When oppression becomes a competition, let me in last; I’m not fast enough with my words and qualifiers - I stutter-step on the curb and back away from the chasm, A back and forth motion from one body to another, The rupture between adopted-brown-woman and American-accent.
At first, we danced around each others’ assumptions: "Are you white? You’re Jewish? I see." "What about you?" What about me? I wasn’t aware we were battling it out for the bottom.
Soul-searching is only for those without recognizable traits; Those who can name off their battle scars can move to round two, They’ve one-upped the judges by virtue of hue.
You took me there to slaughter me with abstract terms, Spear my brown skin: "Everyone knows racism no longer exists." Period, end of sentence. I feigned ignorance as the judges came around.
Round three weeds out the weak - Sleek all-stars with hidden stories weave their way towards the end, Preaching that they, in fact, were suspended inside balls of brown wax, Put down even by their fellow oppressed.
You painted me in color lines. Ones you thought no one can mistake, A forged identity made from pigment and shape; You thought of me as a colony - one homogeneous unit, A community without entrance exams. If I got a free pass, will someone tell me where it is?
My soul froze in a hard little box, Re-colonized by your fantasy that my people are all the same, That we claim others have held us down, While refusing the hand that would lead us up. I walked away without a backward glance.
The final round was futile; you knew you would win. Your defense was solid - I didn’t know your world; I wouldn’t delve in. I studied my own heart, Kept careful notes, And prepared for that moment of final release, When I’d know the freedom of my opinion set free.
Background Information: When I arrived at college, I was pleased to see that there were a plethora of cultural clubs that I could join. I was represented by religion, by region, by culture, and by language. Content as I was, the availability of these cultural clubs also created some unfortunate stereotypes amidst our larger school community. A friend of mine at the time believed that racism had little relevance in such an accepting and mixed area, which she told me point blank. When I disagreed, she became upset and claimed that I didn’t know the hardships she had felt as being a white Jewish person who lived in a non-white area of her city. While I don’t discredit that she may have experienced oppression, this produced a rift between us because she assumed that I had lived in a homogeneous and accepting community of South Asians throughout my whole life, which was not the case. Our relationship then became a sort of game of one-upmanship in terms of who was more misunderstood or more put down by external forces; needless to say, this was not the sort of atmosphere I had expected in such a liberal and accepting college as my own.
Choosing the right college can be a very long and strenuous process. Between filling out applications and weighing out the tuition expenses, credit transfers and the proximity factors, there’s a lot to deal with.
How do you know which school is the right choice? Will you even fit in at your selected college? Is the tuition affordable? Is the cost of attendance actually worth it? There are certainly a lot of things to consider before you even step foot on campus.
Students have many decisions to make to say the least, and can often feel like they are in way over their heads. Well… unfortunately I have some bad news… all of this is about to get a lot worse thanks to the work of some colleges.
It was once believed that if you actually took time out to visit the college, and talk to different students and representatives it would give you a good sense of what you’re getting yourself into.
However times have changed, and what’s been discovered is that some of the most persistent for-profit colleges have ampted up their tactics to eradicate the indecisiveness of their prospective students, and to increase the class size of their student body.
Deceptive, swayed and down right misleading data is targeted at potential students upon their slightest recorded interest in the school. Constant phone calls, and emails, and letters meant to be “informative” bombard the curious college attendee and border on the side of harassment.
What’s even more frightening is the loan repayment plan that goes into effect after your graduation. So… you’ve just graduated, and then realize you have to pay back your hefty student loans, particularly high since you went to a “highly-accredited” and “recognized university”.
The problem is your flat broke and haven’t found a job that the all too “famous and accredited university” guaranteed you’d have by now. How are you ever going to pay back these loans if you are jobless, and making no where near the salary that your university promised you’d make?
The Obama administration has proposed a cut off of financial aid to some of these programs that weigh in heavily on expense but aren’t likely to follow through on the job market’s potential earning power as once nearly guaranteed. There’s a valuable lesson to be taken away from all of this. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is…If you’re certain some of the figures and promised quirks that come along with your degree seem a little off, always question it.
Speak to alumni not associated with promoting the college. Figure out facts about your school of interest from various sources, and notice when your prospective school’s recruitment team has become a bit burdensome and intrusive.
These may all too well be serious warning signs and indicators that there is a potential problem. The institution of higher learning may be all too interested in what’s in your pockets rather than the quality of your education. Melissa Lyons
Educational Stand: Obama's Educational Reform Plan
President Obama fully addressed the issues behind the new educational reform plan a few weeks ago. In his speech Obama tackled some of the most important and controversial issues of the new educational plan.
Obama stressed the importance of competition, accountability, mentors, and testing. His goals are to see improvement in the most troubled schools in the nation. It’s not going to be a change that we’ll see immediately, however Obama stresses that inevitably in the next decade or so it will make a significant difference.
Higher education was another hot topic in Obama’s speech. The burden of student loans has become unbearable for graduates. Adding more revenue for scholarships and investing more in community colleges and universities will help expand options for students.
It should come as no surprise that educational reform should be one of our country’s top concerns. Speaking as a college student who’s current tuition now exceeds fifty-one thousand dollars, I think it’s fair to say that the cost of education should definitely be a priority. All too often college costs seem to be the reason why some of our nation’s top brightest students in particular those of color, get left behind.
So what’s really our plan of action?
A statewide race for grants, through challenging the schools to improve their standards and student’s performance more educational reform is able to be made.
Teachers will be held more responsible for the performance of her students. Through a greater educator initiative, it is seen that there will be more interaction between students and teachers to overcome learning barriers.
Refining the testing process, and altering the tests slightly so that it’s a better measurement of what students are learning, rather than a strictly feared and time consuming preparation process.
Parents, role models, and more educators need to be involved in the process, not only to help speed up the transformation but to inspire.
It seems like quite a list of priorities that need to take center stage in these upcoming years but so far it seems to have spurred more progression than any of the proposals of previous years.
Though it may sound a little cliché, education is the key to our future. I don’t know about you, but when I’m older I actually want to see people who have fully reached their educational potential. Melissa Lyons
Kat Stacks is a woman but most probably don’t see her as a that at all. Most people would probably more readily call her a “hoe,” relegating her to a less valuable, sub human status. Such is the fate of Kat Stacks and many other women who fall outside of the realm of acceptability with respect to sexuality. They are marginalized to be outcasts, especially among other females.
Kat Stacks recently made a wave in the realm of black news and entertainment by “exposing” famous men, such as rappers Bow Wow and Fabolous, with whom she engaged in sexual activities. She exposed men about their lack of sizeable manhood, their lack of income, how long the sex with them lasted and what it entailed. She has been called everything from a groupie to a ho to a goldigger, and was even physically attacked by supposed friends of Bow Wow and Fabolous. Not a day goes by where I don’t see someone tweet a sexist joke in regards to Ms. Stacks in regards to her sexual behavior. Its important for everyone to join in making Kat Stacks a spectacle to keep their status in tact as a lady or reputable person with sexual morals.
Women and men alike must make it a point to differentiate themselves from the “ho’s” in the world so they won’t face the same fate as Kat Stacks, to be humiliated for their sexual choices. Respect is bartered for Kat Stacks; others lack respect for her because she doesn’t fit society’s definition of a lady. Those who are intimidated by Kat Stacks’ sexuality and sexual prowess make it a point to make her the brunt of their jokes. She is a human being that deserves as much respect as anyone else. She is a young woman of 21 and is also the mother of two children. It is important to look critically at this situation with Kat Stacks but also others like it where society is quick to label someone a “ho.” In the Kat Stacks phenomena we see society calling yet again for the sexual repression of another woman; a complete sexual and vocal silence. As much as we might hate to admit it, Kat Stacks is one of us. Maybe with just more sexual experience. What woman hasn’t been called a ho; especially those not afraid of their sexuality? Isn’t that reason enough to stop using the word? It has no real meaning. Essentially, Kat Stacks is another woman, whose marginalization is a product of the sexism and misogyny in society. I don’t think I need to point out that none of the men she “exposed” had any of the same names thrown at them as she did. Its important to look at what we choose to say about the women involved in situations like these.
I can, however, agree that Kat Stacks has brought this attention upon herself. Her assumed goal for talking to the media to expose these men is to catapult a career from it. Kat Stacks has crossed the threshold of what society deems to be private acts, making sex public and combining that with consumerism. Twitter and Youtube are her main avenues of communication, both those who hate and love her consume her messages and ideals about sexuality. She is definitely using capitalism, consumerism and “sex sales” model to make a name for herself. What does this mean for the sexual exploitation for women? What does this say to girls about ideas of how to be successful? Kat Stacks has also been compared a lot to Karrine Steffans, who wrote a infamous book about her sexscapades with Hollywood’s stars and made a career out of it. Part of me believes that both Kat Stacks and Karrine Steffans think that they are debunking stereotypes about women by being just as sexual as men. However, in order to combat sexism it is counter-productive to behave hypersexually as men do because that also marginalizes womyn. We must, instead develop new ways of managing public sexuality without marginalizing and without furthering the initial problem.
So today, while on my beloved Twiitta (read: Twitter) I started to have a conversation about the relationship between womyn and queer men. Often times, womyn get harassed by gay men; not all gay men of course. However, womyn get a constant barrage of touches, feels, lingering looks, luring eyes, foul gestures, and snide comments from gay men. It’s as if gay men feel that they can touch and grope any part of a woman’s body with a openness and confidence that I just don’t see from heterosexual men; touching of the breasts, touching of the hair, giving naughty comments, etc. It’s as if they feel they have a type of access that heterosexual men don’t have to womyn’s bodies, as if, because they are not sexually attracted to womyn, then grabbing her breasts and commenting on how sexy they are is harmless.
Of course, heterosexual men also feel that they have an entitlement to womyn’s bodies which is evidenced in sexual violence, telling womyn what they should wear, trying to limit the sexual sovereignty of womyn, etc. However, I find it interesting that there is a different type of false ownership taking place between gay and heterosexual men and womyn’s bodies. Most often, gay men are more open and friendly with their touching and inappropriate comments, while heterosexual men might save the same actions for a sexual scene or mean it in the disrespectful way. Gay men usually do not have the intentions of harming or disrespecting the woman in any way when they touch, unwelcomingly. It’s usually a way that they show they like the woman, in a unsexual way, albeit.
The black gay male culture is one that I have a supreme respect and interest in. In black males, we see a culture that is totally different from a lot of cultures that we see in American society. However, womyn get a constant barrage of yelling, passes, unwanted touches, etc. from random men. From years of being subjected to the ‘male gaze’, womyn see their bodies as a man sees them, on display, as sexual objects. A quick trip outside turns into a fashion show because womyn are aware that they are being watched by the supreme spectators, men. Sadly, it seems, gay men also fall into this category. When a gay man feels that they can touch or make sexual-esque comments towards a woman, it makes womyn even more aware of how her body appears to men, even someone who may not be attracted to her sexually.
Many womyn feel safe with gay men because they are seen as the one type of man who is not interested in her sexually, but when gay men cross the limit and invite themselves into the personal space of a woman that safety is abandoned. Womyn constantly have to deal with being sexual objects for men, anyone from friends to family members probably have shown a sexual interest or gesture towards any given woman… its tiring to always been seen as a sexual object. It doesn’t matter whether a gay man is sexually interested in the opposite gender or not, crossing the line is crossing the line. Malaka
I recently learned about the Tribal Law and Order Act being passed in Congress. I wonder what this really means for Native communities. The effects of colonists and early US government agents disturbing the harmony of Native communal justice are still felt today. Instead of helping to restore these original systems, activists are relying on the oppressive US judicial institution. The Tribal Law and Order Act is supposed to do a better job of “protecting” Native women against sexual violence. Native communities have had a history of favoring restorative and communal justice rather than the punitive style of justice that the US likes to inflict and since colonization, forms of Native justice have been slowly dying.
Restorative and communal justice seek to rehabilitate the perpetuator and use the community, not outside forces, to institute real forms of justice. What the Tribal Law and Order Acts essentially says is that instead of really trying to figure out why sexual violence is rampant in Native communities, we’re going to ignore the problem and just lock up anyone who commits this crime. No one is unredeembale and having a bill like this that favors prosecution and imprisonment instead of therapy or getting to the root of the issue, ignores this fact. It ignores the perpetrator and the problem. Surely, sexual violence in Native communities will not be solved by this bill. It says nothing of rape culture and those that are complicit in it.
This bill also protects and emphasizes the police state. This reminds me of the colonial period where sexual violence was committed against Native women and white men blamed it on Native men; this way the white men were seen as saviors of Native women, which instilled fear of Native men as well as false appreciation of the colonizers. It also skewed the importance of the community. This method helped to implement patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, and eurocentricity. To allow and advocate for more encroaching of the police institution onto Native land is both oppressive as well as counter-active. With the police history of discriminating, being violent against and criminalizing communities of color can we really trust the police institution to so-called “protect” Native women?
Protecting Native women would mean an ending to misogyny, sexism, and queerphobia. If you want to stop sexual violence, focus on education and therapy as deterrents not just as a response. As activists, the solution is to focus more on developing strategies to do just that instead of relying on and organizing around the US justice system, an institution that perpetuates the sexism that we should be trying to get rid of. Do we really need more police to practice surveillance on another community perfectly capable of protecting itself? Yes, we know that Native women deserve equal protection under the law and do deserve that protection, but can this really be protection if it is also oppressive? Can we develop strategies that don’t rely on a marginalizing police and prison state?
The Tribal Law and Order Act also relies on the oppressive Prison Industrial Complex system. The PIC is racist, classist, and sexist. Should advocates against sexual violence be relying on this system where sexual violence is state sponsored within prison walls? “Conditions within the institution continually reinvoke memories of violence and oppression.” Do they only care about sexual violence when it happens in the free world? When I first learned about the Prison Industrial Complex, I was confused about what anti-prison activists saw as a viable alternative to prisons. I believe anti-prison activism to be one of the most powerful and important, yet, ignored liberation movements. When I read Angela Y. Davis’ book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?,” which is obviously pivotal within this movement, my eyes opened to how oppressive the Prison Industrial Complex is. I cannot go into complete detail of all the ills of the prison system here because of length constraints but if you would like to read about the way sexual violence is embedded into the Prison Industrial Complex, read Davis’ book. Here is just a limited overview; the Prison Industrial Complex includes all forms of prison and policing that do not take up the form of restorative or communal justice, here in America and abroad.
First we must realize, illegal acts are committed, number one, because of poverty and racism. The other reason why crimes are committed is because, as the name permits, the Prison Industrial Complex is a business that promotes corporate greed. The more people who go to prison, the more money the government and other corporations make. The government capitalizes off prisoners suffering especially when it comes to the sexual violence that they face and endure. The government therefore also capitalizes off illegal acts committed against victims. Prions are a form of population control, and if you’re going to limit population growth, go ahead and send the poor people and the people of color away too. Native people are disproportionately incarcerated in the PIC. “‘Prisons, as employed by the Euro-American system, operate to keep Native Americans in a colonial situation. She points out that Native people are vastly overrepresented in the country’s federal and state prisons.” This is the attitude that the government has and yes, people have a personal choice in what they do, however, laws and governments should not make it easier for certain people to commit illegal acts.
Recently, I’ve been noticing the refusal of other liberation movements, such as the feminist movement, to organize around the abolition of the Prison Industrial Complex. Using the practice of intersectionality feminists and other like-minded movements should realize that anti-prison work is also feminist work, is also anti-racist work, is also anti-queerphobia work, etc. The Prison Industrial Complex was designed to be invisible to the free population, so I cannot be angry with anyone who is uneducated about it, but if we want to be holistic activists we cannot ignore this institution in our activism.
I don’t want to seem ignorant of the facts that illegal acts are being committed everyday and that we need immediate solutions to deter these acts and those who continuously commit them. However, prison is not the answer. As activists our solution should be in educating people about societal ills and finding solutions to those ills, not aiding the government in carrying out marginalization against minorities and other crimes committing within the PIC structure. Prisons are not for rehabilitation, as they were originally created, but for punishment. We cannot be comfortable with living in a society that would rather get even than to improve the perpetrator. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” -Mahatma Gandhi We have all committed criminal acts that, if pursued vehemently enough may have sent us to prison. The life and well being of a person should not mean less because they are deemed a criminal by our “criminal justice” system. We cannot forget to infuse compassion and love into our activism.
Can we develop strategies to advocate for the abolition of prisons and also seek justice for those who commit illegal acts? People of color, when victims of illegal acts advocate strongly for the perpetrator/s to go to prison. How can people of color advocate so strongly for a system that unfairly targets and oppresses them? The pain and loss involved in losing someone can be detrimental to the psyche, however, minorities should be advocating the most for the abolition of this system not helping to perpetuate it. Making new laws criminalizing acts of violence against women will not see a decrease in this type of violence, however they will fill up more of our prisons, cost us more money, while doing absolutely nothing to solve the real issue. Laws don’t protect us, as we have been brainwashed to believe, they criminalize actions that should be treated with therapy or love. Malaka
Pursued and punished for words that were taken out of context. A video clip edited to persuade the public that former department of agriculture official, Shirley Sherrod, is a cold cut racist. But what the clip really showed was a perfect example of poor journalism.
At first glance Sherrod’s words seem to suggest that she didn’t want to completely help poor white farmers. It’s only after you listen to her speech further that you realize she was actually emphasizing the importance of progressing beyond race.
Sherrod’s speech pointed out that race should not stand in the way of you helping others who are in need. The incident Sherrod referred to in her speech occurred over 20 years ago, before she even worked for the federal government, and according to her it assisted in positively shaping and altering her views on race and poverty.
But BigGovernment.com, the website where it was posted, seemed to strive for people to think it was a recent incident and one that negatively affects the way Sherrod performs her job.
Sherrod was condemned by the NAACP, Secretary Vilsack, and publicly attacked on media outlets such as Fox News. It was an incident that never would’ve occurred if many weren’t so quick to jump the gun… And if more Americans were inquisitive about accuracy of the information they receive from various news sources.
It seems like a terrible game of telephone. No one really bothered to check up on the information being heard or further question the primary source including Sherrod herself, to find out the truth.
Counter racism was the assumed crime on everyone’s minds. It was a desperate cry for justification perhaps. And a possible strained attempt to show a black woman being racist against whites as well.
It certainly was not one of the latest tricks in the book, a plight to portray the assumed victimized as the victimizer. But what it did become was a circus act that ignited a heated discussion centered on the issues of race, politics and ethical journalism.
When Sherrod’s side of the story was finally released there was no doubt that her accusers were completely out of line. Their highly critical statements about her career and character not only jeopardized her career, but also her reputation.
Sherrod’s side of the story, as well as the farmer’s who she helped, eventually weighed in on CNN to uncover the truth. It was only then that Sherrod finally got offered another position working for the government.
However, why did it take all this to finally see the truth behind Sherrod’s speech. How did her message of reconciling race relations and moving past skin color, end up getting twisted to the point where she had to lose her job and face the embarrassment of being rejected by the White House and NAACP?
The Sherrod scandal does make us wonder… Can a Black woman really be a racist? After facing a society that reveals it’s ugly side of racism to you nearly everyday in either subtle or obvious ways… can you really turn your head on all the feelings of hate felt toward your race, and adequately justify them in entirety and abundance toward another?
For so long feminism has been the place where an old debate exists: liberation versus exploitation. Sexism & misogyny tells us that a woman should be modest, reserved & quiet. In this society, showing off a little skin can get a woman labeled anything from a hooker to slut. In this post, I want to discover the former label and what its implications include. Parlour also featured an insightful piece about prostitution not too long ago.
First of all, modern feminists, generally, have taken a stance of favoring liberation in the liberation versus exploitation debate. Meaning they seem more readily convinced that prostitution, in its many facets, is a form of liberation for a woman’s body instead of exploitation in and of itself. Feminism sees prostitution as bodily autonomy. However, I also think that feminism has done a good job of leaving out the implications of capitalism and racism on prostitution and those who participate in prostitution.
Let’s get this out the way now: sex is the most profitable industry, in the universe, ever. Sex is used to sell everything from music to cologne. Sex is capitalisms biggest export and import. In her book, Black Sexual Politics, Patricia Hill Collins discusses the connection between capitalism and sexual commodity, “making sex highly visible in marketplace commodity relations becomes important to maintaining profitability within the U.S. capitalist economy. The goal is neither to stimulate debate nor to educate, but to sell products.” Therefore, when women’s bodies are used in advertisement as a sales tactic, how can this be liberation?
Prostitution is the most extended and serious form of exploitation of women’s bodies. Being that capitalism is contingent on exploiting the labor of underprivileged communities and race, it makes sense that poor women of color are most affected by this system of sexual oppression. Prostitution is essentially the intersection of race and capitalism.
Prostitution is capitalism’s most visible and hated form of all sexual exploitations. Among other things, prostitutes are seen as dirty, dumb, and unworthy of protection under the law. When capitalism exploits sex, it also exploits those who are most affected by the system of capitalism, non-men of color. However, most of the sex workers we see are black women and transgendered. Both of these groups are stereotyped in society as the only face of prostitution. Then there are those white women who prostitute but they are called “escorts” instead.
Oppressed people are forced into this type of work by poverty and lack of education and then are exploited even further by an abusive “pimp.” This is where the distinction between liberation and exploitation needs to be made. When a “pimp” is marginalizing someone’s bodily autonomy, this person lacks agency and choice of actions because they are being forced to work by an abusive figure in their lives. A sex worker often sees a “pimp” as a father figure or a provider, which is also evidence of the intersection of race as a lot black fathers are absent due to targeting by the “justice” system as well as early death. A “pimp” is a father for many women of color involved in sex work. This is the struggle that more people need to hear about, not just prostitution as liberation. Feminism, as the traditional white ideal that it sometimes is, paints prostitution as liberation for white women, but we never hear of the poor women and people of color who are held captive by this form of exploitation of the body.
It’s important to make the distinction between supporting sex workers and supporting sex work. We need to stop the criminalization of sex workers because these people are victims of brutal beatings by the capitalism, racism, and sexism found in society and sometimes even untreated mental illness. However, prostitution needs to be a system that activists fight against because it is another product of what is wrong in this society. Essentially, feminism and other liberation movements need to support sex workers while fighting against the institution that keeps them oppressed. We need to stop trying to look down on sex workers and start trying to help understand their marginalization and their struggle.
Side note: I never understood why people in popular culture liken themselves to pimps. Pimps are real people who abuse and take advantage of sex workers, why equate yourself to that? Why is Pimp a label of status and glamorization?
People’s hate of prostitutes also extends to people’s hate of those who participate in the sex-sells industry. By this, I mean, video dancers, models who pose for men’s magazines, and womyn who act or model for pornography. This is just a high-class, safer version of prostitution. This is problematic because it furthers this sex-for-sale model, which promotes women’s exploitation, especially women of color, and the idea that in order to be successful you must sacrifice your body. We must educate everyone of their participation in the marginalization and perpetuation of a negative stigma of sex workers. As a society, if we want to end prostitution we must assess poverty, capitalism, racism and sexism and I believe we can do it!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a degree in humanities doesn’t guarantee you a job right after college. In this economy even those who major in science and math related fields aren’t guaranteed a job.
The question remains, is getting a degree in humanities really worth it? After all with tuition costs constantly rising, pursuing the more uncertain path in your college career seems like a hasty choice to make.
By expanding your critical thinking, and cultural awareness you can greatly increase your personal growth.
While a degree in humanities may be overlooked for its financial instability, it can give you something much greater, a better sense of self understanding and views on the world.
After all, aren’t we going to school to enhance our self growth and increase our learning experience?
Well, while this may be true, people are also flocking to where the money is. Forget listening to your heart, listen to the steady flow of hard earned cash.
After all, how can we ever reach peace of mind if we’re lacking peace with our wallets?
If the price of our education is justifiable, then it will deem itself worthy in the form of a high paying job….right?
But how can us humble humanities majors make it really count? The former is a nearly unheard of guarantee from our institution of higher learning.
If we are to truly make it among the successful in our field then we must make ourselves the ultimate candidate. One idea is taking on multiple majors.
Yes, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that your humanities degree may amount to little more than a beautiful piece of paper, but hey, the sooner you start weighing your options, the sooner you can seriously begin preparing for your future.
Having a back-up plan is certainly not a bad idea. The more you begin to discover your other areas of interest the easier it becomes to choose a back up field of study.
Taking up another degree that goes hand in hand with humanities can be a big help. Doing this will not only make you the ideal candidate for any boss looking to hire, but it will also keep you up to pace and informed on different components of your field of study.
So while it may be risky to rely on a humanities degree, it’s a path to pursuit that takes guts and can help build your character. You simply can’t put a price on your psychological and intellectual growth.
So the other day I was browsing through Bitch magazine’s newest blog entries when I came across an article about a situation that many of you may be familiar with; it was about a woman selling her virginity over the Internet. Click here if you would like to read the article for yourself. Anyway, the article got me to start analyzing the concept of virginity.
Virgin - someone who has never had sex. Instead of using definitions that dictionaries use, I like to use the definition that society uses. Though it can be argued that those are the worst kind of definitions, let’s use this particular definition for the purpose of this blog. The concept of virginity certainly involves an element of possession. Womyn “give” away or “lose” their virginities. Womyn in this patriarchal, homophobic society are always expected to give a man something in the context of a hetero-normative relationship. We “give” a man a child. We save our virginity so that we can “give” it to “the one.”
When is the last time you heard about a man “giving” a woman his virginity? Usually when people are referring to a man “giving” his virginity to a woman, they are BOTH virgins in the situation. Why are their sexist roles involved in sex? Can’t sex be something that is uninhibited by the confines of society? It certainly surpasses the spirituality of society.
Men “take” a womyn’s virginity, which involves an implied situation of coercion and force. The word ‘take’ is synonymous with rape. Take is synonymous with “take advantage of”. And what happens after a man so-called “takes” a woman’s virginity? Does he still have that virginity for the rest of his life? No one ever says, “he has your virginity”. If they have sex again, does the woman get her virginity back? If you “lose” your virginity does that mean you can’t remember the guy that you “lost” it to? Does the man pass that woman’s virginity on to other girls? And how many “virginties” do trans people get? What if you were raped before you had the chance to willingly have sex for the first time, are you still considered a virgin? Is a person still a virgin if they have sex with a member of their own sex? Why does virginity never come into the situation again after it is given, taken, or lost? Why can’t we “share” in a person’s virginity? Why is virginity deemed a one-time event instead of a process done over time? Better yet, why can’t the idea of virginity and America’s obsession with it just die? Why must a woman feel guilty or inhibited when it comes to having sex for the first time, when a man is encouraged to have sex with the first opportunity presents itself? I think the whole “give, take and lose” politics of virginity is a manifestation of the objectification of women and our bodies and the fact that sex is treated as a commodity. Sex is used to sell everything from movies to cannibus club memberships. Sex is also used to make womyn feel bad about themselves, men are allowed to be sexual whenever the feeling suits them and womyn are not and if we are, we are harped upon.
In the rape culture that this society perpetuates, the man must always be the aggressor in relationships and sex. The man must always make the first move. Virginity is synonymous with pure. Why is innocence attriubuted to keeping your virginity? Why when you have sex for the first time, you aren’t “innocent” anymore? This can allude to the fact that womyn having sex is seen as a bad act in our culture, like there was a illegal act committed. In our culture, sex is taboo. It is seen as a right of passage, a defining moment in our lives that will bring about some drastic change. Little girls are taught to dream about the moment that they will have sex for the first time and with whom.
These are just a couple of the questions and problems I have with this concept. Will someone please tell what the fuck’s up with virginity?!
Going to college is generally a requirement now-a-days. If you’re trying to make it in the corporate or white collar world then attending college is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss out on. But there’s one problem…what if you can’t afford it?
College tuition has been steadily increasing for years, and no matter which college you plan to attend, tuition expenses are one thing you’ll want to prepare for.
On average attending college today can cost you anywhere between ten to sixty thousand dollars per year.
Generally community colleges are the least expensive followed by state colleges and private colleges which cost the most.
Although assistance is available, it’s become increasingly difficult to obtain in part due to high demand for loans, but also because of the increasing rate of incoming college students.
So with the perpetually increasing cost of college, what options does that leave to immigrants and some of the poorest people in our nation?
Can the majority of people of color in our country afford to go to some of the most prestigious and prominent universities that our nation has to offer? Unfortunately for most of us the answer is no.
Sure you can take out some loans, save up some money here and there and perhaps even go to drastic measures and take out a second mortgage to try to pay for your college education… but what kind of sadistic financial burden are you setting yourself up for in the years to come?
I mean face it, even after you graduate from there’s no guaranteed job for you, and with the economy being so unstable, who’s to say a job will even open up in the near future?
The question then becomes, how in the world are you planning to pay for all your college expenses?
A trend I’m starting to find more popular among college students is the take a semester off to work trend. It’s sweeping over the students of color on college campuses like wildfire and with no guarantee of their return.
Taking time off from college is dangerous for a vast number of reasons. First, you forget some of the material you learned while you were away, this is especially true if you take on a full-time job and neglect studies.
Second, you get distracted by your environment and side tracked from your academic pursuit. Third, time passes by and you become older and less adaptable to new ideas and you can lose the ease to learn new material.
For many students of color it soon becomes a struggle and a constant game of catch up. If you eventually save up enough money to return to school and take more classes it may already be too late, you will feel out of place and confused on where to pick up where you left off.
One of the great aspects that we advertise about our country is that anyone can succeed. Even if you come from an impoverished community, you can still be successful, enhance your lifestyle, and earn a higher place in society.
College is often advertised as a place of opportunity, where you’re guaranteed to increase your education and salary through obtaining a degree.
In general people look at it as a good investment, after all it’s an investment in your future. But the cold hard truth is that college is a business, and let’s be honest, if you’re willing to get the most out of it you’ve got to be willing to pay the high cost.
It’s increasingly competitive and expensive to get into highly accredited and prestigious institutes of higher learning. Due to this, the majority of our country’s people of color are doomed to suffer the consequences.
They’ve got fewer college options and part-time college attendance to face all in the name of affordable tuition and education.
So I pose the question to you again, can you really afford to miss out on a college education? And similarly can you really afford the cost of your college education?
I’ve always wondered why violence that involves guns or fists is specifically labeled “violence” while violence when the weapon is sexual is labeled abuse. In my opinion, violence carries a more powerful connotation that abuse just doesn’t have. Throughout this post, I will use the phrase “sexual violence” instead of sexual abuse to show that this type of violence, which damages the entire self through sexual perversion, is just as serious as gang violence or police brutality.
In her essay, “Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide”, Andrea Smith speaks at length about the effect of sexual violence on its victims. Sexual violence was an integral part of the colonization of Native populations. “As a consequence of this colonization and abuse of their bodies, Indian people learn to internalize self-hatred, because body image is integrally related to self-esteem. When one’s body is not respected, one begins to hate oneself.” As evidenced by the sexual violence involved in both Native colonization and prison violence we see an institutionalization of sexual violence that is profitable for the maintaining of the status quo. This attack on the bodies of women of color come from all sides of dominant society as an attempt to continuously control and marginalize. “The history of sexual violence and genocide among Native women illustrates how gender violence as a tool for racism and colonialism among women of color in general.” To capture the body, is also to capture the person. Rape is a tool of subjugation and humiliation. To keep minority populations in check, rape is institutionalized in such entities as the prison industrial complex.
Female rape and other forms of sexual violence in the prison system is a problem that is blatantly ignored. Starting with invasive internal and gynecological examinations, sexual violence is purposely overlooked at every turn. In Angela Y. Davis’ book on the Prison Industrial Complex, “Are Prions Obsolete?”, she discusses the sexual violence that takes place within this system. “In an attempt to justify these examination, the chief medical officer explained that women prisoners had rare opportunities for ‘male contact,’ and that they therefore welcomed these superfluous gynecological exams.” According to Davis, “as activists and prisoners themselves have pointed out, the state itself is directly implicated in this routinization of sexual abuse, both in permitting such conditions that render women vulnerable to explicit sexual coercion carried out by guards and other prison staff and by incorporating into routine policy such practices as the strip search and body cavity search.” In an article titled “The Brutal Horror of Prison Rape, as Told by Its Victims” about prison rape, Kimberly Yates and Bryson Martel tell their story of being raped while incarcerated. What stood out the most to me in their accounts was the fact that overall the violence was thoroughly ignored. Yates says that what makes her case “especially alarming is the fact that the BOP was put on notice about this officer but continued to allow him to work in that position, knowing what he had done and that he could do it to someone else.” In addition to that, Martel believes if prison officials had paid attention to other inmate’s claims of abuse, it could have stopped his from happening. "If earlier reports of his abuse had been acted on, my rape could have been prevented.” Through this we see that, sexual violation and violence in the prison system is systematically allowed and perpetuated.
In addition to rape in the PIC, the U.S. furthers their agenda by allowing sexual slavery and rape at the border to continue to take place without legal repercussions for those who commit these crimes. "Department of Justice representatives have informally reported that U.S. attorneys decline to prosecute about 75 percent of all cases involving any crime in Indian country.” It doesn’t help that women of color are often seen as unrapeable through the racist history of this country. “Sexual violence as a tool of racism also continues against other women of color. Trafficking in women from Asian and other Global South countries continues unbated in the U.S.” It is my theory that women of color in this country continually face a war in which the perpetrators are taking away their bodily sovereignty. Rape culture makes sexual violence possible. The perpetuation of rape culture furthers its hegemonic state in American society. “Indeed, the U.S. and other colonizing countries are engaged in a “permanent social war” against the bodies of women of color and indigenous women, which threaten their legitimacy.” Through the media and racist laws of the land we see this war materialize. Rape of womyn of color is not just motivated by sex and power as it is for white women, but it is also racially motivated as a tool for marginalization of entire populations. This is where feminists have dropped the ball, categorizing rape as purely about individual power without respect to racial motivations. Women of color are generally more vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence, especially when crossing the border. “The American Friends Service Committee documented over 346 reports of gender violence on the U.S.-Mexico border from 1993-1995.” This type of violence is deemed invisible by the government as well as U.S. citizens. Zoila Miriam Perez, in her essay ‘When Sexual Autonomy Isn’t Enough: Sexual Violence Against Immigrant Women in the United States, says, “rape has become so prevalent that many women take birth control pills or shots before setting out to ensure they won’t get pregnant.
Some consider rape ‘the price you pay for crossing the border.” Immigrant women’s bodies are seen as an expendable resource and therefore unrapeable. Perez continues, “many of us who work in reproductive health in cities with large Latina populations see the effects of these abuses firsthand. Women arrive here with untreated sexually transmitted infections that they were given while crossing, as well as with unintended pregnancies. Women are often abused by everyone from the coyotes they hire to take them across the border, to other men in their groups, to officials they encounter along the way.” Through these examples, we see that rape and other forms of sexual violence isn’t purely an individual bodily offense but is furthered by dominant society and the government to exercise control over entire minority populations.
One thing I clearly remember about Obama’s platform is that he ran for education. He wanted to make sure that every student had the means and opportunity to go to college. Julianne Ong Hing’s article “Education’s Race to the Top” outlines Obama’s controversial plan to reform America’s education system.
Education Reform has always been a tricky thing for me. As an Educational Studies Minor, I usually sit in class with my head cocked to the side, sitting on the fence about these issues. For me the big issue was always, how do we measure educational success?
One might initially say test, but as my 8th Grade Math teacher said, “those test are not made up by your teachers, but old, white men in Albany.” Though she said this to deter any sour feeling because of the results of the test, its sentiment was very correct: standardized test are made to be standard.
However, in Education Studies programs across the country the new wave is being culturally relevant. This means that the educator understands the issues the students are facing and make it a relevant part in the classroom. With this in mind, when would teachers have time to teach the test?
What if a student leaves a classroom with the skills to find solutions to problems, and a voice to express them but not necessarily the jargon that the test asks for? Was the student taught unsuccessfully if they have the understanding to figure it out but not in the specific way that the test asks? I think not, but many of these reform grants hold their teachers down to their students test scores.
With that sort of pressure placed on these teachers, are students really given the tools to learn or just the answers to the test? You decide, read the article and let us know what you think!
I have a few people that I follow on Twitter that are self-proclaimed "Christians." They also happen to be womyn. This week, their tweets about their faith got me to thinking about myself when I identified as a Christian, how ashamed and dirty I felt when I allowed my mind or body to experience anything sexually related. Sex is one of the behaviors that connect all living things. Humans, animals and even plants have sex! Now that I have relinquished my title as a Christian, I can’t see why a religion makes it so important to tell people, especially womyn, how wrong it is to have sex and therefore suppress a normal, acceptable and even beautiful human right and behavior.
Christianity, and I ask all readers to research this for themselves, was used as a colonial tool by white men to oppress and marginalize native populations. It is because of this, that Christianity, along with its white Jesus, heteronormativity, and sexism, replaced the belief systems of native peoples. Other practices were seen as witchcraft or “crazy” voodoo. Today, Christianity is largely seen as a black religion, even though it is still largely a white institution and ideal. Christianity is also not exempt from the capitalism of society that keeps blacks and womyn oppressed and marginalized. It is essentially a business that runs on the commercialization of Chrisitanity. Blacks in this country, have adopted Christianity as their own, making Jesus black, singing songs for the poor, all the while establishing multiple mega-churches, as well as adopting the sexism and sexual repression involved in being a Christian.
Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham writes at length about the connection between the repression of black women and Christianity. Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham outlines the “politics of respectability” in the essay, “The Black Church, A Gender Perspective”. The paradigm of the politics of respectability included the blacks of the Baptist church adhering to rules of conduct that were equated with good behavior. This behavior was exemplified so that members of the black community could be seen as a viable member of society, and therefore pushed racial uplift, by the dominant white society. Such characteristics of this behavior included, “temperance, thrift, refined manners, and Victorian sexual morals.” The politics of respectability was a paradigm for both genders in the black church, but was particularly influential for the black women. So not only do we see sexual repression embedded in Christianity, we also see sexual repression being a form of resistance by Black women to the idea that they are sexually deviant.
Despite new methods, sexual intercourse is still the primary method of procreation, it is a necessary behavior and it also just feels good, which is why most people participate in it! To prevent anyone and especially young womyn, whose sexuality in this world often belongs to everyone except them, that exploring their body and the bodies of others is something to be ashamed of is sick and saddening. Sexual exploration is a healthy and necessary part of life and especially developing a healthy sexual life. Studies show that young people who are asked to commit to purity are more likely to engage in sexual behavior and to contract sexually transmitted infections. To stop womyn from discovering a part of their life that the media makes seem so normal and at the same time so taboo is dangerous for those young womyn and therefore, for the rest of the world too. How can those who identify as Christian continue to ignore sexuality as an integral part of anyone’s life and promote unhealthy sexual repression? Christians cannot continue to sacrifice the wants of the ever-illusive God for the concrete needs of young womyn everywhere. This goes back to the point that I made in my first post here at Refuse The Silence about women of color needing to be open about sexuality. I am calling upon the womyn reading this blog and all women of color everywhere to come up with new methods of resistance to double standards, sexism, and misogyny. Let’s move beyond “the politics of respectability”, let’s stop looking at sex as dirty or taboo and start embracing the beauty and importance of sexual contact and sexuality.
A recent blog entry on chopsentials raised some very valid points on the job of the media in particular with the portrayal of diverse characters in Hollywood movies. It should come as no surprise that a majority of the characters in Hollywood productions are white.
You can turn on the TV right now, flip the channels, and eight times out of ten fail to spot a person of color starring as the main character or in a lead role.
Go to any movie theater and count the numbers of times you see someone who’s not white as the main actor or actress. Odds are you won’t need more than one hand for that calculation.
If you were to walk the streets of any main city in the U.S. you’ll find that people look a little different from your average TV or movie stars. They may talk different, gesture different and even live different lifestyles. Yes it’s true!
There’s no one generic brand of an American that represents solely all the physical attributes of every one of us. In the blog entry entitled “Of Hollywood The American People: How Status Quo is Maintained”. It’s implied that the reason for such lack of diversity in media and pop culture is due in part to the producers.
The producers are the ones who mold the films and shows. Therefore if the producers who market and fund the productions are mostly white themselves then they may be more reluctant to change the racial makeup in their productions.
Just think, without a variety of people to input their different perspectives you’re getting cheated out of a lot of your money. There needs to be more variation in the views of producers in order to see the bigger picture with a different lens of focus.
In some cases even if the producers aren’t white, most of them all assume that the films that exclude minority involvement in main roles are more preferable, after all that’s what’s worked in the past. So it’s fair to say this will work again right?
Wrong! This is ultimately where producers make the biggest mistake. They assume that the American public is not interested in different, complex and diverse movie themes and characters. The success of movies like Slumdog Millionaire and Crash then seem to come as a surprise to many of these producers.
It’s as if they can’t believe that a movie in which the main characters are brown and living in an urban environment would take so many peoples’ breath away.
Yes Hollywood it is time to wake up! The plots are getting all too similar, and the actors needless to say are becoming quite washed up. It’s definitely time to kick it up a notch.
I mean let’s be honest there’s a lot more interracial dating now than there was a few decades ago, not everyone comes from an exclusively suburban rich town, and people of color do not always act out stereotypical behaviors in their everyday life.
Why can’t any of these facts be portrayed accurately in the media? One problem we see is that the shows and movies that do feature people of color in the lead often ostracize and poke fun at their culture, instead of being informative and reflecting the positive values of diversity.
Indian actor Kal Penn from Harold and Kumar gave a lecture about diversity at Syracuse University about two years ago. He addressed some issues he faced when deciding to play Kumar’s character. Kal even said he received some distasteful letters from Asians who were offended by his role in the movie. Kal admitted that sometimes it’s frustrating that the media wants to display simply the stereotypical view of minorities in Hollywood.
As if it isn’t bad enough that the rest of the world labels us as ignorant and uncultured, we have to just go and prove them right by making movies that show just that. What’s worse is thinking that American producers believe we can’t even handle diversity in the films they produce.
They take the easy way out, cheap thrills, explosions, racist jokes, stereotypical roles, and then just hope we find it entertaining. Sure once in a while it may do the trick, but now we’re just seeing recycled themes, and relived characters hidden by a different name.
It’s a domino effect, just think if you were able to portray positive themes of diversity, interesting plots and throw in a little educational yet interesting facts here and there, you might be able to change society’s outlook for the better. Hollywood could seriously do some good with the money they make.
It’s definitely possible, and we’re slowly seeing examples of this. The show Heroes was genius for its complex incorporation of diverse characters, settings and phenomenon. Hopefully more producers will start to journey on this path, and explore the unexpected, dangerous, and intriguing.
How much of a risk would you take to get to school? How high a price would you put on your education? What if it meant going against tradition or putting your life in danger?
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to go through all that just to get to class, but what’s even harder to comprehend is why anyone would put such effort into making it impossible for someone else to go to class.
What if you were being targeted just because you’re a woman trying to get an education. Well in some cases this isn’t too far from the truth.
In Afghanistan under the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001 girls were banned from going to school. But though it’s been nearly a decade later, the effects still seem to be rippling.
Although it’s not completely certain whether the Taliban is behind the attacks, CNN.com reports that since the schools for the girls began reopening there have been numerous incidents where both students and teachers were being poisoned.
In April of this year a total of 90 people from three girls schools became victims of what reports are calling an attack.
Thankfully no deaths have occurred from the incidents, but on Sunday the Ministry of health reported sixty school girls needed hospitalization.
It’s both sickening and frightening to imagine why anyone would try so hard to stop you from simply going to school.
If you had to face the fact that your classmates and teachers seem to be all falling prey to heartless attacks, and wonder why, the pain of that question alone might be enough to consume you whole.
What’s even worse is realizing that you too may have just as easily been a victim of a society that tried to put a cap on your education and duct tape your mouth shut.
It seems like a horrible dream doesn’t it? To wake up facing the hard truth that you’re trying to be silenced, that others don’t want you to know the truth. On the flip side what if you knew that it was your power to dream that would set you free from such hostility?
When you look at the history of the United States it’s easy to see how even our society needless to say has perpetual flaws.
History however, has taught us a valuable lesson. It has forced us to face our country’s shameful acts and come to terms with the fact that inequality is unacceptable on many different levels.
Change requires courage, and nothing comes without a fight. Standing up for what you know is right and facing your fears no matter how hard the scare, is what really makes major transformation possible.
“What Should African American Studies Students Learn?”
Okay, so I love, love, love African American Studies Programs! Maybe, because I go to a school where nothing of the sort is seriously offered, by more than 3 faculty members that is. Or it could just be because I enjoy learning about Black culture, mostly because it is my culture and I haven’t gotten to learn about it in the way that I have white culture. So when I stumbled upon this article “What Should African American Studies Students Learn?” by John McWhorter I was very interested in what he had to say.
For me, his entire piece rested on the idea of this: “It’s time that African-American Studies departments let go of the sixties imperative to defend blacks as eternal victims of racism.” I agreed with him that, yes times were hard, yes times are hard, but dammit Black folks have triumphed.
Too many times African American Studies programs are taught by professors who are knowledgeable on the literature but couldn’t understand the experience if they tried. So when they see the small kitchenette building of Gwendoyln Brooks they only see the constriction, not the closeness.
For many African American Studies professors poverty is only poverty—dissolute, scary, and disgusting. They often don’t see the community that can bond because of having-not. They cannot see the life that breathes through a people that looks, from the outside, dismal.
So many of these educators understand the texts but not the values. McWhorter looks at this disconnect and others in African American Studies programs, and he asks a pulsing question: “Do African-American Studies departments want to deny their majors an education in the true sense?”
Last summer, Debrahlee Lorenzana was fired from her job as a banker at a Citibank branch. She has filed a lawsuit against Citibank stating she was asked to leave because her male bosses deemed her to be “too sexy.”
Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Village Voice writes, she was told “she should not wear classic high-heeled business shoes, as this purportedly drew attention to her body in a manner that was upsetting to her easily distracted male managers.”
When approached by her colleagues about her “provocative“ attire, Lorenzana responded by explicitly comparing herself to other female employees who, “were able to wear such clothing because they were short and, overweight,” precisely because “they didn’t draw much attention.”
Lorenzana’s story is a repulsive textbook example of discrimination in a male-dominated environment, but it also stands as a ghastly illustration of girl-on-girl prejudice.
Lorenzana also, “…described the cultural underpinnings of her personal style, [saying], ‘Where I’m from, women dress up - like put on makeup and do their nails - to go to the supermarket. And I’m not talking trashy, you know, like in the Heights,’” states Jezebel.com.
Lorenzana’s case is a prime example of women internalizing patriarchal workplace cultures and all its injustices. Her statement demonstrates an obvious lack of solidarity and concern for the impact a predominantly white male institution has on the lives of all its female counterparts.
The legendary feminist writer, Bell Hooks, has referred to such woman-imposed patriarchy as an issue of class, pitting “privileged-class minorities” against progressive woman of lower economic classes.
Such girl-on-girl hate and egocentric trials continue to make it difficult to engage in a meaningful critical dialogue surrounding the position of women in predominately white male dominated institutions.
I have a philosophy. That as women of color, and especially as black women, we need to talk about sex more.
However, before I explain this particular theory, allow me to introduce myself.
This summer I will be writing a summer series on women of color and sexuality for the Refuse the Silence blog. I am so happy to be working with Refuse The Silence and Ms. Morgane Richardson’s efforts to talk about issues affecting young women of color today. I developed a passion for issues surrounding ideas of sexuality when I entered into college. I am now a 3rd year, Ethnic Studies major. I have come to learn that as young women of color in the university system we neglect ourselves and our own issues a lot. We sacrifice ourselves for the degree. Through this summer series on sexuality, I hope to explore one topic of concern, interest and definitely of reform when it comes to women of color. Also, I host my own blog, hiphopcheerleader.blogspot.com, where I write about various issues dealing with social identity, as well as and of course hip hop, please check it out!
So back to my first point about women of color needing to talk about sex more. I came to this conclusion when I noticed that talking about sex got any woman of color labeled a ‘ho.’ What furthered my conclusion was that our resistance was just to do exactly what society asked of us, to never talk about sex. Anytime that I asked my sisters about solutions to the virgin/whore dynamic, I was met with the same answers that we, as women of color, get from dominant society. Whenever, I would hear an insightful perspective, it was like breathing fresh air.
My question, is why do we allow society to dictate who we are and who we should be?
Rebel against societal norms! I used to think that this was common knowledge, but when I started to realize how many black women were ostracized from my campus community because they were deemed “ho’s,” I felt like our resistance to issues surrounding oppression in regards to sexuality just weren’t cutting it. This is my primary concern, through writing, to mobilize my community to act against the virgin/whore dynamic, to stop labeling our sisters and to stop joining forces with this society in marginalizing ourselves.
I plan to blog further on these issues and more. Please join me on this journey and leave your comments telling me your thoughts and what you would like to hear from me.
Thank you for your time,
*Malaka’s posts will appear every Friday throughout the summer.
A school in Arizona has refueled the fire that decades of race relations had attempted to paint over. The school mural meant to promote better health and green energy use, has only further prolonged the truly despicable point of view of a select few who still -despite the current state of the union and over fifty years of fighting racism- fail to see past the color lines.
Officials at the school ordered that the faces of the children depicted on the mural to be repainted with a lighter skin tone. But what was the school really trying to cover up? The answer to that question was revealed on the local KYCA radio station when Arizona Councilman Steve Blair publicly expressed his anti-diversity views on the mural.
On the radio talk show the councilman seems to rant on about there being no purpose to recognize a black child in the mural. He then continues on to praise the seemingly polarized community where he grew up and is only able to recall four non-white families that he knew in his area.
You’ve got to be kidding right? Sadly no, news reports even say that people drove by the mural shouting racial slurs about the children painted on it. Well don’t be completely alarmed.
Ever since imperialism first reared its ugly side society has tend to push towards the glorification of fairer skin tones. As a matter of fact it probably isn’t hard at all to recall books and even children’s stories blatantly describing fair skin in coherence to beauty as if it is a no brain-er attribute that every pretty girl or woman should have. But what about being proud of your own beauty, and embracing your natural self?
So if you’re dark-skinned are you automatically less attractive than those who are lighter? Is your skin color seen as offensive in the eyes of the lighter skins? What really has some Arizona citizens heated about the message behind this racy mural? And will it ever change?
In a world of conflicting messages it’s hard to tune out what the mass constantly demands. Statistically those with fairer skin get chosen first for jobs, get shorter prison sentences, make more money, and are more represented in the media.
So be black but don’t be too black, be brown but not too brown, be yellow but not too yellow and lastly be white and accept it.
What would the world be without our relentless, selfless folk who dedicate their whole lives’ to helping the lives of others? Let me rephrase that: what would the non-Caucasian world be without a pure helping hand lifting them from their own demise? The non-white world would be doomed to failure without that privileged hand, no?
A bit ridiculous isn’t it? However, these are the messages that are portrayed in popular media, and are consequently transcended into our everyday lives. We see movies where a white family takes in a poor, homeless Black teenage, gives him all the potential he would never have, and we see nothing wrong with this. Such movies are often called inspirational, with a blind eye turned to the age-old plot: saving Blackness with whiteness.
This idea of a “white savior” came into play during the 17th Century when white religious missionaries began arriving in the African New World. These missionaries saw a culture of people who needed to be rescued, who needed to be saved (although they have lived hundreds of years before intrusion from the so-called industrialized world.)
Today, our white, saving youth, too, tend to forget this last parenthetical clause.
Nowadays, we’d be very touchy to use the R word. However, since it is safe to blame it on our school systems, I will go there. We are taught American Exceptionalism. That as Americans we occupy an important space and power in the world, we are exceptional. We are even taught a white-savior warning story in the historical layout of Haiti, and their economic downfalls.
Yes, school systems can be to blame. In my higher education institution we practice some serious othering that would make Edward Said turn in his grave. In our curriculum we must complete four cultural attributions, or requirements: NOR—North America, EUR—Europe, CMP—Comparative, and, this one is great, AAL—Africa, Asia, or Latin America. In our curriculum’s “inclusiveness” we lump everything that is not White America or its antecedent, into a big other category. Just to reiterate, while every student must take a class focused on North America and Europe, every student must also take one on either Africa OR Asia OR Latin America—really shows you this, and & or, doesn’t it?
So armed with the knowledge that schools have taught us the important knowledge, why do I still cringe when I see a profile picture of a blonde, from Middle-of-nowhere-ford, Connecticut, holding a little Black boy with a captions that says “How I spent my summer, me and little J-Fresh [that’s what I called him] under the African sun!”?
People are often impressed that the commitment to volunteerism is on the rise. Not often do they see it as a self-serving tool to reestablish power, or a residual film from history of white saviors.
Alana Jenkins, Middlebury College Refuse The Silence Intern
I hold my breath and swallow my spit as I say this—I am an elitist. I spent my childhood having playgroups, going to etiquette classes, attending tea parties and, later galas, with like-minded mothers and their children. In this mother’s organization, which I have been involved in for as long as I can remember, not only were the mothers like-minded, but also like-skinned.
My parents, who have a very strong sense of their racial identity, had concerns about mine. At an early age, they realized that in a majority white school, in a majority white town, I might lose some of myself. When in grade school, they heard a friend affectionately call me Oreo, they knew I needed some intervention. They explained to me what it meant to be an Oreo, and also that it was not who I was.
I was—I am—the daughter of an executive mother, and a politician father who fought through the NAACP for one of the integrated schooling systems in Westchester. But somehow, they explained to me then, and they explain to me now: “[People] somehow feel that colored people who have education and money…are ‘putting on airs’…going through a sort of monkey-like imitation…It seems that [people] have not yet been able to realize and understand that these people in striving to better their physical and social surroundings in accordance with their financial and intellectual progress are simply obeying an impulse which is common to human nature the world over.” (James Walden Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-colored).
This sentiment written close to a hundred years ago still holds true to many Americans. They believe in the underclass of people of color—the impoverished, unworthy, and less economically developed—so much so that they are not even aware of the upper.
As a member of this class I constantly feel the urge to remind people of its existence. People of color who belong to this sort environment build a world contained within itself, more than your average white elite group. Elite members of color stick together not because they have to, not because the country club wouldn’t accept them, not because they didn’t pass the brown paper bag test, but because they want to.
They want their children to understand the opinions of those who might not understand them as more than the stereotype. They want their children to understand, though skin privilege might be against them, they have so many more privileges than dominate America. Beneath the skin there is more than 50 states and a few commonwealths, there is heritage—a culture—that is not only pain and struggle, but also pride and uplift.
Many of the children from this upper class become young adults who go to these top tier schools. Though many have been around the dominate class for the vast majority of their lives, most still have trouble “acclimating.” With every “Oh, you drive that,” and “You live there?” they—we—are reminded of the importance of the tight knit elitist group we belong too. But what about every one else, what about the other people of color?
When you make a group of people there are always the outliers, the people we forget about. Boxing in isn’t a good idea, is it?
At my college there is a long practiced senior tradition— a last hurrah, of sorts—the crush list. Towards the end of the semester posters and advertisements are taken down, and grand displays of affection are seen in its place.
In its bare bones, it is just a list of people one is “crushing” on, from a nameless face in the dinning hall; to the person they are planning to wed after graduation.
However, these crush list, as anything else in said college, are extreme. People spend hours that would normally be devoted to procrastination thinking of the best, the most extravagant, most personal way to list their crushes. Normally, in this 60% white, homogeneous community, these list are clad with names that are—familiar. However, there was a title on a particular crush list that made me address the whole community:
Dear ______________ Community
I am appalled. Today, while causally looking at the names on the crush list, one description caught my eye: “the pretty black girl…” Phrases like that this, even on something as playful as the crush list are, pointblank, offensive. This is more than the typical gender objectification that goes on those lists. The use of “the” as a qualifier makes a sweeping generalization that seems inherent about all African American women on this campus—they are all “[not] pretty” (besides this one girl).
In my time here, overcoming the work load, making new friends, and enduring questionable food sources have not been the bane of my existence here. As I get dressed and look in the mirror, each day I have to constantly remind myself that I am not unattractive. Ironic because at home, in a New York suburb, that is not even a question, but here this affirmation is a necessity. I sit in the mirror and have to remind myself that these standards of beauty are superficial, they are that of the dominate media culture, that they do not reflect my culture, that they do not matter, etc., etc. But as that crush list confirmed, as much as I say those things to myself they are not real here, here I am still not the pretty black girl.
As a student of color here, you have one of two options to be considered attractive, 1. Due to some early colonization from European countries, appear as white, white-ish or racially ambiguous 2. Be exotic. The latter means not using chemicals in your hair; having “interesting” eyes; or just not looking like the normal person of color (ironic, because no student of color here is “normative” in a 60% white community). I state these facts to tell you that this projection of beauty is degrading and painful.
As a school, which prides itself on its inclusiveness, the ignorance, absentmindedness, whatever that was presented in that crush list, makes it hard for students of color, particularly women, to feel included. We, as a student body, are all in a critical point in our lives where we just want to be accepted, comments like the one on the crush list or ones that sound like “you are so pretty for a ______ girl/guy” are the reason why so many underrepresented groups remain as such. Contrary to popular belief, it is not that these students cannot handle the academics, but that places like this are not welcoming to them upon first look.
So ______________ Community, think before you insult an entire ethnicity by your lack of exposure. Think of your views of beauty and how they are influenced. Ignorance is forgivable if you are willing to learn.
Alana Jenkins is a rising junior at Middlebury College. She is a summer intern at Refuse The Silence.
The Young and The Feckless: An Interview with Refuse the Silence's Morgane Richardson
Refuse The Silence’s Morgane Richardson, was interviewed for Bitch Magazine by J Maureen Henderson! Take a look:
I stumbled across Morgane Richardson’s Refuse the Silence project via a link on Twitter. Immediately, it made me think of a discussion in the comments section of an earlier Y&F post about where the stories and conversations around the non-archetypical Millennial experience were and the need to bring attention to these stories as a means of fleshing out and adding dimensions to the (at present, pretty flat) media portrait of Gen Y. There are interesting people out there doing interesting, culturally significant work that has nothing to do with selling us luxury cars (I wish this was a joke) or advising us on how to leverage our blogs into a middle management future; they should get a bigger spotlight.
I approached Morgane about doing an interview for Bitch about Refuse the Silence and she graciously agreed. I don’t think she’d mind if I referred to her as a fellow Cassandra when it comes to rightly cautioning against generalizing from individual or subgroup experience to that of the whole or using an averaged-out set of characteristics and experiences as proxy for or the public voice of a diverse, heterogeneous group (be that women of color, or Generation Y in general).
If you have your own questions for Morgane, I think we might be able to arm-twist her into answering a few of them in the comments section.
What was the impetus for starting Refuse The Silence?
When I was a student, I was incredibly active on my college campus, especially with the organization, Women of Color. So naturally, when I graduated I made an effort to stay in contact with the new leaders of Women of Color on campus.
During that time, I noticed that incoming women of color were beginning to have the same concerns my peers and I had: “The college got us here, but what are we supposed to do now? I don’t fit in,” was the fear that I was hearing.
I knew that I had to help… enough was enough, you know? I realized that there needed to be more of a long-term plan to help women of color on campus.
For once, I wanted the college to hear what these students were saying, what their struggles were as individuals and not, solely, as a collective.
What sort of reaction have you had so far?
There has been a really good response to Refuse The Silence. I think Women of Color in elite colleges have been waiting a while for someone to ask them how they are doing, what they are feeling, what changes they want to see take place. Most people want to be heard and everyone deserves it.
Refuse The Silence is focused on elite liberal arts colleges. Is there a particular reason for this? Why not all colleges?
I get that question a lot! You know, when I initially came up with the idea for Refuse The Silence, I wanted to capture and give voice to the experiences of women of color at every single college in the United States. After about a year of working through ideas, and speaking with friends, mentors and the like, I realized that if I was actually going to put together a plan of action based on the submissions I received, I needed to focus on a smaller group.
Plus, as a graduate of an elite liberal arts college, I knew of particular issues facing women of color on campus and I felt that I had a greater understanding there then in other institutional environments. Thus meaning, I can bring about change more easily because I have a better understanding of how those institutions function.
That being said, I hope to have the opportunity to do a similar book on Women of Color in colleges/universities throughout the United States… Anyone interested?
In what ways are these institutions failing women of color and/or not addressing their needs? Do you think there are commonalities with the experience of other visible and non-visible minorities in these settings?
To be honest, this is a tough question and by answering it on behalf of Refuse The Silence I will be making assumptions about what the women in this project have to say.
Speaking only for myself, I think these institution fail women of color when they believe that all women of color have similar needs or views of academia. They fail when they give in to stereotypes. I have found that Women of Color at the college I attended are dealing with some different issues then when I was there two years ago… and that is to be expected when the student body, curriculum, college recruiters and the like, change.
This is not to say that there aren’t commonalities, because I think there are many. For the most part, elite institutions fail to address the needs of their entire student body of color by focusing on increasing racial statistics and omitting the importance of retention. They do this by not recruiting faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and/or by not having a curriculum that represents their entire student body. And then there is ignorance and blatant racism happening… professors asking for the “black voice” or “Asian voice,” etc. in class and racial epithets written on students’ walls… and institutions not asking their students how they think such occurrences should be dealt with.
And, do I think there are commonalities with the experience of visible and non-visible minorities in elite liberal arts colleges? Yes, of course! I have no doubt about it and I would love to get their stories as well!
What do you hope the outcome of Refuse The Silence will be? Who is the audience for this project and how to you plan to disseminate your findings to them?
Eventually, I will sit down with a team of students, graduates, academics, and activists to create a suggested plan of action (in the form of a book), based on the submissions I receive, to better assist women of color in elite liberal arts colleges. The findings will then be given to the administrators of such schools and hopefully, those suggestions will be implemented.
I am in the beginning stages of exploring the options of publicly tracking implementation to ensure that those suggestions aren’t lost, so to speak.
I want to make certain that those changes are made, even if it takes 20 years, but my main hope is that women of color students continue to have a platform to be heard.
That being said, it would be wonderful if Refuse The Silence became a virtual and physical forum that women of color students and academic institutions always have access to!
Go to, http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-young-and-the-feckless-an-interview-with-refuse-the-silences-morgane-richardson, to view the article at Bitch Magazine.
I never would have believed I would be in this place at the age of 23. I had the course of my life clearly planned out since the age of 6. Back then I wanted to be a “doctor or a lawyer” and as I graduated from high school I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. The general steps were non-negotiable: graduate from prep school, go to an elite college, immediately go to a prestigious law school. Unfortunately there was a wrench thrown into those smoothly-running gears that was my academic career when I decided to attend Tufts University.
I initially was extremely excited to go to Tufts to study international relations and French. Long before I sent out my college applications I knew that I wanted to study abroad. Unfortunately that particular dream was also not realized due to a relationship I began early in my Tufts career. Even though the relationship started when I was only 18 years old, I am confronted with the consequences of dating a particular student every day and I know I will for many years to come—or even for the rest of my life.
Before reporting my rapes at Tufts I had no idea what sexual assault and rape was - outside of the classic “stranger in a dark alley” scenario. Unfortunately, Tufts had little in place to teach me otherwise. During orientation week there were so many events and programs; it was hard to keep up. One day, I made a decision that I will remember for the rest of my life: I skipped their sexual and domestic violence program, “In the SACK.” It strangely was not a mandatory program; the university took great measures to make sure we all attended the police-led presentation about the banning of kegs from campus. I also use the fact that my peer advisors told my peer group that, “In the SACK” was a waste of time, to ease my mind as I opted to rest my exhausted body instead of going to the auditorium.
However, the repercussions of that decision to nap did not arrive until a year later. My sophomore year I met my ex-boyfriend who was another student of colour. He was African-American, but, like me, he chose not to have an overwhelming number of his friends be black. We also both attended prep school for high school—I went in New Jersey and he went near Washington, DC—which laid some common ground for the foundation of our relationship. The timing of his entrance into my life was almost too perfect. The end of my freshman year was dampened by the end of my friendship with my closest friend and neighbor that year. I returned that year eager to find a new social niche. As a result most of my time was spent with him and his friends; the isolation that often accompanies abusive relations came easily as he was (barely) known by my remaining friends and fully supported.
I still do not know if this affected my behaviors and decisions, but my high school was all girls’ and, coming from a strict background with two immigrant parents weary of what America can do to the weak meant that I had very little to no interaction with the male gender before college. My boyfriend then was a cruel boy; he would take pleasure in putting others down and doing malicious things behind their backs while smiling sweetly to their faces. Like many other undergraduate students, he spent his weekends drinking excessively until the point of “blacking out.” These factors worried deep down inside, but I pushed aside my concerns because I told myself that, “no one was perfect” and that he was nice to me, so that’s all that mattered.
The relationship did not start on a positive note and it was something that would repeat itself once again a year later. He did not ask me for consent before a sexual act; he just took what he assumed to be his. However, I did not realize that this was wrong until a year after the second time it happened. He did not often hurt me physically, however. Most of abuse was psychological and emotional; he eventually convinced me that I had no worth whatsoever and unfortunately the actions (or lack thereof) of Tufts University reinforced those sentiments.
Over the two years of our volatile relationship I occasionally would ponder whether what he did to me was abusive. I would read the signs and think, yes, in theory they were abusive, but I was the exception because I made him do all of those things. The moment of realization was one night after he got kicked out of a bar for threatening to physically assault me. I still had some sympathy for him because I thought he only said those things because he was extremely drunk and accompanied him back to campus. On campus he told me that he hoped that I would get raped again among other horrible, cruel things. He physically hurt me, leaving me unable to properly use my right arm for about a week. Once again, when I went to Health Services I covered up for him again. While I was always cautious to cover up and be secretive about the truthful horrible things he did to me, he drunkenly filed a false police report saying that I stole his cell phone—despite the fact that I’ve had my own cell phone since the age of 13.
I always wanted to minimize involvement with police and other university employees. I did not want people to look at me and think that I was being a “typical” black woman in a volatile relationship. Unfortunately I, too, fell victim to the feeling a lot of women of colour have: everyone (read: white people) are watching; show them that you’re not “really like that.” By the time I called my father crying in the middle of the night (because I was too scared to leave the apartment after my ex-boyfriend had hurt me) to drive me back to New Jersey from Boston I knew something had to be changed. I had finished the semester inside my bedroom too terrified to leave my apartment for fear of seeing my ex. The violence was undeniably increasing and his willingness to fire a false police report against me just showed that he was willing to use any tactic to scare, intimidate, and hurt me.
I had been involved with the campus’ peer education program called PACT (Prevention, Awareness and Consent at Tufts), which not only introduced me to a great group of students, but also a staff member at Tufts who understood the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence between students. As a peer educator I felt that I knew the resources Tufts had and its sexual assault policy thoroughly, so I made the decision to call Tufts’ Police Department in December when I was at home about filing a report about what my ex had done. Unfortunately a decision that should have been the beginning of a positive, empowering journey was the start of a long, downward spiral where I was told that my struggles and my body was not worth the institution’s time.
The first people I told about my abusive relationship were the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and my academic dean. Since I was too afraid to leave my apartment that semester, I was unable to complete that year. When I told them it was like two deer in headlights. They were quite speechless and all they said was that they could do nothing for me (wasn’t a dean supposed to help prevent such events from drastically affecting your transcript?) and that they would talk to people at the counseling center. The counseling center decided, without any interviews with me, that I was not ready to return to school and in turn, the university allowed me to finish that semester with F’s. As a result, I was punished and forced to withdraw for a full year because I was afraid of my ex-boyfriend.
I was shocked, hurt, and embarrassed since I did not know why I bothered to tell them what happened to me (it is still terrifying to finally admit what I went through), when they did nothing but to further exacerbate the feeling of being out-of-control of my life. I wanted nothing more to go back the next semester, free from the abusive relationship and to complete a successful semester. However, for reasons unbeknownst to me they did not allow that.
The following semester I stayed in Boston because I wanted to file charges against my ex-boyfriend for what he did. I had already moved up there as the school had not informed me that I wasn’t allowed to take classes. After I had charged hundreds of dollars on books and attended two weeks of classes I was told that I was not allowed to be enrolled. Since I did not have student loans to reimburse me for the books and to pay for my rent, my credit score began to decline, another detail that will continue to affect me for a long time.
I met with the Dean of Student Affairs about my intentions to file charges about what my ex had done to me. I wanted to tell the whole story from the beginning, which qualified for some of the events within the one-year statute they had for judicial proceedings. However, in the handbook it was stated that:
My account clearly showed that my ex showed a pattern of violence, so I thought it would be no problem that they would proceed with the judicial proceedings. That is not what happened.
Though the Dean said they waived the one year limit, once I handed in the paperwork, they did not go forward with the process. I was called into the Judicial Officer’s office, where I was told that the lawyer was looking into whether I could initiate any judicial proceedings because of the one year limit (even though his physical assault on me was well within the limits). I never heard from them again.
The semester ended and my rapist and abuser graduated on time and left the school without punishment. I had a feeling they didn’t believe me (after all, studies have shown that people are less likely to believe black women who are survivors of rape) and knew that since I was a student on financial aid and scholarship I would not have many resources. My ex’s mother was a judge and his father a successful architect, which already gave him more resources and power (read: money) to retaliate against Tufts if an outcome was not to his liking.
While I was extremely hurt and discouraged by their blatant neglect of my report, I decided to concentrate on finishing at Tufts so I could get my degree and continue with my life.
Unfortunately I couldn’t even achieve that.
Being back in an environment where Tufts clearly did not care what happened to me (they never followed up with my rape and assault reports) proved to be difficult. I had few friends left (most had graduated) and I was still living with the shame of sharing such a private part of me to many administrators with no results. Rumours spread that the Dean of Students himself dismissed me as a “crazy” woman. I was obviously not taken seriously.
I had concerns about my lack of ability to finish the semester due to depression and the environment. My academic dean said that the circumstances were understandable and I should not have to worry about any forced academic withdrawal. Unfortunately she was completely wrong. Despite her attempts to appeal to the academic standing committee, they expelled me. I do think it does have to do with the fact that I started to get more vocal about what Tufts did and the fact that I brought a group to campus to show the student body, faculty, staff, etc what was wrong with Tuft’s sexual assault policy.
I did appeal the decision as Diane Rosenfeld of Harvard Law said that it was a Title IX violence. However the school remained cold, calculating, and indifferent. Their last words to me were apologizing about my “described incident” (my rape), while saying they went through my file thoroughly to make sure they had “no obligation” to help me. While it is clear they knew what they did was wrong on many levels, they relied on their lawyer and washed their hands of me. I have a Title IX violation complaint pending against them now.
Now I am stuck… unable to return to school because I have no money and I cannot make money as no one will hire a woman of colour without a degree. My credit is poor, thanks to Tufts repeatedly and expectedly withdrawing their support from me. I fought so hard to try and do well and achieve my goals and perhaps have a better life than the “average” African-American. Now I live and see every day how America’s educational system works to keep marginalized people marginalized. My life was left me in the hands of the administrators of Tufts; but unfortunately due to their privilege, they had no problem exacerbating all the sexist and racist oppression set against me in the name of higher education.
*To learn about similar experiences at Tufts University, follow @RapedAtTufts on Twitter
*NEED ASSISTANCE? If you or someone you know is a victim of Rape and/or Sexual Assault go to http://www.rainn.org to learn more or call the National Sexual Assualt Hotline at 1. 800. 656. HOPE
Domonique Johnson is getting her degree in Child Development and American Studies— with a concentration in African American Studies from Tufts University. During her undergrad, she was head of the female step team, on various cultural boards, the editor of the Black Literary Magazine, and head of the Black Student Board— thus helping her to become a campus leader, stronger writer and eventually a director of her first documentary. With all of her training on campus, she is now off to pursue a Master of Social Work.
Ode to Black Women
(Growing Under Dorothy, Monica, and Tracey)
Black girl, black girl
From the start you were destined for greatness:
From the course hair on your head—
like the cotton we once picked
To the flat feet you walk on—
That can stomp the hell out of a beat
Black girl, black girl
As you matured, your road towards success became more obvious:
With the growth of hips-
set wide and strong to replenish our nation
And the forthcoming of breasts—
there to nourish and raise our Queens and Kings to be strong enough for power,
but wise enough to recognize the All-Powerful
Black girl, black girl
There have been many blockades to your glory, but you were well equipped:
From your luscious lips that hold a powerful tongue—
that can slice one in half or grow one twice their size
To your big beautiful eyes—
that have deepened with each glance,
shooting down with a stare or lifting up with one wink
Black girl, black girl
Your prevailing in life has cased age, and with age comes wisdom:
From the heart that has grown to love and has been mended form ache—
To the soul that has deepened with each step you take in His footprints
and each child you bear—
To the mind that has enough sense to see a need for change
and the will that permitted you to do something about it
Black girl, black girl
My black girl
With the weight of the world on your shoulders
You still have the strength to strut your stuff (on the daily)
You’re a mother, sister, friend—and above all you are a WOMAN
Though you are a woman, you are still one of God’s children
And with your deep roots in Him no weapon shall prosper!
So go’on Black girl
Embrace your mahogany, caramel, yellow (and every shade in between) skin
Let the world know you are kin to great Queens and beautiful Kings
And your attitude, finger snappin’ and neck rollin’ is just the broken words of your history
Just keep doin’ your thang…not that you would do it any other way
Is it possible the colleges’ attempts to bridge racial divides are making things worse?
Refuse The Silence isn’t just about changing our education system. The focus is on giving these women a microphone to speak out. It’s not always about the right or wrong action to take, but about Women of Color knowing that they can speak, and that someone will listen.
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”—Audres Lorde
After a tremendously long rant about what kind of mothers each woman was raised by, the time to ask questions arrived.
I fought against my distaste of being “the” voice of women of color yet again, and I asked the panelist to discuss the relationship between race and feminism.
They responded with a smile and distant eyes.
I stared back.
“Um… so… can you talk about the relationship between Race and Feminism today?” I repeated.
After a few more seconds of hesitation, Richards took the first stab. What I received in response might as well have been, “I have Black friends,” as she spoke about the organization she had that catered to “non-white women.” She even went as far as to say, “those non-white women still read my emails! They love the group.”
"Uh… wonderful for you! Wow, you have black followers!,” I thought.
Baumgardner eventually spit out something or another about how race and women’s issues still need to be dealt with. She explained that’s why she believes its okay that not all women wantto use the term feminism when defining themselves, though she still considers herself to be one.
She proved my point that women of color aren’t included in feminism today… lets just take away the category/label for some people who can’t fit within its racial/economic boundaries… but I’ll still call myself a feminist because I’m a white woman who comes from a privileged family.
Everyone else on the panel stayed silent.
Come on! Really… the editor of Bust Magazine? As one of the few powerful feminists in media I wrongfully expected her to know about what is going on in today’s world of feminism and race.
When I left, I immediately went on Twitter and noticed that even the young feminists, who attended the panel were more offended by the realization that Richards, Stoller, Baumgardner and Wolfe didn’t understand the importance of social media then by the racial comments that were made (or not made). For the majority of women in that room, race was not in their consciousness.
When it comes to race, is the feminist movement walking in the vacant path of our predecessors? It seems as though not much has changed.
Why are women of color still not included in the immediate conversation?