Some Truths That Perhaps Have Not Sunk In Yet

Black people in California =/= All Black People

10% of population =/= 100% of the problem

~30% of Black Californians Who Voted NO on Prop 8 =/= People you can spit on, blame, rage at, and dismiss, then turn around and expect to support you. Not that they would support a ban on gay marriage and other gay rights issues (because, if you’ve forgotten, many of that 30% are LGBTQ), but I wouldn’t count on their money, or their time, or the effort it takes to knock on doors, talk to people, and other grassroots activism. No matter how much I believed in a cause, even if it affects me personally, I would have a hard time being active for a group that actively despises me, devalues me, and blames me for their own problems.

The Black Community =/= Monolithic Groupmind

Black People =/= The Reason Prop 8 Passed

Are we clear now?

(thanks to Jenn for the inspiration)

It’s Morning In America

Last night America elected its first black president.  We made history, as everyone still enjoys saying.  And I think we’ve earned the right to bask in the glow for a little bit.

But listen, there’s still a lot to be done.

First and foremost, it should be stated that, although come January we will have a Black president, that does not mean that racism is “over”.  That having a black president does not end the dialogue we have on this blog, on other blogs, and in meatspace about race, prejudice, and the challenges people of color face in this country and the world.  Obama’s win only proves that he specifically had what it took to win this election.  It wasn’t that any black person could have won, just as not any random woman could have won.  McCain made the mistake of thinking that; of looking at people like labels.

So there’s still a lot of anti-racist work to be done.  Racism still needs to be eliminated.  And while I’m hopeful that having a black president is one major step in that direction, it can also cause a setback as people throw “But we have a black president!” in our faces every time we bring up the deep-seated problems in this country.  We can’t let that happen.

Another important thing to remember is that Obama is not perfect and he’s not supernatural.  While we can rejoice in his presidency, we can’t cut him any slack.  And I think we must be willing, as activists and as non-activists, to work hard for change.  He said as much in his speech last night, so let’s hold him to his word.  More than ever we need to hold a president to his word this time around.

Am I wrong to feel, to hope, that doing so will be easier?  That in 4 years I’m going to feel better about my country than I do today?  Obama has never shared all of my values, but I am overwhelmed right now with a good feeling.

The Attempted Lynching of Barack Obama, pt. 1

I started hearing about this a few days ago: a series of incidents in which Obama supporters — usually black — violently attacked McCain supporters — usually white. The most prominent of them was an incident in which a woman claimed that a 6’4″ black man mugged her and stole $60, then took an extra step because he was enraged by the McCain sticker on her car; he then carved the letter “B” on her face to “teach her a lesson” about not being pro-Obama.

I was skeptical about this from the get-go. Continue reading

Of Patriotism, Joe Six-Pack, and Real Americans

There’s been a lot of rhetoric lately about this idea that “real” Americans are middle class Christian white people living in small towns. Because somehow the POC in those towns? Not really American. People living in major cities? Not really American. People who are not Christian? Not American. Part and parcel of the implications of the “real” American stance is this idea that “real” Americans are patriots who are willing to sacrifice their lives (or watch their children make that sacrifice) in service to their country. Now, as some of you already know I’m a veteran. And I have to say this idea that the only specific religions and races are really American? Disgusts me. Because I know who I served with, I know how many families that have made the ultimate sacrifice do not bear any resemblance to the Joe Six-Pack image that is being espoused as the true face of America. The true face of America? Looks like this:

Photobucket

In what reality is it remotely acceptable to imply that this soldier was not a “real” American because of his last name or his faith? He was 20 years old, and he put it all on the line for his country. How dare anyone disrespect that sacrifice by implying that he wasn’t good enough to be a “real” American? Are there real Americans in small towns in the Midwest? Absolutely. There are also real Americans living in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists, and host of other belief systems. They are every race, every income level, and every educational background. Because that’s the true America. Not the one that spews hate and calls it patriotism.

The subtext of McCain’s anger

The talk today in the blogosphere is all about last night’s debate — who won, who lost, who discreetly scratched his ass, whatever. There’s a good bit of discussion going about already on the issue of McCain’s factual gaffes and his infuriating appropriation of the Jewish Holocaust. I didn’t notice anything pounce-worthy in Obama’s comments, though he did make some headscratchy connections and rambled in some of his answers. But hey, I’m sure FOX will find something to nitpick about him.

What I did keep noticing was McCain’s body language. He wouldn’t look at Obama. He wouldn’t address Obama directly, even when the debate moderator explicitly urged him to do so. He didn’t even turn in Obama’s direction, as far as I saw. He seemed doggedly determined to act as if his opponent didn’t exist, and the debate was strictly a one-on-one conversation between him and Jim Lehrer.

Others have noted this body language, and chalked it up to McCain’s general frustration with his opponent. I saw something else.

Not so long ago in this country — within McCain’s adult lifetime, though not Obama’s — white men did not look at black men, except to order them around or warn them off white women. They did not address black men directly if they could help it — and if they had to, it was never done in a way that might suggest respect. Black men did not look at white men either, because that was the shortest path to death; a black man who dared to look a white man in the eye was “uppity”. Didn’t know his place. Needed to have a lesson taught him, usually with a bullet or a length of rope. Even today there’s a certain kind of white man — usually older ones from the South or from wealthy backgrounds — who still won’t accord a man of color the simple courtesy of looking him in the eye. They’ll look everywhere else, address “the air” rather than the person, and get progressively more irritated if that person doesn’t back off and go away.

This irritation is what I saw in McCain’s body language: affront that a black man dared to challenge him or speak to him as an equal.

I don’t think I would’ve seen that if McCain hadn’t shown this kind of contempt in other contexts: his behavior towards his wives, for example. That certain kind of white man isn’t all that fond of uppity women either. And yeah, some of it might simply be McCain’s infamous temper; he’s had equal-opportunity hissyfits, pretty much at anyone who disagrees with him. The man simply needs anger-management training. But at least the white men who piss him off merit his direct address and his vocalized contempt. This “I-dismiss-you-from-my-attention” treatment? That’s something else.

Now, McCain isn’t stupid, and I don’t think his campaign managers are either. I don’t think McCain’s body language was accidental or unplanned. They knew full well how this would look, and I think they’re counting on it. The silent language of McCain’s posture and eye contact is practically a shout-out to white Middle America, sending a very clear message: “Can you believe this boy? Can you believe he’s actually talking to me?” And in the unspoken fury telegraphed by McCain’s surgically-constructed cheeks, and the constant flexing of his jaw muscles as he ground his teeth tried to smile graciously, I heard, “Y’know, back in the day, we would’ve known just what to do with a fella like you.”

McCain’s post-GOP-convention surge has faltered. Sarah Palin, who initially seemed to be energizing the evangelicals, is starting to look more and more like a mistake. Poor and middle-class Americans, which includes a whole lot of Republicans who are suddenly beginning to realize that the current economic crisis is their own damn fault for voting in a bunch of rich thieves, are up in arms. McCain’s only hope at this stage is a blatant appeal to something that will unite Republicans regardless of class, faith, and issues. Well, the Southern Strategy hasn’t failed yet.

Hmm… given that, I’m not sure I should call this subtext. Is it still subtext when it’s right there in your face?

Louisiana State Senator Worries That There Will Soon Be Too Many Black People, Film At 11

I don’t even know if I have the stomach to do full commentary on this shit.  So here are the highlights.

Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

“We’re on a train headed to the future and there’s a bridge out, ” LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. “And nobody wants to talk about it.”

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.

Right.  He’s totally worried about there being enough tax dollars.  That’s all.  Really.

“What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare, ” he said.

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.

Oh I am so glad that we’re being very feminist about this!

LaBruzzo described the tube-tying incentive as a brainstorming exercise that has yet to take form as a bill for the Legislature to consider. He said it already has drawn critics who argue the idea is racist, sexist, unethical and immoral. He said more white people are on welfare than black people, so his proposal is not targeting race.

And anti-racist!  He just hates poor people, that’s all.

LaBruzzo said other, mainstream strategies for attacking poverty, such as education reforms and programs informing people about family planning issues, have repeatedly failed to solve the problem. He said he is simply looking for new ways to address it.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, he’s a racist, ‘ ” LaBruzzo said. “The hard part is to sit down and think of some solutions.”

LaBruzzo said he opposes abortion and paying people to have abortions. He described a sterilization program as providing poor people with better opportunities to avoid welfare, because they would have fewer children to feed and clothe.

He acknowledged his idea might be a difficult sell politically.

NO SHIT.

Also: children are the cause of welfare, not poor economic situations, lack of opportunities, lack of funding for education (that never works, anyway!), or a culture that is constantly at war against those who don’t live like the assholes on Friends.  No, none of that is to blame!

On Racism, Media, and the Presidential Race

So I was going to comment on the racism that’s flying fast and furious at the Obama’s this week. But then John Scalzi went off for me. So since I don’t have anything to say that can top this beautiful beatiful rant I’m just going to share the joy with you. Try not to read it anyplace where you cannot lay in the floor and laugh like a hyena.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

On Feminism, Part 2

I bet you don’t remember part 1, do you? Here’s a reminder.

I said back then that I was still trying to put my own feelings into words and hadn’t succeeded yet. Considering what’s been going on in the blogosphere lately I think it’s time to finally crystallize my thoughts. The problem I keep coming up against is that my interactions with feminism and feminists varies greatly depending on the venue, I am finding a hard time resolving my feelings in one area with my feelings from another.

I’m being vague, sorry. Let me be specific.

As many of you know, in my other life I am a science fiction and fantasy writer. I have spent almost my entire adult life hanging out in that community. Now, from the outside, the SF community would not seem to be a place to understand, interact with, and discuss feminism and feminist issues. But lo, there are feminists to be found. Really smart feminists. There’s even a con dedicated to feminism and feminists in SF–WisCon.

WisCon is one of my very favorite conventions because of the topics of panels, the conversations I have in and out of panels, and the caliber of people who attend. These are smart, passionate folks who care about literature and media in equal measure. And, if they’re at WisCon, they more than likely consider themselves feminists or, at least, allies.

Through attending WisCon I became interested in feminism in a more direct way than I had been before. I vaguely understood feminism and felt, as most intelligent people do, that the core ideal of feminism as I understood it was a right thing–i.e. women are equal to men and should be treated as such. That women and men may be different, but men certainly aren’t better, in general. But from attending WisCon, I began thinking about the issues of gender, privilege, and feminism in ways I had not before.

Over the years I’ve convinced many people to come to WisCon, but it was sometimes a struggle because I had to break the barrier of ignorance surrounding the word “feminist”. I’m sure many of you have encountered this same problem. People equating feminism with “FemiNazi” (what a bullshit word), or with the extreme types who ruin every ideology/movement/etc. At this time I was not aware of the real problems of feminism. Ones that were far more disruptive and dividing than women who “hate men” or other such nonsense.

Since that first WisCon my involvement in SF’s feminist contingent has deepened. I’m one of the bloggers at FeministSF.net, I contribute to the Wiki, I consider some of my co-bloggers there to be good friends, I participate in WisCon programming, and now I’m a jurist for the Tiptree award, an honor that arose from the ideas and ideals that WisCon was created to explore.

If this was the only experience I had with feminism, then I would have no need to write this post. I’d be perfectly content to call myself a feminist and be done.

But oh. Then there’s the wider world.

Then there’s Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and any number of white feminists from the second and third wave that really ruin feminism for the rest of us. If they’re not insisting we put aside our “of color”-ness in favor of our woman-ness, they’re busy using their white privilege to marginalize, dismiss, silence, or otherwise treat us the way those pesky white men they’re so angry with do.

I hadn’t been on this blog long before I apprehended that all was not well in feminism-land. Remember the post about Cesar Milan? It started on some blog where the white, female poster was up in arms because Cesar had made some comment about women that she objected to. She claimed that if he’d made a similar comment about black people the entirety of America would have jumped down his throat. Because, see, racism is no longer a problem in America, but sexism is.

Sigh.

It just gets worse from there. As we have daily proof.

And these recent blow-ups not only make me angry because of what these white feminist bloggers are doing to women of color, but because it makes me angry at feminism itself. As Aminah put it way back when, feminism just isn’t made for us women of color. And as someone else (I can’t remember who, but someone please tell me in comments if you know) said recently, it seems like what white feminists want is to become white men. They want what white men have going on, up to and including privilege and the ability to ignore voices of color unless it suits them.

Some of you may feel this is an unfair generalization. And others of you are sitting at your computers right now shaking your head and saying, “Nuh uh, not me!” Maybe so not you, and maybe so I am being harsh. But you take a look around the blogs right now and tell me that the view from where I’m standing doesn’t bear that out. And take a good look at yourselves. Think about if you can honestly say that you’ve considered your own privilege when dealing with the issues of feminism and race lately. Some of you have, of course, but some of you absolutely have not.

And unfortunately, even my happy pocket of SF feminism isn’t immune from this crap. Last year at WisCon I heard more than one report of goings on in places I was not that revealed the racist attitudes of certain feminist con-goers. This was extremely sad, but not a great surprise. I resolved that this year I would make it my special project to watch and listen out for such attitudes and do what I could to put an end to them. Because I believe that WisCon and the community therein is worth my time and effort to make an even more excellent space than it already is. I want to be able to attend a con without base sexism and racism at the same time. I’m willing to be one of people making that happen.

But I’m not entirely sure I want to do that on these here internets. Why? Because maybe the wider swath of feminism isn’t worth saving.

Feminism is made for and by white women. And I really feel like this is one of those areas where the white women need to get enlightened before things can change. But, of course, many of them won’t be because they don’t see racism, which is directed against women of color, as a feminist issue. They’re hard pressed to acknowledge that racism is as great a problem as sexism at all.

No, actually, what I should say is that the white feminists who are seen as leaders, who are given press and attention and cred are in need of enlightenment. Because there are plenty of white feminists who do get it, who are enlightened, who can see the interconnectedness between anti-racist work and anti-sexist work. So what’s really needed is a good purge. Those of you who know what’s up need to weed out or educate those of you who don’t. Because obviously we women of color are too angry or jealous or indelicate to do it.

And, quite honestly, I am tired of the burden being on us to fix this mess. I’m tired of having to decide if I want the label of “Feminist”, not because someone might think I hate men, but because someone might wonder why I would want to associate myself with people who think my voice and experiences are less important because I refuse to put my gender ahead of my race.

What am I, if not a feminist? I’m not sure. Maybe this will help me figure it out:

When I offered the word “Womanism” many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of color, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honor devotedly, our singular path as women of color in the United States. We are not white women and this truth has been ground into us for centuries, often in brutal ways. [...] We have come a long way, Sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time. One of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on Truth.
Alice Walker

Not Going Anywhere (But I Damn Well Feel Like It)

So I get back from my little vacation and find that Black Amazon took down her blog.

I don’t have a lot to say about that, because it should be obvious that it fucking angers me that white feminist bloggers (need I say ‘certain white feminists’? Or name some names? Nah, I’m sure y’all are smart enough to figure out who I mean) are silencing, disparaging, stealing from, and otherwise oppressing women of color bloggers all while whining about how they are victims and oh, it’s so sad. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE WHITE WOMEN PLEASE!

It’s all just so much bullshit. I have a long post about it coming, but I wanted to say one thing:

I’m not going anywhere.

And let me also say that this is not some sort of underhand condemnation of those who choose to close down their blogs because of this shit. I understand the inclination. I support that choice. There have been times when I had to step away from this blog and other parts of the internet just to salvage my sanity. One day I may need to do so again. But right now? Right now I am staying here.

(and oh, you don’t know how hard it is for me not to use gendered slurs against you whiny little princesses right now. oooo!)

Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand

So, I had just about decided not to speak on the Amanda Marcotte issue and the Seal Press issue because I figured everyone knew I supported BFP and didn’t think too much of Seal Press or their tactics. And I know I am absolutely not capable of much in the way of diplomacy or tact so I left commenting to the people that could say the necessary things without the profanity. But then I saw this post with images from Amanda Marcotte’s latest book and I decided that the time for diplomacy and tact was over. Because when a so-called feminist puts out a book where she shows the empowerment of white women involving rescuing a white man from the evil brown people? Yo, the boys and girls over at Stormfront have lost track of one of their members. When the editors from her press feel the need to try to silence WOC bloggers for saying a resounding Fuck You to a company that is willing to put out this shit while calling themselves welcoming to WOC writers? The sheer ridiculousness of it is choking me. Or is that just vomit?

I’ve made no bones in the past about my feelings that feminism by and large has very little to do with actually helping all women and is really just for white women. Oh, I know it espouses anti-racist ideology, but it has never failed to escape my attention (or the attention of other WOC) that feminism has a distressing tendency to focus on the concerns of middle class white women while ignoring the realities of racism and colonialism and anything remotely to do with intersectionality between gender and race. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen white feminists assume a very paternalistic attitude with WOC particularly when it came to discussions about issues involving MOC while ignoring their own internalized racism. I once sat in a class on the psychology of sexual harassment (the only black woman in the class) and had the lovely experience of a white woman trying to challenge black women on their support of black men despite the misogyny in rap music and the Clarence Thomas case. She literally could not see (despite my efforts to beat reason into the conversation) a problem with her attitude. When I pointed out that white men weren’t immune to misogyny and no one was asking white women to abandon them? Yeah, there was a whole riff about how enlightened the men in her life were and so clearly there was hope for white men. Another white woman who had been sitting there listening politely pointed out her racism and suddenly she could see it. Because clearly the 20+ times I’d pointed it out just did not matter at all. And at this point it’s clear that WOC talking to Seal Press or Amanda Marcotte are actually beating their heads against a brick wall. Because the bigots never listen to POC. They absolutely cannot manage to get past their prejudices long enough to see us as people, never mind as intelligent or capable of critical thought.

So where does that leave WOC and feminism? Frankly we’re at a point where it’s time for feminism to either get it together, or for us to leave it where it is and continue on with our own progressive movements. There’s been some talk for years about how feminism is comprised of multiple movements and until now that’s been enough for me. But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist. And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.

And yes, Holly at Feministe has spoken up and I do see plenty of white feminists that are acting as allies. I also see people talking about the need to give Amanda Marcotte a safe space from which to respond. Maybe it’s just me, but why exactly is it that WOC aren’t entitled to the same calls for safe space? If we’re supposed to be sisters then shouldn’t safety for us be a priority? AFAIK there is exactly one community devoted to safe space for WOC on the internet and I created it. My co-mod and I work very hard to keep the voyeurs, trolls, and bigots out and the community members guard the space jealously from anyone that might slip past us. And I wish we didn’t have to do that, but I look at this book and the responses to it and the original Seal Press fiasco and I think that we are operating in very hostile territory and the only choice WOC have is to pull back and operate our own spaces in our own ways because we can’t expect anyone to fight for us. And yes, I know many of the people reading this are truly allies and I’m not saying this to hurt you. But we’re going to need you to commence cleaning up your house before you can help us clean up the world.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

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