Posts Tagged ‘racism’

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.

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.


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.


October 29, 2010

When I was in high school, a group of my friends and I decided to attend the local Renn Fest. I had never been before, but it sounded like fun, and I was pretty excited about it. To make the day extra fun, my very white friends decided to go whole hog and dress up in high-class Renaissance era garb.

I was the only brown face amongst the group, and I did not have any desire to dress up in European clothing. Instead, I selected some fabric with an “African” design on it from the “ethnic” section of Joann’s Fabrics, and my friend’s mother sewed it into a simple dress with a matching head wrap. I also had a black sash with some kind of gold filigreed design in the middle of it, and at some point I bought a large peacock feather and carried it around with me for the rest of the day.

The whole ensemble was a bastardization of what I supposed was my ancestors’ culture. Every single aspect of the costume was picked because it “looked African,” which meant that they satisfied the requirements for the stereotypical African monolith, a dark continent with no distinguishable differences between cultural practices, beliefs, and norms. I felt so disconnected from my own roots, so lost and ignorant of my past; but still so desperate to know and recognize my own cultural heritage that even the cultural equivalent of a fucking clown costume satisfied me.

I felt proud of that costume, and I got a lot of compliments for it, from white and black folks alike. Now I look back with embarrassment. If the person I am today had seen that teenaged girl at the Renn Fair, dressed in clothing that so fully satisfied the white gaze, surrounded by her white friends, I would not compliment her. I would feel sorry for her loss, for her desperation, for the hole in her heart.

I still feel that loss today. I have to wonder if that hole will ever heal for me, and for all of us.

Link Love: Trans* Health Care, Bisexuality, and Forced Sterilization

October 27, 2010

Spread the love, ya’ll.

New Report Shows Trans* People Experience Huge Gaps in Health Care Access (emphasis below is mine):

…the final bullet bears special mention, in light of the recent media attention on the high suicide rate for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth that has almost entirely ignored the suicide epidemic among trans* youth. An attempted suicide rate over 25 times higher than the general population is profoundly distressing, and points rather strongly to systemic discrimination harassment, and huge gaps in health care, including mental health care.

Bisexuality, Binarism, And Why Everyone Has It Wrong:

What happens is, instead of recognizing that biphobia is actually a form of monosexism and bisexuality one simple form of polysexuality, bisexuality replaces polysexuality as the label for non monosexual orientations and biphobia is equated to polysexuality. This erasure is destructive to these other sexualities and centers bisexuality as the only polysexual option beyond pansexuality (which many bisexuals even approach in a bigoted fashion) which creates binarism within bisexuality.

So people on both of the major sides of this debate on bisexuality and binarism are both engaging in binarism, cissexism, erasure and are just flat out wrong. Bisexuality doesn’t enforce the binary and cissexism, the erasing way it is used to mean polysexual, the way essentialism is spilled into it and the way it is policed to only be about men and women does.

Report Shows HIV-positive Women in Chile Forcibly Sterilized, Denied Medical Treatment:

During the first trimester of her pregnancy, Julia began experiencing an orange-colored vaginal discharge. Concerned, she went to the hospital to have it checked out. Instead of treating her, however, hospital workers turned her away and told her to return for her regularly scheduled check-up. She was admitted to the hospital three days later, hemorrhaging and with severe abdominal pain, but she still sat untreated while the hospital staff attended all the HIV-negative patients first, including those who arrived after Julia. Her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage shortly thereafter, and a paramedic told her, “‘It is because God knows, because you were going to have a sick child.’”

Race and Birth Activism

October 13, 2010

Jill from The Unnecesarean posted this sobering slideshow about racism and its effects on the lives of black women and their babies. Black women are much more likely than other races to go into labor early, and their babies are more than twice as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday. This is true even when controlling for socioeconomic status, maternal smoking, and dozens of other factors.

The conclusion drawn from these studies is that the racism that black women face is responsible for the disparity.

That’s not a shocker to me. Racism kills people of color. My desire to dismantle the racial hierarchy that we live in does not stem from some hippy we-are-the-world type of philosophy; it’s because racism murders people of color. So when people say things like “I’m not really an anti-racist, I don’t see what the big deal is,” what I hear is “I don’t care whether people of color live or die.”

Jill’s post was excellent, but the comment section was, predictably, full to the brim with fail. Here are some snippets:

I am not buying it. It really comes off as flashing the race card…You never even listed reasons for these babies to die. Did they die in that first year due to child abuse? Improper care? Murder? Domestic abuse? Malnutrition?

As Tim Wise has said, what kind of a card is race? Also, racism doesn’t kill babies. Black mothers (who are apparently abusive, murderous, and neglectful) kill babies.

I truly hope that it turns out to be something a little more controllable than the nebulous “racism.”

The definition of nebulous is “lacking definite form or limits; vague.” Doesn’t sound like racism fits the bill to me.

I am a mom who was pregnant with a visible disability. If you want to talk about interpersonal stress, it would seem women with disabilities would have to deal with that at least as much as black women

Oppression Olympics: bingo!

The entire conversation was more than a little disheartening for me, as an aspiring health care professional. My future colleagues are going to be overwhelmingly white, and thus many will be happily unaware of their racial privilege. What are they going to say when I, a woman of color, speak up about the racial disparity in breastfeeding rates and outcomes? I want to help black parents breastfeed; I feel that as a black woman and lactivist, that it is my obligation to help identify and address the obstacles that black parents face when they choose to nurse their children. And I want to make sure that black parents have a choice in the first place.

Will addressing these concerns earn me the label of racemonger, of a woman who plays the “race card” in order to gain some intangible benefit? I’m sure it will, and I do not look forward to it. But I intend to put myself out there anyway, because racism is killing little brown babies like mine.

I think commenter Heather said it best on Jill’s blog:

Holy crap. Much of this comment thread is like a cross between racism bingo and Derailment for Dummies.

Yep, that pretty well covers it.

Turnabout and Fair Play

September 16, 2010

I know that I’m not the only one who wishes she could respond to ignorance more quickly and with more cleverness.

All too often the only response I have to someone (this is in meat-space, mind you; I feel pretty satisfied with my online responses to jackassery) is a shocked look, a stammer, or a mumble. Despite the fact that I SHOULDN’T be surprised at someone’s rudeness, I frequently am. And it’s not because I didn’t know that people could be such jerks; it’s just that I rarely expect that level of upfront rudeness until it’s smacked me in the face. And then even after it’s happened, in the moments afterward I wonder if I could simply be taking it the wrong way. I wonder first if there’s something wrong with ME rather than THEM.

While we were on vacation last month, a strange white woman started cooing at Eve, who was toddling about in her little blue peace sign flip flops. She asked her in a high-pitched lilting voice, “Can I take you home with me?” I personally think it’s weird to ask to take home someone’s kid, even jokingly, but enough of my friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers have done it by now that I figure it’s normal enough. So I didn’t mind that; in fact, I was smiling because Eve was smiling at the woman.

Then things got genuinely bizarre. The woman added, “You want to come home with me? Do you want to do my dishes? How about wash my laundry?” My mouth dropped open, Eve just smiled at her, and before I even had time to fully process the fact that this white woman had pretty much just asked my black child if she wanted to be her domestic servant, the woman had already turned tail and disappeared.

In mere seconds, the interaction had gone from casually friendly to racially fucked and I said nothing to defend my child. My brain was still going “Wha-?” as the woman’s back turned, and by the time she was gone, I was already questioning myself and doing whatever mental acrobatics I needed to do to convince myself that THAT HADN’T REALLY HAPPENED.

I’ve never been very good at defending myself against the microaggressions that I receive from whites. Most of the time it happens too quickly for me to process and respond, and the times that it isn’t, I’m not able to just flippantly tell the jerk about hirself. Every time it happens, I must weigh the consequences of my possible responses, because people of color do not have the option of standing up for themselves without paying a price. Sometimes I deem that it’s worth it: I won’t get fired, hauled into HR, thrown out of the organization, or blacklisted in my field for speaking up or speaking out.

Most of them time I decide that it’s not worth it. I could say something, but I don’t, because I need this job, I enjoy this organization, I really want to work with the local lactivists even though they’re overwhelmingly white and therefore bound to sideswipe me with their privilege.

I don’t think that it makes me a bad person, choosing not to fight those battles. But I do wonder if it makes me a bad mother.

I don’t actually think of myself as a bad mom, for the record. I just can’t help but wonder how many times the damage to Eve caused by my inaction outweighs the perceived benefits to myself.

Lactivism Is Not Work For Whites Only

August 18, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, my super long-term goal is to start a nonprofit that provides marginalized parents with lactation guidance in a safe, diverse, and accommodating environment. While the populations I have in mind include trans and gender queer folks, non-hetero folks, and teens, I also intend to help racial minorities.

One of the things that has consistently disappointed me in my recent search for lactation books, materials, and swag is the overwhelming whiteness of it all. Searching Etsy for handmade breastfeeding art brings up jewelry and artwork that is full of white women; browsing CafePress and Zazzle for ridiculously overpriced breastfeeding t-shirts likewise does the same. Even the textbooks and study guides that I will eventually need for my lactation internship, such as The Breastfeeding Atlas, Clinical Lactation: A Visual Guide, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, and Counseling: The Nursing Mother all have covers featuring white babies, pink nipples, or women without even a touch of kink in their hair. [The cover of The Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice is one of the rare exceptions, although I will note that unlike the more modern style of the other books, this cover features a pre-industrial illustration of a non-white nursing dyad, which is slightly dodgy considering the all-too-common tendency to depict POCs as if we’re all stuck in a time warp.]

While I do understand that authors do not have total (and sometimes any) control over the art that goes on their books (for example, check out the feathers that were understandably ruffled over the cover of Liar, a young adult novel told from the point of view of a black girl that features a white girl on the US version of the cover – because according to the publisher, books with black faces on them “don’t sell”), I still can’t help but feel slighted by the racial homogeneity of these books that will be some of my most important resources in the next year (and for my entire career beyond that).

I do not ever, as a general rule, buy or wear swag (such as buttons, t-shirts, etc) that depicts only white skin, and I do not buy those things for Eve either. Because of this, I have to really look to find images of non-white breastfeeding advocacy swag, and have to stick to text-only or non-racial iconic artwork if I can’t find anything else. It’s not that I don’t find such images and art beautiful because they are white – to the contrary, some of the artwork I’ve found almost hurts me with their beauty.

But I will not support artists who do not support brown lactivists, brown mothers, or brown children. And if it has never crossed an artist’s or mother’s or lactivist’s mind that not everyone will identify with a pinkly-nipped white woman, then they are obviously so deeply steeped in their ignorance and privilege that I cannot support them with my hard-earned dollars – and I am especially not going to wear images that erase my very existence on my own person. I refuse to accept whiteness as default, as the norm, or as the ideal image of the nursing dyad.

Fortunately, there are other women of color out there who are fighting the good fight. Elita from Blacktating asked recently, “Where are the images of black mothers?” and the answer was quite disappointing:

Take a look at Nestle’s Baby Milk website. The first thing you see are two images of women of color, a mom who appears to be black and another who is Asian. When you get to the main content page all you see is black women and babies…

Compare that with La Leche League’s magazine, New Beginnings, where I was unable to find any pictures of black women breastfeeding in the recent issues. The seminal breastfeeding organization in the world, the go-to folks for breastfeeding information, and no images of black women.”

Elita is also one of the presenters for this year’s National Seminar sponsored by the Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association. I wish I could go, but alas, I am in another state – and the seminar is being held on a damn Monday, to boot.

Also holding it down for nursing black moms (who have the lowest nursing rates among all races) is the blog Black Women Do Breastfeed, which features an adorable close-up of a black baby happily nomming on a black breast at the top of the page.

Finally, allow me to share white anti-oppression blogger Arwyn’s letter to white lactivists who kinda suck at race.

Mumbling and Grumbling

July 22, 2010

Today, a white coworker, R, was griping to me about L, another coworker, who is black. L really doesn’t like R and doesn’t try to hide it. When R asked her a question about something work-related, L kept mumbling the response and forcing R to repeat the question. Every time R repeated herself, L got more and more agitated and continued to mumble the answer. It was an understandably irritating situation.

When R told me about this, she added, “I was tempted to tell her to stop pulling that black shit on me.”

I honestly thought that I hadn’t heard her correctly, and in response to my confused look, she added, “Black people do that shit on purpose. They mumble. You know how you can’t understand what they’re saying when you go through the drive-through? A janitor told my mom that they mumble that shit on purpose.”

I really really wish that white people would stop thinking of me as their Honorary So-Intelligent-That-She’s-Not-Really-Black-So-I-Can-Unload-All-My-Racist-Bullshit-And-She-Will-Agree-With-Me Negro Friend. She talked to me, a black woman that she has known for years, about black people and what “they” do and why “they” do it, as if I weren’t actually a part of the group that she is stereotyping and disparaging.

I am not white. I am NOT white. I AM NOT WHITE. So don’t fucking pull that shit on me!

Oh, and to state the obvious: When a black person does something obnoxious, it’s because they’re black and they’re just pulling “that black shit.” It’s never because they, as an individual, are obnoxious. It’s because black people do shit that is obnoxious (and she knows! because a janitor somewhere told her mom! so it must be true!).

I’m fucking ready for my vacation.

Oscar Grant Lives Here

July 11, 2010

I can’t stop seeing his face.

I can’t stop thinking about him, or the child that he left behind, or the friends and strangers that watched him die. I hear his mother’s words – “My son was murdered” – over and over like a hymn, and I hear Tony Pirone screaming “Bitch ass nigger!” at him again and again before the bullet entered Oscar’s back, came out the front of his body, ricocheted against the platform that he had been restrained on, and re-entered his body only to lodge in his lung.

I hear the shocked split-second of silence in the train station, before the people watching and recording the execution on their cell phones start to scream.

Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a jury that did not include even a single black face, for shooting a prone unarmed 22-year-old man in the back. He may serve as little as two years.

The news itself was distressing enough, but I am sick with the discourse that has occurred in its aftermath. The hurt, the rage, and the fear that we feel over the killing of another one of our sons has been dismissed, minimized, ignored. I’m sick with the derailing and the strawmanning and the arrogance. I am sick of white people telling me that they understand why I’m frustrated when they can’t possibly fucking know what this feels like.

A black woman called Mehserle a murderer and a white man said, “I don’t think you can call it murder.” So she responded, “Fine, then. It’s not a murder, it’s a fucking genocide.”

And that is exactly what it feels like. Black men are dying in the streets and in execution chambers, black women are dying of AIDS, black children are dying in their homes, black babies are dying less than a year after their birth. We die and there is no justice served, no peace given to our families. We die and are told that we brought it upon ourselves. We die because too many people consider us subhuman, undeserving of compassion, unworthy of consideration, primitive, beastly. We die because too many whites still see our bodies as their property, to be used for their gain and profit without regard for our lives or the health of our communities. We die as Oscar Grant died, with hatred and contempt ringing in our ears.

Oscar Grant lives here with me.

Oscar Grant is my husband. I look at him and I see a nerd, a lover, an artist, a father. Others look at him and they see a threat, a hulking black mass just waiting to wreak havoc.

Oscar Grant is my brother. He may be a member of the police force but that is not enough to keep him safe. He carries his weapon on his person more often than not, even in plainclothes. When police see a white man with a gun, they think that he may be a perp, a cop, or a man exercising his rights and they act accordingly. When they see a black man with a gun, all they see a criminal. Black cops are killed by white cops because it doesn’t occur to white cops that a strange black man can be a just black man.

Oscar Grant is my father. Oscar Grant is my baby nephew. Oscar Grant is my childhood friend. Oscar Grant is my classmate. Oscar Grant is every black man and boy and baby, so vulnerable to persecution, prosecution, execution. Oscar Grant is food for the machine: the prison-industrial complex that profits off of his incarceration; the tv news anchor who gleefully reports on his deviance; the white father who warns his daughter that he is by nature a horny raping beast; the politician who cements his disenfranchisement into law by taking away his right to vote for the rest of his life.

 Johannes Mehserle gave Oscar Grant a public execution. It was Tony Pirone who made it a lynching.