Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
We were talking about Andrea Smith's conquest. I said I appreciated her writing about sexual violence. I am always interested when wimmin who experience the violence of the colonizer through systems of domination write their truths...
I have a beef. Not with Andrea Smith, but with how writings like this can be utilized.
My beef is my struggle for self-emancipation. It's about being a Black woman, the descendant of slaves male and female who were raped (meaning sexually mounted for the purposes of instilling terror and control) by the ancestors of present day white people who participated in the horror that was the middle passage.
I walk with the knowledge that Black wimmin were violently divorced from the power of our erotic when we were denied the right to consent, to choose, to abandon ourselves orgasmically.
There is a pulsing womb core center place at the heart of every woman which has been beaten, raped, controlled, silenced, made to feel fear, made to hesitate, made to control itself.
I'm a womanchild born of efforts to tame the dark melanin infused female erotic. This erotic has been twisted and turned back on me as she has with so many other wimmin of colour. Andrea Smith's book talks about an assault on the politicized, historically damaged erotics of Native wimmin.
There is a big secret in feminist wimmin of colour circles. It's about our erotic. Conversations about deviance, the hallmark of their racist constructions projected onto our flesh and cunts, happen mostly without us, mostly away from us. Even as we continue to be defined as perverse and therefor unconsensually sexable called slut, idiot, bitch, castrator, bad girl, good girl, whore, princess names grounded in the constructed and gendered erotic one and all. None of these names leave us intact with the power of the cunt allowed to grow to full capacity.
I read writings by wimmin of colour sometimes who misunderstand the purpose of writings about colonization and the dominated erotic, who misunderstand what it means when people like Andrea Smith write about the tortured and tormented colonized erotic. Collectively as a politicized force for change wimmin of colour are missing the point of these painful and horrific excavations. And I don't know whether I want to sigh broken heartedly or shriek impatiently or cry or just roll up in a corner and die.
There is a point to reading information about how we've been misused and abused.
These are facts packed with the power to transform. These are facts with potential not an indictment of our possibilities.
If we simply read and assimilate information about the experimentation, the norplant implantation, the astronomically numbered assaults, the genocidal abuses, and use these as fuel for righteous rage, use these as ways to mount head on attacks at everyday racism and sexism in our lives these are good and necessary steps.
But when we don't take it further, when we take this information and utilize it to say: See? This is why we're having difficulties exploring things sexual. This is why we can't comfortably explore things sexual. This is why we're not going to take over discourses about things having to do with the erotic. This is why we've got to (at least in public) stay the hell away from evidence of our own erotic.
This is cutting us off collectively and personally from effectively combating one of of the prime ways we have been subjugated.
I think I'll call it: "I'm a political woman of colour but my pooni isn't" syndrome.
They say there can be no humour or pleasure or abandon or politic in the erotic that incorporates race, colonization, domination, patriarchy and rape.
They say we have been given no choice. They say choice is a fiction. They say choice is not in our hands. They say lets just keep talking and writing about not being able to consent.
I say I don't want those who have damaged my foremothers to give me a choice. That just further entrenches their power over me. "Thank you, thank you for giving me back my fucking erotic."
Nah, same way I've had to liberate my mind is the same way I'm going to attempt a prison break. If I can't politicize and liberate consent then I'll never be sure that "Yes" I hear coming out of my mouth is mine.
We all know our ancestresses were given absolutely no choice.
We all know that many wimmin of colour still have absolutely no choice.
I say that survivor guilt or guilt about having the privilege to consent leading us to step back from exploring the realm of the possible, using our sharpest and keenest political insights in the service of the imprisoned erotic is just plain counterproductive .
I say our ancestresses remembered and whispered about having choice. They yearned after it.
I say our ancestresses plotted and manipulated to put choice back into their bruised and damaged erotics.
I say our ancestresses knew and dreamed about the healing power of their own erotic.
I say our ancestresses are here with us inside us waiting to get a taste of, to catch a sight of, to smell a whiff of descendant daughters building bridges back to the consensual erotic.
I say the trek back will be uneven and yes, defined by privilege and access to safety, support and space to play.
I'm tired of stories and essays about wimmin's contained and chained erotic. That's so Victorian era. Why are we still stuck glorifying the timid, the unsure, the undercover, the tortured? Why do we romanticize and politicize hesitation and fear?
I'm interested in stories and essays about wimmin who embrace their erotic stubbornly, publicly, powerfull under the most awful and stormy circumstances. I'm interested in the stories of wimmin of colour who embrace their politicized erotics from an intelligently courageous place who articulate the treacherous terrain they walk as conscious beings who struggle to be more of themselves even as they acknowledge the impact of colonization.
I think that wimmin of colour who have something of privilege that can be protected by constructed "political" good girl facades are often the ones who end up speaking loudly about the need for us to tread lightly when it comes to repositioning the colonized erotic closer to the center of our collective political agendas.
I think that wimmin who have something of privilege to protect shy away from exploring the erotic because of the realistic fear of being disrespected, denigrated and attacked if they do, means a loss of privilege and respectability.
I think that rather than live under the boot of The Fear, I've spent time hacking away at its power over my black female queer common class erotic.
I've spent time exposing the links between classism, sexual conservatism, elitism, racism and misogyny. My custom made woman of colour political agenda has been about undermining the power of these systems rather than my own.
I've been enraged, hurt, depressed, anxious about what happened to my career, my reputation, my credibility, my friendship circles, my alliances when I stared linking the erotic to the middle passage, to classism, to the values of the people I came from, to the values of the people I shared community with...at one point.
When I made the choice to not just embrace my erotic, but to link it powerfully to my politic, I started asking questions and seeing the "important" issues differently. When I started making links not authorized by those who understand themselves as those who define the agendas inside women of colour struggles I made enemies.
At almost forty I realize that embracing my erotic isn't just an issue linked to my oppressors, but also linked to the ability of those who should be, could be, would have been allies to internalize the oppression of their own erotic. To keep it nasty and hidden. To construct it as fearful and unpalatable. To keep it tucked under the table when we come to identify the issues.
The foremothers were sexually dominated and stabbed to the very core of their erotic. If we're going to combat our own oppression we're not going to be able to leave discourse about embracing the power of our erotic out of the mix. Since the colonization of the dark erotic is, historically speaking, at the root of so much of what we're resisting, it weakens our struggles for change to perpetually construct any discourse about the erotic as bothersome, extra, tangental...unnecessary....
I have, WE have a responsibility to get conversation that are really about consent, sexual oppression and race back on track.
Wade in the waterexcerpted from "Troublin’ Tha Waters - One Black Queer Woman’s Thoughts on Black Womanhood and Sexuality"
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
[I’m] gon’ trouble the water
Mangled excerpt from an old spiritual
“An orifice, an opening through which I will ENTER. One of MANY such daughters. A Black and truly precious thang...”
(Excerpt from It Takes Ballz – Reflections Of A Black Femme Vixen In Tha Makin’, T.J. Bryan © 1999)
Bearing images of community and family, images of SELF, a renaissance, queer femme cums with her thoughts, her intensity, her knowledge, her words, her views.
Vulnerable yet powerFULL, this daughta of the Diaspora cums not to be tolerated or given permission by those with heterosexual and class privilege, but to take up the space that is her right by BIRTH.
Wrapped in her Blackness, the presence of ALL colours, an ebony dark beauty, your mirrored reflection cums laughing, marching, cussing, questioning, dancing.
Seas and lands you recognize flow rhythmic ‘round her hips even as she moves to her own beat.
An Ashanti Amazonian whose weapons of choice are images and words, I cum OUT in/to spaces of potential, yet, sadly unrealized resistance. Spaces of Diasporic African(ness) where same-sex lovin’ and sexin’ have always BEEN present.
My face, my body defiantly visible queer injections...
A wombed rainbow ejaculating creativity and self-knowledge in/to shadowy places previously (mis)construed as hegemonically male, middle class and straight.
Without compromise or shame, having traveled/immigrated/wandered too far to evah turn back...I still got many rivers to cross. Wanna take my hand and walk on water?
Cumin’ OUT demanding change...
I speak with the power of one bolstered by the sacrifice of many. My stance is not about courage or controversy. This is about necessity and survival.
My allies are NOT my allies ‘less they can deal with ALL of who I am. ‘Less they can witness ALL of me and survive to tell the tale.
Fearlessly walking. A nomad. Clanless yet connected by histories with links stronger than the chains that bound middle passage ancestors but never their souls or their dreams.
Fearlessly facing retribution and attempted domination this Black conscious, pro sex HOO/chee is playful, in-your-face and resistant as she visually and verbally explores what it means to make love to other wimmin and through them to herself.
My work, my art, my revolutionary mode of expression is often deemed unpalatable or pornographic by those who choose NOT to include critiques of sexuality and sexual practice as part of a viable Black, African politic.
For me speaking of my OWN sexuality and incorporating it into my visual and written work IS political. It IS about the decolonization of my Black female body.
Remember...the colonizer took the fruits of Black wimmin’s labour. YES. But they also colonized our foremothers by attacking the very source of their most intimate pleasure. By raping, brutalizing, utilizing their genitals.
But, you say: We got free. They let us go.
As far as I can see, many Black wimmin, the descendants of these violated and disrespected slave wimmin are writhing in the grip of some serious erotophobia (scared of tha nasty). Struggling with an unwanted inheritance – the aftermath of our foremother’s historically used, bruised and damaged erotic. Struggling to reconnect with our sexualities. Struggling with ourselves and our desires. Struggling with our lovers. Struggling with artificial community standards applied to Black wimmin but never to Black men. Struggling to keep our heads above water. Struggling hard just so we can figure out what to do with the padlocks the massa put on our bizness.
This is especially true in a world where we are sexualized everyday. Where so many of us react to the lies told about us by distancing ourselves from the healing power of our erotic.
Very often in community Black wimmin’s disassociation from our sexual selves is not identified as a mark of our continued oppression or as something that needs to be named, examined and made whole. It is instead worn like a badge of pride, perceived as evidence of supreme consciousness and purity.
Caught up in the grip of masculinist, classist, sexually oppressive value systems that run like the threads of a malignant tapestry through the hearts of our Black communities, so many sistas leave it up to others, often men, to decide when, why, how, sometimes even IF we will be sexual or show evidence of any sexuality at all.
Black wimmin’s possession, the ownership of our flesh by others, the determination of the limits of our very psyches by others continues...
“If you are worried ‘bout where...I been or who I saw or...what club I went to with my homies...baby don’t worry, you know that you GOT me...”
The Roots with Erykah Badu
Or should I be sayin’: F**k DAT!
I need to ask:
Does the brotha referred to in this song have this woman because she gives herself to him and only him of her own free will? Or has she been coerced? Cleaving to him monogamously, heterosexually because she fears the ramifications of possible alternatives? Fears the power of sexual agency in her life? Cuz she knows that men, who (rightly) view wild wimmin’s/queer wimmin’s connection to their own desires as a threat to continued male dominance, will seek to regain power (over her) by repudiating and undermining her strength? Should she be worried that they will try to shun her or call her out of her name by labeling her dangerous, evil, promiscuous, slut, phreak, hoo/chee, skettle, a bitch to be destroyed?
And what about her sistren?
If this woman sets out on her own path toward recovery/discovery, will patriarchally identified wimmin, sensing the implicit critique of their own stagnant sexualities and oppressed realities, withdraw their support, their love, their presence? Will they instead opt to ally themselves with the sources of male dominance in their lives by questioning her politic, her truth, her integrity, her sanity, her spirituality, her consciousness, her right to exist?
Baby, don’t worry. He knows that he’s got you.
A sexually self-actualized woman who takes and gives pleasure without being owned is a revolutionary, a weapon. SHE is dangerous to the powers that be. Even as she cums loudly, proudly, screaming with orgiastic and orgasmic release she inherently rocks the roots of white/male/heterosexual/class domination and power.
This flesh is possessed by NO colonizer, by NO man...or woman.
This body, this ‘nani is MINE to envision, to draw, to describe, to give or to take b(l)ack. Not to be defined or commoditized by the rules and regs of well-mannered, middle-class (identified) Black community or by society at large.
My queer flesh struggles to be free of limited sexual identities. My Black spirit longs to be done with false consciousness and oppressive, white, western, conservative, nuclear family values. My woman-centric desires will eventually be let loose on Black community, for that matter, on the whole dyam world.
I fight to remain unconstrained by the discomfort of others. By those who have not done their work. By those who have not assimilated the full significance of the readings they claim to have done. By those who choose to not make the links. By those who make the conscious choice not to seek TRUE revolution in ALL its many forms.
This darkly, queer gyal wants NO part of any one dimensional, (a)political, urban, surface glitter, fifteen minutes of fame seeking, trendy, empty word playin’, (counter)revolution.
This daughta of the African Diaspora will continue to be a Black, queer, female, common-class force of devastating change in and of her/SELF.
What about you?
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
[Let’s go] trouble the water.
By T.J. Bryan © June 2000
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Conquest by Andrea Smith
It feels good to want to buy a book for feminists. It's been a while since I've seen anything done in a feminist or feminist woman of colour or queer feminist woman of colour or queer feminist that I've wanted to read. I think I've been really bored and just standing there with my finger up my nose watching people reinvent the same old, same old, same old, same old wheels over and over and over and over and over and over again.
I've had a few moments over the past few years. Definitely reading, writing and thinking about disability, stuff like Restricted Access and Geek Love...
Reading and thinking about the historic divide (ruptured here and there, but not consistently or collectively) between the descendents of freed African slaves and Native people's trying to retain and protect their own birthrights, their land rights, their human rights...
has energized me, got the old rusty synapses flyin' and connectin'.
I'm not so much worried about whether anyone will understand what I'm writing. That pointless little energy waster - trying to get my point across, trying to share my visions (some might say - my hallucinations) with people who've been born, bred and raised on a steady diet of denial - was depressing...no, heartbreaking. I can't worry about who gets what I'm saying. That program drags my focus outside of me, away from hearing what lies crystal clear at my core. What I want to be most important, what I want to continue grounding in is that I get what I'm saying and writing. Anyone else who wants to come along for the ride is more than welcome. But I ain't gonna carry them on my back even one inch.
I am not a bridge. I am not a strong Black mule. I am not a receptacle to be filled with the angst and fears of others. I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name.
I am a wild wolf woman. I am a wild wolf woman. I am a wild wolf woman. I am a craz....wild wolf woman, wild wolf woman, wild wolf woman.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Birthphotolog: What happened to the umbilical cord or...tracking the ellusive Black colonized settler homebirthing mama...
We talked more about Black folks, slavery, our later existence as settlers. She said that she was going to stop talking about the crappy land given to Black colonized settlers after "emancipation".
We both agreed that this was just selfish and self-centered.
The white settlers enslaved us, then "freed" us and gave us land they had murdered people, decimated whole tribes wiping them off the face of the earth to possess.
They gave us blood land and we accepted it as if it was our right - conferred from them to us for all those years of slavery.
They weren't trying to fucking do right by us! They were trying to continue their horrific reign of terror. To benefit themselves and to have support with their land theft agendas they implicated us in their crimes against humanity. They made us their accomplices! We walked into this trap, moving from darky working dogs to darky sidekick. They offered us a place at the table where they were dining on the flesh, blood and bones of people who had welcomed them and we accepted!
I burst into tears, maddened by consciousness and horror. Through my tears I talked some more about what I was reading in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.
The day before, I read a particularly grisly account of a massacre where the genitals of the wimmin and girls were excised and worn as hat ornaments. I told papi's mama that the book states that the wimmin and girls were especially targeted by white settlers and military men because "lice give birth to nits" and they wanted to make sure no more "nits" were going to be born.
This is crucial, grounding and painful for me as a Black woman who has chosen to give birth on this land. Yes, there's the cult of white settler mamahood that seems to be coming to power. They, their families, their parenting techniques, their birthing techniques (often appropriated from wimmin of colour and offered back to us) define every single aspect of this present wave of mothers giving birth younger or older, staying home, publicly breastfeeding, attachment parenting, organic feeding.
Tears. What luxury. What privilege. Yet, my tears show evidence of emotion, something denied to me as the colonized. I am not supposed to feel. Feeling leads to grounding, leads to thinking leads to knowledge, leads to resistance from a whole place. My sadness as much as any other emotion leads me to look and dig deeper. Tears do not wash me clean. There will be no absolution. Tears just show me that I understand how deeply my children and I are implicated in the theft of this land.
This land is covered with the bones of wimmin who were killed so they would never mother. This land is covered with the bones of tiny children who were not allowed to enter the world gently, at "home", eating the nutritious whole foods of their ancestors, protected from diseases unfamiliar to their families...safe.
As I watch white mamas implicated yet willingly and willfully completely oblivious of the ground their joyous births, their reclamation of birth, their attachment parenting, their extended breastfeeding, their guatamalan wraps, their comfort measures, their midwifery legislation all take place on, as I watch them build their white supremacist, patriarchal, heterocentric, classist privileged mama cults and critique the ways I do not see myself in their experiences even as I pillage and loot their lore for my own militant mama agendas, I need to make myself more vigilant of the ways it can be possible to create an equally oblivious Black homebirthing mama cult of one without full political context...without grounding in the land and the struggles of its people.
More tears, but also resolve growing. I'm not sure where I can go from here.
What I know:
I am the recipient of shadeist, racist, classist, sexual conservative, homophobic, misogynist, anti-immigrant oppression. I do not know the mother tongues of my ancestors. I do not know the exact ancestral lands of my ancestors. I do not know how much of me is African and how much of me comes from other places. All this is true.
What I am coming to embrace and understand:
I'm the dark daughta of freed African slaves who decided to stay in order to claim Native land as their own.
I am the dark daughta of people who made an awful choice in a field of awful choices. I am a middle passage daughta birthing here, part of a biologically based, genetically spreading occupation force imposed on the land.
I am a Black colonized settler able to garner enough unearned privilege through occupation of the land to access better home births, better outcomes, safer outcomes, self-defined outcomes, natural outcomes, unmedicated outcomes for me and my Black settler children on land where Native wimmin were killed trying to protect their babies from raging white men with bayonets and guns.
I trumpet the praises of homebirthing on land where Native wimmin were driven from ancestal lands, starving with their children, killed and then dumped into mass, unmarked graves later to be built over by cardboard middle class housing developments, shopping malls, highways and parks for settler children of older and more recently arrived occupiers.
Privileged, I pushed out two homebirthed babies surrounded by the dead and the living crying out for justice. I heard the cries of my dead ancestors, too. As I birthed they whispered in my ears saying: Chile, pay close attention. There's more than just that pain in your gut, more than just our pain passed down from generation to generation here. Feel this. Feel these labour pangs. Feel this part of the story of who we be. Then speak clear. Write clear.
I felt their message. Heard the pain of others. I will speak. I will write.
My experience of the natural and the safe is mediated and shifted by my existence here on land that was natural, now poisoned, infected with chemicals and diseased by the coming of white settlers, with the support of freed Africans turned settlers, with the support of newer colonized settlers of colour who all birth on land soaked with the blood of genocidal mass murders...so, so many Native mothers, babies and children.
The Shmolian was homebirthed into a bloodbath. I will not protect him or Stinkapee from this knowledge. This is part of who they are. This is part of who we are.
This is part of my "wonderful" homebirth story. These are just some of my labour pains lovingly written down for you to treasure and remember.
I've driven my course load and made it heavier. I've defined my curriculum and made it more indepth. I've developed my reading list and made it representative and critical. I've graded myself and always found room for improvement.
In short, I'm running my own graduate studies program for one which, according to the conversations I've had with academics, students and T.A.s, is educating me without the debt load or the need to conform or jump through constructed hoops. I don't take exams, but I retain knowledge and information. I don't hand in papers. I just write tomes and think droves everyday.
I get to study, do group assignments, write essays, share the results of my findings and develop new, more plausible theories without dealing with professor ego, university corporate bureaucracy or student bodies, while breastfeeding, changing diapers, putting bandaids on boo-boos and searching craigslist for toddler beds.
Most importantly I don't study in order to impress, career climb, gain status, gain credibility with my colleagues, get a better spouse, entice friends or please my folks. I study to grow into more of a critical, informed and empowered adult human being.
Three cheers for adult homeschoolers!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
(yesterday Papi and I were driving with Stinkapee and the Shmolian. As we were parking Papi, who notices these things, pointed out bajans in a car going the opposite direction. how did we know they were bajans? there, dangling from the rear view mirror, was the barbadian flag. traffic had paused in both directions. so we had a chance to look at them and they at us. their eyes did a slow survey. we chatted and talked about barbadians and nationalism. their lips sort of pouted and downturned simultaneously as if to say: nappy haired man and yellow haired skettle we have gazed and found you not worthy. we giggled and talked some more, this time about collective colonial angst and internalized hatred. then we parallel parked and went for samosas.)
My day went on...
This morning I woke up thinking about the history of the islands. woke up thinking about what it means to challenge colonization myths that threaten even now to erase our pain past and present. I think about what it means to disbelieve colonizer constructed stories about Black people in the amerikkkas while accepting equally suspect stories about Native peoples in the islands.
The original Native inhabitants didn't just "disappear" from the caribbean. They were mostly annihilated. When caribbean people, academics, historians, griots write or speak about those islands (not our islands) without locating or passing on the knowledge of histories of genocide we participate in a project that aims to erase the manner in which the original inhabitants of the islands "disappeared".
"the Caribs were not simply worked to death, contemporary Spanish records support both massacre and pathenogens as accounting for the bulk of the populations of several Caribian islands, along with group suicide. In many respects, what happened in the Caribian in the 15th and early 16th centuries is similar to the conquest and depopulation/repopulation of the Cannaries in the 14th and early 15th centuries."Dead Indians, Live Indians and Genocide
Barbados "History"...or the constructed, obstructed void that speaks.
Papi's mama turned me onto Hilary Beckles. I'm going to ask her if she has his book "A History of Barbados - From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market".
Maybe there'll be something more substantial there that connects the dots in ways that doesn't further denial.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
So, yesterday I started posting about shadeism between people of colour communities and in people of colour communities.
Today I think I'll get on with what's actually stuck in my craw.
He's smart, he's healthy, he's giggly, he's verbal, he's flexible, he cute as a button, he reminds me of Stinkapee when she was younger.
He's lighter than the rest of us.
Now, you need to realize that I come from a peopleing with a contradictory secret hidden just at the point where light makes contact with the epidermis and bounces back or is absorbed.
We've been defined by colour, but also by shade. We were categorized by slavers and slave masters according to skin shade. Lighter, darker, darker, darker still, even darker, darkest, darkness personified, truly dark black...
I made those up. People have other names for different shades. It's been ingrained, inbred. We look and rate even if we don't acknowledge we're doing it, even if we don't know we're doing it. It's an internalized racism and shadeism thang.
I didn't grow up with the bulk of my family (matrilineally speaking - my mother's family) past the age of eight. I don't have a lot of family stories to share. But here's one you might appreciate...in the context of what I'm nattering on about today.
I am the oldest of three children born to my mother and father. I have a sister who is one year younger than I am. For the sake of this blog, I'll refer to her as Marie Antoinette. If she's reading she'll understand why. :) Now, I can't remember who told me, but I do remember that when Marie Antoinette was born she came out "light" and stayed light. Her complexion, her racist shade rating on the continuum of coloured melanin pigmentation is much lighter than mine, noticeably so. Supposedly, my father decided that this was odd and proceeded to insinuate that my mother had obviously had an affair. You need to realize that she divorced him. So, it's clear that he became even more insane as time went on not less.
Now, anyone who understands the history of Black people in the white west, us descendants of slaves will be able to cross reference RAPE by slave masters, semen, genetic samples, generations of dna altered Africans ergo the occasional light baby seemingly arriving out of nowhere.
That's pretty basic.
My mother told me about my great grandfather, who died in '95 at around 107 years old. She said that he was a blue black man who was fascinated by my sister's lightness. He would come during the day when we were with my grandmother and ask to take my sister for a visit. Thinking back, this sounds a little creepy. But, lest I digress (and get upset or really creeped out) I shall continue and pretend I didn't type that.
What was I saying? Oh, yes,! He would come to take out my sister and did not want to bring me. You need to also realize that I have a mythic light skinned Peruvian ancestress, my great grandfather's wife. Because family stories are shrouded in so much mystery (unh, people can't deal with pain, people have to survive and crippling depression brought on by the memory of things and events no one has the support to deal with because working people can't justify or afford counselling, means that people just need to stuff it, stifle it, forget it which means that they cross out vast segments of memory in order to avoid pain ingrained...), mystery, yes, mystery...no one remembers this woman's name. I'll have to call my grandmother, but I think her mama actually died before she was old enough to remember more than feather light hair, light skin and freckles.
So, needless to say, I have relatives that look all sorts of coloured.
So, Shmolian is sort of (what's the idiotic term I've heard other people of colour refer to themselves as?) cafe au lait...coffee (that would be my and Papi's direct genetic influence) with cream (that would be genetic quantity X factor).
So, here I am again going -- shit happens.
First I thought I was going to have a girl and I got a boy.
Then I envisioned someone with a parallel relationship to the continuum of shade and racist oppression and I got someone whose location is slightly different.
This is good for my brain. The Shmolian has come in the exact body he was supposed to. He's come asking me questions about what I understand and who I am even before he can talk.
I'm thinking about the love flowing back and forth between him and Stinkapee.
I'm thinking about my sister and how level headed she always has been about shade. She could see what people, dark people, white people would attempt to offer her because of her melanin quotient. She was honest. She would talk about it to me. Did you just see what that person did? Well, I thought she was doing that because I'm lighter.
Our relationship has been rife with pain over what our parents left for us to deal with and understand on our own. We've been combatants off and on over the course of our lives. Shade, thankfully was one of the areas where camo never had to be put on.
My question of the last few months has been: How do I nurture and encourage alliance, love, support, mutual understanding between Stinkapee and the Shmolian? I've been doing this since before he was born, of course. I'm more of a proactive mama than a crisis oriented functioning when forced to in the moment mamam.
Shmolian is Stinkapee's boy. Stinkapee is the center of the Shmolian's world. Their faces light up when they see each other. They giggle. He looks at her amazedly. She can't wait to see him after school. They've been encouraged to spend time, to snuggle, to share with each other. I want them to powerfully identify with each other and to take care of each other...voluntarily because of the mutual identification.
When the Shmolian is old enough, I will do as I've done with Stinkapee and start explaining about who he can be, who he will be understood to be, who he will have to struggle not to become. When he is old enough, I will begin a more verbal process of loving alliance that will include him understanding the necessity of him sharing patriarchal privilege and shadeist privilege with wimmin and with darker skinned people.
I want to teach him to see himself in ways that critically question what it means to be located inside his own skin. I want to offer him incentives to maintain clear sight.
I'm planning out what I'm gonna do to raise a conscious, happy, loving, self loving, verbal, resistant, respectful, self respecting, powerful, gentle, resilient light skinned boy into a man.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Both Papi and I saw it. Papi spoke to her first. He asked her where she had seen people doing this. She said that some of the kids at her school (she's one of two black girls in the school, the rest are white boys of varying ages) had been doing this and laughing.
Papi said that this wasn't an okay game and that she was to let the other children know that it wasn't okay to be doing this for fun.
I added a new word to her vocabulary: racist. She already understands the basic, five year old version of what it is because I've been describing it to her as it relates to Native peoples, slavery, tourism, her hair, her skin, the police, people who own stores, etc...
I explained that this "game" was racist. I explained that it was racist because pale people have this way of understanding that says even the way their eyes are shaped is better than everyone else.
I explained that for instance her and my eyes look different than the eyes of Asian people. When the pale kids at school do their "game" they're actually making fun of the way Asian people's eyes are shaped.
This is racist.
I wanted her to understand that this was hurtful. So, I said that if an Asian person was to see her or the kids in her class doing that thing with their eyes, they might feel hurt or they might cry. She's five, so the thought of making another human being feel hurt and cry still gets through because her heart is still tender.
I followed up with the usual: "That was hardcore not okay". Then I told her that if the children at school do that thing again, she was to tell her teacher that they're being racist. I said that if the teacher had an issue with what Stinkapee was saying, Stinkapee was to tell her to call Mama and Papi so we can talk to her.
That went well.
I thought about the continuum of shadeist oppression and how, in relation even to other people of colour, Black people are seen as inferior, less attractive, less acceptable by many people themselves affected by racism, because our skin is darker.
I thought about hierarchies of shade inside Black communities and inside other people of colour communities where deep shades among our own is considered an unavoidable hazzard of BBWD (being born while dark). Some babies are just not "lucky" enough to "pass". Some babies will not be light enough, melanin deficient enough, to avoid being so horribly harmed by racism.
Besides media spin doctoring games, the occasional resurgence of the dark exotic in fashion, video or movies, darkies are just not cool.
I have rage. (insert: I AM PISSED OFF!)
Some is about me. As a dark skinned woman, darker than some, lighter than others, I'm not light enough to be considered genetically evolved and therefore "going places" in a city like Toronto where this unspoken fact actually plays out all over the place. But I'm not dark enough to work any equally racist striking mahogany skinned goddess thang either. I'm just t/here.
Why did I go t/here? How did I get t/here?
Well, this Black ghost thought about enforcing anti-racist lines of conduct that block anti-Asian racism and invites my Black, dark skinned five year old to think about the feelings and needs of other, differently located people, not herself.
This Black ghost thought about the fact that the futures of people of colour all over the planet and our ability to question racism as it effects us, is internalized and therefore perpetuated by us, is visited on each other through us...
Can be questioned, resisted and overtly challenged through the rearing of the very embodiment of our collective futures -- our children.
This Black ghost thought about struggling to make change on all fronts whether I have Asian allies who understand themselves to be allied with me or not, whether they also question and interrogate the racist indoctrination of their children or not, whether they realize that our children need to not be taught to fear each other, hate each other, make fun of each other, undermine each other's well being, compete with each other or not...
This Black ghost has an agenda for raising her child that has to involve being vigilant about oppression as it is taught to small children before they are conscious enough to resist on their own.
This Black ghost mama is ready and set. This Black darky ghost mama is doing her work.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
So, I was talking to she who shall for the next little while remain nicknameless about an academic piece of writing based on her research that she's working on. Lately our conversations about Blackness, emancipation and slavery have been ending up in the same place - Black people's relationships to Native struggles and the theft of the land.
I said that I've been reading a book called Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee published in 1970 by a white historian which outlines in excruciating detail every encroachment, faulty deal, lie, reneged treaty, massacre, ambush, imprisonment, wrongful execution, mass execution, siege, starvation, attempt at racist domination visited by white european settlers on Native populations they encountered when they got lost and found themselves on the shore of this continent.
I'm not sure why this white settler wrote the book. But as a Black settler I'm finding the amount of horrific detail all historically charted to be akin to having a sledge hammer to the brain. Necessary when dealing with denial. I don't want to be protected from the knowledge of where I sit. The unglazed over facts will do the trick.
For me as someone who reads and feels and thinks and engages, this is a starting point where acts of government, decrees and laws handed down are traced back to their rotten roots. I found out about Manifest Destiny. My partner's mother added the Monroe Doctrine to my mix.
The Monroe Doctrine basically is the beginning of the Amerikkkas. It outlined for the benefit of European colonizers still interested in tearing off chunks of the land and slapping their names and flags on them, that amerikkka actually is the mafia don who "protects" all the land over here suh.
So, they OWN kkkanada, the west indies, mexico, central amerikkka and south amerikkka. This is why they feel so free to ride up and down taking out dick-tators and imposing new ones on the people. That's why people are supposed to come visit them and say hi when they are "elected" by their people to govern a north, central or south amerikkkan state. That's why they can expect support for their "wars" on terror and drugs.
They feel they own all the land.
No, I don't much cry over television news items. I save tears I might want to shed about something other than my ongoing counselling for reading books like Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Me, miss "I've got so much ballz" can only manage to read about two pages at a time. In between my head explodes with consciousness of where I sit. I draw lines back and forth between histories that have been spoken and written of mostly separately. Black people's histories over here. Native people's histories over there. Both on the land, yet separated artificially. (Saswat Blog has an excellent book review of a book that really illustrates the problem through a marked absence of information about Native People's histories of struggle.)
I said to Papi's mama yesterday saying that when I read about the continued deceit and double crossing of white settlers starting at their arrival, continuing up to, during and after the civil spat between the white settlers of the north and the white settlers of the south, I think about Black mythology that says things started to look up for US during this period of time. We were soon after defined as human again, not as chattel. We could own the land and farm it and be free.
WE could be so self-centered, so free. tears.
So, I'm reading this book and it's detailing murders, children stolen and sold, grabbed and beaten to death by roiling crowds of white settlers out for (more) blood.
I'm reading about warring white factions on both sides of the civil war united in their continued quest to push Native people off their homelands, to imprison them on tiny plots of land with no food, no shelter, where they had to dig holes in the ground to shelter themselves, where there was no clean water, where they tried to resist and to stay strong where they begged each other's peoples to join together and to fight, to resist.
Where whole groups of families and peoples starved rather than give up the lands of their ancestors. Where their children starved until they gave in to their ruthless, ill-mannered enemies (Robert's fuckin rules of engagement, Miss Manner's Rules of fucking etiquette, be damned to the lowest regions of their own christian hell.)
I'm reading this and I'm thinking that the descendants of stolen African slaves brought to work the land because the peoples of the land fought and demanded ethical treatment and would not be enslaved, that these Black descendants merely looked forward to not having to work for free. They/we wanted profit.
As the civil spat between the two factions of warring white settler murderers drew to a close nothing changed for Native people.
But, I'm not getting the impression from our oral traditions transplanted from the continent to this imprisoned land that Black folks cared that the daily horror, the collective Trail of Tears with Native people chased off "prime real estate", forced to march to the interior, forced to say goodbye to where their ancestors lay and where they were born, continued unchecked during the times where Black people in amerikkka looked forward to their forty acres.
I'm making some horrible links about the history and herstory of the African Diaspora, emancipation and Black people's civil rights. It ain't pretty. But it's better than having my buttons pushed by idiot news stories designed to make billions for white settler dominated news media.
CNN and FOX doesn't televise the torment that continues to this day. (Though I saw that Oprah recently made a historically decontextualized go of visiting some reservations and shaking hands with the Natives.) The image of white people as settlers, the descendants of stolen African people as low level settlers, the image of other people of colour as low level settlers doesn't sell advertising, I'm sure.
They wrote me some shit yesterday that I had to process before I could just have a different kind of human interaction than I'd been accustomed to having in blogland. I haven't been to a shock blog before. I'm not sure what people call it. But you know blogs that are just plain odd, disgusting, actually repulsive meant to disturb, upset and provoke.
Eek! But wait! I'm realizing that some people might experience One Tenacious Baby Mama as a shock blog. And really? If they do it's probably because they're supposed to.
I wrote to the fucktardery people for a bit, wondering if they'd go all classism driven, stereotypically white trash Hills Have Eyes or Kalifornia on my ass and show up at my door for a visit that very afternoon say. Hee, hee, hee.
I commented on my comments and had fun, glorying in the sheer pleasure of being able to use more language than I get to most days. It was fun to cuss at will just for the sake of cussing. It was nice to use language and to interact in another way. It's like when I speak french or spanish, which I don't get to very often. I get to use other parts of my tongue and brain. That's always a pleasure.
I still wondered whether they are the mythical trolls I keep hearing about or just some community folks hailing from a bit closer to home. But one of them assured me that although they are definitely fucktards, they are't trolltards. I guess I shall see.
So, after I played along with them for a bit, I wrote about isolation, emotion, wanting to live somewhere far away with a shotgun so that if I got any unwanted visitors, I could just say: "Yeah? What d'you want?" Right now, when I run into people on the sidewalk I have to suffer through anywhere from five seconds to five minutes of unwanted, unnecessary, often unstimulating conversation. I very rarely encounter people I actually want to see on city streets.
Anyways, the point I wanted to get to was I had this moment of strange guilt where I flashed to that man who had shot all those people yesterday or the day before. Part of me wondered if I should even be cussing and joking and talking about owning a shotgun? It felt sacreligious somehow to be continuing on with life as I know it. Maybe someone would mistake me for the next malcontent of colour set to go postal.
I don't own a gun. I own my words and a few computers.
I woke up this morning still thinking about being understood and constructed as crazy. I woke reflecting about my distinct lack of interest in the mass murders presently in the news.
Mornings are always really good for making links. The brain runs while I'm sleeping and when I wake up I've got something. This is what came...
I didn't feel anything about those students that were killed. Not because I don't value human life but because I'm not wired to respond physiologically and emotionally to news items. Yeah, I might have passing curiosity, but stock up on kleenex and spend the day glued to the tube asking the creator: "Why?" Nah.
News items are chosen not stumbled upon.
Everyday horrible things happen around the world, happen in urban, suburban and rural areas. Right now hundreds of people, thousands of people are being massacred by someone in the world. Alternative news sources give a better picture of the murders happening on a large scale everyday.
The amerikkkan media likes stories that have to do with particular demographics. If we're talking middle-class, mostly (but not exclusively) white, career path driven, educated, "nice" people and their children, the media will want to hype these stories and often make them seem larger, more shocking and more ominous than they are...on a world stage where people are killed or their children are killed everyday.
Again, I'll say, I respect life. But media feeding frenzies and popular news personalities "sharing" news updates doesn't have anything to do with life.
The amerikkkan media treats amerikkkan citizens like money in the bank. They use their own citizens to create ratings. From a host of events happening in their country and around the globe, everyday, they pick the one that will send everyone over the edge. Make sure it has all the elements of a good television show like CSI. Their imperative is to make good tv. This way the viewers will tune in religiously as you spoon feed them bits of information constructed, sometimes created to make them come back time and time again.
They push emotional buttons. They know what will make you rage. They know what will make you cry. They know what will make you feel scared. They know what will cause you to ask fairly surface questions about the very nature of life.
Every week they find that one billion dollar baby. The perfect story, a diamond in the rough they can craft and construct until it reaches a fever pitch taking over the everyday lives of amerikkkan news following citizens.
This is a business. This is their business. They are in business.
The media knows people are going to sell their news by talking about "what happened" over dinner, before the movies, on dates, with their families, with their coworkers and...on their blogs...
Media employed minions will be ferociously, cold-bloodedly and tearlessly checking blogland everyday using technorati and truth laid bear to make sure they're hitting the money makers, the demographics they're aiming their stories at. They'll want to make sure that their advertisers are getting their money's worth, too.
News stories about pain, torment, horror visited on some "innocent" amerikkkan citizens isn't cause for media barons to mourn. It's time for them to celebrate and strategize about how best to spoonfeed images of crying, scared, disheveled people shuddering and clinging to each other to the media addicted public.
This is a public which, for the most part doesn't believe in therapy or counselling... unless they're in crisis. This makes the vast majority of the people so starved for places where they can release true core trauma and horrors carried sometimes for lifetimes.
The media offers a readily available source of extreme dramatically presented emotion which really just offers a steady diet of the viewing public's own stifled emotions fed back to them in the form of collective triggers, buttons to be pushed, pushed and pushed, again.
As with the substance addicted, the experience is overstimulating, intoxicating, extreme and cleansing. Yet ultimately, due to a purposefully built in flaw, the emotional outpouring can only be shortlived. You've got to sit back down in front of the source if you're going to get another fix. You'll have to replenish your supply because it has a very short shelf life.
But, they know you'll be needing their shit again soon. Needing it as a way to get on and keep on. You'll be needing that next news item for temporary relief from amerikkkan life as you know it.
They've got you good.
So please, keep watching and collectively mourning as you wring you hands and cry out for answers: "Why did he do it?".
CNN and FOX will work hard to give you "answers" that will keep you glued to your flat screens as they keep depositing those cheques and watching as their stocks make increasingly dramatic showings at the New York Stock Exchange.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
We're about to move. I'm struggling with a general sense of angst about leaving this house where I struggled so hard, cried so hard, fought so hard, reasoned so hard, felt so much, work so much and still could not realize my dream of the moment.
I want to be gone from here. But I know that when I leave I will also be leaving spaces of community by yet another increment. It seems as if I've been leaving for as long as I've been in community. I exploded in the door in my twenties and almost immediately smelled something off, foul. But I had made such a grand entrance. I was here, I was queer, someone needed to notice and change the world because of it. I committed all my resources, all my dreams, all mySELF to the work of staying and building that leaving was not really an option. It was not something I could bring myself to do with as much explosive power as I had entered.
Besides, where would I go? Where could I go when I had already established through years of reading and attending of demos and poetry readings and film festival attendance and marches that the outside world was a horribly unsafe place no one would want to live in...if they were in their right minds.
So, I tried to write it out. I published and spoke and debated and wrote some more, published way more.
Things are getting worse. People who are supposed to be critical thinkers are slow and easily confused, mislead and redirected. The carrots hover in the air everywhere I look. So much incentive to maintain inertia and ignorance even as they give their lives to various struggles for change. So sad.
I've realized after years of crying off and on, of begging for someone to please shoot me in the head that I desperately want to live. But, I still think I won't be able to change what's happening around me to the people I see being harmed by the very kinds of oppression they struggle to resist. A
And so, I have fat, healthy, hopeful, gurgling, powerFULL babies. They're cute and cuddly. They're passionate, clear, verbal. I'm up to the task of supporting them to stay that way. This I can do.
Of course I have to feel, too. Birthing them means I have to feel something. I can't back away from the hurt, the rage, the disappointment, the fear, the disgust, the...did I mention the rage?
They force me to feel. I feel in order to be a vigilant mama for them. Cain't feel, cain't smell out danger, cain't see a situation coming to a boil, cain't make human decisions. I feel myself so they can know at least one blessed human being in their lifetimes who looks back at them fully actualized, reparenting and passionate.
I can't say I think and educate myself so that I can pass this on to others. Its been a bust. I think folks are edutained by what I write and say. But will this change the paths their feet walk? Nah.
I educate myself in order to keep myself from going insane and dying of gnawing boredom surrounded by people who understand themselves as brilliant and insightful because they get good marks from a prof who has taught the exact same class with the exact same lesson plan for the last 12 years while sleeping with eyes open.
I seek information to keep connections in my brain forming and igniting with sights and sounds a little Black child immigrant from a tiny island in the caribbean was never meant to know. When they put me and my sister on that plane in the mid seventies, my family didn't expect me to turn out like this, I'm sure.
I educate myself, collecting information so that when the beings I birthed ask: "Why?" I have something more than: "Well, honey, I never thought about that. That seems like a lot of information for someone your size. Go run and play and we'll talk about it another day, okay?" followed by an uncomfortable shrug as I turn to a nearby adult and say: "Kids ask the darndest questions."
So, I've been backing away from the life I've known for most of my adulthood slowly. I'm backing away slowly and envisioning a place with a garden and a computer and a vegetable garden, a pond, a bunk bed for sleep overs, the kids and their kids coming and going, a broad band radio, thick glass windows, an electrified fence, a shotgun, a rotweiler named Kofi Annan. Hee, hee, hee.
But jokes aside...stay focussed.
I'm building a life around something other than physical spaces defined as resistance movements. I'm not so interested in diving into urban spaces anymore. All this grey concrete, the cell phone radiation, the cops and the hydro fields have got to be fucking up people's brains.
I'm more fascinated by the idea of being a resistance virus meant to breathe in life not death, a bio-meme inserting queries and challenges as I draw breath in...out...a human ark pregnant with miscellaneous bits and pieces of knowing, birthing...again and again in plain sight, deciding to live one day at a time as I resist...
This is still me here saying...
Hoping to find connection of like spirited, ethical, forthright, intelligent, emotionally present others who can bravely play and roar and shriek and laugh and fight and cry and stomp and, and, and, and, speak fearless truths, becoming more everyday, radiating their own bio-memetic pulses as we all inexorably move forward...and outward...and grow...and change.
I would like to build home and learn new skills, pass on skills...not alone.
The War Country. Hee, hee, hee.
Papi and Stinkapee are looking at a map of Turtle Island right now. She's been taught to understand the whole land mass of North Amerikkka as one. But she understands that the pale people settlers divided it up into kkkanada and the war country a long time ago.
She understands that the war country is a bully and that kkkanada supports their bad behaviour.
Now they're looking at the islands off the coast of the mainland of Turtle Island aka the caribbean. Stinkapee is taking a picture of the image on the computer with my cell phone.
I explained that corporations give money to different companies. And when they do, they want everyone to know they did. So, they put their names on movie theaters, convention centers, university buildings, etc. This is their way of saying they own a part of that building.
I pointed out that they also put their names on our clothes, on cars, on toys. It's almost as if they own us when their names are on our bodies. It's almost as if they're trying to say they're one of us, like family, like we should love them. And if we love them, then we'd want to give them budget (what we call money). And we can't love a big company, a corporation. And we definitely don't want to give them lots of budget.
We both agree: No!
So, Stinkapee has been doing a wardrobe purge of sorts. She has been using her scissors not to cut what's left of her hair (Did I mention Stinkapee wanted to change her hairstyle to be more in keeping with all the short funky hair cuts Mama did for the wimmin we lived with?).
These days she's using her scissors to cut labels off of her clothing. No corporations on her clothes.
We run into problems because even though Mama doesn't have interest in labels, classism being what it is means that when we go to Value Village in search of vibrantly coloured, intelligently designed, not overly feminized and frilly wear, this stuff is often made by designers and big brand makers like Osh Kosh and the Children's Place who are known by name or smaller designers who survive by spreading clothes with visible labeling on them.
In a classist society, the affluent are of course offered much more well-made and intelligently designed clothing for their little future leaders. Everyone else gets to deal in polyester blends, cheap cottons, pastel pinks, wedding dress like frill dresses with cheaply made tights.
I want clothing for Stinkapee that moves with her, breathes with her, survives her (so we can give it to Shmolian. He's already inherited some of her dresses.), beautifies her. I hope I'll be sewing again soon. Not doing fabric creation right now. Then the conversations and real life action about eliminating more labels from our lives will progress.
In the meantime, Stinkapee gets the general idea, anyways.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Just breathe and be your adult self. Of course the little girl is having difficulty with this, she's a castaway. The adult is...well, the adult is, too...but she's much better at coping with it.
Thinking Blogger Awards?
Who would I give a nod to?
I was having conversation with myself a few days ago and consciously admitting to an agenda I've been pursuing for quite some time...linking up with the back benchers, the second or third stringers, the water boys, the ones who don't get chosen for teams, the ones who really appreciate not being chosen to be part of anyone's blogland clique.
I've been searching for signs of life under rocks and on the other side of the tracks.
I'd like to give nods to people that some might know, but most that folks might not immediately think of. I prefer the less stomped on paths.
I find that economies of scale done blogland style mean that the people who are understood as pivotal and necessary reading by the majority are simply...unh mostly defined as such because they are mentioned a lot, get mentioned by others even those who oppose them (courteously according to Robert's Rules of Order) more, mention each other more, get seen and read more, are mentioned a lot, get mentioned more...they really become their own self-perpetuating hype and popularity machines, which in a hype and popularity driven world means that they end up being treated like they're tha shit and like they know more and have better analysis when they've just been mention a lot more than other people and are understood as popular.
That who dynamic gives me the hives. I've stayed in blogland watching it play out time and time again. It's not attractive or useful as far as I can see.
So, Thinking Bloggers?
Hmmm...these aren't blogland "friends". I haven't really been interacting or engaging enough to have made any here in recent months. These are people who have intelligent blogs who I've added to my links. These are places I want to go and spend some time reading and learning and growing. You might want to keep an eye on what they're writing. They're all thick and weighty in their own ways.
I was supposed to nominate five. I've nominated 7.
1.) Navelgazing Midwife who is telling 20 years of midwifery stories comes to mind.
2.)Saswat Blog who writes the most involved radical book reviews
3.)The Shape of a Mother because I've got a flap, a flap, a lovely lady flap.
4.)Imagination and Social Liberation because I'm tired of the monopoly academic corporations have on the hearts, minds, dreams and futures of even those who should know betta.
5.)Radical Noesis just because I'm trying to be Black and green.
6.)Linguistic Concerns because political blogging about the business of birth should be more common.
7.)Time Goes By because I'll be taking my radical cranky disinterested with social norms and convention self right into old age.
I write these names and know that I am sharing what I cannot afford to share, potential alliances yet to be realized. I'm sharing and know that those interested and better versed in popularity power playings than I may skim the cream off this top and in the competitive attempt, try to leave nothing behind for me to access but bitter dregs.
This is a purification process. Those who are so inclined can only "take" those who function from a mutually understood place of scarcity and lack of emotional intelligence. I'm seeking ones who can smell a cliquish bone collector from miles away and want none of it.
I am a wild wolf woman.
I am a wild wolf woman.
I am a wild wolf woman stretching farther, seeking, making connections, releasing and stretching again.
But first I wanted to give a thank you to Thinking Girl for mentioning her appreciation of the grunt work I'm attempting to here on this blogsite by conferring a Thinking Blog Award on me.
I like when I get nods from people just because I'm doing what I'm doing and not because they know me or like me. Usually, the popularity oriented bent of so much of society means I don't get any awards, not because my work isn't solid, but because I'm so surly. :) So, this came as a bit of a clean and clear treat.
The email I got today was from Annie in Australia who wrote saying:
"Hi! I was going to do the comment thing, except I don't have a blogger or a google account, so... not so much...No apologies necessary. I get what you're saying. Thanks.
Just to say I love reading what you write - at least half of it makes me go "huh", is interesting and brings something new to me.
I'm annoyed at this new 'bloggers code of conduct' thing - it doesn't affect me directly, of course (few things do), but ... put it this way, it's blogging "etiquette". Etiquette meaning here the specific idea of designing certain customs as a way of weeding out the lower folks infiltrating upper areas, the ones who hadn't "earned the right" for (ie been born into) specific areas of society, particular levels where you were allowed self-respect and luxury
(which, on a related note, is something I need to work on - and it's some of the stuff I've read at your blog that's really hammered it in - "classism bad! Work against it!" - because I do better than the 50%-point in most other things but I still sneer at the northern QLD accent, for example [Hi! I'm in the state of Queensland, Australia, by the way.])
UM. Anyway. Sorry to babble - I'm more coherent with spoken word, for certain.
Just chipping in with "I like what you're saying here" (or rather, like that someone is saying it).
Um, okay. If you've got this far, this is the part where I finish the email! I am particularly bad at that when it's not in some sort of academic/personal/business context, so I won't try to mask that.
Apologies if I've buggered up any typing in here!
I am awkwardly signing off an email,
Annie (who wouldn't have written half so much if she'd just commented, so sorry for that!)"
I was trying to find ways to historically situate my presence in the amerikkkas as a Black homebirthing mama, descendant of slaves who "graduated" to colonized settler status by a manufactured emancipatory decree issued by the colonizer.
I wanted to do more than situate the Shmolian as birthed through me into settler status as a citizen of the land colonized and renamed, maps drawn according to the specifications of those who stole the land.
So, I think I'm gonna be smart. I google the Bering Ice Bridge figuring I'm gonna trace Native peoples from their arrival in the amerikkkas from Asia.
Yeah, I'll be smart, not.
I start finding pages written by Native scholars pointing out the obvious gynormous holes in the idea that the ancestors of First Nations peoples walked across an ice bridge, down through the Arctic into the amerikkkas.
google search yeilded this, this and this.
My radically politicized homebirthing photo project had reached an unexpected fork in the road. I had been presented with information I was going to have to engage with.
I left off the download and started thinking.
First dealing with skepticism of this new (meaning new to me) origin "theory". It shook up too many things for this former avid high school geographer (did I tell you I won best geography student at my high school in grade thirteen?) to rest easy,
The theory about the Bering Ice Bridge is gospel. It links to the whole shifting and spreading plates deal which is supposed to explain why the continents are positioned where and how they are.
But particular theories about geography have also been linked to why different groups of people ended up where they are looking like they do, too. Let's leave this for a moment.
I got stuck about a week...actually by the time this post is published, it'll be more like two weeks. Bear with me if this seems a little disjointed, we're talking about bits and pieces of idea and word added up over the course of a few days.
Up until "yesterday". I was sitting somewhere waiting for Paps to come back when my mind started free associating. It just sort of revs up on its own and goes places dragging me along for a ride.
It asked: Why?
Why would someone want to prove that Native people weren't originally from this land? What could anyone possibly have to gain by spreading and imposing a fictional account of an arrival that might never have happened.
I realize I feel uncomfortable and defensive about theories of human evolution. For the past few years I've been feeling good about the whole idea of Lucy being the genetic source of all human life, the earliest known ancestor of all humanity. A continental African Black chick.
I've felt vindicated knowing that even though I've been the recipient of racist gazes from all manner of white folks and people of colour, I could always fluff up my ego with a simple reminder: "Humph. You come from me, dude. Y'all came through we."
Harps and violins, please.
Africa, the cradle of humanity. The Black mammy...I mean mother. She who birthed whole civilizations out of her geographic loins, blah, blah, blah.
Well, that's certainly one way to look at it. This way allows for a sense of pride and genetic continuity...sort'a.
Another way to look what the scientists said?
Black people are throw backs. The most basic form of human being. Not particularly evolved. The genetic raw material, "savage" and "uncivilized" that, much later, led to the birth of the epitome of humanity - The European. Humanity in its most distilled form, lighter and brighter, destined to rule all they survey.
Why had I been accepting their words as related to human evolution as the law all this time?
Why had I not seen the fiction?
Humanity was born in Africa and quickly left, leaving all that dark genetic material behind, later to return victorious and bearing wisdom that could be used to enlighten those proto humans who remained.
Even with theory about the spread of humanity infusing the beliefs of the dominant and those they've colonized, it's clear to see that no one else on the planet has a dispute of their very right to claim the land they occupy built into scientific creation myths about their origins.
Where did Asians migrate from and how did they populate Asia?
Where did South Asians migrate from and how did they populate south asia?
Where did Europeans migrate from and how did they populate europe?
Where did middle eastern people migrate from and how did they populate the middle east?
Yeah, everyone's got a general idea of how they came to be where they are. But this isn't forgrounded so forcefully as it is with Native people.
No one else has to defend their right to exist on the lands of their peoples. No one else is invited to shut up because of a scientific origin story created by their oppressors.
The story of the origins of humanity reworded in plain english:
"People started out no better than jungle bunny monkeys just recently deciding to stop swinging from the trees in Africa. Some of the smarter natives got restless and decided to start venturing forth.
As they moved away from the savage influence of their original homelands and the backward beliefs associated with their gene pool, they started to miraculously become lighter and more evolved.
The europeans, as those who traveled furthest north, were obviously the smartest of the bunch. Never mind with that pesky detail about Native people's in North Amerikkka.
Of course on the surface it might look as if they travelled further, which according to our evolutionary theories about human development, would make them smarter. But you see, they're actually descended from Asians. They do not represent an evolutionary development of the species. They're simply a genetic outcropping which happened after the gene pools had already settled. They were just a bunch of Asians, descended from Africans who lost their way in a series of intense ice storms.
Truth be told they are also settlers, relatively new, not indigenous to the amerikkkas. So they shouldn't really get their noses all bent out of shape over us white people coming along and nicely asking them to share the land.
We're all settlers here, aren't we?"
All sarcastic monologues aside, I'm actually thinking of Bering Ice Bridge Native Travel Theory as more of the usual white supremacist racist spewing, as a way of reasserting the genetic dominance of the colonizer while implicating Native people in their own genocide.
If we're going to frown on eugenics and flat earth theory, can't we also remember that the first time europeans put together a dinosaur skeleton, they got it wrong?
We've been indoctrinated to believe that they are scientifically infallible and that their beliefs about themselves and the world around us are credible because they have what they understand to be "science" on their side. But they make mistakes. Some they've hidden from view. Others have been glaring. Some Native scholars think that the Ice Bridge theory is full of shite. And who am I (Black colonized settler) to say that they're wrong?
My investment? I'm going to grow old. Every lefty, activist, feminist, anti-war dissident, anarchist, anti-racist is going to grow old. Of course I didn't pay much mind when I was in my twenties besides noticing how amazingly beautiful all the older feminists and wimmin of color writers and artists were. An ex reminded me recently that when I was a young boi of a dyke I swore I couldn't wait to go silver. Now, I'm here and my hair is yellow and pink. Living in an ageist world, one year shy of forty, I'm not quite so interested in going grey.
Elder biased ageism is a patriarchally gender oppressed canine.
Severe and very strategic damage has been done.
Ronnie at Time Goes By seems to be trying to make sure that another really easy character assassination attempt doesn't strike home without anyone crying foul.
I don't often see people making the choice to put themselves on the line when something doesn't quite smell right in their own yards. It's easy to question George Bush or Angelina Jolie or someone else prominent and popular. But when those among us who everyone unanimously like, who make friends not waves might benefit from being challenged, people do what's easy. They weigh in on the side of blogland popularity and numbers.
To read this was hard, powerful and painful. It called on me to question how exactly I understand right and wrong. Binaries are so easy to construct. Its very rare that people reflect and bring pieces of information to bear.
This writing was also so touching, intelligent and subversive. Of course it was an elder woman standing in the way of a blogland hit participated in by the many, aimed at the few happening in plain sight.
There have since been what must be millions of words from bloggers with, I have no doubt, at least an equal amount in the works (including this post). Most I have read are in support of Kathy, rightly deploring the atmosphere of fear, hate and misogyny the threats create. But before the commentary buries the original issue, I’d like to explain my initial reaction to Kathy’s post.
Dotted throughout her post are these:[continuing from the clip above] “…blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you've probably heard of. People like respected Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Chris Locke aka Rageboy).”
“People linked to by A-listers like Doc Searls, a co-author of Chris Locke.”
“At about the same time, a group of bloggers including Listics’ Frank Paynter, prominent marketing blogger Jeneane Sessum, and Raving Lunacy Allen Herrel (aka Head Lemur) began participating on a (recently pulled) blog called meankids.org.”
At first, it was words, writes Kathy. Then it was images, one involving a photo of Kathy with a noose next to her head. I happened to have visited meankids.org in time to see the Photoshopped image Kathy describes. It was, I thought – well, “mean”. And if not done by a “kid”, then by someone whose development was arrested at about age 15. There are plenty of those in the world. I moved on without another thought.“I don't know which participant actually made the picture,” Kathy continues. “It may have been Joey, or Chris Locke, or perhaps Allen Herrel... the same Herrel (or someone pretending to be Herrel).” [Joey, says Kathy, left a comment below the image: "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."]
Nasty stuff no one wants to read about themselves or anyone else.
But let’s take a closer look at Kathy’s post than many who support her apparently have: I can’t remember when I have read, aside from ignorant political wingnuts, so many aspersions cast, acts implied and innuendo as in Kathy’s post.
As far as can be determined from the few facts she relates, the attacks on Kathy were made anonymously. However, she has tried and convicted Chris Locke, Jeneane Sessum, Allen Herrel, Frank Paynter and, to a lesser extent, Doc Searls without a shred of proof that they were involved. As Chris notes in his rebuttal post,“I think her response, as it pertains to anything I personally wrote, was unjustified - but highly effective - character assassination. As a result, I'm sure I'll be explaining for years to come that I'm not really an ax murderer and child molester. Nice work.”
Undoubtedly so of Doc, Jeneane, Allen and Frank too. Many people do not read as carefully as they should and will not catch Kathy’s well-crafted, but false indictments especially when juxtaposed with the gross attacks she relates. In fact, it has been widely noted now that Jeneane was in the hospital during the postings Kathy refers to, but as of this moment, Kathy has not absolved her.
Although I have run across Kathy Sierra’s name here and there, I had never read her blog before this post and have not ventured into her archives now. Perhaps she is an otherwise fair and accurate blogger who lost her sense of balance due to these vicious verbal and pictorial attacks. However, no less vicious are her insinuations against these five people.
Women live under strict prohibitions restricting the kinds of emotions we can display. Faces perpetually painted with benign surface seeming. Wouldn't want to be labeled disagreeable, hysterical or insane.
Black people live under strict prohibitions restricting the kinds of passion we can display. Faces perpetually grinning with entertaining surface seeming. Wouldn't want to be labeled angry, scary or insane.
Queer people live under strict prohibitions restricting the kinds of affection we can display. Lust tamed, gentrified, be campy, flaming and entertaining or suburban married and banal. Wouldn't want to be labeled profane, diseased, promiscuous or insane.
Working class people live under strict prohibitions restricting the amount of ourSELVES we can display. Don't be low class, gutter class, trash, tacky. Shut up and sit down. Wouldn't want to be labeled inconsequential, ignorant, untouchable or insane.
For being who they are...
For being who we are...
For being who I am...
Just for being...
I want to live and struggle and dissent and speak and write sharp as a knife in real time and in blogland.
But some of my "allies" scare me bad. I'm noticing a lot of vigilante action brewing. I have this to say...
When blogland denizens decide to band together to make decisions relating to manners and conversational acceptability, make sure the outcomes of your conversations and attempts to elect yourself governing body actually targets the right people.
Sweeping rules about who can speak, what they can say and when they can say it very rarely infringe on the rights of those with privilege. People with social locations that confer power know how to protect themselves and have systems of unearned power to draw on when challenged. When they get a slap on the wrist...well a slap on the wrist doesn't much matter. They survive.
Sweeping rules defining what and who is acceptable most often infringe on the right to speak or blogs of those who have already had their rights fucking infringed on by those with unearned privilege.
Sweeping rules handed down by those in power, whether we're talking some sort of "democratic" rule of the few by the many, or whether we're just talking social dominance by puffed up and fairly unclear blogland cliques based on mob rule and strategic popularity power games, really means that minority reports like mine from farther left, from more complex locations on the left are vulnerable and can easily be stifled.
Is so not cool.
And, for those of you who still believe in the power of debate, please weigh in on this whole "troll" issue.
I personally smell a big rat.
How interesting is it that folks have been worried about blogland being controlled and dissent being stifled by the conservative right? Bloggers have been censored and imprisoned. Blogs have been banned.
Please remember that in a media savvy, manipulative society where people are already on guard against the oppression of bloggers by the state because of what's happened in other parts of the world they won't come like that.
They would get us to do their work for them. A few well placed emails (oh, was it jpegs) by "trolls" upsetting and threatening a well-known blogging female and everybody wants restrictions placed for our own good.
We're about to do their work for them. They won't have to regulate us. "We" will regulate ourselves.
This "rude, unacceptable, unmanneredly, low class, profanity spewing, trouble-making, aggressive, angry, scary, intimidating, loud, evil" anti-authoritarian militant darky mama says please think carefully about how you decide to enforce ill conceived rules of engagement in blogland.
No powerful cliques throwing out proper, miss manners dragnets that catch and silence struggling far left bloggers constructed as scary by those who don't understand that tha revolution will need to come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, genders, classes, abilities, ages, shades, geographical locations, religions, beliefs, temperaments, tonalities and octaves IF it is to actually be a revolution we can all benefit from.
In truth, I suspect there are other ways to catch stalking, (truly) intimidating and dangerous (to lefties) blogland sea monsters with teeth, if those who like to craft (mass control) policy put their minds to it.
Questions at Time Goes By