About the Racialicious Article

Which you can find here.

Here’s the deal. Do I think that Macklemore is the worst person in the world? No, I don’t even know the guy. Do I think he’s a bad person? Not particularly. Do I think he overstepped into some shit he shouldn’t have on the track “Same Love”? Absolutely, I do.

People seem to think that when someone calls another out on not being thoughtful about their privileges it is some how a condemnation of them as a human being, or of all folks who share that privilege. The truth is, if you have privileges, which I certainly do (and so do you probably), you’re going to fuck up and over step because there are a lot of nuances to experiencing the other (marginalized) side that you simply couldn’t know because it is not your lived experience, and it is not the dominant experience.

For instance, I have American privilege and the times when I have spoken out about xenophobia, I have been listened to a lot more than my parents who are immigrants, just because I am American born and speak English in a way that is deemed acceptable, despite the fact that I know for certain I have been shitty to my parents at moments in the way I have used my Americanness. And, this is really fucked up of me, and speaks volumes about how privilege works. Because in the end, people are more likely to listen to me about it than them, even though a lot of my knowledge of how xenophobia works is because of them and has been at their expense.

Now, this doesn’t mean that all of the trauma or hurt that someone has experienced is wiped out by how much systemic privilege they have. It is still there. But, privilege, no matter how much we don’t want it to exist, isn’t something you can just put down for an hour, or a song. It is always there. And, even when our hearts are in the right place, even when we want to be good allies, and do real solidarity work, we should always know that we can still mess up and if we are called out on it, we should just be accountable to having hurt someone whose life experience we can’t understand and who we may hold some sort of unearned privilege over.

And, for those of us who want to be allies and do solidarity work, we can’t expect people who experience the oppression that a movement is trying to address to just be happy that we are there. Suggesting that folks shouldn’t question or be upset with people who are trying to be their allies when their allyship feels like it crossed a boundary, just sounds like “be grateful we don’t hate you”. That is not the point. The point is that people deserve more than that. People shouldn’t have to be grateful that someone thinks they should have equal rights. That should be a given. People should be able to expect more, acknowledge that there is a power imbalance that we are all born into that doesn’t go away when we decide to become allies, and that even allies can fuck up. And by reducing a marginalized person expressing anger or dissatisfaction, to them just never being happy or being over-sensitive is super reactionary, defensive and dismissive. Why can’t we just think hard about why this person is angry or dissatisfied and not expect them to just be grateful for what they’ve got like they don’t deserve to demand more than that from people who are supposed to be working in solidarity with them, presumably because they know they get a lot of unearned privilege over this person because they benefit from that oppression just by having that identity?

Being an ally is a choice that comes with discomfort and screw ups, and if we want to do this work, we should listen when someone we are supposed to be allied with says that they are uncomfortable with something we are saying or doing, because in the end it is supposed to be about them.

As far as the Racialicious article goes, I stand by what I said. Read it thoroughly if you care to, but realize that as a queer Black person, this is not the first time I have had to seriously think about how it makes me feel weird when people compare racism with queer phobia when they don’t experience both of those things, let alone either of those things. It is not the first time I have been weirded out by white straight folks who make grand statements about how I must feel about my communities, and I think of hip hop as an extension of my community. And, it is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, I have seen a white straight dude get so much credit for not being completely shitty about the privileges he benefits from, the way my opinion is seen as somehow more valuable than my parents when it comes to oppressions that they experience. I have to be accountable to this. Macklemore has to be accountable to this. We all have to be accountable to this. And, the people we hurt get to call us on it.

Give credit where credit is due. Realize that we can’t understand oppressed and non-dominant people’s experiences when we have the privilege in that situation. And, yes, we need to do solidarity work with them, because that is the right thing to do. But, we also need to know our place in that. We can’t just acknowledge our privilege sometimes as if it doesn’t actually affect everything we do, as if it disappears in our interpersonal relationships just because we want it to. And, at the end of the day, allies still get to walk away with our privileges. In situations where we are the ally, we can shake this shit off, but marginalized folks can’t. It doesn’t go away. And, it is tiring, and at times really heartbreaking.

So, again, read the article if you wish. Actually try to figure out what I am saying. Talk it over with your friends if you want to, but I am not going to answer questions about it, because quite frankly I don’t really have the energy for the folks who are saying weird ass racist, transphobic and fucked up shit about my disabilities. I know this isn’t all of you who have a problem with the article who are doing this, but there is enough of you that I am not going to sift through the really hurtful shit to find conversation pieces that could be productive. And, for the most part, I just do work within communities and write about that, this piece was an exception to that. And, I am not about this weird ass attention I am getting about an article I didn’t really think would have gotten this much attention. So, take what you want from it. I said what I felt, and that’s all from me.

3:17PM

The best trauma doesn’t affect anyone but the traumatized.
The best trauma is a story of triumph and perseverance that has little to do with who you are today, or its impact can be woven into a hero’s cape.
The best trauma is in the past. It doesn’t continue indefinitely. It was overcome.
The best trauma is on otherwise un-messy bodies with understandable minds and fun personalities. They are white or upstanding enough. They are able. They are sane. They are smart. They can function. They are desirable. They are productive.
The best trauma can be managed with self-care. Has a host with money to burn on trips and shopping sprees.
The best trauma can be appeased with cute new clothes and a prescription for Xanax.
The best trauma needs little community involvement, just a simple task here or there to feed the complexes of saviors and allies. It never needs sustained efforts.
The best trauma doesn’t manifest itself in anger. It is not protective. It has learned to trust. It doesn’t have violent tendencies.
The best trauma comes alone. It is not entangled with other traumas. It was not made worse by institutional intervention.
The best trauma can be soothed by therapists and never gets to the point of social workers.
The best trauma gets along well with social workers.
The best trauma only has one trigger. And, everyone understands what it is intuitively. It doesn’t require any inconvenient accommodation.
The best trauma knows not to make a fuss. It knows that if it can’t meet any of the other expectations, it should suffer alone. Stay in isolation.
The best trauma is willing to explain itself. It is gracious and grateful that anyone is even listening.
The best trauma is ready to be the spokesperson for the latest hot cause or campaign. It is reliable. It knows to stay on script and when it is time to shut up.
The best trauma doesn’t make anyone else feel guilty. It can be easily used as a tool to burry the traumas that do, the traumas that implicate.
The best trauma has a common and clear enemy, a recognizable established villain. It wasn’t caused or upheld by anyone we like. It was nobody’s fault here.
The best trauma doesn’t need anyone to be accountable.
The best trauma is convenient. It has a familiar narrative.
The best trauma has nothing to do with who the victim or survivor is. It could’ve happened to almost anyone.

Open call for submissions by sick, disabled and Deaf folks for the Writing Resistance Zine

Writing Resistance is looking for writing and art (drawing, painting, photography) for the FIRST EVER Writing Resistance zine! We are only accepting submissions from sick, disabled and Deaf folks and people who are on the receiving end of ableism and/or audism. We are most interested in the submissions of people who are multiply marginalized in order to center the most marginalized folks in our community. All ages can apply.

Submissions are due Friday, March 15th.

Submission Details

  • All final decisions on what will be published will be made by March 22nd, and folks will be contacted shortly after that. We do not intend to scrutinize the work of anyone who submits, but we may not be able to publish it all, and would like to stay in line with our mission of centering multiply marginalized folks and people who experience ableism and audism in ways that don’t often get talked about or shared.
  • Submissions that need trigger/content warnings should be noted in this form.
  • Works that are racist, classist, transmisogynist, sexist, femmephobic, queerphobic, cissexist or otherwise oppressive, will be dropped so fast. And, if any pieces are included in the final zine that are any of these things, we’ve fucked up, and will pull them.
  • Please submit pieces that are relevant to YOUR OWN experiences.
  • For writers, we encourage you to submit work of 2 pages or less, however we are not strict on this, but we may ask you to edit down your piece depending on the length of other folks pieces and volume of submissions.
  • For artists, your art maybe resized to scale to fit into the zine, or we may ask you to submit a differently sized piece if selected. Please submit an image description with your piece that can be published in the zine. For tips on how to write an image description, read this.

Zine submission form is available here »  

For more regular updates, like us on Facebook.

Writing Resistance

We’re starting up a disability writing and art project here in Seattle.

Our mission: 

Writing Resistance is a writing and art project for multiply marginalized sick and disabled folks. We work to center the most marginalized people in our communities by building a space for creativity, mourning, affirmation and resistance through art, writing and performance. We celebrate bitterness, love, anger, healing, defiance and survival.

This will involve a biweekly writing circle starting this winter, a zine that should be published in early spring and performances in the future. To learn more or to find out how you can get involved, go to the Writing Resistance website and like us on Facebook.

For Those Who Have Been Pushed Out By Silence

When I write about liberation, it does not always come from a place of love and compassion. Often, it is anger and bitterness that moves me. My energy is spun from a longing for justice, and even revenge. I do not dream of unity and communion. I dream of a separatist paradise, where forgiving and forgetting is the biggest crime. A place for survivors of abuse and neglect, whose communities notions of transformative justice were silence. I am writing about a place for the folks who cannot call on the cops or their communities. I am writing for those of us who have been pushed out for coming forward, who have been dismissed for our unrelenting anger, for those of us who have been left helpless by a criminal justice system that does violence against us, and a self-described radical community alternative that seldom does any better, because it seldom does anything at all.

The image here reads "I hope you enjoyed the silence" in a large black font on a plain white background.

I am not making a case against transformative justice or community intervention. I am making a case against our communities, as we know them. When I write about liberation, I am thinking of a place where the façade of equality and collectivism is done away. I am imagining a community where we can acknowledge that the importance of our opinions vary as much as our positionalities. I am not imagining a place where we center the most marginalized. I am imagining a place meant for the most marginalized.

I am writing of a place for all those who have been silenced by a community’s complicity in their oppression. I am writing for those of us whose cries for justice have been swept over by a community’s rallying call for a textbook ivory tower approach to anti-oppression. This is for those of us, whose grief is too much to bear, who have become too unsightly to our communities. This is for those of us, who were pushed out by our former friends and family, because our anger did not die down in their silence but grew into something they could no longer control, or suppress. This is for those of us, who are now too messy to fit neatly back into the dark folds of our community, who are now just a reminder of their shameful secret. This is for us, who have to watch as our community moves on forgiving one another on our behalf, while forgetting us altogether.

So, when I write about liberation, I am writing about the anger and bitterness that move me to make sure that we never forget. I am writing about my community’s shameful secret. I am writing for an end to the lip-service of accountability, and for true community accountability. I am writing for those who have to start over alone, while everyone else forgets, or remains silent. When I write about liberation, I am writing of a place where complicity is addressed as the act of violence it truly is.

We Are the Subjects: Academia for Multiply Marginalized People

There is no denying that academia is white, inaccessible and for the privileged, at least none here. The institution was built by white, able-bodied men, by colonizers, by landowners. Academia, as we know it today, like any other institution, can be described aptly with a ‘for us by us’ adage, so benefiting the same people who made it what it is today—the same people who benefit from the systems that inform it.

The image here is of the cherry blossoms on the University of Washington Seattle campus quad. The trees are rooted in triangular grassy patches that line the brick paths that lead to buildings.

Academia, today, may look differently than it once did, with universities housing Women’s Studies, Disability Studies and Ethnic Studies departments, and the student and faculty populations no longer being exclusively white, able-bodied men, However, the same culture that supported eugenics ideology, that considered white, upper (middle) class people superior, deeming poverty and melanin a sign of genetic inferiority, lives on in a reformed manner, with its “diversity efforts”.

For instance, if we examine the way we study these histories, or their contemporary consequences, it becomes clear who belongs in academia. I remember sitting in classes, like the History of Medicine, the only Black student in the room, in a major course, in a major department, at a major university. I don’t remember a word about forced sterilizations of poor women of color or folks with disabilities, or the lack of medical resources for these communities, or the intense medicalization of their bodies—of our bodies. There was no acknowledgement of how every important figure we discussed, and had to remember for the exam, was a white man, except for one brief mention of a white woman. In fact, the only time people of color were mentioned was when the professor asked us if we knew the disease that was most commonly found in “blacks”.

I also remember the classes where oppression was meant to be discussed. It would always be talked about as if no one affected by it could possibly be in the room, or even worse, like the room itself was free of oppression.  It was about those people who lived over there, and it was our job to theorize why they were the way they were. These were the times when it would be so clear to me that academia wasn’t for me in the way it was for the majority of my classmates. How can you study something when you are the subject?

Fields like Women’s Studies, Disability Studies and Ethnic Studies, in some ways address this. The classrooms tend to be more diverse, and it is more likely that the instructor is not a white, able-bodied man. However, the privileged kids studying oppression for the first time who derail the class for a half hour every session may leave the more marginalized folks in the room feeling unfulfilled, if not constantly microaggressed. But, this is exactly the point. All of these fields are just microcosms of the greater culture. The folks who get published, gain professorships and become chairs of departments, are seldom multiply marginalized. The attempts at an intersectional approach to any of these disciplines are consistently being forged by folks who do not know what it means to have a stake in all of these fields. They are rarely poor, disabled, queer/trans*/women of color. And, for those of us who cannot afford to be single issue focused, these classes aren’t even designed to be accessible to us.

I can’t really imagine a truly different academia, I think the idolization of academics in and of itself essentializes value, deciding what kind of thought is important, which already is a problem. Academia can’t be the center of anti-oppression work, because it is oppressive, and it can’t function that way without being oppressive. Yet, academia seems to be the only thing valued in so many organizing circles. But, it is still a culture for white, able-bodied, class privileged, cisgender men and anyone who can get close enough to that ideal, while we remain a chapter in the textbooks they write, or the subject of a class offered every fall term.

Universal Design as Anti-racism

This piece is specific to the US, however it is relevant to countries that have been colonized that remain under occupied rule, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The image image is an illustration of the Salish Seas and surrounding basin.

I am on Indigenous land, on occupied land of the Duwamish Peoples to be exact. I am the child of immigrants from a war-torn country, Eritrea, who were moved on to this occupied land by the colonizers who both forced them off of their own and onto someone else’s. I use US currency, engage in an economic marketplace that was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, and is sustained by poor Black, Brown, Native and Undocumented people. And, it should go without saying that all of these communities have disabled members, who are denied access to physical spaces that are either theirs and/or exist at their expense.

This is often forgotten in conversations about accessibility, and goes completely unacknowledged in mainstream disability rights movements. Accessibility is a matter of racial justice. Denying disabled people of color free access to these spaces is not only ableist; it is a part of colonialism. It is another way by which bodies of color are reminded of systemic power imbalances, reinforcing white supremacy and privilege.

I urge all organizers to think about this. Consider what it means to have an inaccessible event on occupied land in a country built by Black slaves. I urge you to think about disability intersectionally. You cannot be an inaccessible event and be disability oriented, nor can you be anti-racist, queer, feminist, anti-classist, or any other form of anti-oppressiveness. Accessibility is fundamental to dismantling systems of oppression. It isn’t just some added bonus.