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.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Silence and Being Myself

This piece concludes my written reaction to the matter of Rachel Dolezal and identity politics 

Choosing not to speak/write on every issue facing the black community is a matter of sanity at some point. So much goes on that is painful and heartbreaking. I know it goes on and I feel powerless and hopeless at times. Being a black woman and knowing we are at the bottom rung in consideration of just about everything, even within the black community makes it hard not to internalize. Seemingly inescapable stereotypes this, she had it coming that, there is just no end to the amount of victim-blaming black people and especially black women continue to endure. Negative energies abound for black women. And of course I don’t have a right to be angry about any of it. Don’t ever tell me that. Rage is the subtext when it comes to matters of the blackness and black lives.

Then there is the matter of being myself. I like to think I do well in abiding by the value of being myself, being my genuine self. In fact it is a source of pride. Then stuff like this [Rachel Dolezal] happens where self-doubt is re-awoken. As I ponder my status and the eventual reality that I will need to establish myself as a professional, I wonder about my life chances. Is being myself enough? Will people take me seriously? I play the part and follow the obvious rules but always as myself, which is dependent on comfort level with my surroundings. But I know following the rules isn’t enough; being respectable isn’t enough. I know I can be weird and that my cadence in speech is readily made fun of. My blackness is questioned because how I present somehow seems inauthentic.

How is it that someone can pretend their way into blackness and privilege and a good life yet black women like me are viewed with suspicion and/or mistrust? Why is the genuine continually passed over in favor of false pretenses? Being taken as I am seems too much to ask for the status quo as well as the disenfranchised who prefer the status quo. How am I supposed to be optimistic knowing of this reality?  

I will do what I can in as good of spirit as I can muster; but faith in self and the universe is hard to come by at times; especially considering the daily reality facing the disenfranchised, black people and black women especially. I continue to resist the self-fulfilling prophecy regardless, but it is hard. Writing/speaking to this on the regular is hard. I need a break from the anger, from the powerlessness, from reality. Such continual anger is not good for the soul. It doesn’t help me relate to others, especially the ones who play into my triggers with their microaggressions.

I need a break. So I am silent. I enjoy the company of my son and the positive, hopeful, uplifting people in my life. I engage in the realm of happiness any chance I get because it is so hard to be without it. Don’t think I am one to trade my blackness in. That would suggest I am for the status quo and for oppression. I wish oppression on no one and will work to alleviate it, to end it. Those close to me know and understand the dialectic involved in this struggle. They know and understand my desire for peace, love, and being. They don’t mistake me for being neutral because of it. Being angry about these things is tiresome and not a space I want to be in for the rest of my life, short as it may be at this point. That is why I am silent on most issues others discuss most of the time. Don’t misunderstand my silence as a lack of solidarity.

Doesn’t mean my love is not there for us. It’s just a space I’d rather not dwell as I write, yet it is all I can seem to write about when I do freely express. So I suppose it is a space I am attempting to refuse despite my intimacy with it. 


R. Dolezal : Black womanhood and legitimacy or I have issues

Side note on the current topic of Rachel:
Do I have to scream from the rooftops that I am/continue to aim to be an ally? Apparently so if I am to be taken seriously. But I’d rather not. If my actions—which are small and do not involve the spotlight—do not speak for themselves then I have work to do, obviously. Being a black woman in this day and age unfortunately has meant a controlled state of pain and rage are part of my many undercurrents. I wish I could be at peace and happy on the regular. Seeing and knowing that we/I still do not qualify for many of the things lighter/white skinned folks take for granted makes it hard as hell. I long for the day when I do not have to wonder about being taken seriously; makes me wonder if I can ever really succeed in life. I ache for a reality where being treated with respect and dignity without justification is a norm. As such I am a work in progress. I put up with what I have to. My refusal to put up with anything more shouldn’t disqualify me from being treated like you would want to be treated. Being in such negative thought spaces is tiresome. Yet acceptance continues to be hard to come by, so imagine what it must be like internally. I long to no longer have to wonder, what is it about me that makes me so undesirable in their scrutiny of me? The fact that I must continue to be hyper-aware of my every action makes it hard to live simply sometimes. Of course  I am no angel—I was disqualified the moment I was born, but because I have to over-analyze everything I do, I am pretty sure of myself when I find myself asking What did I do to you to deserve this? Usually it’s some kind of refusal I’ve engaged in: not holding my tongue, not agreeing with your argument, wanting to assert my confidence in certain matters, stubborn pride—all my fault to be sure. This is my experience with black womanhood at the moment.

On Rachel Dolezal : Matters of privilege

Reaction 4: Seems I missed something. There is that part of the black community that is biased as far as what qualifies as blackness; a partial truth if ever there was one [see previous post]. Here is another and more prominent one; that blackness guarantees access to oppression no matter your class, gender, or sexuality. So, why would anyone want to appropriate that? To claim that level of oppression as part of one’s identity if it weren’t truth? I imagine it lent to the sense of legitimacy of the work Rachel was/is doing. To claim expertise becomes more valid if one has shared in the oppression being discussed. Doesn’t make it right to appropriate, in fact it seems totally crazy when one knows of the privilege one otherwise has access to. If this is a matter of playing the game and winning, then of course I’m angry. I have doubts about “playing the game” as myself, not to mention I hate playing these kinds of games because of that and not being sure I could win, let alone live a decent life. Of course it is possible that she genuinely has love for the black community enough to struggle for and with us. I don’t know the full story. It doesn’t seem right that one would feel the need to go to such lengths to do the work. Why couldn’t she have been herself? What would that have meant?

The matter of privilege is huge regardless. It is in the realm of privilege that one thinks they can do, get away with, and represent themselves as anything without a second thought. To not have to think about possible repercussions of norm violations of any scale; to assume acceptance regardless of the situation; to be given the benefit of the doubt as a default of simply being. How often has Rachel had to earnestly think about these things in her lived experience? How often has she had to consider the gendered/sexual politics within the black community? What about the colorist politics? What is the extent of privilege she has had access to? What has been her lived experience within this identity? I cannot help but think about the range of responses on this matter while also hoping no harm comes to Rachel. At the same time, I cannot help but imagine her capitalizing off this further in her memoir “Black Like Me 2: Afrocentric Boogaloo”. The privileged and white have all the “luck”.  

On Rachel Dolezal and matters of [my] blackness: inital reactions

Reaction 3: There it is again. That voice. The one that speaks to my insecurities as a black woman that is not as involved in the black community or any community for that matter. The matter of realness as far as being black is concerned is something I continually get caught up in. I can hear it now in relation to Rachel: Yeah at least she’s down. She’s blacker than you. She was never neutral on anything as far as issues of blackness are concerned. Blah, blah, blah. Okay, okay, so I haven’t officially joined the club which usually means I haven’t decided to live by the black version of “Stand by Your Man” because that tune/mantra is total bullshit. Not joining any club when I don’t feel like I can be me in it. Also, I refuse to stand by oppression in any form no matter who is behind it. Selective in/exclusion is something I try to avoid/overcome. Maybe I am a black heretic among my people . Yet the black community I have witnessed is just as quick to do so among their own. My refusal to conform makes me suspect.

 Nothing points to race being a social construct with real-life consequences than ideas that surround what it is to be black among black people. Usually it plays out like a series of check boxes on a resume:
-Hmmm…has been called a n....r by whites?  Check. Knows who Billy Ocean, Freddie Jackson, and Luther Vandross are? Check. Grew up in a black church? Check. Sang in choir? Bonus points. Has temper/attitude. Check. Has angry black woman face. Check. Looked over for job opportunities. Check. Not taken seriously. Check. Not given benefit of the doubt. Double check. I see you did not check the Likes yams box.

-That’s because I hate yams.

-What about sweet potato pie?

-Also tastes like yams, which I hate.

-I see. It shows you also haven’t seen Devil in a Blue Dress.

-That’s correct.

-Or Harlem Nights?


-I don’t know if you qualify. Let me confer with my Council of Blackness constituents and we’ll get back to you on your Black card.

Never mind my skin tone. Never mind the fact that in situations concerning police that I consider my life to be at risk. When the guns are drawn I am just as likely to be targeted as any other black person, more so because of my darker skin tone. This makes me just as likely to be looked over in all respects from something as trivial as beauty to something as profound as dignity and the worthiness of keeping my life. Surely that makes me black enough.

So back to the matter of Rachel. Like most light/white skinned people and women in particular, she was given the benefit of the doubt in what I imagine to be all cases as far as her work and identity were concerned. Her identity credentials were never brought under scrutiny until now. Based on reactions, I imagine her being welcomed into the black community was all but seamless. Same with the work she did. No one had a reason to check anything, whereas the moment I open my mouth I am on the defensive because of the sound of my voice! Light/white privilege at its finest? Perhaps. But now light-skinned biracial women will also be put on the defensive regarding their identity politics, especially if blackness is part of it. Having to prove who you are, that you fit into these boxes in a lot of ways is total bullshit. It calls into question whether it should matter who you are if you’re willing to genuinely rep and do the work, especially if that work is that of being an ally to the disenfranchised. Do you have to be one to rep for one? Rachel seems to have bought into this, which is damaging for those that come after, light and dark-skinned women alike. I feel bad for the current turmoil she is dealing with. I wish that kind of strife on no one. Its hard to know the whole of the implications of this particular event. What will be the consensus? I am eager to know what other women of color have to say. Same goes for Rachel.
Until next time...