i dunno what that means

i don’t know what being apolitical means. correction, i know what it means but i know that it can never apply to me. i live in a politicized body. i’m a Black, queer, woman. my being is political. the way i wear my hair, the clothes i choose, the way i walk, speak, sit, and move throughout a space are all political decisions whether i mean for them to be or not. it says something when i’m with a man and when i’m with a woman. if i’m holding their hands when i’m with them. it matters what race they are. knowing my education background makes a difference. it changes everything if people know i’m Black or if i happen to pass. once that distinction is made re-evaluate everything that was assumed and implied from the previous choices cause they mean something different. everything i do is a choice more so than anyone that’s in an apolitical body. i truly think there is only one apolitical body. so all cis, heterosexual, able bodied white men you’ve hit the jackpot. you have the privilege of being apolitical. i wonder sometimes what it’s like to not have to constantly over analyze your decisions. some bodies are politicized more than others. they deviate from the norm more. it happens. but i had someone say to me that they wanted to stay apolitical. that they didn’t have an opinion or a position. it didn’t effect them. i just didn’t get that. my identity comes out in everything that i do. every class i sit in paper i write. book i read. interaction i have. when i play my sport. when i do my art. when i write. when i walk into a store. when i walk down the street. when i meet someone new. when i have this conversation with him. everything is political so i love listening to other Black queer women that somehow get it. cause they really do get it. so i added links to some spoken word artists that just.. get it.

 

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An amalgamation of topics

I’m honestly not sure what I want to write about this week, as I have so many thoughts on this week’s class session, so I’m just going to touch on a couple areas:

First and foremost, I’m thinking, I should just get this blog post written and posted so I can get it out of my mind, because the stress culture on this campus is really real right now. I’ve definitely over-committed myself to a lot of different things and I have so many deadlines this week that I feel like I need to just churn out my assignments and readings so that I can move on to the next task. I shouldn’t feel that way (partly because I should have accomplished more over Fall Break) but mostly because I believe in committing my time to things I care a lot about and that I want to be involved in, and when professors and bosses assign too many deadlines at once, I feel more of a pressure to get everything done than to put time and my best work into everything I turn in. I’m lamenting the fact that I feel that way, but I also know it’s important I’m productive tonight, so that’s that.

On the other hand, Common Ground is currently occurring as I write this, and I have a lot of thoughts about that event. Namely, that I agree with most of the criticisms that we will never find a “common ground” when so many of the current political topics being debated on the national stage affect people’s daily lives and livelihoods. Tonight I attended a reception of guidance counselors who are visiting campus for a tour and to see the talk, and many people were treating it like a fun show. Which, is valid, as that what it’s been marketed as, but for marginalized people (like, LGBTQ+ people, who the President of the United States recently joked that the Vice President of the United States would like to hang) these aren’t just lighthearted conversations to watch and maybe think about, it’s not a night at the theatre, this is people’s lives. Bringing two white men, who have both perpetuated oppression on a national scale in their own ways, to come to campus and talk about, from rumors I’ve heard, tax policies and other issues that feel less pressing today’s current political climate (watch me post this only to find out they’ve discussed immigration) doesn’t make anything better. It makes the college look like it’s doing better, but it doesn’t really make any tangible changes for the lives of students on campus.

Finally, as I was reading “The ‘Batty’ Politic” this weekend, I was reminded of Kim Kardashian’s “Break the Internet” story a few years ago, and the comparisons of her to Saartjie Baartman. I found this really interesting piece, examining how black women’s bodies are consumed and manipulated in society’s double standards, which I thought people might be interested in reading. It brings in Nicki Minaj and Rihanna’s 2014 shoots, which had been criticized and censored, and calls out Kardashian’s complacency in further exploiting black female bodies. However, I couldn’t find any pieces by women of color, mostly because this photoshoot was released three years ago so it’s harder to find think pieces, but if anyone happens to know off the top of their head of any great articles critiquing her photoshoot written by a woman of color, I would gladly read more about it.

Last week I came across a very important article about an issue that has not had much attention in the media but which needs to be talked about.

The article was published in March of this year and when I found it I was surprised to only be learning about it now. I asked a couple friends about it and they also hadn’t come across it. It was published in NBC news and titled LGBTQ Americans Won’t Be Counted in 2020 Census After All.

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/lgbtq-americans-won-t-be-counted-2020-u-s-census-n739911

Basically, the article states that questions, which advocacy groups have been campaigning for regarding sexual orientation and gender identity were immediately removed from the draft of the 2020 Census by Congress. No U.S. Census has ever included LGBTQ Americans and this makes it hard for federal agencies and researchers to track the size and needs of the community. By removing these questions Congress has removed the acknowledgement of the existence of LGBTQ Americans in the U.S. and denied them access to improvement in equality and health care.

“”If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?” Meghan Maury, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, asked in a statement Tuesday.”

““By erasing LGBTQ Americans from the 2020 U.S. Census, the Trump Administration is adding a disgusting entry to a long list of tactics they’ve adopted to legally deny services and legitimacy to hard-working LGBTQ Americans,” Ellis said.”

In response, The Census Bureau Director stated that the removal of the question was an error.

After reading a few more articles about the topic it becomes clear that it was not an error. Thompson resigned June 30th.

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/18/536484467/census-bureau-found-no-need-for-lgbt-data-despite-4-agencies-requesting-it

soap, empire, ignorance

On Wednesday, we took a close look at the recent Dove soap commercial, applicable to a Black Feminist Thought class not only because of its obvious and virulent racist intent, but because of the long history of soap as a racist tool of empire. Not only has Dove made similar egregious errors in the past, but Dove in fact plays on a historically racist trope of purification by soap that can be traced back centuries. Professor Haley showed us a few examples, such as the caricatured black child having the color of his skin washed off while other black children peer excitedly through the window. Somehow, this is supposed to be a testament to the effectiveness of the soap. More aptly, it is a clear example of commodified racism. Soap companies literally portray white people as cleaner in service of the selling of a product.

It’s even more than that, though. In Imperial Leather, philosopher Anne McClintock traces the origins of white empire, attempting to construct a more truthful history of conquest and genocide. She writes that soap/cleanliness becomes conveniently fetishized in the Victorian era, noting that the “cult of domesticity and the new imperialism found in soap an exemplary mediating form. The emergent middle class values—monogamy (“clean” sex, which has value), industrial capital (“clean” money, which has value), Christianity (“being washed in the blood of the lamb”), class control (“cleansing the great unwashed”), and the imperial civilizing mission (“washing and clothing the savage”) —could all be marvelously embodied in a single household commodity. Soap advertising, in particular the Pears soap campaign, took its place at the vanguard of Britain’s new commodity culture and civilizing mission” (207).

This is an example of an ad for Pears soap in McClure’s Magazine: “The first step toward lightening THE WHITE MAN’s BURDEN is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness. PEARS SOAP is a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances, while amongst the cultured of all nations it holds the highest place—it is the ideal toilet soap” (32). The ad itself pictures a white man washing his hands in the cabin of what appears to be his own ship, tidying up before getting ready to sail off and destroy.

At this point in time, it is simply ignorant to remain unaware of the virulent histories of commodity racism. All this information exists on the internet. It is searchable, certainly, to a company with a clear history of slipping before. Reading McClintock again in the context of this being Dove’s second time screwing up, I am inclined to think the way Mirsadies was thinking: that Dove did this on purpose for publicity. The only thing worse than ignorantly creating a blatantly racist ad might just be doing it purposely in service of your own net profit.

 McClintock, Anne P.. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial                Contest. ACLS Humanities E-Book. Kindle Edition.

Where Does Your Blackness Come From?

I am a vulnerable person or at least that is what I have always been told. Many of my post here have been extremely personal and deal with how the texts for this course make/allow me to critically think about my own relationship to my Blackness. Of course my Blackness does not exist in a vacuum, which is true of any Black or multiracial person. There are the ongoing systems and institutions that undervalue the lives of Black people and non-black POCs. Understanding the different positionalities of individuals, their gender, class, sexuality, geographical location, body size, ability and even such things as status as mother or daughter raised by a white woman. All of these things contribute to ideas of Black and Blackness. White people are not the only ones guilty of essentializing the Black body, many Black people also reinforce an idea that there is a way to be Black or what is Blackness. This is not to be seen as the same practice done by White systems of power or that there is nothing that unites Black people and allows for Blackness to be so important to people, cultures, and scholarship. Black and Blackness is real, it exists and is something I believe can be passed down to your child (not just genetically but conceptionally). But it’s probably the same conceptions of Black and Blackness that your parents passed down to you that their parents passed down to them. Black and Blackness is communal (perceptions and behaviors learned from family, friends, teachers, neighbors, etc), societal (outside perceptions and behaviors which affects and infiltrate) and generational (perceptions and behaviors pass down within the family; closely linked to communal relationships of learning).

Why do I mention all of this? Because I am interested in the communal and generational Black and Blackness related to mothering/parenting. Twila L. Perry discusses white women raising  Black children, although her piece mainly centers on critiquing the systems that make it common for Black women to give up their child. I am more interested in her mentioning that white women may not be able to provide for their Black child the way a Black mother would. I am not sure how I feel about this. Part of me believes this is true, while another part of me feels as though I am betraying my mother, a white woman who raised a biracial child alone. There were many things that weren’t discussed, many things I didn’t understand because my mother was unaware of how or that these conversations were important. This is not to say that all white women would run into this problem, but it took me until I was bullied by Black students in high school for “not being Black enough” to begin my journey into having a positive and active relationship to my racial identity. I grew up not knowing how to take care of my hair (I still don’t know but better than I was before), not realizing I needed to use lotion (this took until college if you can believe that), and other small things that my mother was never able to tell me because she either didn’t need to use lotion everyday or she just had no clue what to do with my hair. I lost the conversations of how to be a strong Black woman in society, lost the empathy of coming to my mother when someone treated me differently because I’m not white. I didn’t have a community, I didn’t have advice passed down to me pertaining to my racial experience, I didn’t have a Black culture, I didn’t have Black female role models in my life. The only person in my life who looked like me was my older brother and he went to through a very similar experience of being separate from the communal and generational passing of Black and Blackness. Our Blackness was exclusively societal, which can be bleak. Most people find pride in their race due to their communal and generational connections and learning. What happens to a child who only experiences their Black identity through societal perceptions and interactions? I cannot speak for all the experiences of POC children raised by white mothers/parents, but it is important to know that part of our understanding and creations of Black and Blackness comes from the family.

When regressive is “radical”

I’m still horrified by a class discussion I had in my first semester of college, back in Fall 2014, in Introduction to the History and Theory of Film. To be honest, taking that class took a bit of a hit on my soul in general, since it was my first semester of college and by the December when I turned in my weekly film journal, I had written exactly 200 pages. But on this day in particular, early in the semester when we were still studying silent film, I was well and truly stupefied by this class for the first time.

We had just watched Lois Weber’s Where Are My Children? and our professor was lauding the film for its place in the silent film canon, since it was directed by a female, which was unheard of in 1916. The film itself, however was a horror story about abortions: a warning to the upper-class main character and her friends, who had regularly been visiting a doctor to terminate their pregnancies, worried it would interfere with their social lives. The film reiterates that they should not be having abortions, as they were the “desirable” women in society, and should therefore be gifting society by bearing more children of this “desired” breed. As the film finished and discussion commenced, the conversation naturally shifted to eugenics. Although the film’s message was very striking, and very clear, our professor continued to defend the film as progressive and revolutionary.

Since that class, every time a course mentions eugenics, whether it be in a reading, like last week’s “Bearing the Blame,” or in a class discussion, I’m reminded of that day freshman year. I’m reminded that a professor at Hamilton can so ardently defend a film that shamed upper-class women for having abortions, because they were a “desired breed.” I’m reminded that although eugenics is a horrifying and disgusting practice, and is both a blemish in our social and political history, and a current societal problem, there are still people, people on this campus, who do not outright condemn the eugenics movement. Who celebrate films like Where Are My Children?, despite the film’s message, because it was directed by a woman. Who are complicit with this new wave of eugenics, masquerading as a proto-environmentally conscious message of xenophobia and population control. Who do not counter hate, and instead speak in favor of harmful messages, as long as the one sharing those messages is in some way, even a small way, like Weber (a wealthy, white woman), marginalized.

I’m still angry about that class session, I’m still angry he fought with me when I called him out in class, and when I critiqued the film in my film journal. I’m still angry that a message holding up a hateful message can be lauded as progressive when it’s made by a wealthy white woman. And I’m angry that Hamilton professors are complicit.

The Blues…(Week 7)

 

I got the blues from this week’s readings, discussions, and film. I got the blues because it was humbling. It was humbling to read that a feminist analysis of motherhood should support adoption but yet support a woman’s choice to raise her own kids.

 

I got the blues because it was dejecting. It was dejecting to realize that anti-immigrant policies try to place restrictions on immigrant women’s ability and choice to make reproductive decisions.

 

I got the blues because it was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking to read that the State had power over a queer couple’s daughter, rather than the mothers themselves.

 

I got the blues because it was saddening. It was saddening to watch the manifestation of Black excellence and motherhood through ‘Nanny’ in the film Lackawanna Blues, but realize just how difficult or even impossible that standard is to reach.

 

All of these things are verbal actions. They do something to you. Absorbing all of this information. It does something to you. It gotta do something to you…

 

I got the blues…

the political policing the unpolitical (Week 6)

 

“Individuals denied access to the public realm or whose group membership limits their social possibilities cannot be accurately recognized.” –Melissa Harris-Perry

Political entities should not police actions that are un-political–the private lives of human beings. In figurative and literal terms, the United States has for centuries policed the lives of Black people. My reaction to this week’s readings is simply that the right for privacy is all Black folk are asking from the body politic. Privacy as in we do not want our spaces and cultures distorted. Privacy as in we do not want our humanity to be reduced to color. Privacy as in we do not want our contributions to society to be used against us.

I feel as though the lack of privacy in Black people’s lives makes them more visible to the rest of society. When your body and culture are that visible, society easily takes advantage of it—taking and manipulating, framing you as a subhuman, with no recourse for deliberation. Conservatives necessarily contribute to this silencing and policing of Black lives by peddling the idea that free speech is under attack, yet giving no voice to the shouts of Black pain.

It is precisely this reason that people see Black women with bifocal lenses: it is either they are hypersexual or asexual; either they are emasculating or tokenized; either they are domestics or vagrants. This cognitive dissonance is linked with people’s fascination yet distaste for Black women. We need to change who is looking at the private lives of Black women so as to amplify and relate accurately, the experiences of Black women and not to dichotomize and distort them.

 

because i don’t tell you enough

i don’t know the ways in which to say thank you appropriately. so i think this might just be me rambling for a while. essentially all this is is an appreciation of Black female friendship. cause i still have yet to find something that rivals the love that Black women have for each other or maybe it’s just the love that they’ve shown me. i’m surrounded by women that would/have given me all that they could. not because i asked but because they have a certain type of way that they love. a love that is all consuming (and yes its plutonic). it’s the kinda self sacrificing love that has been demanded of Black women (by everyone other than other Black women) but takes on a different meaning when it is directed to Black women (does that make sense?). i don’t know how to say thank you to the women who have lent a hand or an ear or sometimes been the entire reason why i could stand upright. it’s the meals made and the rides given and the subtle reminders that i’m never alone even though it sometimes feels like i am. i try to give this back because it’s the only way that i’ve ever known how to love. it’s that unspoken language that we all seem to be fluent in. we know how to take care of our own and we know what it means when we do. we might have different ways of going about showing our love but at the core of it – it’s the same. i’ve only ever made family not really friends cause it’s an all or nothing type thing. so this is my pseudo thank you to all the Black women that have become my family.

Boxed

In this week’s class, we talked a lot about the difficulties that black people and black women in particular face when breaking out of general “boxes” that society has placed them in. The news story we read about the two gender queer mothers in the Goodwill really struck a cord with me, as it just goes to show that if they were white women, such a situation would never have occurred. Next week, I would like to show our class a music video I watched that shows how desensitized we are to violence against black people compared to white people, which I think illustrates the point of many of our readings well: black identities are consistently come into question and are dictated by their presence around white spaces.

 

Lakawana Blues was also an excellent movie about the ways in which sometimes an iconic woman in a black community can have to give up so many parts of herself in favor of others who do not necessarily deserve the pieces of her that she is giving. The selflessness of Rachel Crosby, aka Nanny, and the lengths that she went to in order to ensure the well being of those around her and the child she began to raise moved me. I also felt that the film exhibited the stereotypes about black masculinity and “proper behavior” that society expects of them. The scene in which Nanny and Junior visit that white woman’s family was also very illuminating, as it shows the kind of culture shock that can occur even in the same country.