This shit. Again.

May 3, 2011

Yes, I am breaking my hiatus for this shit.

And I’m going to do the white feminists who may read this an extra-special and exceedingly rare favor:

I’m going to bite back some of my anger, my disgust, and my dismay. Just for this post. I’m going to play your game. And not because I think it will do any good (I don’t).

But. I’ll do it this once. Here goes:

When people complain about “call-out culture,” that reminds me strongly of when people complain about others being “too politically correct.” The complaint almost always comes from those who have the most privilege, the most institutional power, the biggest voices (in terms of being taken seriously by society at large). And they are almost always complaining about those with the lesser amount of privilege, the lesser amount of power, the smallest voice.

The excuses that I hear for why those who call out others should be dismissed are rather similar in both situations: “They just want to feel like a better person, they LIKE making mountains out of molehills, they just want to spoil our fun!”

The excuses that I hear for why those who are called out made the mistakes that they did are likewise similar: “I didn’t know, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t have time.”

And when those who have been hurt insist on having their hurt recognized (which sometimes means they let their anger show), then the Big Voices say things like “We’re all in this together, your anger is silencing me, kumbayah!”

“Silence” is a loaded word. Marginalized people do not use their marginalization to “silence” others. In fact, reality bears the exact opposite is true.

When people in a position of power tell those who do not share their power that there is a limited “correct” way to express anger at being marginalized, the conversation becomes about How Marginalized People Say Things (And How That Harshes Our Squee) rather than What Marginalized People Say.

People. This is 101 level, Derailing for Dummies shit.

If someone approaches you about an axis of oppression that they are vulnerable to and that you can only daydream about, give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume that when someone says “I feel hurt and excluded” that they decided to speak up because they feel hurt and excluded. If a marginalized person lashes out and hurts your feelings, take a breath and then think about WHAT they said rather than HOW they said it. They might not necessarily be right. But honestly? They probably are.

This notion that marginalized people are causing a rift in feminism (or whatever anti-ism space) and that things would improve if only we’d swallow our anger (how is that NOT a tone argument, by the way?) has got to fucking go.

Accountability

November 19, 2010

Yesterday I witnessed some Twitter drama go down between four women that I follow. One of them made a statement about men, women, and domestic violence, and another woman called her out for trans erasure. Everything went to shit very quickly after that. Some nasty slurs were tossed about from the woman who had been privilege-checked to the other three.

I was stunned. The woman who used the slurs is a mother of color and a lactivist, like me. She’s got a blog with a much larger following than this one, and she spoke at the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association Conference – something that I was sorry to have missed when I couldn’t make it to the conference.

A dozen of the anti-oppression activists who follow me also follow this woman. People who blog regularly about oppression, marginalization, privilege-denying dude, and derailing for dummies. People who have no qualms about calling out folks who are not familiar with the dynamics of privilege and oppression quickly, loudly, and forcefully. People who pride themselves in their activism.

None of these people said a goddamn thing.

So what is this, then? What the fuck are we doing here? We bloviate on and on about how we’re gonna change this and that and the other fucking thing, and the importance of words and their impact on how we perceive the world around us, and the necessity of privilege checks, and blahfuckingblah. And when a stranger says something fucked up, we pounce on them like a trap snapping tightly over a mouse. But when our own fuck up, we look the other way? We don’t say shit? We give them a pass, why? Because we’re afraid that they might stop linking to our fucking blogs?

Personally, I feel like I’m at a crossroads. I started blogging, and then I started getting noticed by like-minded bloggers, and it was all very exciting and warm and fuzzy. But by saying something about this, I may be cutting myself off from those people. A large part of me doesn’t want that, at all. And another part of me wants exactly that, if this is the way it’s gonna be.

I get it. It’s hard to say this shit to your friends. To people you admire. To someone you wanted to meet in person someday. It hurts, it makes you sick to your stomach, you wonder if it’s even worth it. But if it’s not worth it to dig your heels in and say “No, that’s wasn’t right” in your own house, then what the fuck gives anyone the license to do it anywhere else?

This whole situation is so fucked.

Link Love

November 17, 2010

Couple steals immigrant’s child, declares “Finders, keepers!”*

But in any event, if you want somebody else’s kid it’s a good idea to maintain possession.  That way, you can claim that it isn’t in the child’s best interest to be taken away from the only home he knows.  Like when kids grow up in orphanages, that’s the only life they’ve known.

And of course it isn’t in a child’s best interest to take him out of an English-speaking household and place him in a Spanish-speaking household.  Because it’s too traumatic.  So people should never be allowed to move to other countries.  And children should not be adopted by parents who don’t speak their birth language.

*They didn’t actually say that. But that’s what the defense boils down to.

I Am HIV Positive and I Don’t Blame Anybody – Including Myself:

It is irresponsible to just tell people to use condoms without acknowledging that conditions like poverty, patriarchy and homophobia play roles in the so-called risks we all take. Even with people who have seemingly escaped these broader contexts—say, a working-middle class white man such as myself—stigma can prevail. Stigma that is produced by homophobia and general ignorance, yes, but also by American society’s desperate need to discipline and punish, to affix blame on individuals rather than confront the systems in which individuals live. So the AIDS epidemic becomes a challenge of personal responsibility rather than a damning indictment of global public health. That personal responsibility, however, is tricky: I bore no responsibility for the epidemic, until I had HIV, when it became entirely my problem.

Abagond describes The Teflon Theory of American History:

The Teflon Theory of American History says that anything that took place over 30 years ago is Ancient History. It has Absolutely No Effect on the present. Or not much. Unless it was something good like the light bulb or the Declaration of Independence. Therefore those who make a big deal of the bad stuff in the past, like slavery, are Living in the Past and need to Get Over It.

Can’t Get Enough

November 16, 2010

Eve’s ability to communicate with us, both verbally and non-verbally, has exploded recently. Her spoken vocabulary includes: Yes, No, Thank you, Uh oh, Come here, and Stop it. As for non-verbal vocab, she has recently started signing Sleep, Change (as in diaper change), All done, and her super duper favorite: More.

Eve loves to have more. She asks for more while sitting in the high chair. She asks for more while running around the living room. She asks for more while nursing. She asks for more in her sleep (and if you haven’t seen my chubby-cheeked toddler mash her fists together while simultaneously making her Completely Unconscious Face* you are missing out).

Sometimes – well, okay, most times – I don’t know what she’s asking me for more of. More Cheerios? More tickling? More cuddles? I have no idea. I ask her of course, to confirm what exactly it is that she wants, but she hasn’t learned how to tell me that just yet. But it’s coming. I know that it’s coming.

This stage in her life is nothing short of amazing to me. Of course, she’s been communicating with us since the day that she was born, but the past week has found our ability to speak to each other on a completely new and exciting level. She understands far, far more than she can say with either her hands or mouth: she knows who her PopPop and Mama are (my parents), she knows who her Uncle Footrest is (my brother – his name is not actually Footrest; there’s a story behind that nickname), she knows what her shoes and socks are and that they go on her feet, she knows that her arms – and not her feet – go into the sleeves of her coat.

All very small things, of course. But I remember when she knew of nothing but milk and warmth and darkness, and the sound of my husband’s voice. I’ve been there to witness every change, every learned thing, every developmental step. Watching my child grow and change has been like watching a house be built, brick by brick, step by step, one nail after the next. I can’t help but know and love the minute details because I remember the person that she was, before those minute details started to build the person that she is.

Lately she has been testing her (and our) boundaries. She pretty much blatantly ignores us 95% of the time when we tell her not to something (which is almost always something that she has never been allowed to do and is fully aware is not something she is allowed to do – like standing on the couch or throwing her uncle’s DVDs on the floor). We’re doing our best to be calm and consistent. She’s doing her best to be…well, herself.

And I’m okay with that. I love her self.

*For some reason, her lips stick out quite profoundly while she is asleep. She already has very thick lips thanks to Marcus and me, and while she is unconscious this feature is particularly and adorably exaggerated.

Eve’s First Day In Church

November 15, 2010

We attended the baptism of my friend’s son today. None of us were particularly enthusiastic about going, but it seemed to be really important to my friend (which surprised me, considering the fact that he’s an avowed agnostic).

The last time I was attended church was a Midnight Mass some four or five years ago*. My family was never Catholic, but my brother and I both attended Catholic school until college, so that’s the kind of church that I’m most familiar with.

This Catholic church was unlike any other that I had ever attended. Unlike the churches of my youth, which were predominantly white, this one had an entirely black choir and a 99% black congregation. The priest was white, but he was very much in the minority. There was one mural depicting a black Jesus as well as another one depicting a black Mary and Joseph holding a little brown baby. There were two different sets of the stations of the cross on the walls; one that had obviously been a part of the original architecture (white Jesus) and one that looked much newer (black Jesus). The stained glass windows all featured nothing but white saints and Jesuses and children.

It was pretty cool, actually, to be in a church with a fair representation of other-than-white religious figures. The vast majority of churches I have been in, including the ones with predominantly black congregations, only feature white Jesuses. It was a nice change.

Eve was about as well-behaved as a toddler can be in a room full of loud energetic strangers. I nursed her and she did everything she could to expose my entire breast to the whole church. She babbled loudly and asked for more cheerios (too bad we didn’t have any). She accidentally hit a stranger while flailing around in my brother’s arms. She did wonderfully, I think.

It being a baptism, the homily was about the responsibility of parents to raise their children to know God. I only half-listened, and did what I always do in church – marvel at the architecture. I tried not to think about what the people around me would say if they knew that Marcus and I were non-believers, and that were raising our daughter as one too.

All in all, it was an all right way to spend an early Sunday afternoon. The possibility of regularly attending a Unitarian Universalist church crossed my mind again; I do really love the community aspect of church attendance, even if I disagree vehemently with the dogma. I’m very much still building a village for my child, and even as an atheist I haven’t ruled out the possibility of adding the right congregation to that village.

*Edited to add: I just realized that the last time was actually when I was heavily pregnant with Eve; I attended my friend’s wedding, which was fascinating to me as I’d never seen a Catholic wedding service.

What Kind Of Justice Is This?

November 9, 2010

Many of you might already know this, especially if you keep up with anti-racist news, but here it is anyway:

Oscar Grant’s killer received the minimum sentence for shooting an unarmed man in the back – AND he got double credit for time served, meaning that he’ll be eligible for parole in mere months.

There’s really nothing else I can say about this right now. It hurts my heart too much.

WHAT?!

November 5, 2010

I took a mental health day today. Rather than spending another day moping at work looking all sad, I decided to take a day to do some of my lactation studies, prepare myself for the workshop I’ll be participating in this weekend, and just reset my brain and attitude into a place that wasn’t weepy or self-pitying. I wanted to be able to go to work Monday feeling more like my usual self.

I just got a call from my would-have-been boss. She apparently set up a meeting with Human Resources and her own boss, and they all worked out a solution that benefits everyone and still [mostly] abides by the rules. They’re going to repost the job under a different job title, and HR has said that as long as I apply for it, it’s mine – I don’t even have to interview again. My future boss is going to be calling my current boss on Monday to give her a heads-up and let her know that I’ll be leaving my current team.

I am absolutely fucking floored that this has happened, and I feel awesome about the fact that my future boss fought for me long after I thought that everything was done.

I was not expecting such good news late on a Friday. What an emotionally exhausting fucking week. How has everyone else’s week been?

Why I Don’t Have A Degree

November 4, 2010

When I was in sixth grade, I remember sitting in class while the teacher talked to us about our futures – about college, to be specific. My classmates were discussing how much money they had in their college funds, and about how much of their birthday/confirmation/Christmas/Easter money their parents made them deposit into their funds. I felt left out, not only because I didn’t get money from my family for holidays – many of my relatives were too busy scraping by and coping with substance addictions for that – but I didn’t know how much money was in my college fund. Was it a thousand? Five hundred? Five thousand? How much money had my folks put away for me?

That night I asked my parents how much money they had saved up for my college tuition, and they laughed at me. When they told me that there was no college fund, and that the only way I’d make it to college would be if I earned a full scholarship, I felt like I had swallowed a stone. My stomach felt so heavy. It was only then that I first started to realize just how poor my family was compared to the others…but that’s a story for another day.

As a senior in high school, I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t particularly excited or stressed out about college. Unlike my friends, who applied to several schools, I only sent in my application to one: a local HBCU. I chose that school solely for the fact that I knew I could get a scholarship there.

And I did. My scholarship covered books, tuition, fees, room, and board. The only thing I had to pay for was parking.

I spent my first year in college in an abusive relationship with a man who I had been dating since we were both 16. It never reached the physical level of abuse, fortunately, but the mental and emotional abuse was bad enough. We went to colleges in different states, but the distance made no difference. He accused me of cheating on him every other day and threatened to kill me just about as often.

After that relationship ended, I spiraled into a depression. Depression was nothing new to me. I’ve struggled with it since I was a child; the first time I started seriously contemplating suicide, I was in fifth grade.

I don’t really know how depression is for other people, but for me it is like being lost in a fog. It lowers over me against my will, and the only way I know how to cope with it is to just HOLD ON until it has lifted. Sometimes it takes months to lift. Most of the time it has taken years. As I’ve grown older, the gaps between depressive episodes have tended to last years rather than months or weeks, which is something that I am very grateful for.

So the fog fell over me in my first year of college, and it stayed with me for over two years. It was one of the worst depressive episodes of my entire life. I fantasized about killing myself during every waking moment. I thought about buying a gun but I didn’t know where I would get the money. I wanted to open my head. Either by shooting it open or bashing it against the ground at high speed or…it didn’t even matter. I just wanted to open my head. Every moment of every day was a literal struggle to keep myself alive. I had nightmares every time I slept. I would go three or four days without sleeping, not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t turn off my brain. For over two years, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to die.

There are people who read this blog who knew me back then, and I’m not sure if they had any idea what I was going through. I left school early in my second year. I didn’t care about class, about my scholarship, about anything. I just wanted to die.

My parents were mad at me for a long time after I left school. I didn’t tell them what was going on until the fog began to lift, and when I did tell them, they accused me of lying, of making excuses, of making up bullshit. This is despite the fact that I had a history of depression and suicidal ideation (and at least one suicide attempt that *they* knew about). They just don’t understand it.

So here I am, almost a decade later, without a degree. My parents still shit-talk me very occasionally for dropping out of school, and my coworkers always seem surprised when they learn I never graduated; I suppose I just seem like the type of person to have a college degree, whatever kind of person that is.

You’d think that I would feel sorry for doing what I did, especially since it has cost me a job that I really wanted and has locked me out of countless other work opportunities, but I don’t. I’m just glad to still be alive, to have made it this far.

Oh HELL No!

November 3, 2010

I had a shitty day yesterday. A really shitty day. I was the chosen candidate for a job in a department that I’ve wanted to work in for years, and after being 95% positive that it was mine, everything I’d hoped for was slammed to shit when the Human Resources representative decided, after accepting my application and making me go through two interviews, and despite the fact that I am 110% qualified for the position and that the department heads really want me for the job, that my lack of a degree meant that I could not have the job. WHY they actually made me go through the entire process (and eliminate every other candidate), waste my time, and get my hopes up when they knew from the start that they would never hire me is a question that I’ve been asking myself again and again. Two months ago the position didn’t require a degree (because in reality, the job REALLY isn’t rocket surgery), and then one of the higher-ups arbitrarily decided that it does, and HR won’t budge on it.

So. Job that I’ve always wanted is apparently out of my reach forever. I cried on the way to pick up Eve from daycare, and then I cried on the way to the polls once I had her. I had already been feeling rather apathetic about voting, but at that point, all I wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed with my baby, defeated.

I made myself go, and in retrospect, I’m damned glad that I did. There was a line due to the after-work rush, and after waiting twenty minutes I informed the judges that I had just moved to the neighborhood and would need a provisional ballot. They pointed me to another table that didn’t have a line (dammit, if only I’d said something earlier!) where a young woman stood talking to one of the election judges.

They looked at me as I walked up and I said, “I just moved here.” The other woman responded, “Me too, we’re new to the neighborhood.” The judge continued talking to the woman, going into a lengthy explanation about filling out the form for the provisional ballot, then how to fill out the ballot itself, then what to do afterwards and how to get information after the election about her ballot and whether it had been counted. The woman took her ballot and went to some nearby tables to vote, and then it was my turn to talk to the judge.

I repeated what I’d said before: “I just moved here.”

She looked at me for a moment, frowned, and then said, “Your ballot probably won’t be counted.”

“I’d like to cast a provisional ballot,” I told her.

“I don’t think it will count,” she repeated.

“I came here knowing that I would need to fill out a provisional ballot. I understand that it might not count.”

“Well,” she said slowly, “if you feel like filling out all that paperwork…”

“Yes,” I told her. “I do.”

I don’t know what her definition of “all that paperwork” was, but it surely didn’t match mine. I filled out a short form asking such complicated information as my name, address, and party affiliation (Independents represent!). The ballot itself took five minutes to fill out with a pencil, and the judge did not give me any information about who to contact if I wanted to find out if my vote counted. In fact, she didn’t say much of anything to me at all after I made it clear to her that I was indeed going to exercise my right to vote, regardless of whether or not she thought it would count.

I can’t say for sure that I know what that encounter was about, but I have a hunch. The election judge was white, and the young woman that she helped so graciously – who was also new to the neighborhood, same as me – was white. I don’t know what went through her head when she saw me, a young black woman with a baby squirming on her hip, that made her decide to bend over backwards to explain the uselessness of my presence at the poll and discourage me, albeit passively, from voting.

I’m glad to say that I voted yesterday, even if only because it put a frown on that woman’s face.

I Don’t Want To Vote Today

November 2, 2010

But I will. Eve and I are going to bundle up (it’s COLD) and make the short walk down to the poll, where she will watch me cast my ballot. I plan to vote with my child by my side for years to come. Our foremothers fought and died for our right to suffrage, and I want to start teaching my daughter about the electoral process and her place in it before she is even old enough to speak.

I’m voting even though I don’t want to because there are many people who don’t even have the option. There are too many folks who are locked out of the process by various axes of oppression: youth, immigrants, people with disabilities, homeless folks, the list goes on.

I’m going to vote for an asshole, because he’s the least assholish of the bunch. I feel betrayed, ignored, and bewildered by my options. I feel like the choice before me is between eating a shit sandwich or sipping shit soup; and the fact that I have a choice at all in this pathetic state of affairs is an unearned privilege.

Get out there and do your part, friends. May the least dangerous and profit-driven candidate win.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.