Monthly Archives: May 2012

I may be a Sociology major. I may want to be a Sociologist. But African-American Studies MADE me.

It was the first thing I fell in love with on this campus. Everything that I do, I do because it said I could, because it changed my implicit definitions of “scholarship” and “intellectually significant”. It made me realize how much I didn’t know about my people, about myself, and about what learning should feel like. And so, while I was off the map when Schafer Riley attacked those graduate students and the discipline I think of as home, I’ll be damned if I stand for it. The work we do is important BECAUSE it’s not mainstream, because despite all of the post-racialness people like Riley proclaim, no one will do this scholarship if we don’t. #Blackademicsunite 

Without Black Studies, what would we know of black protest of Jim Crow, slave revolts (and white suppression of records of these revolts), or the medical exploitation of black and brown bodies? Who would chronicle not just the struggle, but the achievements, creativity, and joys of black lives and experiences? Do naysayers really imagine white scholarship, on its own, has given an honest account on these topics? Or are such accounts simply irrelevant to them?
If anything is intellectually fraudulent, it’s scholarship that, consciously and not, excludes POC scholars or ignores race and ethnicity as categories of analysis. We all, white people included, need Ethnic Studies. Both academic scholarship and our understanding of the world are better, more honest, more robust with them than otherwise.
None of this is to say that black studies is perfect. Like many academic disciplines, it can be deeply bound to “traditional” approaches that marginalize scholarship from or about women, queer, and/or trans people. But it’s also the case that substantive critiques of Black Studies by scholars who take race and racism seriously (i.e., not Sowell and Steele) already exist. That critics are wholly ignorant of both the contributions and critiques of Black Studies is an example of what Spelman anthropologist Erica L. Williams describes as the “emotional labor” PoC scholars “must perform … beyond our job descriptions” and not just in the humanities. The considerable stresses of educating and producing scholarship are compounded by the suspicion and racial hostility PoC scholars routinely face.
PoCs are constantly expected to be emotional midwives to white people. Attempts to claim space or identity for ourselves—without deference to whiteness—are inevitably met with suspicion, anger, fear, and guilt (witness white anger over the President’s racial self-identification). We’re expected to have a conversation on race and racism that centers and assuages white emotions, to speak about race in terms and frameworks that are neither by, for, or ultimately about us. What little space we’re afforded in mainstream media is taken up with 101-level education, demands that we justify our existence, and prove the merit of our perspectives and accomplishments beyond the shadow of a doubt. White critics and, occasionally, other people of color, often feel a casual entitlement to pass judgment on PoC narratives of our own experiences, and on our scholarship, without putting in the effort to learn about or engage with either.
–T. F. Charlton
(via Racialicious

Another way to look at sex-positivity

“Human beings took our animal need for palatable food … and turned it into chocolate souffles with salted caramel cream. We took our ability to co-operate as a social species … and turned it into craft circles and bowling leagues and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We took our capacity to make and use tools … and turned it into the Apollo moon landing. We took our uniquely precise ability to communicate through language … and turned it into King Lear.

None of these things are necessary for survival and reproduction. That is exactly what makes them so splendid. When we take our basic evolutionary wiring and transform it into something far beyond any prosaic matters of survival and reproduction … that’s when humanity is at its best. That’s when we show ourselves to be capable of creating meaning and joy, for ourselves and for one another. That’s when we’re most uniquely human.

And the same is true for sex. Human beings have a deep, hard-wired urge to replicate our DNA, instilled in us by millions of years of evolution. And we’ve turned it into an intense and delightful form of communication, intimacy, creativity, community, personal expression, transcendence, joy, pleasure, and love. Regardless of whether any DNA gets replicated in the process.

Why should we see this as sinful? What makes this any different from chocolate souffles and King Lear?”

#thestruggleneverends

It only changes form. 

Sometimes my feelings can only accurately be expressed through meme generators.

There are 64 email threads under my “DC Housing” label in my Gmail account, and I send more email inquiries legitimately every day. And yet, I do not yet have a place to call home outside of the state of New Jersey. I took a trip to DC earlier this week to meet people and view places I had had positive email interactions with, hoping to come, see, and conquer the DC housing market in two days. The third of the five places I saw, I fell in love with nearly at first sight. It was all I could do not to gasp as I was given a tour of the apartment, and I could see myself becoming fast friends with the roommate. She was a Black girl with loose curly hair and awesome earrings who is a PoliSci major at Howard. COME ON NOW. Maybe I was overeager and scared her off. Maybe a friend of hers or the girl who is moving out got the room. I don’t know. All I know is I had already started envisioning myself in that space and was feeling quite comfortable there when I got the email saying they’d decided to go with someone else. That email was quickly followed by one from a place I wasn’t interested in, saying the same thing. My second choice place had had two rooms available, but the one that was in my price range and with my more favorable move-in date was accounted for already. It was like my whole trip had been for naught.

So I had a mini-breakdown and then reopened padmapper and craigslist and kept looking. I’m now waiting to hear back from two people in a lovely house who sound really nice about a room that’s available July 1, and then will have to work out where to stay for my first week of work. I see a fairly expensive sublet for two weeks from June 15-30, or I could try to see if I could stay at a friend’s parents’ house or with one of my older sister’s friends, or if my mom wouldn’t absolutely freak out at the idea of me doing Airbnb for a week. There’s a room available with this black girl in Arlington for $40/night that could be fabulous and maybe we could even be friends.

During the writing of this post, I was contacted to say that the other roommate in the July 1 place wants someone older. The search continues. My parents are both using the “everything happens for a reason” route to suggest that something better will come along. I have no choice but to believe them (or carry out a half-assed plan to just sleep in my private office and shower in the gym in my building). Someone will want to live with me. I’m a cool person, I promise! Lots of people like me. I make really good pancakes. I’d want to hang out with my roommates sometimes, do brunch or drinks or throw a party or something. I’m social but not cray. I’m a little older at heart than 22. Always have been. Someone will want to live with me. 

I just hope it happens in the next six days, or I’ll have to call work and admit defeat on my first deadline before I even start…    

W.E.B. Du Bois called it "double consciousness." Some current scholars say "epistemic privilege."

What I see is that the struggle for recognition as whole entities is the struggle for recognition as whole entities, no matter what particular version of wholeness you’re fighting for. Not that individual and group differences don’t matter–that’s a statement that would never ever come out of my mouth and y’all know it–but that we should be able to recognize our strivings in the strivings of other people(s). Maybe not equate them, but support them as we support ourselves. For how can you ask to be seen if you refuse to see?

“I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to note that women, from a young age, are required to consider the reality of the opposite gender’s consciousness in a way that men aren’t. This isn’t to say that women don’t often misunderstand, mistreat, and stereotype men, both in literature and in life. But on a basic level, functioning in society requires that women register that men are fully conscious; it is not really possible for a woman to throw up her hands and write men off as eternally unknowable space aliens — and even if she says she has, she cannot really behave as though she has. Every element of her life — from reading books about boys and men to writing papers about the motivations of male characters to being attentive to her own safety to navigating most any institutional or professional or economic sphere — demands an ironclad familiarity with, and belief in, the idea that men really are fully human entities. And no matter how many men come to the same conclusions about women, the structure of society simply does not demand so strenuously that they do so. If you didn’t really deep down believe that women were, in general, exactly as conscious as you, you could probably still get by in life. You could probably still get a book deal. You could probably still get elected to office.”
—Jennifer duBois, Writing Across Gender (via florida-uterati)
To apply a bit of intersectionality to this…women of color and the many marginalized communities we belong to—especially communities of color—have been saying this for a minute.

I’m going to miss easy physicality with people.

I don’t remember why this came up, but I clearly remember saying this during the wee-hours-of-the-morning drunken conversation KS, EY, and I had the night before last: 

“You know who I kissed twice last night? CB. You know who I’m not attracted to at all? CB.”

I also remember KS being confused by my shirtless snuggles with MT and my having kissed him the week before (#truthdarekissorcody #middleschooldrinkinggamenight #dranglerproblemsawesomesauce), so I decided not to mention having also held MT and JD’s hands that night or been in a cuddle/feel-up puddle with DS, SW, and RW the night before. When you’re with a group of people that will get up and run around the house naked on a moment’s notice, touching each other isn’t always the biggest deal. But even when I’m not talking about PQCSS members or that kind of touching, it’s still really easy to be physically affectionate with a lot of the people I’m (sometimes not even particularly) close to on this campus: for example, there are at least two guys in my eating club who I usually initiate interaction with by running my fingers through their hair and massaging their scalps. We used to get a small Asian female member who has since graduated to walk on our backs, and massage circles are still quite prevalent. It’s not uncommon for people to sit on other people’s laps for no particular reason; we’re quite cuddly. 

And I thrive on that. Granted, I don’t have that kind of easy physicality with KS or EY, and they are the people I’m “closest” to overall on this campus, but there are few other people I call close friends that I would hesitate to put my arm around in daily life. ChoosingPancakes was entertained by the fact that my strongest love language on this quiz we both took was physical touch, because that was one of her weakest. I don’t just mean sex or sexual-ish touches when I say I value physical touch as one of the strongest ways to show me you care about me. It can be little things, like hugs that feel like you mean it, or not feeling the need to jerk your knee away if it meets mine under a table or on a couch, or an arm around a shoulder for no reason at all. It’s rubbing my back when you’re comforting me while I’m crying. It’s me being in your space/you being in mine not being a big deal. That’s how friends should be, in my opinion, but I know that a lot of people have much stricter restrictions on even light physicality than I do and try to respect them (though that sort of goes out the window when I’m drunk, oops). For me, it can certainly also mean being able to do things like hold hands and snuggle in various degrees of undress and kiss in front of a room of cheering friends on a dare without it being a big deal, but again, I recognize and respect that most people have lines they draw in this arena.

What worries me, though, is when I get to wondering if I’ll ever have this kind of easy physicality with a group of people ever again. I had it for a while in high school–one of my fondest memories from sophomore year will always be laying on the floor in PD’s living room watching Pirates of the Caribbean with my head in the small of TJ’s back and him telling me he would be my pillow anytime–and I have it here in this amazing community of ‘Dranglers (who mean more to me than I may ever be able to express), but conceptualizations I have of the “real world” suggest that maybe it’s something about youth and chosen communities, that grown folks don’t do that.  I feel like in some respects, adults revert to like middle school rules about what touching someone means, and it makes me sad. 

Side note: Did I ever tell you how when I was holding PD’s hand at an Applebees once to comfort her while she was telling me about a breakup and some dude came up to our able to ask if we were lesbians? I both appreciate the acceptance of this as a possibility by our unknown audience and am mad that two people interacting with each other physically must be presumed to be romantically involved.

If being okay with you touching me and vice versa is a quality of youth, then I want to stay young for as long as I can while I grow up. How do I find other people who want to stay young in the same way? I don’t necessarily need people who will laugh at bad porn together on a giant television in the middle of the night or play shirtless ruits (though that would be AWESOME), but I want people who understand that the unequivocal best way to watch a movie is while snuggling, people who won’t read anything more into me laying my head on their shoulder than I find your presence enjoyable. But I feel like that kind of easy physicality only comes from like, spending all your time together in intensely social subcultural spaces, and that seems difficult to recreate in the 9-5, separate addresses, lack of communal spaces world. I feel like if I want someone to replace the guys whose hair I like to fluff, I should get a pet. Sigh. 

Growing up stinks. I want to change it. But this revolution can’t just be personal…