Violence against native and indigenous women [Revisited]

NOTE: I originally wrote most of this post a couple years ago but this is sadly still a problem and something that still needs to be discussed. The reason why I wanted to revisit this topic is because the CBC recently released a second season of their podcast “Missing and Murdered”. This season is about an indigenous family in Canada trying to find their sister, Cleo. I recommend listening to that podcast to better understand this issue and the systematic trauma that many indigenous people have had to experience and continue to deal with.

Canada and the United States have both been exceptionally horrible to the indigenous and native populations of this land. For generations and generations, we’ve broken treaties, stolen children, committed cultural and physical genocide, live on stolen land. Violence against indigenous and native women is unfortunately a part of our history and current narrative in both countries. And it’s a national disgrace.

*I do want to say that this is a rough topic to read about – it deals with rape, abuse, death, and other forms of violence. Just as a warning.

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Understanding Race, Racism, and White Supremacy as a White Person.

This is yet another post to not only my fellow white people but to myself as well. As white people, we need to not only acknowledge the history and context of white supremacy and racism within the US that puts us into a position of power but also start to actively destroy the current system and status quo. Acknowledging racism and tearing down the system of white supremacy as white people will be uncomfortable at times but it is completely necessary. Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote about why it’s so hard to talk to white people about race, highlighting in the beginning that:

Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

I wrote recently about some starting points for myself and other white people, in which I included the PBS production Race – The Power of Illusion. The reason I’ve referenced this twice now over a short span of time is because of the impact the production had on my own understanding of race and racism. PBS has a plethora of online resources to read but everything I’ve found about the actual video seems to indicate that you’d have to order the video straight from PBS in order to see it all. If you ever do get the chance to watch the film, I definitely recommend it.

And it’s important to keep in mind that the way in which we as white people experience the world is completely different than people of color. Maisha Z. Johnson wrote up a list of examples that prove that white privilege protects white people from the police, highlighting the fact that racial profiling and implicit biases impact how police interact with people of color and many other factors.

Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a letter from Black America about the relationship that many black Americans have with police. Jezebel Delilah X also wrote about four reasons why the US police forces is an extension of slavery and white supremacy. And The Guardian points out that black Americans are significantly more likely to be unarmed when killed by the police than white Americans and people of color are proportionally more likely to be killed by police overall.

RaceCharts11There’s also this belief for many white people that the US is a post racial society after the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. (Like, for example, the success of some means racism is over.) But Braden Goyette and Alissa Scheller came up with 15 charts and stats that prove that we are far from a post racial society. (One in which is to the left.) Crystal Fleming wrote a piece talking about white supremacy and the killing of Walter Scott, particularly highlighting:

Black precedent reveals that a black president is not enough to halt the onslaught of anti-black violence that has always been routine in our nation. What we continue to need is sustained multiracial activism and political engagement to bring about a more just and compassionate society — the kind of grassroots work being done by organizers and activists pushing for police reform in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and across the country.

Also reverse racism (racism to white people) is not a thing. Dain Dillingham wrote an article with 5 questions for anyone who thinks they are a victim of ‘reverse racism’. Racism, simply put, is a systemic power + prejudice, something that only white people have within the US.

Lastly, there are a few more articles I wanted to include – most having to do with what we can do as white people. Jamie Utt wrote last November about how Ferguson calls on white people to regain our humanity. Utt also wrote another article about a month ago about how as white people, a big way to end racism is to invest in other white people. This, of course, sounds like the wrong way to go but Utt wrote that:

…the more that I think about it, I realize that White people who wish to work in racial justice solidarity and who strive for allyship need to realize our fundamental responsibility to do more than simply “call out” other White people.

We must take up the long, difficult, often emotionally-exhausting work of calling them in to change.

SpectraSpeaks wrote something similar long before Utt did though – calling for white allies to stop unfriending other white people over Ferguson. Spectra wrote that as an afrofeminist Nigerian advocate, she was not able to do the same things that we as white people are. She particularly calls on white people to step up more, saying:

I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion. Because I will not do this. I cannot do this.

My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in “level headed” conversations with people who see this terribly unjust Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.

Immigration

—”Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity… They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”

Pope Francis

I was initially introduced to the complicated stories of US immigration when I took a intercultural feminist theology class a few years ago and a friend spoke of the conditions that women go through trying to get into the US from Central and South America. My friend spoke of the horrors that women endured by trying to escape poverty and they were stories that broke down my assumptions and ignorance of immigration. Before that, I had almost no grasp on what was happening with immigration – being an ignorant white US citizen, it was a topic that never impacted my life until that class.

immigration-political-cartoon-2A year after that class, I took another class that was specifically about immigration and the same friend was in that class as well. Through that class, my friend, and interning with an immigration organization, I had all of my assumptions and foundations broken down about immigrants and immigration.

With President Obama’s actions with the southern US border, there is a lot of news happening in regards to US immigration. President Obama has pressed Central American countries to slow the wave of child migrants and has deported and detained an increasingly large number of immigrants during his term. You’ve probably heard by now the number of protests and issues happening with trying to deport children back to Central America. Todd Miller, the author of Border Patrol Nation, spoke about what has been missing with the discussions on child refugees at the border.

There is so much happening with this topic but one important thing that I’ve been keeping in mind with everything is the root causes of current immigration to the US. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been around for 20 years at this point and has had an unbelievable impact on the Mexican economy and immigration into the US. The Honduran Foreign Minister spoke with NPR about how the US should address the root causes of immigration.

Immigration should absolutely be a feminist issue and concern not only for the root causes but also for the way in which the US has been treating undocumented immigrants within the country. Patricia Valoy wrote about why exactly immigration should be a feminist concern, highlighting the gender bias within the immigration system and labor force (for employment visas).

(Transcript)

What’s Happening in the Dominican Republic.

Things to know and articles to read about what’s currently happening in the Dominican Republic as far as the mass deportation of anyone and everyone even a little Haitian:

… about a quarter of a million people will be made stateless.They will have no homes, no passports, and no civil rights. There are several reasons for this, but the primary reason is racism.

 

#Charleston.

1535508_1025294764161969_3193991848114266923_nLast night, a white man joined a bible study in the historic Charleston, South Carolina Emmanuel AME church and ended the night by shooting and killing 9 black men and women (6 of the victims were black women). Of course, the coverage surrounding the (white male) killer is incredibly influenced by white supremacy and privilege and so many on Twitter are calling for the shooter to be called what he rightly is – a terrorist. It’s important to see this as a act of violent white supremacy.

I’m utterly and completely heartbroken for the families impacted by last night’s shooting, for all of those who pay the price of white supremacy with their lives. The violent nature of white supremacy and racism within the US has claimed far too many lives – even just one is not acceptable. To all of those mourning today and every other day, I’m so sorry for your loss.

 

*Addition: if you can, donate to the church impacted by last night’s shooting.

Some Tips and a Few Starting Points. (For Other White People)

So this one goes out to all my fellow whitey tighties, to all the other white people trying to be better, and ultimately, to myself. I am writing this from the experience and position as a white person so a lot of what I have to say is just references to people (usually people of color) who have said it before and said it better. None of the ideas or tips below are inherently mine – all come from reading through many many articles and narratives or conversations I have had in the past.

And more than anything else, this is a note to myself, a reminder of what I personally have to do as a white person to be better.

A few starting places and lists of things to do as an ally:

One of the most important things to do to act as an ally? Educate yourself. Read articles about race, the history and social construction of race, racism, a history book that describes actual history and not the whitewashed/vague history we are often given in high school. Watch videos and films and learn as much as you can. Read and pay attention to the narratives that people of color put out in the world (because there are plenty of those narratives already available.)

This part will of course take work on your own account. Take responsibility for yourself – use Google, find sites like Black Girl Dangerous, Everyday Feminism, etc that have countless articles and narratives about race (and often include intersectionality of race and other identities). I often try to have a collection of resources about social justice issues so this can be a starting point to finding other resources.

Some places to start however:

Another thing to keep in mind while acting as an ally is to realize that not only is it a constant set of behaviors but it’s also not about you/us/whiteness. Do not make things about you; do not center yourself. Take the sidelines and center marginalized people when they speak. Mia Mckenzie says it better than I ever could and wrote on Black Girl Dangerous that:

It’s not supposed to be about you. It’s not supposed to be about your feelings. It’s not supposed to be a way of glorifying yourself at the expense of the folks you claim to be an ally to. It’s not supposed to be a performance. It’s supposed to be a way of living your life that doesn’t reinforce the same oppressive behaviors you’re claiming to be against. (source)

Of course, all of this is just the tip of an iceberg, the beginning of a journey. There is so much more information and context and history out there to learn and understand. So for now and like many other posts I have written, consider this just step one of many and not an ending point in any regard.

Spoiler Alert: white people can’t become people of color.

Recently, Twitter exploded in a flurry over the fact that the current Spokane NAACP chapter president wasn’t in fact a black woman like she had been portraying for years but in fact a white woman in blackface. The news that Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, was called out by her own parents recently for portraying herself as black.

This story, of course, opened a massive can of worms about race and interestingly enough, gender. There have been some arguing that if you can be transgender (and not identify with the gender you were assigned at birth), then you can also be transracial (and thus, identify as a race/ethnicity that you are not). This mindset is completely false however, especially considering that’s not what transracial means. But, as a white person, I’ll never ever be able to truly articulate everything that wrong in regards to identifying as a race you are not so here are so tweets and articles to read through.

tumblr_npur9wGlIR1qbuju8o1_540 [Image of a Facebook post from Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey saying: Another point that was brought up on Tumblr that’s worth sharing… As a black woman I can’t just decide to be white and enjoy the privileges of being white. And no, not even having a white husband let’s me buy into white privilege. So no, Rachel cannot just decide to change her race and call it a day. When it comes to POC passing as white, it’s not comparable because they are not actively changing themselves to look white (and even if they are changing their appearance) they are still POC, even if people code them as white in their daily lives. Not to mention YEARS of institutional racism and society telling POC that whiteness is the standard, which accounts for internalized racism is not comparable. At all. Please don’t bring up Michael Jackson, cause ya’ll clowned him endlessly and we still knew he was black. Finally, in the past, for black people passing was in some ways a means of survival ut also incredibly dangerous and at one time illegal. Rachel’s low budget blackface jaunt doesn’t compare in any way shape or form. Please stop caping for this woman and please stop using her behavior to demean trans people who’s [sic] lives are in danger and rights are dismissed because of their gender.] (For a better quality photo and the tumblr post where I found this: click here)
Tumblr posts and responses:

Articles:

  • The White Skinned Elephant in the Room
  • Rachel Dolezal is Nothing like Caitlyn Jenner and Here’s Why
  • Rachel Dolezal and the Trouble with White Womanhood
    • From this article:
    • First and foremost, the trouble with Rachel Dolezal passing as a black woman is that by doing this she’s taken resources away from another person who is structurally situated as black (in addition to having phenotype that goes with that structural position). So, just looking back at her resume that we know of from 2007 – she got a full ride scholarship at historically black Howard University — an education that would have gone to an otherwise black person.

  • Why Comparing Rachel Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner is Detrimental to Both Trans and Racial Progress
    • From this article:
    • Transracial identity is a concept that allows white people to indulge in blackness as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being black entails — discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and so on. It plays into racial stereotypes, and perpetuates the false idea that it is possible to “feel” a race. As a white woman, Dolezal retains her privilege; she can take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being black. Her connection to racial oppression is something she has complete control over, a costume she can put on — and take off — as she pleases.

  • The Huge Problem With the Rachel Dolezal Scandal that Everyone Needs to Know
  • One Tweet Perfectly Shows Everything Wrong With What Rachel Dolezal Did – In Her Own Words
  • Transgender vs. Transracial: Caitlyn Jenner & Rachel Dolezal
    • From this article:
    • The concept of race as we understand it today developed as an extension of colonialism in tandem with the scientific revolution, where science was used to definitively classify people, rank them along variables such as beauty and intelligence, and solidify whiteness as the ideal in each category.  The scientific community “objectively” placing white people at the top was a way to justify the maltreatment of non-white people further down the list, because white is the pinnacle of humanity and the further you differentiate away from that, the closer you are to beasts.  That is where race comes from.  Race isn’t even 400 years old and it’s a flexible standard by which to judge people.

    • One last strike against anyone claiming to be transracial:  It only works one way.  Only white people can claim to be another race on the inside and then “perform” that race because race operates with white as the default.  Racial classifications are based on deviations FROM whiteness.  Rachel could pay a Black woman to do her hair and then pick up some NARS bronzer and say “Look!  I’m not white!”  I can’t straighten my hair and put chalk on my face while saying “Look!  I’m not Black!”  Transracial as a concept is another extension of white privilege, with those people – firmly situated at the top of society – experiencing an overwhelming need to identify with some other culture to validate their misplaced feelings of oppression because of their affinity for said culture.

  • 8 Things White People Need to Understand about Race
  • Transracial doesn’t mean what Rachel Dolezal thinks it means 

#McKinney protests

By now, you might have heard the incredibly racist interaction between police officers and black teenagers at a pool party in McKinney, Texas a few days ago. One officer in particular pulled his gun out on several unarmed and swimsuit clad black teenagers and ended up dragging a black girl down by her hair and sat on her. I’m not going to link to the video that was taken by a white teenage bystander or the photos that have surfaced for a couple reasons but I did want to share some of the articles, photos, and videos that have come out of the protests following the interaction.

Mic has a list of 23 incredible photos from the protests.

Black People are Not a Reason to Call the Police – this article does have the video of what happened, just as a warning

What McKinney truly exposed for the mainstream is a deep and dangerous white fear of black bodies – this article also has photos from that afternoon

The ‘Invisible’ White Man Holding the Camera in McKinney – again includes photos and videos of that afternoon but highlights the safety and privilege of whiteness. A good quote from this includes:

Privilege means being invisible when the police sense trouble. It means feeling like the bullets and batons will never be used against you. It means feeling safe.

McKinney Pool Party Fight Started by Racist Whites Says Teen

#SayHerName – Protesting Police Brutality Against Black Women

Protests surrounding police brutality, the extrajudicial killings of black people around the US, and violent white supremacy have made dramatic waves over the past several months. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been a calling cry since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and has been a rallying cry for some protests. #HandsUpDontShoot and #ICantBreathe have also been other rallying cries, in reference to the deaths of Micheal Brown and Eric Garner respectively.

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[Image of several black women demonstrating topless in San Francisco on May 21st.]

#SayHerName became a hashtag and protest call to bring attention to the violence faced by black women around the country. The poet Aja Monet wrote and preformed a poem under the same name and called out the names of the black women and girls who have been murdered by police.

There have also been numerous demonstrations around the country in response to a call to action from the Black Youth Project. Some articles about the demonstrations are below, including the fact that several incredible women went topless in protest and shut down the Financial District in San Francisco:

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[Image reading: black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to be targeted by police and incarcerated than white women.]

The African American Policy Forum has a long list of resources, statistics, and general information about the police brutality against black women if you are looking for more information.

 

I think that being able to support and amplify the voices and work done by the activists fighting against the white supremacy so built into the fabric of US society is incredibly important. (Especially supporting and amplifying black women. And not forgetting about the intersectionality of gender, class, race, sexuality, etc.) Supporting platforms like Black Girl Dangerous, #BlackLivesMatter, and Operation Help or Hush is always important. There is also a Black Girls Lead conference, an opportunity for black girls between the ages of 13-17 years old this upcoming summer and is an offshoot of BlackGirlsRock.

 

 

Telling Someone Else’s Story and the White Savior Complex

One thing that has come to be my biggest pet peeves is allies trying to tell someone else’s story. While I was growing up and finding my own way as a beginning activist, I was fed the narrative to speak for those who are voiceless. But as I grew and learned, I realized that no one is inherently voiceless – people often are able and should be allowed to share their own stories, to create their own narratives.

Part of being an activist, of being an ally with any community is to listen to the people tell their own stories and lift up their voices rather than drown out them out by talking more loudly. And more often than not, if you’re not a part of the community, odds are you have no idea the extent of the issues or the solutions that could actually work. Linda Martin Alcoff wrote about the problem of speaking for others; some of her main points include listening to less privileged speakers instead of speaking over them and remain open to criticism.

For a transcript of the video, click here.

And a lot that comes with this topic is the problematic nature of white saviors because there’s this idea, this nature that as white people living in a western country (like the US), we have the answers to ending oppression and the world’s problems. Teju Cole wrote about the white savior industrial complex, highlighting some campaigns like #StopKony/#Kony2012.  Anne Theriault wrote about the white feminist savior complex, touching on some of the points that Cole wrote about particularly in the context of white western feminism. Toi Scott wrote about the problems with the white savior complex, including tokenization of people of color and erroneous assumptions. Julie Hall wrote about what really happens when white saviors try to ‘save’ Muslim women, writing specifically about an interaction she had with a white man attempting to ‘save’ Muslim women, saying that:

Not only that, but he denies women of color agency and heroizes himself and Western people who work in the developing world. “We, we, we, we, we,” he intoned. We have to take initiative.We have to go to the local authorities. We have to start these projects. We have to help them see. Because they obviously can’t fix any problems without the aid of the Great White Hero.

His condescension towards me is more than personally irritating. It is representative of how privileged people treat marginalized people. His disrespect of my work experience was evident and, regrettably, predictable. A white man arrogantly attempting to demean a woman of color is not new or shocking.

Having agency and control of your own narrative is such a unbelievably important thing, especially for marginalized communities whose stories are often removed to be told by others. Being an ally to any community and being an activist in general, to me, means listening to and uplifting the voices of those trying to speak. Highlighting the stories and narratives from marginalized and oppressed communities is a critical part of acting as an ally (particularly since a big part of being an ally also includes not having all of the focus on you).