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Tales From A Survivor

Chris Brown tried to choke Rihanna. That was while he was threatening to kill her. And the stans are out in force claiming that she deserved it/provoked him/he didn’t do it on purpose. I would say I don’t know WTF is wrong with people, but I see this shit a lot. From men who want to justify it and from women who think it could never happen to them. Here’s the thing, abusers never seem like they’re violent to people on the outside, and in the beginning of the relationship they are the *perfect* partner. I mean it, they are absolutely the best partner their victim has ever had. They have all the romantic touches down, they’re a great listener (the best you’ll ever meet), and before long they have insinuated themselves into every single aspect of their victim’s life. As soon as they can’t imagine life without this person, they’re in deep shit.

Why? That’s when the abuse starts. And it’s not overt or even necessarily something that anyone would recognize as problematic. Because it’s just words, little subtle digs at their self-image that come from this wonderful person who knows them so well and loves them so much. And so they listen, and they lose a little of themselves. It’s that slow chipping away that’s important. Because without it? The first blow will be the last one. And the abuser can’t have that, so they lay the groundwork. But sometimes that chipping away doesn’t work, or at least not fast enough for the abuser. Maybe they’ve been pushed too far too fast, maybe at their base they’re not broken enough, maybe they are just plain contrary, or maybe they get fed up early in the cycle. Who knows? But when things don’t go according to plan the abuser flips their shit. Annihilation time if they can manage it.

And the fucked up part? They’re not necessarily consciously aware of what they’re doing to the victim. So they can tell themselves that they’re not a bad person, and they’ve never been this way with anyone else, that it’ll never happen again and a half dozen other things that add up to not having to face the reality that they’re hurting someone very badly. Because in their own heads they love their victim. Even when they want to control them and crush them. They love them so much that they can’t let the relationship end, or risk their SO meeting someone else, or whatever else is the trigger of the moment. And people will swear that something big must have happened to provoke them, but the reality is that they’re a ticking time bomb. All day. Every day. Whether it is a burnt dinner, a tone of voice, or being successful, there is nothing the victims could have, should have, would have done to defuse that bomb.

And people will say “Why didn’t she just leave?” like that would fix something. Know when most victims die? When they try to get out. And the craziest part is that people will still swear they should have tried harder, left earlier, done something other than whatever they did. Because victim-blaming is the most comfortable emotional reaction for a lot of folks. Here’s the thing, for a whole host of reasons there’s no way to spot an abuser at a glance, and even if you do figure it out fairly early in the relationship, there’s no guarantee that the fuse on that bomb isn’t so short that you’re already in danger. Does that mean no one should date? No. But it does mean that people should stop blaming the victim and start blaming the abuser. Want to get them help? Great. But don’t serve it with a side of justification for the abuser’s actions, or disdain for the victim. Domestic violence crosses every line regardless of money, race, or religion and we need to start treating it like the sickness it is instead of hiding from it. Yes I got out of my marriage, but it was hard and required me to do some things that I’m not proud of even though they saved my life. Luckily I had friends that truly supported me, and now I hope Rihanna (and every other victim) has friends that will stand by them until they can call themselves a survivor and get on with life.

Asking because I honestly want to know

Is Ted Nugent black?

(my reason for asking will become clear soon, I swear.)

If A=B and B=C but C is not equal to A, then… WTF?

Call me a pessimist. As overjoyed as I was to see Obama become our next president (sane! also black. but SANE!), a part of me held back from celebrating with as much abandon as I really wanted to. This is because another part of me, long-bruised and sore, was tensing up, readying itself for another blow. Because, I realized even before Obama won, latent racists everywhere were about to lose their shit. I’m not talking about the Klan, here; they’re actually handling the whole thing pretty well, all things considered. I’m talking about the very white people, and some of the PoC and other members of oppressed groups, who voted for Obama. Who, I suspect, are about to gleefully declare that racism is now dead — whereupon they will immediately say or do something stupidly racist.

Unfortunately, the first direction from which I’ve been hearing this shit-losing stupidity has been from a group with whom I have a great deal of sympathy, especially recently — LGBTQ opponents of California’s reprehensible Proposition 8: the ban on gay marriage. Continue reading

Of History and Hope

There’s a lot of actual political discussion that I’ll bring to the table in the months to come. And I know I’ve been an awful blogger lately (Real life has been hectic and I’ve been piling on other writing projects aside from this blog and my LJ. Because my eyes are bigger than my figurative stomach.) but I just need to say how awesome it is to watch this moment with my 9 year old son. I never imagined that the day would come that a guy that looks like us could actually be the nominee for a major political party. I’m so proud of America today. And yes, I know that this moment doesn’t magically fix any of the existing problems in America, but I’m still so awed to see America come this far. I promise to be eloquent and critical and analytical later. But right now I’m just awed by this moment.

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.

Smarter people than me

Sorry for being quiet lately, ya’ll. I can’t speak for the other guest bloggers at ABW, but for my own part this summer has been insane, and won’t be slowing down for awhile. In part my problem is overcommitment; I’m working full-time while also trying to write full-time (uh… guess I should mention sometime that I got a book deal, huh?), and that’s leaving me just enough leftover time to eat, sleep, and occasionally have a life. So in lieu of writing interesting new content for you myself, I shall direct you to fun stuff I’ve seen in the last few days.

First and foremost: last week was International Blog Against Racism Week (IBARW) 3, this time on the theme of “intersectionality”. (My own humble contribution here.) So if you’re starved for stuff to read here, there’s lots of good stuff to read there, including some personal faves:

And unrelated to IBARW, but still illuminating:

-Brownfemipower on the John Edwards cheating controversy. I’d been dismissing this as yet another attempt by the right and the MSM to handwave a president who’s killed thousands and bankrupted the country by raising the terrifying specter of an almost-president who ::gasp:: got laid, but BFP’s got some really good points here. I’m rethinking my position.

-Gacked from Pam Noles, who gacked from Angry Asian Man, both of whom you should gack this from because it’s just well done; pass it on:


POC and the Politics of Medical Research

Poor, black families used as test subjects for sludge. This was done in the late 90’s. They didn’t tell any of the people in the study what exactly was meant by the term bio-solid, nor did they tell them of the potential health risks. I assume most people are aware of what happened at Tuskegee and that in the aftermath the government took another 25 years to apologize for what had been done to these men and their families. I wonder though if people are aware of the experiments done by Dr. James Marion Sims (acclaimed as the founder of modern gynecology) on females slaves, or by Dr. Orlando Andy using lobotomy on young black males in the 1960’s as a “therapeutic” treatment for institutionalized black children. He wasn’t alone in his beliefs, in fact similar experiments were conducted on adult black males that were incarcerated during the Civil Rights Movement. Funny how this treatment wasn’t considered therapeutic for white criminals.

There was a lot of uproar over Reverend Wright’s comments about AIDS being deliberately engineered by the government, and in the absence of historical knowledge about the U.S. government’s willingness to experiment on POC it does sound far-fetched. But, once you start looking at the treatment of POC in medical experiments you begin to understand why so many POC don’t trust the government to have their best interests in mind. There were several initiatives devoted to the sterilization of WOC. This went on for decades and was done in conjunction with locking away children that were deemed to be “feeble-minded” in an effort to “improve” the population via eugenics.

In fact after the apology was made for the Tuskegee experiment in 1997; it was revealed that children in New York were being used as guinea pigs in a study using a (now) banned diet drug fenfluramine (a component of the infamous Fen-phen) to investigate whether or not brain chemistry could indicate a predisposition toward violence or other criminal behaviors. There was no medical benefit for these children. In fact taking them off the ADD medication they were on in order to perform this experiment could have adversely affected their quality of life.

It would be nice to claim that these abuses are a thing of the past, but there was a range of studies done in at least 7 states through as late as 2005 using HIV infected foster children to test AIDS medication. For some kids the research might indeed have helped them. But there was at least one study where

“…researchers reported a “disturbing” higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug. That study was unable to determine a safe and effective dosage.”

They sought permission to conduct these studies from the local agencies, and then didn’t bother to adhere to even the basic protocol of ensuring that these children had independent advocates to oversee their treatment. They went forth with these experiments even though they knew they were giving them medications that had already proven to be toxic for some adults.

Harriet Washington’s book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present that goes into much greater detail about the individual experiments that she’s been able to uncover, but I’m sure (especially given the most recent example) that there are still experiments being done in America that put the health of POC at risk. That doesn’t even touch on the experiments going on in Third World locations. Does that mean that AIDS was specifically cooked up in a laboratory to infect POC? No. But, the way in which POC have historically been treated as guinea pigs in experiments of dubious scientific value, and the way in which the bodies of COC have been commodified so that even their parents aren’t told of potential risks is enough to make anyone look askance at their government and wonder just what they haven’t been told this time.

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.

How to derail a conversation about race…Step 1

Faced with Pat Buchanan’s recent display of bigoted delusional rhetoric I find myself feeling more than a little overwrought at the idea of discussing race or racism ever again. Frankly I’d much rather nap until America got over itself. But, I can’t resist debunking sentiments like:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

You’ll notice that he’s very careful to avoid talking about the realities of slavery, any historical context for black society in African countries in the past or the present, or things like Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the destruction of black towns that were independent and thriving economically like Rosewood, and the black communities in Springfield and Tulsa. He completely ignores the fact that federal programs like food stamps, TANF, and student loans are all income based with no race specifications., and that affirmative action means that qualified candidates that are not white males get a fair shot. He also ignores the reality that it was black churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals that were funding soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

It’s this deliberate misinformation that bolsters the idea that black people are somehow magically getting ahead without merit, and fosters the resentment you see so often from whites that argue so vociferously against the concept of white privilege and against affirmative action. Never mind that the main beneficiaries of affirmative action have been white women. No, let’s just scream about that one time a POC “stole” a job that you really wanted/needed/preferred and ignore the part where you weren’t entitled to that job above all applicants.

It doesn’t help that even in school the history books skim over what Ida B. Wells, the NAACP, The Black Panthers, the NOI and others were doing in support of the black community. Aside from the actual Civil Rights Movement marches and demonstrations that are discussed, there is very little mention of day to day life in black communities. Nor do those history books discuss life after the Civil Rights Act was signed. There’s no acknowledgement of how slowly things changed or what black people still had to do in the quest for equality. This attitude that black empowerment could only come at the hands of whites is (IMO) a large part of the reason why any honest conversation about racism gets derailed with “Look at what we’ve done for you. Slavery is over. Why are you still so angry?” and other such folderol. As we sit through several more months of campaigning I find myself wondering how much further our country could be right now if the truth was taught in schools, if America was willing to own up to its past, if more people knew that poverty isn’t race specific. Heck, if the same news channel that’s been so focused on twisting snippets of Rev. Wright’s speeches wasn’t also hauling Pat Buchanan out as a political commentator at every turn, then maybe some of America could start having that very important conversation about the realities of racism and its impact on our society. Instead lies, misinformation, myths and a general refusal to look at reality will keep that conversation from going any where further than the same old rut.

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.

Racism in my feminism? You don’t say…

Hillary Clinton: Bow to the man, and take the vice presidency. Let our country heal. You will run in eight years and be unstoppable as a visionary world leader. You must pass through this filter first though: bow to the man.

Now, I’ll bet reading that made you want to reach for a hammer right? You’re thinking “What kind of sexist BS is this?” and possibly questioning my sanity. You’re right. It is sexist and I would sound insane if I were typing something like this with any serious intentions behind it. Of course it would be even more ludicrous if this was actually being widely disseminated and had people agreeing with it, but that’ll never happen right? Right. Except…something like it is being disseminated and people are agreeing with it. The message is a little different though. It actually reads:

“Barack Obama: Bow to the woman, and take the vice presidency. Let our country heal. You will run in eight years and be unstoppable as a visionary world leader. You must pass through this filter first though: bow to the woman.”

and there are people that actually think this racist drivel has some validity. Now, I know at least a few people are thinking “Well it’s Roseanne Barr, who cares what she has to say?” and that’s probably a pretty valid response for most things. But right now she’s actually just voicing the thought a lot of white feminists are harboring as they spout things like “Black men had the vote first” or when they start talking about those pesky brown women putting their skin before their gender and then have the temerity to start trying to chastise us for not operating in sisterhood. She left out the word “white” before woman, but the subtext is there for all the world to see.

Perhaps this is one of those things that hasn’t been made clear in previous years so I’m going to make it clear now. I’m not going to side with a bigot against a black man. I’m not going to side with a bigot against a black woman. In fact? I’m not going to side with a bigot period. SNL had a sketch this week that is (I think) meant to be lampooning Hillary’s desperation, but if you only catch the middle of the sketch? It’s pretty damned racist. And it’s not like this phenomenon is restricted to entertainers. Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, and Robyn Morgan have also weighed in, and in some really ugly ways all while claiming to be looking out for all women. Meanwhile Hillary’s campaign has given them no reason to stop as she can’t even be bothered to say that these tactics are unacceptable. On the contrary, her official campaign has been busy indulging in similar behavior, and then insisting that Obama is playing the race card when there’s even a hint of protest at the egregious displays of race-baiting. Shockingly, racism is visible well before someone sets a cross on fire in the front yard and claiming to mean no offense while repeatedly using bigotry as a campaign tactic isn’t going to fly.

It’s been very clear throughout this election cycle that racism was going to be a factor even as people swore up and down that sexism was worse than racism. There’s this underlying idea that gender and race can be separated and that when people speak of women that umbrella means that all women (regardless of ethnicity) have the same concerns and so in this election getting to see a woman in power is far more important than any other consideration. Yet when you sit down and look at the history of the feminist movement and the transition to women being in the workplace? You’re primarily talking about white women. WOC were already working. Usually in low paying jobs with no future and only a guarantee of the work being physically and emotionally draining. In fact that transition of white women to the workforce took place in large part because white women were able to hand over the care of their children to poor WOC who were shut out of even pink collar jobs for years after white women were free to pursue the dream of having it all.

That same attitude is still prevalent with so many white feminists who are willing to insist that WOC should support this grand achievement while ignoring the reality that putting a bigot (and before someone fires off an angry comment or email insisting Hillary’s background is proof she isn’t racist, think about that old adage with the ducks) in the White House isn’t exactly in the best interests of WOC. Being a feminist doesn’t make you immune to racism, or classism, or any of the other ‘isms that are so frequently discussed in feminist circles. But, it seems to be one of the few ‘isms that is accepted as long as it’s displayed with a (thin) veneer of being about fighting the patriarchy. Look at the rhetoric from Marion Wagner, a regional director of NOW

“The issue that’s not being talked about in this campaign is the blatant sexism,” Wagner said, her words echoing off the granite walls. “There are some people who promote Barack Obama because they want anybody but a woman. Would they like a white man instead of a black man? Of course. But they’ll take a black man over a woman. I never thought, in 2008, that we’d still be dealing with this.”

who then goes on to say that Obama pulling out Hillary’s chair is evidence of his sexism just to make sure we know she’s not upset that he’s a black candidate. Which would sound great if it weren’t for the part of the article where she (like so many other white feminists) is quick to jump on the bandwagon that a vote for Obama from black women couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the issues. No, it’s all about them choosing race over gender which I guess is an easy assumption to make if you can’t be bothered to listen to black women that aren’t willing to follow your lead. After all, it’s not like they have the capacity or the right to think for themselves. Oh wait…

There’s an ever growing gap in the feminist movement, and I’m sure the argument is going to be made that WOC aren’t willing to do what it takes to bridge the gap while ignoring that the prospect of dealing with the internalized racism of so-called allies just isn’t an attractive proposition. It’s not sisterhood if the movement insists on treating WOC alternately like mules, children, or part of the scenery unless it needs their support. Would I like to see a woman in the White House? Sure. But I’d really like that woman to be someone who doesn’t think she has a right to my vote. Who recognizes me as an intelligent person with valid concerns even if they are different from her concerns. Who can grasp the idea that my skin color and my gender are a part of who I am; but they are not all that I am, and thus listening to what I have to say is necessary and important in order to help me achieve MY goals. I want to vote for a female President because I believe in her, not because she’s Miss Daisy.

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.

I see a Swift Boat sinking…

For the last few days I’ve been seeing a lot of spasming about Barack Obama having an easier time of things with reporters because sexism makes them go after Hillary Clinton. Which sounds great as long as you ignore quite a few elephants in the room. Little things like her writing herself a check for $5 million dollars, but then refusing to release her tax returns. Or the reports that a Clinton staffer was in part responsible for the circulation of the Obama is a closet Muslim out to destroy America emails. And of course there’s always the old scandals of Vince Foster and Whitewater. Plus the ongoing controversy over whether or not all the documents from her time as First Lady have been turned over to FOIA requests. There’s the issue of her initial support of NAFTA and what she did during her time spent on Wal-Mart’s board of directors.

And then there’s the question of who she was as a lawyer. Because while it’s true that she was assigned to defend the rapist in question, she specifically chose to go after the 12 year old victim’s credibility as part of an aggressive defense. And before someone jumps on me for ignoring the realities of criminal law I’m not saying she shouldn’t have given her client the best possible defense. But, that doesn’t change how these things all line up when it comes time for Hillary to be vetted as a prospective candidate by the press, the unions, and your average American citizen.

As for the claims that Obama has it easy? Well the only real tie to a scandal that anyone has been able to find is his association with Tony Rezko. And here’s the thing about that scandal, it’s a non-starter because not only has he returned the questionable donations; the media has been digging into the story for months without really finding any wrongdoing. As for the claims circulating in email? Not only has the Muslim link been debunked, but the follow up attacks on him as a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ all seem to be based in some bizarre idea that a black church in a predominately black neighborhood that is focused on strengthening the family and rebuilding the black community is a bad thing.

I know I’ve had several conversations in various places with people who somehow think that black people recognizing that they are black in conversations about the community means they want to kill all the white people. I wonder if anyone has told the white people that attend services at the church that they’re in danger every time they step into the building? And you know I’m not a member, but I’ve attended a few services over the years and thus far I haven’t noticed anyone attempting to bar white people from entering. In fact the friend that first cajoled me to go to a service (I’m a very lapsed semi-Catholic) is a white woman. As far as I know she’s never been scared by any of the topics under discussion in the weekly sermons though she has developed a mildly distressing tendency to break into gospel songs when she’s in a good mood. Meanwhile Obama’s got some security issues and lovely comments from O’Reilly (and some of his supporters) that make it sound like there’s a contingent of people in America that think Michelle Obama being “militantly black” is a reason to lynch her.

Now maybe this is just me, but on the list of things to worry about as a public figure I’d take the talk of gaping security holes and lynching a lot more seriously than whether or not I get the first question in a debate. Personally the longer this campaign lasts the more I find myself thinking that while I want a woman President, I really don’t want *that* woman to be President. And while I’m not one to say never; I can say with some certainty that I’m not likely to vote for Condoleeza Rice if she decides to run for office either. It’s not about gender or race for me and a lot of voters in America. It’s about the issues. It’s about character. In essence I’m looking at who I think will do the best job for our country, and as the weeks go by I find myself feeling that only one of the three candidates on the table is a person I can comfortably vote for in the general election.

Your mileage may vary and that’s fine, but please look at the facts and the issues before screaming sexism is the only reason that Hillary is an unpopular candidate with a lot of voters. Personally I’m a news junkie with a memory that could shame an elephant and all I can see when I look at the candidates is their platforms and their background. All the rest of this folderol? It’s mudslinging, lies, and questionable tactics and has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a candidate is the right person for the job. Don’t be fooled by the same tactics that brought down the Kerry campaign. You’re smarter than that and we all deserve better than this idea that we’re too blind to see the elephants in the room.

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 (including a copy of this one) can be found at her Livejournal.


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