Stop Wasting Space.

I left a fantastic meeting this morning feeling energized and ready to take on the world.. and then something happened.

Rachel Dolzeal happened. IN OMAHA.

 

The buzz on my social media was that the woman was here in Omaha for an event that was funded and heavily attended by, at least in part by UNMC personnel. I was floored that anyone would think that inviting that woman to an event in any capacity would be a good idea. I put out a call-to-action for details on the event.

The event organizer, a Dr. Renaisa Anthony, spoke out and told us her life story before finally explaining her motivation on Facebook.

“An Intimate Dinner Discussion on Race, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity through the Eyes of Rachel Dolezal” was MY “non-traditional” approach to starting the conversation about the importance and relevance of RIDE at UNMC. As Ghandi says “we must be the change we want to see in the world.” For our purposes, we must start in our own backyard in order to achieve health equity. The private, invitation only dinner discussion hosted by me….was NOT and IS NOT about Rachel Dolezal…but about leveraging a polarizing figure that made national headlines (mostly because of RACE) in 2015…as the first platform to foster a frank and candid dialogue about topics that are not commonly discussed at a predominately White academic medical center but are easily identified as major contributors to disparate health outcomes and life experiences. The name “Rachel Dolezal” brought various leaders, faculty, students, staff and partners to the table to discuss our current RIDE environment at UNMC. To give voice to what has been silent for too long. “Rachel Dolezal”…the woman…the name…the controversy was the catalyst that brought the necessary people literally to the dinner table.”

 

I think this is where I’d insert that common colloquialism about ancestors turning over in their graves if we were talking face-to-face. As it is, it feels like my skin is drying up just reading all this ashiness.

But before we start the deconstruction let’s chat about this RIDE program. I love these kinds of initiatives, because they need to happen. We need to have these conversations in every industry, in every community, in boardrooms and patient rooms and restaurants and stores and police stations and city council meetings and literally everywhere in Omaha.

Omaha is not inclusive. The statistics support this. The stories support this. The segregation supports this. Common sense supports this.

I love that Dr. Anthony (an actual doctor, unlike the infamous “Dr.” Umar Johnson capin’ for homophobic misogynistic hoteps everywhere) is doing this. It can foster real change… it it’s done correctly. But as I’ve said before, you can’t build something new with the master’s tools.

That being said, let’s talk about the plethora of reasons this was a really really bad idea.

1. The term minorities is, in its etymology, diminishing. It’s literally equating non-normative people with the understanding that they are “less”–“less than” in population and subconsciously in humanity and value.

2. Giving Dolzeal a space is harmful. In Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack she discusses white privilege, and one of the points that continuously rings true for my life and many other Black people I know. In the article McIntosh discusses a specific instance whites never have to deal with that I know I, and Dr. Anthony, do. “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.” As a woman of color I recognize that my existence is a representation of my racial group, whether I want it to be or not. In those rare instances where people of color are given the space and platform to discuss their experiences in a facilitation of dialogue designed for change, we get to have our actual concerns and values heard. Dolzeal was given the platform instead, and if we continue to center white/white-passing people we will not be able to truly address the issues. Because, you know, we’re talking about white people masquerading as Black instead of the actual issues in the Black community.

As another commenter, Rebekah Caruthers of Caruthers Consulting said:

“I wish I knew of some scholars who could speak on diversity and equity as it relates to race and inclusion. It would be a bonus if they had national platforms, too. Marc Lamont Hill? Nah, no one knows him. Melissa Harris Perry? Too controversial. Julianne Malveaux? Meh, is she even published? Cornel West? He’s too shy. Wilmer Leon, Juan Gilbert, Peniel Joseph? Nada, zilch, zero. Michael Eric Dyson? Naw, he doesn’t even like hip-hop. Linda Darling-Hammond, Gloria Ladson-Billings. Nope, we need a woman. Someone with real legitimacy.

My mom died prematurely. Cultural competency at the Med Center would have made a LIFE of difference. This AIN’T a game or “spark” for social media chatter. It ain’t cute. It goes back more than 6 years–it goes back generations. Beloveds, let’s call a thing a thing. Foolish, not well though out, harmful, and a tool for mockery.

My mother’s legacy passed down to me is this: don’t let your black brilliance be used as a tool to shield generational oppression, neglect and abuse.”

3. Using Dolzeal as a marketing tactic does not absolve you from the fact you could have used any other notable person of color from Omaha  to draw a crowd. For one, you’re drawing a divisive crowd on a polarizing figure who does nothing to further the conversation. She has an opinion, I’m sure, on race, inclusion, ethnicity or diversity. But is it valuable? Is it relevant? Is it constructive to people who exist in these spaces? Is her voice being valued directly and indirectly as more important by her being the centered figure in that space, over actual people of color who have to experience the negative repercussions of white supremacy? The situation reminds me of grade school classes where we talked about critical thinking. Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s not rotten in the inside. I mean……. what were Gabrielle Union’s rates?

 

Dr. Anthony is organizing several events next week for the RIDE program, starting with a lunch on UNMC’s campus. For the events open to the public, I’m looking forward to attending. But in the meantime, I need some oil to moisturize out this ashiness from life.

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Greater Omaha Young Professionals: Talking bout our biz

Omaha Women Push for Diversity in Business Community

April 13, 2016  l  Jacob Zlomke  l  Greater Omaha YP

JD_01028

“Morgann Freeman and Imagine Uhlenbrock see needs in Omaha that they intend to meet – a need for a greater diversity of voices in public discourse; a need for inclusions in Omaha’s professional spheres.

Meeting those needs began with a blog, Melanin & Honey, launched in January. Freeman says its impetus was a conversation between the two women about lack of representation in media, particularly in Omaha media, for black women voices as well as femme and non-men voices. They began working on their website the next day.”

 

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White hipster filmmakers and our stories.

I have been purposely avoiding watching all the “popular” films of slave narratives that have been released in the past few years because, among other things, I feel like there’s something really messed up in expecting Black people to be the cheerleaders of these movies.

I also find that violent movies trigger anxiety so thick and disarming that it takes days to breathe normally again (which is why, to all my friends, I will never go to horror movies with you.)

But I found myself sitting through Django Unchained a few weeks ago, because it was assigned in a class. And good gawd, I don’t know were to begin in addressing the complete fuckery that is that movie.

I was pissed two minutes into the introduction.

It was clear as the whimsical music juxtaposed with the imagery of men slaves trudging across the American landscape that the design of the movie was to be an ironic and tongue-in-cheek portrayal of one of the most explicitly violent, gruesome and horrifying periods in American history. It made me quite literally sick to my stomach, nausea rolling over my senses as I realized this is yet another instance of white exploitation of the atrocities that white people have committed for centuries against Black Americans.

It is a half-Western, half-“tale of vengeance” narrative designed to both depict the sickening violence and tragedies of slavery with characters all on the spectrum tragic Negro personifications.

Django Unchained is a traumatizing, demoralizing depiction of slavery whose portrayal is modern-day Minstrel Theater featuring Black actors in theoretical Blackface.

In reality, it is a collection of very famous Sambos dancing to the tune of the white director and the white audience—the white, hipster audience—to entertain and amuse them. It is a story written from a white savior lens, designed to show white people “how Black people bleed too” during a faraway period of time; “that one time we (white America) really sucked.” The white savior narrative is in the screenplay itself! It is in the German bounty hunter who saves Django from being sent from one plantation to another—not, mind you, from compassion or empathy or any true vehement hatred of slavery, but because he say a use in Django, and eventually, the slave’s humanity as well.

 

django

Photo by Andrew Cooper, SMPSP – The Weinstein Company

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the movie, Django had to prove his humanity even to his partner who, although he becomes increasingly swayed by morality as the story progresses, only becomes so when forced with the inhumanity that Black slaves were faced with. So when the denial of the everyday brutality of injustices of slavery became unavoidable, he was forced to see the nature of slavery, and his passive acquiescence to it, for what it truly was.

It was an opportunity for the director to exploit a period of American history that was interesting (and provocative) to him, and attempt to create a discussion on the repercussions of the period… which, because of the nature of the execution, was disingenuous at best.

It did, however gruesomely depicted, show an accurate portrayal of the violently demoralization and brutal barbarity of American society. The dogs being set upon the slave hoping for freedom, tearing him limb from limb; the Mandingo fighters grappling, fighting, bludgeoning one another with fists to the death; the women threatened with rape since they were property anyways. All of it can be found in slave narratives.

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Frederick Douglass’ Autobiography

I found myself nauseated throughout the movie, and ashamed with myself during those rare moments where I, bewildered, found myself cheering for Django in his bloody revenge, especially against the head house slave, the butler, Joe. Their exchange at the end of the massacre raised some small triumph in me, because the parallel shows the longstanding struggle between the Black person so desperately fighting for the approval of the white man and their counterpart—the Black person fighting for their own identity and right to exist unapologetically as themselves.

I hope to some degree that the final image can be symbolic of a future generation of Black America—riding off triumphantly with their house of their oppressors in flames behind them, leaving just a new future before them.

But even more than that I hope that some day the narratives of Black America are told by our conscious Black folk, and that our stories will someday include our whole narrative of our history and our triumphs and our struggles and our oppression and how we, unlike so many different peoples forced into slavery through the history of humanity, we created ourselves, and found a way to love ourselves in a new nation, on a new land that hated us.

From Blavity: These powerful quotes from #BlackGirlsRock 2016 Should Be Heard (Again)

If you’re not on the #BlackGirlsRock movement you should be. It’s basically a campaign to empower Black girls. Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the execution I’m not here for, like how it all centers on white supremacist perceptions of personhood, achievement and success; how they celebrate celebrities and not everyday Black girls; the fact that they are cissexist in communications; how they only center on major metropolitan areas of the United States when places like Omaha and Des Moines and Topeka need these programs most; the fact that their “empowerment” oftentimes sounds like respectability politics….

But as with all Black women-centered movements, the good of the movement, and the conversations around it should also be recognized. You don’t get a cookie for doing something, but you also don’t get erased for doing it wrong. If that’s the case, we need to erase the Civil Rights movement because they missed a couple things. And we are not doing that.

Our girls need to know they are valuable, they are loved, they are worthy, they are capable, they can change the freaking world because Black women are literally everything.

Our girls, no matter their gender, sexuality, disability status, etc. need these messages.

Heck, when I was a girl, I needed these messages. We need to saturate our girls’ environments with these messages in a world that continuously tells them they are not enough.

But I digress;

#BlackGirlsRock just had it’s annual awards show, and the quotes were quite impressive. Ignoring the appearance of HRC (ugh) it was a celebration of Black womanhood, and some of the quotes were fantastic. Blavity’s summary is a great collection – check it out here!


THESE POWERFUL QUOTES FROM #BLACKGIRLSROCK 2016 SHOULD BE HEARD (AGAIN)

""Black Girls Rock! 2016 - Show""

Photo: Brad Barket/BET/Getty Images for BET

“Black girls still have to grow up with pervasive and paradoxical messages that say that our Black is not beautiful, but our features can be bought and sold to enhance the beauty of other women,” Bond said. “When Black girl swag and the black girl’s aesthetic are only dope without the Black girl but skyrocket in value and get put on a pedestal when it’s put on other bodies, our girls internalize that to mean that they are less beautiful.” –Beverly Bond

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We’ve got NEWS!

Do you want the good news or the sad news?

 


Good news:

We’ve finally done it! After working with the Women’s Fund of Omaha on a workshop about diversity, inclusion and authenticity, we were inspired. We’ve made the transition to an inclusive communications agency, called INclude. We’ll be offering a variety of creative services like marketing consulting, branding strategy/design, event planning and social media content management as well as customized inclusive equity training for businesses and nonprofits of all sizes. The agency will also be focused creating inclusive spaces and communication in Omaha workplaces.

But don’t worry! The blog will stay melanin-blessed as Melanin & Honey, still focused on uplifting, empowering, and highlighting the many facets and triumphs of Black women, femmes and non-men.

 

 


 

Sad news:

Melanin & Honey co-founder Imagine Uhlenbrock has been an entrepreneur for years in the creative industry, and has recently decided to focus on her really amazing business Just Imagine Nails. We’re sad to say she will be leaving the Melanin & Honey team, but don’t worry she’ll still be sharing her insights every now and then.


 

Overall it’s a bittersweet time of growth. If you want to check out our agency, just go to www.includingomaha.com. Be sure to check out Imagine’s nail business – Just Imagine Nails – as well!

We’re also looking for support! Please support or share our GoFundMe campaign; we’re fundraising for our start-up costs such as legal fees, equipment, and eventually even an intern! (We don’t believe in working for no pay–it’s technically illegal and highly immoral.)

Also a big thank you to Hello Holiday for allowing us to try on their gorgeous threads! We had tons of fun working with them and the photographers at Hooton Images. .

Why Black people can’t be racist.

Yesterday I had such an intriguing conversation with a brunch date in the bright sunshine. After explaining what I do, the conversation turned to a discussion on reverse racism and why it’s not a real thing. (If you want to learn more about that, here’s this really great article about in that the Huffington Post did in January.) As I explained to my date, in order to understand that Black people can’t be racist, you have to first understand what racism is.

Chances are, your definition of racism is outdated and inefficient. 

Most people, including my date, understand racism to be prejudice against a person based upon the color of their skin. Unfortunately, that’s just the definition of racial prejudice. Racism, however, is a bit more complex.

Racism is the prejudice against a person due to their perceived racial group, where the individual, group or society has the power to exert social, economic and/or political discrimination, devaluation and dehumanization against that person due to the nature of socially defined stereotypes of that person’s race.

 

Basically, racism is prejudice + power. It is literally having the power to do something about your prejudice. 

 

Do Black people have the power to exert a large-scale social, economic and/or political discrimination against whites? No. While, yes, there is a biracial president, and yes, there are individual isolated incidents where a Black person makes another white person’s life more difficult, on a greater societal level, a white person cannot be as easily and thoroughly stripped of their humanity because of pre-conceived, socially-embedded notions of white people as a Black person can be.

Don’t believe me? Turn on the news.

Diversity =/= Inclusion

Tomorrow morning, we’re partnering with the Women’s Fund of Omaha for a Talk of the Town on diversity, inclusion and authenticity especially in professional spaces. A lot of the feedback I’ve heard throughout the years, even by those who are supposedly well-versed in diversity, inclusion and sociology, is that they believe that things are “not that bad.”

Compared to the 1916, a century ago, I believe you are completely right. But compared to where we should be, compared to the concepts of liberty and freedom and justice and compassion and empathy and equity? We still have a lot to go. More often than not, the immediate rebuttal I most commonly receive is, “Well, I never see/hear about it happening so it must not be an issue.”

When honey, if that logic follows then how do you know for sure gravity is a force and that it exists? You can’t actually see it with the naked eye. How do you know black holes and galaxies and planets exist? It could be a conspiracy.

See how ridiculous that argument is?

But I understand that oftentimes, when confronting oppression and our parts within it, we want evidence. We want facts. We want testimonials and first-hand accounts and proof, because we don’t believe that we would actually ever hurt or dehumanize someone because “we’re good people, darn it.”

Especially in professional spaces chock full of “diversity initiatives” and “employee resource programs” made for “people like me” it’s hard to believe that society has not progressed past a feigned veil of polite segregation and respectability politics. It’s hard to believe that managers are still racist, employee engagement events still exclusionary, randy male coworkers still lustful, gregariously handsy and overly confident. That people still steal ideas of women, of people of color just because of their “minority” status. It’s better to show you, rather than tell you, which is why I asked for my friends’ help. I gave them this prompt, with high hopes of that their stories will illuminate something within you that can help others.

After working in corporate America for a little while I noticed some things… and experienced quite a few uncomfortable moments. Tell me about a time where you felt uncomfortable and/or excluded due to your identity in the workplace/work-related function.

 

So for all skeptics of the world–no matter where you fall in the hierarchy of power and privilege, we give you first-hand accounts. 

“Me trying to explain to multiple people that I don’t eat beef or pork that was hard….and that there needs to be diverse foods at functions. People getting mad at me for not know Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or Bon Jovi songs- very important… apparently.”

“Actually I’ll just go with the most recent – yesterday my whole office got off for St. Patrick’s Day and although the idea of day off was nice I realized that I would not get a day off for Juneteenth or any other major day on Black History. Even superficial industry hyped holidays don’t see my skin.history and point of view as important.”

“Years ago, I was the only Black person at a meeting of women artists & the chair/leader answered a question about who should be added to the group by saying “We don’t want to be so diverse that we can’t talk to each other.” I remember feeling very angry & wanting to gather my things & leaving. I stuck it out for a while, but I never felt comfortable with that chair.”

ABW

“Boss: ‘Are you feather or dot Indian?’ (While poking my forehead.) Little white man almost got his wig split.”

“General manager, ‘Does it seem like you and your sister are always sat with the black people?'”

“I’ve never gotten a callback when applying for jobs online. I’ve only had one job at a place that wasn’t a person of color owned business. When I was finishing up nail school I applied at a couple different salons. One in particular said ‘We don’t do nail art here.’ And now they’re sending me postcards talking about they hiring. No thanks.”

“i just got let go from a job at a restaurant (where i was the only person of color, the youngest, and for a long time the only girl) where: 

  • My manager would frequently ask me if I thought “only white people could be racist” and constantly imply that things were reverse racist. He also straight up said that he couldn’t be racist because his ex is black. (I wonder why she left him?)
  • I was told that I’m “pretty white” and “didn’t count” as Chinese.
  • When I casually mentioned that I don’t have a great relationship with my family, my manager responded with, “Is it because all Chinese people care about is money and status?”
  • I tried to file a complaint with the owner/my boss about racist and sexist comments my coworkers made and was told to “get over it because my being upset was making everyone uncomfortable;” that i was “blowing everything out of proportion;” and that “I’m sorry you’re offended” counts as an earnest apology. Not long after my manager described me as being “oversensitive about political correctness.”
  • I tried to complain about a customer who would consistently be rude/refuse to be served by me even when all other associates were clearly serving other people, and was told by owner, “Yeah, well, he spends a lot of money here so…”
  • A customer of Chinese origin left her debit card behind and the owner and my coworker made fun of her name multiple times by pronouncing it in a really stereotypical/offensive “Chinese” accent.
  • A coworker once asked why “…some brown people wear a headdress (he meant a turban) and some just have a ball on their head.” Dude can name 10 different kinds of potatoes but he doesn’t know…
  • Dismissed whenever I corrected anyone on the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin dialects because “they’re basically the same anyway.”
  • My coworkers would always serve white customers first, and tended to be short/unfriendly and do the really condescending thing to ESL/PoC where you assume someone doesn’t speak English and speak really loudly and slowly like they’re less intelligent.

I was let go 2 weeks ago and honestly I’m so relieved, i work for myself now and it’s a lot less stable financially but the people at the company i do contract sewing for occasionally are almost exclusively young liberal women, and most of my clients are cosmopolitan liberal creatives that treat me like an actual skilled professional, and if anyone has horrible opinions I’m not around them enough to hear them.”

“I had a manager always refer to me as ‘all legs and no brain’ who constantly ‘accidentally’ would hit my ass and make bimbo comments.”

“Office small talk: someone told me their Halloween party costume and I said it was racist/cultural appropriation and they said that’s not a real thing, and joked I was racist for wearing a Irish cable knit sweater…”

negro nose

“I don’t think this counts as being excluded. But when I worked retail I had this manager from a tiny town in Iowa. And if she thought black customers were shoplifting she always made me confront them. Even though company policy doesn’t allow for us to do that. Sometimes they were stealing sometimes they weren’t. It was just frustrating as hell. When I brought it to her attention she said I was ‘aggressive’ or I was coming off as “mean” in our store meetings. So I guess I felt like I couldn’t actively participate in meetings without being looked at as aggressive and having my opinions or concerns ignored ’cause you know I’m just an angry black girl.”

“On a team of all men, I can repeat something three times and it may or may not be acknowledged. One of the guys says the SAME THING, and it’s suddenly a good idea. Oh, I point out that I said it first…and multiple times.”

“I work with children and usually in the mornings I do this traveling show where I teach kids about different things bullying, making friends, etc. the one I am currently working on involves reading stories to kids and we have to read one about a chameleon which to most of my coworkers was no big deal we just had to figure out how to introduce it to the kids. But then one coworker gets fixated on the fact that it involves color and makes it this huge thing and tries to start talking about race and color. This is a white man doing this, the kind that is so “woke” and “down” to help but doesn’t always listen to the people he needs to and talks over them. After trying to move past this whole situation for what feels like hours I am shaking and so frustrated. I am the only black person in the room and this white male is telling me what is and isn’t about race and at some point shoves this book in my face and starts being like SEE ITS ABOUT COLOR. At that point I had to just flat out say “I hate this” to which he decided to apologize (for his own ego and conscience) which was not needed and I really just wanted to get the hell out of that room.

This situation still bothers me because I see this coworker often and am supposed to work with them again in May but currently can’t even look them in the eyes because I just can’t deal with them at all right now.”

 

“My last boss (a man) made a joke about my boyfriend-at-the-time hitting me. My current boss has only greeted me with ‘Hola’ since confirming my Mexican heritage. I just stopped replying.”

“I didn’t dress business casual enough or I can’t wear hair scarves as they’re considered inappropriate as well.”

nervous breakdown

“Was told that my thaali/mangalsutra (wedding necklace) was unprofessional and to take it off for work (clothing retail). To be honest, not a big deal for me personally, but I can’t imagine what it’d feel like for someone really culturally and religiously attached to it.”

“My not-black-or-latinx coworkers would gather around and talk shit about the black and latinx staff that they managed. They made fun of the black girls’ hair and their names, and they made fun of the latinx for not speaking English (many of them actually do but that’s not the point). They would all gather and whisper to each other and I was the only member not included in their huddle and whisper. Once, they all decided to go out for a team lunch and kept it hush hush until it was time to go, when I realized EVERYONE was leaving and i wasn’t invited.”

“When I was 16, and still a very new immigrant in Toronto, I worked at a pizza place for 2 years. My boss was this really friendly Iranian guy. However he was an atheist and had left Islam and literally harassed me because I still used to eat halal food. He would constantly ask me questions like:

‘How can you support a pedophile who married an 8 year old?’
‘How can you support slavery? You believe some people are worth more than others?’
‘You want your husband to have three other wives?’

I understood his reactions as a result of having to leave Iran due to religious reasons but wow, was he so cruel to a naive 16 year old for it.

After that I must admit, I have been super lucky to work in super supportive settings with folks having a lot of equity training. I feel lucky to have those experiences because I know they aren’t the norm.”

“My Latina manager with an Anglo name keeps trying to get me to shorten my name so people will remember it and put it on comment cards.”

“This wasn’t at work, at school, but i was working with them part of the student union, and they said brown is the color of poop and laughed at me.”

“Oh, or like they wouldn’t give me access to websites and emails that I needed to do my job, but then they had the nerve to say I ‘lacked initiative’ knowing full well my supervisor was passive aggressive and wouldn’t let me do A N Y T H I N G. And they always made fun of the Filipina because some of her food would have a fish sauce and they would yell that it ‘fucking smells’ and call it ‘gross food.’ Also fun to note: two out of four were white, the other two were chinese american (who would also make fun of going to China and getting mad at people for not speaking English.)”

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“One time a lady said she was getting a tan but was saying how she didn’t want to be too dark. I died.”

“Years ago I was referred to in a conversation between my supervisor and another community organizer. My supervisor mentioned that I ‘speak for the voice of South Omaha.’ Someone told me about it later. I mean, I grew up in South Omaha but I haven’t lived in South Omaha for years. What? That and her constant need to greet me with ‘Hola.'”

“A place I worked at docked the wome of color workers’ pay because ‘they’re not doing enough,’ even though they did all the tough, drudgy work while the white people just show their faces in meetings and tell the women of color what to do.”

“I used to work for Honey Birdette, selling lingerie and sex toys with an abundance of Pin-Up style ladies at my side… Though I was good at my job and customers loved me, I did not fit in with this company. I was once told that my frizzy baby hairs weren’t professional looking and that I looked unkempt. Having a classic Indian nose (the lovely bone bump in the middle) and features that didn’t match the pin up style yt girls I worked with, separated me further from my team. Part of the reason why I was let go was because the company/store wasn’t ‘[my] style.]’ One night, my store [manager] and another went to dinner with the CEO and I noticed that only I and another girl were person of color in the group, however the other women of color had more Eurocentric features so of course I stood out like a sore foot…

At my current workplace, we have a hugely diverse team, with southeast Asians, Indians, English, Italian, German, Scottish, and Sri Lankan employees. One other employee there, however, continues to make heavily racist remarks here and there and thinks it’s hilarious and she gets away with it cos she’s got that badass don’t give a fuck kind of attitude… Which isn’t good but I don’t say anything… She plans on leaving soon so I’m hoping no one carries on her racist rampages…”

“I work for the Canadian government and I am often the token ‘Latina.’ My department is extremely white and male and I get all sorts of comments about my ‘race’ (ugh! Can people please stop saying that Latino/hispanic is a race!!!!!????)”

Stuff We Need You to Understand. Now.

I did this social experiment almost a year ago and I found then, as I do now, that it’s a freeing experiment for those that participate, but it’s also a glaring depiction of what’s wrong with our society. And when I say ‘our society,’ I mean white America and the white lens that colors everyone’s interpretations of reality.

On social media, I asked:

 

What are some words that you wish people–especially white people–understood?

 

Apparently people came to have church on the subject, but there was one running theme throughout the entire dialogue. It may have been in the forefront of the psyche of the participants due to the question’s prompt of white people, but I strongly believe that most of the people who participated (if not everyone) understands the default of the term “people” in America is always epistemologically constructed to mean “white people.” Meaning, I didn’t have to say it specifically for peop.le to draw the conclusion.

Read the list. All of it. Because it’s all important.

 

“Racism.”

“White people don’t seem to understand that turning 18 means nothing to POC parents. ‘what do you mean your parents said no you’re 18?! you can do what you want now’ lmao can i tho…”

“No.”

“Heritage.”

“1. We run a different marathon in this world. 2. It’s not about you as an individual but as a whole, white people are in power.”

“Not everything is about you, you know…”

“No.”

“Also! I wish white men would understand protective hair styling. I’m so sick of being looked at sideways for wearing wigs.”

“Illegal. It’s a slur. Why can’t people realize it’s a slur?”

“Ghetto. There is no ‘inner black woman’ in you. Saying ‘nappy’ to describe someone.”

“Boundaries.”

“Taco.”

“That Latinx is not a race but a socio-linguistic marker. Latinamerican-latinx is a person who socio-linguistically speaks Spanish but is not necessarily tied to Spain. Indigenous people’s are still very much alive all over the Americas and some of them dont speak Spanish as their first language or at all but zapoteco, mixteco triqui, maya, quechua, guarani and etc. Hispanic–is a person who ethnically is from Spain or born in Spain.”

“Stop.”

“DIVISIVE.”

“Colonialism / Imperialism.”

“GHETTO. I am tired of people calling broken things or cheap things ‘ghetto.'”

“Haram.”

“PoC are not required to educate those that oppress them on how they oppress them. There are enough resources out there to figure it out on your own… do not demand they tell you about their oppression when you can figure it out yourself from the bevy of people already talking about it. Discussing it is a decision for them, not a requirement of them.”

“[The] phrase ‘Black lives matter’ does not erase you and is not racist.”

“Overnight marinade.”

“WHITE FUCKING FRAGILITY.”

“Rape culture.”

“For me, it’s stuff like “sassy,” “feisty,” and “attitude.” White people don’t seem to understand that all of those adjectives carry misogynoir in their connotations.” “Similar to the ways hysterical and emotional are used to invalidate or infantilize white women but with some dehumanization and anti blackness mixed in.”

“Hahaha racism … No but seriously.”

“Tea.”

“White privilege. Them understanding that would be clutch.”

“White guilt. Make it stop.”

“Not as specific but white ppl, and nonblack poc, misusing aave and or “performing” it to make something sound “funny” makes me want to hit things”

“No.”

“The real reason you don’t call Asians orientals…And it has nothing to do with rugs.”

“Thug.”

“It would also be cool if people realized the general importance of political correctness. Words are power, words have connotation. When you use slurs or any form of derogatory language, there IS a reaction. It incites attitudes and actions. (Just look at how people scream at people while they call them illegals.) Easy to mock if you are unaffected, but some of us here are dealing with the ramifications of your abusive language and that’s why we fucking combat it.”

“Destructive, abusive, hostile, disrespectful, violent, stupid.”

“Preference.”

“Attitude. Thug. Racism. Free Speech. Probably more, but these come to mind immediately.”

“Slavery, power, oppression.”

“Typing the words “All Lives Matter to deny or erase the protests against police brutality and racism in America while denying the fact that all lives have never mattered in America, just ask the Native Americans who are virtually ignored or erased by America.”

“Fetishize.”

“First-hand experience.”

“‘I want a black baby!! Mixed babies are so cute.’ I’ve heard this one a lot this year. So fetishizing black people is also on my list of things white people need to understand is not okay.”

“Shut up.”

“I made a post about how White women activist don’t understand their role in the breakdown of the movement to rebuild Black families when they date/marry Black men (from a revolutionary standpoint). One of the White aunties told me that I was wrong for calling them “our men.” I didn’t ask you if you agreed with our terminology. If you are not a Black woman, you don’t have a say. Only Black women can say if I am misrepresenting them with that particular assertion. #Interference

“Colorism.”

“No.”

“White guilt. Cause I’m so tired of that shit. Just stop.”

“Systematic racism. Post-racial. African diaspora. Interference (allies interfere a LOT).”

“‘Appropriation’ vs. ‘honoring’ too. Literally painting your face red, wearing a warbonnet, and whooping with your hand on and off your mouth, of wearing ‘Navajo-inspired panties’, or having a racist mascot isn’t honoring me, my ancestors, their strength, or whatever the fuck you insist.”

“Privilege.”

“Intersectionality.”

“Privilege.”

“Oooh sassy really makes me upset. Like as soon as a person uses that work I know what’s going to come afterwards. I’ve had so many friends be like “one you’ll LOVE my friend she reminds me a lot of you. She’s soooo sassy and just cool and….black.” And people describe me as sassy which I know is NOT one of my general descriptors amongst most of my actual friends. Just because I call you out doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sassy. I’m just woke as hell and tired of listening to you be ignorant.”

“Oppression.”

“‘my parents are paying for it so its free! it’s not my money!’ like ok……….”

“Spices.”

“Life experience.”

“The real definition of racism, because only then can we have a truly honest convo about it. As long as folks think it’s limited to lynching and using the shitty n-word (and not systemic issue embedded in everything) we cannot really dissect it.”

“Flavour.”

“Microaggressions, institutionalized bias, White Supremacy, and I’ll throw in how basic Tim Wise is.”

“Lazy. Oppression. Terrorist. Irrational. Divisive.”

“Curry.”

“Also, chai.”

“Appropriation vs. appreciation.”

“Culture.”

“Ally. Liberal. I’m so tired of White people, especially White women, somehow believing that if they are in these categories that they understand what it is to be Black. Naaaahhh, doesn’t work like that.”

“And stop calling us angry. Shit is tired, invalidating, diminishing.”

“Appropriation.”

“Stop.”

“Reverse racism isn’t a thing. I don’t know when this list stops to be honest.”

 

If the primary theme is racism and white privilege, then what does that say about what the reality of society is?

Personally I think it just goes to show that “post-racial” America is a fallacy constructed to help white fragility escape white guilt and keep the systems of power and privilege in check. But hey, that’s just me. *sips tea*

I don’t care for your well-meaning media

Let’s talk about the media and journalism for a second.

Originally, I  was going to wait, but with all that I’ve seen in the media lately, I recognize it should probably be addressed now.

Before we get into this though, I want you keep in mind what Martin Luther King (whom is the white moderate’s flag of Black respectability) said about the white moderate:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

The white moderate has grown since Dr. King wrote this. They are now in every major position of power in our society, speaking on our behalf as social others. They are our presidential candidates, our teachers, our lawyers, our doctors and our journalists. While we have now infiltrated those industries previously closed or segregated, our voices are still not given the same credence as the white moderate. This is not a question of conjecture and opinion; it is an undeniable fact. If you feel the need to debate it, then you should know where they stand.

But what I most specifically wanted to address this morning is the white moderate–those who are predominantly passively participating in structures of oppression; who say they support oppressed peoples but only so far that their comfort and privilege remains intact.

These well-meaning benevolent white savior folk are terrible, because, among other things, they think they are experts on the experiences of othered peoples–continually, systematically ignoring, harming and erasing the experiences and the needs of the same people they say they are trying to aid. (I wrote a post about this on my other blog if you want to read more about this.)

When this phenomenon manifests in the media, it’s most easily recognized as a young Black kid murdered by police called a “thug” in the coverage. It’s in the way a story about a successful person of color is more often than not framed as that person transcending their race to be more than just a Black or indigenous or gender fluid or queer or otherized being.

For me, in my story and the way it was reported, the journalist told my story as if I was a formerly angry and violent child with “18 years of hardship” that has now been reformed and transcended the mold of the angry black girl. So much is wrong with this.

But before we even get into the story itself, let’s talk about how perception vs. reality in expectations of how it was to be shaped. The majority of my interview was explaining how language is important, how you tell a story is important, and you need to understand how oppression influences your subject(s) in order to accurately and fairly tell their story(s).

 

Basically, don’t use the tools of the master when you’re telling the story of the people they’ve brutalized.

 

My story turned out to be far different than what I expected, and hoped. As people of color and especially as activists we are often weary of white journalists and/or white-owned media for this exact reason. Our story is distorted and becomes a disingenuous portrayal of either the benevolence of whites or the stereotyped stories of transcendence.

When our stories are told thus, we become nothing more than an anecdote to entertain the predominantly white market. When our experiences–our trials and struggles, our joys and triumphs–are told incorrectly, it invalidates us. It erases the beauty, the impact, the enormity of who we are and how we came to be. It diminishes us to a repeat of the same caricatures we have always been, and keeps those oppressive structures of privilege and power in place.

For me, I stay in the caricature of the “angry, violent Black child,” reaffirming the Black beast mentality repeated in media since slavery. This mentality aims to depreciate Black people to lesser-developed human beings who cannot help their violence, promiscuity and ignorance. It must be understood that this caricature and others are racist, they are oppressive, and they still permeate the American psyche. Telling our stories by using them hinders the conversation, rather than helps it. So to the well-meaning white moderate, this is what you must understand:

 

This is a problem. It needs to be addressed. It needs to be changed. We need to do something about it. And the time for this is past due. Listen when we say you must understand our oppression before you can tell our stories.

 

Educate yourselves from the resources written by oppressed groups rather than the easily-reached white masses. Heed us when we tell you to change the pronouns you use in our stories; to not include the racist caricatures of white supremacy; to avoid the passively sexist benevolent language of the patriarchy.

We’re expecting you to put up or shut up and either way, make room for us to tell our stories in the meantime.

Re: “What are your thoughts on XYZ person/event?”

A lot of you have asked for our thinkpieces on current events–everything from the Oscars to #Formation to Kendrick to the extra messy presidential race. We haven’t. And it’s not because we’re ignoring you, or that we don’t believe that discussion is important. It most definitely is. We need to have in-depth, sincere dialogue about these issues, because they affect the greater Black community and American society as a whole. But let’s be honest – oftentimes there is a thinkpiece or collection of them that are being shared on social media which accurately, eloquently relay all of our feelings and deconstructions on the subject.

We’d rather discuss issues that affect us a little closer to home. Our experiences here in Omaha are unique… as I explained to someone in a meeting yesterday, we have the most polite racism, sexist and otherwise oppressive people I have ever encountered. We’d rather talk about what it means to be Black and identify as something other than a cishet man here in Omaha. Our voices are not represented.. They are pretty much erased and ignored, not only in the dominant white society but also in our greater Black community. Everyone wants to talk about the Black experience in urban communities in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta, DC, Baltimore and NYC but not about the other communities.

Liberation doesn’t happen by only paying attention to the struggles of Black Americans in specific areas of the United States; it comes with talking about all of us. And we want, we need, to be centered for awhile.

not-here-for