Friday, March 30, 2007

More Stop Cyberbullying Day communications...

Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 1:29:04 PM
Subject: Re: [BlogHer News] Today is is Stop Cyberbullying Day

Hi darkdaughta:

I think you raise good questions about the difference between civil disagreement and trolling that are also being raised on other posts on BlogHer today. I hope you'll go add your voice to that conversation and represent your point of view. This is the post with comments most directly relevant to your point:

I am also cc'ing my partner Lisa Stone, as she is the author of the newsletter in question and the original post included in it.

My personal take:

I think that there is an element of subjectivity to the discussion. What crosses the line into unacceptable content for me might be seen as acceptable discourse to someone else. On BlogHer we have editorial guidelines that try to define what is not considered acceptable content on our particular site, and we give people a pretty wide berth. But I think every individual who manages their own online space gets to make their own decisions about what they'll support on their own site.

I think it's really the opposite of mob rule: it's saying set your own house rules and feel comfortable that you're allowed to do that. And if someone's rules go too far and are oppressive? We are all equally free to ignore them too. For example, there are many blogs I rarely read anymore because they disallow comments altogether, and I find that annoying and unfulfilling. It is totally their right to do that if they want. And it's totally my right to unsubscribe.

This is entirely different than discussing hate speech or threats of harm...and I think the newsletter and many posts on BlogHer encourage people to NOT conflate annoying/bothersome/painful behavior with potentially dangerous and illegal behavior.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I understand your concern and really hope you'll join in the conversation I linked's discussing exactly this point.

Elisa Camahort
President, Events & Marketing

darkdaughta wrote:

Thank you, Elisa,
I will definitely go over and have a look. I completely agree with you about the subjectivity of the discussion. I think that one person's poison is another exciting meal. What worries me is the way that the poison of some people ends up being defined as the dietary restriction for all.

I think that setting house rules is extremely important. But as I realized not long after I entered the blogosphere, my house rules, stuff I expected to have people stand accountable for was considered common fare and completely acceptable by many just by virtue of certain behaviours and actions never having been challenged.

I tend to represent a minority report of one most days. This is an okay spot for me to occupy. But I think the whole idea of not following the dictates of this blogland clique or that blogland popular in set, really seems odd for most people.

It does become dangerous with people defining trolling according to their comfort level when you're a single blogger with no affiliates like I am. You can't call on mob rule to underscore the validity of a set of beliefs. It's been fairly easy for me to end up being defined as troll or cyberbully just because I was a vulnerable and unsociable individual not part of any ruling blogland popular clique.

I hope you don't mind that I'm posting these engagements. This is helping me sort out some of the rage, disappointment and hurt I've felt as I've continued posting a blogland minority report of sorts.


Stinkapee's Teacher's gender difficulties...

Dear darkdaughta and Papi,

As you requested, I am sharing with you a communication that occurred
yesterday between Stinkapee and me.

Yesterday as the class was leaving the front playground from gym class
Stinkapee communicated the following comment to me:

Stinkapee said, "Teacher you have gender difficulties". I replied with,
"Stinkapee do you know what gender means to you".

Stinkapee said, "Of course I do, it means that you have a difficulties with
boys being like girls--if boys want to; and girls being like boys-- if
want to."

I did realize that Stinkapee has understanding of gender. I then responded
to Stinkapee with the following, "Stinkapee I do not have gender difficulties
and Stinkapee why would you say such a comment about me".

Stinkapee then said, " But of course you do, Mama said so"

I informed Stinkapee that I have no gender difficulties. I told her that I
no problems with boys being like girls and girls being like boys.

I asked Stinkapee if she heard and understood me. She said yes. I asked if
she had any other things she would like to say about gender and she said

darkdaughta, I would like to know if what Stinkapee communicated to me about what
you said is true or if she misunderstood a comment you made. If she
misunderstood, I would appreciate you letting me to know what
conversation actually took place between the two of you that led her to
make this comment about me.

Take care,

Stinkapee's Teacher

darkdaughta wrote:

Hi Stinkapee's Teacher,
Thank you for remaining in communication with me as Stinkapee continues to feel her way and as Independent School continues to grow and morph to make space for her.

Stinkapee communicates with Papi and I (and I might add, with every other person she encounters) about her perceptions, opinions, challenges and experiences.

So, yes, we have been talking, since well before she began school at Independent School, and continuing on through to this morning, about gender.

Teacher, our world is oriented around a gender binary. By binary, I mean that we are taught to believe that there are two genders -- male and female -- that this division reflects a biological reality and that our actions, ways of speaking, ways of dressing, ways of moving our bodies, ways of expressing our emotions, ways of amusing ourselves, mirrors this binary.

Most people on this planet are raised to ignore the simple yet clear fact that gender is not fully represented in a binary system. We're raised to believe that our genitalia will define the ways we represent ourselves to others. We're raised to believe that our genitalia define a limited set of possibilities, a box, as it were, that we cannot, should not climb out of.

We are raised to be gender challenged. We are socialized to defend gender binaries and to subtly or overtly invalidate anyone who claims to occupy space outside gendered identity beyond "man" or "woman", "boy" or "girl".

Knowing the many women who have gnashed their teeth and cried and demanded the right to be be understood as more than simply "girl" or "woman", I offered Stinkapee the space to define her relationship to constructed gender roles very soon after I realized she was able to understand when I communicated with her.

I grew up liking dresses, building forts, wearing jewelry, making bows and arrows, biking full tilt through deserted ravines, fantasizing about boys, digging for clay deposits... I had loads of space to decide who I would be...and I still demand that space.

I offer similar kinds of space to Stinkapee. Although she understands that as soon as she leaves the protection of her parents, adults who meet her, school mates and other people she encounters will see her as an anomaly - a girl child not clinging to one set of definitions that construct a "girl's" identity.

She has repeatedly expressed her dismay over having children she encounters limit, on her behalf, what she can or can't do.

Gender defines the sorts of toys the boys in her class will share with her. "Go skip, go play with your doll. We're playing mutant ninja turtles and we don't need another turtle. We're playing with the hot wheels. You'll have to wait."

Gender infuses the aggression they show her. She's been chased and fired at with imaginary guns. She's been air punched when no one is looking.

Gender defines the limits of the defenses she can use to protect herself in moments where her boundaries, her sovereign space is invaded by those who want only to deal with Stinkapee the "girl". "Try to be nice when little [insert name here] takes a swing at you and then runs away."

Because most adults were raised to understand gender binary splits as natural and normal, many don't see or correctly interpret what Stinkapee encounters. Her painful experiences may be downplayed and not understood as training she is receiving at the hands of others who are teaching her about her correct place as a single gendered female being in society. Adults may not necessarily understand that the children Stinkapee encounters, who are not being offered the space to understand themselves as fluidly gendered beings who have a right to choose how they will express their gendered identities, are limiting her space to define herself as their space to define themselves has been limited.

Most of the adults Stinkapee encounters don't have a vocabulary or analysis or way of moving through the world that allows them to critique gender binary indoctrination. This means they are gender challenged. This does not make them mean people. This does not make them evil people. This does not mean they can't teach Stinkapee about the world around her.

This just means that Stinkapee knows to interpret what they offer so as to watch for, to question and to filter out if or when necessary, any bits of teaching that may offer up a narrower sense of possibility as it relates to gender.

Teacher, I don't want to upset you. I don't want to alienate you. Stinkapee really likes you as a teacher.

It's just that I have a few jobs where Stinkapee is concerned.

One - To keep her safe. Not just physically but also psychologically and intellectually. I want her to not be motivated by fear of the unknown. I'd like her to understand that she has ample room to explore.

Two - I am here to offer her a set of critiques that will support her claiming room to explore and to better understand herself.

Three - I am here advocate for Stinkapee, to support her in the ways she requests support. I try to keep ordering her around to a minimum (I succeed with this one better some days than others). I take my orders from her. So, when she comes and tells me that she's experiencing a particular set of student behaviours that the adults are not understanding and therefore, cannot support her in resisting, I offer her language she can use to deflect and or engage.

We often speak about the challenges people who meet Stinkapee may face as they try to interface what they've been taught about the world with what Stikapee has been taught about the world. I don't want Stinkapee to internalize the discomfort of others. So, when she describes people not being able or willing to engage her full on in conversation about a given issue, I let her know to not be hurt and to not feel as if she's done wrong in some way. I let her know that the people she's trying to engage are probably feeling challenged about how to go about entering into conversations she's requesting.

I let her know that it is okay for them to be where they are. I also let her know that it's okay, after trying for a bit, for her to just let a particular unfruitful conversation go.

Teacher, Stinkapee is attempting to pull out of conversations about gender in her school environment because these haven't been generative and exciting for her.

I'm hoping that you will understand me when I say that I will check to see if there's anything more Stinkapee would like to discuss with you about gender. I think she's attempting to hold an olive branch out to you in the hopes that you will at least talk about what you've been taught. I think she might find that conversation stimulating as it will offer information about you and your childhood. She gets really curious about the childhoods of adults.

Anyway, I hope this offers some clarity for you. Please feel free to email or call any time.


I'm a little confused about the exact nature of Stop Cyberbullying Day...

I got an email from someone at blogher about today being Stop Cyberbullying Day. As someone who is presently being shunned and villainized because of my ability to critique in situations where most would just throw up their hands and bow out, I have a vested interest in inviting the people who wrote the description I got in a blogher newsletter, to tease out more fully exactly what they're talking about. I'm not the first person to be caught in this sort of dragnet and I know I won't be the last. So, again I ask, who gets to speak out and voice concerns? Who must stay silent for fear of being tossed out? According to the newsletter description, anyone someone takes issue with, who doesn't present themselves or their ideas in a courteous (as defined by who?) manner risks being defined as a cyberbully. And don't expect to have your concerns heard, you're just seeking attention and you will be ignored.

This is what I wrote in response to the email I received...

Dear Elisa at blogher,

Thanks for the post below. It seems a little confused. Are people talking about people who bully and intimidate the innocent and defenseless online? Or are people talking about people whose views are uncomfortable and unpopular (with those who unconsciously wield power in the blogosphere), who therefore end up being defined as not nice or acceptable company which leads directly to them being ostracised and outlawed. I'm asking because I think I fall into the latter category.

I think that cyberbullying, trolling and cyberstalking need to be clearly defined so as to not conflate them with people speaking out so as to resist domination by those who may be popular, but still in the wrong in any given situation from time to time.

I think that I've observed people, experienced people, especially fellow wimmin hiding rage and indignance at being questioned about their actions, politics and beliefs behind the threat of labelling me a troll.

I think that for something like Cyberbullying to not be emptied of meaning by those who would use this sort of terminology to attack so as to avoid claiming responsibility for their own actions, the definition of who is a cyberbully may have to be more clearly defined if the people who actually experience cyberbullying are not to have their stories overshadowed. Thanks for the email, though.

(constructed) Cyberbully/Troll signing off.

P.S. I expanded on this note over at my cyberbullying blog One Tenacious Baby Mama. But, I'm not sure who's allowed to go read me or to respond because I'm not supposed to be seen or heard...given that I'm not offering analysis, but demanding attention.

The email I've cut and pasted in below contained information about Stop Cyberbullying Day. The mob rule, be nice or we'll get you implications of the letter are terrifying and a bit stomach turning to someone like me who often positions on the wrong side of lines defining wimmin's voice, what it means to be well-mannered, assertive or how one poses political challenges.

I haven't felt safe here doing this work in quite some time. And this conflicted, conflated bit of writing made it clear: things are much worse for those who fall out of line than I'd thought.

Today is is Stop Cyberbullying Day
2007/03/29 22:18 Eastern Daylight Time

March 30, 2007

Hi everyone,

Today is Stop Cyberbullying Day, inspired by these events: "Hating Hate Speech: Safety for Kathy Sierra and all women online".

In support of this event, and in protest against this latest example of abuse aimed at women online, I'm re-publishing a piece I wrote in October, 2006. This piece was inspired by a few parenting bloggers I spoke with that month, who were targeted by cyberbullies and asked me for advice.

In the piece, I talk about ignoring words that hurt. I also provide resources for reporting threats to police, where appropriate.

Now, after the events of this week, what would you add?

What do you do when you're cyberstalked, taunted or abused online?, posted Oct. 31, 2006

Dear women of the Internet:

We need to have a talk. There's a reality of online life that some of us are suffering through by ourselves, a completely normal but painful experience that every woman I've ever met who goes online has had -- and that plenty of men have had too.

I'm talking about the lovely experience of encountering Internet trolls. And for me, it all boils down to this...

Sometimes people are mean in this virtual Web world. Really mean.

And it's my opinion that there's only one solution: Ignore them.

That's the most powerful thing you can do.

I'm saying shun them, like the Amish, as a friend recently recommended to me via email. This is our virtual world -- we created it. The most powerful thing we can do when we encounter a person who is abusive online is to refuse to acknowledge them. Deprived of the spotlight, their own hateful little lights will blink out.


Don't link them, don't talk about them, don't read them. As far as we're concerned, they don't exist. And amongst ourselves, I think it's time to bring the issue out of the closet, demystify it, circle our wagons and learn to roll our eyes about it together, even laugh at it. Who cares?

I can imagine some of your faces -- you're thinking that I don't understand. You're wrong. I already know how hard it is and I do understand. Believez-moi.

If you're lucky, you may not yet have learned that people exist who will use the Internet to come to our blogs or sites and belittle us, call our names and poke fun at us, our beliefs, our races, our religions, the fact that we are women or men or other, perhaps even our kids or our dogs or our sans-serif fonts, for crying out loud. In fact, if we have the nerve to be female, especially someone who is not white, we will attract more mean, hate-filled people than folks who are not female and white. Some of these people even (inexplicably) have enough time and interest in us to start their own blogs and sites to showcase their abuse of us.

Ridiculous, isn't it? You may wonder to yourself, how is it that there can be a war on in Iraq, children starving on the streets of every nation on this rock and the unfolding horror that is Darfur -- and some people have time to spend hours bullying other people online?

Here's how: It's not about us. It's about them. That's why ignoring trolls works.

Please read that last sentence again? Now print it, cut it out, chew it up and swallow it. This is my mantra: It's. Not. About. Me. That's why I refuse to play.

Here's a little perspective that helped me: As Timothy Campbell, who wrote this great article for AOL users in 2001, said: "Trolls crave attention, and they care not whether it is positive or negative. They see the Internet as a mirror into which they can gaze in narcissistic rapture. If you want a deeper analysis than that, perhaps a psychologist can shed some additional light on the matter."

In order to take our revenge, our best bet is "don't respond, don't interact and don't engage," recommends the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line:

"Many serial bullies are also serial attention-seekers. More than anything else they want attention. It doesn't matter what type of attention they get, positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them attention. It's like a 2-year-old child throwing a tantrum to get attention from a parent. The best way to treat bullies is to refuse to respond and to refuse to engage them - which they really hate. In other words, do not reply to their postings, and on forums carry on posting without reference to their postings as if they didn't exist. In other words, treat nobodies as nobodies."

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker puts it yet another way:

"But when YOU are the target of an insulting post or sharply-worded email, quite frankly, it can really suck. Today I've got some strategies for dealing with Internet Meanies: those faceless virtual bullies who take pleasure in shooting other people down from the safety of their keyboards....It's easy to take out frustrations on someone online because they don't quite feel real. Talking smack puts people in a position of power, one they want to be in because they feel small and weak in other areas of their lives. The key words here are "small" and "weak." "

Today, fortunately, the law and corporate policies have evolved to the point where we can take action in certain circumstances. Specifically:
Currently there are 45 cyberstalking (and related) U.S. federal and state laws on the books, as well as laws in U.K. and India. Read about them here at Jayne Hitchcock's site, Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA): If you need information on child-related laws, WHOA suggests you visit Safetyed Get their IP addresses from your logs and ban them from your blog. That's what Jenna Hatfield did. She writes:

"what do you do when mocking, name-calling, insulting, ignoring and cussing don’t work? What do you do when you’ve got a persistent little bugger that annoys the bejeebus out of you, sucks up your bandwidth, steals photos and takes things out of context to their own personal spaces? I wasn’t sure this morning. I now know how!"

So - there you have it. That's my approach to online life.

What do you think?

Image credit: Family Living, Hatfield Style

Lisa Stone
BlogHer Co-founder

Le Déclin de l'empire américain, fer real...

I found a link to an interesting article tracing parallels between the collapse of the USSR with the upcoming, impending collapse of the United States at porcupine blog.

Now, living as I do in kkkanada and being born in a country stuck in the orbit of the giant, plodding, international bully, I understand that this collapse will fuck with my world as much as it will do severe damage to the card houses of folks south of the 49th parallel.

Although, I canNOT say that the fallout from the extreme nosedive will be manageable...more like excruciating, I do think that a fall has been overdue.

Here's a quote from Closing the Collapse Gap by Dimitry Orlov:
"I anticipate that some people will react rather badly to having their country compared to the USSR. I would like to assure you that the Soviet people would have reacted similarly, had the United States collapsed first. Feelings aside, here are two 20th century superpowers, who wanted more or less the same things – things like technological progress, economic growth, full employment, and world domination – but they disagreed about the methods. And they obtained similar results – each had a good run, intimidated the whole planet, and kept the other scared. Each eventually went bankrupt."


If this was a sci-fi novel...

It would start something like this...

"The year that the english queen held her head down low, avoiding the eyes of a lone man requesting a simple apology for hundreds of years of wrong doing was notable in that it was also the same year the polar ice caps began to melt. This was also the year 65 tornadoes set down in the midwest of the US in one day. Then of course, there was the dying of the bees.

Most rational people, rational in that they used systems of deeply entrenched denial they referred to as logic to mask or dispel bouts of discomfort and confusion, tried to ignore the obvious, yet terrifying fact -- there would be no turning back. No matter what global initiatives came into effect, the planet had already begun to change for good.

Kyoto was slowly gaining momentum. But world leaders still squabbled over who would foot the bill for the sweeping yet necessary changes that would surely cause toxic corporations to think twice about where they opened their megafactories. Most of the afore mentioned world leaders agreed that the poisoning of their constituents was not as important as the monies generated by big business.

On the streets of the more chic neighbourhoods corn-based disposable bags or ones crafted of cloth were coming into vogue in the more expensive establishments. Meanwhile in the more economically challenged neighbourhoods plastic bags were ubiquitous, used to bring home food, take out the trash and carry loads from station to station.

The poor literally could not afford to care about the environment, most of the green measures proposed by the middle and upper classes were simply too expensive. The middle-class yet environmentally conscious poo-pooed those who could not absorb the costs associated with greening. They made mental notes to increase community outreach and education. Obviously it was a problem of education; the poor didn't really understand what was at stake.

But none of this mattered really. The planetary self-destruct had been initiated. The denizens of Terra, many of whom understood ourselves as developed, had collectively spat on the earth, our home, for long enough."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Apologize for slavery? Platform nine and three quarters...

from The Toronto Star

Protest mars apology service

Royson James
LONDON – Within spitting distance of the Queen and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a lone black protester today eluded tight security at Westminster Abbey to denounce the national commemorative service to mark the end of the Atlantic slave trade of Africans 200 years ago.

“This is a disgrace to our ancestors,” shouted the protester, jabbing his finger at Queen Elizabeth and Blair. “Millions of our ancestors are in the Atlantic.”

The man identified as Toyin Agbetu ground the church service to a halt and stunned a crowd of 2,000 gathered in the most famous protestant cathedral in the world.

He got to within three metres of the Queen, who sat emotionless with Prince Phillip at her side. Church officials and several black worshippers surrounded the man, wrestling him to the ground but quickly unhanded him as he shouted, “Let go of me.”

“This is an insult,” the man said, urging the large throng of blacks in the crowd to walk out of the commemorative service, organized by the Church of England, which itself owned some 600 slaves on Caribbean plantations.

Johnny Hogg, a descendant of William Wilberforce, the most famous of the abolitionists who pushed the British Parliament to end the slave trade in 1807, was one seat over from the protester when he rose in the middle of a prayer.

“This is a public relations disaster on a day like today,” Hogg said. “Four white people wrestling a black guy to the ground is not what you want (in news clips and pictures),” he said.

The one-hour service featured African drummers, the Adventist Gospel Ensemble singing traditional Negro spirituals, words of 18th century black British abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, and re-enactment of a Wilberforce speech.

The protester had a press pass and sat in the first row of journalists. The Queen passed within inches of him during the procession. But it was about 40 minutes into the service before he showed his true colours, walking to the front of the rostrum.

He was arrested outside the Abbey as other protesters shouted slogans in support.

The national service marked a peak in events to mark the bicentenary of the constitutional ending of the slave trade between Africa and the British colonies. Slavery continued officially until 1834 and the legacy continues.

In his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, Rowan Williams said:

“We who are heirs of the slave-owning and slave-trading nations of the past have to face the fact that our historic prosperity was built in large part on this atrocity; those who are heirs of the communities ravaged by the slave trade know very well that much of their present suffering and struggling is the result of centuries of abuse.”

Apologize for slavery?

Papi brought up the subject of emancipation day...or year...what are we supposed to be celebrating?

I don't pay much attention to special days proclaimed by the powers that be in bids to quell the dissent of the dominated. Politicians and the affluent minority they serve sign off on all sorts of proclamations as a way to observe good public relations without actually examining or claiming the power and domination that runs through society as a whole.

Our relations are diseased.

No tight-lipped, carefully worded, signed with a flourish to the sound of hearty applause apology is going to fix that. The heads of state of various countries (including Britain) built with monies earned off the backs of enslaved and colonized African people, whose forced labour provided the human fuel for the Industrial Revolution will never fully, openly claim culpability for the horror that was the Middle Passage.

If Britain, Canada, the US and all other countries involved admitted full guilt, this would be moment of no return. They'd have to start handing out apologies and cheques left, right and center.

If the British admitted guilt over enslaving Black folk, they'd of course have to admit to attempting to completely clear lands in north amerikkka of First Nations peoples through horrific acts of conventional and biological warfare.

Any apology these heads of states offer will be as surface and noncommittal as they can possibly make it...otherwise their coffers will feel the pinch.

So, I'm not particularly interested in any pathetic apology from any smiling, affluent, politically ignorant, conservative, heterosexual (or closeted), patriarchal white men who are really just doing what their handlers and advisors tell them to do anyway.

I prefer to think about the pervasive influence of the "good" work their christian, colonizing imperialist ancestors accomplished which lives well beyond them and into present day.

I reflect often on the official end of the African slave trade that changed the destinies of my ancestors forever. The end of slavery was just a series of papers pushed.

emancipation wasn't the end of the pain and torment faced by Black Africans brought to the West. It wasn't the end of our experience of domination at the hands of the colonizer. It didn't mark an end to the exploitation of our labour. Actually, the emancipation proclamation didn't even mark the end of slavery.

As I understand it, the British government had to do millions in pay outs to the people who were running the whole show to entice them to close up shop...I guess in amerikkka some "freed" Africans themselves got the now legendarily inadequate forty acres of (Native, stolen, bloodied) land and a mule. Black loyalists who went north to kkkanada got some rocky (Native, stolen, bloodied) land Gotta check to see what formerly incarcerated Africans in the caribbean "got" once they were "freed".

In any case, official emancipation marked the beginning of the surpression of the knowledge of the horror. The collective torment itself just went underground. It had "passed over" and existed no more in the collective consciousness of those who mattered. Therefore the continuing agony could not, would not be allowed to exist in the collective consciousness of those "freed" Africans who were still experiencing it.

We learned to make do, to overcome and to think of ourselves as "freed" and clear.

I think about Toni Morrison's character Sethe in her book Beloved. The white massa came to collect not her, but his property -- her children. She knew this and did an act of biological scorched earth. She tried to stem the flow of product from her body to his human factory -- the plantation. Sethe tried to keep her children out of the reach of slavery by attempting to kill them all. She only succeeded in "removing" one child, aptly named posthumously -- Beloved -- from his reach.

Honestly? This moment of desperate resistance (and the section about the Black men having to give slavers head in exchange for breakfast) overshadows so much of what I remember about the book that I have to go back and reread what happened next. I seem to remember the people who witnessed or heard about her murder of her daughter expressing shock and surprise. There could be no situation so horrific that a Black mother a runaway slave would have to kill her own child.

There could be no situation so horrific, so grave that a conscientious and loving mother would want to spare her child from the experience.

Already, even in the fictional context of Sethe's escaped slave existence, surrounded by other people scarred and damaged by the experience of slavery, her actions were questionable.

People had forgotten, been invited to forget, been offered forgetfulness as a balm. But a balm to who? Who exactly does the submerging, the denial of the ongoing impact of slavery serve?

When I think about the declaration of emancipation by wily white politicians so long ago...
When I add to this the observance of this day by descendants of "freed" African slaves...
When I go on from there to reflect on these descendants presently struggling to get present day politicians to observe a day invented by politicians...
I smile wryly and laugh the laugh of the damned.

The purpose of emancipation day was to smooth things over in a spin doctoring, PR sort of way.
This has already been achieved.
Present day politicians have no use for a hugely successful PR campaign hatched by their predecessors to manage two problems:
What could they do with the fucking slaves who had now become more expensive than the cost of their living?
What was the best way to go about transforming the public face of the colonizer? Now you see it, now you don't.

Neither of these is a problem for those in high places in the present day. (more laughter of the damned)

The descendants of African slaves know tha kids are definitely not alright. But at this particular juncture, nobody fucking cares. We do not pose a collective threat to any powers that be anymore. The last time we posed a real threat was probably in the sixties and politicians commissioned a few strategic hits, imprisoned some people, beat some others, chose some acceptable figureheads and then made some very publicized concessions in order to smooth things over and make the fabric of polite society appear smooth again. Civil "rights", anyone?

I don't count what happened in los angeles because the burning of certain parts of that city was a historical hick-up easily contained, not the continuance of an ages old struggle against domination. In toronto echoing riots were repositioned as youth discontent. The powers that be were prepared and knew what to do. These "disturbances" were declawed, rendered devoid of their intended meaning, made to serve as an opening to spearhead the separation of youth from their cultural communities of resistance in a series of insidious and extremely subtle ways that to this day allow resistance knowledge to flow not primarily from a cultural community context, but instead from employees of government bodies, the henchmen and wimmin of politicians and from NGOs with deep pockets courtesy of suspect funding bodies linked to corporate and old money. (Did I tell you I have a hard time finding work in community? More laughter of the damned.)

Right now, the only people who give a hoot about Black people are corporations who see us as a biological resource they are already in the process of mining, a demographic they've already figured out and branded...pardon the painful pun. hee, hee.

In the consumerist, capitalist western world emancipation day can only be a commodity, a product and pop/ular experience ready to be mass distributed and then ecstatically consumed. Black people have convinced themselves that the dish of emancipation arriving cold so long after the (constructed) fact, with a side dish of apology must be served up by the powers that be in order to be suitably televised, digitally recorded and packaged for future family time viewing.

We need the fiction of politicians giving a fuck about our feelings so that we can continue to invest in the fiction of ourselves as colonized settlers who are necessary, powerfully positioned and valid.

Please, please don't let us down. Help us maintain the fiction that prime ministers, presidents and whole governments care about us. If you can hide your disdain and just do this one thing, we'll have the motivation we need to keep our noses to various grindstones working to uphold the structures that maintain our own domination.

Just say you're sorry and we'll continue to forget, continue to ignore our present lot as glorified surfs working, helping to dominate land soaked with Native blood. It's not too much to ask it?
Then of course others will chime in to reposition, redirect and eventually nullify even the limited significance such demands for apologies hold...
Who tha fuck do you think you are? What makes you so "special" that you should deserve an apology from our rulers? Well, if you're going to get an apology, we want one for the Black muggers, Black home invaders,Black children who bullied our white children, that Black post man who went ballistic...this is about equality. We think everyone needs to behave nicely and get along.
Oh, and when I talk about accountability in this context I'm not referring to an apology or about monetary reparations. I'm talking about a profound examination of the impact of British imperialist policy as the origin of so many diseased power relations in the West., specifically in north amerikkka.

But, I know...
People don't want to look back in acknowledgment of the "sins" of their forefathers and foremothers. They're not responsible for what a bunch of dead white people did long ago.

Fascinating, most like to look back and inventory the achievements of their forefathers and foremothers, acknowledging all the benefits they've been able to access because of the actions of a bunch of dead white people...which are inextricably linked to many horrific acts of wrong doing perpetrated on people who happened to smile and say: "Hullo. Welcome", when perhaps, they should have been saying: "Here's some moldy coconut water, get back on your muthafuckin' boats and paddle".

Oh well, no use crying over spilled blood...well actually, I cry over it often.

Here's to previously, purposefully submerged trauma and consciousness surfacing in ways that can actually transform relationships so riddled with power (over) that even a simple apology is completely suspect and emptied of meaning. I'm not worried about whether Tony, or Georgie or Stevie or any of the other politicians apologize. I don't care whether Lizzie looked up or busied herself with the contents of her purse on e-day.

Apologies from the heads of any old, monied, european clans or from career politicians ain't worth the toilet paper they'll be written on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Deconstructing chess...

After I came to kkkanada and started public school I began to learn to play chess. It was a lunch time activity. There was a league that us children could participate in. I don't remember much about how to actually play.

Recently Stinkapee decided that she wanted to start playing chess. We have a tiny magnetic set at home (I told her I'd get her a larger one).

I couldn't remember the rules or how each figure is allowed to move. But I did remember the roles of each piece. I tried to think about the implied power relations that go unquestioned even when people understand that this is a game about power.

This is what I explained to her:

The Queen: She's the female partner of the big master. Together they have way too much money and get to tell everyone else what to do while hiding behind smaller people with less power who are forced to fight for them.

The King: He's the male partner of the Queen and the big master. Just because he's a man who has too much budget he gets to tell everyone else what to do including the Queen. He decides when everyday people have to go fight even if what they're fighting over has nothing to do with them.

The Bishop; He's a male head of the christian church. He gets a lot of budget from everyday people who believe that if they're nice to him the christian god will like them and let them into his group of friends after they die.

The Knight: He's a soldier who rides a horse. He's considered more important than the other soldiers because he's riding an expensive animal and because he's a friend of the king.

I didn't get into the rook as I'm not quite sure of its function which means I have nothing to deconstruct. (Anyone? Help with my power critique as related to rooks)

Pawn: They are everyday soldiers. These are people who harm any person the King or Queen orders them to. They don't plan the wars or decide when to go to war. They are just supposed to fight for the big masters.

The pawn created much conversation between me and Stinkapee. "They'll harm anyonr? Even little kids."

"Even today soldiers go to other countries and harm mamas and babies."

"And nanas and papis, too?"

"Yes, even nanas and papis, too."

"But can't they say no?"

"They're not really allowed to. They get consequences when they won't do as they're told. But some of them do say no to harming babies, children and mamas and accept their consequences."

"Good for them! It's not good to harm children and mamas."

"No it's not."

Monday, March 26, 2007


So, I was sitting this evening with Papi after dinner talking about how difficult it is to make friends who want to craft ethical, emotionally intelligent, accountable relationships with me.

you need to know i'm a hair obssessee who has been braiding since about the age of six. i can do weaves, locks, extensions, cornrows, colours, bantu knots, barbering with clippers...did i say i like black people hair?
now, let me see...

oprah hair

chunky extensions


flock of seagulls hair [only black] with tiny braids hangin down in back

red weave mullet

mowhawk done with hair

completely bald

tiny braids

tiny braisds with gold balls hanging from the ends

tiny multi-coloured elasticized pom-poms

tiny twists

messy fro in the mid-nineties

bald around the sides and back with poof on top

slick fade with flat top

slick fade with flat top and buzz cut designs

slick fade with kid and play high top

bleached white

bleached brassy

locks with bleached gold tips standing around my head like a sunny halo

apple red with peachy/red streaks in fro

auburn red

straightened on top with no sides or back, done in girly do with clips in the front

blue/black weave on top with no sides or back, combed down during the day for reception gig, pulled into a pony tail for women's bar.

long extension twists

black and pink micro extensions

black and auburn micro extensions

and, of course on those days when i can't be bothered to do anything but still wanna look phyyne, there is the ubiquitous head wrap in various cloths, patternings and arrangements.

can i get back to you when i have something evolved to say that doesn't involved trying to stifle a shriek? :)

joan rivers, george carlin and nikki payne.

interesting you should never have asked...well, at home it's a rousing combination of scarberian, trekky, ja-fake-an, trini-ajan, academese, relationship psychobabbble, activistese, hiphop/ebonics, baby-talk and our own version of pig latin that has no translation...we're...unh...textured.

$45 dollar chicken...

Papi went shopping with Stinkapee at the organic supermarket we've agreed we would use from now on. When they came back,Papi said that he'd seen an organic chicken marked $45.00.

ONE chicken?


What? Was it stuffed with gold ingots?

Why would a chicken, even an organic one, have to cost $45.00? Maybe it was a typo.

I told Papi he should have stuck around and seen who bought that uber chicken, followed them to the cash register, made friends with them and wrangled a dinner invitation so that we could have all seen what a $45.00 chicken tastes like.

Ableism, layers and a general sense of ick...

I went to visit biafra's blog and felt sad. She's slipped completely back into the stuff she was struggling with, against when I first met her.

If you don't know who I'm referring to or don't know what I'm talking about, your world won't be changed by finding out.

I remembered some of the massive arguments we had about disability and ableism. Her, expecting to have a particular kind of safe passage granted to even the most unethical and fuk'd actions. Me, expecting her to hold herself accountable and to function as if she actualy cared about me and about the other people she said she wanted to build community with.

"YOU'RE a fucking LIBERAL!"

Things political in our house were mostly of the spicy kind, punctuated with cussings, tears, rage unspent and blocked for so much of the lives of the wimmin I was attempting to build community with.

Just walking around the house Biafra kept ableism on the least for me. I think the other wimmin tried to use denial techniques they'd learned through most of their lives to normalize or to ignore the right arm and lefty stump combination biafra was born with. I'm not sure how people just blank things. I can't/don't...very often.

I think I bothered her engaging as often as I did with her physicality. I think my little girl was trying to please. Biafra had said on more than one occassion that she'd felt erased for most of her life with people either trying to turn her into heroic and overly capable disabled girl or people trying to pretend that there was nothing "wrong" with her.

Engaging with her as I did everyday, I chose to see "the stump" and to build space in when people tried to erase it and her.

I think she got mad at me. I realized that she had developed a whole host of strategies around hiding in plain sight...since people didn't really want to see her, anyways. She could invoke a shield of invisibility and just take care of her own needs in whatever way she decided without having to be accountable to any ableist people she encountered.

My seeing her and speaking her and highlighting her location by seeing and speaking and highlighting mine was excruciating and enraging for her as it limited the space she felt she could occupy with ease. If I insisted on engaging openly, the space of power she had carved out for herself, which was a hidden space, a subterranean space, a guerilla sabotaging spacem, was threatened.

Me and my shiny new ableist critiques were threats to her ability to keep herself safely hidden in a completely ableist world.

I was not an ally but a threat.

She treated me with increasing disdain and hatred even as she complained bitterly about being oppressed, not seen, erased, not seen as attractive, not seen as powerful and able.

The mindfuck wasn't created by her. It was the world's. She was struggling to articulate the contradicatory existence she had been offered, but hadn't consented to.

Nonetheless, I grew to loathe engaging with the complexity of her stump, her existence, her analysis, her pain, her contradictory needs.

Insert: I grew to loathe the daily realization that there was nothing I could do to shift the reality of who we both were to each other and in the world. Grew to loathe the reality of my rock solid privileged existence that would not be moved no matter how much I struggled to create language and systems to question power in our shared home and community. Grew to loathe the way Biafra watched me struggle with what felt like thinly veiled, actually not at all veiled delight.

Insert of ugly core truth: I grew to loathe the me I saw reflected in her eyes as I contorted myself and my day-to-day in order to more fully avoid the horrible truth of what it means to have privilege in an ableist world. I grew to loathe one insistent bit of knowledge, the fact that no matter how I struggled to build analysis into my/our day-to-day, I would still be located as oppressor. No matter how hard I worked the coping strategies Biafra had developed to survive her day-to-day would block on her end any alliance from forming between us.

And so, there was war between Biafra and I. There was me pregnant and driven mad by hurt, resentment, disappointment, failure, rage shoving her back - Get away from me! I couldn't take anymore mess, anymore tantruming disrespect, anymore refusal to ground, anymore refusal to transform, to grow, to build. I couldn't rip her to shreds in the way she expected. I couldn't take accept the invitation to just lay down alongside her and die.

Sure, the little girl in me wanted please (Biafra was right about the liberalism, afterall).

But the conscientizing adult in me had wanted to acknowledge the muck, the indoctrination at my core in the hopes that it would allow me to have some allies...some people who could stand next to me without having to keep an eye on me and my movements. I didn't want to have to be watched with suspicion as I had been forced to watch other self-styled allies who rested on their laurels and didn't forge ahead with their personal work.

I wanted to function as a trustworthy ally. But given my privilege there was no way to stand next to Biafra, as an equal. That wasn't her construction. This is the difficulty of allying across lines of privilege and domination.

But fuck! There was also just no way to even stand close to her without being singed by her defiant resistance, by her process of self-liberation to defined by power plays and attempts to replicate power playing in the ways she had been taught.

Know that drowning person scenario? Don't trying to "save" them, they'll drag you under? I couldn't "save" her because I understood she didn't need "saving". But FUCK! I couldn't even function as ally because she simultaneously understood and hated who I was, what I did, hated and loved me and these two hands living in a world built for privileged people with two hands. And really, although I couldn't blame her, I wasn't going to go along with her self destruct program, either.

It was confusing and painful to watch Biafra ally with the very wimmin in our house who erased her and capitalized off her being constructed as inferior, ugly, incapable so they could access some sense of being feeling powerful. Biafra often allied with them, against herself...against what I was trying to build, because the other wimmin, so quick to prance and giggle were more "fun", meaning they had giant blind spots in their self-critique and political analysis which allowed her to slip all sorts of things past them without them even realizing she'd kicked them hard in the head. :) (laughter of the damned moment)

Trying to create/support safe space in the house, I'd explain in excruciating detail what exactly Biafra had done and why it worked so well given that people weren't doing their personal or poltical work. I would speak about how the wimmin counted on ableism as well as other oppressive constructs that occupied space between us, to shore up their feelings of power.

The other wimmin would get surly and feel stoopid. Biafra, too would get surly and feel stoopid. (more laughter of the damned) But neither they nor she would commit their own selves to growth and the work of unpacking their personal and political stuff. Everyone would just work harder to find other ways to simultaneously seduce themselves and each other with privilege and power while continuing to let power play and manipulation reign supreme in our shared community. All the while they continued to try and socialize in surface "fun" ways. Which left Biafra feeling even more erased, dominated and needing to lash out at them and at me.

I get it, get what Biafra said and did as best as I can from where I'm located. But I'm still angry. I'm angry with her, though knee jerk simplistic politics tell me I can't be angry with her about something she didn't create, about something she herself is struggling to survive. Can't be ignorantly angry with her because, because she's attempting to function in a physical world that hates her body. Can't be angry with her because from where I struggle with my own experience of oppression, I get that she was/is struggling to resist in whatever ways are available to her.

But fuckit. I AM angry with her! I still can't be around her. I don't call or email her. Though, I have visited her blog. (whoo-HOO! She's got chlamydia. But only told the man she's sleeping with...and all her blog's readers. Sent an email telling phoenix and bonga to go get tested. The fucking was fun for a few months, anyways.)

Biafra's life throes felt/feel like a watery death undertow to me from where I am located as an ethical yet able-bodied political woman. I want to live and to grow and find myself spending more and more time away from other people's uncritiqued childhood and unexamined political mess. I want to continue resisting and definitely do not want to be absorbed by the dominant forces I struggle with everyday. I want to at least hold my nose, if not my head above water.

I keep trying to further complexify my writings so that they actually reflect my day-to-day which is quite messy and layered. This existence feels ugly and hard, like repeated punches to the stomach/to the core of me. Some people get upset when they read me. Well, FUCKING hell. I get upset LIVING me.

In any case, I realized that although I have a link in the sidebar to a page on my website where I've written about bisexuality (still trying to avoid writing bi-sexuality and me. That name still doesn't feel like me) and ableism, I haven't actually posted anything here.


Everything is so fucking layered. I walk the streets of the city and encounter people who smile brittle smiles in my direction: "Hi, T.J. Haven't seen you in a while."

They're hoping that I don't say anything too uncomfortable, that I don't fill uncomfortable, layered space between and around us with even more uncomfortable and layered words built on consciousness.

They don't have to worry. I gave up actually speaking to them, with them about anything intelligent or noteworthy a long, long time ago.

Just smile darkdaughta. Just smile, nod, make sure your feet are still moving as you offer salutations. If you stop they'll want to hug you or touch you. Ick. Does lack of consciousness rub off? Is it catching?

I was coding the piece on ableism I inserted below and thinking about a woman I met who without even trying, gave me a much needed kick in the rear end of my consciousness.

She was a white, affluent, queer, woman living with a disability who I met at a workshop series on anti-oppression I was conducting. I ended up writing a piece during the time after I met her where I attempting to begin the work of coming to grips with my ableism.

I only knew her for a brief time.

See, a stress was placed on our alliance building that neither of us could walk...unh...move away from easily.

She worked, meaning was paid to do work for a prominent women's org. I mostly didn't work, couldn't find work because most of the people I encountered, most of the activists, most of the political people I knew in community felt uncomfortable about the sorts of questions I either posed through my existence or through my writings. No one was/is busting down my door begging to give me thousands of dollars to make them and their clients uncomfortable about the blind spots in their political analysis. :)

So, I lived with Stinkapee and Papi in a small basement apartment. This woman living with an ambulatory disability, driving an electric wheel chair, was denied entry to my apartment because of the stairs that guarded the front and back doors. My family and I couldn't expect, couldn't hope to gain entry as renters to the accessible apartment building where she lived because the area was for the class privileged and monied.

One day she called me up. She was looking for plain english work about oppression, I think racial oppression, maybe anti-oppression generally. She wasn't having much luck. Most of the writings she found were in complicated, inaccessible political language. I said I could do searches and that if there were specific things she was looking for I could also write some things for her. I think I remembered saying that I'd send her a proposed time-line and budget.

I remember a moment of silence and her saying something to the effect of: "Sure. Send it to my email account and I'll have a look at it."

I drafted something that would take into account the work I was proposing to do and the hours it would take. She wrote back saying that she actually had no budget from which to draw funds to pay me for the work.

I remember a moment of silence after which I attempted to engage her in a conversation about the complexities of our locations and that this wasn't simply a conversation between a woman living with a disability and a woman possessing ableist privilege. Or else, she would be able to expect me to simply offer the resources in alliance and to move on. This was a conversation between an affluent woman from an affluent family and a working class woman from a poor family. This was a conversation between a white woman and a black woman. This was a conversation between an employed woman and an underemployed woman.

Even as there was privilege I needed to take into account when considering offering up materials, there was privilege she needed to take into account when deciding how best to compensate me for energy and thought offered.

The conversation was over, probably before it even started. The conversation about our locations on various continuums of privilege and power should have done already been broached. I allowed a shame faced sort of liberal approach to my ableism to stop me from speaking the whole truth of our interactions in the time we knew each other until the shit was starting to hit the fan.

So, this is what I thought about as I coded a piece that was about my ableism in a vacuum separate from other people, separate from layers of meaning. I felt an ache and understood the ache, understood enough to write it and not let it fester in me.

Thank goddess for small mercies, anyway.

Challenging Ableism

(First read in R/evolution Workshops which was a series of classes I offered to mostly community workers which is where I first began struggling to understand my own ableist privilege.
This piece was also reproduced on Disability, Youth and Culture: Perspectives on Inclusion
and on

moving away from my place of comfort and greater understanding - defining as the oppressed, the colonized, is terrifying.

i've studied my own identity as it stands in opposition of the power and privilege of others so deeply that it's much easier for me to read myself and others who are sitting in similar places of resistance to oppression. who's struggling with what elements of their blackness and keeps cutting off their hair. who's got issues with their queerness and compartmentalizes their life so they don't have to deal. who's got class issues and can't tell the difference between being raised poor and becoming financially insolvent because you can't tolerate being around your well-off family anymore...etc., etc.

moving from that comfort place of self-knowing is about growing. i can give myself permission to learn more about who i am because i want to keep growing not stagnate. and since i'm here to learn and to challenge myself even as i offer this space to you, i'm studying what it means to be able-bodied because i need to continue doing my work. part of this is realizing how i walk with privilege and oppression tightly bound at the root inside my skin.

it tastes odd in my mouth when i say: i have privilege .

i've been having these conversations with other able-bodied people about us and living in a barrier filled, ableist world where walking is defined as the 'normal' way of getting from point a-to-b. where seeing, speaking and hearing are narrowly defined according to the experience of those who do these things with ease. where we [able-bodied people] have built a whole world that centralizes our experiences. where we [need to] assume that the privileges we keep for ourselves are universally accessible. through defining disability as 'abnormal', 'abhorrent', 'tragic', 'ugly', 'undesireable', 'uncomfortable', able-bodied people, maintain our minority experience as the imperial measure of what is 'right', 'good' and 'beautiful' in the world.

as a black woman who spent most of her twenties learning to recognize racial dominance, who learned to speak to it and to fight it, i'm recognizing so many, too many of the attributes i used to ascribe to white folks who didn't want to deal with their white skinned privilege, in myself as i struggle with recognizing what it means to live in a privileged body.

this feeling of wanting to be seen doing 'the right thing', to be heard saying the appropriate politicized words is about showing not internalizing an anti-ableist politic. it's seductive and infinitely easier than actually pointing out that i am not at all clear about what lies ahead.

my struggle to not do empty political perpetration is also upsetting as this is what i often see others engaged in. i'm not comfortable with the idea that i could be gropping for a perfect-aware-and-politicized-ableist-yet-working-on-it political activist girl persona to perform. this is stuff i get annoyed with fellow community members for doing. this is stuff i observe, name and interrogate. this is not stuff i want to see in myself.

it's here.

knowing how easy it could be to perpetrate clarity and consciousness, to end up being cast in the role of expert...
understanding how comfortable and safe it could be to exist as the all-knowing person those with concerns about their own privilege come to for guidance, to vent their messed up political baggage...
makes me wanna exit from this place i've been sitting.

i want to become less concerned with being the one who points fingers.
i'd like to zoom in on me as i explore possibilities for tackling my own shit.

my ableism.

i actually find myself being worried about taking the risk to speak. how i will sound speaking privileged truths as someone who is not clear?
will i be able to maintain that in-tha-know tone?
will i still be perceived as an anti-oppression educator/worker if i admit i need educating?

deep breath in...

i fuck up.
i am fucking up.
i will fuck up.
i done already fucked up numerous times.

deep breath of relief, out...

in relation to ableism, i will sound like a person who has almost no answers but who instead has lots of questions. i will sound like a person in denial. i will sound like a person who possesses vast amounts of unrecognized, unearned privilege. i will sound like a person who is has not been dealing with their ableism.

what can i do about this?


i will make the sound of a person trying to speak the truth of her privileged existence.

i will embrace my own lack of skill in this arena and an unfamiliarity with the entire workings of my own tongue, my own life, my own mind.

i will grope toward consciousness.

i will listen for the lies i tell myself when i am confronted with evidence that i am benefiting from ableism.

i will remember that i like myself.

i will unclench my teeth.

since a fuller picture of my privilege means i'll have to incorporate emotions into my political analysis, i'll tell you that i'm struggling with embarrassment, shame, anger, guilt, apathy, denial, confusion and a general sense of discomfort.


does having privilege makes me a bad, bad girl?
does being the recipient of ableist privilege make the reality of my oppression as a black, immigrant, queer, working class, bio female, slut any less real?

is it necessary for one to cancel out the others?
can the presence of one cancel actually out the others?
i don't think so!
can i utilize the presence of one set to ignore my responsibility to critique the other?
unh-hunh. i see people try an' work that particular fuk'd angle/escape route all the time. cheups.

i said they try... but in reality...
there's no if's and's or but's about it for them or for me.

colonizer/disempowered/privilege/oppression/power/dominance/colonized. a mix-up-mix-up intermingling of various experiences with privilege and oppression ooze and roil inside the same sac of flesh, fat and skin that is me.

my multifaceted experience undermines the myth of binary relations. this complexly located existence is actually a good place to be. if i am all rolled into one, then i end up being able to challenge myself around my own privileges using the tools i've honed challenging others whose very existence marks them as dominators in ways i may not be. since the matrix of power is foundational to all forms of oppression and privilege, my politicized comprehension of power is transferable from experience of oppression in certain circumstances to my unfolding understanding of my privilege in other circumstances.

so, there is no excuse for not doing the work. there's no escape if i am to be true to my own values, my own politics. my own political framework demands that i do the work, act responsibly, engage critically and fer real.

having an experience of being the resident black woman expert on racism and white supremacy while those white folks around me choose to learn passively, off my back, instead of sweating and crying and struggling on their own, means i have to recognize how easy it can be for someone learning about their own privilege to end up sucking from those they dominate.

i need to work to gain greater awareness on my own and not by bugging/picking apart/draining any of the people with disabilities i may know or encounter. doing this work will never end until the privilege of able-bodied people in this society ends. since the oppression of one is linked to the oppression of all, i know i'm gonna die trying to offset what it means to be in a privileged body. i've got a lifetime of unlearning to do. so down to business.

how am i seeing?
how do i take in information
how can i utilize a growing awareness of ableism to explore the messages, say...the media sends, through movies and television, about disability?

i am a character in a scene from the matrix. there is an effective, pervasive veil of lies, assumptions and denial covering these eyes. i know i'm not seeing, experiencing, acknowledging what's actually here.

the able-bodied, moving with such ease and assumed independence is a construct that i've grown up with not just in the world around me, but in my fucking head.

i'm plugged into a system of values and perceptions that has been feeding thoughts and ideas directly into my brain since i was born. it would be nice to be able to take a blue pill or a red pill and finally be able to see that the spoon really is not a spoon. the spoon is a staircase. the spoon is no elevator from the subway level to the surface. the spoon is a barrier free washroom that is out of service. the spoon is toronto's wheeltrans perpetrating power games through rigid scheduling mandates. the spoon is a community event open to a chosen few. the spoon is everything i believe is real/normal/necessary/right. the spoon is me and my privilege.

i don't have to wait for a few years so that i can live in the genetically perfect world of gattaca where only some of us are considered 'good enough', 'strong enough', 'worthy of living'. considered 'valid'.

that world is now.

by virtue of walking on two legs, by virtue of being born able to hear, speak, see, live, breathe without any societal barriers to my full participation in this world, by virtue of living in a body defined as able, i'm 'valid' while others are relegated to the margins of society as invalids.

i live out the reality of the movie unbreakable where the hero is always physically 'perfect', 'good' and 'true' and 'handsome' and where the villain is always emotionally 'scarred', physically 'imperfect', 'evil', 'lying' and 'ugly'.

to be able-bodied is to reflect inner goodness and perfection not just of body, but also of ethics and spirit.

when i see the ways that disability is constructed as a reflection of societal dystopia and malaise i think of alien resurrection where the filmmakers create a putrid, nasty world where bodies are sold for clandestine government experimentation. how better to symbolize this socially diseased world than by throwing in a main character, one of the space pirates, who is in an electronic wheelchair. we don't need to see people with disabilities in friends or in 8 rules for dating my teenaged daughter because these television shows reflect the normalcy and basic goodness of everyday live. in these shows, a small, sweaty, cussing, drinking man in a wheelchair would rip a whole in the fabric of 'normal' everyday life in the ablecentric world.

i need to do some more seeing and acknowledging. but for now what i will say is that i'm sure that this is a situation of minority rule. my instinct, my common sense tells me there are more disabled people in this world, with invisible as well as visible disabilities, than there are able-bodies people. my politics and experience tell me that i'm implicated in this numbers game.

when i do not expect and demand barrier free facilities whether i need them or not, i support oppression. i move from this place of compliance and culpability when i realize that seeing myself as 'able' and therefore possessing of a desireable body and life is a construct.

my privilege is a construct. my privilege is subject to extreme change at any moment through health crisis, accident and the onset of old age.

the challenge for me is to decide how i'm going to build on this tiny bit of understanding as i move toward a fuller understanding of myself and the society around me.

i move from place of denial and pose a challenge to the powers that be
when i actively define my relationship to my own privilege,
when i move away from the protection i claim,
when i choose not to cloud my relationship to power dynamics,
when i choose not to remain ambiguous.
when i choose to do my part to build a barrier free world instead of paying lip service to some vague concept of accessibility.

i move from taking part in societal oppression to developing a more layered political consciousness when i realize that challenging ableism and dismantling privileges based on a narrow spectrum of abilities isn't the responsibility of those dominated by it, but instead the work of those who benefit from it, including me.

i need to speak to this privilege more.
i need to recognize and tussle with this privilege more.
i need to challenge and interrogate ableism with other able-bodied folks more.

but usually i don't because i don't have to.

here's what the privilege of able-bodied people looks like:

i'm sitting around talking to a bunch of wimmin friends about organizing an event. we talk about making sure the space is accessible. in my mind i start thinking about what that means. even incorporating my very rudimentary understanding of disability, i begin to realize that making sure a space is accessible moves beyond simply making sure there are things like ramps and/elevators, barrier free toilets with ramps and electronic doors. i start thinking about the inconvenience of having all the event's attendees wear clothes that have not been washed in any perfumed or chemical substance, about asking them to bathe in perfume free soaps before coming, to not smoke before coming, to not apply gels or mousses to their hair before coming, to not dab on any perfumes or scents of any kind before coming. i think about getting someone who is fluent in asl. i think about getting my flyers done on a card stock heavy enough to support braille translations. i think this is way too much work to make a group of people comfortable, people who might not even want to come. i realize that to be ableist means i can choose to see disabled people as a special needs group whose needs i don't have to support. i realize that i have the privilege of ignoring their very basic human rights.

this is what it means to be ableist.

too often able-bodied people look at ableism as a problem that disabled people experience. we leave it up to them to address inequities. most able-bodied people don't have a personal commitment to addressing the links between our privileged, barrier free lives and the oppression of disabled people.

as people whose bodies are defined as 'normal', 'healthy', 'whole' or 'beautiful' simply by virtue of us not being disabled, we need to stop avoiding our own ableism.

many of us feel uncomfortable when in the presence of people who are disabled. we mistakenly situate that discomfort with them instead of realizing that this loss of comfort is about our guilt and shame. about us remembering on a subconscious or not so subconscious level, the awful things we've been taught to believe about disabled people. that they're 'weak', that they're 'ugly', that they're 'pathetic', that they're 'stupid', that they're 'abnormal'.

we don't want to deal with our the on-going genocidal campaign against fetuses with disabilities who are aborted [killed] before they are born. spin doctors in medical circles say it's supposedly for their own good because they wouldn't have had quality of life, and because their parents would have been burdened with caring for them. contextualizing these lies means naming this society's obsession with a narrowly defined concept of physical 'perfection'. it also means realizing that parents of children with disabilities struggle on their own with very little access to resources [especially if they're poor or working class or can't access credit] because the society has not built in any supports to actively respond to the needs of families dealing with disability of one or more family member. the normalized choice to abort unborn children set to be born with disabilities ends up being a final solution that means people with disabilities weren't even meant to be born, let alone survive.

with all this in mind, an inability to look a person with a disability in the eye without that overwhelming urge to smile a fake smile or try to seem okay with who they are, is about us not wanting to acknowledge the power wielded against them and the ways we've been participating in a murderous system of affirmative action favouring ourselves.

our playing field is leveled in our favour and the perks we receive are unearned. our free passage, our extra smooth ride through this world is based on a tiered system, or on a continuum of ability, if you will. people living without disabilities have placed themselves at one end of this continuum; we have been constructed as 'superior' and 'valuable'.

our bodies have been pedestalized as the ones everyone would want have if they had a choice. we have built a world where people who do not fit prevailing physical/biological norms are invited to live in a perpetual state of longing for our bodies, our privilege. we have built a society where disabled people are required to live in a state of denial always having their identities, their realities constructed in relation to the supposedly perfect bodies of those defined as their physical betters.

and so, from this place of unearned privilege, with the knowledge of our privilege erased as a prerequisite to our continued dominance...
we, those seen as able-bodied and supposedly 'fit' might want to make the links between our other struggles for change, our other demands for basic human rights birthed out of struggles against racism, homophobia, classism, imperialism, colonialism, trans phobia, ageism, fat phobia, lookism, etc, etc, etc.

we might wanna get real.

we might wanna look past our discomfort at being confronted with evidence that even the oppressed can oppress. we might wanna look past our anger at having our paltry attempts to seem inclusive shown up by those who know betta. we might need to work up a serious sweat as we seek to change the world into a place that represents the physical and biological realities of many.

but then again, it may be easier to tow the politically correct line, make a few disabled friends, fuck a few people with disabilities and hope this stands in as a solid demonstration of how really 'progressive', 'tolerant' and 'open-minded' we really are.

yeah, in the grand scheme of things, with our futures and our children's futures hanging in the balance, sweeping our contradictions, inconsistencies and privileges under the carpet makes more sense, now doesn't it?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Islamophobia...more edits and links...

I've been encountering a lot of liberal lefty racism and religious fundamentalism disguised as political analysis online over the time I've spent blogging among a majority amerikkkan bloggers who claim to detest their government's foreign policy as related to the middle east. People spend a lot of time discussing and debating how best to oust the village idiot from his high paying job. They debate which upper class smiling figurehead should replace him. Should the figurehead of choice be an affluent light skinned heterosexual black man? Or should they go with an affluent and stoic heterosexual white woman who has seen the inside of the big house before and liked it so much she wanted to return but this time openly at the helm?

They discuss whether georgie lied about the weapons of mass (read: amerikkkan) destruction. They argue about the time table for removing the dangerously skilled groups of trained and armed pawns from Iraq. They debate how much denial they will maintain about the genocide happening in Iraq. They conversate online about whether a change in affluent upper class governing clique will happen sooner or later.

I wish they'd spend more time examining the programming they've received as amerikkkan citizens which allows them to simultaneously question their government's policies and actions without examing the values they as individual members of the most dangerous nation on the planet hold dear.

Oh, and I live in kkkanada. I think the poltical bloggers here could do some of this self reflection and self critique, too.

I think liberal lefties, progressives, patriotic lefties need to take a closer look at the truths they hold to be self-evident.

I've been thinking about patriarchy and religion.

Last week I conducted part of a series of anti-oppression trainings for youth. I met with young men to talk about patriarchal relations(hips).

One young white man referenced muslim countries as a place where women experience much patriarchal oppression. He cited laws against wimmin being the ones to request divorces.

I don't know about all that.

I told him that to comment on the laws of other countries would really take having a historical analysis of their contact with imperialist white european "explorers" (dominators) who came full of themselves, came full of assumptions, came full of the arrogant belief in their cultural superiority and might. I believe that when these fundamentalist christians (by fundamentalist, I mean that they were so zealotous that they've forced the spread of christianity at sword point, at gun point, through genocide and through the theft of children), encountered people they did not know or understand, they reacted violently and that this violence has often had an equal and opposite reaction with peoples and cultures needing to manifest in defense of themselves, their beliefs and their religions more forcefully as if to say: Do not disprespect us or think that you will be able to sway us and introduce your ways and customs as you have so insidiously done in other parts of the world. We are powerful and you will not pass!"

The governments of countries attempting to resist attack may even respond as most human beings do in time of threat -- by attempting to exert more than the necessary amount of control over their citizens. (Just so we can be clear, I'm not talking about georgie and his gang trumping up giant lies so as to give a venue for their blood lusting paranoia and greed to run free.)

As I was saying...
Human beings as individuals struggle with fear based control issues that go into hyper over activity during times of danger real or perceived . Countries are made up of individuals, no?

I find it interesting that wherever dangerous, often homocidal and often extremely unethical european invaders have come and entered or attempted to enter and to meddle, that if the peoples they have aggressed and attempted to colonize, have risen up in resistance, that this resistance and boundary setting (however necessary) has been labelled "violent", "extremist" or "fundamentalism" rather than understood by those who watch and do nothing as a logical reaction to a very real threat.

I believe that when people from the white west, especially patriotic liberals, progressives or lefty liberals start talking about Islam as equated with religious fundamentalism and with the oppression of wimmin, they need to just stop and shut their mouths.

They don't know shite about shite.

I told the young white man I mentioned up above that if he wants to talk about wimmin not being able to get divorces he needs to realize that we live in a part of the world dominated by the descendents of white patriarchal europeans who like to do things "subtly" undercover.

I said that I've known many wimmin in kkkanada who have the "right" to request divorces in courts of law. But when they came out the other side of the divorce proceedings the way the patriarchally dominated courts functioned meant that these wimmin were stripped of so much they held dear. Their right to move and set up home when, where, as they wanted was taken away. Primary custody of the children they had been forced to raise without support in marriage due to the patriarchal beliefs of their male partners was now stripped away. They may have lost their sense of safety by having to engage with the very men they were trying to get away from in the first place. As wimmin demanding and receiving divorces, they felt punished. And weren't they?

This is how the courts let wimmin in the white christian dominated west know they don't have the right to request divorces.

And in terms of religious fundamentalism...
Don't even get me started.

I was listening to the radio and heard that Quebec officials are trying to force muslim wimmin to remove their veils when they go to vote.

french european settler invaders sent as an invading usurping force to north amerikkka in the hopes of stealing native land thereby extending the french empire westward across the atlantic encountered english european settler invaders
sent as an invading usurping force to north amerikkka in the hopes of stealing native land. The english had more back-up, more hook-ups, more fire power, better strategists.

The english defeated the french, dominated Native people and set about attempting to dominate the french through a carefully orchestrated assimilation program they thought had worked so well, was working so well on the Natives that it could/would work well on the french, too. Though, in truth, the assimilation plan the english planned to use on the french simply involved absorbing one white people into a larger and dominant white people...I mean, they didn't plan a final solution for the french in the way they had envisioned for First Nation's people.

The french resisted. rebels blew things up (or so I remember). They kidnapped a british diplomat and a government official. They exerted their right to observe their version of christianity (fundamentalist catholicism) as opposed to switching over to the english religions of choice. They defended their "god given" right to impregnate their female partners with as many babies as they could birth without abortion or birth control. They demanded the right to educate progeny in their "faith", the right to label street signs en francais, the right to speak and to express themselves in their mother tongue and their right to replicate their culture as they so chose. They created a white settler revolution.

The french who so valiantly and successfully resisted cultural and religious erasure, habitually attempt to downpress Native communities in their province using violence and police intimidation. Now they're adding to their oppressive repetoire, having now decided to block Muslim wimmin from wearing the hijab.

Well, you know, in a power based society where hierarchies abound, the oppressed, once they have thrown off the chains of domination used to bind them, usually keep those chains in reserve so that they may bind others, thereby shifting, but not destroying power relations. Sweet.

Still wanna talk religious fundamentalism?

I live in christian dominated kkkanada, in toronto. This is a city where there is a church if not a few on every single city block. Stinkapee and I do christian church spotting. I've wanted to do synagogue, mosque and buddhist temple spotting. BUT they're a little harder to find since, the christian churches still dominate by sheer numbers.

The settlers' national anthem references the christian god and men, but not wimmin or other religions.

When people swear they reference the christian god and his dead son.

When people get married it's assumed that they will have their vows validated "sanctified" before a representative of the christian god.

When children are born, the ritual guardians their parents choose for them have the christian god's name affixed to their ritual titles.

When people are brought before a member of the privileged upper classes to account for any supposed wrong doing, any persons participating as witnesses in these proceedings are expected to touch a christian bible as a way to demonstrate that they are telling the truth.

When people hired to do prominent, high level public service work for the people of a city or province or state make their ritual vows to respect their work and to do it to the best of their abilities, they are often expected do this by touching a christian bible.

Prominent burial places in this city are decorated with the iconic sign which is universally believed to be the sign of the christian god's dead son.

And of course there's the big one. The date some christian bigwigs chose arbitrarily as the date they would celebrate the birth of the christian god's son shuts down whole cities, stops government paper pushing, closes the majority of shop doors, closes schools, closes financial institutions, slows pretty much everything to a halt so that even people of other faiths are forced to observe, if not to celebrate the dominant religion of white, european dominated north amerikkka.

Religious fundamentalism? Don't get me started.

Oppression of wimmin? In north amerikkka, internalized patriarchy means that a lot of what we wimmin experience as oppressive isn't done to us, but is instead perpetuated, given ongoing credence and life beyond us, by us. We participate in maintaining the very structures and beliefs that control us.

So, who exactly needs to be "liberated"?

Maybe we need to just concentrate on freeing ourselves and our families from christian religious fundamentalism here on Native land and concentrate on rooting patriarchy out of our minds before we get to "saving" other wimmin who haven't collectively asked for "help", anyways.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


This will be quick.

Last week I conducted part of a series of anti-oppression trainings for youth. I met with young men to talk about patriarchal relations(hips).

One young white man referenced muslim countries as a place where women experience much patriarchal oppression. He cited laws against wimmin being the ones to request divorces.

I don't know about all that.

I told him that to comment on the laws of other countries would really take having a historical analysis of their contact with imperialist white european "explorers" (dominators) who came full of themselves, came full of assumptions, came full of the arrogant belief in their cultural superiority and might. I believe that when people from the west, especially liberals start talking about Islam as equated with religious fundamentalism and with the oppression of wimmin, they need to just stop and shut their mouths.

They don't know shite about shite.

I told him that if he wants to talk about wimmin not being able to get divorces he needs to realize that we live in a part of the world dominated by the descendents of white patriarchal europeans who like to do things "subtly". I said that I've known many wimmin in kkkanada who have the "right" to request divorces in courts of law. But when they got through divorce proceedings the function of the patriarchally dominated courts means that they are stripped of so much they hold dear, sometimes their freedom to move and set up home when, where, as they will. They can be stripped of the right to parent their children. They can be stripped of their sense of safety by having to engage with they were trying to get away from in the first place.

This is how the courts let wimmin in the christian dominated west know they don't have the right to request divorces.

And in terms of religious fundamentalism...
Don't even get me started.

I live in christian dominated kkkanada. I live in a city where there is a church if not a few on every single city block. The settlers' national anthem references the christian god. When people swear they reference the christian god and his dead son. When people get married it's assumed that they will have their vows sanctified before a representative of the christian god. When children are born, the ritual guardians their parents choose for them have the christian god's name affixed to their ritual titles. When people are brought before a member of the upper classes to account for any supposed wrong doing, any people participating as witnesses in these proceedings are expected to touch a christian bible as a way to demonstrate that they are telling the truth. When people hired to do prominent, high level public service work for the people of a city or province or state make their ritual vows to respect their work and to do it to the best of their abilities, they often do this by touching a christian bible. Prominent burial places in this city are decorated with the iconic sign which is universally believed to be the sign of the christian god dead son.

Religious fundamentalism? Don't get me started.
Oppression of wimmin? Here, internalized patriarchy means that a lot of what we wimmin experience we participate in doing. So, who exactly needs to be liberated?