Disco and the White Man

I DJ disco music.
 
I receive criticism for this choice because most people associate disco with “frivolous” femininity and “silly” gayness. Of course, those are the exact reasons I enjoy it, because I enjoy feminine and queer things.
 
When I DJed with other collaborators, those who were white men were uncomfortable labeling our events as “disco” and preferred “soul”. You won’t walk into many record stores and find a Disco section. What you *will* find is a Soul section, where the disco and funk will be hidden.
 
The white male DJs were, to a man, unable to stop talking about Northern Soul and Blue-Eyed Soul. I.e. soul/R&B music filtered through whiteness.
 
A photo of gender non-conforming disco artist Sylvester.

Sylvester

My setlists included lots of Black artists, especially those who are women, femme, trans and queer. I was told by these white men that my music wasn’t “serious” enough, and that advertisement that referenced these artists would give potential attendees “the wrong idea”.
 
What idea might that be?
 
Blue-eyed soul was serious enough for them.
 
Fast-forward 5-8 years. Cultural tastes have inevitably shifted. The warm, glittery synthetic beats of gay disco are again en vogue. One of these white men has the audacity to invite me to a dance night he is hosting. Prominently displayed in his online advertisement is a Black woman who is popular among enthusiasts of gay disco. He is writing about his sudden love for this music with the confident authority of someone who grew up listening to it. An authority I now know is “the confidence of a mediocre white man”. I remember the time he confided that he would never be able to truly believe that women were anything other than “other”. I remember the casual racist jokes that peppered his conversation. I remember his disdain for this same music when *I* played it.
 
I unfriended.
 
I now focus my DJ collaborations on mentoring and building up talent among women, POC, trans people, and queers.
 
I still DJ disco music.

Dangerous Names

Whenever Assata Shakur is in the news, even now in 2016, prominent newspapers refuse to use her legal name (Assata Shakur) and instead deliberately use versions of her old name (she was born JoAnne Deborah Byron). They respect that she changed her name briefly after getting married (to JoAnne Chesimard), but not the change to Assata Shakur. Here is the New York Post doing it two days ago. Here is the New York Times doing it in 2014.

A picture of Assata Shakur with the quote "I believe in teh fire of love and the sweat of truth."

This article informs me that they did the same to Muhammad Ali when he changed his name from Cassius Clay. This seems to be a special form of disrespect and identity erasure that “the establishment” and the white mainstream reserve for POC, women and queers who they deem too uppity, and whose identities alone are considered so dangerous to white cis-het-male hegemony that their names are literally unspeakable, unprintable.

Picture of Muhammad Ali with the quote "I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me."

 

 

Relaxed Gun Laws Mean Black People Can Get Guns Too!?

This Kansas City Star op-ed, while using Black Lives Matter language, makes the claim that pro-gun legislators only think of rural white hunters, and don’t consider that lax gun laws mean that Black people can get guns to murder with.

“White legislators do not care that black men in Kansas City and St. Louis can kill easier because of the laws passed in Jefferson City.”

Sigh.

“Positive Thinking” Is a Cover for White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and Capitalism

I found a lot of truth in a blog post I read recently called “Positive Attitude” Bullshit: On the dangers of “radical self-love”.

People whose lives aren’t going well or who experience mental illness are often subjected to “positive thinking” and New-Age-y “manifest abundance” crap. The idea is that if you just think the right kind of thoughts and change yourself with sheer willpower and perhaps by purchasing certain self-help books, suddenly you will get what you want in life.

positive thinking

Life doesn’t actually work that way. Marginalized and neuro-atypical people can’t just think their way out of institutionalized systems of oppression. These systems mean we get shittier jobs, get paid less, are harassed and degraded for existing as ourselves, and have less access to generational wealth and benefits. “Positive thinking” and the idea that simply changing how you think will change how rewarding and comfortable your life is hides how capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy form your life conditions and chances.

It makes the systemic problems and violence of capitalism into into individual flaws. It takes unfair external conditions shaped by the effects of centuries-old oppressions and tells you that your lack of total success in life is actually your personal fault. And there are certain self-appointed people who somehow have discovered the right way to think, and they are happy to sell you products so that you too can discipline your naughty negative thoughts.

New-Age-y positive thinking philosophies, which some corporations have used to indoctrinate their workers, are just another cover for rapacious hyper-capitalism. They are a clever way of keeping people divided and focused on their personal flaws and their personal financial goals and their personal relationship problems.

Instead, what would be truly POSITIVE for most people would be to band together and find ways to end our current economic system, which requires a few winners and a lot of losers to work. It would be POSITIVE if we remembered community, unions, liberation, a multitude of loving relationships, and collaboration instead of competition. Caring people coming together to overthrow our hateful system and creating something new that benefits everyone by design is more my style of positive thinking.

Baltimore Rioters & Looters Have Done Something Right. Let’s Learn From Them.

An image from the 1968 Baltimore riots.

An image from the 1968 Baltimore riots.

The Baltimore looters and rioters have something figured out. If everyone struggling against racist police brutality was a peaceful marcher, we wouldn’t even be discussing Baltimore right now.

In the recent years of activism against racist police brutality, we have seen many peaceful marches, protests, vigils, and rallies. There have been hundreds of thousands of participants across the country and across the world. These are fabulous actions. These are people standing up, being seen and making their voices heard in public. A mass movement against white supremacy is vital.

BUT

Do these peaceful protests dominate the mainstream news cycles? How much time have important politicians given to peaceful protesters and their prominent leaders or their sponsoring non-profits? How much change has occurred on the ground?

But as soon as a Black person loots or riots, the MSM are ALL OVER IT. We saw this with Ferguson. Complaining about this fact doesn’t change it. Peaceful protests do not make headlines and do not dominate news cycles. Nonviolent protest is the safest tactic for most people, it allows for mass participation, and by demonstrating that large numbers of people care about this issue, it is an important part of the struggle to end white supremacy. But it does not do all things. Relying on a single tactic for such a massive undertaking is setting us up to fail.

Other tactics exist. We should use all tactics if we are serious about our goal. This is called diversity of tactics, and it has a very interesting history.

Looking purely at effectiveness: what brought the Baltimore Black community’s oppression to mainstream national attention? We have the rioters to thank. Flagrant injustices committed against them have gone unnoticed by the MSM for years. It was the rioters and looters, people who actually broke the laws that have unjustly targeted them, who took real risks to their livelihood and safety, who disobeyed the rules of capitalism, who brought this struggle to the mainstream national news. Peaceful protesting is not a tactic that succeeded in this way. It is safe, sanitized, controlled by “leaders” with agendas, and easily ignored.

Rioting is rational for the people under these circumstances. I think oppressed people, when the police, the government, the justice system, the media, and the wider society have failed them, have every right to rise up against their oppression using whatever means they deem necessary.

As one writer put it:

We’re observing bravery; racists and reactionaries will call it thuggery, and traitors will demand resistance be a little more polite–no rocks, no fire please. Respect the law that desecrates you, uphold the property relations that oppress you, and don’t forget decorum.

Liberals, entrenched community leaders and white allies do not like this tactic. They can be found blaming rioting and looting on “a few thugs” the “criminal element taking advantage of the situation” or my favorite, “outside agitators.” They still believe in respectability politics: that if Blacks can just prove to whites that they are Just Like Us, by living unimpeachable, perfect, Cosby Show lives, whites will suddenly dismantle institutionalized racism. This tactic was thoroughly debunked in the sixties, but clearly continues to hold allure for those who are afraid of what it would mean to take more drastic measures. It also reinforces that there are indeed certain contemptible Black people who must be separated out from the “good” Black people.

It hurts my ears to hear liberals mouth the phrase “outside agitators” to disown the most militant anti-racist-oppression agitators. That phrase has a history. It has a long association with Black uprisings against white supremacy and capitalism. To use that phrase is to tap into America’s disgusting history of justifying Black oppression and privation. Outside agitators were blamed for slave revolts because it was believed Blacks were too stupid to rebel against their enslavement. Outside agitators were blamed for various riots throughout the 20th century, including the Watts riots. George Wallace, the infamous Jim Crow-supporting Alabama governor, blamed Black organizing and rebellion on outside agitators. Often these agitators were painted as in some way socialist because property was destroyed. Communist agitators fomenting Black rebellion was discussed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the sixties.

Of course, as it turns out, the Baltimore looters and rioters were locals. Well-meaning liberals and allies need to cut it out with this “outside agitators” crap right now. What we have on our hands are local heroes, and it is wrong to rob them of their bravery by saying they couldn’t have done it. It must have been the communists!

Looters and rioters are the bravest participants of the protest against police brutality in Baltimore. They also have a very effective tactic when it comes to attracting media attention. As we move forward, we need to learn and adapt so that our battles against white supremacy can be more efficacious. This is more than theory: lives are at stake.

Further reading: here is a big information dump of background on the history of Black people in Baltimore and their encounters with racism.

Proof Racism Is Over

Anecdotally, another white person told me they didn’t get something because AFFIRMATIVE ACTION and REVERSE RACISM, and a Black person got the job/assistance/placement instead, and that is why I believe we should never speak of white racism again. Case closed.

Freedom of Speech, But for Whom?

Loud defenses of the Freedom of Speech, when made by the dominant classes, usually point to their concern that the underclasses are getting too uppity. Asking not to be publicly dehumanized is CENSORSHIP. Bombing mosques & NAACP buildings and locking up people of color for resisting groupthink is DEFENDING THE NATION.

On the heels of “Unity” marches and much chest-beating regarding the “Western” value of free speech, we quickly see what this is all really about.

“A string of at least 69 arrests in France this week on the vague charge of ‘defending terrorism’ risks violating freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said in an understated press release on Friday.

It turns out most of the people arrested were people of color. How about that.

From the article: France Begins Jailing People for Ironic Comments.

“Easily Offended”

It seems rather flippant and vacuous for white men, when asked to treat people who are *not* white men as fully human, to dismiss it as “censorship” or being “too easily offended”.

To dismiss our calls for respect and security as “whining” is the height of the haughty ignorance of entitlement. Sure, you have the freedom to offend people with your racist, sexist, whatever-ist bullshit. But do not fool yourself into thinking that kicking underdogs makes you a noble defender of ART and FREEDOM and AMERICA. It just makes you offensive and bigoted.

No to Anti-Semitism, No to Islamophobia

“ATTENTION: PLEASE refrain from using anti-semitic language when expressing support for Palestine and Palestinians. It is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable and I will call you out on it. The Palestinian cause invites ALL who stand for justice and equality and all who want to be on the right side of history including American Jews. They have been some of our closest and most loyal allies and the last thing we need is to alienate people by using the same tactics and hateful rhetoric that is used against us. Let’s learn from history. Stay focused, stay principled – your cause is pure, your cause is just. No need to contaminate it with misguided hate.”

Photo of Linda Sarsour on the Brooklyn Bridge

Linda Sarsour
Director, Arab American Association of New York

Feminist Theory from margin to center

Feminist Theory from margin to center by bell hooksI finally read this 1984 classic by bell hooks. A fundamental text on intersectional feminism, stating clearly why race and gender cannot be divided into separate spheres of concern.

I was struck by some particular passages:

“White women and black men have it both ways. They can act as oppressor or be oppressed. Black men may be victimized by racism, but sexism allows them to act as exploiters and oppressors of women. White women may be victimized by sexism, but racism enables them to act as exploiters and oppressors of black people. Both groups have led liberation movements that favor their interests and support the continued oppression of other groups. Black male sexism has undermined struggles to eradicate racism just as white female racism undermines feminist struggle. As long as these two groups or any group defines liberation as gaining social equality with ruling class white men, they have a vested interest in the continued exploitation and oppression of others.” pg.15

“Women must begin the work of feminist reorganization with the understanding that we have all (irrespective of our race, sex, or class) acted in complicity with the existing oppressive system. We all need to make a conscious break with the system. The compassion we extend to ourselves, the recognition that our change in consciousness and action has been a process, must characterize our approach to those individuals who are politically unconscious.” pgs.161-162

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” is the title of a book by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. In it she discusses the development of racial identity, focusing predominantly on childhood. I’ve noticed some discussion on the internet of this topic lately, particularly this article by Brittney Cooper, in which she discusses how growing racial identity caused social separation between herself and her black peers vis à vis her white peers.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.” pg.27

“We need to understand that in racially mixed social settings, racial grouping is a developmental process in response to an environmental stressor, racism. Joining with one’s peers for support in the face of stress is a positive coping strategy.” pg.62

“The social pressure from friends and acquaintances to collude, to not notice racism, can be quite powerful.” pg.101

Now I Know Who Mary Fallin Is

Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, gained my notice by expressing this extremely creative history of Oklahoma at the Republican National Convention:

Governor Mary Fallin

“The history of my great state of Oklahoma offers a great example of pursuing the American Dream. It was built and settled by pioneers movibe west to seek better lives. During the Great Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight. They farmed the land and they worked hard. And, in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government’s money — to drill Oklahoma’s first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and Oklahoma forever and today Oklahoma is one of the nation’s key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department Of Energy,to the EPA, to the IRS, or maybe even to him. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won’t hunt.”

I recommend the following party game: have someone read this statement aloud (or play the youtube video!). Everytime Fallin says something that is TOTALLY MADE-UP AND/OR OBSCENELY OFFENSIVE, everyone takes a shot. The first person to black out loses.

ICE Agents Team with Nativists to Deport More Brown People!

I guess some ICE employees are itching to kick more brown people out of their United States. I’m supposing they got involved with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the hope of making life worse for people of darker hue, and then stuff like budgets and politics and human rights got in the way.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE “BROWN TIDE” and the DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER??

The natural answer is to sue. Certain enterprising government employees at ICE established a natural link to the nativist organization, NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA, with extensive ties to racists of all types, is a big supporter of all the toughest anti-immigrant legislation, and has agreed to fund this lawsuit.

MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN HELL.

Isis King & Janet Mock Lay Down How to Be Awesome People

This is essentially an instruction video on how to be awesome. Isis King, best known for being the first transgender woman on America’s Next Top Model, and Janet Mock, an editor at People Magazine, interview each other. Seeing these two accomplished trans women of color talk TRUTH is invigorating!

See for yourself:

Crap like this is why I needed to see some positive representation of trans women right now.

“Conservatism Is a White People’s Movement”

John Derbyshire, recently fired from the National Review, a popular conservative magazine, for being too racist (yeah, I guess it is possible), is now finally free to say what he really thinks.

And this loudly-self-proclaimed Conservative has a thing or two to say. On a white supremacist blog he now writes for.

Conservatism. . .is a white people’s movement, a scattering of outliers notwithstanding.

Always has been, always will be. I have attended at least a hundred conservative gatherings, conferences, cruises, and jamborees: let me tell you, there ain’t too many raisins in that bun. I was in and out of the National Review offices for twelve years, and the only black person I saw there, other than when Herman Cain came calling, was Alex, the guy who runs the mail room.

Nail on the head. But why is this?

[C]onservative ideals like self-sufficiency and minimal dependence on government have no appeal to underperforming minorities—groups who, in the statistical generality, are short of the attributes that make for group success in a modern commercial nation.

Oh, I see.

He deliberates what name to give to himself and other “true” non-establishment conservatives.

I actually think “White Supremacist” is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don’t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.

Haha, history just “came up with” colonization, imperialism, and genocide! How about that! And whites just happened to benefit from it. What a beneficial coincidence for John Derbyshire.

Normally, I wouldn’t want to participate in making such people’s voices louder than they already are. I choose to highlight occasional instances, like this one, to remind complacent people that overt RACISM STILL EXISTS. And in very prominent places.

Not to mention all the less in-your-face kinds. But that’s what I usually talk about on this blog anyway.

“Saving” Babies from the Horrors of an African Childhood

Let us join Nancy French in congratulating herself for saving a baby from the horrific prospect of being raised in Africa. French wrote an article entitled I’m a White Republican Raising a Black Child: Deal With It to raise awareness about how awesome she is.

When I hear this self-congratulatory rhetoric around transracial and/or international adoption, I always pause and think. The self-congratulations typically come from middle, upper-middle, and upper-class heterosexual white families who have adopted a child who is of color and/or born in another country. There is typically lots of applause from other whites for their “good deed”. The assumption being that a middle-to-upper class white upbringing must be superior to other kinds of upbringing, and that by allowing a normally-inferior individual into the white club, a meritorious act has taken place. This is part of what is called the White Savior Complex. It is a relic from colonialism, when whites felt it was their mission to spread across the planet and “improve” the “backwards” races. The colonial mindset is still very present with us, as when this author insinuates adventurism with phrases like: “poverty stricken African tribal area” and their savior status by rescuing a “starving, abandoned girl” from such a terrible place. As I recall from grade school, Africa is actually broken up into political units known as “countries”, but French is kept very busy letting the world know about her good deeds that she can hardly be expected to know unimportant details about insignificant parts of the world.

Then I start to wonder about the big picture. French’s adopted daughter has a biological mother and father. Where are they? Why are they so poor? Why couldn’t they keep their child? Do they have rights? Isn’t there any value to the culture she was born into and taken away from? Why are so many African nations “poverty-stricken”? How are the world’s dominant countries implicated in this poverty?

I just happened upon an article about the struggles of Congolese mothers against the backdrop of political violence: A Congo Mother Survives Cannibalism to Save Her Children: Why Her Photo Matters. Interestingly, the article notes that much of the conflict was instigated by European colonists. Now mothers have to protect their children from cannibalism. If only French could adopt even more African children.

The right to raise your own children is a fundamental human right, and a pillar of the Reproductive Justice movement. Yet it is easier for white Americans to reframe themselves not as colonialists with serious responsibilities to other countries we have impoverished, but as pure, loving saviors who just want to help the children. Do we really have a right to take these children that trumps our responsibility to ensure that all mothers enjoy the right to raise the children they birthed?

Obviously, I am not the first one to have these thoughts. I would recommend further reading, starting with these articles:
The Lie We Love
Black Kids in White Houses
All Your Children Are Belong to Us

Another question that just popped into my head: If French’s daughter had instead grown up in Ethiopia and tried to immigrate to America as an adult to find a better life (the better life that French hopes to offer her by raising her), would French support her access to American residency? Or is it only by fulfilling French’s need to have another child that her daughter earns her right to live in America?

The Racism Trayvon Martin’s Murder Has Cracked Open

Those following the Trayvon Martin murder case, in which an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood vigilante who has not been charged with any crime, have probably observed that the case seems to draw white racism out into the open.

For example, someone in Michigan altered a lighted traffic sign to say “Trayvon a n—–“.

Martin’s dead body was subjected to drug tests, whereas the murderer, George Zimmerman, was not subjected to similar tests.

Neo-Nazis, paradoxically worried about the safety of whites in Sanford, Florida, have organized armed white supremacists to patrol the streets in search of, appartently, blacks angry over this injustice. Fox News originally reported that they are a “civil rights group”.

On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera suggested that Martin is partially to blame for his own death for being black and wearing a hoodie in public.

On a wider scale, a poll found that people who identify as Republican and/or white are more likely to think this injustice is receiving too much publicity.

As the parents of young black men are forced to have “the talk” about the realities of racial prejudice in America, one white Republican, a very angry one at that, is seeking to get out a different message to young men, one just for whites and Asians: stay away from black people, except rich ones, whom you will need to prove you aren’t racist.

No, I am not exaggerating John Derbyshire’s stance. In fact, his published words are so racist that even the conservative publication National Review fired him over this article.

His article includes such pieces of wisdom as “Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally,” “Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians,” and “The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites.”

He also informs racists on tactics to superficially paste over their racism: “You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs [intelligent and well-socialized blacks]. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.”

I hear constantly from whites about how racism isn’t a big deal, isn’t really a factor any more, is just an excuse used by people of color not to achieve, etc. RACISM IS A BIG DEAL. In Martin’s case, RACISM KILLS.