Readers, I cannot express how much I appreciate your sticking with me through the past ten years for all my blogging pursuits and other creative and activist endeavors. As you know, the content I create has always been free and will continue to be so. In addition to providing free content, though, I wanted to come up with a way for those who have the desire and the ability to support my blogs as well as some future projects I’ve been working on (did someone say game design? YouTube?)
So today I’m launching a Patreon campaign! You can follow the link to make a small recurring contribution that not only supports my work but also gives you access to awesome patron perks. Want to know more about what I’m working on each month? Want to be able to request blog topics or receive a monthly message just telling you how awesome you are in this messed-up, capitalist hellscape of a world we live in? Well, all you have to do is go to my Patreon page, choose a reward level, and sign up for exclusive content and more! And if you can’t contribute, but want to spread the word, shout-out Tweets are the best.
Thanks so much for your support over the years and keep reading and commenting!
I’m starting to get tired of how often we describe oppressed communities and individuals with an awed praise of their “resilience.” Yes, oppressed folks are often resilient, and there are positive things in that recognition–it’s impressive how creative people can be under stress, how we can survive and sometimes even thrive in remarkable conditions. But praising resilience also hides a lot.
What does resilience really mean? That you’re strong? That you’re connected enough to survive? Who gets to choose who’s resilient and who isn’t? What conditions create resilience? This isn’t a word that we use for everyone. It has an undertone of “hey, good job not crumbling under the horrible thing we just now did to you!” and shifts the spotlight away from the oppressor’s culpability and even tries to reframe a terrible experience as positive. Yes, resilience is impressive, but you know what would be even more impressive? Not subjecting entire groups of people to slavery, genocide, torture, and other forms of oppression in the first place!
When we focus on resilience, we don’t focus on accountability. We’re not talking about how conditions of oppression are created by real live oppressors. We’re not talking about ongoing culpability or solutions that the oppressing group can enact to get the weight off the oppressed person’s back. Instead, we’re saying, please perform daring and magical feats for us with this weight on your back. We’re so impressed by your skill! Framing certain communities–often black women, trans folk, Native people–as “resilient” can be harmful and fail to recognize the harm actually done to those communities.
So when you read the word “resilient” to describe these communities and individuals, if you’re in an oppressing group, take a step back and think twice. Ask yourself, if these survivors are so resilient, who hasn’t survived? Who from the same community have we killed through war, environmental degradation, the criminal injustice system, and similar tactics? Instead of offering back pats for survival, let’s offer changed behavior and meaningful reparations for communities to rebuild.
Recently, I worked with a coach who helped me to realize that I have a pretty messed up relationship with time. Namely, there’s some part of me that thinks I can “win” at time. Well, good luck with that, self. Working with her, I noticed that I’ve got a lot of personal baggage around time, but it’s also thoroughly wrapped up in white dominant culture and capitalism.
Plenty has been said about how white people view time as linear, and that’s sort of weird, but I hadn’t fully grasped it until I started thinking about how I view my long-term goals and values. I realized that I was thinking about most things in life as something I would build upon gradually, but ultimately max out towards the end of my life. In other words, there’s some ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve on a more or less straight path. But in fact, that doesn’t make much sense. What I really want is to be able to live with my values and reach goals throughout my life, with a certain amount of flux expected for prioritizing and re-prioritizing alongside life circumstances.
I was just listening to the most recent episode of the Sexplanations podcast with Dr. Lindsey Doe, where she was joined by another favorite Youtuber of mine, Ash Hardell, to talk about asexuality. Though asexuality is ostensibly the theme of the show, they talk a lot about attraction in general, and different types of attraction–sexual, romantic, platonic, sensual, aesthetic, and alterous. It’s in the discussion of alterous attraction (something between platonic and romantic, such as a queerplatonic relationship), that something comes up that struck me as a bit more monoganormative and heteronormative than Dr. Doe’s usual default, so I thought I’d address it here.
Over the past couple of weeks, I read a couple of critical autobiographies–those of Malcolm X and Assata Shakur. Reading them together, I was struck by a lot of things, but perhaps especially how enduring false narratives of this country are and how those narratives are perpetuated by white people. We hear this time and again from folks of color, how white people are often surprised by actions of the state or the actions of their fellow white folks, rather than recognizing these as enduring historical patterns that folks of color are plenty used to. Why are we so surprised? Why does our ignorance persist so doggedly?
Well, racism, obviously. But part of that racism is the way we reproduce stories amongst ourselves, as white folks. This probably starts before we arrive in school, but it is heavily reinforced by curricula, both formal and informal. School isn’t just about the whitewashed lessons we learn about literature and history, but it’s also a civic education in how to be a Good White American. School teaches us that America is a democracy, that voting is a civic duty, that the cops are the good guys, that prisons are necessary, that participation is important. We learn all these insidious little lessons and then we learn not to listen when black folks and other folks of color are shouting the opposite from the rooftops. School teaches us to turn a blind eye at best, to argue loudly against the truth at worst.
So what can we do about it? Yep, it’s that simple piece of advice yet again. Talk to other white folks. But a layer I’d add is not to assume that the white folks you know, your fellow liberals etc., are as aware as you think they are about race and particularly about the lie Amerika represents. I’ve often found in conversation that folks are surprised by the degree of deception they’ve been living under, once the historical facts are presented. A lot of white folks think of themselves as anti-racist, but read very few books by people of color. So drop some of those facts into the conversation. Recommend relevant books by authors of color to your friends. Challenge civic participation. Keep on grinding on those little bits of resistance and education within your white circles, so that we can make some space as folks of color are doing the revolutionary work.
What is “wealth?” Money you’ve accumulated over time, right? Well, not necessarily. Nikki Giovanni says that “black love is black wealth,” and this simple statement shines a light not only on how rich the black community is, but also on how fucked up white ideas around wealth and poverty really are.
As white folks, we often think of people of color as “impoverished” because as a group, they don’t have the generational economic wealth that we do. Of course, the reason for this is centuries of racism, genocide, and enslavement, but I’d also argue that the focus on economic wealth is a desperate move on behalf of white folks to cover our own poverty.
When we talk about the poverty of people of color, especially black folks, but also those of all colors in the “developing world,” we use pity as a mask to cover our own longing and poverty. I believe that we constantly need to reaffirm that we are “normal,” that we are on top of the pyramid, because we know in our heart of hearts that we are not–that in fact we are generators of disease, engaging in deeply perverse racist practices, and are as a culture so removed from any ancestral worth that we wouldn’t recognize it if it bit us in the face.
So you’re a white person, working in a non-profit or some other kind of organization, and you want to do diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Obviously, there are plenty of landmines you might hit, and questions you might ask yourself about what your role is in this work. Should I engage full throttle or step back given my privilege? How do I engage without stealing (or stealing the spotlight) from colleagues of color? I’ve compiled a list of five suggestions from my own experience, acknowledging that all of these learnings come from the collective work of many people of color and that I’m in no way an expert on this, but rather a peer looking to partner with other white folks around how we can be accountable for our role in systemic oppression and our privilege within organizations.
I may be biased, but I think polyamory and demisexuality go really well together. To review, a demisexual person is someone who only experiences sexual attraction after getting to know someone very well first. Within these close relationships, a demisexual person might experience strong or frequent sexual attraction, or might experience weak or occasional attraction. Personally, I don’t experience sexual attraction with everyone I become close with, or every romantic partner, but do experience it with some people (there is no clear pattern).
Given this, I find polyamory to be super, super handy. For there to be any chance at sexual attraction, I kind of have to spend some time pursuing someone, get to know them in a deep intimate way, and even then I might end up in a great relationship where I don’t experience sexual attraction. This might frustrate the hell out of a monogamous partner, if being found sexually attractive is an important part of a relationship for that person. But being poly, my partners can easily seek that attraction elsewhere if it doesn’t happen for me. It also means that the variable and occasional nature of my desire isn’t a roadblock. I have and have had partners who really like frequent sex and that’s not a problem when they can simply get it elsewhere.
This isn’t to say that two people can’t be in a monogamous relationship when only one is sexually attracted to the other. Of course there are creative ways to work around this, and some allosexual folks wouldn’t be bothered by one-sided attraction, especially if it doesn’t affect sexual activity. But in my experience, polyamory takes a lot of these questions out of the picture.
I wish I didn’t have to be writing this in 2017, but there’s still disagreement, even among those who vocally support trans people, around whether trans surgeries are really medically necessary. To me, this is an obvious “yes,” but perhaps it’s harder for those who don’t experience dysphoria to understand, so let’s try an analogy.
What does “unbiased” actually mean? I’ve been thinking about this when liberals defend the gold standard of mainstream news outlets in the era of “fake news” accusations, and while I obviously think the Trump cronies are full of shit, I also wonder what the staunch defense of traditional news organizations might leave out.
Growing up, I never really questioned the standard that journalists must be objective and unbiased. That seemed like a reasonable enough idea, and I expected it of those working at large news organizations. But in order to be “objective” and “unbiased” according to the definitions of a news organization, you need to have an academic background and specific skills that are especially valued by white folks. You need to reference credible sources–and “credible” sources are often written by white people. You need to have that gold standard “objective” point-of-view that is invisibly white.
I think this expectation of unbiased journalism really means “journalism steeped firmly in white culture.” The idea that anyone could really be “unbiased” is a racist notion, because it relies on the invisibility and supremacy of the white perspective. Everyone has a point of view. Everyone’s perspective is rooted in culture, it’s just that white culture tends to be so pervasive as to go undetected. Rather than expecting objectivity, I think we should acknowledge and embrace the cultural grounding of our journalists, and rely on news sources that come from a range of perspectives.