22 November 2007

"Thanksgiving is much more than a lie" ~ my reflections 'pon dis day...

Quick update on me: Somehow I've been too busy to write on my blog... but I've been writing, dissertating, job applicating, and working hard - another hectic, crazy semester - but work is gettin did and I'm on track to finishing up by next summer... meanwhile, here are some musings, thoughts, reflections...

I am sitting at my desk trying to work, but thinking about this "day off" - this so-called holiday - I know we are supposed to be about family/friends and be thankful... I appreciate this sentiment, and I do enjoy catchin up with people I haven't talked to in a while, gettin text messages from friends, catchin up on work, cleaning, and sleep. Yes, I am enjoying all this, but I am also thinking about what this day really means and how the history of this day is covered up and glossed over in favor of the happy tale of "pilgrams and indians" feasting together. And so while many people (generally speaking) know that "the indians" were killed, forced onto reservations, and their land stolen, at the same time these horrid realities are disconnected from "thanksgiving" and the nice pilgrams. How can this be?

Cultural and historical amnesia fuels this day. We need to remember that it was founded by Abraham Lincoln for the purposes of nation building. And even as we enjoy the much needed time off from our ever busy and crazy hectic lives, we need to remember and tell a more accurate history of this day.

We should do this because the "thanksgiving" mythology is so powerful that it continues to be held up as one of things that makes america great. But this america is founded on bloodshed, genocide, and enslavement, which began with the first settlers and their common practice of giving small pox infected blankets to Native Americans, and the first official Pilgrim "thanksgiving day" that actually celebrated the massacre of the Pequot Tribe.

Today, I read this week's Black Commentator Editorial, and it reminded me why I study what I do and re-affirmed to me why we must in the words of Audre Lorde organize across difference and build alliances among people of color. Please check out this article - it is long but very informative and contains an overview of the historical background of thanksgiving. It explains how the history of this day is rooted in white supremacy, genocide, and slavery.

Check it out soon cause it will only be available free online till next Wednesday: Black Commentator.com

In case you miss it, here are a few thought-provoking points from the article:

"Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple, an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life events – subsequently revised – were perfectly understood at the time as the first, definitive triumphs of the genocidal European project in New England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder of the northern English colonial seaboard was the true mission of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African Slavery commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately inseparable Act Two. The last Act in the American drama must be the “root and branch” eradication of all vestiges of Act One and Two – America’s seminal crimes and formative projects. Thanksgiving as presently celebrated – that is, as a national political event – is an affront to civilization. ...

The British North American colonists’ practice of enslaving Indians for labor or direct sale to the West Indies preceded the appearance of the first chained Africans at the dock in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. The Jamestown colonists’ human transaction with the Dutch vessel was an unscheduled occurrence. However, once the African slave trade became commercially established, the fates of Indians and Africans in the colonies became inextricably entwined. New England, born of up-close-and-personal, burn-them-in-the-fires-of-hell genocide, led the political and commercial development of the English colonies. The region also led the nascent nation’s descent into a slavery-based society and economy. ...

The Thanksgiving holiday fable is at once a window on the way that many, if not most, white Americans view the world and their place in it, and a pollutant that leaches barbarism into the modern era. The fable attempts to glorify the indefensible, to enshrine an era and mission that represent the nation’s lowest moral denominators. Thanksgiving as framed in the mythology is, consequently, a drag on that which is potentially civilizing in the national character, a crippling, atavistic deformity. Defenders of the holiday will claim that the politically-corrected children’s version promotes brotherhood, but that is an impossibility – a bald excuse to prolong the worship of colonial “forefathers” and to erase the crimes they committed. Those bastards burned the Pequot women and children, and ushered in the multinational business of slavery. These are facts. The myth is an insidious diversion – and worse." - The Black Commentator, Editorial November 22, 2007 -

I'm sharing not to spoil our thanksgiving day dinners and such, but rather to share in the spirit of survival IN SPITE of all the forces that have tried to destroy so many. I am thankful that we (as in marginalized peoples, people of color, working poor, and indigenous peoples across the world) have fought, have raised our voices, and are still fighting and still raising our voices...

in the struggle... peace & soul,

06 August 2007

What do we call ourselves? - The Politics of Racial Mixing in The Bahamas - part three

Part three of a three-part series, published in The Nassau Guardian, 4th August 2007

By Angelique V. Nixon
Special to The Guardian

In thinking about the term “racial mixing,” it is important to note the long history of mixed-race identities in the colonial context, and to think about how race became a major tool to categorize people and legally code racial difference. Kamau Brathwaite defines the process of creolization during slavery as the clashing and mixing between dominant whites and blacks — culturally discrete groups, yet they consistently interacted with each other, blending people, cultures, customs, rituals, languages, and religions. Brathwaite (along with other Caribbean historians) trace how this constant interchange created new boundaries defined through skin color, which has contributed to the present-day race, color, and class dynamics seen across the Caribbean.

Mixed-race people challenged the divisions and were thus given certain privileges through their “whiteness.” Despite the efforts of European colonials to show a racially segregated and harmonious Caribbean to the colonial powers, the actual picture of the Caribbean during slavery was one filled with racial and cultural mixing that was viewed as degeneration, sexual corruption, moral decay, and decadence.

Black enslaved women were often blamed for this “sexual corruption,” while they suffered rape at the hands of white male slaveholders and planters, who used rape as a form of control and torture as a way to maintain their slave populations. But these spaces and people in them had to be controlled and categorized into hierarchies that suited European colonials, elites, and white Creoles — especially when mixed-race populations grew and demanded status through their white ancestry. Mixed-race groups were able to attain socio-economic mobility, yet they historically existed in this “in between” space of not quite white and not quite black.

Dr. Gail Saunders has traced in her work the race and class divisions that existed in the Bahamas from slavery through post-emancipation. In her study of social life in the Bahamas, she explains that there were four major social groups: At the top were the white elite; in the middle were “the browns, or coloreds,” ranging “from off-black to near white;” and at the bottom were the majority — the black laboring classes, and among them were marginal poor whites. Saunders discusses how mixed-race people in the Bahamas post-emancipation were able to attain social and economic status and built a middle class between the 1880s and 1920s, specifically. Regardless, they still faced racial prejudice from the white elites, and the status within the middle class was stratified by skin color and economic success. The Black laboring classes were considered socially inferior by both the white elites and mixed-race groups. These race and class divisions were created through slavery and maintained post-emancipation; and even through the political struggle for Black majority rule, these social divisions can still be seen.

By the time countries in the Caribbean started fighting for independence, Black people were already in notable positions within civil service, education, and law enforcement that used to be occupied solely by whites and mixed-race elites. However, it is clear that race, and by extension class, was the determining factor for the development of social groups across the Caribbean.

The history outlined here is a brief overview, and different islands have variations and exceptions regarding the racial categories. These racial categories were made more complicated post-slavery because of the Indian and Chinese indentured workers who were brought to the Caribbean, especially to Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, and Jamaica by European planters (who did not want to pay the newly freed Africans what they demanded in wages).

Moreover, migrations within, to, and from the Caribbean have also affected racial dynamics. In my experience of migrating from the Bahamas to Florida, I had to negotiate the social and legal codes for race. During my first few years of college, in addition to my national and cultural identification as Bahamian, I used the category of “mixed” and “other” as a way of identifying myself in social groups and for legal purposes. Whenever I was asked, “What are you?” or “What are you mixed with?” I explained, but I became offended by the questions — “Are you sure you’re not Hispanic?” “Are you Filipino?” or “You’re Bahamian? You don’t look Bahamian.”

I often reacted to these statements by stating firmly “Don't look so confused, what you think Bahamians look like? Anyway, I'm mixed.” Being “mixed” in the U.S. context means for the most part that you are black. This experience, along with knowing my history and culture, led me to identifying as black solely. This decision was not only personal and spiritual, but also political. I believe that black people and blackness continue to be devalued, and people of African descent must take part in creating a change in how the world sees us and how we see each other.

Some people think that racial mixing will create a harmonious future, but I have serious doubts that it will — not only because of a history and herstory that tells us otherwise, but also we are simply not there. A former supervisor (white, older American male) after inquiring about my racial identity said to me that he imagines the world will “look like me” once “the races continue mixing.” His comment was not only idealistic about race relations (we still live in world that is for the most part racially segregated), but it also shows how racial mixing can be seen as a kind multiculturalism — a vision for the future. However, one needs only to look at racial mixing during slavery to see that even as racial mixing troubled the boundaries, at the same time, it created new divisions. Even though I can see the power of refusing categories and identifying as “other” as a form of resistance, I also realize that “other” carries little political weight because it supports a kind of liberal idealism where multiculturalism is the answer to racism.

My experiences and studies have shown me otherwise — that racism is structural, a system of oppression imbedded into the social and legal fabrics of many societies, which has directly contributed to the social and economic disparity of people of color around the world. Whether we “see” issues of race, class, and gender, they exist and have structured the societies in which we live. In the Bahamas, we avoid talking about race and class, and we try to convince ourselves that slavery and colonization no longer affect us. We live in a male-dominated culture that is too silent about violence and abuse against women and young children. We spend too much time constructing and re-producing our culture for everyone else but ourselves. We need to spend more time uncovering the silences that control us.

As people who live in the Bahamas, we must understand who we are and where we come from in terms of place, history, and culture. We are rooted in the African Diaspora, and whether or not you are of African descent, this is we history and we culture.

What do we call ourselves? - The Politics of Racial Mixing in The Bahamas - part two

Part two of a three-part series, published in The Nassau Guardian, 28th July 2007

By Angelique V. Nixon
Special to the Guardian

I was raised primarily by my Black grandmother in Bain Town, Nassau, Bahamas (Over da Hill) and this experience was most fundamental in forging social and cultural perceptions of my identity (that being Afro-Caribbean and Bahamian).

My grandmother, Mabel Sistella Charles, was born and raised in Inagua, and came to New Providence when she was just 16. She did not speak much about her past, but from what I remember and have traced through family stories, she worked as a cook and domestic worker most of her life until she was hurt on one of her jobs. At that point, she had already raised four children on her own and had also helped raise two of her grandchildren, including me.

While my grandmother was a very proud Black woman, she was insistent that I never marry a Black man because with my light skin and "good" hair I could be the one to "make it" out of the ghetto, get an education, and take care of the family. As a product of a colonial (mis)education, my grandmother associated being Black with being poor and having no opportunities, whereas being white came with privilege, and the "in between" or mixed-race people could essentially "choose," depending on how "white" or "Black" they appeared or even acted.

I think my grandmother's expectations of me grew out of what she saw as my mother's failure to operate in this "in between" space of white and Black. My mother was the one child out of her four children that she conceived with a white man. My mother was the product of my grandmother's troubling affair with a British Methodist priest in the 1950s for whom she worked as a domestic; my mother never met him. Despite my grandmother's hopes, my mother never "made it out," so that responsibility became mine. Although my mother often talked about the tensions she felt growing up and never fully fitting in anywhere, she identified as Black, but attempted to gain status through conceiving me with a mixed-race Bahamian man — a combination of Chinese, white, Black, and Native American. As we like to say in the Bahamas, "all mix up." As a result, I was encouraged and expected to excel in school and succeed. I would argue that these expectations from both my mother and grandmother can be seen throughout the history of racial mixing in the Caribbean.

Growing up in the Bahamas, I very rarely had conversations about race or racial mixing. As I teenager, I felt ashamed of being poor, and I worked hard to distance myself from where I grew up. And since I associated being poor with being Black, I tried to "mask" my "blackness." In other words, I chose to be silent about my racial identity in certain situations in order to gain opportunities such as jobs, scholarships, and promotions, and I strived to meet my family's expectations. In fact, I did this so much that "masking" became easier and easier, a kind of performance, as I perfected my "proper" English, socialized primarily with white people and those who could "pass" as white, and avoided conversations about growing up poor and my racial identity. In retrospect, I do not believe that my grandmother or my mother would have ever wanted me to hide my identity, but rather they too understood strategically performing or not performing blackness. This "masking" through performance could never affect my embodied identity, no matter my silence or social circles. However, I did benefit from my performance because I was able to take advantage of opportunities that I don't think would have been available to me had I been darker-skinned or had not performed strategically.

In my mid-20s, I realized I did not have to hide who I was. But I was faced with the reality of being in a multiracial body where I felt like I had to "claim" my blackness. I began openly talking about my life growing up, sharing stories about my mother and grandmother, and asserting my identity through my experiences and personal history. And I did this through conceiving of my identity through historical, cultural, and political terms. Nevertheless, I am very aware of being a mixed-race black woman with light skin and "good" hair, and therefore conscious of the light-skinned privilege that comes with being mixed. But I am also aware that the "blackness" I embody carries with it not only my family history of 1950s colonial rule, but also a very particular kind of history. This history is one of African enslavement in which Black women were consistently raped by white men, and one where miscegenation (racial mixing) could mean denigration but also privilege.

What do we call ourselves? - The Politics of Racial Mixing in The Bahamas - part one

Part one of a three-part series - published in The Nassau Guardian, 21st July 2007

By Angelique V. Nixon, Special to the Guardian

As a multiracial woman of African descent born and raised in the Bahamas but currently living in the United States, I have experienced many reactions to what people think about my racial identity. I am frequently asked the question, "What are you?" or "Where are you from?" This confusion over my identity stems not only from my physical features — a racial mix of Black, Chinese, white, and Native American — but also from my cultural and national identification as Afro-Caribbean and Bahamian. And this is made more confusing because I have light skin and "good" hair. (As many of us know, "good" hair generally refers to hair that is close in texture to white or Asian hair.) In both African-American and Caribbean communities, a Black person having light skin and "good" hair as a result of racial mixing is generally seen in a positive light. Since I don't have the "typical" Black racial markers of dark skin and kinky hair, but rather other markers like full lips, a wide nose and voluptuous hips, my racial identity within the Caribbean context has usually been regarded as "mix up," "half breed," "high yellow," or even "practically white." Although I was often the lightest skinned person in my classes growing up and experienced feelings of isolation because I felt different, I learned at a very young age that there are benefits to being light-skinned. While growing up in the Bahamas, I self-identified as "other" or "mixed" because of my light skin, which marked me as "not quite Black," but I knew I was "not quite white" either.

Moving to the United States for college in my early-20s sparked many changes in my understanding of race because of the "one drop" rule there, along with the legal and social codes concerning racial categories in which technically I am Black. And in my mid-20s, I made the decision to self-identify as Black.

While I came to this decision through an acceptance of my own history and culture, I was challenged to do so through my education and experience of racism in the United States. Being in graduate school and studying the incredibly complex history of slavery, colonization, and race relations in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States, I found myself unable to comfortably identify as "mixed" or "other" any longer because I realized the shame I carried around about my past had everything to do with my African ancestry and growing up poor.

I believe that in the Bahamas we need to have more conversations about race and how race affects class and gender. I believe that there are many silences about who we are, where we come from, and the connections between us and the rest of the Caribbean. I believe that these silences include many "white" and mixed-race Bahamians not acknowledging their African ancestry. Even though we are an independent majority Black nation, I believe we are still deeply affected by the effects of slavery and colonization, which institutionalized racism and light-skinned privileges into our social fabric (in the Bahamas and across the Caribbean and the Americas).

Many of us are mixed race, and we can no longer be ashamed of ourselves and deny our ancestry. And even for the very small amount who are white in the Bahamas, you too must acknowledge our African roots as a country and as a people. The Bahamas (and the rest of the world) would not be what it is without the retention of African roots, found in our culture, language, music, art, festivals, customs, rituals, beliefs, and so on. And as a person living in the Bahamas, regardless of race or ethnicity, one should acknowledge what Caribbean scholar and poet Kamau Brathwaite calls "creolization," or the mixing and melding of African and European cultures, languages, and peoples during slavery. (And this mixing continued post-slavery when European planters brought Indian and Chinese people into the Caribbean through indentured servitude.)

There is a wealth of information on these important historical, social, and cultural issues, and in order to uncover the silences, we must be armed with information. We live in a moment where equality and color blindness are an illusion, and we continue to live in a world that is fueled by racism and social and economic inequity. We need to understand what racism is and how it works, rather than deny its existence. This is why I think we need to have these conversations and work harder to know who we are and where we come from.

29 June 2007

thoughts from home

It's been a while since I've written on my blog... My summer has been hella busy so far - it started out with a conference in Brazil - Salvador da Bahia - it was amazing... And now I'm at home in Nassau doing research and interviews for my dissertation - been here for most of June. It's been really productive for my work and also for my creative writing. I've done a few poetry readings, and been interviewed about my work for local TV station and radio station. It's been really exciting - some great opportunities to share my work at home...

peace & conscious wibes...

19 April 2007

Race and Racism - by Dr. Faye Harrison

February 26, 2007 - “A Series of Unfortunate Events? A Look at Race”

Faye V. HarrisonProfessor of African American Studies & Anthropology
University of Floridafayeharr@ufl.edu
Questions posed by organizers:
What is the state of our national conversation on race? Are we moving forward or moving backward in race relations? Do we need to correct our current course? How?

In my view, there is a great deal of denial about race and racism in this country. The denial is not just occurring at the level of ignorant individuals who lack knowledge, sensitivity, and live lives sustained by class and/or racial privilege. The denial is also evident in the language, practices, and policies—both domestic and foreign—of our democratically-elected government. That government and the increasingly neoconservative interests that drive its current administration, promotes colorblindness and a post-Civil Rights notion of diversity management that in many respects denies the severity of present-day racial inequalities and the extent to which they are still being perpetuated by institutional and structural means. Both the legacy and cumulative burdens of past discrimination and the insidious, often subtle, forms of racism that are being reconfigured, restructured and deeply implanted in today’s late modern world operate to the patterned and systemic disadvantage of people of color, from those experiencing racial scapegoating since 9/11 to those who have long been relegated to the bottom of the nation’s social and economic hierarchy. The language of our public conversation on race and our political discourse in general has taken a rightward shift away from many issues that truly need to be engaged from angles that consider explanatory frames and justice-seeking possibilities that go well beyond the established boundaries of Republican Party politics and even beyond those of the Democratic Party’s Liberalism as it’s come to be constituted today. We must remember that Liberals have been among those who’ve advocated the dismantling of welfare as we once knew it and affirmative action, ideologically reduced to quotas, playing the race card, and “reverse racism.” Both of these domains of ideological, legal, and legislative struggle have been racialized in ways detrimental to the interests and well-being of their overlapping and, unfortunately, disunited constituencies—poor folks, the racially subordinated, and women and those who depend upon their contracting resources and hard work, both waged or unwaged.
Black people have long represented the most radical form of difference here in the U.S. Although we know that race relations is more complicated than the bipolarities of black and white, we also know, or should, that the inequalities and racial assaults, both symbolic and physical, that black people experience are often severe. Some of the indicators of the “savage inequalities” and injustices that adversely affect black communities include: the drastically lower net worth (or wealth) of black families compared to white families, the labor force experience of black workers who are among the last hired and first fired in recessions and who suffer the highest rates of unemployment, the inequalities in health and life expectancy, and in the arena of criminal justice the mass incarceration of black males and the soaring rates among black women, whose convictions have dire consequences for families and communities “on the outside” and deprive the convicted of the rights of citizenship for which the black freedom movement has long fought. These regressive changes are occurring right under our noses, yet they remain largely unspoken and silenced as salient matters for serious political debate.
The U.S. has also played a role in attempting to discredit and inhibit the conversations about race and racism that have been gaining momentum in international and transnational arenas, such as those facilitated the pre- and post-conference activities associated with the UN’s World Conference against Racism (2001) as well as other world conferences on related issues. In the language and legalities of international human rights—a regime that is not without its contradictions and flaws—structural racism in its various faces and modalities is a violation of human rights, a violation warranting redress, compensation, and reconciliation. While the U.S. is signatory to the anti-racist treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which took effect way back in 1969, it has presented a major obstacle to the work of monitoring and promoting compliance to this treaty.
Despite the many obstacles, including national and transnational or imperial political agendas, international conversations have led more activists to understand that racism is more than a problem in the U.S. and South Africa. It is a problem of increasingly global scope that is being heightened in contexts reshaped by the contemporary mobilities of both immigrants and capital along with the often problematic impacts of (U.S.) foreign policy. Contrary to the “norm against noticing race” that prevails in international relations, foreign policy is no more color blind than domestic policy is. We need to face the power racism exerts at home and abroad before we can figure out how to dismantle it.

rants on race & gender

so it's been a while - spring blues haven't gotten the best of me - I'm still here in the struggle. The past few months have re-confirmed how much conversations about race, racism, gender, sexism, sex, sexuality, and class (among others) are needed in public discourse. Since the aftermath of Katrina, along with other incidents like the Kramer racial tirade, the Duke lacrosse case (which still has yet to be discussed and dealt with in a decent way & the larger issues of race and class are largely ignored), and the Imus madness - race has emerged in many a public debate and news headlines, but rarely engaged in complex ways. What has been made evident rather is the fear of talking about race, the denial of racism, and the belief in colorblindness as the dominant view of race in this country. This not only helps white people to feel justified in doing whatever they want and casting blame on people of color for our problems, and it also intensifies self-hate and internalized racism for people of color - and/or we just don't want to talk about it either - easier to deny and pretend that everything is equal... We are living in dangerous times - an' still no reparations (and when I say reparations - let's be clear - I don't mean cash, I mean supporting Affirmative Action and structural adjustments that will create social and economic equality for those who have been systematically and institutionally denied equal access).

I have been fortunate to attend a few excellent forums on race recently [Feb 26th - Panel Discussion - "A Series of Unfortunate Events? A Look at Race" & April 3rd - Lecture - "A Nation of Minorities: Race, Ethnicity, and Reactionary Colorblindness" - both at the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at UF's Law School]. These events have helped me to develop my thoughts, theories, and teaching about race and racism (especially Dr. Faye Harrison's statement on A Look at Race - which I will post in its entirety; and Dr. Ian Haney Lopez's lecture which I talk about below). And they have sparked many debates about race and gender with my friends. These have all created the following rants. I am including them here to keep track of my thoughts and in hopes of sparking more conversations and debates:

colorblind madness & Fox Attacks on Black America
So someone put a montage of Fox News clips that show Fox attacking "Black America" - meaning black issues, Barack Obama, affirmative action, and so on. What struck me was that they had a number of black folks agreeing with accusations of black people and communities being racist. One news reporter asked a conservative black politician if he thought Barack Obama's church was racist because they had in their mission statement a focus on the black community and black people and he said yes. This drove home to me how distorted discussions about race and racism are - especially in the public arena and media - and that we need explain what racism is and what affirmative action is and why it is still needed over and over again. Professor Ian Haney Lopez from UC Berkeley, who writes about race relations and law, does this in his work and talked about this in his lecture - and he gave an exceptional talk on reactionary colorblindness and why/how affirmative action is being attacked through a history of colorblindness and ethnicity in law and public discourse. He drove the point home that - We are now in this colorblind moment (that supports white dominance) where anyone can be racist - because the public sphere does not talk about structural racism - and discussions about race and racism are absent unless it is about an individual or it is based on culture and ethnicity - which are used instead of race. Professor Lopez said we have to de-legitimize colorblindness, support affirmative action, explain what it is - and describe it as "social repair" not preference or privilege - and talk about racial hierarchy and explain racism as a structural issue. If you don't know his work, you should check it out - I think his talk was one of the best discussions of race and law I have ever heard.

racialized gendered language and why imus' apology don't matter
While I am surprised and happy that Imus got fired, I am disturbed at how the media continues to spin this scandal - the discussions about race and gender are seriously problematic, rarely engaging in the history of this language or structural & internalized racism (NPR did have some better coverage) and these women have had to prove that they are "good, professional women," meanwhile discussions about Imus revolved around his "goodness." We live in a moment where people are so focused on the individual character and debates about whether or not Imus is racist and if he is a good person (same shit that happened with Kramer) - as opposed to talking about the fact that WHAT he said is racist and the language he used is racialized and gendered - the fact that an apology from him will never deal with why he was so comfortable saying what he said in the first place - his race and class privilege - on the flippin radio/internet/public sphere/public airwaves. And that he can bust out the tired excuse that - well "they say it to each other" routine - is taking us back to all the debates over the n-word - and reveals the extent to which we can't talk about race and racism in a serious way that addresses structural racism or even racialized & gendered language that's very different than "making fun of people." And the fact that these women feel like they have to (or more than likely advised to) defend themselves against this language and explain that they are not what he said shows us how powerful and loaded these racialized/gendered stereotypes are - because in the media/film/music/popular culture/etc. black women are seen as hos (thinking about the legacy of slavery and the perception that black women can't be raped and automatically thought of as prostitutes - ex. duke lacrose case). These women have been paraded around on shows, press conferences, and so on, to prove they are respectable black women - in other words, not like the "real hos" out there. And I am tired of these accusations that "the black community" has to deal with the language of hip hop and rap - as if various black communities haven't been doing this work for DECADES... as if the largest consumers of hip hop aren't white... as if the producers of the music and the videos aren't mostly white... as if we're the only ones who sustain this language... as if it doesn't come out of the history of slavery and segregation... as if we aren't talking about these issues... BUT I do agree we need to deal with our own issues - we have to talk about this ideal of black respectability and deal with the difficulty of talking about sex and sexuality - especially black female sexuality. Perhaps having these conversations will help us to deal with the aftermath of the duke case - like asking the question, what happened because something happened to this woman - who has now been rendered liar, invisible, and unimportant. So das why I think Imus' apology don't matter - cause it does nothing to deal with these deep-seeded issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class - it just helps to brush them back under the carpet - making this scandal an individual thing that doesn't reflect larger issues.

we are livin in a scary moment - It is regressive, conservative, reactionary, individualistic, capitalist, white-dominated patriarchy, fundamentalist christian... and in it - we are dealin with new kinds of racism and sexism that exist through denial and claims of equality...

stayin in the struggle,

07 March 2007

spring blues

Being in graduate school is challenging to say the least.... and it's all the time... but for some reason, spring semester always rushes by, screaming, and yuckin all yuh time, energy... every spring I go through what I'm now callin da spring blues... if it ain't one ting, it a next one right behind it... Never mind you dat it seem at University of Florida, we (meaning marginalized groups - especially black people) have to march and protest and fight and fight about somet'ing each semester... Never mind you dat it just feel like dis university don't want us here - us as in black, brown, queer, liberal, humanities-loving, inter-disciplinary-minded, and so on, and any mixture thereof... Never mind dat those of us organizing, going to meetings, writing letters, sending emails, and erryting else, may be gettin sick and tired... But sometimes yuh have to make sacrifices, and yes, somethings are more important than school work, more important than sleep, and even more important than the individual... sometimes we have to make those decisions - and they are hard - and it's even harder when at the end of the day - the work you haven't done is still waiting for you - and everyone is still expecting you to succeed on all fronts - and to excel - always striving for excellence, being the best, while thinking of not only yourself, but your family, your friends, your colleagues, your community, and on and on... And the minute things seem quiet, crazy shit happens on campus, on the street corner, in the food store, on the news, in a meeting, in the classroom, and we are reminded again and again that racism /sexism/homophobia (from the subtle & covert forms to in your face shit) are everywhere - and that these forms of oppression and ALL forms of oppression keep us from being human and free.

So even as I carry on in dis rant... feeling overwhelmed like Ive been swimming against the tide on a rough day for hours and hours with no land in site... even so, I know we have to keep fighting, keep the struggle going... but even then, sometimes I have a hard time keepin hope alive... and need time to re-energize and catch some conscious wibes... I gern home today... the West Indian Lit Conference, community, family/friends, an' some conch salad & sky juice should get muh right back on track :) maybe some cerasee too (yes, I do believe it & da ocean is cure erryting - dere are only a few tings I really believe in - bush medicine, ocean/moon/earth spirit, obeah, and guardian angels/spirits)...

das all fa now... tryin to get dese spring blues sung...
tryin to make revolution happen, one ting at a time...