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Monthly Archives: August 2008

I’ve spent an unusual portion of my time thinking about children lately. Thanks both to Josh’s post at his blog, and my post over at VOC. I realize now that my hopes for the direction of the discussion got sidetrakked by Josh’s comparison of dislikes of groups of people and their subject positions, and by the context that sparked these various discussions throughout the blogosphere. But really I wanted to have discussions about the idea of children’s oppression. I should have just said as such, because I’m afraid in me trying to nudge the conversation in that direction I may have silenced some people.

I really, really like children; I’m biased in that way. I didn’t always– I used to dislike children… a lot. I used to subscribe to the sort of overpopulation rhetoric that a lot of people do, but I’ve thrown that a way, and back (when I was still a child/teenager) I fell for those sort of masculinist visions of children as nothing but carriers of genes and otherwise drooling, whiny, snotbags. But I’ve grown up a bit I think. For me personally coming to like children is a sign of my growth. But this post is about my new views on children and oppression.

Whenever I conceptualized ageism I always thought of older folks, and how, especially in our individualistic, production-driven, late capitalist world we discard our elders as soon as they stop producing. But what about those who haven’t gotten to the point where they are considered productive?

I figure children face quite a few oppressions– a big one is they aren’t often allowed to be children. Children are shaped to be little adults, but still face a level of paternalism that other people find appalling when applied to themselves.

Children live in an interesting world. I remember being a child, and if I’m remembering correctly a child doesn’t really want all those rights that adults talk about. (You know the ones that the absence of, or denial of make oppression alarms go off). A child may not be denied the right to housing (doesn’t mean they get housing), or to medical care ( unless their parents deny them), but children are often denied their desires and interests.

A child wants to play, and a child wants to explore, and learn. They haven’t been in this world long, they want to know how it works. If you believe in rights isn’t that one. Think of all the things that keep children from navigating their new world: dangerous people (and equally or more likely imagined dangerous people, a world thats dying, a world their very bodies can become a commodity, a world where people don’t answer their questions as they try to learn this place, a world where they are forced to act in a way that isn’t their nature. Imagine a world where your instinct/desire/need is denied to you.

I can imagine a horizontal world where with everyone liberated from oppression (including children), where that tired phrase about villages raising children is taken to heart. Where we. adults, would have bonds with children and treat them like people, but not like little adults. Where we have compassion for each other.

So I didn’t explore the ageism as much as I had planned, but I’ve got time.

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Sometimes an Afronaut’s going to have to land in strange territory. Sometime’s exploring a different world can teach you more about your own. And sometimes it aids colonialism. Ahem. Anthropology. So for awhile I’m going to be exploring whiteness.

There’s a number of words for people I’ve had a tumultous relationship with, the obvious racial slurs come to mind, but one I’ve always been confused by is the word wigger. I never understood why the word, and the people represented bothered me– I just knew wiggers pissed me off.

And I haven’t thought about wiggers in a long time– nowadays I have to deal with yuppies and hipsters and hippies, but back home you couldn’t walk down the stret without bumping into a wigger at every corner. But I hated wiggers for a lot of reasons.

Well thanks to Ice Cube I’ve been thinking about whiteness (I undertook a personal project to force myself to study the show Black.White) more than usual. And while watching Black.White I realized that Bruno’s view of Black Folks is what I shall temporarily refer to as wigger-logic.

See wiggers try to be black, ignoring the fact that Black isn’t something you can become, and Blackness isn’t a monolithic performance. But what has always has pissed me off is they way this racist logic has been taken as a compliment. Why does a white kid want to be a wigger? And when people say someone is sayin g they are a wigger, its really saying they want to be a nigger. So why in their racial imagination is Black equated with sex, drugs, and (in essence) rock and roll, and why is this ignored? If Fox News said half the shit that a white kid in Tims and a jersey said we’d all be pissed.

(Ignore the sloppiness of this post– I’m tired and this is verbal vomit).

Why is the fact that wigger-logic is complimentary force us to ignore that its racist, essentializing, and offensive. I’m not sure about that right now.

Well now I’m not going to use the term wigger (or chigger, or any other related terms) like this ever again. I mean nowadays I hate the word because it works on the same racial logic as the term white trash.

The NYT had a piece about literacy and internet speak today. Included was a typical family: if you’re a white upper class family from Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

At the same time the NYT ran a piece detailing how yet again “whites” are going to be the minority of this country by 2042. White fears, I’m tellin’ ya. The piece about 2042 also hinted at making “white Hispanics”, White. Seems a bit odd to me to even hint at it, we know (unless there is a radical paradigm shift) that who is considered White, will expand.

I spent the weekend in an all POC space. It was fucking fabulous. I’m a huge proponent of POC spaces. This was a physical space where we all got to speak about our issues– no one said anything about how these were smaller issues, or that class comes first. It was fucking fantastic. A number of white dudes came in during the gathering, and someone would go up, and ask them to leave if they didn’t identify as a POC.

And here at Vassar we have the ALANA Center. Which is a space for stuents of color– though all are welcome. See I’ve learned you don’t know how much of a ask you put on for Whiteness, until you relax in a POC space (besides your family, because often there’s little mask wearing there).

Also this weekend I found that POC spaces are harder to maintain virtually. My post on Vegans of Color got invaded by some white dude with a god complex. This motherfucker chose the wrong weekend to invade. I just spent a weekend hanging out with Anti-authoritarian people of color– I’m taking shit in my spaces; I was empowered. This dude doesn’t come looking to debate– he comes looking to educate. I point out his privilege, though not coddling him, because I’m tired of softening what I say to make White folks feel more comfortable, an this dude gets upset that I pointed out his privilege: his tone gets more paternalistic, and now I’m mad– how dare he invade this space, and demand that I engage him on his terms. So I leave the discussion, and tell him I won’t engage in this particular discussion again with him. That ain’t good enough for him. He says he’d like to give me the job of educating him. THE NERVE of that motherfucker. Educate your own goddamn self. What the fuck?

And then I begin wondering if White folks think this blog is aimed at them, at educating them. Because I don’t write for White folks when I write at VoC– I write for folks of color, because I want it to be a space for people of color to speak.

I had a dream about God today. See its the first time we’ve spoken in awhile. We had a falling out 12 years ago or so.

When I was a kid God just didn’t make sense to me. Why did I have to make a date once a week with a man who never payed attention to me. With a man who didn’t understand me. Who told me to shut up, things’ll get better  in the future (when I’m dead)– if I listen to everything he said. It was also at this point when I began a long affair with Science.

See I knew God was white, because Black folks sure didn’t worship no I AM before being shipped across the Atlantic. See I don’t trust a bunch of slave owners to introduce me to no one, and especially not my religion. I’ve learned to avoid abusive relationships, and God was a little two-timer. Every time I saw that blue-eyed, blond-haired, pasty-skinned Jesus, pentacle of perfection that he was, he’d slam my self esteem. All while on the side he was sleeping with White folks and making them feel all good about themselves.

So God and I broke up, and I started seeing Science. We weren’t exclusive though– Science could never satisfy me. So during my teenage years I flirted with Buddha a bit (but I kept orientalizing and fetishizing him so things ended), I brought home Satan once just to piss of God (and my Mother), and every now and then I’d try some kinky animistic stuff. Every now and then God would try and hide himself behind Stars and Crescents, but eventually that ego would shine through.

Then I got a little wiser about Science. See Science was a two-timer too. He couldn’t hide his colonial, abusive attitude any longer– so I dropped his White ass. If you’re seeing Science I suggest you look at his huge ego; everything’s gotta be his way, or else you’re delusional and irrational. Beside, he used to call me Negroid.

So I’ve been alone for while. It’s cool I don’t need anyone else to satisfy me. I can make my own decisions too. Besides when I need a little release, I got my Theory toys and then the thoughts just cum come.

But then God called. See I was dreaming, and she showed up. It wasn’t the same God I knew as a kid. Either he changed, or they share a name. This Godcomes shuffling up to me: big, nappy fro, dark brown skin, this God’s a Sister. And she opens her mouth and starts spouting all kinds of game about feminism, queerness, liberation, horizontalism. She was laying some radical shit on me.

It seems I wasn’t the only one growing up, and maturing. But I had to turn her down. I’m too young to be tying myself down, no matter how radical and heavy the shit she was laying down was. I like being single, and I don’t need anybody. Now I’m still afraid that it might be possible that one day I’ll get old, and want somebody to lean on so its a good thing God told me there’s always a space at her place for me to crash and get someone radical to chill with.

So I have a confession to make.

I’m a C+ student.

Sorta. I’ve been making a lot of A’s and B’s for the past year, but it is hard as shit to raise a GPA.

See Mama always told me that college would kick my butt. I breezed through K-12 without having to try. Then I got into Vassar; “a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college” according to the website.  Well I spent my freshmen year  still not trying: partying, hooking up with white women that exoticized me, and all around enjoying being 18 years old. And I still part, hook up with the occasional exoticizing woman, and enjoying being a young adult.

See, not to toot my own horn, but I like to think I’m pretty smart. And its not like I haven’t learned anything– in fact I’ve learned a shit ton ( a very relative unit of measurement to be sure). I take the hardest, most interesting classes I can, and so my GPA barely budges, but I’ve come to terms with that.

My sub-par (or is a C average, grade inflation makes it difficult to decipher) grade average reflects my laziness, my love of partying till 5am during the week, and my inability to do things that I’m not interested in.

But… I continually feel like I should try harder. I like to think of this as the POC burden. I’m one of I believe 6 or 7 Black American men students at Vassar in my year. That is out of over 600 members of the class of 2010, only 1% are of my demographic. I can see the White eyes from my peers, faculty, and administrators that I am a representative of a huge diverse group of people. So suddenly I feel like I should give up my passions that don’t involve course work, so that I don’t reflect poorly on every Black American male in the world. Of course many don’t expect me to do well, but that is a given.

But I’m not really one to conduct myself based on what Whiteness thinks. I am after all myself, laziness and all. Besides I just need to get my GPA up enough to get into grad school.

WTF.

Maybe some people don’t see what is wrong with this commercial, but I, and my friends who saw it the other day, could only laugh at the ridiculousness, and then just wonder why anyone thought this was a good idea.

For those of you who this may not jump out at– look at how babies (and mothers) in need are signified in the commercial. Very colorful I think. And then there is this whole thing with privileged American being signified as White.

As if there are no women of color in the US who could by the pampers, and as if there are no White people around the world who could use some assistance.

In fact– just in case you didn’t get that these were women and children of color from the Global South, they are wearing clothing that easily signifiers their position.

The comments on youtube in response to people that bring up similar things as I just have are responded to with the usual: “You notice race, therefore you are a racist. Followed by: don’t you want to help these children?” Which assumes: a) a critique of a commercial means you don’t want to help, and b) buying pampers is the only way to help. These comments also act like these babies of color were just randomly chosen– which obviously is not true–some serious thought went into how to portray babies in need.

WTF.

Edit: As some have pointed out there is also the deterministic motherhood thing going on in this commercial.

I originally posted this over at Vegans of Color.

Growing up I was an anomaly in my family: I was an extremely picky eater. By age 8 I refused to eat pork, and I never did like the vegetables that my mother cooked for family functions (might have been the smell of animal stock in them– they sure didn’t smell like normal vegetables, and when fried chicken was put in front of me I would pick at the skin (grease is good). My very anti-soul food diet blossomed when I became a vegetarian in the 7th grade. That was the point when I think my family decided I was sorta whitewashed.

I began to understand pretty early on that food is pretty important shit. Food isn’t just caloric and nutritional input, its a social construct loaded with meanings. And for a lot of my folks, my being veg*n was a white thing; it was a bougie thing. Those that tried to understand assumed it was for health reasons, or that I was trying to lose weight (I was a pretty big kid). Though I have never been veg*n for health reasons, I knew they were there. And health reasons were what I used to try and convince my family (but really, who listens to a 12 year old for health advice).

My school life wasn’t too different– being one of a handful of veg*ns in Middle and High School was difficult. With my family I learned that my veg*nisms made it more difficult to have those familial bonds one builds while eating and sharing culturally-loaded foods. At school was when I learned that White folks viewed Black veg*ns as trying to assimilate (or some such crap). When I told White folks that I was vegan or vegetarian soon after came some question about soul food, fried chicken, or chitlins (chitterlings to some). And soon after this question the person would reassess me– look at my Propagandhi cd, my tight jeans, my copy of Manifesta under my arm, and decide that either a) I was an uppity little negro, b) an oreo to be made fun of (in fact only White folks have ever called me an oreo), or c) one of the good ones (not really Black in their eyes is what they would say). These reactions came from both White veg*ns (usually option c) and White non-veg*ns (options a, b, and c).

And even now I get these reactions, just with grown folks. I realized that everyone thinks they know what a White vegan looks like– but no one seems to have a clue about what a Black (or Latin@, or Asian, or Native American, or any other racial/ethnic group that isn’t white) vegan looks like. The only times I had even seen vegans of color mentioned outside of blogs, was PETA’s celebrity list.

But I’ve gotten used to being either invisible or a neon sign towards White folks. What bothers me is being invisible to other folks of color. Sunday I watched several several hours of BET. See they have their Black Buster movies (their cleverness continues to astound me) and I watched The Salon, Baby Boy, and Medea’s Family Reunion all in one sitting. The one thing I noticed, besides all of these movies sucking a lot, was that food was important. Especially fried chicken– there were so many freaking references (as if it was some in joke between the Black movie and its presumed Black audience). My only question is why are there no veg*n folks of color in movies, even as an in-joke like all the other non-normative Black folks became in movies like The Salon.

And this brings me to the fried chik’n in the title. See KFC Canada has started offering a vegan chik’n option (why PETA thinks this is some added bonus for animals is beyond me ). And though I don’t know if this option will be available here in the US, I don’t actually really care (I figure it will help animals as much as the BK Veggie Burger, which is to say very little).

The only thing I know is little Royce, back in 7th grade, would have been overjoyed at vegan options at restaurants where his family ate at (which would have been far more than KFC). I imagine that those veg*n options at meaty restaurants are good for something. They would have made it easier for this vegan Oreo to bond with my family over a meal.

The NY Times had a piece about the Olympics in Beijing having a testing lab to see which “suspect women” are “actually” women.

What?

The Olympics has a long history of these sorts of tests, nudity tests and chromosomal tests. Which were useful for revealing which women were men– which has never happened (the only man to have ever entered as a woman revealed himself 20 years after he came in 4th place for the women’s high jump– some advantage, huh). Instead it revealed which women, according to the NY Times, were born with defects, meaning not XX chromosomes.

This gender binary shit is getting a little old, and in fact one plastic surgeon interviewed said:

“It’s very difficult to define what is a man and what is a woman at this point,” said Christine McGinn, a plastic surgeon who specializes in transgender medicine.

Because of a range of genetic conditions, people who look like women may have a Y chromosome, while people who look like men may not, she said. Many times, the people do not learn of the defects until they reach adulthood. “It gets really complicated very quickly,” McGinn said.

No duh. Why this isn’t taken as evidence of the ridiculousness of a binary sex/gender system is beyond me.

Also, It can only be sexist thinking would assume a male athlete is automatically given an advantage because he has a penis.

My current job allows me to watch a lot of movies. So I just found one nestled in between some French films called Black Hair: The Korean Takeover. This movie pisses me off for a lot of reasons: I think one of the reasons is definitely that it sucks. Like cinematically it sucks. A Lot. I can’t believe that people pay money for this– I can’t believe Vassar College paid money for it.

You can watch it here btw.

And one quick note– the film totally ignores the fact that some people could be both Black and Korean.

To give a quick overview:

White dude (Aron Ranen) with a camera makes a documentary about Black Hair products being sold by Korean/American (though truthfully he not once calls them Korean Americans, but more on that in a bit). He then details how BOBSA was formed (giving himself much credit for its formation), and in fact the film seems to be BOBSA propaganda. He makes some weak connection that this supposed Korean Takeover of Black America was started in the 60s by the S. Korean and US governments, because Korea banned the export of raw Korean hair, and the US banned the import of Chinese hair a year or so later (I personally don’t think that the jingoistic trading practices of nations results directly in the issues too ethnic groups have in one country, but whatever). Then he travels around, filming black and Korean people, and being all around that white dude who’s down with black causes.

So one major issue I have with the film is the pervasive white gaze. This is a white dude who goes into black neighborhoods filming Black folks and Korean/Americans. White people aren’t even mentioned in this film. Which is odd, since we live in a very white nation. Hey, its nice for them not be the center, but when we’re viewing this through a white lens somethings off. The film is full of images of Black people blaming all the problems in the Black Community on Korean immigrants opening businesses. Their analyses is missing the effects of structural racism, which has to include analyses of Whiteness and its effects on economics (Korean immigrants sure as hell didn’t cause the majority of Black people to be at the lower rung of the class ladder).

This film, is xenophobic to the core. Between Ranen never referring to Korean Americans as Korean Americans, but only as Koreans, and Ranen often calling Black folks African-Americans (which strengthens their Americaness), the Korean/Americans are constructed as Other. In fact the discourses of invasion are rampant. Just look at the subtitle– the Korean Takeover.

So the film blames Korean/American store owners for taking over the Black Hair supply industry, and positions ownership of Black Hair stores by Black folks as our only salvation as a people (I really don’t trust bougie black folks and a white filmmaker to detail; the only hope for Black folks– ignoring the fact that black hair stores were owned almost exclusively by black people at one point and the fact that the whole idea ignores class). Ranen also never seriously interviews Korean/Americans– how hard is it to come to a new country, where one is marked as perpetually alien, and try to make a living.

I really dislike this film in the way that positions Black folks and Korean/American folks as competitors instead of as mutual victims of a white supremacist society.

And my views on black hair as a whole are going to need a post of their own, but since Ranen interviewed one person to see their views as far as what Malcolm X said about hair. I wasn’t pleased with the person’s answer (that we’re beyond the point where black people dislike their black features… that isn’t completely true at all), and I wasn’t pleased with the way Ranen did the scene.

So needless to say– I won’t suggest anyone watch this film because I agree with what it says, but rather because I think it is an example of xenophobic film, and an example of how far Black and Korean/American communities in our cities need to work on things together.