men, black women, and anybody else with a similarly dominant mindset that would rather believe they deserve what they got than be considered people worthy of living without fear of being minimized off the face of the earth.  He is upholding a status quo which is amplified by a blackness that demands his dominance over any woman. Questioning this means undermining the black man and by his logic the black community.

Why does there seem to be this insistence of this kind of “strong black woman’s” response? That she massage and soothe the black man’s wounded pride in favor of her own internal and external wounds which he insists she deserves and/ or should considered insignificant to his pain? Who is there to comfort and help her heal? Based on the black man’s response of the sort where he demands the black woman consider her blackness above all else, it appears as if he should not be expected to do such a thing blackness considered. A strong black woman could be a viable option, however if a similar mindset is at play,  then proceed with caution. What s/he can be counted on to do is reiterate how the black woman being treated this way is not the victim and is powerful. A damning eulogy for those who undergo soul and actual murder by the hands of their supposed savior—and this goes for all supposed saviors.

A powerfully painful reminder that no one is coming to our rescue; which is not to suggest a commitment to the kind of strong black woman mythos that has the iron skin and soul that equips us for our continued subordination.  Rather it is a painful reminder that no one is going to neither hold him responsible nor make him change his mind about us as beings who deserve the unconditional care and support as he does. When his love and support is given on the condition of your unyielding subordination it is hard to imagine him as any different from the people he claims to be protecting us from. (near tears when considering this possible truth)

She needs a community that looks out for her unconditionally and without judgment. A community that can model for her what that looks, feels, sounds, and acts like. A space where her blackness and womanity are acknowledged as parts of her whole self not to be minimized or negatively juxtaposed as competing entities.What kinds of space exist like this beyond family and friends (which can also be problematic depending on what dynamics exist within these settings)? How can we get to a place where, when taken as a whole, we are valued and value others--strength, weakness, and power included? I am continually searching for this space, albeit cautiously.   

Note: This response meant to challenge an often dominant response to black female victims of battering and/or murder--especially by those black men who inherently look down on black women who value both their blackness and womanity. By no means should this be considered a general rejection of black men, more-so a response to black men with a dominant masculine ethos. Instead it could be read as challenge to what it means to be a member of the black community in terms of love and support. When blackness has been accounted for, how are women regarded? How is this community different from a status quo that operates similarly on the grounds of gender, let alone sexuality when it comes to expressions of power? What would it mean to truly liberate ourselves from such continued nonsense? Why do we continue to find such responses acceptable?