#TeamPetty

I asked my social media friends to help me build a petty playlist to help me get through the storm of ashy misogynoir that is Dr. Umar Johnson and his followers.

For your listening pleasure:

“Bitch Better Have My Money” – Rihanna

“Bust Your Windows” – Jazmine Sullivan

“Diva” – Beyoncé

“G.O.M.D.” – J. Cole

“Don’t Cha” – The Pussycat Dolls

“Feeling Myself” – Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé

“Down in the DM” – Yo Gotti

“King Kunta” – Kendrick Lamar

“The Language” – Drake

“Like a Boy” – Ciara

“Look At Me Now” – Chris Brown

“Irreplaceable” – Beyoncé

“HYFR (Hell Ya Fuckin’ Right)” – Drake, Lil Wayne

“Fuck Up Some Commas” – Future

“Roses” – OutKast

“Marvin’s Room” – JoJo

“Want Some More” – Nicki  Minaj

“Werkin’ Girls” – Angel Haze

“Worst Behavior” – Drake

“S&M” – Rihanna

“Stupid Hoe” – Nicki Minaj

“I Don’t Give A Fuck” – Boss

“I Don’t Fuck With You” – Big Sean, E-40

“Beez In The Trap” – Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz

“99 Problems” – Jay Z

 

What would you add? Tell us your favorites in the comments.

“‘Black girls are ugly.’ Ha! I spit on your delusions.”

“You can say black woman are ugly aaaaaallll you want but we know the truth: You’re scared of us, You’re jealous of us, you’re mad that we call you out on your bull shit, your worried will give you the beat down if you say this kind of shit to our face.

Black woman are beautiful, every single one, light dark tall short fat thin freckled pocked natural permed or what ever. Any one denies it is a fucking lie and should be avoided at all costs until they come to their damned senses.”

Read more from the post that certainly gave us life.

Tired Sista

EVERY GOTDAMN DAY, ALL DAY black women and girls report having to endure mockery, ridicule, intraracism (a.k.a. colorism), sexism, and misogynoir (anti-black misogyny) not only from whites, but from MANY in our own “community” not only offline, but online and the shit is baaad,  OUT OF CONTROL, and  it’s not getting any  better. This is the typical day in certain Negro spaces online in which Negros along with everybody else create racist, colorist, misogynoiristic memes and tweets about Black Women and Girls. Demonizing, demeaning, and de-humanizing Black Women and Girls is a past-time on social media and THE SO-CALLED BLACK COMMUNITY SAY OR DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT BUT LAUGH AND MOCK, SHARE AND RE-TWEET, OR JUST REMAIN SILENT .

In the last year or two I have come to realize that BLACK WOMEN AND GIRLS ARE GREATLY DE-VALUED AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PROTECTION FROM ANYONE, NOT WHITES, NON-BLACK POC, AND EVEN…

View original post 1,262 more words

He’s an ashy CON.

CW: ableism, sexism, misogynoir

 

I’m hella irritated and upset today. One of my friends (also a former professor of mine) tagged me in a post about a month ago about this frankly triggering and upsetting event happening on Monday in Omaha. An “expert” psychologist who specializes in hate and misogynoir–preaching it, not unpacking it–will be presenting.

I didn’t think that this day would actually come because I hoped, and somewhat had faith, that our community would have denounced such a horrible person, but apparently that hope and faith was misguided. The irony of it all is that his lecture is titled “Understanding the Mis-Education Machine.” Dr. Umar Johnson is coming to UNO and I have never been more disappointed and infuriated by our Black Studies Department.

[For the ease of argument, I will use the binary terms of men and women here, and unless otherwise noted, I will be referring to cisgender heterosexual men and women. Otherwise I will use the term “people” to include everyone on the spectrum.]

This is what happens when we believe degrees are indicative of intellectual capacity, and that reasonable intelligence as defined by white America’s standards makes you an expert. Apparently I need to tell y’all why supporting this man is such a bad idea. Not only as a feminist, as an activist, as a Black person, but as a human being who does not, will not support the dehumanization and erasure of other human beings.

Johnson is a fake woke hotep hypocritical con artist.

First let’s talk about what he thinks he knows; he’s using white-defined ideologies of success and power to try to rewrite a system of inequality to over-privilege the Black man instead. I never trust someone who builds a platform on being woke and yet and still uses education and white ideological manifestations of achievement and success as his qualifications. Meaning, you shouldn’t have to keep telling me how aware you are–what you do and say should be enough. If you keep talking about how much you know rather than what you know or how you know what you know, then I don’t trust you or your self-proclaimed “expert status.”

I sat through his interview with the Breakfast Club. Part of the issue is that the other two men, Johnson’s interviewers, are steeped in the toxic masculinity preached by the Black male patriarchy. It became apparent after a few minutes that he just truly doesn’t understand social constructionism or oppression, and he is not the expert that he says he is, because he’s missing and misintrepreting the basics. Before we get into how poorly he understands basic biology and sociology, though, let’s talk about his language.

“When a boy cannot conduct himself like a female, he’s marginalized and castigated.”

There’s so much wrong with this (including how feminity is but let’s, for now, focus on Johnson’s use of the term “female”.

PSA: Your biological sex is not your gender. Gender is a spectrum and not a fixed identity; it is fluid. Similarly, using “female” as a gendered noun is literally reducing a woman (human being) down to her scientific classification (less than human).

Do you do this for men? No. Socially when we talk about men we say men, and when we discuss masculine scientific characteristics of biological men we say males.

Speaking of biology and in general statistical accuracy, let’s talk about some of the key points Johnson is missing:

  1. “…boys have testosterone. Females have estrogen.” Men and women both have estrogen and testosterone in their bodies.
  2. “When 97% of America’s teachers are middle class white females…” I don’t know where he’s getting this statistic from, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 74% of all educators are women and 10% of all educators are Black. Things aren’t great but are most definitely not as dire as he presents them to be.
  3. “I refer to ADHD as Ain’t no Daddy at Home Disorder…” There’s a small link between ADHD and other chronic health conditions and single parent homes, but jump from that to single mothers is extreme, especially when you directly imply Black mothers. By the way, that’s misogynistic.
  4. “Because MR is no longer legal, you can use it in social conversation… it’s acceptable now because it’s no longer technical jargon.” For any and all that are confused what ableism in action sounds like, it’s this. Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with physical, mental and/or emotional disabilities.
  5. “Police are selectively exterminating African American males.” Because it’s only males that are being targeted? Oookkkk………………………….. #SandraBland #RekiaBoyd #MariamCarey #LamiaBeard #TanishaAnderson #KindraChapman #YvetteSmith #SheilyFrey #DarneshaHarris #PapiEdwards #JoyceCurnell #MelissaHarris #MyaHall #ShantelDavis #RalkinaJones #PennyProud #RaynetteTurner #ShereeseFrancis #AiyanaStanleyJones #TarikaWilson #TyUnderwood #SayHerName #BlackTransLivesMatter #BlackWomenMatter
  6. “So I’m not going to go around ridiculing somebody ’cause they gay or lesbian or bisexual because I know there’s issues in their childhood that helped bring that about, but at the same time I reserve the right to say I don’t think this is in the best interest of my community.” I feel like this quote especially is what a lot of people refer to when they say they love and agree with Johnson; it’s boiling other sexualities outside of heterosexuality down into a traumatic side effect of abuse rather than a choice or even just embracing one’s identity. It’s saying, “if you don’t like your binary biological sex opposite, then there’s gotta be something wrong with you.” Ironic, for someone who claims to be an advocate against the disproportionate and unfair representation of mental disorders in the Black community to unfairly project a harmful, inaccurate and unfair archetype of Blacks who choose to be something other than society has normalized.

 

Side Note: Unpopular opinion in Black America – beating your children creates psychological trauma and distress. There’s a ton of articles and research on this, so I’m not getting into it. You can just google it. Now back to the subject at hand.

Being related to someone does not mean that you should be worshipped, followed or believed just because you share DNA.

According to his website:

“At 37 years old, Dr. Umar Johnson is a shining beacon in the fields of Black Psychology and Black Education. Dr. Umar has presented before embassies, stadiums, museums, schools, universities, churches, correctional facilities, community centers and international audiences. With the genealogy of Douglass and determination of Garvey, Bro. Johnson’s Fire is unstoppable!!!”

So he’s a descendent of Frederick Douglass? Great. What Johnson is forgetting is that his ancestor’s success is not a flag of respectability and authenticity. Also, we do not exist in the same society (thank God) and that what his ancestor preached, while relevant, was also intricately indisoluble from the society he existed in and the knowledge available to him. Simply put, as people in our society found more ways to describe, identify and understand oppression, they started to realize it was a bit deeper than what was previously believed.

The Black male patriarchy isn’t “a difference of opinion.” It is another manifestation of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy in the Black community.

Preaching the patriarchy is when you say that men and women should act a certain way, ignoring that gender and sexuality are spectrums and that oppression is infinitely complex and intricately tied to self- and social identity.

Now a lot of what I have seen on social media says that “You may not like what he has to say but he’s not wrong.” Honey, he is dead wrong. If you are preaching social awareness from a lens that oppressor created for you, then chances are you’re just preaching a different evolution of that same oppression.

He is the quintessential semi-aware Black cishet man who almost got it right but ran the other way when things got too uncomfortable for his masculinity. Because of this, Johnson almost gets a lot of concepts right, but then goes off in a hotep tangent. Like for example this one:

“We don’t have the luxury of being one dimensional… even though we are in a state of crisis, we don’t act like it.”

I can agree with this the first half of this statement, and to some degree, the second. As an activist, I have often heard the rebuttal of “well we’re doing it to ourselves!” In a narrow, selective framework, this argument is valid; supported by facts and current events. We are hurting each other, hurting our communities and the Black collective identity. But how activists vs. general public vs. Johnson identify and understand this “state of crisis” is very different. How we define one-dimensionality, how we recognize the issues that challenge and dehumanize the Black identity are very different. It’s why I argue that education is so vitally important to the advancement and progress of the Black community and society as a whole. The Black community continuously ignores how cis- and heteronormativity are violently dehumanizing ideological frameworks that regularly not only dehumanize and erase others identities–they also are used as justifications for violence. People who do not identify as cisgender heterosexuals are seen as other, and while they may not be consciously understood as “lesser human beings,” the implicit epistemological understanding and explicit language constructs it. Basically, the collective Black community doesn’t hate gay people but they don’t want gayness rubbed in their faces, either. Because, abomination and Christianity. As I said in my MLK post:

Why have we forgotten the pulpit of Christianity where this message begins and seeps into the community was not a religion we collectively knew and claimed until white slave owners gave it to us? We pray to the white man’s God to liberate us from the white man, who uses the same God to justify our dehumanization.

And before you say Islam is different, you’re right. But any religion that gives you the right to dehumanize, to kill, to hurt and otherwise maim someone’s dignity and/or person is a religion that was created to empower one and enslave another. Why would you support something like that?

So back to the Black Studies Department–the reason I’m so upset is that, while there is a place for differing viewpoints to be discussed, harmful and oppressive viewpoints should not be supported, even in silence, by one of the oldest Black Studies departments in the nation. Shame on y’all.

Oh and finally, because it’s really irritating me–if we’re going to work within the white American lens of intelligence, then it’s “miseducation” not “mis-education.” Lauryn Hill got it right, but then again, she’s a Black woman. Too petty? Oh well.

Defining ‘Oppression’

To me, oppression conjures images of slavery, of suffragettes and of Assata Shakur. Oppression and the eventual revolution were always, in my mind, closely linked. Its existence and relevance to my life ironic in the sense that I knew I was oppressed but I didn’t know how deeply I was oppressed.

Oppression is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as (1) prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control; (2) the state of being subject to unjust treatment or control; and (3) mental pressure or distress. I personally find the ideology of language fascinating, especially when you deconstruct with historical contexts. So when you look at how our society understands “oppression” it is absolutely mind-blowing.

Firstly, we have to agree that language and our understandings of the concepts presented by the language we use, are all social constructs. (google: social constructionism, social concepts) Basically this idea makes the claim that the dominant society created a language to interpret the world around us, for us. That seems reasonable, right? Look at how language has evolved since the dawn of the evolution into homo sapiens sapiens and you can see how the concept evolved with each of the major civilizations.

Okay, so if our dominant society in America created our understanding of how we interpret the world around us, then how does that affect us? Who is this dominant society anyway? Why does it matter? Great questions. Well, even if you ignore the statistical data of the majority race in America, and you look at the data that says which group of the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, economic status and religious affiliation has the most social, political and economic power in America, you will see that the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, wealthy Christian/Catholic man is literally the most powerful group in the country. We all know that those who have the power to make decisions are the ones that control their playing fields; while the coach is on the sidelines calling plays it’s up to the team on the field to carry them out. And if your coach and your team are all of the same dominant group? Well, that means there won’t be a lot of diversity in the plays. And since science (and history) says that humans are naturally self-interested; you put a bunch of white men in charge of a nation and they will, unconsciously or consciously, protect their own.

Why does it matter that a bunch of rich white men run the country? Well first of all, let me ask you this – are you a rich white man? No? Do you think that the rich white man understands what it’s like to be something other than a rich white man? I don’t. That’s not a critique – I just know that I don’t know what it’s like to be anything other than a black woman so I doubt sincerely that the average rich white man knows what it’s like to be something that is labeled as non-conformist in our society. A social other. The problem is that when you build a country, both consciously and unconsciously for rich, educated white men by rich educated white men (like our founders), that social others are excluded, quite literally, in the very fabric of our society. The reason the constitution does not protect us–“us” being social others–is because the founders never even conceptualized that there would be a time where we would be seen as equals. Thomas Jefferson wrote a critique on the Negro race in Notes on the State of Virginia, saying:

“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. It is not against experience to suppose, that different species of the same genus, or varieties of the same species, may possess different qualifications.”

He also says that:

“Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one [black] could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”

This is the man that reportedly married a Black slave. If he, who historically viewed Blacks humanity more highly than others during that time, kept these views on “the Negro race” then why would anyone else consider them in the constructions of this new country?

So back to oppression. The problem with this definition is that it is constructed through a white lens. Your understanding of the Civil Rights Movement was probably introduced as a struggle that peaked in the 1960s and was led by mainly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and after Black people were given rights everything was solved. The common rhetoric we receive in our communities is that there’s no such thing as racism anymore… unless it’s against white people.

Let that one sink in.

An oppressed group defines what oppression is in order for that definition to enter society. What am I talking about? Well think about it; all oppressed groups throughout history had to revolt in order to have their perceived oppression to be acknowledged. Slavery is not wrong when those you enslave are still seen as animals by the dominant society. The dominant society constructs language, and in order for that definition to be built it has to be introduced and adopted by the dominant society. I can say I feel flabbergasted but until the definition is constructed within the the understanding of those around me, no one will know (or probably care) what I’m talking about.

So what happens when your oppressed group does not collective have the fundamental knowledge of sociological concepts to better define their oppression? The definition stays inconclusive. The oppression itself is never fully, truly resolved. The dominant group continues to oppress, unconsciously and consciously and builds the oppression even deeper into the societal norms, so that as time goes back and the systemic ideologies continue to maintain and evolve deeper into institutionalized oppression. And that, my dears, is the greatest challenge of our generation – rewriting the definitions, reconstructing our language so that we and future generations may build a better society.

Huff Post : Essays You Should Read

The Huffington Post listed The Most Important Writing From People Of Color In 2015 and while it’s not a comprehensive list, it definitely sums up a lot of the social and political issues that were addressed in mainstream media last year.

One of our favorites? The Huff Post gives a better synopsis than we ever could:

The Prosperity Gospel Of Rihanna
Doreen St. Felix, Pitchfork 
Rihanna’s empowering trap anthem “BBHM” from June is the focus of this great piece of analysis from Doreen St. Felix, who argues that ,”To be a black woman and genius, is to be perpetually owed.” The piece celebrates the idea of “black women recouping historical debts,” and calls out our discomfort with seeing financially independent black women who are “confrontationally untethered to men or to goods.”

 

Which ones have you read? Get the full list here.

Re: Dating While Black

HUGE TRIGGER WARNING: misogynoir, explicit language, racism, ableism, cishet men

One of my topics was someone asking about dating while a Black woman and I feel like in order to actually address her I need to first explain what I know of dating period. From my lens, men in Nebraska are the devil.

I joked with Imagine not too long ago that Alessia Cara’s hit song, “Here” was totally her. Actually though, I think it might be more my style. That and quite a few soulful tracks seem to be the soundtrack to the horrors of dating life and I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t play them on repeat to give me strength in writing this post. Because honestly y’all the number of times I’ve said something like her one line, “I’m standoffish, don’t want what you’re offering and I’m done talking, awfully sad it had to be that way” could probably rival the amount of Donald Trump toupee jokes.

Look, we know this isn’t a new topic, but honestly though–people don’t understand what it’s like to date in Nebraska when you’re a Black woman. It’s so horrifying and comedic at the same time I’m surprised that a TV network hasn’t picked up the concept. You wouldn’t even need to have a written script; our day-to-day lives provide endless material to work from.

I was having brunch with a fellow Nebraskan and friend, Misam, at a fantastic Black-owned restaurant in DC called Eatonville (now called Mulebone), when we were joking about dating in Nebraska. (If you’re wondering, the food was the shit.)

20151114_134412.jpg

She remarked to me how she probably wouldn’t have dated Black men in Nebraska had she not already been dating someone. I laughed, knowing the struggle of dating firsthand, and compared it to the DC dating scene–the land full of chocolate and honey, these brothas are fine. The glaring differences between the two locations’ pools of available men would be comedic if I didn’t actually live and date in Nebraska. After a week in DC, dating men who understood basic social understandings of respect and compassion, and were self-assured enough to not have their masculinity threatened by my presence of mind or confidence, going back to Omaha was, is, a struggle.

Toxic masculinity and white supremacy are prevalent in the subconscious here. Somehow, Omaha remains steeped in its conservative values while progressing slowly and surely on many liberal fronts. Our music and arts scene is fully of hipsters and our Slut Walk is well attended. Men on my online dating feed tell me how they identify as feminists. But for every hipster there’s a guy in camo, holding up a dead deer talking about God and country. When I swiped through my Tinder yesterday afternoon, of the 60 profiles, there were about four white-presenting men for every person of color. And when one in every ten has a picture with either guns, fish or a group of scantily-clad women, it doesn’t endear you to try the white men flooding your feed.

As a Black woman, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a “stupid Black bitch,” “fucking cunt.” This one white guy, once I told him I wasn’t interested in talking to someone who didn’t have an image up and referred him to my profile (where it says something to that effect), responded with the following:

don’t have to.

listen to your own insight.
the real reason YOU cannot find a partner?
Be a SUB not a pushy, overbearing bitch of a CUNT.

NIGGER

Now, he never put up a picture, but I’m pretty sure that he’s white since he thought that calling me the n-word would be upsetting.  White men and men of color have all responded similarly to rejection and everything outside of enthusiastic subservience. Even then, I’ve encountered men who use enthusiasm as an invitation for degradation. The frequency of flippant dehumanization and objectification that men casually throw out to assert their dominance or validate their masculinity is rampant.

When questioning oppressive ideologies, even in passing, leads to arguments and verbal and physical threats–when that is the reality of dating while Black, while a woman, while woke–we have some serious issues in our society. Most shockingly, I found I felt more safe when I dated men who were not Black–no matter how ridiculous dating white men has been, it has not compared to the extreme misogynoir and toxic masculinity I’ve encountered when dating Black men in Nebraska.

Now I know you’re about to lose your mind at this, so let me explain: literally all but one or two of the Black men I have talked to romantically or otherwise in a dating sense in Nebraska has said or done something misogynistic, anti-Black and/or otherwise physically, emotionally, and/or physically violent. I have been told I either think I’m more attractive/intelligent/successful/sexy than I actually am for telling a guy I’m not interested. I have had Black men put their hands on me in protest, in sexual aggression, and in violence when I am not responsive to their advances. I have been followed in alleys; followed for blocks in broad daylight; cornered in shopping malls; stalked on a university campus to and from class; even, had someone drive by my house and pound on my door on a weekly basis because I wasn’t interested. So to be entirely, explicitly clear—when I’m talking about how Nebraska men have manifested abnormal levels of toxic masculinity, this is what I’m referring to.

Don’t get it twisted it’s not just Black men. But I do find it odd that the dominant majority of my personal experiences with dating Black men have all been borderline traumatically negative.

I feel like it needs to be stated, though, that as I’ve traveled and dated in other cities, especially DC, the brothas are eevveerryytthhiinnggggggggg honey. Everything. Kind, compassionate, respectful and bring that woke goodness that has me like Jill Scott in that “Love Rains” remix with Mos Def talkin’ bout “said he wanted to talk about my mission, listen to my past lives… reparations through colors, memories of the Gentiles.He was fresh on my mind like summer peaches sweet on my mind like block parties and penny candy.” These brothas give a girl the most dangerous high I’ve ever experienced—renewed hope tinged with woke reimaginings.

In fact, let’s talk about dating elsewhere.

What I have found is that here in Nebraska, your race matters even when they may not even realize how much it matters. You are defined as a potential partner, as a fetish, as a person and human being at least partially by your skin color. You’re either “pretty for a dark-skinned girl” or a “Coca-Cola redbone” or some of other subconsciously degrading objectification based solely on your degree of melanin. Elsewhere though? In cities that I’ve visited on the West Coast like San Diego, LA and San Francisco; in the South like Atlanta, San Antonio and New Orleans; and especially the East Coast—DC metro area—your melanin is not any more of an identifier than your other characteristics. As my best friend Fantashia put it, “Dating people in other cities is more based on who you are—your personality.”

God, what a world to exist in. Let me give you an illustration–two different dates, two different cities but two guys from similar backgrounds. In Omaha, he was a mid-30s reasonably attractive white guy. International business professional type with great suits and fantastic food preferences. Let’s call him A. In DC, the guy shared all of the same qualities. Instead of international business, though, he was a government techie. Let’s call him B. In Omaha, A and I had been dating casually for awhile, and in this particular instance he asked me to meet him at his apartment and we’d walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It’s wintertime, and I’m freezing while he keeps me standing outside waiting for 15 minutes. When he finally shows, he doesn’t apologize or explain–he just tells me all about the struggles he’s been having with his Chinese business partners. Occasionally he stops and asks for my opinion on it, but ignores what I say. By the time that we’ve sat down for dinner, he’s making race jokes and orders a Manhattan and tells our server to “keep them coming” before taking a phone call from one of those same business partners at the table. I normally would have read his ass but I can’t get a word in edgewise but he didn’t stop there. As soon as he got off the phone, he looked at the news reporting on the wage gap and made a comment about women always wanting handouts.

Bitch, Black women earn 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. I don’t want your handout I want equal pay.

Needless to say, that date went downhill from there. It was the first time I’ve ever walked out on a date mid-date. Now compared this to B’s date; it was me who showed up late and hella frustrated (I got lost trying to find the place). He picked up on my mood immediately and had me laughing and relaxed by the time we sat down. Now I don’t know if you know this, but DC is all about small plates everything, so we were at this asian/latin fusion restaurant for small plates. And considering Nebraska’s food isn’t that creative, I was freaking lost about what fusions to try and not try. To put me at ease, he orders a bottle of wine and starts walking me through it, ordering plates he’s tried he thinks I’d like based on my food preferences. If I didn’t like the food, we laughed about it instead of him making me feel guilty. But the easy atmosphere wasn’t the best part–the conversation was. We talked about Palestine and opera. About family cooking recipes and FIFA. Honey we talked about Black Lives Matter and James Baldwin and Eartha Kitt and Puerto Rico and our shady government. By the end of the date, his dimples, deep gravelly voice and enlightened debate has seduced my mind. So he took me dancing next. B and I haven’t continued our liaison but the experience reminded me then and now that what I’d been conditioned to believe in Nebraska is not the reality everywhere.

It’s intoxicating – this whole getting to know someone who doesn’t feel threatened by you. Where you can discuss social issues without worrying about verbal or physical retaliation. Where you are being judged by the content of your character rather than skin color. I think I heard a quote regarding a dream about that once. In the meantime I’m daydreaming about Chocolate City.

 

If you’re wondering what the playlist included, here it is.

  1. Here – Alessia Cara
  2. Lost Ones – Lauryn Hill
  3. Give It To Me Right – Melanie Fiona
  4. Love Rain (Remix) – Jill Scott, Mos Def
  5. Tyrone – Erykah Badu
  6. Are You That Somebody – Aaliyah
  7. No Scrubs – TLC
  8. Real Love – Mary J Blige
  9. All Men Lie – Monica, Timbaland
  10. Go Ahead – Alicia Keys
  11. Raining Men – Rihanna, Nicki Minaj
  12. Hit Em Up Style – Blu Cantrell
  13. Babylon – SZA, Kendrick Lamar
  14. Let Me Blow Your Mind – Eve, Gwen Stefani
  15. Crazy In Love (Remix) – Beyoncé

My Thoughts on Award Shows

I’m a huge fan of not reinventing the wheel. Snoop Dogg posted a video on Facebook that mirrors what I think of award shows in general. I love seeing my friends and icons be recognized for their art, hard work, and creativity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of all their accomplishments.

But I’m very displeased by the lack of representation, thoughtless awarding, and miscategorization that happens all too often.

MLK’s Legacy Isn’t Your Shield

I have been thinking about writing an essay on this for some time. Mine is an unpopular opinion to the general public and to the Black community. In fact, part of me thinks that my momma would pop me upside my head for what I’m about to say, but as our relationship grows I believe our views have found more intersections than previously fathomed. Because of that growth, that ability to find common ground in such dichotomously strained conceptions, I believe that it’s possible my unpopular opinion can change a mind or two. And I believe that in changing minds Black folx will get closer and closer to liberation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the ultimate personification of personhood in our Black community. He was a highly-educated, well-spoken, charismatic, God-fearing man who found reasonable wealth for himself and his family. He persevered in the face of injustice and his example is one we emulate in discussing the life of a “good Black man.”

But we have forgotten a lot. That this religion, and the nonviolent movement, is deeply rooted in respectability politics. That this man, who preached love of family and God above all else, continuously broke one of the most sacred tenants of a God-fearing husband–he cheated allllll the time. Finally, we all seem to forget that Dr. King was assassinated by the United States government, as proven by the civil case that the King family won in 1999.

When we talk about Dr. King’s legacy, it seems that America, and even the Black community, has selective recall–we talk about his passive approach. His “quiet bravery.” His love of his family and God. His determination for equality.

Whenever I hear Dr. King’s name invoked these days, it’s usually in one of these situations:

  1. White people in discussing their opinion of racially-charged current events
  2. Black people giving their opinions on how to react to racially-charged current events
  3. MLK Day
  4. Black History Month

Apparently this needs to be said: Martin Luther King, Jr. is not your shield to use whenever radical unapologetic Blackness makes you uncomfortable. His legacy was not, is not, that of a “good Negro” who politely asked for our liberation in the Civil Rights Movement. He was not as radically progressive as other activists like Malcolm X, but I also don’t believe that he would not have joined the Black Liberation Movement, taking on a more forceful stance had he not been assassinated.

White people: Invoking Dr. King’s legacy is not a talisman to erase your passive racism.

Dr. King is not your shield. You cannot use his legacy to deflect your privilege or to erase the impact your diet racism inflicts. Your fragility cannot, and will not be shielded by invoking Dr. King’s name or his legacy of nonviolence. In fact, using him as a paragon of decency when you enter into spaces specifically calling out racial injustice shows how little you understand of his legacy.

But don’t take my word for it. Dr. King was outspoken in his view of passive whites. In his 1967 book (yes, the year before he died) titled Where Do We Go From Here, he said the following:

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans. White America would have liked to believe that in the past ten years a mechanism had somehow been created that needed only orderly and smooth tending for the painless accomplishment of change. Yet this is precisely what has not been achieved. [….] These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races.

Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.

Think about that the next time you try to bring up Dr. King to Black people. I believe Dr. King called it your “ever-present tendency to backlash” but today it has a new name – white fragility. Your fragility has no place in our discussions of our oppression. We do not want your input (unless we asked for it) about what you think we should do to not be harassed, assaulted, beaten, murdered and otherwise dehumanized in a society that gives you power and privilege just on account of your skin tone. And when you say, as did quite a few of my former friends, that Black protesters should be nonviolent like Dr. King keep in mind this honest truth from Assata Shakur in her autobiography:

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”

Black people: Your respectability politics will not save you.

Dr. King’s narrative of nonviolence and Black community’s instance to not make waves in the face of oppression and severe, violent brutality does not work. If it had, wouldn’t we have “achieved” personhood by now? Wouldn’t Sandra Bland’s murderer, Freddie Grey’s murderers, Michael Brown’s murderer, Mya Hall’s murderer be in jail now? Wouldn’t they be facing the same “justice” that we see in heinous crimes committed against our white peers? Why have we as a society forgotten that police brutality began in the role of the overseer as modern-day slavery evolved into the prison pipeline?

Why have we forgotten the pulpit of Christianity where this message begins and seeps into the community was not a religion we collectively knew and claimed until white slave owners gave it to us? We pray to the white man’s God to liberate us from the white man, who uses the same God to justify our dehumanization.

(Oh, I know my former church family’s red in the face at that.)

Dr. King, and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, got some much right, but eventually the progress stalled because we kept trying to rewrite the rules of a game the white man created without understanding we needed to stop playing their game–period.

We have forgotten so much. The Black Nationalist Movement and the Black Power Movement propelled us into a reality that glimpsed the true potential of Black agency and the US government and our base tore us down until we shattered into who we are today. The Black American identity is intricately, uniquely tied to white supremacy, and because we have not understood that as a people, we continuously cycle in white consciousness without being aware of what’s really going on. We keep preaching, for example, that being a good, nonviolent Negro will keep us safe from harm when society shows us anything but. In October 2015, Zach Stafford wrote in his article “Respectability politics won’t save the lives of Black Americans” for The Guardian that:

“Wearing a tie doesn’t rectify the fact that black people are incarcerated at six times that rate of white people. You having the ‘right job’ doesn’t give a black person a job as the community faces an unemployment rate of twice that of white people. And saying #AllLivesMatter doesn’t take the bullet out of the literally countless black bodies shot dead by police officers.

Instead, believing that our lives only matter when we ‘act right’ only fuels the very dangerous ways in which our world operates. It protects the structural racism that no one ever wants to talk about or challenge. And it inevitably makes you believe that your life depends on a well enunciated ‘yes, sir.’

No one’s life should rest on ‘yes, sir’ or ‘thank you.’ Ever.”

MLK Day is not the only day to remember the Civil Rights Movement.

Firstly, Black people have not been liberated. I’m not saying we haven’t come far–we have the right to own property, to vote, to marry interracially; we have Blacks in high-power positions all over the world. Our president is half-Black and the FLOTUS is so flawlessly graced in melanin that she slayyysss our hearts with her Blackness all in that big white monstrosity we called the White House. But when our own President can’t utter the words #BlackLivesMatter in a press conference for fear of being too unapologetically Black we have a problem. When police officers who have murdered Black people, Black youth, on video still walk away with their jobs and overall public opinion intact, with nothing more than a slap on the wrists because eh…circumstantial evidence. When that still happens in 2015 we have a serious problem, America. Lest we not forget Dr. King’s words in “The Other America” (1968):

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

The Civil Rights Movement is just a period of a larger movement for the freedom of marginalized peoples. It was not just Rosa Parks and Dr. King. It wasn’t about only Black people and their struggle to be recognized as human beings. It was about all people trying to get a step closer to those basic human rights we keep hearing about the Constitution providing, but always see consistently applying to a small portion of the American population. Perfect example currently is the militia men in Oregon.

Don’t wait to MLK Day every year to talk about the movement. It’s still going on by another name–#BlackLivesMatter. It will continue to go on until ALL Black people have the opportunity and freedom to live the life they want to live.

Black history is American history; do not relegate this to a month.

Dr. King is not the only civil rights leader who made an impact in the movement. Black history is about more than his speeches; in fact Black history did not start with the civil rights movement or even slavery. Black history is literally as old and timeless the Homo sapiens species, so relegating it to a month just shows how little common knowledge or respect the American community has for it collectively. Black American history is intricately tied to the foundation of this country–from the first settlers to the first slaves, to the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the Industrial Revolution, to today. To only remember Dr. King and either ignore other civil rights leaders, or not give them the credit for their contributions to a period of time which lead to much advancement in the Black community is, quite frankly, ignorant.

 

Overall the responsibility of change–of education and reform–lies within each of us.

Radical pro-blackness is not necessarily anti-whiteness, but it is anti-white supremacy. Once we as a society own and accept that anti-blackness is intricately tied to white supremacy and both are what our society’s foundation of identity is based upon, then we can move towards a more just society.

Until then I leave you with one of my personal favorite quotes I clapback with whenever someone invokes the name of Dr. King from  Letter From a Birmingham Jail (1963):

“First, I must confess that over the past 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 his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler 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 cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

 

Re: “How does an ally maintain a safe space while also not over-reaching? Especially as an intersectional white feminist/male feminist”

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are different than my own.” – Audre Lorde

I believe that being an ally is important to the greater goal of justice and inclusion for our American society. Yet as I have learned and grown as an activist and as a self-identifying intersectional feminist, I have found that the space of the ally is still in its infancy of enlightenment. We understand it as speaking out against oppression, but we don’t outline what the job actually looks like or what that job description (so-to-speak) entails.

I realized in being an ally to others that it is about listening and speaking up in the spaces where I am surrounded by those who share the same privilege as I have, and do not know, understand and/or own that privilege.

It’s very important to point out that even this post is inaccurate, because what I expect of an ally is different than what other marginalized people who experience different oppressive structures expect. My experience is not their experience, and neither is yours.

To get to your question – I first ask you to recall, if possible, a time when someone has spoken on your behalf without your consent or input and keep that the emotion and injustice I assume that experience would invoke, in mind. For the many, many times that experience has happened for me, it is frustrating and infuriating, and evokes a sense of helplessness.

In building a safe space, you have to first keep in mind whose definition of safe you’re working with. If an ally is looking for a safe space for those who experience the oppression of ableism that space will likely be more conscious of different social triggers than a space that, for example, focuses on Black women and girls in education. If you’re talking about a safe space for all marginalized people, you will have to first educate yourself extensively on how all oppressive mentalities have manifested in ourselves, in yourself, and then listen. There are a ton of resources to read about, and stories of people who have offered up their testimonies of their experiences as marginalized people. In spaces where there those people speak up on their oppression? Just. Listen. 

As an ally, I would rather see you educating others than giving me validation or asking me for advice. There are so many other resources and platforms for you to educate yourself and others; please don’t enter our spaces without expressly being invited to offer your opinion or validation. To be honest, it’s not usually something I want to discuss with those who enjoy privilege where I am oppressed.

Now I want to talk about the two examples you gave – “intersectional white feminist” and “male feminist.” First – intersectional feminism was created by Black women for Black femmes and non-men. Those outside of that space cannot identify as such. There are no “intersectional white feminists;” white feminists cannot be intersectional, even when you operating as a white person who supports the ideologies of intersectional feminism, you are an inclusive feminist. Anyone who calls themselves a white feminist cannot fundamentally support intersectionality especially since white feminism is solely exclusionary. Ally is not a noun, it is a verb. Because of this, men can’t be feminists and you can’t self-identify as an ally. You can try your best to be an ally but there is no “achievement” of being so. You don’t finally become an ally after saying or doing the work after a while. It’s a life long path with no destination outside of the greater achievement of justice. Period. I try to avoid absolutes, but personally, this is one for me.

I see so many white cishet women and men comment and share stuff on my feed, in groups, DM me, or even in face-to-face conversations with me offer their opinion and interpretation of my experiences as a Black woman. It is exhausting. I understand that it comes from a place of compassion and willingness to help and support. But this is not what an ally looks like.

TL/DR: To create a safe space, please spotlight the space of the marginalized people, rather than your own opinions and beliefs of their oppression. Focus on educating the privilege rather than commenting on the oppressed.

4 hours, 24 minutes

There’s this thing when the President speaks. I imagine it’s what captive audiences of incredible orators everywhere have experienced, and it is both unique to the experience’s environment and as old as time. He’s not just charismatic–though charisma itself is quite a heady influencer–and he’s more than a talented speaker who has mastered the art of the pause and the dance of vocal inflections and the grace of gestures. I’ve heard it spoken of as “presence” but I feel such a term inadequately describes the way that the energy of the room, the crowd and him are both heightened and channeled directly into his message. Everyone around me was glued to his word by sure will, and I found myself internalizing his words with little to no reproach or analysis; in all but one instance, I didn’t think about the validity of his statements, I just knew them to be true.

President Barack Obama came to Omaha today, for the first time since his first presidential election campaign. I remember the last time I stood in the crowd and was taken into the spell of his magnetism. His legacy from that moment on became a reminder of this intoxicatingly impactful and addictive theme of three of the most dangerous ideological concepts a little Black girl can internalize: hope, change and empowerment.

president obama1

The President’s message today was similar to that of his State of the Union speech last night; merely expanding a few of those themes. His four questions for America, I think, are ones we have asked, continue to ask, and probably will forever ask of ourselves and other Americans. But there was a specific section of the speech that resonated with me as a person–when he brought up “political correctness.”

po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness [noun]     the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

He mentioned it in his SOTU speech last night as well, but he really expanded into it today. Using an illustration of those who disagree on affirmative action, the President made the assertion that a difference of political ideologies does not mean racism. While this is true, he forgot to point out the reason for these programs being in place in the first place (though I can give you one guess; it’s an r-word). He did however reconcile the statement but addressing the existence of prejudice. And, as he did last night, he affirmed his belief that our nation is strongest when we work together as one.

There’s so much that needs to be said and done to improve the lives of social others, though, that I feel we cannot skip the step of addressing those voices first. In a society where, as a Black woman, I mention “race” or “Black lives”, or in anyway imply that my experiences have been different due to the color of my skin people flinch or try to silence me, we need to hear marginalized voices so often that those who once felt uncomfortable have become acculturated to discussions of othered identities. We need to acknowledge the existence of intricate social oppression structures in our communities, and we need to figure out how to change them. I should not have overheard a highly prejudiced comment about a group of Black people trying to get the elevator to help their friends in wheelchairs. I should not have seen people sneering and making fun of a group of beautiful dark-skinned Black girls waiting patiently for the speech, the picture of Black femme joy. I should not have seen a Black pastor lead his group skip over a hundred of people in line and then boast about it. We have so much wrong to address and correct in our cultures, in our communities, in ourselves, before we can even begin to truly see ourselves as one. And while President Obama’s message filled me with passionate hope and a dream of change, it also left me with a clear idea of what’s left to do. So the answer to whether or not the 4 hour and 24 minute standing only wait was worth it? The answer would be indisputably. More than anything else, this speech left me with a passionate drive and ambition to change the world.

Once the swelling in my feet goes down, of course.