“Being of the times”.

Last night I started rewatching a show that I was a causal fan of during high school. I hadn’t seen the first few seasons in a really long time so finding out they were on Netflix was really nice! But rewatching the first season has been really awful, especially since many of the episodes focus solely on terrorism and many of the foiled terrorists are from the Middle East or of Middle Eastern descent.

I ended up texted a friend about my frustration and anger regarding this representation because so far in my marathon, there’s been exactly one reoccurring person of color in the cast and he’s an assistant who barely talks and didn’t have a name until the second or third episode (if I recall). (And if knowledge serves me right, he gets replaced by another white man late on – I know it’s so shocking.)

I could go into depth about generalizing and representing an entire group of people into one homogenous stereotype but for the sake of clarity and for me to not get completely sidetracked at the moment, that’ll be for another day.

So during the middle of my texting rant, my friend responded with the fact that the show started in 2003 and the writers were just “being of the times”. This response only made me want to even more tables in frustration because that’s not a justification for what happened. That’s an explanation for the racist bullshit that occurs but that doesn’t mean people are suddenly exempt from not being shitty.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to articulate why this idea that the problematic nature of different things is okay because of historical context is so frustrating. A part of it has to do with the fact that this idea also seems to imply (to me at least) that the US has gotten better about racism when in reality, it really doesn’t matter. Mychal Denzel Smith wrote how the question of whether or not we’re better in regards to racism is actually pretty useless, saying among other things that:

…I truly believe “Are things better?” is one of the most useless questions in a discussion about racism. It’s another in a repertoire of rhetorical tricks we use in this country to avoid the hard work of addressing racism in its modern form. By reframing the conversation around how much progress has been made, we further the false narrative that racism is a problem that belongs to history. While we pat ourselves on the back for not being as horrible as we once were, we allow racism to become further entrenched in every aspect of American life.

And I think that’s what really articulates my frustration with using the phrase “being of the times” as far as racism goes. Because it removes all sense of responsibility to own up to shitty past behavior and places blame on context. Noah Berlatsky wrote about the ‘product of its time’ defense is no excuse for both sexism and racism, saying in particular that:

…the idea that sexism or racism is “a product of its time” assumes that the past was self-evidently worse than the present, that culture progresses in some sort of straight-line fashion, and that we can therefore assume that folks now are smarter and more enlightened than folks in the past. This is unduly flattering to the present, which has by no means overcome prejudice or stereotype.


Recently, there have been several predominately black churches (and a couple other churches that are not predominately black) that have had massive fires cause significant damage. Phillip Jackson wrote about we know so far over at The Root and highlighted each church that has burned down so far.

Initial findings point to lightening as the cause of the fire in just one church in South Carolina but several of the other church fires appear to be arson. Within a week, there were five predominately black churches in the South that had been burnt down and arson was suspected in three of those cases. The FBI and other government agencies are looking into the church fires that have crossed over multiple state lines to see if there is a wave of hate crimes being targeted at predominately black churches. Alan Blinder and Richard Perez-Pena wrote an article about the lightening struck church in South Carolina for the New York Times and wrote that:

Investigators have found no evidence that any of the fires are connected and no indications of hate crimes. At least two were deliberately set… with two still of unclear origins.

Despite such assurances, the fires have sent a chill through black congregations that are well aware of a long history of their churches being targeted for violence by racists. As recently as the 1990s, there was a wave of dozens of arson fires at black churches, mostly in the South. (source)

I don’t go to church regularly and I’ve spent most of my life questioning faith. But I do know how important faith, community, and places of worship are for many people and the fact that so many churches have burned out in such a short time is terrifying and heartbreaking. Churches should be safe spaces, places to come together in community and to worship. But with the latest string of arson and violence, are there any truly safe spaces at this point?

The Twitter hashtag #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches has been calling not only on the media to start better reporting on this issue but to also bring attention to the fact that we do not know for sure how these fires started. And I think it’s important that as white people, we also call for an end to this violence and to answers about what has happened.

#FreeBree – Bree Newsome and the incredible act of capture the flag.

image1This is yet another really late post and many probably have already heard what happened but I still wanted to write about Bree Newsome – the black woman who scaled a flag pole and removed the confederate flag that was still flying over the South Carolina capitol. She, along with her partner in crime who was on guard below the pole, were both arrested and were charged with “defacing monuments on state capitol grounds”. There has been a petition started to drop the charges that also has more information.

Newsome released a statement to Blue Nation Review, where she wrote about her work regarding racial justice and community organizing and overall, wrote an incredibly powerful statement. She wrote about standing in solidarity with all marginalized and oppressed and being heartbroken over the murders of the nine black Bible study members in Charleston and that #BlackLivesMatter. At one point, she wrote in particular that:

For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites. And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.

It’s a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders.

There have also been many amazing art works done in honor of Bree and what she did. All of them are so well done and capture the amazing grace of Bree and her act.

Unfortunately Bree has been getting a lot of death threats and general negative comments because of her amazing act of civil disobedience. So her family has been asking for people to send in encouraging words and love for her to [email protected] I’ve sent in an email with some love and encouragement but again: Bree – you are wonderful and amazing and thank you so much for your act of civil disobedience! The flag needs to go and you scaling that flag pole was tremendous.

Media Monday: Queer and Trans Artists of Color – Interviews by Nia King

4659300I finally got around to reading through Nia King’s book “Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives” and I honestly could not love and recommend this book enough. There are so many honest and amazing stories from queer and trans artists of color who share their experiences of trying to or making it as an artist. The spectrum of jobs and experiences are amazing to read through and it’s refreshing to read through the stories told by the people living through them.

Not only that but Nia is a really great interviewer – each conversation always covers an amazing array of topics. And each conversation often talked about similar issues (struggling to make it as an artist, gender, sexuality, the person’s story) but reading through each interview still felt fresh and nothing seemed repetitive. In addition, every interview reads really organically (props to the co-editors for helping the words go from the way people talk to paragraphs and sentences that are easy to read).

One of the things that I also really love about this book is being able to read and understand the stories and beliefs of the artists in their own words. They are the ones controlling their own narratives and that is so often missing from mainstream media. (Hello lack of diversity in so many mainstream things.)

I also know how much work Nia has and continues to regularly put into this project – from getting other queer and trans people of color to write transcripts (and compensating for the work), to having the interviews in audio form, to getting a wide range of people with different backgrounds and art forms to talk with. Her book comes from the interviews she does on her podcast We Want the Airwaves and if you have the ability to, I definitely recommend supporting her work!

#Pride should be proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter.

We are reaching the end of Pride month within the United States (and in some other countries as well), with this weekend being the last Pride weekend of 2015. Celebrations in New York City and Seattle have been going on all weekend long but it’s so important to remember in the midst of celebrating this past week’s SCOTUS marriage decision, that there is still a huge pile of stuff to fight for.

Additionally: There was a #BlackOutPride action that disrupted the Chicago Pride Parade today, calling for the end of the constant erasure within the queer community. A few weeks ago, a similar action was done at the Boston Pride Parade, in which activists stopped the parade for 11 minutes in protest.

I’ve been writing SO much about the issue of erasure and single issue focus over the past few weeks but the fact of the matter is that this is such an important thing for the LGBTQ+ community to be addressing. And to be honest, the reason I keep writing and keep addressing all of these things over and over again is because I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important or to forget the most marginalized.

Looking at incidents like Jennicet Gutiérrez getting booed and jeered by fellow queer people or marriage seemingly being the most mainstream queer issue is incredibly upsetting because rather than fight for all, it seems to be the case that the most privileged in the queer community (white, middle/upper class, cis, etc) are just fighting for themselves and the issues that pertain to them. (Of course this doesn’t mean that every single fairly privileged person is terrible and focuses on narrow issues. But that’s another point for another day.)

Pride was started by queer people of color and it’s roots come from a police riot that condemned the legislation and oppression of the entire queer community. Flash forward 45 years since the first march and 46 years since the Stonewall Inn Riots, it seems like Pride has moved away from it’s revolutionary roots and from focusing on intersectionality issues.

Of course, this is all based on my own experiences but I do think it’s important that we as a community step up to the challenges that still face many within our chosen family. We should be spending less time on respectability politics (because that will not save us) and more time on liberation for us all. We (this time we meaning white people) should be loudly proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter because we have helped create and benefited from a society that devalues black life.

We (again, meaning white people) should be supporting black people (and especially black women) in the fight for liberation. We need to use our privilege and our position within society to fight for liberation for all – for people of color, for the working class, for immigrants, for mothers and fathers and families who bury their loved ones too soon, for those with different abilities.

And all of this ties back to Pride because the queer community needs to stop throwing the more marginalized people under the bus as a way to assimilate into the larger mainstream society. We need to work for all, not just some. We need to remember that some of the most influential work has been done by trans women of color and we need to not forget and erase the work done by people of color in our own queer history.

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.

Feminist Friday: The Erasure of Our Own within the Queer Community.

There is so much that I absolutely love and adore about the queer community – this was a community that was often there for me when it felt like no one else was. I’ve gotten support and love and so much from the community but I also realize how much erasure exists here. I’ve learned about the world and about myself in a large part because of the support and resources I’ve found through the queer community. But I’ve also seen more than my fair share of erasure within this same community.

Women, trans folks, and people of color working at the nation’s largest LGBT rights group say they feel excluded: http://t.co/FyWJpdzQge

— BitchMedia (@BitchMedia) June 16, 2015

It’s interesting to see how incredible white and masculine the queer community can be. A report has found that the largest and most funded “LGBT” group in the US (the Human Rights Campaign) is actually more of a white mens club than anything else.

femme1This comic is the first few panels of a much longer comic about the femmephobia within the queer community and 4 ways in which to support queer femmes. In a related article, Erin Tatum wrote about her own experiences as a bisexual person and the glorification of masculinity in the the queer dating scene. Tatum brings up so many good points in that article, including the bi erasure that often occurs and the invalidation of some identities (like bisexuality and pansexuality).

It’s so important to acknowledge the erasure within the queer community, especially for all the identities that are not the LG of LGBTQ+. Josh A. Goodman wrote his experiences as a bisexual man and the barriers that come with non-monosexual identities. Eliel Cruz has written about bisexual erasure before – in particular highlighting how 2014 was the year of bisexual invisibility.

I personally really relate to some of the experiences Michal Jones wrote about in their article on coming out as genderqueer and nonbinary in and out of the queer community. One of the things I particularly relate to was this:

The queer community was one of the first places that I felt free to explore the sides of myself that my childhood tormentors attempted to beat out of me, and still remains a primary source of strength, community, and voice for me.

But as I learned more about the messiness of gender and intersecting identities, I noticed and internalized gender roles and dynamics within queer communities that were reflective of values held by greater,heteronormative society.

everdayfem11-e1425317677882It’s also interesting to see how misogyny shows up within the queer community. Ryan O’Connell wrote about gay men and their not so cute misogyny problem, highlighting some of the misogynistic aspects some gay men have perpetrated.

Transphobia is yet another thing that stays within the queer community and alienates the transgender, gender nonconforming, non binary, and overall trans siblings that exist in the queer community. Laverne Cox says it all so much better than I ever could in the below interview:

(Transcript found here)

And of course, there’s the racism that’s so embedded within so many aspects of US society, including many parts of the queer community at large. Rev. Patricl S. Cheng, Ph.D wrote about his own experiences and other stories of racism against Asian queer people a few years ago, particularly highlighting the racist nature of many planned queer parties.

Like many things I’ve written about in the past, all of this is just the tip of the iceberg about this issue. The exclusionary nature of the mainstream queer community isn’t limited to people who are bisexual or transgender or to people of color. There seems to be a severe lack of intersectionality in the mainstream queer culture (as often highlighted and perpetuated by the Human Rights Campaign, which remains one of the largest and most funded LGBT organizations in the US).


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:

  • So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All Allies Need to Know by Jamie Utt
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Being A Good Ally by Karnythia
  • 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism by Derrick Clifton
  • Becoming a White Ally by Jessica Alzen

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:

  • Race – the Power of an Illusion
    • PBS worked on a series and incredible amount of resources regarding race and this ended up the final product. There are resources, background readings (included below), questions and answers, and so much more.
  • Scientific Background Readings on Race from PBS, including:
    • 10 things everyone should know about race
    • Interview with Joseph Graves, Jr (evolutionary biologist)
  • Historical Background Readings on Race from PBS, including:
    • The Historical Origins and Development of Racism
    • Origin of the Idea of Race
  • Societal Background Readings on Race from PBS
  • A Sociological Definition of Race

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.

Beauty Norms.

Through years and generations and centuries of violent colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism, the US has gotten really great at whitewashing beauty norms and normalizing beauty norms to mean a specific set of physical traits. I, personally, can really only talk about beauty from the stance as someone who has lived almost entirely within the US as a white, fat, queer person. So my own experiences with beauty are warped but also extremely privileged in many ways.

A couple years ago, Dove came out with this video that was supposed to be empowering to women and talked about “real beauty”. (Ya know, the one titled “you’re more beautiful than you think” and basically said that women are our own harshest critics or something.) There have been plenty of critiques of this video, primarily because the video still focuses on women who fit into the conventional beauty norms of the US (white, skinny, young, etc). Golda Poretsky wrote about five different critiques of the video, which I definitely recommend reading through. Similarly, Jazz (last name unknown) wrote a critique about the video and also brings up so many great points, including the fact that there are only a few people of color in the video for only a few seconds. (If you’re at a computer reading this, hover over the text with your mouse and for me at least, it got a little easier to read.)

The sense of beauty within the US (and some other ways) is very dependent on whiteness – having white skin is seen as the default, the “norm”. Lindsay Kite brought up many amazing points about the whitewashing of beauty, specifically talking about how the current beauty ideals uphold whiteness and exclude women of color. Kite also addresses some of the ways in which the massive beauty corporations have repeatedly lightened the skin of many women (such as Gabourey Sidibe in the photos below):

Companies like Loreal and Clairol have come under fire for digitally lightening both the skin color and hair color of black women featured in their advertising…

gabourey-sidibe-photoshop-450-thumb-450x300-764251The fashion and modeling world has also come under attack (for a good reason) about the rampant racism that exists within that industry and the fact that the industry (especially Fashion Week) is getting whiter and whiter. Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn have both come forward with the incredibly racist encounters they have experienced in the fashion industry as models. Chanel Iman opened up about some of the problems that the fashion industry has with race and some of the things she has faced, saying specifically:

“… A few times I got excused by designers who told me ‘we already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.’ I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, ‘we don’t want you because we already have one of your kind, it’s really sad.”

And something that also continues to be a problem regarding beauty norms within the US is the fatphobia and the monetary gain from fat shaming and weight loss. A few months ago, I wrote about my own sense of worth living as a fat queer and unemployed person in a capitalistic society. And that continues to be true because of the way corporations reap the monetary benefits from fat people hating our bodies. US News reported that people in the US spend upwards of $60 billion every single year trying to lose weight.

The Militant Baker has a really great post about the model Tess Munster and how as a society, we have gravitated towards fat shaming and hating fat people who are fat with themselves. Plus sized models are almost nonexistant, especially in the context of actually being realistically plus sized. Most plus sized models rarely wear something larger than a size 16/18 and usually are tall as well. Which is why the 5ft5in and size 22 Tess Munster is getting such an outcry – she doesn’t fit into that plus sized narrative that we as a society have accepted.

In that same article, Jes Baker talks about the concept of body currency – or the idea that if we get to the ideal body size, then we will also obtain love, happiness, worthiness. Baker does highlight the problem with body currency, stating that:

The obvious problem with Body Currency is that thinness doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. It just equals money in the pockets of companies who sell us insecurity to make sure that we’re repeat customers. It’s a real shitty move on their part and leaves anyone who believes in the scam SOL which then makes them angry without really knowing why. So they direct all their angry feels towards those who cheated the system and found the pot of gold without doing any of the goddamn work.

Looking back, it’s easy (for me at least) to see how beauty norms and the concept of beautiful has been rigged to show a small set of physical traits that privilege being thin and being white. There are of course so many other factors that go into beauty norms – including age, class, gender, sexuality, and so many others. It’s important to be critical of the messages we are given through the media and society as a whole because more often than not, those messages are laced with racism, hatred, and overall problematic natures.

And of course, there’s much more that goes into this – particularly regarding race. Because whiteness is valued, put into a position of power, and that’s something that we as white people must be critical of.