Tag Archives: whiteness

Post the Second 2 or A poem for New Orleans

The city

Is touched by

Madness

The cracks in

The sidewalk

Filled with memories

and ghosts

Walk through the

night

Looking  for home

This used to be

Swampland

She said

Teeming with muddy

Water

and the sediment

of centuries

A sacred place

Where the rains

Of the four corners

would mix

Bringing tidings

Of great things

In land

Far away

How do you mourn

That which

is no longer felt

no longer known

How do you remember

Something

that was never forgotten?

Now the land is

rotten

she said

Buried under layers

of oil and concrete

levees and canals

What once was a home

to many

Is now a barren place

Filled with the miasma

of self-hatred and

Willful neglect

How do you imagine

Something that is real

Manifest something

That can never be

Make love to something

That was never there?

The marrow of this place

She said

has been sucked dry

desicated remains litter

the ground

white shapes savagely

drain

Art Culture Experience

for their sustenance

trying to stave off

the Yawing jaws of emptiness

I must have more

They say

More More More

and their appetites are never

sated

Despite this

She said

We survive

In the cracks of

The sidewalk

Growing up out

of destruction

In the notes that leap

from the Jazz bands

Brass

In the homes

we rebuild and the seasons

we weather

We survive

She said

Because we must

There is no other option

the ancestors that we

Remember impel us

Forward

To claim what is ours

I see now

Where the road

Turns

and resistance exists

even if it is not

known


Post the Ninety-Ninth or On White Atheists and Knowledge Production

I recently reactivated my OkCupid account because my partner is out of town and I get lonely. So far, however, I’ve gotten mostly douchebags messaging me. One in particular bothered me. I messaged this guy because I thought we had a lot in common and might get along well. He replies by saying, “I’m not interested in people who believe in pseudoscience.” I was confused, what did he mean by “pseudoscience.” So I asked him and he replied, “Astrology and tarot cards.” Mind you, this person only knows what I wrote in my profile and so I’m a little bewildered why he would write me off so quickly.

I look at his profile again and written in big bold letters is, “I am an Atheist.”

Of course.

I reply, “Wow. Ok. Well, enjoy your patriarchally assigned designation of what is and isn’t valid.”

He then accuses me of being ignorant and that I should go take an upper level physics course.

That’s the problem I have with atheists, and white atheists in particular. They think that their way of viewing the world is superior to all other ways and that if you do believe differently, you are somehow unintelligent and inferior. Only simpletons would believe in such superstitious nonsense! But the thing is, science and knowledge that is produced by the West has just as much dogma as anything else. It is subject to biases, prejudices and injustices. But white/western atheists would have us believe that they are the only ones who are truly “objective”.

Atheist are quick to dismiss any world view that does not agree with their own and yet

The other reason why it bothers me is because white folks/the West is positioned as the arbiters of knowledge. Knowledge is only considered valid if white folks produced it. From academia to medicine to law, the only knowledge that matters is the kind sanctioned by the white establishment. How many times have we seen studies that say, “Hey! Racism is still a thing!” published by white folks? And of course the the only people who are shocked are other white people.  People of color have been talking about that shit forever, but only until it is approved/stolen by white people does it have any “credibility”.

So when white atheists look down their narrow noses on “superstitious” brown people like myself, I know that a lot of that is couched in the white supremacist ideology that knowledge produced by white people is the only objective and valid kind of knowledge.

Further, the kind of knowledge that black and brown folks have access to is considered inferior. PoC, and particularly WoC, are underrepresented in the sciences and the academy. Either because we don’t have the social capital to be visible or we just can’t afford it, a lot of PoC cannot afford to go to school. But that doesn’t make them less intelligent. They just need to learn from different sources, whether that be from the streets or at the knee of their abuela. The knowledge and knowings of survival and hustle that is produced by poor and working class people of color is undervalued and under appreciated.

The production of knowledge by white institutions have constantly invalidated and erased people of color, women of color, queers of color, etc. And many times, the white establishment has stolen wholesale from communities of color and patented knowledge produced by people of color as their knowledge. This is one of the ways that white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy hold on to their power. Because the people who produce the knowledge, that says what truths are valid, control the way we think and what we believe.

If we want to create a world that is free from marginalization, than we need to take the production of knowledge into our own hands. We need to realize that there is more than one way to view the world and that just because they are different doesn’t make one inferior over the other. We need to theorizing about our own lives and speaking truths that make sense to us. Most of all, we need to throw away the idea that if you are educated in certain things that you are more objective, more intelligent and more worthy of being listened too. We need to realize that we are all intelligent and creative people.


Post the Ninety-Eighth or On Family Dinners and Whiteness

Family dinner is something that my community does regularly. The host of family dinner rotates and everyone brings food, booze or cash. They are integral to community building and safety. At these dinners, we talk about everything from radical politics to what art projects we are working on to the escapades of the night before. We share stories about ourselves and connect with each other in authentic, life-saving, world-changing ways.

I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but at the last family dinner we talked about the problematic nature of transnational adoption and how white folks are just not equipped to raise Black and Brown babies. The main reason for this being that white folks are socialized to be racist by default. They live in a world that privileges them over people of color and they often cannot, or will not, see it. So, they are just not prepared to teach a Black or Brown child about the harsh realities that this world will subject them too. Further, there is nothing to stop a white parent’s subconscious racism from harming their child of color. Case in point, there was an article in a magazine recently that talked about a white dad caring for his Nigerian daughter by combing her hair out with a fork. A motherfucking FORK.

Needless to say, we all agreed that transnational adoption is the wackness.

However.

There was this white Latina there who asked, “But what about all of the Black children in foster care who need parents?” Basically, she was asking why Black folks don’t just take care of their children.

This lead to a shit storm of frustration and trauma. Instead of having a nice pleasant dinner with familia, we had to spend the whole time trying to get her to shut up. She even had the audacity to say, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you do something about it?” As if building community and coming together in solidarity and talking about our experiences wasn’t “doing something”. Because its not like we live in a world that wants to silence and erase us. Its not like speaking our truth to one another is not a revolutionary act. No, according to her, we were just sitting there with our thumbs up our asses griping about the world.

She went on to say that the solution of racism is education and that she, the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, worked hard to get scholarships to go get an advanced degree. She, a teacher who works at a private school, thinks that if we all got our education we would be just fine. She worked hard for what she had and if she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else?

The only thing I could do at this point was laugh because she was so ridiculous.

The thing is, even though she is Latina, she was still hella light skinned. In fact, I didn’t know she was Latina until she told us that she was Mexican. And it was clear by the bullshit she was spewing that she walked through the world being perceived as white.

That’s the thing, just because you are Latin@ doesn’t mean that you don’t have white privilege. White Latin@s are a thing. They exist. And white Latin@s benefit from white supremacy. Their prosperity is often made on the backs of Black and Brown Latin@s. And more often than not, white Latin@s take up space in the ways that Anglos do. They have been socialized to think that they are entitled to all spaces so that when they do enter PoC-centered spaces, they often are the ones fucking up. They are the ones dominating the conversation and what was once a safe space is now a battleground.

So I implore my fellow Latin@s, check yourself.


Post the Eighty-Second or Burn

I burn

Darkly.

Opalescent

Flames dancing

On the tips of my eyes

Shedding shadows and shade

Across fields

Of white grass

That feed no one

They buried my heat

In a forest

of Glass and Steel

Hoping that I would

Fail to remember

The blood that kept

My ancestors hot

But even a cactus

Blooms

In the desert


Post the Eightieth or Why “Oppression Olympics” is Problematic

In the relatively short time that I have been an activist and an organizer, I have often come across this concept of Oppression Olympics. Folks often say, “Let’s not make this a game at the Oppression Olympics.” The assumption here is that all oppressions are equal and that to compare them against each other is divisive and fails to the see the point. The point being here that we all need to work together regardless of the different oppressions that we struggle under because at the end of the day we are all the same. It is pointless to compare them or talk about the difference because they don’t matter in the work that we do.

This is problematic for two reasons.

The first reason is who often employs it and for what reason. In my experience, and in the greater context of the phrase, it seems that folks with relatively more privilege use it to silence the concerns of those with relatively less privilege. For example, I got into an argument the other day with some folks on accountability and the importance that allies be held accountable for unintentional acts of oppression. After the argument, someone that I really look up to said that we can’t be wasting our time with Oppression Olympics because there are more important issues to deal with. This really frustrated me because she, an older white lesbian, was basically telling me, a queer trans woman of color, that my concerns were not valid because they were divisive and they were divisive because they compared my experience with others. I felt silenced and put down. Because there are greater concerns, why are you bothering us with yours?

The second reason why this is problematic is because it ignores the very real differences between people and the oppressions they experience. It flys in the face of all intersectionality theory. It ignores the fact that folks exist in different social locations. Statistically speaking, people of color are poorer than white people (and yet are less likely to be on welfare). Statisically speaking, men of color are more likely to be gunned down by police than white men. Statistically speaking, queer and trans youth of color are more often homeless than white queer and trans people. Statistically speaking, trans women of color are more likely to be murdered than white trans women. In almost all cases, if the only difference between two people is race, the person of color will have a harder time of it. These are facts. And the different privileges that we hold mitigate the ways in which we experience oppression. So while a rich person of color might not have it as hard as a poor white person, that rich person of color still has to deal with being oppressed because of her race.

And yet the claim that we shouldn’t make something into the Oppression Olympics would seek to erase those differences. It would have us all believe that we experience oppression in the same way and that to talk about these differences lead to further problems. But as Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Colorblind ideology does not work. Assuming that we are the same does not work. Assuming that homogeneity is the only catalyst for unity doesn’t work.

What does work is a frank and honest appraisal of where we all are. What does work is acknowledging that we are all different and that our experiences are informed by the space that we occupy. What does work is understanding that we all need to be accountable for the ways that we benefit from systems of power and oppression. What does work is understanding that theories of oppression need to be grounded in the material reality of the folks living those lives.

What does work is giving space for all voices to be heard.


Post the Seventy-Forth or I Refuse to be Silent

The other day, one of my white facebook friends posted on my wall saying that being “hateful” against white people is “racist” and that its just as bad as what white people do to people of color. This lead to an over 150 comment thread with multiple people weighing in. She insisted that we were being racist. Apparently for her, holding white supremacy accountable for its crimes means that we hated white people and that we were racist. Needless to say, we are no longer friends.

What I want to talk about here was a specific comment that was made from another person that we will call Georgia. Georgia (who is a white lady), at first, used one of MLK Jr. quotes saying something to the effect that love is good and we should all love each other. My friend’s bullshit detector went off and quickly supplied her with many, many, many other quotes from MLK that backed us up. She then replied that “negativity will only spread negativity” and that “we all bleed red”. This was after over 100 comments where we clearly disproved this. So, I flippantly replied, “Where is your reading comprehension? Want me to help you find it?”

At this point, the original post had been taken down and all of the subsequent comments with it.

But.

This white lady messages me something to the effect of, “Don’t make fun of me. You are a meany and the biggest racist I’ve ever met. White people suffer too. I’m not responsible for genocide or your oppression. I know myself but you seem pretty lost. It’s a shame that your powerful voice is wasted because you are so angry.”

This made me so angry. Like, the kind of anger that gets you thrown in jail for trying to choke someone out. The kind of anger that makes most people want to run in the opposite direction. The kind of anger that gets me into trouble. Thankfully, I was at home with no fragile and expensive objects within reach. Well, except for my laptop but I need that.

The reason why this made me so apoplectic is because this white lady, who insisted that she had suffered SO much, was deciding for me that it is pointless to speak on my experience because I was so angry. Her message was so condescending, paternalistic and steeped in privilege. She thought herself the Supreme Arbiter of Effectiveness, apparently, which somehow gave her the authority to say that what I was doing was a waste of time. Being angry about white supremacy, calling out people on their racism, saying it unapologetically and refusing to placate white people’s ego is, according to her, a waste of time. This because they won’t “hear” me because my anger and resentment has clouded my voice.

This is symptomatic of the attitude that “well-intentioned” white liberals have. They support you as long as you make them comfortable and don’t challenge their authority. They think that they have the “objective” and “logical” stand point and often refuse to see the privileges that white supremacy gives them. It is astounding how seemingly smart individuals suddenly throw all critical thinking skills out of the window when it comes to matters of race. Like a slippery eel, their minds just cannot seem to grasp the concept that white people have power over people of color. I’m starting to think that they are just willfully ignorant.

Further, since my voice does not “conform” to her vision of “love” she can suddenly decide that nothing I have to say is worth listening too. The underlying assumption here is that she has a right to dictate to me the form in which my voice manifests. She has a right to tell me what to do with my voice. Since whiteness is the pinnacle of “logic”, “reason” and “validity”, anything that strays from that is wasteful. Since I am not white and my anger is in total opposition to whiteness, that means that I have nothing good to say. She assumes that she has ownership over my voice and my body.

And if I would just be nice to her, and by extension all white people, they would just listen to me and relinquish their power and privilege. If I ask politely, massa will give me my rights.

But this totally misses the point, doesn’t it? Because this analysis of racism assumes that racism, and other forms of oppression, are just psychological processes that need to be eradicated through reform and education. Its an interpersonal, individual problem that needs to be fixed with polite discussion where the oppressed educate the oppressor. But this completely erases that institutional and systemic causes of racism. It erases the very real, very desperate, very lethal forms of racism that exist. It puts the onus on the oppressed to fix it and washes the oppressor of any responsibility to do anything. There is no need to protest or be angry or revolt because once we educate white people they will learn the error of their ways and everything will be fine! And you can’t say anything mean or angry because thats just reverse racism and it means everything you have to say is wrong.

But fuck all of that bullshit. I am the only one with the right to my body. I am the only who can decide what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate for the use of MY OWN VOICE. I have a right to my anger and goddamn it I’m going to feel it. I am going to express it. I am going to shout it from every single rooftop and post it all over my Facebook and write every single blog entry about it that I want. I am going to keep talking about until I don’t want to anymore and anyone that has a problem with that can go kick rocks. White folks have colonized my land, committed genocide against my people and continues to consume my culture and I’ll be damned if they have anything else of mine. They will not have my anger. They will not have any other parts of me.

I refuse to be silenced.


Post the Seventieth or I Want to Live

I used to be gagged by

Fear

My mouth stuffed with

The white cloth of silence

Stifling my screams

Sometimes it felt like I was biting more than I could chew

A constant, overwhelming, emptiness that filled my mouth

Othertimes it felt like my very soul was being pulled out

Inch by agonizing inch

To be consumed and erased by those who say

I’m colorblind. Can’t was just love everyone?

And then

I looked up at the night sky

And saw myself written in the stars

I looked down at my feet

And felt the fierce gentleness of my Mother

I looked behind me

And saw the many miles that my ancestors walked

I looked into my lover’s eyes

And saw myself reflected in his love

He reached into my heart

Eased the knot that constricted my spirit

And my voice

Burst out fierce, blisteringly hot, and blazing with a power

That moves to tears

And makes white supremacy uncomfortable

A clarion call for revolution

A challenge that says

I won’t be silent any longer because

Silences equals Death

And I want to live

She told me that she supported me

But that I was too angry

And wouldn’t it be better for everyone if you just toned yourself down?

I told her

My anger is a result of my experience

And wouldn’t it be better for everyone

If you just gave back the land that you stole?