Monthly Archives: August 2013

A thousand blessings

A thousand blessings

unto whomever or whatever put that smile on her face.

Damn.

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Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.

–Tara Mohr, Wise Living

(via All the Many Layers)

Heteronormativity isn’t just about the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. The expectation that boys woo girls feeds into your mind the expectation that relationships are necessary for fulfilment, and you are less than if you are not having particular kinds of sex with a particular, and a particular kind of, person at particular intervals. It’s about what Lauren Berlant calls the love plot, in which love is produced as a generic text enabling society to interpret your life as following certain conventions. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you’re supposed to want. You’re not encouraged to think about what you want in relationships, if anything, so much as you are encouraged to fit a script. Heteronormativity messes things up for everyone, straight people included.

Tossing the script of desire | Zero at the Bone

(via knowledge equals black power)

When I was approached to write a piece to contribute on this series explaining what it means to be Black, I tried to come up with something that we could all relate to as a community, something that affected us all. I quickly came up with something that touches every black American’s existence but is also something that I don’t think is covered as often as it should be. I went a little left from what OD wanted I think, in that I spoke about a negative aspect of what I think blackness is and how it needs to be changed. Hopefully, it is enlightening and thought provoking nonetheless.

I think to be black is to always be trying to satisfy someone else’s desires for how you live your own life. In other words, being black represents a loss of individuality; a loss of control, for better or for worse. I heard that ?uestlove once said that the hardest thing for a black man to be is normal. In other words, if a black man’s lifestyle isn’t in line with an image others have of him, he’s considered to be abnormal. One way that this may be expressed is through an “abnormal” black man’s white friends remarking that he’s “not really black” or another black person remarking that a black man’s Radiohead, Nirvana, and Zero 7 mp3s are “white boy music.” This pressure from multiple sides to fit into a narrow set of likes, dislikes, desires, and tastes is something that both black men and women are forced into from the time that they’re first able to speak. I think that the internalization of white supremacy in American culture is something that a lot of black people are aware of in our community. Yet, this hasn’t prevented us from placing pressure on ourselves to conform and to stay within the archetype hoisted upon blacks.

Last month on Twitter, a conversation started about spanking children. I remarked that while I would employ spanking as a disciplinary tactic with my future children, it would only be used in extreme cases as a last resort, and that too often, spanking was used by parents who were already in anger about something that had nothing to do with the child or the offense that child committed. In response, a former classmate tweeted me a hashtag of the name of the high school I graduated from. We both attended high school in the same suburb but mine was considered the more affluent and white of the two. Now, I know he was only joking and didn’t mean anything by it but still, to me it’s a good example of some of the stereotypes black people cling onto and try to pigeonhole ourselves into that we probably shouldn’t. In reality, what was so wrong, or so “white”, about what I said? That spanking should only be used as a last resort when all else has failed and that using it while angry over other things is wrong and should be avoided. That’s “white” thinking? It’s “black” to spank first, over any mistake a child makes, and if you happen to be angry over something else and may be just taking a little steam off on someone who can’t do anything about it, oh well? I think when you take thoughts like these out to their logical conclusions and make people think about what they’re really saying, the absurdity and problem of it comes full surface. It seems that for the most part, these forced attributes and actions are in the negative context of what black people don’t and can’t do, stifling our individuality and creativity. With entire segments of the population on the outside of our community pushing a narrow-minded narrative of what a black person really is, why do they need our help to accomplish this?

In a post-Obama election world where a nostalgia for blacks mindful of their place manifests itself in the form of popular entertainment vehicles such as The Help and Mad Men or bills passed through Tea Party-controlled state legislatures nationwide designed to suppress the minority vote or resegregate schools, the effort to group blacks together as a monolith is alive and well amongst non-black groups. Of the 684,330 people stopped under the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk program, 59 percent were black while only 9 percent were white. Black people cannot sit on the couch and be entertained or walk down the street without being reminded by non-blacks that regardless of the lives they lead or the skills they possess, it is expected that they take a backseat in matters of workplace status, citizenship, and that they most likely engage in criminal activity. With so many obstacles to the pursuit of a life where one can be themselves and not just one of “them” already placed in front of blacks without our choosing, shouldn’t the inside of our community be a rest haven away from it?

To stifle individuality, to encourage group think and conformity, is to stunt intellectual growth. Granted, due to the aforementioned legislative and legal challenges in the previous paragraph, some movement as a unit is needed to fight off injustice. However, the smaller instances I’ve described can work to hurt us and impede people from reaching their full potential. If a small black child shows an interest in the sky and asks for telescope, encourage it, feed their curiosity. With the right breaks, he or she can become the media‘s go to expert when it comes to matters of science like Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson or Derek Pitts. Rock music is black music, let your child pick up a guitar and they may become the next Slash or Jimi Hendrix or Prince. While a desire to instill black pride is understandable and admirable, it can also work to confine black people to places where we’ve always been instead of push us out into places where we need to go. Part of being black is not being allowed to be an individual by anyone, whether it be a racist asshole on Fox News or your cousin down the street. Our individuality is an important part of our lives. We only get to live once. And we shouldn’t have to spend that time living in a manner that satisfies anyone else other than ourselves.

–What.Is.Black? The Absence of Individualism. – Big G.

(via knowledge equals black power)

Our categories are important. We cannot organize a social life, a political movement, or our individual identities and desires without them. The fact that categories invariably leak and can never contain all the relevant “existing things” does not render them useless, only limited. Categories like “woman,” “butch,” “lesbian,” or “transsexual” are all imperfect, historical, temporary, and arbitrary. We use them, and they use us. We use them to construct meaningful lives, and they mold us into historically specific forms of personhood. Instead of fighting for immaculate classifications and impenetrable boundaries, let us strive to maintain a community that understands diversity as a gift, sees anomalies as precious, and treats all basic principles with a hefty dose of skepticism.

Gayle Rubin “Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries.” 1992. Reprinted  in The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, 2006, page 479.

(via Queering the Game of Life)

I feel like I’m supposed to have some opinion about this whole Miley Cyrus VMA performance. I haven’t actually watched it in its entirety, but I have seen enough clips, GIFs, tweets, and scathing critiques that I have a pretty good idea of what happens.

My first reaction is to say, ‘Little Hannah Montana done lost her goddamn mind.’ But as soon as that thought crosses my mind, I chastise myself–there is absolutely no reason to criticize or even shame her for doing something I’d do on a dark dance floor on national television. I won’t pretend for a minute that “face-down-ass-up” isn’t a position I find myself in from time to time, so I sure as hell can’t knock her for it. In fact, given my general feelings about openness with regards to one’s body and one’s sexuality, I almost feel like I should be applauding her for not giving a damn what anyone thinks. #doyouboo

But then people keep throwing this word “appropriation” around. And I’ll admit, appropriation is a concept I struggle with, especially with regard to something as complex, multifaceted, and thoroughly disagreed upon as “black culture.” The air-quotes there are legit–I can’t feel comfortable using that term in the singular. So Miley twerks. In order for Miley twerking to be appropriation, twerking must be a “black thing,” some part of our culture that she is using for her own benefit without any of the repercussions that face members of the actual group when they engage in this activity, right? Well, when as my friend R put it on Facebook, we’re seeing more media about Miley Cyrus twerking than we are about Syria, I think that Miley is facing repercussions. But that’s not even the part I want to push back on–why is twerking a black thing? Who decided that? Am I supposed to claim it as some inherent part of my culture? Because, uh, bump that shit. It’s a dance. I think of it as an American thing, I guess. As a Millennial thing. Maybe even as a ratchet thing. But I don’t think Black folk have a monopoly on ratchetness, even if we coined that term. (Did we? Ioneenkno.)

I am not rejecting our right to ratchetness out of some desire to appear proper or respectable or some such bullshit. All I’m saying is, as far as I’m concerned, shaking your ass is a fundamental human right. I don’t think anyone can own that shit, and so I don’t know that Miley can be stealing twerking from us as a people. I honestly don’t think I give a shit either way. It’s her body and she can do what she wants with it as long as she’s not hurting anybody–this is my philosophy about all persons at all times.

What I DO find problematic about her performance is the moment which she smacks the ass of one of her backup dancers and proceeds to pantomime rubbing her face in it. That crosses the line into using another person’s body as a prop, showcasing its difference from your own in a dehumanizing and stereotype-enforcing manner. I agree with those critics who are likening that moment to the way in which Sarah Baartman was made into a living caricature of black womanhood in 19th century Europe. And what I find most problematic about the discussion about her performance is that no one who is shaking their head at her is giving Robin Thicke any shit–he was just as much of a participant as she was, so cut him a slice of the shit pie if you’re serving it.

Tl;dr: In the wise words of Missy Elliott, “Girls, girls, get that cash/ if it’s 9-to-5 or shakin ya ass/ Ain’t no shame ladies do your thang/ Just make sure you’re ahead of the game”

I’m straight up jealous of everyone that doesn’t have to think about racism. I can only imagine how free they are. I’d like a life that didn’t involve me mourning young men I’ve never met as martyrs. There are people who can say, without laughing, that the election of the nation’s first black president means that racism, as a defining factor of American life, is over. I envy those people who are able to look at President Obama and see only progress. Like many, I was overcome with emotion I still can’t quite define that night in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected. But the thrill is gone and in the aftermath all I can see is Sean, Oscar and Trayvon standing behind him asking everyone ‘when does this end?’

— Mychal Denzel Smith, “Sean, Oscar and Trayvon”

(via Love, Labia & Liberation)

Consider that you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this, you are traveling at 220 km/sec across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you.” The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato.

The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.

–NASA Lunar Science Institute, We Originated in the Belly of a Star (2012)

(via QueerIntersectional)

#nerdgasm